Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bits of Life

I have an urge to write tonight; I have words and thoughts bursting to be released. I am always finding complexity in the simple things of life, or simplicity in the complex. Sometimes I feel sorry for the people that are around me most; I get lost in thought and forget the more important pleasures of relationship.

I am never bored alone, but I am afraid folks might find my company rather boring. Alas, this is the pleasure and the curse of being introverted.

Though words and ideas are plenty, I must often refrain from making those public. It's so easy to quietly type away, but not so easy when someone wants to "talk" about my posts. I have found that I am occasionally misunderstood, or that people feel entitled to more of my life because parts of what I have communicated is on a public forum. I don't mind though, for the most part. It stretches me to be careful, general, sensitive, and humble. Mostly, I have found that our experiences (and all our struggles, hopes, and fears) are more similar than not, and meaningful connections in life come when we make ourselves vulnerable. And of course, by definition, vulnerability comes with risk. This risk has been good, though, because I have also discovered that many here simply choose to love me, or just find camaraderie, or connectivity in one way or another.

Still, I often get nervous about writing! So tonight I'm just going to play it safe and record memories and experiences of this season as wife and mother, or just as a person. Most of the time I feel like just an awkward girl who doesn't know much about anything. That also makes me so totally thankful for new mercies every day.

I'm liking this season of life. There are both simple and complex aspects to it; I'm always on a quest to find beauty and appreciation in the mundane and simple aspects, and recognize that simple faith in our great big, and very good God takes me through the complex.

I want to savor this life God has granted, and writing helps me to do so both now and in the future. Jacob, for instance, is such a sweet sidekick-friend and I'm savoring this sweet time of life with him. It is evident that my other three, now all teenagers, are doing what is natural in becoming more independent and less needful of my entertainment. But Jacob remains my little daytime companion. He likes to just hang and talk (and talk and talk). He joins me when I'm brushing me teeth, attempts to do my stretching poses with me, tags along to run errands, needs me to keep him on track during school time. Last week we had an opportunity to head out just the two of us for a short while in the afternoon, and he chose to hike around the side of a hill. It was really important to him that it was just the two of us, and I took note because these days are fleeting.

Hiking and climbing slick logs

Always be prepared with multiple pocket knives, in case of slick log climbing.

Nature is for creativity, imagination, and achieving physical feats...

...and for finding untouched beauty.

We found a little tree frog, and Jacob caught it to bring home for Andrew's terrarium. Once upon a time I would have said no to bringing such things home, but I've learned that there can be great regret in the things parents choose not to do. I have learned it's better to be a yes-mom as much as possible, and save the no's for things that are non-negotiable. (Still working at this.) So the frog came home and is now part of our household, even though he got lost several times in the car on the way back. Another thing I wish I had learned earlier is to find humor in this sort of thing, and not to sweat the worse case scenarios (like the smell of decaying frog in an unknown part of the car).

Of course, as part of our household, I have somehow become responsible for providing food for this creature. That wasn't part of the deal. A few days after the adoption, the boys were alarmed because the frog was looking skinny. With afternoon sports and dinner prep for the humans of this house, I didn't have time to make the trip to the reptile store. Instead I searched the house for bugs and spiders. I have a soft spot for my boys, and the things that matter to them also matter to me. I found only one spider in the garage.

So now we've been to the reptile store twice recently, because it turns out that frogs need a whole lot of crickets. If you care to know, that place is the nastiest smelling place, with creepy creatures and a high proportion of peculiar people. It's an oddly fascinating place, if you can stand the smell. I've been there many times over the last few years with my three boys, and now I'm perfectly comfortable with staying in the car and sending them in alone.

The frog is cute, and his occasional croaking makes us smile every time. I have no regrets on this one.

