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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When I was a little girl, I lived on the campus of a small Christian school. My dad was a teacher/administrator there, and Mom held the same job at home. My sisters and I were staff brats. The Lidbury girls.

The campus was housed in an old airforce training facility. The original buildings had been remodeled into staff housing, student dormitories, and the like. The building that my family lived in, at least the one I remember the best, was called The Red Barn, because it had, at one time, been painted bright red. We shared the building with an interesting variety of neighbours: the Olson’s and their art room, the Brazle’s with all those big boys, the Young’s who gave out the best Hallowe’en candy, the Pennington’s with even more boys, Miss Torkelson who walked everywhere so briskly and spoke so precisely, and others who came and went over the years.

Stretching the length of the campus was a long sidewalk. The Red Barn was at one end of the sidewalk and at the other end lived the playground and my best friend.

Along the sidewalk trail were scattered other buildings of less importance to me at the time: the school, the chapel, the dormitories, the school cafeteria, the Student’s Centre. But as a kid it was pretty much all about me, the other kids, and the playground.

And it developed over time that, if you were at one end of this sidewalk and you were referring to something at the other end, you said The Other End.

As in, Mom, I’m going to The Other End to play.

No matter which end of the sidewalk you were at, the other end became The Other End. It made sense at the time. And when I was a little girl, it was my whole world. Two ends of a sidewalk and the journey between.

It has been one week since the decision was made, officially made, to close the doors of Western Christian College. Like many, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week remembering Western, and wondering about what it was that made it so special.

Although the school moved several times over its sixty-seven year existence, the north Weyburn campus is the place that lives in my heart. This is where I learned to ride a bike, climb a tree, and float a homemade raft in a ditch in the spring. This is where I first heard the music of skate blades ringing on ice, as we chased each other around the rink and practiced our twirls and our wrist shots with equal dedication. This is where I learned about friendship, both from making my own and watching my parents with theirs. This is where I grew up.

My friends and I shared the best playground in the history of playgrounds. We rode through the clouds and back to earth on the most gigantic slide ever. We swung into the heavens, legs pumping, hearts racing, on swings that would be outlawed today. We dangled by our knees from monkey bars, modestly crossing our arms over our chests so our shirts wouldn’t end up around our necks and we envied the boys who could just strip their shirts right off. We made sandcastle homes for garter snakes and hide-and-seeked in the billowing sails of Mrs. Harvey’s sheets drying on the line and wore dandelion jewelry. We pestered the boys into letting the girls play football with them. We peeked at the college students and imagined ourselves one day being as grown up as they seemed.

It was a sweet place, sweet and safe and kind of like that village that people talk about. That village that is so important in the raising of children. I had friends and cousins close by, and a grandma who lived in town. I spent the longest, laziest summer afternoons reading about those other girls: Ann out there on her island, and Laura and Mary and their little house, and my favourite tomboy, Trixie Beldon. I learned What Katy Did Next, and I slept over at friends’ houses, and day after blissful day we recklessly sunburned ourselves at the swimming pool in town.

And I grew up.

Then we left and the world got a little bigger and when I came back in grade 11, I was a different person and the campus seemed different, too. It was home but … not. And the teachers, who had been neighbours, were … not. The familiar clothes I had worn before had been outgrown. And I watched the kids on the playground, and the slide seemed a little smaller and the swings were just swings, and the dandelions, well, they were weeds of course.

Because I was growing up.

I left again and I traveled some and went to school and did some things wrong and some things right. I became a wife and a mother, and then I came back.

I was older and the school had moved away. My old house and the school building and the student’s centre and the swings and the slide were all gone. There were remnants, though, to which I could point. The old art room had been converted into the old art teacher’s home. The Peterson’s were still there, and Miss T with them. If I tried hard and kind of squinted my eyes, I could still remember it all, but just barely.

This time I lived in town with the husband and the babies, and the church building, that place I had come to three times a week as a child and again as a young woman, became the home of my family. The children sat in my old Sunday School classrooms. Mr. Willett still led the songs and the preacher spoke from the same place, and even though many had gone, some remained. My best friend from the days of swings and slides was there, and Arbutus still prepared the communion trays each Sunday. So some things were the same, and some were different.

And this is the lesson I’ve learned, I guess. That a place is really just a place, and things change and people change. The moments pass and the children who yesterday were babies are tomorrow, parents of their own. Time does march on, and they do grow up in a blink of an eye, and you really can’t stop progress. The clichés, they hold some truth. But what I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that it is what goes on in the midst of the marching and the blinking and the progressing that matters.

Thank you, people of Western Christian College, for all of the years of trying to do what matters. And while the end of this era holds sadness, it does not hold hopelessness. Because  no matter where you are, the other end is always The Other End. And the journey is the story.

Would you laugh if I said that learning how to be simple-minded is one of my goals?

