Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding the Spirit of Christmas

Years ago I read that if we take care of our outward appearance, we will start to feel better inwardly as well.  I think there is some truth to that. This morning I threw my hair into a pony tail holder, exchanged my pj bottoms for yoga pants, threw a jacket over my night shirt and brought Olivia to the bus. On days where I get up 30 minutes earlier and take the time to shower and comb my hair and put on a little bit of make-up, I feel so much more ready for the day.

I've been applying this to the Christmas season this year as well. You see, last year we did what we thought the world expected of us at Christmas. It was almost like we were trying to prove to the world that even in the throngs of raw grief, we could do it all. It was a hard Christmas.

J and I recently watched a made for TV Christmas movie. I can't remember the name of it. In the story, the main character lost her Dad that past year and he was the one who always lit the Christmas tree in the town's square each year. This year she was not interested in continuing the tradition, but her Mom insists. As everyone is counting down to the moment the tree gets lit, her mouth is moving without a sound coming out, she is going through the motions, but the sound of everyone around her is muffled and they are all moving in slow motion. Jason and I looked at each other and both said 'That was us last year.' We went through the motions, but inside we were completely broken and all that happened around us was in slow motion and we were going through the motions too, but now sound was coming from our mouths. That was grief for us during the holidays.

This year we are being mindful to do only that which we can handle and at times things we think we can handle one day, land up not being attainable the day of the activity or celebration and we are choosing to listen to our hearts this year.

Sunday was our tree decorating day. I automatically got out the red and gold decorations and then J reminded me that we also have blue and silver. Was it because Mikail's favourite colour was red, that I was drawn to the red ones? I don't know, but it felt good to put up the blue and silver this year. He would have loved those too. We don't have to put up his favourite things all the time. We decorated two minature trees with the kid's decorations. To hear Olivia  gleefully shout out 'This one's Mikail's!! It goes on this pile", as she sorted through them, deciding which ornament would go where, was healing. She was so excited to put his ornaments up for him and so were we. This year the tears were different. They were brief and filled with longing and joy. Our grief is changing. It will never go away, but it will continue to change as time goes on.

As I think about taking the time to take care of my outward appearance, in order to help my inward spirit to be brightened, I am applying that same thought to Christmas this year. If we take the time to decorate our home in such a way that will point us to Christ, perhaps that same spirit will start to fill our hearts and our minds as well. It's working
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Building a Bridge of Healing with the Broken Pieces of our Hearts

This morning I was early for an appointment, so I made my way to the river for a bit of solitude on this beautiful November morning. As I was sitting there, thinking about the myriad of heaviness in our lives right now, I asked God when things would start looking up, instead of more hurt and brokenness being added to our already heavy hearts. Of course I didn't hear a voice answering, or a neon sign showing me our future, but my phone lit up and caught my attention. There was a quote by Ann Voskamp:

A smile threatened to shine through my broken hearted tears when I read this. I'd just been thinking, "How much more can my heart break? And how can I be strong for others when I'm so broken?" It's so tempting to just blurt out a piece of our mind, when in truth, that is not the most helpful. I sat there under that bridge that connects two countries and I wondered whether healing can take place with all this brokenness? Are we willing to allow healing to take place? Can the broken pieces of our hearts build a bridge of healing? I sure hope so. I so badly need it to. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

One Simple Soul

This post was inspired by the new book:
 Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman 
which releases November 15th! 
You can purchase a copy at http://listenloverepeatbook.com  

When we look at the world, it is generally a world that is self centered. It's a 'me, me, me' kind of place we live in. I know I very easily fall into this trap as well.  Often times I think to myself that I'm too tired, too busy, too sad, too "something" to reach out and do something for someone else. And I'm also great at justifying my thought pattern.  

Year two of grief? It is pretty much 100% worse than year one of grief was. I have every right to just mope around and be sad. Life without our warrior boy is hard.  

This is what my 'self centered self' tells me. And perhaps there is some truth to it, but man, snap out of it, Iris!! Get that gratefulness thing back up and going! Go do something FOR someone else!  

