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 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Happy Girl

I often have people comment on my life. It is just something people do these days. Granted, it is much easier to do these days the way that social media is. We truly share everything about our lives on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and wherever else it can be shared. It is not a bad thing to share. Perhaps sometimes we share too much. Maybe other times, not enough.

These days people are commenting on how hard my life is. They wonder how I get through life. They wonder if I am depressed. They wonder if I hide behind a smile. Today, I am going to set the record straight.

I am a happy girl.

My Mom and I were chatting when we were in one of the garden shops searching for plants. Since she doesn't see me often, it hits her harder every time she sees me - I think she feels responsible for my lipedema. Yes, it is hereditary - but she can not control genetics any more than I can. This particular hot day I was reaching for a beautiful flower that burst of colour. A single beautiful coral flower, shining in the sun. As I freed it from the tangles of the other plants, my Mom said, "that flower is so you - bright and happy and beautiful." It warmed my heart.

Later, as we were driving home to plant that beauty, our conversation once again turned to the circumstances of my life. She mentioned that my load seems particularly heavy (and she wasn't just talking about my body!) She was talking about how I face every day life as a disabled Mom with two special needs sons. Yes, life is difficult. But one thing she said stood out in my mind and heart that day - and has the past few weeks. She said, "your whole life has been full of challenges that you should not have had to face. But you have a beautiful life. And you have always been so happy."

I do have a beautiful life.  I was born into a loving, Christian home. As an adult, I think back on my childhood years as a gift. Long summer days spent in the backyard, in the front yard, all over the neighbourhood. I had friends to play with - my Mom always said I could make friends wherever I went. And if those friends weren't available? I had three siblings that would play with me. 

Some of my favourite memories from yesteryear were the days we spent at the cottage. Hot summer days spent in the lake - I could swim all day. My Grandmother called me her little mermaid. On rainy days we would venture into town and stop in at the used bookstore. I loved the smell of the bookstore, the pages of the weathered books I added to my pile. So many books, so many pages. Like treasures. I knew I had too many in my pile - more than my siblings. But when I asked my Dad for just one more book, he never turned me down. 

That coffee stained photograh is me at ten. Sitting on the couch at the cottage with my book in my pyjamas. Because what kid doesn't love to stay in their pyjamas all day when it is raining? Do you see that smile on my face? Happiness. 

I am not going to lie, life does make you jaded in some ways. Now when I look at this picture all I see is legs. Skinny legs that probably could rock those trendy leggings like nobody's business. But the sad truth? Lipedema was starting even then. I never had a chance. I will never wear leggings. And you know what? I am still going to be happy.

I do have challenges in my life. I do have things that are difficult. There are days where I cry and worry and feel pain. But the wonerful thing is that I am not going to wallow in it. Discontentment is a powerful prison - and I like to be free. 

When my childhood was over, I went to university. I was going to be a journalist. I had big plans. My plans were different than God's plans and He gave me the beautiful gift of a sweet baby boy who was born before I had a chance at a career. For awhile, I wallowed in that loss. But do you know what? He is just so happy. There is this sweet joy that bubbles up inside of him, just like it bubbles up in me. And don't even get me started on my Micah. He lives life so excitedly that nothing can keep him down for long.

This beautiful, challenging and exhausting gift is a gift. The people who surround me are a gift. Every single day is a gift. I was recently reminded to be thankful for what we have while we have it. It seems simple, but can we just think about that for a moment? Like, really think about it.

I can be thankful for these huge, painful legs because while it is difficult to walk some days, I am WALKING.

I can be thankful for the hyena screams of my children in the morning because it means they have breath in their lungs for another day - and so do I.

I can be thankful for the stress that is our house before school, and the mad dash to get them fed and dressed and out the door - because they are healthy, and happy and have the opportunity to learn.

I can be thankful for the food in my fridge and my pantry, even though I am unable to eat so many of the things I used to love - because I can swallow my food and enjoy the taste.

I can be thankful for the clothes in my closet, even though some days it brings me down to see the number on the tags...because I have clothes to wear and I am more than just a number.

I can be thankful for the sleepless nights when the boys are restless and distressed, because God has somehow gifted us with the ability of functioning on little sleep.

I can be thankful for the long distance relationships I have with special family and  friends, because even though it breaks my heart to be so far away from them, when we are together it is beautiful.

Yes, my life is beautiful. There are so many challenges, I wll give you that. But do you see the gifts? A happy childhood that was full of love and absent of all those terrible things you read about happening to children. A husband so kind and caring who really and truly deserves his own blog post. Children who fill our home with noise and our hearts with laughter. 

I do not feel depressed. I do not feel ripped off. I am not angry at God for the cirucmstances He has allowed in my life. Because really, for all the not so great things happening in this hard life, He has blessed me more. 

