Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Buds and Blooms

This month has been a lovely one. Crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and now tulips are taking turns bringing a glory of colour to the front flowerbeds. The trees are greening with that freshness of young leaves that just makes one glad to look at.

It's been a joy to get into the spring cleaning when just opening the windows is inviting that dance of fresh warm sunshine in. A sweet friend encouraged me to begin getting rid of the unused objects taking space in my cabinets, and it began a little cascade of resorting. It's pleasant to have a little less stuff crowding my home environment.

The children are happy to be getting outside more. Julia even planned and invited her play friends and their families to a "Spring Party" last Saturday where we could picnic outside in comfort. Miss Eve is toddling about after her older siblings with increasing confidence, earnest in her insistence on being helped into shoes whenever the others go out. Her sunny grin is a given every day, and we are so glad of it. Meanwhile the boys are busy with checkers and Nerf guns, and Julia continues to dive into her books and little paper crafts in every spare moment. She is a giver, and nearly every day I have a new picture, crown, or bouquet of yard flowers from my sweet girl. Dandelion season has begun.

On my birthday, Julia masterminded a "breakfast in bed" after campaigning with Dad to work out the food preparation details. She and the children were so excited to bring me French toast and cheesy eggs, and homemade cards full of crayoned well-wishes. I was spoilt by my family and church friends - with treats and flowers and gifts and a gathering of ladies fellowshipping together. The kindness I've been shown has been overwhelming and beautiful.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Of Thieves and Things

It's been a good month. Daily routines in ministry, parenting, and home schooling continue. There have been a few bumps....

First off, the flu hit. Not a stomach bug, but the proper influenza complete with fever, cough, and total exhaustion. Everyone in the family had his turn to lie on the couch for a few days-- it was not a quick one to bounce back from! It must be confessed that I rather enjoyed certain aspects of the family's stricken state once I stopped aching so much... the children being more cuddly, the break from our routines, the way we didn't leave the house other than Terry dragging himself to meetings, the fact that cooking was minimal since no one really wanted to eat. Our culture does not usually encourage a quiet life, but when everyone is ill we finally take a time out. All that said, we were thrilled when everyone felt better again, we could sleep through the night again, and the flushed little couch potatoes were ready to sparkle and play again!

The second sad event was that my diaper bag / purse was stolen. I have a habit of packing my bag and placing it in the minivan on Saturday night, since Sunday morning is always a little hectic. On that Saturday, two of the children became feverish in the middle of the night and I didn't think to remove the bag when I realized we weren't going to church with Terry the next morning. So while Terry was preaching, the thief broke the passenger window of our vehicle and made off with my bag, complete with wallet and keys. Unfortunately, I had a number of sentimentally valuable items in there along with all the valuables. It was not a pleasant Valentines Day surprise. Thankfully, in the background of the hurt is a sure knowledge that God's sovereign plan will work this event for good, and despite some tears I know all that is most valuable to me is safe. While certain things may be precious, things are never incorruptible or eternal (Matthew 6:19-21).

Besides these, a dear friend of ours has undergone a deep trial that came to crisis recently. It has weighed heavily on our hearts and minds as we went about our daily lives. While it is an encouragement to know that this believer is upheld by our gracious and all-powerful Father in heaven, it is still a burden we bear with our friend. Galatians 6:2 directs us bear the burdens of our fellow believers, but we so often fail to take time to communicate with other believers about the burdens in their lives and ours. It is more difficult in our busy lives, since it takes time and genuine love to open the doors to these prayer requests, and of course certain burdens are quite private in nature. What a sobering and encouraging thing to be able to speak to God about these difficult matters. It gives perspective and enlarges our hearts when we are made aware of believers we can lift up in prayer, and God lays their situation on our hearts.

But through these hard things, the goodness of God continues to shine in our lives. The spring weather here has brought the excitement of wakening bulbs sprouting up. Some anonymous friend last month cleared out the dead leaves in my front garden, a mystery I have failed to solve. The daffodils and crocuses are now blooming in the front garden, to the delight of the children - and myself. I've been encouraged by the kindness of two ladies who brought meals while we were ill and the fellowship during a couple of visits with other Christian ladies. Even today while Terry is away preaching in Iowa again (where he is the moderator as they don't have their own pastor), a sweet friend invited us to share lunch with her and brightened our day with her generosity and friendliness. There are so many reasons for thanksgiving. Thank you to those of you who keep us in prayer from a distance, too. Happy spring!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Time to Mourn

*Beware: if you don't like any mention of blood, skip from the first paragraph to the last two paragraphs and you'll be safe*

Last month, new hopes sprouted quietly within. I was getting hungry at bedtime. I didn't feel like steaming green vegetables. I was taking naps when the children had their rest hour. There were a number of little reasons to wonder and to smile and to plan a quick trip down the pharmacy aisle, because maybe....

