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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Deeper and deeper in love

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the freedom I have discovered since my last post. Perhaps it was owning up to my part in the struggle that finally gave me permission to "let go" of something or maybe it was feeling a sense of confession that allowed me a self-permission to set this issue free... either way, I am taking deeper breaths and feeling like someone hit the slow-motion button on my life... and I am LOVING IT!

The true test will be the next time my ex and I have a disagreement. I will let you know if this new-found peace will permeate the situation and offer us both some new standing ground from which to work with. Wouldn't that just be great?

Your prayers, your advice, your love and encouragement are so very much appreciated. It still humbles me beyond words (yes, even I can be speechless at times) how many of you are out there taking the time to read these thoughts of mine... absolutely amazing to me!

And now on to sharing what has been on my heart since Saturday, which has delightfully been my beloved husband.

One of my favourite things about having finally discovered my soul mate is the process (or rather the gift) of getting to know him more and more. It seems so cliche to say that I love him more today than I did yesterday but it's true! Unless I have asked for his help in getting rid of the fluttering moth at my feet while I am rendered helpless trying to poor slow honey into my measuring cup and he decides to yell that it has gone up my pant leg instead... at which point I scream, drop the glass jar of honey - an allergen for Ethan, might I add - only to discover him laughing hysterically... in those moments I forget that I love him more today than I did yesterday. (If my high school teacher is still reading these posts, I greatly apologize for the huge run-on-sentence... hee hee hee!) But usually thirty minutes later, I can smile (mostly) and recall that even those moments make me love him more... either that or I have a really poor memory!

Our latest indulgence is sitting out on our newly screened in front porch and just visiting together as we watch the swarm of mosquitoes try desperately to reach the fresh blood they can smell through the screen.. ha ha, take that mosquitoes! The sound of nature around us is peaceful, the cool breeze is refreshing and the fresh air sets the mood for cottage relaxation. What better environment to enjoy each others' company??

Saturday night was no exception. It was one of those rare occasions when Duane had more to say than I did! And the stories he shared of his childhood left me grinning ear to ear falling more in love with the man before me and the family that helped shape the character that is "Duane".

He told me about Rocket, a steer he helped raise when he was a young teenager. Duane is an only son and he and his father shared an inseparable bond right from the start. If you knew Duane's father, you would know that he is a man of few words (or at least as I have known him, but I hear that others might smile at themselves and beg to differ!), of calm disposition (despite his great size) and a work ethic that could put the hardest working among us to shame! Duane's father is nearly fifty years his senior but that never once kept those two from knowing each other through and through. This was evident in how Duane could tell how far to move the hay bale wagon or the grain trucks just by looking at his father's face! They shared an unspoken language, or rather a "knowing" between them that is beautiful in my mind to have been witness to.

Well, this Rocket was a fiery little calf and he would leap about the cow pen but would always settle down when Duane would enter the pen. Not only would he settle down, but he would seek Duane out and nuzzle him similarly to the way a horse would! Duane even recalls Rocket lying on the ground and letting Duane climb onto his back and he would get up and strut around proudly with Duane as his little cowboy!

But alas, the day came to sort the fat cows from the lean for processing and to Duane's surprise, this meant watching Rocket make his way with the others who would be processed for human consumption... It was a harsh reality check for a young man who forgot that even the animals most unique in character, the ones that even touch your heart, continue on in the circle of life.

Not an easy lesson for anyone to learn!! I still shed tears when the chickens get their heads cut off! But somehow there is greater peace in being part of the process and knowing it is being done with appreciation for the animal's life than to imagine a cold, dark, machine operated plant that takes these animals' lives without a second thought...

Alright, so the slaughtering of sweet animals was NOT what I appreciated about my conversation with Duane on Saturday but rather learning more about his heart's appreciation for God's creation, His animals and our responsibility to care for them ethically and responsibly.

And the last story that touched my heart and made me love him more deeply was the one when his father had broken his hip. Duane was in his mid-twenties and he and his mother were the only family members left at the farm to care for dad. Duane didn't even think twice about taking over the responsibilities of the farm making sure that his parents did not have anything to worry about. But one day, Duane was in the barn processing cattle (giving their shots, castrating the bulls, etc...) and dad decided to sit in the barn and watch. Dad could barely make his way to the barn door let alone open it to let the cattle through and Duane couldn't figure out why his father was sitting there watching him...

until he finally asked him "Dad, why are you here?" And his father plainly answered "Because I like to watch you."

Duane couldn't understand why his father would want to just sit and watch him... until now.

He said to me "I look at Ethan and already know that I, too, will want to just enjoy watching him work. I finally understand what my dad meant."

And with that, we welcomed a father's day the next day with a new appreciation for my husband's role as a father to our children and a deeper appreciation for the love our fathers have had for us.