And that is that. Thank you Jesus, for filling me with happiness. I am a happy girl.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Trusting God When Everything is Silent

Have you ever been at a place in your life where God seems silent? Maybe you have taken a leap of faith and allowed God to take you places you thought you would never go. Maybe you are in a period of waiting and feel as if God has forgotten about you. Maybe you feel all alone. Maybe you feel all of those things. I know I do.

Right now I am in a strange place. I have been in this place before, and it is a very lonely place. It was hard, but I struggled through it. Somehow, though, things are different this time because before I didn't choose to be in this place - it just sort of happened. This time, God led me here and I was very conciously aware of where I was headed. Listening to his call,  I came here anyway. And now I sit here, waiting.

When you are waiting, it is hard to see the hand of God in your life. I believe He is there in the every day activities. In the mundane. He sees you when you are at home doing housework, when you are sitting in the office with a pile of paperwork, when you are pouring into your children. He sees you, He interacts with you, but sometimes you don't see and interact with Him.  That is hard. Because in so many ways you just feel...empty.

A few years ago a friend of mine was in a waiting period. It was hard to see the hand of God in her situation because the waiting was so long and so heartbreaking. She was waiting for a greencard so she could go and be with her husband. For two very long years, she was waiting. Praying. Interacting with God and just waiting for Him to move. I admit, during this period, even I was left feeling empty on her behalf. Because while she was waiting, everything that could go wrong did. Paperwork was lost and needed to be resubmitted. Not once, not twice, but three times. When they finally saw a ray of hope, something that never happens happened. The goverment of the good old USA shut down. Closed. What? We questioned what God was doing. Finding faith that He had a plan was so incredibly hard. We cried. We drank a lot of tea and watched kid movies to make us feel better. (Thank you, Disney Pixar!) We waited. We prayed.

The waiting is hard. The waiting is so lonely and desolate you feel like your heart is breaking to a million pieces. Sometimes while you are waiting, God wants to test your faith. He wants to realign your thinkng. He wants you to put Him first in your life. Psalm 142:5-6a says, "I pray to you, O Lord. I say, 'You are my place of refuge, You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry for I am very low."

If you are very low, if you feel like the loneliness is going to swallow you, you need to have faith in Him. Faith in His timing and His provisions.  But what can you do in the waiting? What can you do when you don't even have the strength to lift up your head? When you are so desolate you just can't even?

Baby steps. Everything is easier when you take it slowly, and sometimes trusting in God when He seems silent requires baby steps. You might not be able to stand tall in faith right now. You might just be laying on the floor feeling so helpless. You mght be at rock bottom. Even baby steps are a step of faith.

First, follow the advice Peter gives in 1 Peter 5:6-7: "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honour. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." Sometimes even a simple prayer will lift your head and your heart up to Him. We are blessed to have a great God who knows our hearts before we even utter a word, but He longs to hear from us. He longs for us to pour out our hearts to Him.

Second, be thankful and fix your eyes and mind on how He is moving in your life. Focus on the good that He is doing in this current situation, and leave the rest to the One who works out all things for good.

Third, if you are able, share your thoughts and hurts with a friend. Have them sit beside you. Have them share with you their experiences and their faith. Sometimes sharing with a friend and listening to how God has worked in their lives will help boost your faith. Ask this friend to pray for you and with you, for "the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." James 5:16b

Fourth, worship with your whole heart. When you are feeling broken, when the waiting is long, when your heart is lonely, that is when your worship should be the loudest. Worship is giving back to God what He has given to us - responding to the love that overflows from Him. Worship is from the heart. The psalms are full of examples of worship in the midst of suffering. In the midst of any kind of battle. In the midst of every situation. So read the Psalms. Pray though them. Pop on some music and sing until your heart moves.

Fifth, remember who you are. You are a child of God who is deeply loved.  I John 4:4,16 says, "But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them."

When you are hurting and it seems God is silent, everything is empty. But I can tell you this - even when we aren't moving, He is. Even when the days seem long and our heart seems dry, He is living and active in our lives. That friend of mine? Just about a year ago she got a little something in the mail. She rejoiced as she packed up her belongings and joined that sweet husband of hers. Finally, they could be a family. And when God blesses? He really blesses! Right this very moment I bet my wonderful friend is holding her beautiful new baby boy.

You are not forgotten. And neither am I. If you needed this today, so did I. How wonderful to know that when we are hurting, and waiting, He is near. Not only does He know what we are going through, He is holding us in His hands. Faithful in every season - through both the blessings and the struggles.

Like a little baby standing on their own feet and taking that tottering first step - we can take a step towards trusting God through this, too. It is okay if we fall occasionally. Toddling babies do that. But they get up and try again with joy and excitement in their eyes. I pray that you and I will have that joy and excitement in our eyes and in our hearts as we journey through trusting in the silence.

