Friday, 27 June 2014

'Fun' Is A Relative Word

   Years ago my youngest sister Kari earned herself the nickname 'Loopy.'  I'm not being mean when I say it fit her perfectly.   Kari and I shared not only a bedroom but also a queen-sized so every night was a sleepover.  Oddly enough, I loved the arrangement since I hated sleeping by myself.  We would laugh and talk until late even if it was a school night.  There were many perfume fights under the blanket....she usually lost.  Another time, I can't recall all the specifics, we had a bet going of some sort.  Again, she lost and had to take a bite of a bar of soap.  I couldn't believe she went through with it, but she just casually took a chomp off of a decorative soap and chewed.  I would NEVER have done that !  And almost every night it was a fight to see who would turn off the light.  Poor girl, it drove her nuts to have it on, but I was stubborn enough to learn to sleep with the light on.  She would lay there for hours it seemed, stewing, and finally go turn it off and I would laugh.  I really am not portraying myself in a good light here, but believe me, when it was time to sleep we always said 'good night' and 'I love you.'  And always, without fail, my foot would have to know exactly where she was in bed.    We jumped into freezing cold waters in April and in September, and then do a drive home in sopping wet clothes.  We worked together cleaning houses at lightening speed, and now we wonder why we can't do the same with our own homes ;)  We were best friends and sisters, and we still are.

   However, this past week I learned that we are also very very different.  We both had exciting plans for the weekend.  We both left our homes, husbands, and children and took a road trip.  And that is where the similarities end.  See I went to play at a music festival, my sister went to a Tough Mudder race.  Do you know what that is?  It's insane, that's what it is.  She went with her team of friends and the idea is to start and finish as a team.  The course was set for 19 km of running!!!  In between bouts of running you have to do obstacles such as walking a plank at 20 feet in the air, dive into ice water and swim, climb massive walls, and I believe there was even a mild shock station to go through.  I told her was crazy, and she laughed...see?

   When we both got home we finally had a chance to talk about the fun time we had.  I couldn't believe her when she said it was fun.  So I thought I would list her idea of fun versus mine and you can be the judge.

KARI                                                                          SUSIE
-travelled in a vehicle filled with people                    -travelled alone, quietly
-had to pay an entry fee                                              - was paid to come
-19km run                                                                   -sat in the sun
-walked the plank                                                       -walked to get a hamburger
-took the arctic plunge                                                - had a cold drink
-walked through mud pit                                            -took a hot shower
-earned massive bruises                                              - multiple mosquito bites
-crossed the finish line alive                                       - sang 'I'll fly away' as a finale
-slept in a tent                                                              - sank into a soft bed

  For all our differences we can agree on one thing, we want to do it all over again next year!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Who is God to you?

   This past weekend was, for lack of a better phrase, so much FUN!  I had myself a mini-holiday by going to a music jamboree up north.  Gord decided to stay home with our kids so I had a couple days to play music, listen to music,  and visit with random folks to my heart's content.  I have missed this part of life for so long already so it really felt like I had been handed a gift when Gord said, "Stay until Monday."  Like a good wife I obeyed my husband, willingly!

   I play with my cousin whenever I get a chance to.  We have a group called 'Kin Folk', don't laugh; we had to come up with something.  Anyway, it was better than 'Hillbilly Momma and a Guitar Boy', although that may have been hitting the nail on the head.  We would love to play more, maybe when I stop moving every other year and my cousin stops having babies ;) For now we are content, almost, to play a few times a summer, but this last weekend has wetted the appetite to do more and more and more.  If I am wise, I will wait on the Lord to open and close those doors, He's better at it anyway.

   One of the best parts of sharing music is the chance to talk with people after.  A lot folks encourage us with their kind words, but the people I remember most  are the one's who open up and share their hearts.  There are hurting people everywhere and music will often bring them to a place where they want to talk about their trials.  I am thankful I can often relate when people share their stories, it makes whatever I have gone through a blessing and not a curse.  I may not have been in their exact situation, but I understand pain and hurt on a certain level.  When people allow you into their world the opportunity to 'Bear one another's burdens' becomes a reality.  It is amazing how a burden feels a little lighter when you can share it with someone.  The reality of life doesn't change, but giving a voice to our fear's can be incredibly freeing.  Too often we worry about the shame attached to a situation so we stay silent, and the enemy wins.  Music is so powerful, for good or evil, and if used correctly can become a balm to a wounded soul.  David played for Saul to soothe him and David danced for The Lord with joy.  I would love to know what was played in both situations!

   All the groups performing were different from each other, but I really enjoyed listening to each one and hearing where their hearts were in serving God.  I saw the beauty of families singing together, nothing beats sibling harmonies, and I was reminded of my own family and how we sang together for so long.  But honestly, I don't wish for those days back.  Those were some hard times then and I am thankful to come out of that time of life.  God has used those hard times and I have peace knowing that good can come from sorrow.  I think most of us have times in life we don't want to re-live, yet those times can bring us to a complete dependance on God.

