March 2013


Yes, it is spring and there are still mountains of snow on the ground. My husband is worried about flooding. The children need and the house needs and the goats need. There is more need than there is time or money. In big mental piles in my brain are the school work and house work and relationship work. And soon we will be up to our eyeballs in spring mud.

You understand.

I’m not complaining. I don’t think I’m complaining. These are not things stressing me or keeping me awake at night. These are the realities of my day-after-day, and I am challenged, at times, to look up from them. Way up, as the giant on one of those old CBC children’s shows used to say.

To look way up, and to really see.

Today I look up and I see a cross. The sight of it stops me, holds me still. I’m a bystander at an accident scene. Only it’s not an accident. It’s on purpose, for a purpose, and I’m shocked out of my silly smallness. I’m looking up, I’m really seeing, and it breaks me. I look over and I see a mother, weeping, and I weep with her.

Michelangelo's Pieta, which I would dearly love to see one day.

Michelangelo’s Pieta, which I would dearly love to see one day.

A year ago, on Good Friday 2012, I wrote the following:

Today is a Good Day, because today I do not have to watch my son die. I don’t have to watch him, hurt and bleeding, carry a heavy piece of wood up a hill. I don’t have to witness crowds of people making fun of him. I don’t have to see soldiers nail him to a cross or lift his hanging body into the air. Today, I don’t have to watch my son die.

Ah Mary, it seems like just yesterday I was with you in the stable, celebrating his birth. Today, I’m with you in the nightmare.

While the soldiers were looking after themselves, Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother.

John 19:25-27

Just a few short minutes, I mean years, ago!

Just a few short minutes, I mean years, ago!

We are a homeschooling family. Have been forever. This spring our oldest son graduates. I’m struggling a bit to figure out what “graduation” means in a homeschooling context, and I write about that today over at How to Homeschool High School. Won’t you pop over and have a read? And leave a comment, please, if you have any advice for this struggling graduation momma!

I have a great fondness for my hens. They are Isa Browns, raised from chicks. Two peeping boxes of yellow fluff that arrived at our local feed store last spring. They grew from babies to toddlers in the safety of our basement bathroom, heat turned up to keep them warm without a momma to do the job. A few died. We ate some this fall, but about fifty of them continue to call the chicken house out by the barn, home.

These ladies provide me with a rich bounty of eggs. Beautiful, big, brown eggs with dark yellow yolks. I haven’t had to buy eggs at the grocery store all winter.

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Until recently, I’ve had enough eggs to sell to, and trade with, friends. (The weather has hindered egg production these past few weeks.) I sell them for three dollars a dozen. I can’t keep up to the demand. But the most fun has been trading. These are some of the things I’ve “bought” with eggs.

Christmas presents. Last December, I was looking on our local online garage sale page for some games to use as stocking stuffers for my children. I left a post asking if anyone had Risk or Crib, and a friend responded with a “yes” about the Crib game.

What would you like for it? I asked.

How about a dozen eggs, he said.

Done. A Risk owner saw the conversation, and said she’d be happy with a dozen eggs in exchange for her game. Cool! Two dozen eggs traded for two stocking stuffers.

Sauerkraut. I don’t want to make it. I have a friends who does, and she’s happy to trade me a jar of kraut for a couple of dozen eggs. Perfect.

Other food stuffs. I have traded eggs for homemade goodies, for yogurt starter, for sourdough bread starter, for deer sausage, for milk kefir grains, and for garden produce. Trading makes me happy.

I’ve also been blessed by selling eggs. Besides buying feed for the hens, I’ve used egg money to pay for drama club for my children, buy a plane ticket to British Columbia, buy books for book club, and in general add to the family treat fund.

I’m not exactly sure where all these feelings I have for my hens and their eggs come from. People have said to me, you can buy a dozen eggs pretty cheaply at the grocery store. And that’s true. But they aren’t family eggs, raised by family hands, nourished with scraps from the family table, and cared for with family concern.

I have happy hens. I think they make happy eggs. And that makes me a happy mom.

Dad’s post from last week made me think about the books in my life. Some have been life-long friends. Some hung out with me for a while but over time we’ve lost touch. Some are new acquaintances, and the relationship has yet to be proven.

