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On Their Own

October 5th, 11:30pm

“Mom, Mom! Dad said we could sleep on the deck when it’s done!” My little ones met me at the door as I came home from work. Kevin explained that William and Joel were really excited about the new deck and had asked to set up the tent when it’s done and sleep in it. “Okay, I guess,” I said. I felt nervous at the idea, but I could see how excited they were.

It was the end of August at the time, but then the decking took two weeks to be delivered and then we went away for Myra’s wedding and then it rained for most of a couple weeks. Then today they asked if they could camp on the deck. It’s October and it’s cold and it gets dark early and they’re only 7 and 10, but we’d already said they could this year. So we set up the tent and hauled out loads of blankets and laughed about how soon they’d be back inside. 

We played frisbee as it got darker and then got out the sparklers. I wanted to make a bit of an event out of William and Joel’s first time sleeping outside on their own. 

I looked at the clock when they went out–8:45. I wanted to see how many minutes they’d be outside, maybe 15 minutes? We could hear them listening to music and laughing and singing. They came in a couple times for a drink of water or another blanket and then at 10:45 they turned out their light and went to sleep. 

And I had a little cry. This wasn’t supposed to happen. They weren’t supposed to be this brave and grown up. Kevin and I went out loaded down with more blankets. I held the flashlight while he covered and tucked in the sleeping boys. 

“Should I sleep in there with them?” Kevin asked. 

“No, this is their special night,” I said. Kevin suggested bringing them in, but we had told them they could do this. We decided to both sleep in the living room with just the sliding glass door separating us from their tent. 

But I had to take a few minutes to write about this moment and try and capture it. Things are changing so fast with my oldest married and moved out, my second graduating this year, my twins in separate schools, and  my youngest two sleeping outside on their own. 

For 18 years I was a full-time-stay-at-home mom. Much of my identity is wrapped up in being a mom and now that role looks different with working outside the home and my kids at school. My time with my children is spread more thinly and passes even quicker than before. 

I started this blog “Cherishing the Moment” 9 years ago to capture these moments that flit by with the passage of time–not because I’m good at cherishing each day but because I’m not. Life is busy and hectic and I’m a dreamer with my mind racing in a dozen different directions at any given moment. But every once in a while I’m reminded of how quickly the time is passing and how very precious this season is. I do want to cherish it.

Tonight, as I feel a pang in my heart for how my children are growing up, and some anxiety for them, I’m reminded of the blessings in my life. I’m thankful, so very thankful–for my children and my husband, for my relationship with God, for our home (and the new decks), for work that is meaningful, for good health, and for this busy season of life that leaves me exhausted but that I know I’ll look back on with joy. 

October 7th, 9:30am

An update: I would have guessed that my little boys would have lasted 13 minutes outside, not the 13 hours that they ended up in the tent! And a confession: I did not last the night on the couch but Kevin did. 😉 I did get up at 3am to check on them, though. 

In the morning, William and Joel excitedly told me of their night and about how they’d been scared when they heard me unzip the tent in the middle of the night until I said, “It’s Mom. I’m just making sure you’re okay.” They were beaming at their accomplishment.

“Did you stay out there because you were having fun or because everyone said you wouldn’t be able to?” I asked.

“Both!” They said, giggling. 🙂

Photo credit: Ethan Malcolm

Happiness is . . .

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

I was recently at a birthday party. One of the partygoers brought out an aging notebook and opened it to a fresh page. “What are the things that make you happy?” she asked the birthday guy.

She wrote each “happiness spark” on a list, and then she read over some of the lists from others over the years. Apparently, she’s been tracking things that make people happy for over a decade, and has a book chock full of joy.

Isn’t that awesome?

This got me thinking about what are the things that bring me joy. Here’s a list in random order as they came to me.

  • Babies—chubby fingers and tiny toes
  • Sunsets
  • Fresh apple pie
  • Laughter
  • Reading
  • Soft blankets
  • Candlelight
  • Fall colours
  • Islands
  • New ideas—I love to dream
  • Trying something new
  • Playing games with my kids
  • Dinner dates with Kevin
  • Seeing a mama hen with her chicks
  • Having a job that is meaningful
  • Getting to homeschool my kids for 12 years
  • Getting a break from homeschooling
  • Extended family get-togethers
  • Time with friends
  • Making new friends
  • Evenings while my husband plays guitar
  • Making memories with my family
  • Lattes
  • Learning—I never, never want to stop learning
  • Fireflies—I’ve never actually seen one before but the idea of them makes me happy
  • Phosphorescence in the ocean at night
  • Loon calls
  • Mountains
  • Rivers
  • The northern night sky
  • Adventures
  • Refusing to act my age

I’d love to know the things that bring you joy! Please share your happiness list in the comment section. 🙂

I wish you laughter, soft blankets, and sunsets! ❤

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Photo credit: Debbie Pan

Some of us go to others for support when we’re hurting, others fade out of the crowd and find a quiet place to soul search when suffering.

