Category Archives: Family

Grateful?

Grateful-Heart-2

This is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Feasting, family, friends, football . . . you know the drill. It’s often a busy day with the people you care about and there might even be a comment or two where someone offers a word of gratitude.

Aside from this day set aside for thanksgiving, however, are we really grateful?

Hmm . . .

I read an article this morning about the victims of what’s known as the Great Purge, some of the more than 9,000 German Mennonites arrested in Ukraine from 1936-38, during Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s ethnically motivated persecution (click here). I am of Mennonite ancestry and my family immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine, so this news story caught my attention.

I got to thinking about Thanksgiving and how my generation, and those following, have little context with which to understand the sacrifices and hardships that made it possible for us to be where we are today. We, in North America, have not experienced world wars, the Great Depression, or ethnic persecution such as the Jewish Holocaust and that which is described in the article I read. We’ve certainly had rough times, but nothing to the extent that our forefathers lived through, and sometimes even died during.

Yet, they were thankful.

I know this, because I’ve read my great-great-grandmother’s diary. I’ve spoken with elderly people who shared their stories. Almost without exception, they repeatedly express their deepest gratitude to our heavenly Father for giving them courage, for protecting them, for making a way for them, and for never leaving or forsaking them.

I am certain that the Lord pointed me to that website with the article I mentioned. Reading it caused me to stop and really think about my own often ungrateful heart and how I can become more purposeful in expressing thanks, not just to my Father, but to others around me.

So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, 
Will give You thanks forever;
We will show forth Your praise to all generations. – Psalm 79:13 (NKJV)

 

 

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The Toddler Rules

Being the grandmother of eight – several of whom are toddlers – I regularly receive the play-by-plays of their escapades. I can sympathize with their parents. Sort of. I just can’t help but smile and think to myself, “Haha! It’s payback time!”

This article in today’s Huffington Post is for all the moms and dads with toddlers.

The Toddler Code of Conduct: 20 Rules Toddlers Live By

By: April McCormick
After observing my toddler, and talking with other parents of toddlers, I am convinced that toddlers have the following Code of Conduct hardwired into their DNA.

1. You are the family alarm clock. It is your job to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn every day.

2. ALWAYS crap your pants AFTER leaving the house. Your best bet is to clench those cheeks together until you have left your street, and then EXPLODE!!! To achieve Legend status, do this when your parent is in a huge hurry to get somewhere very important.

3. Do not be content doing anything for more than two minutes. You have to constantly keep moving. NEVER SLOW DOWN!

4. If you are not interested in being picked up, get as low to the ground as possible. Think dead weight. Feel free to flail and cry for added difficulty.

5. If someone tries to take something from you, teach them a lesson by first throwing it, then jumping up and down while making your best “oh you are going to be REALLY sorry,” face, then falling to the floor and starting to spaz out, screaming and crying extra loud if you are in public.

6. If you do not like the food that is served to you, throw it on the ground in disgust, then at your parent, then at the cat/dog. For extra credit smash the remaining food into your hair and clothes. When you are given something to drink immediately dump it in your lap.

7. Whenever possible terrorize the family pets so they know who is in charge.

8. NEVER EVER let your parent get the house clean. EVER! Once something is picked up off the floor, put something in its place. A good rule of thumb is dumping out the cat/dog food daily. Feel free to snack on it as well.

9. You are in control of your sleep schedule. If you do not want to go to sleep, then don’t, and if someone really wants you to go to sleep, then definitely do not do it. Do your best to get so tired that you become an evil miserable crying mess. That will show them!

10. Always do your best to be in the way, including but not limited to: playing at your parents’ feet while they are cooking, cleaning, fixing something, talking on the phone, getting ready for work, or doing anything that looks remotely important.

11. Take ALL of your toys out of the toy box before playing with any of them. This goes for books, too — rip all of them off the shelf before reading one. Your job is to make a huge mess. Hint: To keep things interesting, never ever play with the same toy or book for more than one minute.

