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The fourth day of Christmas, dedicated to the Holy Innocents as they’ve been named, those slaughtered at the command of an evil king afraid for his throne, and it’s more than a mother’s heart can bear. It really is, but it’s history and so it’s the second-hand kind of sorrow that only filters in if I let it.

Tragedies are not all history, though, and as I sit in the morning of this day, this Childermas day, I think of the innocents of my time. Of today and tomorrow, when children will be sold into slavery or taken from mother’s wombs or hungered to death or killed in their classrooms.

It’s more than a mother’s heart can bear, but still I’m protected by distance and comfort and the ability to put it out of my mind. To be thankful for the health and safety of mine, and to forget of the lack of theirs. Those mothers, those families, those children who live without.

This week, friends of mine will be building a school in Mexico.

Next week, my parents and some of their friends will be building a home in Mexico for the family of a friend they met there last year.

I have friends who are heart-heavy involved with The Exodus Road, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking and child slavery.

I have friends who have adopted or fostered or just plain loved the children in their paths who needed them.

These are a few of the beautiful things happening in my little circle of what’s going on in the world. You know of other groups, other people, who are helping as they can, where they can.

Today I’ll donate some of my money to some of these causes, in the name and memory of the innocents.

But more than that, I’ll see my own, really see them today, and I’ll know in my heart of the blessing of children. Those of my womb, and those of my heart.

I’ll make their favourite foods and I’ll laugh at their jokes, and I’ll miss the one who is missing, and I’ll heap prayers upon prayers for them, and for them all.

O Lord, hear my prayer.

And let my cry come unto Thee.

O Lord Jesus Christ, once Thou embraced and placed Thy hands upon the little children who came to Thee, and said: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!” Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents’ devotion, and bless them this day through our prayers.

In Thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for Thee, loving Thee, fearing Thee, keeping Thy commandments. Then they will surely come to their destined home, through Thee, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

common prayer of blessing on the fourth day of Christmas

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I’ve heard a bunch of sermons and read a bunch of blogs and seen a bunch of tweets on this passage recently. From Matthew 19:16-22; you know the story. Or if you don’t, this is it:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour you father and mother, and love your neighbour as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

I’ve heard this explained in many ways. Mostly what I’ve been taught is that this is not really about money or about selling your stuff. It’s about finding the thing that is keeping you from really committing your life to Jesus. Or, it’s not really about money or selling your stuff, it’s about living in a posture of being willing to let go of anything at any time if it’s the will of God. Or, it’s not really about money or selling your stuff, it’s about giving of yourself, whatever that looks like, to help others. And then there’s the warning that if we all sold everything we had we wouldn’t be good stewards because then we’d be the poor and we couldn’t help them any longer.

Never, not once, have I ever heard the teaching that this verse might actually be about, you know, selling your stuff and giving it to the poor.

I asked my older kids what they thought the story was meant to teach us. One said it was about how hard real change is. The other said it was about how hard it is for us to let go of our possessions.

Yes, and yes. And maybe some other stuff. But could these two things possibly be at the crux of this teaching story?

Real change is hard, sometimes too hard, and we care too much about our stuff.

I’ve sold stuff so I could buy different stuff. I’ve sold stuff with the goal of getting rid of clutter. I’ve sold stuff to pay the bills. All good reasons to sell stuff.

I’ve never sold anything I own with the specific purpose of giving that money to people who need it.

I was in Mexico once, in a poor village where I’d taken my family and some friends to help build a school, and I listened on a Sunday morning to a poor preacher in a poor place speaking to poor people. And what he said, via an interpreter, was along the lines of, Hey guys, come on. We might be poor. We might not have much, but we are still called by Jesus to give to those who need it more than we do. No matter how poor we are or how little we have, we’re supposed to share that with others.

Ouch.

Maybe this story doesn’t mean I should sell everything I have. But I can sell something. Maybe experiencing that is an important thing, not for the poor, but for me. Maybe that is part of following Him.

On Christmas morning, Janelle wrote an eloquent piece in the quiet of the morning, sharing warm cups with Mary and thinking about the birth and questions she would like to ask her. Christmas is a time to reflect on that birth and what Mary’s son has done for us.

But during the past few weeks, I have been thinking about “the carpenter’s son”.

I think Joseph must have been a great dad. He cared for and protected Jesus as a babe, and I expect taught him his trade as he grew. When Jesus began his ministry, some scoffed and said, He is just the carpenter’s son. Why should we listen to him? Perhaps they had seen him, sweaty and dirty as he dug a foundation or lifted a timber.

He was conceived by the Spirit but he was reared by the carpenter.

I thought of that just after Christmas, as folks from Canada, the USA, and Mexico gathered in San Vicente, Mexico to build a classroom in Lopez Rayon, an indigenous community a couple of miles away.

Some were unilingual English, some unilingual Spanish, a few were bilingual, but we all spoke the common language of laughter, work, and love. It was here I saw the carpenter’s son at work.

