Saturday, June 4, 2022

Progress Report - And Wisdom "Without Finding Fault"

More than seven months ago, I gave my first update on my kids' schooling situation. School seemed to be a good fit for all three kiddos in those early days. For the most part, that is still true.

But wow, it's been a hard winter. For reasons I mostly can't talk about publicly, this has been the hardest winter I've had as a parent (and that's saying something, given how hard some of our early years were when Seth and Lizzie first joined our family), and one of the hardest seasons of my adult life. Each of the kids has had a major crisis (or more) to navigate, I've felt fairly alone in how to help them through their unique situations, and I have been challenged to the core in how I parent my beloved offspring.

But yeah, the transition from homeschooling to being schooled within the school system has gone ok or very well - especially for Seth and Lizzie, who have had essentially wonderful schooling experiences these last almost-ten months. Until about a month ago, at which point Lizzie began to tire a little of the homework and other expectations, she would gladly have given up her weekends if it meant that she could stay in school for those two extra days every week - that is how much she has loved being there this year.  Seth is, of course, much quieter about his day-to-day life, but I do believe it has gone very well, and his teachers and the administration speak extremely positively of my boy; my boy, who has undergone so many challenges over the past almost-eleven years, is doing a bang-up job of his academics. He, too, was ready for this academic year. I'm so pleased for them both.

Matthew has had a different experience altogether. His year started out really well, but early on in October, something shifted for him, and his year got suddenly complicated and difficult. I won't go into details here, but I sure wish I could, because so often I process issues through the writing down of them. At any rate, he graduated from his high school in mid May - although he is still finishing up two homeschool courses.

I had anticipated that, for me, this academic year would be a very different one from the past decade of years, because there were three days every week that I had a number of hours to myself. Sadly, as mentioned above, it was a very complicated and difficult year, and to be frank, those hours never fully materialized, and I struggled heavily with the kids' various issues, and my own grief about so many things. In addition, Geoff and I disagreed on many things this winter, mostly related to decisions and crises about the kids, and that took a significant toll on me, and on our relationship. I ended up feeling very lonely, and also very alone, as I processed and dove head-first into the various issues I was confronted with.

Thank God for God. I know that sounds odd, but truly, thank God for being the Master of the Universe, and for belonging to me...or maybe, more rightfully, it's me that belongs to Him. That God of mine so often gave me words when I had none, ideas where my own failed to materialize, and grace beyond grace. There's a verse in the bible that has been super meaningful to me this winter, and it's a popular one from the book of James, in chapter 1, verse 5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  Now, I've read that verse probably hundreds of times over the course of my lifetime, and it is a verse commonly used. But what I've never really even noticed was the words in the middle: "...without finding fault." Often in my life I have felt that I have had no business asking God for wisdom because I have managed to mess things up and maybe even done damage to a situation with the wrong words, wrong attitude, and so on. I work really hard at being an intentional parent, but I'm definitely not a perfect parent, and I've felt guilty asking God for help when it's just me messing things up. But when I, this winter, 'discovered' the words "without finding fault," it was as if I'd never read it before, and I was suddenly free! 'Without finding fault' means that no matter what I've done to mess things up, God doesn't take stock of my errors and my lack of judgment. It means that when I ask Him for wisdom, He turns a blind eye to my lack, and simply heaps His wisdom into my head and into my soul. In the deepest depths of various crises this winter, I have taken those words to heart, and have asked God for wisdom and clarity despite my own shortcomings, despite the fault that should disqualify me from receiving perfect wisdom...and He delivered! There were seriously so many occasions when, in conversation with one of the kids, for example, during a crisis or otherwise very difficult moment, I would be at a complete stalemate in terms of the next words to come out of my mouth; I would simply, and silently, pray that God give me wisdom without an accounting of my fault. And every. single. time. He met my need. As noted above, words came out of me that I didn't know I had; ideas rolled into my head that I've never thought of before; empathy poured out of me in exactly the right moments; and I felt suddenly and inexplicably ok, even in the center of the crisis. It was stunning at times. Stunning. So stunning, in fact, that I needed to write this down here - to mark the many moments when He didn't account for my faults but, in fact, rained wisdom down onto my battered heart.  