12. Under no circumstance will you make diaper changes or potty training an easy venture. If poop does not get everywhere then you have failed.

13. Every time you leave the park throw a fit big enough to make it look like you are being kidnapped. If you are lucky, this will buy you five more minutes on the slide.

14. The minute you learn to walk, refuse to be held. Insist on walking EVERYWHERE!

15. The minute you learn to talk, DO NOT STOP! Do not be discouraged if you are not understood — talk away anyway. It is not your fault if people are too stupid to understand you.

16. EVERYTHING in this world belongs to you. Feel free to touch it, take it, hide it, throw it, smash it, break it and completely ruin it. HINT: ALL of the telephones in the house belong to you — store them in the toilet.

17. Your mantra is, “Catch me if you can you silly fool.”

18. “No!” means, Good job! Keep doing that!

19. NEVER EVER do anything the first time you are asked.

20. And last — the most important code of toddler conduct — for every five minutes you spend terrorizing your parent(s), sibling(s) and/or pet(s), provide one minute of pure sweet lovin’ to ensure complete forgiveness.

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Giving Thanks

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and we will be celebrating with our family later today. Turkey, mashed potatoes, salads, desserts – yes, we will be “feasting”, as our nine-year-old grandson Caleb likes to say.

While we zero in on giving thanks for this one weekend every year, it’s something I have been striving to do on a regular basis.

Thankfulness is an attitude.

A mindset.

A way of life.

Even when I don’t feel grateful because of some sort of crisis (often of my own making), I have much to say thank you for. There are the usual things like family, friends, health, and home, none of which I take for granted. But then there are these:

The laughter of my grandchildren.

Technology that allows me to Skype with my mom and my kids.

The beautiful women in our Wednesday morning bible study group.

The cashier at our local grocery store who always smiles and chats and brightens my day.

Tim Hortons extra large decaf double-double (Canadians will know what I’m talking about).

My husband who knows me so well and loves me anyway.

Books.

A brain that thinks and reasons and imagines and creates.

And I am always and forever thankful for my Father who loves me, for His Son who saved me, and for His Spirit who guides me.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. – Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)

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It’s a Girl!

I haven’t posted anything for a while, not because there was a lack of blog-worthy material, but just because life got so darn busy. That’s it. No excuses.

Now for the BIG NEWS . . .

We have a brand new granddaughter in our family! Little Adelaide Margaret was born at home last week, with daddy and the midwife in attendance. She weighed in at 8lb 4oz and is #8 in the birth order of our “grands”. She’s perfect and beautiful and is a very special little girl after six boys in a row. Her almost-12-year-0ld cousin Emily is thrilled to finally have another female in the mix, and I have no doubt that Em and Addy will be great pals, despite the age difference. Look out, boys!

I could go on and on at this point, sermonizing about the miracle of life. Seems fitting, right? But all of us in this family are simply thankful to our Heavenly Father for Adelaide’s safe arrival, for a healthy mommy, and for the blessing this little one is to us.

That’s all.

 

 

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It Matters Whom You Marry

As the mother of two single daughters, I pray daily for the godly men who will one day be their husbands. Both of these women deal with frequent remarks from well-meaning friends and family who seem to think they are being too picky. This puzzles me. If you’re going to be picky about anything, shouldn’t it be about whom you choose to spend the rest of your life with?

Then I read this blog post.

It Matters Whom You Marry

My husband and I were once with a youth group. There were three kids sitting across from us at a meal: two guys and a girl. The one guy was a computer geek with glasses. The other one was a college student with slightly cooler hair and no glasses. The girl was obviously with him. But while the computer geek was busy serving everyone at the meal, clearing plates and garbage, the college student got angry with the girl for a small accident and poured red juice over her leather jacket and white shirt. She picked the wrong guy, and the juice didn’t seem to change her mind. She is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage.