I think I’ve always been the type to seek solitude when in pain or when experiencing anything intensely. (When in labour, I always had this powerful urge to find a place completely alone, dark, and quiet to birth my babies.) I’m very open about trials and pain that I’ve experienced, but not when I’m in the midst of it.

Two years ago our family went down a very difficult path. Marriage problems overwhelmed us. And three people who were close to us passed away in a relatively short time: my beloved grandpa, one of my closest friends,  and my children’s grandfather. Most painful though was that one of my daughters was in a place of such terrible darkness that we could hardly reach her. She’d be hospitalized three times before things very gradually began to improve.

My greatest desire was to be a good wife, mother and child of God, and it felt like I was a complete failure in all three areas.

I was devastated and exhausted, but I couldn’t break down because my family needed me. In the midst of the storm, I pulled back from many of my normal interactions and from social media. I retreated and focused on healing for my family and for myself.

You don’t come through a trial like that unchanged. I’m still a little wild and eccentric, and I’ll frequently be the loudest in the room. But I’m also more fragile—needing to be more aware of how much sleep I’m getting and monitor the stress, and we realized I needed a break from homeschooling. Another difference is I’m far more reluctant to offer advice when another is hurting, but I’ll offer support with a listening ear.

All this to say that after a year-and-a-half of almost complete silence on my blog and social media, I’m back. I’m enjoying the interaction, and I missed you guys. 🙂

A Beautiful Legacy

Abby reading to Melanie and Myra

A few months ago we learned that a dear friend’s cancer had returned full force and that unless there was a miracle, she only had a short time to live. Abby had just come to see us—she’d lost little of her vibrancy. She was still pushing a heavy mower around the yard and canning food. It was hard to believe that she was dying. So hard to accept.

A month later we went to visit her. I brought some soup and sandwiches and we planned on a short visit so we didn’t tire her. It stunned us to see how weak she’d become in such a short amount of time. Abby had reclined in her chair while we visited. Her nausea made it impossible to keep food down.

She walked to the door when we left, leaning against the wall for support. I hugged her tightly and we cried together. This might be the last time I see her, I thought—and it was. I talked to her once more by phone. Her voice was raspy and weak, but she was still thankful—thankful for medication that took most of the pain away, thankful for the care of her daughters and the love of family and friends, thankful for a full life and good Saviour.

I knew Abby when I was a child. She played the organ at the little white church that my grandparents went to. She had a bright smile—especially for children. Her family moved away, but we reconnected when I became a mother.

In the spring of 2005 we moved to a cabin on the Day property in Vanderhoof while Kevin built us a house nearby. Before that time the Days were our friends, but in the seven months we lived with them they became family.

It was probably the most difficult season of my life. We had four children under 5 in a 16’x16’ cabin. My youngest two children were six-month old twins with undiagnosed allergies. I often only got three hours of sleep a night. But it was also a season with some of my best memories. I got to be on the receiving end of Abby’s servant heart.

Our family of six had supper in their home three times a week. We bathed in their home. Abby’s son, Josh, helped to build our house, and Abby did our laundry.

She didn’t have a dryer, so she hung all of our laundry by hand on a wooden rack that she hoisted with ropes and pulleys where it could dry out of the way.  Every week Abby washed our clothes, folded them, and returned them to me with a beautiful smile on her face.

Many afternoons, my children and I would join the Days for their afternoon tea time. We’d sit in their bright kitchen and enjoy Bengal Spice tea and hot-out-of the oven molasses bread smeared with butter. It was a time of great conversation and lots of laughter.

Abby loved my children like they were grandchildren. She enjoyed them and spoke with love to them. She would take them into her lap and read to them. I found myself emulating her in tone. Being around her made me kinder and more patient as a mother.

Soon after we moved into our own house, the Days moved to Prince George. But Abby and I continued our friendship. We didn’t talk on the phone often, but when we did it was always for well over an hour. And she never stopped encouraging me. Every time we talked she shared relevant Bible verses and gave me some deeper insight into relating to my growing family.