Life happens so quickly. Olivia was asked to prom last week. The guy is part of her friend group but the invitation was unexpected. I love how she confidently said she would like to go but she would needed to check with her parents first. This was her choice, her deliberate response. When she and Michael pulled in the lane with the truck at the end of the school day, I had popped out from the upstairs deck to greet them, and she told me all about it with excitement. This I savor. I personally knew teenage insecurity and secrecy, and I held to privacy as a right. By contrast, my daughter knows confidence, relationship, and open communication with me. How grateful I am! A few days later, a sweet personal resume arrived from the young man for Jon's review and consideration!

Another thing I am savoring is Michael's enjoyment of sailing. I'm so thankful for cool opportunities coming our way, and especially thankful when my kids thrive. It turns out Michael is a natural, even being selected by a captain at the yacht club to be part of a 10-man crew for some sailing races out in the Pacific. He often rides to the yacht club and back on the motorized bike he and Jon assembled last summer, and each Monday morning I find myself taken aback by the FUN aspects of this life we lead.

With Jon's help, Jacob and Andrew made themselves some longboards. We took an extra long lunch break last week to test them out down by the beach. I did as well, and I'm thankful I'm not a source of embarrassment to them yet! I hope they learn that it is good to both try new things and do things they enjoy even if it's not conventional. And I hope they do it with less inhibition than me.

Friday evenings are spent on the fields again with the flag football season nearly halfway through. Jacob and Andrew love the game, but this past Friday I wasn't the best support. Nope, I took the wrong freeway and caused Jacob to be late for his pre-game practice/warmups (they won a close game nonetheless). Then my car battery died and I couldn't get Andrew to his field on time. Jon was on the train from L.A., but fortunately Olivia was available to rescue with the jumper cables that should have been in my trunk. Andrew made it for his game only, but they also won a tense game. We arrived back home at 10, I made some food, Jon pulled in as the boys were showering up, and another day concluded with everyone relieved for the weekend.

Saturday had Olivia and I up in the six o'clock hour because it was her SAT test day. I have no doubt she killed it. I'm already proud of her accomplishments.

Later in the day, Michael asked me if he could use some bee wax to rub into some canvas to created water resistant fabric. I wasn't willing to part with my good stuff, so I suggested he use what I thought was bees wax wood treatment. The faded metal canister had a bee on the label, but the product was called Natural Bri Wax. Moments later, he appeared at the door and calmly but urgently told me to hand him some rags. He is my son with the least facial expression and tone of voice, but I knew it was urgent. And I knew it was fire. I handed him a bunch of rags over the counter and ran around to the deck only to discover that the fire was much, much too large for a few rags, and the wood deck was at risk of catching fire. But hey! I keep a fire extinguisher under the kitchen cabinet, and this was my long awaited moment to try it out! The foaming spray was very effective; no one suffered burns and the damage to my doormat was minimal. So, yeah, the "bees wax" was HIGHLY flammable, and could not be softened by fire. There was absolutely nothing left of it, only a chard metal canister.

A fundraiser auction was on the Saturday night schedule, but somehow I wasn't aware of the event in advance. Jon insisted that I wasn't obligated to go, but I really didn't like the idea of him going dateless. He's been to way too many formal events without me over the years. These events have mostly come as part of his work, but for many years it was difficult to line up childcare and work out the logistics from my end. Maybe that's just part of the deal for us as first generation immigrants... we didn't have the same network of support for our young family.

So I got my rear into gear, completed most of my Saturday to-do list, and attempted to fix myself up a bit. But I'm a real dork, not a glamor girl. Despite the wind and rain, I figured bare legs were a little more chic than tights, but I nicked my ankle shaving and could hardly get the bleeding to stop in time. Olivia helped me pick out a dress from our closets (nothing is off limit to sharing), and the best I could do was a black nine-year-old dress. It's a classic, I think, and it still fits wonderfully, but I had this feeling that maybe I'm turning into one of those women who has no clue how dated she looks. Maybe my dress obviously looked a decade old, regardless of how well it fit. I tried to balance the look out with heals and dangly earrings. Anyway, I grabbed a clutch and my regular purse on the way out the door, planning to transfer over a few things during the car ride. I must have forgotten to make the transfer because when I went to check my phone for messages and reapply a little gloss I discovered that my clutch was totally empty. Sigh. At least I got to accompany Jon and meet some people I probably should already have met by now.