But I'm so tired and I can't even think straight. I can't do anything elaborate or worthwhile.

So, do something you CAN do. Bless someone with garden produce. Share whatever you baked as therapy this morning. Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru.  You see, when I go and do that little something that doesn't seem like much at all, it turns out to be significant to that one soul I reached out to. And the perk? I feel my spirits lifted too when I reach out to someone else. Funny how that works, isn't it?

"Jesus wasn’t about doing big things. 
He was about doing the right thing.
 And often for him, the right thing was 
noticing one simple soul."
-Karen Ehman.

Recently I noticed how weary Olivia's bus driver looked on her last stop (our house). I'd be weary too with a bus full of tired, rowdy kids, and a bunch of them being over tired Junior Kindergarteners bickering at each other. It seemed to me that she might just need a word of encouragement and thanks. I'd just made several dozen homemade rolls (because I couldn't bare to leave the house to pick up store bought ones...my soul was too weary) for our hamburgers at supper that night. Why not share a bag of them and write a quick little note of encouragement?

And guess what? The look of appreciation on the bus driver's face, lifted my spirits and nourished my weary soul. Other-centered living, in a self-centered world. Hmmm...much to think about.

*     *     *


I have the privilege of being on Karen Ehman's book launch team for her new book  
Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World, 
coming out November 15, 2016. 
Stay tuned for more golden nuggets I will be sharing as I read through the book.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A New Endeavor

There have been some new and exciting things happening around here. We've opened an online store where we sell luxury wool products using wool from Jason's sister and brother in law's sheep farm. I've been busy blogging over on store's website. Check out Luxury Wool Products, by clicking the link in red. Enjoy browsing in the store and find your way to the 'blog' and 'about us' to learn more. The links are on the top right of the screen.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Butterflies: My Rainbow

The summer after Mikail passed away, I found that any moment alone was difficult. Too much time to think. Thinking meant trying to make sense of the senseless death of our son. Thinking meant dealing with guilt. Thinking meant painful flashbacks. Driving to places was difficult. Sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee was difficult. Going for a walk was difficult. But something almost always happened when I was met with those solitary moments and dispair started to settle in: more often than not, a butterfly would fly by, or come near to me. I found such comfort in these moments. It was as though God opened a window in heaven and allowed Mikail to release a beautiful bit of heaven to be sent down to his Mama. As though to tell me that he's okay; that he loves me, and that this butterfly is his kiss to me from glory. 

Butterflies have become a comfort to me. They symbolize resurrection, re-birth, and hope which I have deep belief in. The hope of resurrection from the dead, because of the grace and sacrifice made on the cross:

"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

"For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:52b

When I feel like things are hopeless, the appearance of a butterfly reminds me that there is hope. The rebirth from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly reminds me that beauty can come from ashes. Life will be beautiful again. 

While spending time in the garden, this week, a beautiful Giant Swallowtail Butterfly hovered around us while we picked tomatoes. It seemed to enjoy the Zinnias I had planted in memory of my Oma. For me the past week has been one of the most difficult since we said goodbye to Mikail, so to have this beautiful giant butterfly spend time with us, was heaven sent for me. 

God sent Noah a rainbow--a symbol--a promise. Butterflies have become my rainbow--a symbol--a promise. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

When Heaven is too Long Away

July 23rd. It marks 18 months since Mikail passed away. A year and a half without him. It seems like forever ago one moment and a minute ago the next.

Sometimes, at night, when Olivia misses him so deeply, she says "Heaven is too long away. Why does God still need us here, again?" Such truth in her innocent 4 year old thinking. Heaven IS too long away.

Yesterday I was sitting on a bench at the store, waiting for Olivia and Jason to pick me, going through old photos on my phone. Tears were brimming and I was missing Mikail so very much. How I wished he was sitting on that bench beside me watching people go by, maybe playing I Spy With my Little eye, or just chatting about things that 6 year olds chat about. Wow, he'd be six by now. Going into grade one...my favourite grade to teach. Such an amazing age. The thoughts just kept coming, but then, just as quickly they changed into thoughts of the coming week. A week we've been waiting for a very long time. Jason is on holidays. We get a whole week as a family. Just us. No guests. No previous engagements. No obligations. No big trip. Just time for our little family. I don't think this has happened since September of 2014.