I have to believe that things will be ok in the end...I think they will be. But I don't know how long it will yet take until that end point, and the reality is that some things have shifted permanently. That's more to grieve and I need to do that. As I look forward to next year, Seth and Lizzie will continue on in full-time schooling, and Matthew will be in his gap year (hopefully away somewhere, for a different life experience...but that's yet to be finalized). I'm really hoping that this will provide me with that time I've been aching for - time to grieve what needs to be grieved, and time to figure out what the next chapter will look like for me. After a tough season, I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Too Little, Too Late?

The kids have been in school for about two weeks now. And their transition has been going really well, I think. For Matt, there's been little adjustment because he did a few courses at this school last year already. He's good - and making some friends as well. Seth doesn't talk about school very much, but he seems ok - he doesn't resist going in the mornings, and his body language is pretty good when walking into the school. And the words that he does offer up aren't complaining words; so that's important too. And Lizzie is loving school so far. I see her enjoying the routine and structure of it all, the people she is starting to befriend, and the volleyball that she's trying out for. She doesn't even mind the homework (yet!). Lizzie has always been big on a need for structure (something that I didn't offer as much of as she likely would have preferred), so I think this is going to continue to be a good thing. So yeah, it's been a good start to school.

The ease with which my two younger are adapting has had me questioning whether I should have enrolled them in previous year(s) already. I have questioned whether I've held them back in any way from something that they might have benefited from earlier. This thought has given me a few pangs over the past few weeks...and earlier in the summer, too, admittedly, as I pondered this possibility. 

Should I have stopped h/schooling them earlier? Maybe. 

But as I've been working it through in my head, I have come to think a few things:

* First, I can't turn the clock back anyway, so even if it was a mistake to wait until now to enrol them, I can't do anything about it other than feel regret - and since when is regret productive??

* Second, it's occurred to me more than a few times that I'm so thankful that they weren't registered in school during the past 18 months, when the pandemic made school a miserable and complicated thing. My kids would merely have joined the ranks of the millions of kids not even being able to attend school.

* Neither of my younger kids would have been prepared academically to join the school system any earlier. As I mentioned in my post last month, Lizzie just caught up to 'grade level' this summer. So it would have been difficult for her/them to join any sooner. As it is, Lizzie has been delighted to learn that the math she is doing in these early days of the school year is familiar to her and not too difficult. Given that Math is her toughest subject, it's lovely watching her feel confident about what's she's already learned and prepared for.

* I know this issue ins't about me, but truly I don't think I would have been ready to send them to school any earlier than this year - even this year's decision has been painful enough! Heck, I thought I'd be h/schooling them right through to the end of high school! It was a really hard decision-making process to go through, to make such a big change in our life's plan.

* My two younger have had so much to deal with over the decade since they joined the family. Being adopted, they've simply had (still do have) more issues to deal with than the average kid; and being adopted as 'older children' left them with more layers of the onion to deal with. The priority for me, with Seth and Lizzie, has always been to cultivate as much attachment as possible, so that they could go forth into the world as secure and sure-footed as possible. I have definitely made mistakes along the way, but that's always been a major priority for them. I don't know that I could have let them go any earlier than this year, because I didn't see them as being developmentally or emotionally read until now. And now I think they're far more ready, and able, to find their places in the world...and to have other people provide educational input into their lives. 


Even though it gives my heart a pang to know that they're enjoying school, even though it's sometimes hard to hear Lizzie talk about how much she is liking school, even though it's tough to hear Seth say that he'd never h/school his kids - in my heart of hearts, I know that it's been the right decision to school them at home until now, just like I know that this is the right time for them to be there. The timing for their being in school is perfect. It's because they're ready for it that things have started out so well.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Change is Coming

There are changes happening in our little family unit; big changes, from my perspective.

About six months ago, in February, I began my annual prayer time about the 2021-2022 academic year, which will begin about a month from now. We've been homeschoolers throughout my kids' school life, but every year I've spent time in February and March praying about the upcoming academic year, looking for God's plan in our academic ventures. Early on in our h/schooling journey, I chose February and March to pray about the following year because it's usually around the end of March that I've begun planning for the following h/schooling year. Our decision to homeschool has always been confirmed as the right path for our family.

I expected the same result this year; that our decision to continue h/schooling would be confirmed. To my surprise, however, something different began to emerge. As I was praying about Seth's upcoming year, still seven months into the future, I struggled even knowing how to pray for him. The previous year had been a difficult one for Seth, and I was low on creativity in terms of how to provide him with schooling that worked better for him. It felt agonizing to pray for him this year, and I was so confused about how to proceed in his best interests. I desperately wanted to make things better for Seth. To my surprise, while I was praying about/for him, a word flashed across my mind with vivid clarity and unmistakably bright yellow in colour. "Freedom" was the word on my mind, that first prayer time, and at subsequent times. I knew precisely and instantly what that word meant, although I initially resisted it. 