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Of course there are old friends like Anne, way over there in Eastern Canada, and Tom and Huck and the Mississippi that was their playground. But there were others, less popular maybe, who loved me well. I could never relate to Nancy Drew, but tomboy Trixie Beldon drew me right into her mystery-driven world. My first romance was found in the pages of Daddy Long Legs. The Dragon Riders of Pern series gave me a taste of fantasy, and every bite was delightful.

As a girl, I read and read and read. As I grew, my interests and maturity led me to works historical and theological and psychological and classical. Words upon words upon words. Book after book. How blessed I’ve been. How richly blessed by this life-long feast that has nourished, informed, and entertained me all these years.

When I was pregnant with my first son, and was so sick for so long, I read the entire series of  Anne of Green Gables books again. All the way through her growing up and marriage and children and the awful war. I’ve read Anne and many other favourites with my children. We’ve pioneered our way through the Little House books. We’ve laughed over The Borrowers and we’ve cried over Where the Red Fern Grows. We’ve been Around the World in Eighty Days, and we’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island with the Swiss Family Robinson. We’ve sat at the round table with Arthur and his knights, and we’ve travelled all over the world with stories far and wide.

Stories. They raised me and they’ve raised my kids. And a good one, found among all the many, many words out there today, is still a great gift.

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The colour is there, if I make my eyes big to what I see small. There is colour in the faces of the ones I love. In the laughter of friends. In the careful words of a teacher. In fellowship and friendship and family-ship. In sweet homey smells and hard work and quiet rest. In teasing and testing and trying. In three boys and one man and a house to share and time to spend. Words. Food. Kindred-ness. Quietness. Mess. Mornings. Coffee. Hugs. Tears.

These are the colours of my life.

My world might be white, but my life is not.

My life is colour full.

May you see the colour in your life this March Monday, wherever you are.

Last week I flew away to a green island in British Columbia, Canada. It was wonderful. There wasn’t any snow! I travelled with four other women and a baby, and while the weather was rainy and cool, the time spent was warm and sweet.

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

The harbour in Vancouver. See the big white ferry? That is NOT the one we took. Ours was much smaller!

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

See that teeny little boat down there? That was ours. The rain held off for the forty-five minute ride across the water, and the scenery was breath-taking.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

We docked here, on Keats Island.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

And we ended up here, at Barnabas Landing. Rainy weather but warm hearts.

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The beautiful, ever-changing view as the clouds lifted and fell on the islands across the water and the mountains in the distance. Majesty!

The week was hosted by the organization Come before Winter. Founded by Karen Alexander, from Austin, Texas, it has grown into a ministry which travels around the world, ministering to women in ministry. Cool, yes?

I attended a Come before Winter renewal in Saskatchewan several years ago, and what struck me then was the actual ministering that went on. CbW team members met us when we arrived, carried our bags into the hotel, knew our names. Throughout the week there were activities and much study, but the take away for me, that time, was the gracious care given to the participants. To me. It’s not something women, caregivers, experience very often.

This time, I was expecting it. The caring attention and the love. And it was wonderful, but it wasn’t the focus of the week for me. This time, it was the study.

We studied Exodus, a book I already loved for the rich story it shares, but we studied it from different perspectives. We looked at things like narrative (looking at the story with the purpose of identifying and writing the story of my own walk with God), transformation (the importance of spiritual practices in the rhythm of life), structure (looking at the structure of two chapters, 19 and 24, in order to discover how they reveal that God’s presence is intertwined with the covenant established at Mt. Sinai), and theology (expanding our understanding of the nature of God). And there was art and there was exercise and there was quiet, reflective time.

And there was conversation. The holiness of community. Connections, deeply spiritual, made among women meeting each other for the first time. Renewal of relationship among some who had met before. Belonging, sharing, communing.

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven't seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Beautiful Pauline, the wife of Benny, a friend I haven’t seen in thirty years. I was so blessed to meet and become heart-joined with this amazing woman. Pauline, I think a trip to Australia is in our future!

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Julia and Sally, the women who, along with Brooke, I was privileged to share words with each evening. (Sorry Brooke, but your eyes were closed in every picture I have of you!)