  On my way home I was talking with my sister and once again she said something that made complete sense to me.  We have an amazing God who is all things, Comforter, Provider, Protector, Friend, Father, Shepherd, My Strength, My Hope, My Salvation, and the list goes on and on.  Here's the question, do you know God in any of these ways?  The truth is that in order to know Him we must  first know what it is like to be without Him.

  Comforter - how will you know Him as Comforter if you have never been in a situation where you
                      needed His comfort?
  Provider    - if we are always able to afford what we need on our own, then I don't know Him as
  Protector   - have you ever needed His protection from real danger or have you always live in a
                     "safe" environment?
  Friend       - if you always surround yourself with people and never let yourself be alone, do you
                      need Him as your friend?
  Saviour     - He is only your Saviour if you have first been lost and without hope

   Of course I can continue, but you get the picture. We say the names of God, but when we enter a valley all our talk and words are tested.  It's true that God is all these things, but is He all these things to me?   The common denominator that allows us the benefit of knowing God in these ways is pain and suffering.   Pain brings us to our knees whereas the comforts of life usually keep us running around.  The times I am closest to God have always been at the hardest times in my life because I finally sought Him.  I think of the few ways I know God and I realize that's not enough, I want more.

   Father, Saviour, Protector, Provider and My Eternal Hope,  those are the ways in which I know Him best.  What about you?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Tigers and Thrift Stores

  I am married to a man who puts up with my odd little quirks.  I think he has given up trying to understand why I do what I do, and is kind enough not to say too much.  Yesterday was an exception, well he didn't say anything, but he sure laughed.....and laughed and laughed.  I like beautiful things and there are stores that I could live in if only I had the resources to fund my un-necessary wants!  So I have reached a compromise, I love to browse thrift stores.  Yes, I know they smell stale and you never really know where things have come from.  But I just love looking and I will buy something if it falls into the right category.  Most times I leave with nothing and pat myself on the back.  Other times I have found such a treasure that I have to be careful I don't blush when friends ask me where I found it.

  A few weeks ago I stumbled across a red-glazed cast iron skillet.  It is gorgeous and proudly hangs on a nail in my kitchen.  I started using only cast iron a few years ago and am now a convert.  No teflon plans in my kitchen anymore!  Sometimes I joke about selling it on the side, but I haven't found a company that does that...I've looked.   And really, how many repeat customers would you get since cast iron lasts FOREVER!!  After I bought the pan I drove home, wondering the entire time how I would tell Gord I bought another pan.  I placed it on the counter and waited for his comment.  He didn't say much, just shook his head and looked again at my growing collection.  Still, completely worth it.  It's come to a place where I will look for pans for my friends.  I don't want all the pans out there for myself, I just love the thrill of the find and I enjoy sharing things I love.  Gift giving is my love language even if it comes in the form of a rusty old pan.

  Last week I made a quick stop at my favourite shop and once again did my typical run through.  I left with two very small items, a small vintage iron stone bowl, and a stuffed tiger.  Odd?  Yes, it's a strange combination, but it brought great excitement to my home.  My kids all have a weird attachment to stuffed tigers.  They take them everywhere; on trips, in their beds, in their forts, on their bikes etc. The tigers have been repaired, washed, and some are desperately in need of a little extra stuffing.  Last fall my two youngest boys took their tigers outside and one was lost after it took a flying leap into the air and landed in the bushes.  The tears were very real and the search party came back defeated.  Last month the same two boys came running into the shop with their find, the long lost tiger.  It promptly went into the washer and has been played with ever since.  I often keep my eyes open for a gently used tiger to bring home so even I had a smile on my face when I found the new one.  I put it in the toy bin when no one was looking, and waited.  You should have seen their faces and off they went with all their tigers, old and new.

                                                          Notice the stray leg of a tiger

                                                        Not sure what's going on here!

     Yes there's a tiger in the photo, but who cares, look at Nathan!!  I love that boy ;)

As you can see these tigers put up with a lot of wear and tear, so $2 is money well spent!                     

  As for bowl I purchased, its beautiful and will be used and displayed somewhere in the new house but it will always have the memory of laughter to go along with it.   I sanitized the bowl in the dishwasher and Wyatt was helping me empty it.  Every parent needs a child that will keep them humble, and Wyatt is mine.  He says things without thinking and his Sunday School teacher often has a smirk after class and never hesitates to share things with me.  He is usually a ray of sunshine, and we love him to bits.  But every now and then one has to have a little shade too.  Yesterday, in his usual matter of fact tone, he asked me about the bowl as I put it away, "Is that the bowl from the junk store?"  Gord howled and figured that Wyatt had hit the nail on the head.  Even I couldn't argue that he may have got part of it right.  Kids, they're so much smarter than I give them credit for.  'The Junk Store' is sure to continue  being a part of my shopping excursions but I won't think of it the same way ever again.    And thanks to Wyatt all my found treasures will have the great distinction as coming from The Junk Store.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Loads or Burdens?

