Thursday, October 2, 2014

3 1/2 Months In

I cannot believe it 's been 14 weeks since we pulled away, in our moving truck, from B.C.  So much has changed in our worlds.  For the last little while, since I've been working, I have had no mental space to really contemplate it.  Before that I was unpacking boxes. Before that I was in a car driving away from my home.  Before that I was packing boxes and saying goodbye and single-parenting it.  Before that I was in Israel.  Before that we were contemplating our world tilting and shifting.  Before that we were happy in our world of running a business and being immersed in a wonderful community.  It's been awhile since all the "before that" craziness began...and once it began...there was no stopping it.
This past weekend, while we were celebrating our anniversary, all of it hit me like a ton of bricks.  All of the change caught up with me.  When you're in it you just do it and keep time to process.  You have moments when you think "hmmmm wonder what I think of all of this?"  and then you keep going.  I must say, I think that's a great process later...for me.  In the midst it'd be too much (at least for me) and likely I would have ended up catatonic.  But later, when a lot of things are sorted and I are beginning to settle in and most of the chaos is's ok for it all to catch up with me. I'm better able to handle it.
So...the girls did not get into the school that we have them on a waitlist for (they're still on the waitlist).  They are in a different school...a good school by all accounts.  I don't honestly know because I haven't been in their classrooms because I am working.  The second week of school M went off on a 3 day trip with her was so very weird sending her with strangers.  I didn't like the feeling...but she came back happy and well.  As a parent, it's a content releasing of your children..this move has required more than I thought in that area.  But, the girls tell me they are making friends and that they like their teachers.  So, that is good!  It definitely keeps me on my knees.  I was used to being in their classrooms a lot and knowing the families that they were interacting with.  So this school year I am learning that, as much as I love my children, their Heavenly Father loves them beyond descriptive words and cares about, and for, everything that has to do with them.  I leave them in His hands...there is no better place they can be. Often, instead of choosing worry and fear, I choose that.
Our new jobs: I love my job. I am so thankful for it.  The people I work with are absolutely wonderful.  I couldn't have asked for a better situation in a job.  This job and the people in it are a blessing to me. I have met so many lovely people.  They have grace for my newness to the area and the job. I am adjusting to not being the boss...and I have to say it is indeed lovely to shut down my computer at the end of the day and walk out the door and know that my job is done for the well as my responsibilities.  I have been so encouraged and bolstered in the last 6 weeks.
Shaun is also adjusting well into his job.  He is enjoying working with his brother.  It's busy and has a never-ending list but he is enjoying the fact that while his job is his responsibility...some things are above his pay-grade and that's a good thing! He gets to shut everything down and come home and not think about work.  A great employee benefit.
Family: When we moved we left behind grandparents from both sides of the family and that has been hard. But we are now close to Shaun's brother and his family which means uncle, auntie, and cousin time.  There have already been some sweet moments.  We are so very thankful for them.
Our church: It's so amazing to walk into church and already recognize so many faces...another benefit from working at the church.  Next Tuesday, we begin going to a community group.  We are looking forward to getting to know some people better.  While we recognize faces and are getting to know more and more names...we still don't know people yet...and that's to be expected. It takes time! That's one of the things I find hardest about moving...the work required to form a thriving vibrant community...the work and the length of time it takes.  But in the end, we've learned, that it is well worth it. But it does take a lot out of an introvert like me.

We still can say with utmost confidence that, as we walk step by step, we see His fingerprints all over this.  I am thankful for His presence all around us.  I am thankful for the people that He has put in our path.  I am thankful that I cannot always see what's around the next bend...only enough so I know where to walk.  I am thankful for my husband...he is still the favourite part of my every day. I am thankful for our children...who bring me so much joy.  Their upturned smiling faces. The stories they bring home that tell me about their day and the people in it.  Their hugs.  I am thankful for life and a new day to pursue my Creator.
So much to be thankful for in the midst of the adjusting.