I pray that you all had good fathers in your own lives, or at least good fatherly figures. If not, I pray that our Heavenly Father has been or can be the rock in your life that loves you as you are MEANT to be loved. And if you are a father reading this, I pray for your sanctified role in the lives of your wife/partner and your children. Bless you all out there and praise be to God for the Father He is to all of us!

And to my husband - thank you for letting me "know" you and the many ways you fill my heart! And for graciously giving your permission to share who you are with all those who share in our lives through this blog. My heart is forever yours, my love.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Looking in the mirror

Do you ever look in the mirror and think “yikes... not what I’d like it to be but hey, it’s me, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Maybe you even have some of those days where you look in the mirror and think “Hey, not too shabby... woo hoo!” Or even the opposite where you catch a quick glimpse, keep on walking and before you know it, there are tears rolling down your cheek as you think “Who the heck was that? That is NOT me!”

Basically, do you have your good and bad days regarding feeling peaceful about who you ARE?

The last few years, I have had the “Who the heck is that?” when looking in the mirror of my soul. I do not recognize the soul starring back at me these days and I am not sure how to fix that... just yet.

Hence my reaching out to you all. This post will mean revealing what I find “ugly” about my soul these days which means some of you may not feel comfortable with what I will be sharing. Having said that, I am reaching out in that vulnerability seeking your help through prayer or advice on how to beautify my soul so that our Father may look upon it and be praised by what He sees.

My sister (whom I think is oh so wise) shared with me the wisdom she has learned over the years. She has reminded me that God is in ALL things, even our enemies. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that God is perhaps MORE in our enemies than in our friends and loved ones... after all, when He asked us to love one another, He did not imply only those whom are easy to love! Even Jesus in those moments of being hated by those whom He had come to save... knowing even that Judas would betray him... He never once treated Judas or those who would condemn Him with caution or edge. He was loving, forgiving and willingly exposed to those who would hurt Him the most.

Even the symbol of the crucifixion is an incredibly visual representation of that vulnerability. What position leaves you more exposed than that of having your arms spread apart revealing direct access to your heart?

Once upon a time, I knew that position. And the beauty of “knowing” it was discovering that there was NO VULNERABILITY after all! In fact, the position of loving from a strictly “giving” standpoint meant that it never, ever felt “taken” or “robbed” or “violated”. It went forth from my heart and no longer belonged to me but rather to those whom I directed it to. So if it was neglected, discarded or even mocked, it could not hurt me because what these people were harming was a gift that already belonged to them. And in my eyes, they were robbing themselves and that just left me with sadness for them and never hurt.

Somewhere in the last few years, for some reason, I have started guarding my heart (as though it actually belonged to me!). My patience and grace towards others seems stretched thin and rather than look for what may be “the other side of the story” I just assume that others are being unfair, unloving and/or cruel.

What happened???

I have particularly noticed this where my ex-husband is concerned. I do not know what history I can reveal here that would allow me to share my heart without stepping into what is also his truth and what he might prefer to keep private. But I will do my best to share what I think is fair and hope that I do not cross a line anywhere.

Suffice it to say that I ended the marriage due to nearly ten years of frustration from the same issues over and over and over again despite reading books, attending therapy sessions, seeking out my soul through desperate prayer, surrendering to things as they were, etc... Now in my ex’s defense, I am sure the poor guy was frustrated that I couldn’t just love him for the way he was, but in my naiveness, I agreed to marry him under the condition that things would CHANGE. We had had Melina when I was sixteen (he was nineteen) and although my heart had believed in a “soul mate” somewhere out there, it seemed more and more evident that marrying him was just the “right thing to do” and that my convictions of a soul mate was merely the fabrications of a desperate heart that belonged in a fairy tale.

Years of unhealthy tendencies (on both our parts) yielded to years of exhaustion, basic survival, just going through the motions of living, and finally growing resentment. It dawned on me at last that I loved him too much to head down this road any further, that we could be better parents if we were only friends. And I was right!

But we have to deal with each other on a weekly basis, touching base on Isabel’s doctors’ appointments, recent seizure activity, daycare & school needs, medical supplies needed, Melina’s after school activities, shared expenses, negotiating special occasion dates, etc... We seldom agree on anything and we are left with two VERY different households! Where is the middle ground when it feels like that middle ground is two worlds away??

The result is a heart growing colder and colder in revealing God’s grace and unconditional love. Each situation is approached with a heavy history and I am quick to get angry and defensive. I struggle with isolating the current issue at hand without pointing out the repetition of it in our history and the question of “why can’t this stop?” And even if those occasions can arise when I am isolating the issue at hand, it seems that my efforts are thwarted by his struggle with leaving the past in the past, also... we just can’t seem to win.