So to all the young, unmarried Christian girls out there, listen up: who you marry matters. You might think that the way he treats you isn’t so bad. It’s not going to get better after the wedding. You might think that he’ll change. It’s possible, but most don’t. You might think that you’ll be able to minister to him and help him. Possibly, but if you can’t now, you won’t then, and you will be at risk yourself. A husband should lead and cherish you, not need your counsel for basic personality or behavior issues.

Unless someone married is very frank with you, you can’t understand how much a husband will impact your entire life. Next to salvation there is no other long term event that will change so many areas of your life so deeply. Here are just some of the ways that marriage will impact every aspect of living.

1. It will impact you spiritually. If the guy is not a believer, you can stop right there. You have no business yoking a redeemed soul with an unregenerate one, even if he seems open to change. Christ has bought you with a price and it is not an option to give away that blood bought heart to someone who doesn’t know and love your Lord. It will cripple your spiritual development, open up a host of temptations, stifle your prayer life, make regular church going difficult, and cause massive parenting conflict if you have children.

If the guy is a believer, is he a strong one? Will he lead you in prayer, Bible reading, family devotions, and public worship? Or will you be on your own? Is he going to make spiritual growth a priority or do other things come first? Is he going to ask you how it’s going with your soul so he can help you grow in holiness and love for Christ, or will he leave that to your pastor? Is he going to lead the children in this, or will you have to spearhead that? In church, is he going to help the kids sit well, pray, find the hymn, or will you be the one pointing out what is happening next and helping the family keep up? Many women have married spiritually immature men, thinking that it wasn’t a big issue, or that the man would change, and they were wrong. They bear the scars.

The health of your eternity is at stake. Think carefully.

2. It will impact you emotionally. Is the guy you’re thinking of going to encourage you, love you, be kind to you, and seek to understand you, or will he want to go out with the guys when you’re having a hard night? Will he listen when you are struggling with something or will he be preoccupied with a video game? Is he going to be annoyed when you cry or will he get you Kleenex and give you a hug? Is he going to going to understand that you are probably more tender than he is, more sensitive to issues and comments, or is he regularly going to run rough shod over your feelings? One woman was struggling to breastfeed her new baby, believing that that was the best thing for her, but it was very difficult. Instead of giving support and encouragement, the husband would make mooing sounds whenever he saw his wife working at it. We have to get rid of princess complexes, but we do have emotional needs. Any guy who is uncaring about your feelings and self esteem is selfish and should be left alone.

Be careful – a husband can cripple or foster emotional health.

3. It will impact you physically. Is the guy you’re with going to provide for your basic needs? Will he be able to shelter, clothe and feed you? At one point in our marriage, I was worried that there was no employment opportunity. My husband assured me that he would work at McDonalds, dig ditches, clean up roadkill – whatever it took to provide for the family, regardless of his gifts and training. That’s the kind of attitude you want. A man who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). You might have to help ease the financial burden, but unless your husband is disabled or there is another unusual circumstance, you shouldn’t have to carry it yourself.

Will the man you are with care for your body or abuse it? If he gives you little smacks, kicks, etc. when you’re dating, get away. It’s almost guaranteed that he will abuse you after marriage, and stats show that’s especially true when you are pregnant. Is he going to care for and protect your body or will he hurt it? There are women in churches across America who thought it was no big deal to have little (sort of friendly) punches or slaps from their boyfriends, but who are covering up the bruises from their husbands.

Will the man you are with care for you sexually? Is he going to honour the marriage bed in physical and mental faithfulness to you or will he flirt, feed his porn addiction, or even leave you for another woman? You can’t always predict these issues, but if the seeds or practices are already there, watch out. I recently saw a newly married couple and the husband was flirting openly with another woman. Unless something drastic happens, that marriage is headed for disaster.