It’s impossible to know just how much Abby’s gentle spirit, encouragement, and example has impacted my life as a mother, daughter, sister, wife, and friend, but I know that her influence has permeated my life in every area.

Today I came across a picture that spoke to my soul. It’s called ‘Life Within Death.’ It’s a Chinese lantern—the flower must die for the fruit to grow. Even after the fruit is ripe, the dried flower still encases it.

Even though Abby has left this life to be with her Father in heaven, her legacy lives on in her children, her friends, and the countless people that she ministered to.

We love you always, Abby.

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“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls

into the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much grain.”

~Matthew 12:24

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Roy Sullivan was hit by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977. The chances of this occurring are 4.15 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I can relate. It seems like if something bizarre is going to happen, it’ll happen to me. I have no idea what it is about me that invites this.

Case in point. I flew down to Victoria to see my sister, brother-in-law and adorable nephew (I mean off the charts adorable) a couple weeks ago. My sister fed us wonderfully healthy and tasty food. (Some people were having trouble digesting all those beans. Ahem. But I won’t mention names.) And I initiated the Tube Olympics where we had to shimmy through my nephew’s play tunnel.

On my last evening there, my dad and brother left early and everyone else went to bed early. I was moping a bit about the fun being over. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and I caught sight of the bathtub.

If you know me well, you know I don’t have running water which means that I have to heat water in pots on my wood stove and carry them to my little bath tub. It’s been about a year since I’ve had a bath with more than a few inches of water. And while it is a method of getting clean, shivering in a few gallons of  luke-warm water is far from enjoyable.

I tried to fight the temptation. “Rachel,” I told myself, “what kind of a guest would help themselves to a bath when everyone else is in bed?” But I was like a starving person rationalizing the theft of a hot-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread. “They know I don’t have running water. They’d want me to enjoy a piping hot bath with water all the way to my chin,” the other voice in my head said.

My willpower melted the longer I gazed at the tub. I locked the bathroom door, put the plug down, and turned the water on. I cringed at the noise of the thundering water. My sister had been up much of the previous night with her son, and my brother-in-law had a long day ahead. I hoped I wasn’t waking them up. “Worst guest ever,” I muttered while sinking down into the steaming water.

Bliss. For about one minute I was in heaven. This is so worth it. The water was as high as it would go, and I turned the taps to shut off the water. But nothing. The water still poured full force. I turned the taps the other way . . . and then one at a time. I had to start letting water out so it didn’t overflow.

This isn’t happening to me! Please, God, I pleaded. Please let the water turn off.

By that point I was out of the tub, dripping, and going back and forth between pressing my hands against my face in despair and trying with all my might to turn off the water. I watched all the hot water swirl down the drain. I paced back and forth between the toilet and the bathroom door. I got dressed and went to my sister’s bedroom door and tentatively knocked, but not hard enough to wake them. I pretty nearly just hung my head and cried while the water continued to pour into the bathtub.

Finally, I went down the stairs where my mom and step-dad were sleeping. “Mom, Scott. I tried to have a bath, but now the water won’t turn off and I don’t know what to do.”

So then the three of us were in the bathroom trying to turn off the water. “I just should have resisted the temptation,” I moaned with my head on my mom’s shoulder.

At that point, my sister and brother-in-law were wondering why the water had been running for half an hour and why the three of us were in the bathroom talking. Believe me, no one was sleeping and I was fervently wishing it was all just a bad dream.

By the end of it, even the landlord had to be woken up, and the water for the whole house needed to be shut off for the night. Turns out that the rubber ring inside the tap chose that moment to disintegrate.

Sigh. Groan. Sigh. When I shared my story with a close friend she just laughed, “It would happen to you, Rachel.”

I’m tempted to ask why. Why in all the time they’ve lived at this house—turning that tap on several times a day—did it decide to let go the one night I snuck an illicit bath?

But some people are just lucky like that. 😉

Intimate
Photo credit: Sona Psotova

I’m a dreamer. I’ve finally come to realize that about myself. Dreamers aren’t known for being practical.

My latest dream isn’t new at all. It’s been at—or just below—the surface for 20 years. All those years I’ve had a hunger to foster and adopt children.

There are times when that hunger buries itself in my chest, and I can think of little else—like after Haiti was ripped apart by the earthquake in 2010. “Can we please go to Haiti and look after the orphans,” I begged my husband. But Kevin is the practical one. He sees the consequences and obstacles with clarity while I only see the need and feel the pain.