So there it is, just a few stories from the past several days now recorded for my older self. There is a little drama in the mundane of life, and I find it appealing.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Putting Up a Fight

My moment is here. It's a moment to sit and write while I wait for a bag of liquid iron to finish infusing into my vein. The IV fluids are cold and my face feels a wee bit tingly.

It's a funny thing. They tell me I run on fumes. I have too little iron, a low red blood cell count with immature cells, an inadequate ability to supply my body with oxygen, and other abnormalities. Oxygen is absolutely critical for life. Compared to what I've known for most of my adult years, I'll gladly take running on fumes. My base of comparison was living life half dead prior to these IV treatments. Running on fumes is pretty awesome in my opinion, because it feels much better than surviving half dead.

A lot can be done with fumes. I ran a half marathon every weekend for the last three weeks. The first was by accident because I got too far from home on my intended 12 mile training run. The second was at a comfortable training pace, and the third, yesterday, was my actual race. I've learned to train my mind just as much as I train my body; perhaps training my mind to fight and push and continue has been most critical.

I'm not there yet. I'm not anywhere, except maybe somewhere between the start and the finish line of this race called life. In one way or another, we all run this race somewhat unprepared, perhaps even disadvantaged. The training of our mind (and heart) to fight is essential if we want to run well.

Bad memories and present implications have been plaguing me again recently. It has been a mental and emotional fight. Sometimes I feel angry and start directing my fighting at the wrong thing. Other times I think I'm losing my fight completely. The crushing weight returns; or it's like a sucker punch to the gut when I least expect it, when my stance is not firm. I am pummeled. Deep rooted insecurities return and I am undone. My ability to fight seems too small, weak, half dead.

A few things struck me this week:

*Reality must be accepted. Acknowledgement is essential, whether that is accepting the reality and limitation of health, or accepting real events of the past that truly did cause lasting harm, or acknowledging pain and weakness. No one can make true progress when reality is denied. In order to heal and recover, or just to plain cope in a constructive way, reality must be affirmed. Otherwise, we stay victim.

*Isolation is harmful. In fact, it is utterly dangerous. Isolation can be an avenue to greater pain and loss. Proverbs 18:1 warns us: "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment." Isolation is where self-pity (or self-indulgence) is a rapid downward spiral. We must let others know our struggle. We are meant to carry each other's burdens, which means there are also times when we permit others to come alongside and carry our burdens while providing wise counsel.

*Scriptural truth and obedience to God applies to all parts of my life. A friend kindly helped me see that I have segregated certain areas of my past to an "untouchable" category. She reminded me that God saw it all, he knows every detail, and his love and compassion reaches back to meet me there whenever my mind brings back haunting memories. Philippians 4:8 is a prescription far better than any pill could offer! It is a training plan for the mind and heart wherein we replace the infection and plague of sin and its effects with spiritual health and wholeness through Christ. It may seem like a simple plan at first glance, but when you put it into practice it is a massive training plan and spiritual fight!

*We are not defined by our past. In Christ, all things are made new. We run with our eyes forward, filled with hope. The race is not ours to run alone, and the fight has actually been won. With the help of my God, I train my heart to stay firmly planted in that knowledge.

Another thing that struck me again this week is that I have a husband who is fighting for me, with me. I am undeserving.


It's the afternoon now. It's another beautiful day, and we're celebrating Jacob's half birthday. Eleven and a half is a pretty fun age in my opinion. I brought his friend home from school and I laughed on the inside the whole way home. They had the back windows down and they played "Sweet and Sour" at every red light. Most people are sour. Know that if a kid smiles and waves at you, they are probably testing your character: please be sweet for your own sake.