When we arrived in San Vicente, we didn’t know he would be part of the crew. But he needed to support his family (he was a young father with a wife and three children) and he showed great initiative, so he was hired to work with us. He was often paint splattered and sweaty, but always at work.

We discovered he lived in a tiny house that appeared to be built with whatever he could scrape together. It had no electricity, no insulation, and no heat. The floor was gravel covered with a scrap piece of carpet.

We had some materials left over, so three sheets of OSB were given to him. Perhaps he could use it to line a wall or in some other way improve his little house. That evening, Roy took him and the OSB home. When they arrived, he asked if it would be alright if he gave it to his neighbour, because his neighbour’s roof leaked and his didn’t. They carried it across the fence to his neighbour. He pointed to the heavens and said, “It’s not from me, it’s from God.”

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And we saw the carpenter’s son at work as God and flesh came together in the form of a small Mexican man in San Vicente, Mexico.

I was visiting with women, stumbling to communicate, on the driveway of the little Mexican church when my seven-year-old and his playmates came up to me. In my ear I heard the gasp of a woman beside me and I turned and saw my son, blood streaming red down his face and covering the front of his shirt. In a second I registered the white of his face and the fear in his eyes and the blood. My knees gave a little and my breath left me as I reached for him and tried to gather him, bloody, into my arms.

Voices explaining. His little friend describing the climbing and the bumping and the falling. I’m going to lose it, I said to my sister, and she led us to a chair and we sat and we searched for the source of the red.

In the end, the injury was less dramatic than the scene warranted. Relief. No need for hospitals or stitches. But the feeling, the awful unknown, the sight of my bleeding boy … that will never leave me.

I think of another mother and another bleeding son. The tearing of her heart. The wanting to run to him, to gather him, bleeding, to her. The fear. The remembering of baby at breast, and toddler in kitchen, and chubby arms giving sweet hugs, and first day of school, and letting go. The picture of him, imprinted on mother’s heart, covered in streaming red, mocked and disrespected.

Often, Mary, I have thought of you and your boy. From mother-heart to mother-heart, I have thought of you and your son, the Son, and thanked you for your courage. And I am awfully, undeservingly thankful … for the blood.

… If you know what I mean.

We arrived home Monday at around 7:00 am. The house was freezing cold, so after we turned up all the registers (we have electric baseboard heat) we all went to bed and slept until noon. I feel like I have been in a bit of a fog ever since. Kind of like my head is in two places, like part of me is still in Mexico.

We had another wonderful trip. It was different in many ways from our trip last year, but great. Here’s a rundown:

We built a new elementary classroom that will hold around thirty-five children (or as many as they can pack in there). The building was completely finished when we left. It was painted inside and out, electricity working, desks and blackboards installed, and the keys handed to George, the teacher. Some that were there the last day participated in a little dedication of the building, and then George taught a little class (the Spanish alphabet, I believe) to the workers. I missed that. Would have loved to have seen it.

We renovated the kindergarten site, which involved re-roofing the main building and an additional building, painting the outside of all buildings including the bathrooms (banos), some painting inside the buildings, and re-plumbing the toilets so that they could actually be used (compliments of Grandpa Tom). They also had a load of gravel brought in to cover the front yard.

We made over one hundred blankets with local children in Zorillo and Manaedero. We had way more children show up than we had blankets for, which made for some interesting negotiations. More on that later.

Jackie gave two lectures on Type 2 diabetes, one in Zorillo and one in Maneadero. We thought a handful of women might show up, but they came in droves and brought their friends. About 200 people attended each session and there were lots of questions.

We made up and distributed a few hundred packages of food supplies, consisting of rice, beans, corn meal, and either dried veggies with soup mix or dried apples with cinnamon, all packaged in a large plastic bowl. We gave a food set to each diabetes lecture participant, left enough for the church members in Zorillo and Manaeder0, and handed other sets out on the street in Zorillo. We also left some in Manaedero for the church to distribute. While a satisfying project, it was difficult to see that there were people turned away when the food ran out.

We visited an orphanage near Ensenada. We brought soccer balls and skipping ropes and played with the kids for about an hour. Ninos de Baha is a beautiful facility and it was a pleasure to meet the director and to see how happy the kids are there.

We left around fifty purchased fleece blankets at the school in Manaedero for the teacher to hand out to the students there. We also left some baby quilts that had been made by Marylynne, a friend in Gravelbourg, for children in Zorillo.

We left school supplies at both the Zorillo and Manaedero schools.

We visited a tourist site called La Bufadora, where we enjoyed bartering for souvenirs and viewing the impressive blow hole.

That’s the bare bones. I’ll try to provide some “colour” later. And I’ll try to get some pictures loaded. The bottom line is that it was a wonderful, memory-making trip. I’m still processing it all. I pray that this little drop-in-the-bucket adventure of ours will in some way make a difference in the lives of people, both in Mexico and in Canada. It was fun to think that as we were arriving home on Monday morning, children in Manaedero, Mexico were beginning class in a new classroom!