Is he going to be tender and gentle to you in bed? An unbelieving co-worker once told my sister that after her first sexual encounter, she had trouble walking for a few days because her boyfriend was so rough. In other words, he wasn’t selfless enough to care for the body of the woman he said he loved.

Watch out. Your body needs care and protection.

4. It will impact you mentally. Is the man that you’re thinking of going to be a source of worry or will he help you deal with your worries? Is he going to encourage your intellectual development, or will he neglect it? Is he going to value your opinions and listen to what you are thinking, or will he disregard your thoughts? Is he going to help you manage stress so that your mind is not burdened that way, or is he going to let you struggle through issues alone? Is he going to care for you and be thoughtful of you if you are experiencing mental strain, or will he ignore it? I know of a woman who could handle pregnancy and child birth very well physically but postpartum depression took a huge toll on her mind. The husband overlooked it, continuing to have more children, until his wife ended up in a mental institution.

You might think that the intellectual or mental side of a marriage is small. It’s bigger than you think. Consider it seriously.

5. It will impact you relationally. How’s your relationship with your mother? Your dad? Do you love them? Does your boyfriend? Fast forward ten years: you tell your husband that your mother is coming for the weekend. Is he excited? Disappointed? Angry? Making snide jokes with his friends? Of course, a husband should come first in your priority of relationships, as you both leave father and mother and cleave to one another. But parents are still a big part of the picture. Whatever negative feelings he has about your parents now will probably be amplified after marriage. Your marriage will either strengthen or damage – even destroy – your relationship with your parents. The people who know you best and love you most right now could be cut out of the picture by a husband who hates them.

It’s the same with sisters and friends. Will they be welcomed, at reasonable times, in your home? Will the guy who you’re with encourage healthy relationships with other women, or will he be jealous of normal, biblical friendships? Will he help you mentor younger women and be thankful when older women mentor you, or will he belittle that?

Don’t sacrifice many good relationships for the sake of one guy who can’t value the people who love you.

So how will your boyfriend do after the vows? Because this is just a sampling of the ways that a husband can bless or curse his wife. The effects are far reaching, long lasting, and either wonderful or difficult. True, there are no perfect men out there. But there are great ones. And it’s better to be single for life than to marry someone who will make your life a burden. Singleness can be great. Marriage to the wrong person is a nightmare. I’ve been in a church parking lot where the pastor had to call the police to protect a wife from a husband who was trying to stop her from worshiping and being with her family. It’s ugly. Don’t be so desperate to get married that your marriage is a grief. If you are in an unhappy marriage, there are ways to get help. But if you’re not married, don’t put yourself in that situation. Don’t marry someone whose leadership you can’t follow. Don’t marry someone who is not seeking to love you as Christ loved the church. Marry someone who knows and demonstrates the love of Christ.

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The Moving Adventure

We are two and a half weeks away from moving day. As you can imagine, our house is littered with boxes and storage bins, and almost every spare minute is spent filling them. It goes without saying that we have a lot of stuff, pack-rats that we are, but we really are purging as we go. There are interruptions in this process as we find pieces of our past – old letters, pictures, baby clothes, keepsakes. Of course, you have to stop to read or reminisce and then make the decision to keep or toss. Seems like we’re doing more keeping than tossing. Regardless, the packing is going well.

The fact that we are actually moving still seems surreal. We’ve been in this house for twelve years – the longest I have lived in one place in my whole life. One kind of puts roots down in that length of time. But we are carefully digging up those roots and we’ll replant them in our new home. They will grow and new memories will join them.

It’s an adventure.

We are full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of settling into a beautiful home, getting to know a new city, cultivating new friendships. We see the hand of God leading us. He’s shown us a tiny little bit of what our future looks like, and it’s amazing. We are giddy just thinking about it!

So, a new chapter begins. This is the first home since 1977 that we are establishing without any of our children. This is the first home we’ll have with central air, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, and a gorgeous view. This is the first home we’ll have in a city of less than 100,000 people. In some ways, this feels like our first home. Period.