Finding Empathy and Compassion in Story

Moving to a new place has it's ups and downs but one of the things I love about moving is all of the new people we get to meet and all of the life stories we get to start learning.
Shaun and I were wandering around old book stores on our anniversary last weekend. I am a reader.  I love everything about books.  I love the smell. I love the way pages feel.  I love gaining knowledge. But more than anything,  I love knowing stories about people's lives.   I still haven't adjusted to reading books on a device.  I don't think I ever will.  I just love everything about a real live book. Anyway, I digress...
As I looked at the plethora of books on the shelves and began to read titles I had this moment standing right there in that used bookstore.  I am now working at a church. I purpose most every day to stop and hear somebody's story...or at least the part of the story that they want to share.  Lately, we've been having a story with missing links.  We've been sleuthing it out a bit, trying to find the missing pieces. I've been listening a lot to the story.  I've been  looking at it from all different angles.  I've been trying  to hear the heart of the matter more than the details.  You see, I think, when it comes to people, we often hear their bluster and anger, if they're upset, more than their heart...what they're really saying. In several situations lately, I've had to step back, put my personal feelings aside, and try and find the bottom line.  What's the story here?  And here is where, standing in that bookstore, I had this moment. In order to keep my compassion for people and not get cynical...I need to take time to hear their story. I need to take the time to understand their bottom line. ...their motives. I need to understand their "how" and "why".  I may not be able to do a thing about it and I may never agree but at least I will understand. I find, when I understand someone I have a much harder time getting frustrated and upset with them.  It doesn't mean I agree with them or that I can, even, do anything to change anything...but I can at least understand so that, mentally, I don't write them off and so I can have the mental tenacity to keep going with them.  I can still have empathy and compassion.
Here are two examples I can think of off of the top of my head that aren't interpersonal, but more geopolitical.  Awhile back, when we lived in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, we had some students live with us.  One of the students was from China.  He was a Communist. His father loved Mao...worshipped him actually.  Now for me, as an American and a Christian, I came at that from an angle of not understanding. I did not understand how a person could be a Communist instead of fighting them tooth and nail.  I grew up during the Cold War.  Communist were evil really. What they stood for was awful. What they did was awful...the torture and persecution of Christians that is still going on today under Communism is something that troubles me greatly.  Over my life I have spent time praying and given money to help these people. I met Christians who had been tortured and beaten and imprisoned for simply being Christians while I was in Russia in 1994.  I saw the scars on their backs.  I looked in their eyes.  I could never understand how a person could be a Communist. All the books I read growing up, about Communism, were about people being rescued from them.  And here I was with one living in my home.  So, I began to ask him questions...through Google translate.  He began to tell me his family's story.  His father was now a very successful factory owner thanks to Communism.  His extended family was well taken care of now thanks to that success.  No one had to worry.  They were thankful to Mao for bringing the change needed (in their opinion) to their country.  He knew nothing about persecution.  He knew nothing bad about the 1 child policy...if you want more children you pay for more's simple when you have the money...he knew nothing about forced abortions...all he knew was that he had much opportunity and his parents attributed it to Mao and Communism.  I still do not think Communism is good. But I now understand how people live under that system and don't fight it tooth and nail.  I looked a young man in the face and in the eyes and heard his story.
The other story is about a Bedouin chief who's village I went too while in Israel in May.  This man is a grandfather.  He has 5 wives, ranging in age, from 14 years old to his age.  He has 10 children (so far) and 140 grandchildren (so far). My daughter is 11.  She is only 3 years younger than that 14 year old girl married to an old man.  He has grandchildren her age.  I, honestly, thought she was one of his granddaughters...then I heard she was his newest wife! WHAT? Everything in me, as a woman and a mother of daughters, recoils at that.  EVERYTHING.  I have read about and educated myself on child brides.  In our world it is repulsive.  In our world it is unnecessary.  But as I asked many questions (not to the sheik as women don't talk to sheiks...only men...I asked our fixer and our leader) a story emerged that had angles I hadn't thought of. The sheik needed someone who could care for him through his entire life....someone to be healthy and well and  young was needed to be able to do this...this is not a new thing.  Parents arrange marriages, in the Bedouin culture, so that their daughters have a secure future and won't be left destitute...not for love.  This 14 year old (I don't know how old she was when she married him...) would be well provided for.  She had status and standing...and this sheik was wealthy (not by our standards...but by theirs) and well respected.  That is everything in her culture.  Now, as a mother, I can understand that logic.  I want my daughters to be well taken care of and to have every opportunity.  I still don't agree with it...and fortunately I have the luxury to not have too.  But now I understand how they came to that decision.
This is why "story" is so important on all levels of our lives...from interpersonal to geopolitical to belief systems.  We CANNOT solve problem without all the angles.  The best way I've heard it described is that problems are like a belt. In order to find truth and the whole council of God, we need to be able to see the story from each belt loop...and with all that information we will be able to find truth.
When I remember to take the time to hear "story" ...each time my life is enriched and I gain understanding...and compassion and empathy...and I care...and I am calibrated once longer navel gazing.     

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Been Awhile and Never Say Never

I think this is the longest I've gone without posting since 2006!  That's how crazy life has been!  So since January life has shifted...massively! At the end of April Shaun was offered a job. We wrestled and prayed and wrestled some more...this job would mean a whole shift of life! On May 3rd we hopped on a plane to Israel. Before we left we decided to take the job.  We were gone for 2 weeks.  A week after we got back Shaun headed off to Alberta to begin his new job.  I stayed and closed down our business, packed the house, said goodbye, and waited for the school year to end.  The school year ended abruptly and early due to the teachers' strike. We said goodbye to our beloved community and we struck out for Alberta.
In all, I counted 35 people who helped us either pack, clean, watch the girls, load the truck, unpack, feed us, help find a job, write my resume, write referrals...We were needy and our community, both in BC and in Alberta, has really been such a gift to us...a balm to the heart.  Couldn't have done it without any of you.
As I sit here typing I am struck by all that has occurred.  We didn't, honestly, know if this was the right thing to do but we kept walking through doors and they kept flying open.  It still grieves us deeply to have left our community.  But, I can say that I have seen God's hand in all of it...even when I didn't want too.  We left Alberta 10 years ago for several reasons and said "Never again!".  Well many of those "We will never again..." have just I guess the old adage holds "Never say never!".
We are looking forward to seeing what it is that God has for us here.  But I can say with full confidence He does have something for us here. To many things have happened that we can see His fingerprints on.
Shaun's job is good...busy. He is thriving and learning.  The girls are doing well. We have them on a wait list for the Christian school that their cousins go too.  I am well also.  I just accepted a full time  job today that I'm pretty excited about.  I will be working at a church as the Worship Arts Ministry Assistant.  It's right up my alley.  I am thrilled to be going back into something were my heart is as well as my training.  But with that comes some big changes. I haven't worked outside the home since the girls were born.  It will be a juggle when they are not in school.  But I am trusting that it will all work out and that this is the best for them as well.
We are enjoying being near to Shaun's brother and family.  Very thankful for each one of them.