What I love about the thought pattern I had at the store, while I was waiting, is that I could have my tear-filled moment, missing Mikail and just as quickly jump to dreaming about future fun. 18 months ago I would have thought that would be impossible. It felt as though the shock and depth of grief would be that intense forever. My thought pattern at the store showed me that we are okay. Yes, it's hard. Really hard sometimes, but the getting stuck in grief is becoming less and less.

Heaven is too long away, but we are okay.
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Gardening and those Pesky Weeds

I've always been fascinated with 'front yard vegetable gardening'. I've seen front yard vegetable gardens in urban areas and have always thought it is such a good use of space.

When we moved into our home just over a year ago, there was a large perennial garden in the front yard. I tried my best to keep the weeds at bay, but it was hard to do, since everything was so overgrown and I didn't really know what plants were what, or what should be where. It seemed to have been neglected for a while and nothing I did, seemed to make it look like anything but an old overgrown perennial bed. I didn't have the same vision for it that the previous owners did.


Since our house is on the river, the traditional 'back yard' is actually treated more like a front yard in our neighbourhood. Most homes have their sheds in the front yard and put little effort into the landscaping of the front yard. You live on the river and put your efforts there. So, we decided that changing this perennial bed to a vegetable garden would be our best bet. There is too much shade to have a true vegetable garden behind the house. With the help of my dad, we started transforming the perennial garden into a vegetable garden. We did it in stages, so there are portions of the garden that were only planted two weeks ago.

Because I have the vision of what I want our front yard vegetable garden to look like, I know where there should be no weeds. This means I spend a lot of time trying to keep those weeds at bay. It has been so theraputic to spend time weeding. Who knew, that this dreaded chore would bring such peace to me.  Last night I was pulling those stubborn weeds out, thinking about the 'weeds' that are in my life. What are the things that keep creeping up, threatening to take over the beauty and potential bounty in my life? What do I need to 'weed out'?

This brought be to thinking about the parable in Mark 4, where Jesus taught His disciples about how the growth of seeds sown, depends on the soil that the seeds were sown in as well as the amount of thorns allowed to choke out the potential fruit. Spiritual fruitfulness or barrenness depends on the type of soil the spiritual seeds are sown in. There are pesky weeds that hinder the growth of fruit-producing seedlings and suck the life right out of the good that could be harvested in time:

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4:13-20

Jesus warns us that there are thorns that choke out the fruitfulness that He has ready for us. When I read what these thorns are, I quickly realized that these are very easily the weeds and thorns that choke out abundant joy and peace in my life:

  • the worries of this life
  • the deceitfulness of wealth
  • the desire for other things
Hmmm...seems like the garden of my heart has some thorns that need weeding out. Are there weeds in this passage that stand out to you? Thorns that need weeding out so that abundant joy, peace, hope, and love can be a crop produced through you?

Hope your 'gardening' brings about much fruitfulness.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

When you don't know what to say anymore...

In some seasons in life I find prayer difficult. 

What do I even say to God? 

What do I ask, when for two years most questions have been met with silence or the answer "no"?

This week my nightly prayer has been the same, "I don't know what to say anymore, God. Where are you? In it all, I know I still love you. Show us, Lord."

This morning I woke up with the lyrics "Glory to God. Glory to God. Glory to God...forever" on repeat in my mind. 

Maybe that's the answer: thankfulness and glory to God, no matter what...


Join me? Find glory to God in the everyday things...as little as they may seem. For me, the easiest is in finding it in the beauty of His creation...right around our yard:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Everything is perfect...until it isn't

This was our last chance, our miracle waiting to happen.

Everything was perfect...until it wasn’t.

Until that dreaded ultrasound where these words are spoken:  
A miscarriage is imminent. We are so very sorry.