Stay tuned. News and pictures to follow over the next few weeks.

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Encourage Your Husband

I read this article here, and thought it worthy of a repost.

8 Ways to Encourage Your Husband

1. Pray for him. Take time out every day to pray for your husband. You can even ask him if there’s anything he wants you to pray about, and let him know that you’re praying. There’s nothing more encouraging than knowing that someone is praying you through a situation.

2. Point out his qualities. A man’s qualities run deeper than the surface work that we see. Whether he has had a productive day or he’s kicking back and relaxing, he possesses certain qualities that make him unique. Some of Michael’s qualities are that he’s a giving person. He’s a good listener. He’s hungry for the Word of God. He’s a man of grace. He’s sensitive. etc. Encourage your husband by affirming his character.

3. Tell him that he’s doing a great job. Let him know that you appreciate what he does for the family.

4. Don’t take his gifts of love for granted. If he does things around the house, thank him. My husband has thanked me for cleaning up every time I do, which means that he’s probably thanked me about  8,670 times. Yes, he thanks me daily. *smile*

5. Listen to him. Take time to listen to him about his day and hear what he’s saying. Sometimes Michael will say to me, “I’m sorry to unload on you, but there’s no one else I can talk to about this…” That makes me wonder how many men out there feel the same way. Do they have someone they can talk to about work issues? Hopefully you will be there to listen and encourage.

6. Share his burden. Offer to help him out when he’s having a busy week. Is there anything you can do to pitch in? Maybe take on a chore you don’t normally do? If so he might appreciate the help and the company.

7. Don’t be the nag who rains on his parade–be the smile that brightens his day. If women didn’t have a tendency to nag like we do, the Bible wouldn’t reference it as often as it does. Unfortunately it can become a bad habit if we don’t learn to control our tongue. Joy on the other hand is encouraging and contagious. Work on keeping a positive attitude not only for yourself, but for the good of your family.

8. Don’t expect him to be your savior. Your husband isn’t Jesus, therefore he isn’t perfect, he can’t read your mind, he will disappoint you at times, and he doesn’t have the patience of Job. He’s simply a man growing in grace and learning to lead. Praise God for the husband you have, imperfections and all.

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When Kids Rule the Roost

Yesterday, we accompanied an inspector to our new home and embarked upon a four-hour look-in-every-nook-and-cranny investigation to ensure the building is sound and that everything works the way it’s supposed to work. The house passed with flying colors and we are happy.

Although it felt kind of weird to be snooping around in a home that another family still occupies, we were respectful of their space as we did what needed to be done while trying to imagine what it would look like with our own stuff there. I took lots of pictures. And now I have six weeks to think about it.

But it is interesting what you can glean about a family’s priorities and lifestyle by spending a few hours in their home. Here’s what I observed:

1. This family has four large flat-screen TVs, each connected to its own DVD player and to the satellite dish outside. Okay, so they like to watch TV in nearly every room of the house.

2. Someone has a large Hardy Boys book collection, which they obviously still read. There was one on the edge of the bathtub.

3. They are techie geeks like me – 3 running computers in the office.

4. They don’t like to cook. The pantry was full of easy-to-prepare packaged stuff. Plus, the oven was pretty clean – a tell-tale sign.

5. They have a cat, as evidenced by two scratching posts. The cat also likes to perch on the TOP of the kitchen cabinets. I would have never thought of that until I noticed some stray cat hairs hanging over the edge up there. Dear Husband got up on the counter to look and confirmed my suspicions. Paw prints. Ew. Not a cat lover. Nope, not at all.

There are more details I could share, but the one that drew my attention immediately was how this couple’s three-year-old son rules the roost.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home that is as kid-proofed as this one. Child safety locks on every single cupboard, closet door and cabinet. Rubber bumper glued around edge of the hearth on the stone fireplace (not sure how we’re going to get that off). All electrical outlets were covered. Nothing at all breakable within reach of little hands. All good things, in and of themselves. But collectively, it would appear that the child might be having the run of the house with minimal parental guidance.