   I have three sisters and one lonely only brother.  All of us are so different from each other with our tastes, personalities, and ideas.  We don't live close to each other so we don't get to spend a lot of time together, but we keep in touch fairly regularly.  It's interesting to see how each one of us tackles life, what our downfalls are, our struggles, where our creative interest lays etc.  But no matter the differences in our life, if you put us all in the same room we will laugh and talk with ease and ALL of us will smile the exact same smile, or so we've been told.

    I used to feel threatened by our differences but now I find that I am strong enough to stand on my own if I need to.  I am becoming more and more comfortable defining areas in my life that God is challenging me in.  I have stopped taking on the role that belongs only to the Holy Spirit.  Years ago I remember making some rather humbling phone calls to my sisters and some friends..ouch.   They were so gracious and kind and I am blessed to still have them in my life.

   One of the best things about being with people NOT like me, is seeing the unique way God works in their life.  I can learn so much by watching how my siblings deal with trials that come their way.  I can then take what I've learned and apply it to my own life.  It's like two for the price of one!   My siblings and I really believe that we aren't that old yet, (unless you ask our kids) but no matter what your age,  hard times will always find you.  I  wonder if my children panic as much as I do when I realize I've made a serious mistake or some unwanted challenge comes my way.  In a child's world emotions are just as wild as in the adult world.  The difference is we should be mature enough to understand that although we need emotions, it's dangerous to live by them.

   Example...several years ago I went grocery shopping with my baby in a car seat and my three other children.  Now first of all, for those of you who have tackled similar treks to the grocery store with more than one child,  you know that this can be a rather daunting task.  I believe I had one in a car seat on the top rack of the cart, so there went valuable space for groceries, and my toddler sitting on the top as well.  Lucky for me he was a small boy so I could still squeeze two gallons of milk beside him.  So that leaves the bottom cart for groceries,  plus I still have to manage two other kids.  To be fair, they have always done really well while shopping.  Maybe it has to do with going through the whole order of instructions before we ever even leave the van.  Hello Drill Sargent.  However, no matter how good the kids, or how organized you are,  grocery shopping is not for the faint of heart.  After managing to find everything I needed, and fitting it all in like a jigsaw puzzle, I left the store slightly overheated.   Am I the only one who gets hot under the collar while checking out at *****store??  Managing to leave a store with all your groceries and all the right children is an accomplishment!!    I walked to my van only to find that some  thoughtless person had parked me in.  I remember it being a struggle to weedle myself in and then there came the challenge of the car seat, which at that exact moment was a highly over rated instrument.   I think I got very hot for awhile and all sorts of irrational thoughts ran through my head.  Thankfully I did nothing to act on those immature thoughts, but many people would have.  I did think of how I could tastefully leave this person a note.  But after mulling it over in my head I figured I would sound like a lunatic.  After all, this person had no idea what I had just gone through to get my groceries and the note would inevitably turn into a letter.  Looking back, it's laughable in a way.  But the flip side is that I let my emotions run wild in my head. I didn't act on my emotions, but I wanted to and God knew that.

   That was a rabbit trail ;)  Anyway back to my sisters.  They often say something wise and I tuck it in the back of my head and mull over it later.  My one sister made a comment on 'loads and burdens' and the difference between the two.  I thought about it for quite a while, then, my pastor happened to mention something about the same topic.  So what's a load?  As I take it, my load is my God given tasks that are ahead of me daily.   I chose to marry, have children,  and homeschool and with each of those decisions came responsibility and a massive work load, and it's all mine.    I am in charge of maintaining our home, but I am not responsible for paying for it...hehe.  I clean and teach my children, THAT is my load.  I cook, then clean again, THAT is my load.  I do laundry, organize our meagre schedule,  have people over and look at each new invention or picture my child creates.  THAT is my load.  I should never expect someone to do my work load.  Dealing with the stranger that parked me in?  Well, that just fell into the 'Unexpected' category of my work load.

  So now we come to a burden.  The Bible talks very clearly of each one carrying his own load, (Galatians 6:5)  but at the same time, we are also told to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2).  Burdens are not daily chores.  Burdens often weigh down the soul.  They grieve us and we have an ache deep within that is often to heavy for one person alone.  Family struggles? Depression? Broken relationships?  Those are burdens and thank God that we were never meant to carry burdens by ourselves.