At one point on the drive Jacob stuck his head out the window with his tongue hanging out and said, "Let's see why dogs like this so much!"

I let the boys pick out some ice cream to take home in celebration of Jacob's half birthday. They picked double fudge, and I served up six cones from the back deck in the mid-afternoon sun. A little bit later the boys re-enter with their faces smeared with melted chocolate because they wanted to see what they'd look like with beards. Boys crack me up. ❤


Evening now. I've been needed to help out with Algebra recently. Tonight I'm immersing myself in factoring trinomials with mixed signs and I'm a little lost. I haven't been keeping current with the lessons, so jumping in is mental gymnastics. Just sort of remembering how to do the easy problems is not cutting it, which basically answers the question I'm always asked: "Why do I have to know this anyway?" 

If anything, I hope my kids will come away from their years at home knowing that their mom will do everything in her power to help them succeed. And I hope they always know I'm fighting for them.

Good night...


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Miscellany (of Murals and Journals)

Time passes, my days are full, and journaling happens in short segments of time. Mostly there is no time for journaling, but if my mind could transcribe words instead of silent thoughts there would be so much more content to this blog. In my mind I am nearly always carrying on a conversation of sorts, either with myself of with someone not present, or with God. For someone who is frequently described as quiet and reserved, people would be amazed at the noise in my brain. It's a party in there, and a novel, essays, and rants. Maybe it's borderline crazy.

None of my pictures have been transferred from my camera to my computer since our trip over the New Year's holiday, so I've decided to use some of the pictures I've collected with my younger boys during the autumn months. We've decided we enjoy searching out murals together, and we have spent several afternoons zipping around to take pictures at local spots. Sometimes this is planned, other times it is in passing.

So this installment of a "Miscellany" post is for making blogging doable for me. It is just an assortment of thoughts and silly pictures.

"Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye." 
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, and some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people” 
― Edgar Degas


A few thoughts with Valentine's Day in mind...

First thought: I saw a t-shirt recently that said something to the effect: "Love me like Chip Gaines loves Joanna."

Can I just say that's retarded? Really? Please don't bring other people's relationship into your marriage as a base of comparison. How unfair! How small-minded. The Gaines have a cute (maybe even exemplary) relationship that has been refreshing to see, but don't ever be duped into thinking that any one's life or relationship is perfect. No one is free of difficulty, no relationship is void of pain, and no one should be asked to meet a standard that is based on the perception of someone's life.

What you see on screen is always edited. You are shown a snapshot, a slice of reality, a small piece of viewing material that is intended to depict something specific. Most of the real stuff of life is not on display, whether the person is publicly recognized or not. Most of what you see in public is also "edited" because few truly live without inhibition. That cute couple in church, that person you follow in a blog or on Instagram, the author of that Christian book on your nightstand... all horribly imperfect.

And that will show up in their relationships somewhere.

Sorry if you are a fan of the Gaines. I like them, too, just not the false ideal some people then turn around and expect their husband to live up to. I'm not a fan of recipes for failure.

Second thought: One of my favorite quotes comes to mind this Valentine's Day~

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Tim Keller

To be fully known and truly loved is the ultimate goal. It is Christ-like love, by the power of the Spirit, through forgiveness and grace. Human relationships are messy and loving another despite what we find is a beautiful choice. Make this kind of love your life-long goal in loving your spouse, even if arriving at that goal will be impossible. And know that it will be just as impossible for your spouse to perfectly do in loving you. Embrace the difficulty of marriage together, and press into a truer and more intimate knowing of each other that adds depth and sincerity to your love. 

And let the perfect love of Christ be the example.


"It's easy to fool the eye but it's hard to fool the heart." 