Let me back up for just a moment. There is an independent, private Christian school in the downtown of our city that was founded about three years ago by a friend of mine. It's a tiny school (I think it had around 22-24 kids registered in the 2020-2021 school year) and it is mostly attended by high school kids who have emigrated to Canada (mostly from parts of Africa, but elsewhere as well) and who have academic challenges uniquely related to their history and who may be below grade level. The friend who founded the school had previously invited us to consider registering Seth to attend the school. However, it had never really been a consideration for us because we'd assumed that, unless we heard otherwise from God, we'd be homeschoolers to the end. That was always my plan/hope for the future. 

However, this February, when a single word kept appearing in my mind while praying for Seth, a new plan for his schooling began to emerge. Why? Because the name of the school that I'm talking about is Freedom School.

That was the beginning point of a three month process of considering Seth's best interests and praying for wisdom. In the end we decided that he would benefit from having additional educational input into his life. There were many considerations that led us to the decision point, and in the end we registered him to attend school this fall! Academics have been tough for Seth, largely due to circumstances completely beyond his control; and the teachers at Freedom School are uniquely and extremely well qualified to help him advance. It was a tough decision on my part; maybe less so for my hubby, who has watched me struggle this past academic year to best educate our boy. So we are hoping and praying that this unique opportunity will be just what he needs. He will enter grade 11 at Freedom School just one short month from now. 

On a similar time line, we also began to take a close look at our 14-year-old Lizzie, who will start grade 9 (high school) this fall. Lizzie has made huge strides, academically, over the past 18-24 months. It was about two years ago that Lizzie decided that she wanted to be at 'grade level' - something that was never a priority for me because as homeschoolers, when/how the kids learn what they need to learn doesn't really matter. Plus, my younger kids spent their first few years as part of our family learning so much about the world that had nothing to do with academics and much more about adjusting to being in a new family/country and everything that this entailed. So when Lizzie decided that she wanted to work towards being at grade level, I didn't really have much to do with it - it was pretty much all her, working hard to be on academic par with her peers. And she's done it! Just one or two months ago, after a lot of hard and consistent work, she completed her grade 8 math, which was the last area she wanted to progress in.

In hindsight, given the decision we have recently made about Lizzie, I wonder if it was God who put in her the desire to work towards grade level. Because had she not worked at this, our decision for her now wouldn't even have been a consideration. We began in February/March to take a look at what might be best for her and, after a similar prayerful process for her, we ultimately made the decision that she will also attend school in fall. This marks another huge, upcoming change for our family. Lizzie will be attending the high school that I attended in my teens; it's a wonderful Christian school that is fairly academically focused and does a really good job of preparing kids for university, which we can see Lizzie being interested in a few short years from now. There are about fifty kids in the current grade 8 class moving into grade 9, and thirty additional kids have also signed up to come into the school for grade 9; so Lizzie will join at a time when many other kids will be new to the school. This was a significant factor for us in making the decision to enrol her. We could have continued to school Lizzie at home over the coming year, but grade 9 is such a big transition year that we ultimately decided that she might find her way a little more easily in a year when many other kids were starting at the school. What thrilled me about her upcoming class is the diversity represented in the kids joining; we sat in on a zoom school orientation session not long ago, with many of the thirty other new kids also participating, and at least a third of the kids were kids of colour. That was an important factor for me in considering the school that Lizzie would attend, and something that I had enquired about before even sending in her application; and it would seem that this need has been met. We're very thankful.

And finally, as he has done already this past academic year, my oldest will be attending grade 12 at a local school on a half-time basis. A year ago we made the decision to enrol Matt in a grade 11 class for a few subjects - notably Physics, Chemistry, and Pre-Cal. These courses were ones that I would have found difficult to teach, despite his aptitude for such courses, and so he attended school part-time in the 2020-2021 year to meet that need. This coming fall will see him taking four classes at the same school (Physics, Chem, Pre-Cal, and Law) three days per week. And on the other two days, he'll continue with other classes at home (Literature, Geography, Phys Ed, Guitar, Food & Nutrition). 