I am often exhausted from trying to word things properly, approach topics diplomatically and even in trying to prepare myself mentally for possible misunderstandings but I would much prefer to spend that time in prayer, in gratitude that we have children resulting from our union and thankful that our intentions ARE to work together for their sake. I would prefer to shed and be rid of any time spent pushing away feelings of anger, resentment and even hatred at times.

It is such ugliness in my soul and it does not belong where God’s light is meant to shine! Perhaps reaching out and saying to him “James, I am sorry for where I fail you in loving you as a child of God” would be helpful. After all, God has called us all to be SERVANTS to one another. This means that we should not be seeking to meet OUR requests and OUR desires but rather striving to meet those of others!

But how do we balance “giving” without letting it feel like a “taking”? Perhaps I answered myself earlier... if I am truly giving (without condition) than that gift of giving no longer belongs to me and there is nothing left to “take”. Obviously I am struggling with giving unconditionally where my ex is concerned and perhaps this is where I am needing your prayers and your wisdom.

So after this very long winded confession of my failure as a child of God towards my ex-husband, would you be kind enough to send forth what your heart compels you to share, whether through silent prayer or direct advice? I am open to hearing all criticism and encouragement.

And perhaps I need to also ask for your forgiveness... because where I am weak in my own faith, I am weak in my prayers for you. So may I beautify my soul for the sake of God and for the sake of my prayers reaching Him more directly. And may I walk by my soul mirror and be thankful with what God has made of me... stretch marks and all!

With all my love, in all its strength and weakness, I send you a deep “God bless!”

Sunday, 6 June 2010

About Baby Vaags

Some additional news regarding our unborn baby...

At sixteen weeks, I went for an ultrasound only to discover that they wanted me to come back in six weeks to further investigate the solid mass that was appearing where the baby's left kidney should be. May 19th was when we finally got our fetal assessment and we learned that Baby Vaags has several cysts within the peripheral wall of the left kidney. What does this mean? As long as the cysts do not cause any problems (infections, pain, etc...) then they will simply leave it alone. They cannot assess if there is any function in that kidney at this time but the good news is that the right one is perfectly beautiful and working 100%! We have been blessed with many prayers and reassurances from others who know of friends and family members who have lived fulfilling lives with only one kidney.

It is not what we would hope for but my sisters offered me great peace, in particular, my sister Linda who pointed out to me: "God never gives us more than we can handle. He promised us that. So this is a testament to the STRENGTH He has ALREADY equipped your children with who will face a life time of health issues."

WOW!!! Never even thought to look at it that way! To me, it just felt like an innocent, helpless little baby thrown into a lion's den and all I can do is watch helplessly outside this locked cage and pray fervently that the lions are not hungry or perhaps vegetarian!! Instead, that comment helped me realize that no differently than God equipped a small David with a few stones to face a giant Goliath, He has not left my children unequipped to face their health issues...

Isabel, with her toothy grin and gentle disposition. She brings joy to so many people's hearts despite her physical limitations and sufferings.

Ethan with his intelligence will no doubt seek answers or at least be capable of the self-discipline required in keeping himself safe from his many allergies.

And now Baby Vaags... we shall see what character will emerge with this one and how that will serve him/her in the purpose of living life with one functioning kidney. But the comfort is there in knowing God will not leave Baby Vaags defenseless.

And for this mother who cannot yet understand why three of her five children must deal with significant health issues, it is a comfort beyond words that these children rest in His loving hands. And no differently than the way His Will kept Daniel safe in the lions' den, so will He keep these children safe from anything that could destroy them.

I do not have to fight those battles or feel guilty that I cannot. I can seek comfort in our Lord's grace and TRUST that all will be for His glory in the end.

Peace be with you all out there. I have missed you and this feeling in my heart when I finally sit and devote my attention to reaching out and connecting. May you all find comfort in your own battles trusting that as far as you get stretched, someone knows your capabilities better than you do and you are stronger than you think. Much love, ALWAYS!

Far too long!

My poor blog... it has been forever!!!

Things are incredibly hectic... had a couple of weeks from H-E-double hockey sticks! (apts upon apts, driving Izzy to and from school three hours a day with both kids, being a temporary widow while Duane lived out on the tractor for two weeks of seeding, and no John to help, etc...) But we survived, however, we are all very sick with nasty colds. Ethan in particular had high fevers for a couple of days and we spent our days just holding him and trying to keep him somewhat content. No fun, I tell ya!

But we finally found some wonderful second hand bunk bed bedroom furniture for Ethan and Anika and they are now sharing a room rather successfully. We also landed some beautiful pine furniture for Isabel's room which finally looks like a real "space" now. Melina is wondering when she gets a spruced up bedroom look... yeah, it will have to wait until we've saved up once again!!! Mind you, she had the second nicest bedroom suite in the house so I am thinking she is just going to have to be happy with what she's got.