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Naomi, one of my wonderful roommates. Ms. Peanut Allergy. Thankful for EpiPens, and nurses who know what they are doing. I love this girl!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

Imogene and Barbara, who brought laughter and delight and joy and soul with them. Oh my! What blessings!

And then I came home.

Home to snow and family and snow and empty cupboards and that long list and snow.

But I am carrying with me, still and quiet and deep, the beauty of that island and the renewal of that shared time.

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We are in the midst of another (hopefully the last!) winter storm. All the highways are closed, and we are stuck at home. I’m baking bread and cookies and doing my best to enjoy the blessings in the storm. And really, I am. Although this is not the day or the weekend I had planned, this is what I have been given. And it’s good.

I’m blogging today at How to Homeschool High School, about the courage it takes to be a parent. I’d love for you to join the conversation there. You can find it here.

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A number of years ago I read a few books written by Zane Grey. As a boy I was enthralled by the stories of the west where the good guys generally won. But I read rather quickly or skipped completely the descriptions of the burning sun, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the mountains and valleys and the desert fading away into the horizon, to get to the story.

A while back I discovered that many of his books could be downloaded free on my iPad and began to read him again. I discovered that what I had passed over as a youth was the story; it was what gave the newcomers from the east the ability to understand who they were and to re-create themselves. They began to notice things, become aware of their surroundings, meet the challenges they offered and grow into the people they were meant to be.

And I began to wonder what would happen in our lives if we began to really become aware of the things and people around us: the intricacies of nature, the laughter of a child, the face of a homeless person we passed on the street, the confusion on the face of an elderly person we love or the smile that lights up someone’s face when he is truly appreciated.

I don’t want to focus on the mundane and complain about the weather and the government, but rather see the beauty that surrounds me each day. It might be the sunrise, the snow-covered mountains, the majesty of a March blizzard or the smile on my best friend’s face when I recognize her love language.

Sunday morning, early, and I’m not supposed to be getting ready to leave. This isn’t what Sunday mornings are about, usually. Not in my world, anyway.

But here I am, packed and ready and waiting for the coffee to finish perking so I can have a cup before I go. Off for a week to the west coast, where the forecast is rain for every one of the six days I will be gone.

But there won’t be any snow and I’ll be able to smell the ocean, and a walk in the rain never hurt anyone.

Off to spend some days, heart-stirred and kingdom-blessed, with women who love and serve and honour. Blessed by communion.

I’m torn, as I always am when I leave my family behind. I’m torn between where my heart lives and where my heart leads. It’s always been this way. It’s the way of wives and mothers whose lives are very knit into the ones they love. It’s hard to leave.

They’ll be fine.

Three boys can take care of one dad for one week.

The loaves of bread and the cookies are in the freezer, and the kombucha is made and ready. The list for the meals (easy, frozen and packaged stuff that makes me cringe a little) is on the board. The chores are second nature, and the school work, well, they’ll do a little but probably not everything they should.

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But they’ll be fine.

And I’ll fly away, heart-torn but thankful for the tearing. It’s love, you know.

I’ll be gone until next weekend, and I don’t think I’ll be able to blog in that time. Have a great week, and may you be blessed with love, my friends.

There’s a sad momma goat in the barn. She’s got something wrong with her – who knows what? – and she doesn’t want to deal with her babies. Twins, a little boy and a little girl, and they are being neglected.

They snuggle against her, but she has no energy for them. They butt their heads against her, wanting her to stand up and take care of them. Feed them. Listless and droopy, she struggles up and lets them drink a bit, but it’s not enough. It hurts, watching them.

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The boys are nursemaiding them, poor babies, and it’s a lot of work doing the job the momma is supposed to be doing, wants to be doing, but can’t. It’s not ideal, this substitution, but everyone is doing his best to make it work.

I don’t have to think too deeply or look too far to see it.

If you are a mom, you know what I mean.

I’ve been hearing from some of you and I want you to know you aren’t alone. It can be very hard but you don’t have to be ashamed. We have all struggled. Life is not all pinterest perfect or instagram sweet. Not always.

If you are a struggling mom today, take a breath, pick up the phone, and ask for help.

If you are a struggling mom today, I’m praying for you.

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