 Often we confuse the two.  I did  as a young mom.  I saw everyone around me have so much help with their children or meals or even cleaning their homes (gasp)!  I was a little envious, I admit it.   I saw the help that was given, but I didn't see the heart of the women receiving  the help.   I doubt they had massive expectations.  In fact, they probably didn't ask for help.  Their families most likely helped out of love, not obligation.  Once I realized that my expectations were wrong I was far more content and realized that not everyone's life will not look the same, obviously! It wasn't until my sister made the statement about 'loads vs burdens' that it all clicked in my head.  That's exactly what I was confused about years ago, I only now have discovered the words for it ;)  It's still freeing to be able to understand why I found it so difficult.

  I am not a skilled writer, so I should probably put out a disclaimer of sorts.  It is wonderful if women have help in their home (my kids are a huge help), we all can use it from time to time.  It can bless others when we offer to help, so I am not saying help in the home is wrong.  But if I am slack and lazy and don't do my job it is immature to expect others to come and fix my problems.  On the other hand, God has made a merciful provision when it comes to carrying a burden.  He has given me friends and family who will not only hear me cry but also pray for me and tell me what I need to hear, even if it stings.  To top it all off, He will never give me more than I can bear.  And that's a fact because I am still here and fully functioning ;)


Monday, 9 June 2014

Comfort Zones

   I have learned that I have an extremely small comfort zone. I don't like change, I'm not an adventure seeker, and I tend to be fearful of new experiences. I have only recently come to realize that I am fearful. It's easy for me to live with fear always lurking in the background. My personality and aversion to change may have something to do with it, but I cannot deny that my upbringing has played a substantial role in my life. That being said, I am realizing that living in a continual fearful state is not what God desires for me. And so the search begins. What areas in my life is God trying to refine and shape? What am I afraid of? Failure at anything has always been hard for me to accept so I have been very careful at choosing challenges. Dreams? Well, lets just dream for things that are attainable. See the pattern?
  This week starts the beginning of something exciting for most people. We are breaking ground to build, again. Sounds like fun right?? However, I am the grey cloud hovering over the project. I have never dreamed of building houses. In fact, I thought that only wealthy people built houses. Turns out that it's cheaper to build than it is to buy and that is why we are building. We've done this twice before, well technically only one house which we sold so we could build again. The second build was a shop, or a glorified garage which we have lived in for the past 18 months. I have become a "Desperate Shop-wife." It's better than it sounds. In fact our shop has become 'home' to us all. It's cozy, warm, and very open! Life has gone on like normal and we haven't missed our new house at all, well, except for my wonderful shower. It had a spa feel to it and was my favourite part of the house. The most challenging part of living in the shop has been the loss of a second washroom. We now have one but it works, even though I have turned into a drill sargeant when it comes to rushing everyone through in the morning. The greatest test came when friends with half-a-dozen kiddos came to stay with us over a week-end.(that's where the "half-crazy" part of the blog comes in) We had a great time and it worked almost perfectly. Everyone that has come to see us, and those brave enough to stay with us, have been amazed at how homey it feels. In fact, and I always smile, when our kids friends have come over they think this is the coolest place ever and they wonder why they can't live in a shop?! For those of you who haven't seen our shop, please don't get the impression that I am roughing it because that is soooo far from true. I have a dishwasher and a laundry room so I cannot complain.
    I have become so at home in my shop that I am now fearful to leave it. I like the simplicity of less room, less stuff, and of course the "less debt" part of it. But life never stays the same and it appears that we are going to enter a new season of change and I am a little apprehensive or better yet, terrified! And therein is the problem. God has always always always taken care of us. There have been times when I have been so discouraged and wondering if we will make it, and God made a way. He has proved Himself in the big decisions of our life and He proves Himself daily to me. And yet, I continue to doubt. The new challenge always seems to be just a little bigger than the last one and so I worry and fret and think of things that 'I' can do to make this work. When will I learn to trust and obey? Matthew 6:34 speaks so clearly of living day to day.
    Building a house is such a small thing in life, and yet if I do not daily trust in the Lord then I am allowing a small detail to discourage me. I would love to be be able to enjoy and embrace this new project with joy and excitement, and I'm sure Gord would love that as well :) But at stake is something much larger than a house,it's my heart. If I desire to live daily for the Lord then I am able to face whatever comes that day. God will not judge me for what kind of a home I lived in on earth, but I will answer for the attitude in which I lived in my earthly home. From the moment we rise until the moment we go to bed we do not know what the day will hold. But it's not about the suppers we made, the folded laundry (HA!!) or the tidy homes. What really matters is the motive and intent of our hearts. God knows my heart much better than I do and I know for a fact that nothing will come my way that HE and I cannot handle. So it appears God is,once again, taking me out of my comfortable nest and I am trying to follow willingly. After all, I expect my children to come running when I call them.... Susie