When we were away on holiday, a dear friend who just started reading my blog commented on my recent Simple Life post. The gist of her comment was that while I write about living a simple life, she sees my life as busy and … not so simple. And sometimes, she’s right. Life does dish up a full plate. It is inevitable that rural life with three boys and a husband that works away from home during the week will not always be a smell-the-roses kind of experience.

We have barely unpacked from our trip to B.C., but today I am packing up again for another road trip. The boys and I are driving to Weyburn where we will meet Lyndon. Hotel tonight, friend’s daughter’s wedding tomorrow, visiting with friends in the evening, staying over a second night in Weyburn and then heading to Regina on Sunday. Spending Sunday night in a hotel with Lyndon and then he is back to work on Monday. The boys and I head back home on Monday, stopping in Moose Jaw so that Honda can install some thingamajig in the Pilot to make the engine light go off.

Kinda crazy, I guess. But this way, Lyndon’s driving requirements on the weekend are reduced to only a couple of hours. We will get to see him more. We will have more time to visit friends. And we get to feel like we are still on holiday.

Even a weekend like this is about simplicity, though, I believe. Because how I think about the weekend makes a difference in how I experience the weekend. Simple-minded.

So, I’ll not think I need to go and buy something new to wear to the wedding. And if I don’t have time to buy a gift, I’ll be okay with just putting money in a card. I’ll look forward to the chance to see and visit old friends. I’ll enjoy the drive. I’ll pray for two beautiful young people who are starting a new life together.

I’ll polish the treasure.

Yesterday we took our middle son to camp. On the way, we stopped for the morning church service in Weyburn, the little Saskatchewan town in which I was born. I grew up in this church. I mean, we went to church three times a week, so, literally, I grew up in this church!

Our family moved away from Weyburn when I was twelve, but I returned for two years of boarding school at Western Christian College, and then lived in Weyburn again for three years when my children were small and Lyndon was beginning his lineman career. Carter was born in Weyburn, in the same hospital as I.

This prairie town and this little church have played a huge role in my life. It always gives me a strange feeling to return. Ghosts, you know. Memories.

Walking into church yesterday, a bright sunny summer day, I felt like I was six years old, holding my dad’s hand, wearing a pink dress made by mom, with my sister wearing a matching blue one. The church is almost exactly the same as it was when I was little. I could almost see my friends and me sitting in the classrooms, being taught by Mrs. Fleming or Mrs. Pennington. The boys – Alan and Randy and Lowell and the others – disrupting the class with their antics. The girls – Darla and Sharon and our friends – trying to ignore the boys and answering the teacher’s questions primly and properly.

I sat in the sanctuary with my family of boys and I thought of all the times my sisters and I had sat in these same pews. Drawing pictures, writing notes to our friends, listening to the sermons of so many men, directed in congregational singing by Mr. Willett, sharing communion, praying … we knew when Mr. so-and-so got up to lead the closing prayer, we were going to be awhile.

It was beautiful to see Nina Willett sitting in her same pew, and to see my childhood friends Darla and Sharon still there, to see Mr. Olson standing at the front, to sit behind Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, and to look around at the many faces from my childhood. Older, but so precious. And to remember the ones no longer there. Too many to name. Gone, but just as precious in memory.

I have spent many Sunday mornings in many different churches over the years. It was sweet to spend yesterday morning in Weyburn, worshipping with old friends and memories.

I was at a women’s retreat this weekend. The weather was cold but fine. The attendees were fewer than normal, but the fellowship was sweet. The theme was thankfulness.

What does thankfulness look like? I voice my thank yous all the time. If one of my children receives a gift, the first words out of my mouth are, “What do you say?” I encourage thankfulness in my home. My prayers often begin with Thank you, Father. But do I really live a thankful life?

Lately I’d have to say I’ve lived more curmudgeonly than thankfully. The winter has been long. And cold. And snowy. We’ve spent a small fortune in snow removal just trying to keep our yard clear. I’ve done much more complaining and whining than thanking or praising.

I had a chance to revisit a friendship this past weekend at the retreat. If you are lucky enough to know my friend Vivian Dunn, then you know what thankfulness looks like.

Vivian has spent her life serving others. She was a well-loved school teacher for many years. Her family became Jesus lovers after Vivian’s daughter attended Western Christian College. I have heard Vivian tell the story of their journey to the Lord many times, and it is always told with gratitude and amazement. Vivian loves Jesus, and her love has been expressed over the years in the many, many ways she has reached out to others. She has been “mom” to countless kids over the years, particularly kids at Western who didn’t have family nearby.

I was thrilled and inspired to catch up with Vivian on the weekend. This almost eighty-year-old woman now lives in a suite in Weyburn. Her husband died a few years ago, and while Danny’s passing was and continues to be a great sorrow in her life, Vivian has turned sadness into victory. I prayed for God to give me something to do after Danny died, she said. And he gave me immigrants. Now, from her little suite, Vivian blesses, and blesses, and blesses. Like she has done her entire life.

Her kids have received meals and encouragement in equal portions. She has found them furniture, helped them with their english, and taken them to church. She loves them and they love her.