Joy is coming -  do you feel it bubbling up? Trust in God and it will overflow. Let it swell up inside and become a part of who you are. Then trusting God will become joyful obedience and will spring a hope in your heart you will never have experienced before.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's Up Wednesday ~ May

Where the heck did May go?   It feels like it just started! This has been a wonderful, happy month - especially the end of the month. As I have done the last few months I am linking up with this super fun blog post again by answering these questions. So here's what we have been up to this month!

1. What we are eating this week - It is summer time and the living is easy! Or at least it feels like summer and the meal prep is easy - that sounds a bit more accurate. We have been doing BBQs, tacos, pasta salad, regular salad, even subs (which we all call Borden-way instead of Subway!) Anything that is easy, because as the weather gets hotter - there is no way I want to work over a hot stove! 

2. What I'm reminiscing about - the last time that I saw my Swiss cousins. (I will tell you why later). Everyone was so little! That was only 4 years ago now...

Rachelle and Micah

Nicolas, Elliot and Micah

Elliot, Aiden and Micah

3. What I'm loving - I joined Thirty One as a consultant and I am excited. I really just joined because I wanted to be a kitnapper - the kit this summer is awesome! And many grab a few steals while I am there. If I sell great, if not - that is okay too! I am super chill when it comes to selling. But look at all the great products they sell! 

4. What we've been up to - Okay, seriously. I have been looking forward to this for soooo long. My sister, my Mom and my nieces all came down for a visit. They were here all last week and it was the highlight of my month. Well, really...the highlight of my year so far. I love them so much and I am so sad they had to go back home. Here are some of the highlights from their visit. 

5. What I am dreading - end of year projects. Am I right, momsIt always seems like there is more due at the end of the year than any other time of the year. And of course, the kids are exhausted and all they want to do is play outside - so their Mom ends up doing too much of the work. We actually had a project due last week and we were able to do some of it outside. It involved a hot glue gun and we had a little incident where someone tried to do it himself and ended up getting a little burnt. But in the end, it all worked out! My sister helped out with it and had all the grandiose ideas of how to build this pyramid. I feel like I am already tapped out - not looking forward to the rest!

Jess measures as Aiden cuts his pyramid pieces

Aiden squeezing glue out

The finished product!

6. What I'm working on - my gardening skills! I am not a gardener, and I never will be. Due to my health limitations, I can't really get down on my knees and garden. While my Mom was here she gave me this awesome gift of a beautiful garden. She was limited in her time so we were only able to get one garden to it's beautiful self - but my husband is going to help me (read do all the work as I hold a sheet or two of gardening fabric) to make the other garden in the front of the house look just as awesome! I am excited about this. It went from ugly and blah to gorgeous and trendy in a matter of an hour or so. Love it!

Before - the weeding and determining what could stay and what could go.

After - the kids collected the rocks from the woods and Mom split several of my plants in the other garden to make it look super amazing! 

7. What I am excited about - summer reading is here! I love sitting out on the back deck reading while the boys are playing in the yard. They can occupy themselves outside for hours and I just sit in my comfy deck chair with some fruity iced tea and read away. (And hope no bugs find me...)

8. What I am watching and reading - Speaking of summer reading, I have a huge list! But right now I am currently reading another Sarah Sundin book (love her!) called With Every Letter. It is so good, as all of her books are. And I am currently not watching anything since I want to finish this book as well as a crochet project I am working on - so just watching movies here and there because they killed off one of my favourite characters in Bones and I can't handle it...

9. What I am listening to - still on my Elevation Worship kick. I bought their 2014 album via the Play store and it is awesome. My current favourite is I Love You Lord. 

9. What I am wearing - you are all going to be jealous over this one. I saw it when I was shopping at the dollar store with my Mom and we agreed it was the bomb and I could totally pull it off. How awesome is this?

10. What I am doing this weekend - I was supposed to go away with the girls, but decided against it this year. So I think I will just stay home with the kids while my hubby goes to his brother's house to get our car fixed. Pays to have a backyard mechanic in the family. :)

11. What I am looking forward to next month - you know how I mentioned I was reminscing about my cousin's coming to visitWell...that's because they are coming to visit again! So exciting. We have plans to go to the beach, the park, have BBQs, probably watch movies - so exciting! I can't wait to have them over! Also next month, my sweet Aiden P is graduating from elementary school. It is crazy to believe he is going to be at the middle school in the fall. He is so excited about it! 

12. What I am looking forward to this summer - so many good things! A visit from my cousins, hanging out with my kids, the splash pads and wading pools, picnics in the hot sun (away from the bugs), reading on the back deck, and hopefully a visit to my best friend to snuggle up with her BRAND NEW BABY who arrived a wee bit early but was the biggest preemie ever and has made huge gains. He is now home! Woo hoo! Love, love, love! Can't wait to meet his sweet little face. AND a week at the cottage with my parents!! Can't wait for that either. Hello, summertime.

Well that is what we have been up to this month! We have had a lot of fun. And we have lots to look forward to in the next few months as well. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a fantastic June!