And so our lives are about to change significantly just a few short weeks from now. My role will become that of chauffeur, to/from three different high schools, as well as coach for much of Matt's at-home work two days/week. Suddenly I am a homeschooling parent of half of a kid, instead of three whole kids! That reality hasn't really sunk in for me, and I imagine that I will have some grieving to do this fall.

Geoff and I have decided that I am not going to make a lot of plans for myself over the coming academic year, even though on three days/week I will have about five hours of time to myself. We're going to let the year unfold and see what we need to do to adjust to having three kids attending school. We don't know what this transition is going to look like, or how hard it's going to be on the two younger kids (Matt has already had the past year to adjust to being in school part-time). In addition, I've really been struggling with my own emotional health since January, and need to change something up this fall to care for myself a little differently than previously. I am burned out. Really and truly burned out. I don't know what I need to do in order to recover, but I know it means doing something different. And so I'm going to be pretty low-key for those 15 hours/week I'll be on my own. I'm going to grieve, I might go for coffee once or twice/week with friends, I'm going to tackle some of the dozens of projects at home that have needed attention for a very long time, I'm going to pray about what God might have up next for me, and I'm going to take on my emotional and physical well-being. 

A year from now, when Matt graduates, I won't be a h/schooling mom at all any more, so this year will be a wonderful time of transition for me. I confess that I'm glad that I get to keep half of a kid home with me for one more year, and I'm really looking forward to that. In some ways it seems like we're coming 'round full circle - it was just Matt and me who started out h/schooling together way back in the beginning, before Seth and Lizzie joined the family; and now it's just Matt and me who will finish h/schooling together. One precious last year.


There are lots of changes coming our way. I'm both anxious and excited to see the year roll out, and I'm increasingly pumped to see the kids take on new challenges. Homeschooling has been the best (and the hardest) thing I've ever done, and I have zero regrets about the decision we made years ago to school at home. Now it's time to change course a little and see this part of my own journey wind down over the coming year. I believe deep down that this is the best decision for each of the kids, that we've been responsive to how God has led us each year (including this one), and that these decisions come at a time in my own journey where I will benefit from the change. Lord willing.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Weekend to Think

I have just completed a much needed weekend by myself. I've been feeling pretty burned out and tired, so I asked Geoff if he could take the kids to the cottage for a couple of nights so that I could have a little bit of quiet time to collect myself. Thankfully it worked out and I have had a great (quiet) weekend at home - just me and the dogs.

I didn't accomplish very much at a practical level! No organizational projects done despite the need, minimal cleaning, a few hours of Netflix, a fair bit of reading, several cups of coffee, naps in my library chair, late nights to bed. But maybe that was accomplishment enough because what I ended up being able to do the most was think. It didn't take more than about an hour on my own before I had my first insight, my first non-urgent thought about life. And the thoughts kept tumbling out of my head all weekend like that. 

Mostly my thoughts were about the kids. All three are going through lots of teenage angst and issues, and they all need regular insight, discernment, and prayer on my part to be able to understand what's truly going on with each of them. All three are so different from each other - is it possible to have three opposites? They have fundamentally different personalities, gifts, challenges, interests, abilities, ways of thinking and processing, ways of being motivated, general outlooks on life, and so on. 

I have found over the course of years that because they are so different from each other, parenting my three cannot employ a cookie-cutter approach. What works for one child has no bearing on another. Ways of encouraging, disciplining, monitoring, spending time with, praying for, and loving each of them for the unique people that they are is critical for me - even though sometimes the kids would prefer that I use a one-size-fits-them-all approach (when it suits their wants). I never promise my kids equal treatment, as treating them exactly the same would have very different results, depending on the child. 

As other parents undoubtedly also experience, I find this whole parenting thing exhausting. The mere premise of parenting is the most challenging thing I've ever undertaken. In addition, as homeschoolers, the kids and I have spent the majority of our last decade+ together - whether schooling at home or out and about with our family and friends. Homeschooling is fantastic and I wouldn't change it for the world, but it is overwhelming and exhausting at times. Complicating everything, this past year's covid crisis meant that all of our usual outside-the-home activities were cancelled or switched to an unsatisfactory online format; accordingly, like many others, the kids and I have basically spent every waking moment together since the pandemic began. This never-ending time together has been in equal measures wonderfully enriching and relentless. Hence the beauty and benefit of this weekend by myself, so that I could just think about each of my kids and their unique issues and how best to support them.