Sorry? Imminent? How imminent. Like today? Tomorrow?  

It will happen when your body is ready. 

So, there’s time for God to do a miracle? Please God, a miracle. We need a miracle.

Yet the quiet whisper of Thy will be done fills my heart. I want to question it. How could a beautiful baby not be His will for us? Yet, I hear the whisper again, Thy will be done...

It will happen when your body is ready. Ready? How can you ever be ready for a miscarriage? Apparently my body is ready seven days later. But my heart will never be ready to let go of this beautiful baby; this glimpse of hope in a span of two years where we’ve had little hope to hang on to.

The physical pain is numb compared to the pain of heartbreak shattering my soul. Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies are often a silent loss. No one knows except the people you choose to share the loss with. But why do we keep these losses silent? Perhaps it's those looks of 'pity' or the painful platitudes that people often feel the need to use to fill the awkward silence. That's almost enough for us to keep the silence, yet this baby was. It existed. The loss of an unborn baby is a deep loss. It changes you forever.

We’ve lost three children and the loss of each was very painful in its own very different ways. The first loss (2008) we mourned quietly with very few people and I mourned for months, fear gripping me that we would never have another baby. Our second loss was the loss of Mikail and that was a very public loss because of the sudden tragic nature of it. It was okay to mourn that loss in this way. Expected even.

Today’s loss comes with tragedy too. It was such a long, painful journey, and a miracle I even got pregnant, that there was so much hope in that tiny little baby growing in my womb. Hope to grow our family. Hope for Olivia’s nightly prayers to be answered. Hope for our hearts to grow bigger with more love. Hope in having a tiny slice of heaven on earth with us once more.

Yet, He knows what His good and perfect plan for our lives is, so I whisper through the pain:

Thy will be done... 

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our plan for more than surviving summer holidays

Summer Holidays have started for us and already the "What can I do?", "I'm bored!", and complaining about doing daily responsibilities has started. Kids love the routine of school and although I like a bit of a lax feeling in summer, some routine is necessary.  So, I went into teacher mode and put a few things into place:

#1 Chore Chart
I've revised our old chart to add a few more age appropriate responsibilities, as well as a sticker chart to go with it. Olivia's always been pretty motivated by her chore chart and is loving the addition of a sticker chart:

#2 The 'I'm Bored' Cheat Sheets

I've made up three pictorial sheets of ideas of things Olivia can do when she's bored:

Ideas for inside (independent)

Ideas for outside (independent)

Ideas of things we can do together (special outings):

3. Behaviour Chart
Olivia's a good kid, a normal kid, so that means with the cute, fun, spunkiness that's her, also comes some whining and complaining and defiance. It can get exhausting, so we've spent some time talking about appropriate behaviour, voice tone, and obedience.  Then we sat down, made some consequences, rewards and special prizes:

The day (clothespin) starts on the white paper and can move down (consequences) or up (reward) throughout the day. She receives the consequence immediately, but the "prize" the next day since the clothespin can move up and down until after bedtime. We made a list of "prizes" and she chose her six favourites that we put across the top of the chart. Each morning we move that clothespin to the "prize" she'd like to work towards. Some ideas on our list to choose from were:
-wrestle with daddy
-ice cream or mozza sticks
-dollar store toy
-splash park
-swim at Aunt Ren and Uncle Kenny's
-animal farm
(I'm no artist. Excuse the poor illustrationsđŸ˜‚)

The consequences we chose together are:
Time out (4min--her age)
No iPad or tv
Go to bed early

The rewards we chose together are:
Read 3 books at bedtime (instead of 1)

So far it's worked amazingly. We are only on day three. We made sure she got to "prize" on day one and made a huge deal of it. Day two she ended the day on "warning" which motivated her to do better today and she ended on "prize" again. She's excited to wrestle with Daddy tomorrow. What I live about this is that there's no power struggle. The power is in the "clothespin"--ha. The only trick is being consistent. It wouldn't work without consistency. 

What are you planning to help keep your summer going smoothly?

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