This little boy is also not lacking for playthings in any way. Nearly every room had a multitude of toys – we detected a strong Sesame Street theme – and almost the entire basement was a dedicated play space. We had to pick our way through the toys strewn over 1,000 square feet of floor. What can one kid possibly do with all that stuff?

Call me judgmental if you want. I’m just telling like I see it.

That child is ruling the roost.

I have no doubt that these parents love their son. They are showering him with every imaginable toy, convenience, and safety measure. But along with all of that, I really, really hope they are teaching him responsibility (yes, a three-year-old can learn), respect for his things and the property of others, and that he won’t get everything he wants. I hope his parents are teaching him how to properly respond to their instruction, to obey them when they speak, and to honor those in authority.

Above all, I pray that these parents are teaching their child to love the Lord. I didn’t see any indication that this was a Christian home, but I pray that if the parents are not following Jesus, they will connect with people who are. Soon.

Parenting is hard. I know this, believe me. We raised four children – all adults now – and the parenting hasn’t stopped. I imagine it never will. Our constant reliance on God and His Word has seen us through the bumps and valleys and dry places, and He has been there with us in the midst of joy and celebrations and laughter.

I don’t know how parents can do it without Him.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

 

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Moving Right Along

Well, we stalled long enough and finally got our house ready for the market. The paperwork was signed on the weekend. We have our first showing today.

We have been talking about doing this for the past seven or eight months, but it seemed like one thing after another got in the way of any action on our part. Stuff like reopening my bookstore for the Christmas season. The closing of the coffee shop that I managed. Our kids moving. My mother moving. After all of the packing and unpacking of boxes we dealt with for those events, we just didn’t feel like dealing with any more right away.

So we piddled around for a while and then gave ourselves a rather aggressive deadline by calling our Realtors and telling them we’d be ready in a week. Them being my sister and brother-in-law. Talk about incentive to get ‘er done! It was a wild week. There was purging, packing, cleaning, and lots of aching muscles at the end of the day, but we finished. And now I’ve decreed that no one shall so much as breathe in this house until there is a sold sign on the front lawn.

What next?

We’re leaving the big city at last and moving an hour’s drive away to a much smaller community where life takes a little bit slower pace. We’ll still be close to family, which is good, and to “civilization”, which is also good, and close to our church, which is very good.

Bring it on!

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The Trail Mix

Trail Mix

I like to have something to munch on when I write, so I got ambitious and made my own trail mix. I thought it would be cheaper than buying the ready-made stuff at Trader Joe’s, but it isn’t, so I might as well save myself the effort from now on. Lesson learned.

But this bag of trail mix got me thinking. It’s kind of like the church. Really. Take a look at the individual ingredients.

Peanuts: the average, regular ones who always come out, get involved in everything, work hard, and mind their own business.

Cashews: a little bit uppity, selective in where they appear, sometimes hard to locate.

Chocolate chips: the life of the party, you always know when they’re around, but they can be prone to meltdowns when things get hot.

Sunflower seeds: usually good for you, but can be so irritating when they’re stuck in the wrong place.

Raisins: so sweet and encouraging – they build you up.

Almonds: they like to be toasted and coaxed along, made to feel like they’re really wanted.

White chocolate chips: these are the ones who say one thing and do something else – they act like chocolate, but they’re not.

Craisins: they sometimes pretend to be raisins, but their sour nature comes through eventually.

Peanut butter chips: the comfortable ones who sincerely just want to be your friend.

When you put all of these ingredients into a bag and shake them up, the result is a very tasty treat. The flavors and textures compliment each other.

Just like the church.

We’re individuals. We all have different characteristics and talents and gifts. But when we come together as one church body, the power of God through Jesus Christ shakes us together and creates a family that can do mighty things for His kingdom.

Delicious!

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