“Ouvrir les yeux est un antidote au désespoir.” 
-Sylvain Tesson


Summer weather smack in the middle of winter is not so bad and I've been enjoying it immensely.

I realized something once again, though, as I was running by the beach this week, and it has unraveled something far bigger than a simple realization...

I care far too much about what other people think of me. That's nothing new, but the degree to which it plays out surprises me at times. This has been stated here before, but unfortunately I am a slow learner.

If I enjoy something, or if the Lord has blessed me in a certain way, I'm frequently afraid to draw attention to the gift because I fear the thoughts and jealousy of others. Instead of affirming the goodness of God out loud or publicly, I savor it quietly and avoid drawing attention to it lest I cause someone to jealously think I am boasting. Instead of praising God for the gift (God focused), I cower in fear of disapproval and jealousy from others (self-focused). My concern of how others might feel if they choose to compare their situation with mine is not a spiritual maturity, but rather a refusal to simply worship God in praise and thanksgiving. We all have things in our lives worthy of praise, gifts that the Giver wisely gives to some and withholds from others. We will only be further blessed through our praise and thanksgiving, and I don't want to miss out on that!

So stating something as plain as the beautiful weather I've enjoyed, the beach, the sunsets, the ability to run, to create, to bring order, or accomplish... or whatever... these are viewed by me as undeserved blessing. Just saying.

Yes, some people are smack in the middle of a cold, dark winter and they are battling seasonal  depression. I feel for them. I battle depression for other reasons at times, but the fact remains that there is beauty and wonder all around me and in me. These remind me of God's goodness and care for me; they are his works. It's undeserved and worthy of praise. We all have these blessings if we look, even though they aren't the same. I invite you to look; be intentional to see what you can find, like gifts that need to be unwrapped and acknowledged.


“You were born an original work of art. Stay original.” 


If I could turn back time I would. I'd love to go back to when my kids were little. I frequently picture each of them during the younger years and reminisce those sweet days.... softer hair, smaller bodies, lots of time for affection and cuddles. Life was busy, but it somehow seemed slower and much simpler. Things were different, but seasons of life are not meant to last forever. Each season has something new for us to experience and discover.

If I could go back in time, I'd also appreciate my own smoother, more supple skin in a way I never did before... but that's another story.

Anyway, new seasons to enjoy are here, and enjoy them I will do! I noted a few fun things this afternoon: 

1. Increased maturity- Michael went straight to doing his homework after I picked him up from school today. No orders or even suggestions by me needed. After youth group tonight, he will continue till the late hours.

2. Increased independence- I went for an 8 mile run this afternoon and passed Andrew on the way out. He was heading home on his unicycle from his secret "moss place" with new mosses for his terrarium.

3. Relationship by choice- On my way home from my run, I passed by Olivia and Jacob on a sibling date. She was taking him out for tacos at the local stand. Sweet, eh? Makes me happy.


"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall." 
-Ray Bradbury


On smoother, more supple skin:

There's no such thing as magic in a bottle, but coconut oil is pretty rad. I use it to remove make up and to moisturize my whole body. Coconut oil has amazing health benefits and I try to incorporate it whenever I can in the kitchen, too. I've used it on my skin for a couple years now, and I'm never going back. Also, YAY for no chemicals being absorbed and for affordability!

My routine is to dry brush, shower, and massage in coconut oil. It may be the closest thing to youthful, smooth, supple skin...



On exercise:

I run because I can. I don't claim to be good, but it's doing good things for me.

I'm nearing the end of another training cycle in preparation for another race. I run to finish, and to improve my personal strength and endurance. I sign up for races to push me to train. I train because doing hard things is satisfying, and it tells me I have fight left in me. When I feel like giving up, simply knowing that I have quiet FIGHT to persevere is huge for me. Whether I'm running miles on the road far from home, or running this race called life, I'm always in need of stubborn fight.