It was amazing to observe that it took mere hours on my own to be able to discern, as I let my thoughts wander and settle on each of the kids, what the 'big picture' is on their lives at this stage of their development and maturation. Once I had an understanding of this 'big picture', I was able to identify their current strengths and challenge areas, and began to work out a plan for how to help them with the character challenges they face at the moment. The reason I think this was amazing to observe about myself is that I so seldom have even an hour or two where I am completely alone, and yet mere hours alone and quiet is all it took to begin to reset and reassess what needs doing. 

As I thought and processed this weekend, I kept a file open on the computer where I made note about my thoughts about each child, and I added to it as the weekend progressed. I jotted down random thoughts I had about each of them, honed in on the big picture of where they're at this moment, listed their current challenge areas as they came to mind, any noted any strategies that came to mind as I thought about how to help each of them with their current issues. This was such a helpful process and both practical and future oriented. Processing this way gives me something to sink my teeth and determination into in the days ahead when I will undoubtedly find myself more engaged in the tyranny of the urgent than in employing a thoughtful and intentional approach with my beloveds. I am now armed for those coming days with the deliberation and intention I will need. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Old Wounds

A couple of years have come and gone since I've posted on any kind of regular basis, and oh how I have missed it. I stopped essentially because the kids were no longer particularly comfortable with me sharing aspects of their lives publicly. I could understand that, particularly as they were getting older and starting to experience having more of a journey of their own. But I resisted their wishes for a little while because my life journey is inextricably linked with their journeys, and I felt like I had a right to publish bits of my own story. But in the end, their opinions prevailed and I essentially gave up. I didn't know how to find a balance between publishing about them, and publishing about other aspects of my life, so I basically gave up on writing altogether. I found it all rather heart-breaking at the time, to be honest. I had printed all of the years of my blogs in hard cover book formats, and then tucked them away behind glass at the top of a book shelf so that no one could read them. 

Now, looking back, I can readily say that I really regret my decision to stop writing. I really, really, really regret not finding my way through that confusion towards a path of my own. I love writing. It's always been cathartic to me, and it's where I find bits of myself that I don't see anywhere else. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I need to find my way back to writing. I don't know what that looks like.

A little ironically, in just the last couple of weeks, as we were re-organizing the bookshelves in our library after having some house renos done, one of the kids found the printed books of my blog from years past. She started to read through the book with great interest and was totally engrossed by the memories that were coming back to her. I was amazed at how much her captured interest instantly opened a wound I had thought long closed already. I actually asked her to put the book away and was surprised that my voice quivered just a little in the asking. What I didn't tell her was that it hurt my heart to see her reading the words I had painstakingly spent so many late night hours writing, as a memory for her and her brothers. Clearly I have a little inner work to do yet, to overcome some residual pain.

I don't know if I still have it - the ability, creativity, desire to write as I once did. But what that re-opened wound taught me is that I need to try.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Summer School

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we can take breaks whenever we need or want to.  Last year at this time, the kids were on a six-week road trip west, and it was learning in a totally non-academic way!

In addition to taking breaks whenever we want to, we also have opportunity to school when the public system takes a break.  This summer, for example, the plan is for the kids and me to do more schooling than we have traditionally undertaken during the summer months.

It's been a busy school year and a fairly productive one on most fronts.  We are winding down on much of what we've been working on this winter.  The kids have all progressed well in their various areas, and it's been good to see them being able to take on a little more academic work.  But I'm also feeling a little 'behind' where I'd like to be with them, in a few different areas, and so we're going to focus on those things this summer.

First, I'm going to be starting history with them all, beginning with the History of the 20th century - my hope is that by studying something a little more recent than, say, the Victorian Era, history might grab their interest.  A friend very kindly sent me a copy of the outline that she used when teaching her kids about the 20th century and that has been incredibly helpful for this non-historian to wrap her head around.  My friend's list included the major events of that century, both for Canada and the World, and provided a listing of various resources (print, film, etc) that can be used in the process of studying it.  I need to do a little research into each of the events, but having these things laid out for me has been amazing as I've begun to prepare to work with the kids on it.  I find myself somewhat excited about this pursuit.

Second, we're going to be doing a little science.  Matthew took a science class this winter, with a small group of homeschoolers, but some of it appeared to be somewhat over his head (which I expected), and so I thought we'd back things up a little during the summer and see if we could provide a little more structure to underpin what he was studying this year.  I'll work with the younger two kids on a different program.