Anyway, I must get back to unpacking!  Must get my house ship-shape before I begin work in 3 weeks!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hope In the Midst of it all.

I was texting a friend this morning. She asked me how I was.  My response pretty much sums up right now,
        "I'm good! Just sorting out the last year. Looking at lessons that I need to learn from it. It wasn't a fun year. There were good moments and God was with us...but it's a year that I'm leaving feeling weary. I'm looking forward to this new year.  I have hope for this year."
I've gotten pretty introspective over the Christmas Break.  I've spent a lot of time in prayer. I've spent a lot of time in contemplation.  I am still in that mode.  It's been so good to quiet my soul and withdraw from the normal routine for a bit.  It's been so good to actually be still enough to hear God's voice. It's refreshing.  It's healing.
2013 was a year of hard work. It was a year where I had to look at my dreams and goals and look them square in the face and let many of them go.  It was heartbreaking and exhausting in the moment.    When you hold so tightly to something for so many years that's the result when you don't see it coming to fruition.  I had to face exactly where I was standing in that moment not where I wanted to be instead.  It's letting go of pride.  And yet, in the midst of letting go God gave me so many sweet moments.  He carried me.  He encouraged me in ways that no one could.  He gave me hope as no one can.  In the midst.  He used many people, that he has placed strategically in my world, to bless me and encourage me to keep going and that we would make it...and there were people to teach me.
This last year was a year that I was rushing around like a crazy person doing all the things I "should" do. I got so caught up in the "should" that I never stopped to see if I was actually doing any good in all the craziness.  The result is exhausting.
So this year of 2014 my personal goals are along the lines of stopping and listening more.  To quiet my soul.  To have less "I need to do" and ask more "What would You have me do today?" "What did you create me to do today?"
I'm not interested in being exhausted for the sake of looking good on the outside.  I am interested in pursuing God and seeing what it is that He would have me do.   He is a much more gracious taskmaster to me than I am to myself.
In letting go of those things that I needed to let go of and all the fear that went with that...fear of failure...I am able to see more clearly. I am able to have a much clearer mind...less fog.  My mind is not full of what I'm failing at and the weight on my shoulders that comes with that.
As I was looking back over the year all the things that were so very stressful...God took care of.  He has blessed me with gracious people in my life who see my flaws and who don't kick me when I'm down but instead help to life me up.  He has given me the most amazing husband a girl could ask for. I learn so much from this gracious, funny, kind, sweet, forbearing husband of mine.  He has blessed me with 2 beautiful daughters who amaze me every day.  The three people who are in my world every day are magnificent gifts from a magnificent God. He knew that I needed them.

As I read through my Bible  and live my life I keep seeing God's graciousness.  I see His mercy.  He does not give me what I deserve.   I see His love towards  us.  I see Him carry me and bear my burdens when I let Him. I see Him singing over me.  I see Him rejoicing over me. He never changes.  The verse that keeps going round and round in my brain is this...the Lord speaking,
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  
~ Matthew 11:28-30 ~
I just finished reading a book called Needless Casualties of War by John Paul Jackson.  Something that captured my attention (well one of the many things) was this
"Everything I do is to seek to know God's heart, to learn what revelations or miracles He wants to accomplish. And then I try to participate with Him in advancing the Kingdom of God...over the years I have discovered a simple truth: whatever you focus on, you steer towards...Whatever you fix your attention upon will consume you. It's true in the natural  and in the spiritual. Scripture encourages us to focus our attention on Jesus, who is altogether lovely, true, noble, just, pure, virtuous, ad praiseworthy. he has a good report...Frankly, my determined focus is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, humble myself, and pray, I also focus on my need to live a holy life unto God and to pursue peace. God's word speaks of humbling ourselves before our Creator and one another. If we do, Scripture promises all these things will be given to us. Embracing a posture of humility and repentance will alter the atmosphere around us. God dwells with those who are contrite and humble"
Last year my focus was on the stress of situations.  I spent time praying but I was consumed with stress and the problems.  There is a lesson in there for me. It did no good to be consumed by those things.  It was a waste of time and energy. I do not enjoy waiting time or energy...they are precious commodities to me.  So along with so many who have gone before for time out of mind my determined focus is to seek first God's kingdom.  He has given me new eyes in this new year.

In that there is hope.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  
~ Hebrews 12:1-3 ~