Vivian’s life is lived in thankfulness. I love this woman, and I am encouraged and, yes, thankful for her example in my life. She lives beautifully in her gratitude for what the Lord has done for her.

Okay, you know you have been gone too much when you aren’t sure where you are when you wake up in the morning.

We had a great weekend at Nickle Lake. It was good to spend some quiet time together, as well as some visiting with friends and family. We got home last night, and today we had to make a trip to Assiniboia for dentist appointments, so I am feeling a little scattered. Hopefully things will settle down for a while now.

The beginning of the Labour Day Weekend:

The trip to Weyburn was fairly uneventful, except for the horrendous road construction just past Assiniboia. No Flag Person, just big equipment blocking the road. After surveying the scene for a few minutes, I just started driving through the mess. We got through one tricky area and I thought we were home free. I noticed some vehicles pulled over to the side of the road, so pulled in behind them, thinking they were waiting for a pilot vehicle to arrive to guide them through the rest of the construction zone. Nope, they were just parked there looking at a map. Parked. In a construction zone. I finally figured it out and carried on, although by that time there were several vehicles that had pulled in behind me. We made it through eventually, and stopped in at Lyndon’s mom and dad’s to drop off Bella. Had a cup of tea, and then carried on.

We met Lyndon in Weyburn at WalMart. He was on the bike. We ate the first of several McDonald’s meals, grabbed some groceries, and headed out to the lake. We couldn’t figure out how to hook up the dvd player in the camper, so the kids read and played games, and Lyndon and I watched CSI. Everytime I turned on the tv that weekend, CSI was on. Is that the only show people like to watch?

So, we enjoyed our first night at the lake. We did get a little chilly, so in the middle of the night Lyndon kidnapped Carter and put him in bed with us. He was like a little heater.

Updates on the rest of the weekend to follow. I am going to curl up on the couch with the kids for a few minutes, perhaps with a yummy bowl of Shreddies. I turned on the heat tonight. Sigh, summer is officially over.

I am sad to report that one of the baby birds died this morning. So far, the other one seems to be doing okay. We started feeding it a little dog food. I don’t know, it seems to eat anything you put in it’s mouth. It is a little disgusting. You have to poke the food right down it’s throat. We try to shake a few drops of water into it’s mouth every once in a while. It is growing feathers like crazy. There is still a little fuzz around the edge of it’s head. Makes it look like an old, balding man.

We have been going non-stop since we got home. Yesterday, the boys hung out at home while I spent the day at the church building helping to decorate for our Vacation Bible School, which starts on Monday. We are using a cowboy theme. The sanctuary is decorated with bales, saddles, etc. It looks so great.

I’ve also been cleaning up from our week away. The kink in it all is that Lyndon had to work Saturday, helping to clean up from all of the storms. We had traded vehicles for the week, which meant the truck was stuck in Regina. Hmmm, how to get water? I ended up borrowing a truck to haul a load of water last night, so we managed to do a little laundry, wash up the dishes, and just do some general cleaning. That made me feel better. And then, joy of joys, Lyndon came home last night. That made my life much happier. (Not just because he brought the truck home. I was glad to see him, too.)

Today was potluck day at church. Whew. I had next to nothing in my cupboards, but scraped together a few things to take. Also, it was my turn to teach the kid’s Sunday School class. (During the summer we put all the kids together and take turns teaching them.) Lyndon came down to help and we all survived! I had to do a few more things for VBS in the afternoon, then back home to continue with laundry, etc. Lyndon doesn’t have to go back until tomorrow afternoon. Yeah!

I was thinking back over the past week. I so loved camping with the boys, and attending the VBS in Weyburn. I was able to go for lunch one day with my friend Darla. We talked about the things good friends talk about when they get together. The boys and I helped Lowell and Darla lay sod at a house they are fixing up to sell. We did the front and back yards of their house, and then helped their neighbours do their house as well. After several hours of carrying rolls of dirt and grass, we were all exhausted. I was so sore the next day.

The boys got to see lots of old friends, some of whom came out to the beach with us a couple of afternoons. It was fun to see them all playing together, such games as “If You Get Hit With The Frisbee You Turn Into a Zombie”, among others. I witnessed my first “man thong”. It was quite a site. The guy lay on the beach all afternoon, with a fly swatter in his hand to keep away the horse flies. Trust me, a guy in a thong is not something you see very often in southern Saskatchewan.

Carter set the tip of his nose on fire. Really. He was roasting a marshmallow, which caught on fire. When he tried to blow it out, he set his nose on fire. He’s okay.

The church there organized an adult Bible study while the VBS was going on. The amazing Mr. Wieb taught it. Absolutely awesome. It was on the missionary journeys of Paul. I’ve been pondering Acts ever since. There is so much packed into those chapters about the early church. I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to have lived then. I would have probably been the guy who fell asleep while Paul was preaching, and fell out of the window and was killed!

All in all, we had a wonderful week away. Now, we are set for a great week of VBS here, starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Pray for us!