Math is a third area that I feel somewhat edgy about; we haven't done enough of it this year.  So we'll tackle that on a much more regular basis in summer, too.  This is the area that I still need to figure out a little more clearly.

Finally, we'll continue to work on a few things that we already did throughout this winter:  Spelling; cursive writing; and maybe multiplication tables.

I certainly hope that we have a fun and relaxed summer. But there's really no reason that we shouldn't also be tackling a few subjects that would be good to move forward. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Ups and Downs of Life

There have been a lot of ups and downs over the past week or two.  It's hard to keep up with the roller coaster of emotions that go along with those ups and downs.

* Seth read his first real book of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books.  His reading is finally, blessedly coming along for real!  I've often thought of the process of learning how to read something like climbing a mountain - it's really, really exhausting, uphill work and sooo hard; then finally, just when it seems like it's never going to happen, all of the sudden you're at the summit looking down an easier path.  Seth has crested the summit; I believe that the hardest is behind him.  It has been years of effort and hard work, and it is paying off.  He is working five days/week with me, and twice a week with a tutor, and I am so proud of his hard work.  Recognizing his progress and seeing it confirmed has definitely been one of the 'up' points of the last week or two.

* All three of my children are in raging puberty, and the number of volatile emotions flying around here is enough to make me, quite literally, insane.  Add to this the turbulence of their pre-menopausal mother and we're really a hotbed of emotional mess!  I'm not quite sure if I'm going to survive the teen years...and I have a lot of years to go yet.  This would not be an 'up' part of the last week or two.

* Sunday morning was a historical moment for we five - it's the first time ever that we all went to the gym together!  The kids and I have been trying to go somewhat regularly (three times/week is our goal), and finished a one month membership last week; and over the past week Geoff got to the gym a few times, too.  So a few days ago, we all signed up for a three month membership!  We likely won't get there all together very often, but today was a watershed for us.  Definitely a positive aspect of the last couple of weeks.

* My mom's health is always fragile over the past couple of years - she was in the ER last week, and has had numerous medical appointments since then, trying to figure out what's going on with her various issues.  That is never a good point of any week.

* Matthew continues to cope relatively well with his various academic pursuits.  The load for his English Lit/Writing class is significant, in particular.  This week he started Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, which I am reading aloud to him (I loved this book back during my English Lit days at university, and it's already proving delightful for me to re-engage after a long absence).  Matthew's writing is improving monthly (as are his keyboarding skills, slowly but surely), and he is learning lots of different writing techniques (essay writing, persuasive writing, newspaper reporting writing, descriptive writing, etc etc). This is seeming to be on a good trajectory.

* As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, it seems that any one of the kids is almost always mad at me.  When I make parenting decisions, I do not automatically make the same decisions for all three kids - I've never been someone who makes the same rules/parameters for all of the kids.  Instead, my inclination is to consider the needs of each child individually, and to make allowances or restrictions or parenting decisions based on each child's need.  As a result, however, one child or another almost invariably feels treated unfairly, because their only basis of comparison is how their siblings are treated, and because they're not mature enough yet to understand how I parent or to see that in the bigger picture, their needs (and often their wants) are met.  It just gets tiring sometime, to be the object of someone's wrath or another one's death glare.  It's emotionally tiring and takes a lot of resilience on my part.  In my most tired moments, I have often toyed with the idea of treating the kids essentially the same (this is how our culture usually works, it seems), but there's just something in me that rails against this approach; my children are very different from each other and have different challenges, different strengths, and different needs.  At any rate, I've been finding myself quite discouraged on this front of late...definitely not a recent highlight.

At any rate, I'm hanging in there.  Surprises like my experience last week at Pine Ridge are so precious...I'm still so moved when I think about what that young woman did for me, what God saw fit to do about the need I had.  I'm a big believer that we can't fully experience joy or satisfaction if we don't also experience the opposite of those feelings sometimes.  So I'm ok knowing that life continues to move, change, surprise, and test us.  I've got a God beside me that cares a lot about where my heart is at, and I am thankful for this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Little Mark of Encouragement

I was feeling pretty discouraged last week.  Throughout the whole week, I felt like anything that could go wrong did go wrong, mostly because of something I'd said or done.  I said to Geoff one day that I'm used to one of the kids being mad at me at any given point, but that on a few days last week it felt like all three were mad at me most of the time, in addition to him being upset with me for a few things.  I felt like I was messing everything up, at home and elsewhere.  In addition, a few life circumstances are occasionally so challenging that it's just plan hard juggling and managing everything.  I'm a pretty healthy person, emotionally, usually; and I'm generally fairly strong and resilient.  However, last week challenged most of my better qualities.