Then one day as I was at the store finally picking up that test there was an unexpected bleed, and I knew (though still my grip on hope struggled against reason) that God had taken our very young little one. I took the test and yes, the pregnancy hormones were there, but now this was no reassurance. Now came the desperate pleas to God, "If it be Thy will..." and the tears and the thoughts that had to be pushed away. "I was carrying my sleeping 3-year-old that day. What if... Or maybe it was because...." but the only peace was in knowing that God's plan was unfolding through each circumstance - His plan that we know is always for the good of those who love Him. Here, in God's loving character, is our peace. Meanwhile, I visited the doctor and got blood tests.

Two weeks later, Terry had to preach in Ontario. He left on Saturday, January 23. Three children got sick and threw up that night. Sometime after 11pm, we all settled in for the night, one of them in my bed. In the middle of the night, I awoke to fresh bleeding. The miscarriage was really happening. Though it was a sad time, I had a sense of closure, and relied on the security of God's presence. It would be okay. By God's grace, none of the children seemed the least sick the next morning. We watched the church service online. My sister-in-law Tristan was in touch via Facebook messaging, and she was a sympathetic listener about everything going on. However, as I continued to lose a lot of blood, I finally realized I needed to call for local help.

A sweet friend brought her daughter to watch the children while she took me to the ER. We had truly encouraging fellowship as we traveled and waited together. I was allowed to leave after being there a few hours, as the heavy bleeding subsided on its own about 12 hours after it began. Meanwhile, however, my dear husband had, I believe, the hardest job - preaching and visiting while I texted about the day's progress from the other side of the country.

Once I returned home, another friend who'd got in touch after we didn't show up in morning worship asked permission to mention our loss to the wider church family, and I agreed. I'd had time to mourn privately; now it was time to lean on the prayers and support of the body of Christ. Before long, five ladies scheduled time to help in various ways on the next day, Monday, until Terry would return from Ontario in the evening. Other ladies wrote notes and organized meals to be delivered every day that week. It was overwhelming and beautiful to see all that love from Christ given us by these members of His body.

I am thankful for a steady recovery of strength since the miscarriage. But even more, I am thankful for our spiritual strengthening through the miscarriage. I have often quailed at the idea of sickness and loss in our family, for although I know God is good beyond my ability to conceive of the notion, I still tend to imagine that the easy road would be best, or safest, or at least nicest. I know by faith that it's not. The opportunity to follow and know Christ is not just worth the trials - it often comes in the trials. His presence sweetens them and changes them into a place of security. We can rest as His hand upholds us, knowing there is no other rest. We feel the truth of that precious verse "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27 The comfort food, or entertainment, or loved ones we often run to in the little trials are utterly forgotten as we rely entirely on our "Abba." In Him, we find joy through the sorrow.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Today is the Day

Today is the day, by my calculations, that I have reached the age that Terry was when we married. Eight and a half years and four children later, I now have the same amount of life experience that he did at the beginning of our new life together. It's a strange and fascinating thought to me. Of course, we had very different experiences in our lives, both in childhood and young adulthood, and this is part of why God brought us together to serve Him with our different perspectives and abilities. I look forward to many more years of this unpredictable but fantastic adventure together.

We've been in ministry life in Canada for over two and a half years now. God has given us a lot of joy amidst the challenges of service. Eve, our first Canadian child, continues to charm everyone as she toddles about. Home schooling is bringing a lot of bonding time as well as learning for the whole family. Friends and church family give timely encouragement. The chance to meet nieces and nephews on the Lipsy side while catching up with my parents and siblings in July 2015 was a huge blessing - and it was special to see Terry's family during the same trip. Additionally, we've enjoyed several opportunities to spend more time with my sister-in-law Tristan, most recently during the Christmas holidays here in British Columbia.

It's been a long time coming, but the Royalwood Review (named after the street the parsonage is on) is finally operational. I hope to use this blog as an opportunity to interact more with people I don't often see during my home-centered life while dusting off some rusty writing skills. Writing makes me more conscious of my community and how we can give God glory as we share how His Word impacts our hearts and lives. Sadly, my computer is reaching the end of its lifetime and my photo-sharing ability is hampered at the moment, but hopefully that will change soon. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by the new blog and Happy New Year to you all!