Colton, Carter, and I are surviving without Lyndon and Tyson this week. Reports from the field indicate lots of muskrats have been trapped and skinned, but so far the Whitetail have escaped them. Sounds like they are having fun. They are staying with Lyndon’s aunt and uncle, who are taking great care of them, I’m sure. Back at home, as I said, we are surviving.

You might infer I am meaning that we are surviving without Dad and Big Brother. In fact, it is the truck that we are really missing, and it’s loss that we are surviving. Yes, Lyndon and Tyson took the big Dodge with them, leaving the wimpy LeSabre at home with us this week. This means… no hauling water. We are conducting an experiment to see if we can make it on one hundred and fifty gallons of water for the week. The little boys have rallied. They have agreed to pee outside this week, limiting the number of times the toilet will need to be flushed. And they are fine with the No Baths plan. Imagine. So far, I have not washed any dishes, and I keep the water shut off unless there is some dire need for it. It’s only Tuesday, and we have about two-thirds of a tank left. I don’t know if we’ll make it, and we have no snow here to melt!

Aside from the never-ending water challenge, life is good. The boys and I drove to Glentworth on Sunday afternoon for a Mexico meeting. It was good to meet some of the people that will be going with us this year. Lots of the people are new to me. The afternoon was great and I left in plenty of time to get home before dark. I thought. I didn’t count on blowing a tire on the lonely stretch of gravel road between Glentworth and the highway. Crap, crap, CRAP. I pulled over. The boys couldn’t believe the tire. This was no little hole. The tire was shredded. And, daylight was fading fast. The boys found rocks to block the tires while I hauled out the donut and the jack, dug the manual out of the glove compartment, and perched my reading glasses on the end of my nose. We were in business. The boys were impressed that Mom could change a tire. In fact, Mom was a little impressed, too. We got the tire changed and I drove home, arriving in our yard basked in the glow of a gorgeous Saskatchewan sunset.

I have been suffering from a case of the Blog Blahh’s lately. It has been over a week since I last posted. Thanks to everyone who keeps checking in. It’s not like there hasn’t been lots going on in our lives lately. Actually, it’s the opposite. There’s so much going on that I have been feeling a little overwhelmed, and that makes me tired, and that makes me lazy, and that makes me Blog Shy. This morning, I am letting the boys sleep in a bit, mainly to enjoy some quiet alone time… and here I am, sitting at the computer.

The Rosses have been busy. Lyndon had last week off, which meant he spent a lot of time hunting. His friends Al and John J came for parts of last week, driving here in the terrible weather I described in my last post. Thank goodness for four wheel drive. The guys had a great time, mainly hunting birds, although Al shot a Whitetail that he was very happy with. Good points, or something like that.

We had Thanksgiving dinner on Monday. Lyndon’s mom and dad didn’t attempt the drive, so it was the men and me (sounds familiar). Tom and Marilyn did come over on Wednesday, though, which was very nice. I cooked a ham that day, and Tom helped Lyndon get the water issue sorted out. We are going to put a large tank in the basement, which should hold enough water to get us through from Monday to Friday. This would be wonderful. I do NOT want to be hauling water on my own this winter if at all possible.

Tyson and Carter started Karate classes last week. Tyson had done karate before, then quit for a couple of years. Now he is ready to tackle it again. Carter is a beginner, so he is a Little Cobra. Those little guys are pretty cute.

Also last week, Lyndon and I started the training sessions for Foster Parenting. There is a break this week, and then we finish the classes the following week. A social worker came by yesterday to do a Home Safety Check. She needs to meet with Lyndon, then the boys and I, and then write up a report about us. Then, we should be good to go. Probably should be ready to accept children by the time we get back from Mexico in January. It has been an interesting process. It has been a long time since I have been so closely involved with a government organization. I had forgotten how bureaucratic the whole process is. The social worker has been great though, and I feel positive about the experience so far.

This afternoon I am presenting a Story Time at our Public Library. Should be fun. This is Library Week, in case you hadn’t heard! I am using some books about winter, and then Robert Munsch’s book, Smelly Socks. He is so funny. We have a cd of him reading some of his stories. My kids love it.

Saturday, our church has organized a Parenting Workshop. Kevin Vance is coming from Regina to present. Then, Saturday evening is our Mexico fundraiser… The Glentworth Idol. I am responsible for the kitchen. We are selling cake and ice cream, juice, coffee, and pop. The talent part of the evening is first, followed by a family dance. Sounds like there have been several people who have registered as contestants. Oh yeah, I have to make ten cakes to take that evening. Yoikes!

Oh… and that water thing I was talking about earlier… I think that is all happening this weekend as well. I heard a rumour that it involved cutting a big hole in my kitchen wall. Yeah.

A sense of humour is a very good thing!