July 2012


I have grown up in the shadow of some exceptional people. Smart, talented, passionate people, one of whom is my uncle.

Uncle Harold is one of the smartest people I know. If you knew him, he’d be one of the smartest people you know, too. He’s one of those people who is always working out a problem in his mind. Ask him anything and the wheels begin almost visibly turning. His field of interest, the little I understand about it, is energy-efficient housing. He’s lived and breathed outside this box for his entire career. (Google him, Harold Orr, and you will see what I mean.)

My husband has had the chance to work with Uncle Harold on a few occasions, and he’s loved it every time. The reason, more than anything, is because Uncle Harold is a smart guy who also loves to teach. And Lyndon is a guy who loves to learn.

Last Friday, Lyndon spent the day helping on a home renovation project in the heart of the inner city of Regina, Saskatchewan. This ambitious project is part of the dream and mission focus of two organizations: Gentle Road Church of Christ (a community of believers living and ministering in the inner city of Regina) and Esperanza, a non-profit organization committed to the betterment of living conditions in this area recently described as one of the most crime-ridden centres of the country.

CTV News coverage of inner city Regina home renovation project

Uncle Harold was there, too. He’s played a major role in the planning and executing of this ambitious undertaking.

When we showed up at the Regina house on Friday morning, Uncle Harold was the only other person there. For a few minutes, Lyndon was given the opportunity to sit at the feet of the teacher. It was a beautiful thing to watch. And when the rest of the team arrived and they began the work of the day, it continued to be a beautiful thing.

At eighty-one years young, Uncle Harold spent the day instructing, organizing, decision-making, and delegating. And hammering. And sawing. He was up and down the ladder (they were roofing that day), like a kid. He was an inspiration, especially to my husband. I heard all about it, the questions Lyndon asked and the answers Uncle Harold shared, on the drive home. Lyndon’s still talking about it.

Uncle Harold is a great teacher for a lot of reasons. Here are a few:

1. He loves his subject. He found his passion early in his life, and he’s kept it.

2. He loves people. He’s used his knowledge and his passion to help people.

3. He gives back. He shares his ideas freely with anyone who is interested. Like my husband.

4. He loves the Greatest Teacher. He has lived and continues to live a kingdom life, using his gifts to serve Jesus the best way he can.

Thanks, Uncle Harold, for being so willing to be a teacher. Lyndon is storing up questions for the next opportunity he might have to work and visit with you!

I see my cousin, Christie, who I haven’t seen for twenty-plus years, and the heart tug that is family is there immediately. She was a girl the last time we were together. She’s a woman now, seasoned and sweetened by the years, and I am touched by her story of rebellion and redemption. Her faith is a beautiful, hard-won thing. I am so pleased to spend a few hours with her, her Oklahoma accent sweet in my ears as she shares some of her story with me, and I wish the years had not been so many.

Family.

We bought our little “farm” eight or nine years ago. (Let’s see, Carter turned three that summer and he just had his eleventh birthday, so … eight years ago.) The guy we purchased it from is a farmer in the area, and he had several grain bins here. We agreed he could keep using them, but asked him if he could please move them as soon as possible. You know how those things go. He’s busy, time flies. But today, the grain bins are on the move.

There is a crane in the yard, and big men with loud tools, and the deconstruction is taking place. It’s noisy and it’ll take a few days, but it’s happening. The goats and I will be very happy when it’s over.

I’m thinking this is decluttering on a grand scale. It’s the kind of thing that often gets put off as long as possible. And when it happens, it is busy and messy and disrupting. But the view when it’s finished, whether it’s of my sock drawer or my yard, brings me great joy.

When we bought our first dairy goat, a beautiful Nubian named River, we had no clue. The previous owner dragged her out of the pen by the ears – long, beautiful silver ears. River’s horns had been burned off, which is a common practice for the breed to prevent injuries and accidents.

“The ears are your handles,” the woman said. “Use the ears and the tail to get them to do what you want.”

We brought River home and from the start we had problems. She had to be chased around the yard and cornered, wild-eyed, and then dragged by the ears over to the milking stand. Every morning and every evening. Not fun. Not for her. Not for any of us. She hated being touched, especially on her ears and her head. She quivered anxiously on the milking stand, often stepping off or squatting down while we tried to milk her.

One morning I said to Lyndon, “Let’s quit dragging her by her ears.”

She still had to be chased and cornered. She still had to be dragged, but we held her as gently as possible around the neck instead on yanking her by the ears. It took some time, but now she is a different goat.