I’ve tried to be more practical over the years. When I hear of suffering children—of orphans and foster children who never find a forever family—my heart squeezes with the desire to help them, but I remind myself that I’m raising six children in an unfinished house. “It’s not real,” I tell myself. “It’s just a dream.”

But last week, as I watched a friend snuggling her baby girl, I felt the desire to care for hurting children resurface. Maybe it’s time, I found myself wondering. Our house could be finished this summer. My youngest is four, and I have more time now. Kevin might even be semi-retired.

The next day, at an archery meeting, I overheard a woman talk about her experiences as a foster mother. I unabashedly drew near. “I’ve always wanted to foster or adopt,” I said.

“Really?” She seemed surprised. Maybe the idea to foster children crept up on her instead of being the culmination of decades of desire. She talked about some of the joy and pain she and her husband have experienced on their journey.

Over the years I’ve read dozens of books related to fostering children. Knowing that many children in care have special needs led me to studying about Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and autism. I’ve also looked into caring for drug addicted babies.

But what is it like to love a child and then lose them? What if we did decide to foster children, but the pain eroded our family like a sand castle caught in the tide?

There have been times in the past when my dreaming and scheming have gotten us into trouble. Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to rush into anything this time.

I found a book titled A Baby’s Cry by a foster mother about her experience with fostering a newborn. She and her two children form a deep bond of love for the baby, and then they must let him go when he is returned to his birth mother less than a year later. It’s helping me to understand what it’s really like to willingly suffer pain to offer a child a home and love—for a time.

I started reading A Baby’s Cry to my whole family a couple days ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a foster mom, but I need to believe that the ache that lives in my heart is there for a reason. Maybe some of my children will remember reading this book and decide to one day foster and adopt children themselves.

Maybe the time will be right one day for Kevin and I to welcome some of these little ones into our own hearts. I don’t know, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know. I accept the pain and pray that one day I’ll have the chance to alleviate some of the pain of a hurting child.

A Baby`s Cry at Amazon.com

Glitch

Image credit: Lora Bates

Image credit: Lora Bates

I bought my new phone just after my husband bought his. Kevin couldn’t wait to get his new phone set up. Mine sat on the counter in its crisp little box for months. Why bother? My old phone worked fine.

Finally, I decided to contact Telus and have my new phone set up. I used my husband’s phone to make the call.

I’m not sure if I can write out the following events and have it make any sense at all. I went through hours of frustration when the agent switched my husband’s number instead of mine to the new phone . . . the call dropped . . . I called back on my phone and was put on hold . . .  I totally confused another agent when I tried to fill him in on what happened . . . he put Kevin’s number back on his phone and discovered that they’d wrecked the SIM card by putting Kevin’s number on it . . . now I had to go buy another SIM card.

Argh. Sigh. Groan.

The Telus agent offered to put a $15 credit on my account and apologized for their mess up.

“I’m sorry if I sounded irritated. I know this wasn’t your fault,” I told the agent at the end of our long conversation.

“You have every right to be frustrated. I’d be pretty irritated too.”

“Well, thanks for your help.”

I set the phone down and rested my head in my hands. Why did I buy a new phone anyway?

We drove into town to buy a new SIM card . . . the store was closed. The next day, when I finally got the stupid, puny little card—it was almost $2 more than Telus had given me to buy it. “Just let it go Rachel,” I told myself.

Thankfully, the transfer went smoothly this time. “Are you sure it’s my number?” I asked the agent for the second time. She was patient with me.

Whenever I feel like freaking on someone in customer service, I’m reminded of my years as a waitress. If someone is angry because the food is too cold or it takes too long or doesn’t meet expectations—they take it out on the waitress. Not fun.

I few years after I’d quit waitressing, and while we still lived on Cortes Island, Kevin and I were grocery shopping. Our town trips were always stressful and rushed with ferries to catch. We stood in the lineup as the cashier moved with the rapidity of a frozen sloth.

“Would you like your milk in bags?”

“No, it’s fine!” I replied, snatching the milk jug from her hands and packing it into the cart.

Later, as we sat on the ferry and watched the trees slide away, Kevin turned to me. “I was shocked when you snapped at the cashier. You more than most, know how hard it is to deal with angry customers.”

I nodded. An image of the woman’s hurt expression flashed in my mind. “You’re right.”

I’m glad Kevin said something to me that day. It doesn’t matter if Telus cost me hours of time and $1.81 in cash—I’m still responsible to treat others with respect and to apologize when I fall short.

This is even more important to me now that my daughters both serve at Tim Hortons and try to meet even the rude customers with a genuine smile. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and kindness doesn’t cost us anything.

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