The baby's room is set aside (Anika's old room) but there is lots of work to be done in there as I went to take Anika's posters down and ripped parts of the wall off!! Plaster is such a blast... NOT!

Gained fourteen pounds in six weeks which I think may very well be a record in the world of ridiculous pregnancy weight gain. Having said that, I have baked an amazing carrot cake, some cheese biscuits (my very first successful biscuits!) and some pretty awesome muffins. I have stopped baking cookies as I have not been able to exercise any form of self-control with homemade cookies in the house... and I wonder where the amazing fourteen pounds came from... Seriously, where on EARTH do these horrible cravings come from???

The baby is darling and I can just FEEL how cute this one is!! We have both our girl and boy name chosen and I just cannot shake the feeling that we are meant to have BOTH of them in our lives. We will see where God will lead us in that one...

My Dad and stepmother, Marj, helped me plant my garden just south of the kitchen window so we'll see if I have ANY luck with finding my green thumb somewhere deep within! If caring for house plants is a testament to my gardening abilities, we may be in serious trouble! I have a few more rows to plant yet, but with the torrential rains we've had, I am wondering if becoming rice-farmers might be a wiser game plan! Oh you should have seen the rains... between the strange clouds swirling around above our house and the high winds and literal downpour... I thought we'd have to seek some gofer wood to built an arc in an awful hurry. Thank God the fields have been draining successfully and we'll just have to wait and see how the seeds/plants have managed... perhaps they have evolved in some way and have grown gills!

Melina and I are still working away at her DVD math lessons every week and she's doing rather well. She has a music recital coming up on the 12th and just loves her opportunities to sing. I can hardly believe she will be turning fifteen this month... sigh.

Izzy's lift system is FINALLY installed (on her birthday, to be exact) and we are going to get the training on the fifteenth. The Occupational Therapist coming out sounds like a real gem of a guy so I'm looking forward to laughing at our attempts to dangle my daughter from the rafters!

Anika and Ethan LOVE the fenced in front yard and huge play structure we got for them. It took John a few weeks to assemble the whole thing so in his honour, we have named the play structure, "The Tower of John". Upon its completion, Anika exclaimed with such joy "Oh John, you made me a slide! I just LOVE it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Weeks later, upon our "thank you God for..." bedtime sessions, she still thanks God for the play structure... and for John!

Ethan is such a little man. Despite the structure being designed for ages 4 and up, he has figured out how to use the rock climbing ramp and the ladder. He won't go in the baby swing but rather sits in the big kid swing alongside his big sister. He is talking up a storm these days with an ever expanding vocabulary that has me rather impressed. He is even speaking in sentences!!! Amy said to me the other day "he speaks better than most of my Korean students who have been taking English classes for many years!" He loves the new bunk beds (despite the lower bunk being freakishly low). He calls it "new bed" and is pretty good staying in so far although after nap today, he surprised us by coming down the stairs... considering we have barricaded the sides of his bed, I do not want to know what he had to do to get out of his bed... The kids keep each other up until late chatting and laughing but I can't find myself able to sternly go into their rooms and tell them to stop all that fun! But it has resulted in some grumpy kids... sigh. Poor Ethan would make an occasional bang sound and I would hear "oh, bonka my head."

We have also welcomed more "life" on the farm this past week. Duane picked up six turkey chicks and twenty-six chicken chicks so the farm is "chirping" with life once more. Unfortunately, the circle of life is well exemplified here on the farm and a cat managed to get a hold of one of the turkey chicks within the first fifteen minutes of them moving in!

We also had an incident with Anika who was reaching over trying to pet one of the chicken chicks who had been brave enough to venture towards her at the edge of the little fenced-in area. Unfortunately, Anika was so excited about reaching the chick that she fell forward over the little fence putting her hands out in front of her to brace herself which meant landing on the little chick... oh it did not stop there... Anika could not get her leverage to push herself back up so she kept having to push down on the squealing chick in order to get back onto her feet... Sigh. She looked at me in a panic and said "what's wrong with the chick?!" whose head was now in an unnatural position. What else can I say? "Well, it was an accident, but when you fell onto your hands, you landed on the chick and hurt him very badly. He is dying."

She looked horrified and said "He's dying?" But the reality of the circle of life set in and she said somewhat sadly, "maybe you should put him up there" pointing to where Duane has been collecting the dead chicks. Oh dear me! At least she can face this logically, I suppose??? But because I am a huge proponent of idendifying your feelings and then communicating them, I asked her as we walked back to the house "How did your heart feel when you landed on the little chick who died?" And she replied "It felt very sad... and crunchy."

Not sure if the crunchy was how her heart felt or what it felt like landing on the chick... either way, I did not press for further explanation.

And that about sums up our lives on the farm these days!!