On Sunday morning at church, while our pastor was speaking, I was just plain discouraged.  I had a head ache that I'm sure was brought on by all of the anxiety and discouragement, and I didn't know how to regain my equilibrium.  So I prayed about it quietly, sitting there in church.  I told God about all of it, and then said that I don't ask Him for a whole lot just for myself, but that I really wanted to ask Him for a little encouragement.  I said that I didn't even know what that would look like, and I told Him that it was ok if the encouragement didn't come and that I'd be all right; but I also said that I felt like I really needed it from Him.  I didn't feel any differently after I'd finished praying; in fact, I beetled out to the van soon after, my head pounding.

Later that afternoon, having had no time to myself for weeks already, I said to Geoff that I really needed to get out of the house for 2-3 hours on my own, if he felt like he could manage the kids. He said he was ok, and so I decided to drive out of town a ways to one of my favourite places.

Pine Ridge is this peaceful, country place just thirty-five minutes away from home, and it has a  great shop and restaurant located on the most beautiful grounds, inside a picturesque provincial park area.  In summer and fall, I love to go there and walk around the expansive gardens.  It's where I wanted to go with my family for my 50th birthday celebration a couple of years ago and it's where I usually go once or twice a year for a delicious meal and a wander.  This was where I'd been wanting all day to be.

I went up into the restaurant and my server asked me how I was doing.  I said that I wasn't having the best of weekends, but that I was glad to be there because I find it so peaceful there.  She said that she hoped she could make my day a little better, and offered to bring me a cup of chai with almond milk.  I said that would be perfect.

Later, I ended up ordering supper, and while I ate, I wrote down a bunch of things that I'd been thinking about and processing.  I felt a little calmer and more organized in my head.  Eventually, my server came back and said that it looked like I needed some dessert.  I agreed, and asked her to surprise me.  She brought me some lemony thing that had dairy in it, but I didn't really was her favourite dessert.

Some time later, I called the server over and said that I was ready for the bill.  I was feeling a bit more relaxed and a little better.  The woman who'd been serving me said that my bill had already been taken care of.  I was puzzled and said that I didn't understand.  She repeated that there was no bill today, and that it had been taken care of.  It briefly crossed my mind that Geoff had phoned in with his credit card number, but that immediately didn't make sense because we share the same credit card account, so what would the difference be if he called it in?  I shook my head at the young woman I was talking to and said "What?! I don't understand."  Then she told me, almost reluctantly, that she had taken care of my bill already.  "What?!" I said again, stunned and totally not understanding.  I started to tear up and said that I didn't understand - why would she do that for a stranger?

She said that she had seen me when I'd walked into the restaurant earlier and that I'd just looked so discouraged; then she heard me say that I wasn't having a good weekend.  And she had wanted to make my day a little better, and to encourage me.  I started to cry, she started to cry, and then she came over and hugged me.  I'm sure we looked like idiots to everyone around us, but whatever.  I told her that she was a true blessing to me on a day when I really needed it, because that was exactly what I was in need of...encouragement.  I was so moved, and I hugged her again when I left a few minutes later, still teared up.

I cried most of the way home, so moved.  Even some of the words my young server had used were some of the precise words/phrases I'd used that morning when praying.  I felt/feel very thankful that God chose to answer that very specific prayer in a totally unique and unexpected way.  It wasn't about the was about feeling heard by the One who made me about a small need that He counted important enough to respond to in a very personal way.  In the Bible's New Testament book of Matthew, believers are encouraged to not worry about their lives, because as God takes care even of the birds of the air, how much more valuable are we to Him?  On Sunday, I had a personal experience of God caring not only for the sparrows; He took care of me.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Fam.

It's been a long time since I've posted any pictures of the five of us, so I thought I'd put up these recent ones...both taken in the past two weeks.  Neither are great pictures of me, but whatever...

Aren't the kids growing up?!!



Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What Teenage Boys Like...Not.

I just offered to Matthew that I could make a delicious Roasted Broccoli Quinoa Salad to take to his potluck gathering later today at a friend's place.

His response (with both laughter and horror in his voice): "Mom! This is a group of teenage guys. We don't want to eat quinoa!"

This from the boy who actually loves this dish.  Sigh.