When Lyndon and I walk out to the barn now, River is waiting at the fence for us. She follows us into the barn, and stands beside me, nuzzling my hand and accepting scratches on her head and ears while Lyndon milks the other goat. She gently butts her head against me with pleasure and enjoys the handling and attention that I give her.

When it is her turn to be milked, she is calm and can be led to the stand with very little force. She jumps up onto the bench by herself, and stands quietly for me while we get the job done.

River is a different goat. Kindness, gentleness, and time have worked their magic on her, and she is a pleasure now instead of a pain.

When someone tells you the way to do something and it doesn’t seem right, find a different, kinder way.

In his post last week, Dad talked about all the things that had been going on for Mom and him over the past while. Summer can get so crazy. Full of good things, but so, so busy.

This week for me is a quiet oasis. The children are away, doing summer things. This week, it’s just My Man and Me. Kinda strange, and I miss the boys. But it’s lovely, too. We’re enjoying spending time together, just the two of us. It’s a little practice, I guess, for the empty nest.

A honeymoon, said a friend. But we’re old now, you know, and romance looks a little different. When Lyndon left for work this morning he kissed me goodbye and then said, why don’t you take a nap this afternoon and maybe we’ll go out and do something this evening. The sad thing is, he’s right. Without a nap, I’d never make it past 10:00. Old.

Early this morning, as Lyndon and I walked out to the barn to feed the chickens and milk the goats, he commented on what a beautiful summer it has been so far. And it has. We haven’t made any big trips or had any grand adventures. It’s been pretty quiet, really. But very sweet.

Quiet, when I let myself settle into it without longing for something bigger, can indeed be a very, very sweet thing. This week, I am treasuring it. I’ll enjoy my afternoon nap, and he’ll probably snooze for a few minutes when he gets home, and we’ll drive to Assiniboia or Moose Jaw for a movie and the visiting in the vehicle will be the best part. And the quiet summer will sweeten and sweeten, and I’ll enjoy every tasty drop.

This is the story of my past week. With a pile of guests, most of whom were teenage boys, and a Vacation Bible School to help at (on top of the regular goat-milking-type stuff that goes on around here on a daily basis), last week was, by any definition, a bit of a gong show. And I loved *almost* every minute of it. Really.

I loved waking up each day to busy fun. I loved seeing my kitchen bursting at the seams with kids eating breakfast and making lunches, singing the soundtrack from Dr. Horrible at the top of their lungs. I loved working with my sweet friend, dramatizing the bible stories for the children and seeing the delight in their eyes as they engaged in the storytelling. I loved afternoon visits and evening tea times and the whole, crazy week of it.

There were moments, of course, when weariness got the best of me. Times when I wished for a bit of quiet. But the energy of the teens, the joy of seeing the kids singing the VBS songs, the beauty of sharing rich, ancient stories with roomful after roomful of children. These are the moments I will treasure. These are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

One moment is etched forever on my mom heart. The story is of the cross, and of Jesus taking the yuckiness inside of us to the cross with him. The demonstration included each child placing a strip of plastic garbage bag over our wooden classroom cross. And while the music played softly in the background, I watched as my tall Colton lifted our small friend Claire up in his arms so she could place her “yucky” on the cross. Indescribable.

In the midst of children and noise and bandaids and running and laughing and water balloons and trying to get the children to their next scheduled activity, God gave me this small moment of beauty and grace.

This morning, in my quiet house, I am grateful for both the gong show and the grace. Together, they make a good pair.

The past couple of weeks have been taken up with travel, a family barbeque in Weyburn, Jared and Haleigh’s wedding and a couple of days spent with Janelle, Lyndon and boys and their family of goats, chickens, ducks and turkeys in Gravelbourg.

We arrived at Brian and Verna’s house for the barbeque to find the morning had been spent putting up streamers, balloons and blown up wedding pictures. Siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, children and grandkids arrived and we enjoyed another anniversary celebration.

The next day, as we listened to Haleigh and Jared exchange their vows and were part of a large crowd at the reception, I wondered a bit about what the coming years will hold for them and the children, grandchildren and friends who will gather to help them celebrate  their special occasions.

It was fun to be in Gravelbourg and talk to Lyndon and Janelle about their plans for increasing their goat herd, to drink keifer made from goats milk and to help milk the goat that produced it. I thought about the different life styles our children have chosen as we ate freshly baked bread, watched Janelle prepare the keifer for the next day and talked about her home schooling plans for next year.  And I am grateful for opportunity, for choice and for differences we can celebrate.

Tomorrow we are off to Calgary to help in the kitchen as our church engages in three days of VBS.  After that I plan to spend the rest of the month enjoying the sunshine and doing some things around the house I have been putting of till “I get around to it.”

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