My 8 miles was the second of three medium length runs this week, then I have a long run this weekend. My shins and feet are holding up excellently this training period, and I'm feeling stronger than ever before. I am super thankful. I clearly remember life with extreme, chronic anemia and whole-body effects of painful lower back scoliosis. I may never be free from those issues, but God has graciously granted relief. Yes, he gave me trials and he gave me fight. Both are a mercy.

Along with endurance, I'm also working on flexibility, strength, and balance. I am a slow but steady work in progress. It is a daily occurrence for me to think how physical endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance are also needed in the emotional, mental, and spiritual realms.


“Everyone has to scratch on walls somewhere or they go crazy” 
― Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion

“Her heart was a secret garden and the walls were very high.” 
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride


On aging:

It is inevitable. Try to like it. Try to embrace reality.

I'm trying hard. My 40th is coming this year, and I'm not really embracing the idea. How? How did that happen? Forty is not how I feel. I felt more like 40 when I was 30, so maybe better health and vitality is what I should celebrate?

It didn't help when someone recently told me I could be a grandma in just a few years. Nor did it help when Olivia agreed, very matter-of-factly.

Do people see me as almost a grandma?! Is it only in my head that I'm aging fairly gracefully, and feeling more youthful than the numbers 4-0 appear?

My vision has been a bit blurry recently. Sigh.



Life has been hard recently. Just saying. I called up a friend I don't see often and we got together. I don't meet up with friends often, or make SOS type calls for emergency meet-ups. We sat together and exposed our vulnerabilities, pains, and discouragements. And we shared a few tears.

Life was never meant to be easy.

A few days ago I needed an escape-- not from anything or anyone surrounding me at the moment, but just a place to exhale. A quiet place where no one needed me or something I could give, where no one could find me.

The car was my place, parked in the darkened garage. I sat there with an amber bottle of kombucha, feeling guilty for taking a bottle all to myself and remembering the days when I'd hide from my littles in the pantry with a square of chocolate. But kombucha is expensive even on sale and I didn't have enough to go around, so I wasn't planning on getting caught. My sense of guilt can easily get the best of me.

Anyway, there I was feeling defeated and sorry for myself. I was looking for relief, for something more satisfying than my present state.

We look for satisfaction in lots of wrong places, don't we? Even in a darkened car and a bottle of something.

In the quiet dark, I thought about these things. My coconut lime kombucha was really nice, but certainly not magic in a bottle. Satisfaction found in anything the world has to offer is a fickle at best, and elusive in the long term. I daily look for it in wrong places.

Ministry is hard. Seeing my husband bear the weight daily and feeling the effects on myself and our family is super hard much of the time. Should anyone be surprised? I am always surprised that some people think it is some sort of party of friendship and support. No. It is often a relentless battle with much opposition, discouragement, criticism, and loneliness. We are grateful for those who battle with us, but no, ministry is not easy.

The devil loves for nothing more than to soil the relationship that Christ has with his church in the eyes of the world. Jon and I are acutely aware that our marriage will always be threatened in ministry, because marriage is a picture of Christ's love for his church. And the never-ending needs and work/expectations of ministry, along with certain people in the church, are like wedges in a marriage if allowed. The demands and expectations could threaten to jack-hammer us apart.

This is not unique to us, or a statement against our local body. Not at all.

But our satisfaction will not be found in this work, nor will it be found in a perfect marriage (even if that were a real thing). Satisfaction isn't in being loved and appreciate by people, whether in ministry or not. My joy cannot be tied to people's evaluations of how we are meeting needs, because there is no way any human being can fully meet all needs.

We look for satisfaction in all the wrong place. Do we perhaps have an sinful expectation of our church body to meet our needs? Do you, if you are honest? Is this why many people are so dissatisfied with their church? Everywhere I go, I here it said. People are dissatisfied with church.

But here's the thing: If a perfect church could be found, it would still not meet all your needs.

Only Christ can do that. Only relationship with Christ can bring true satisfaction.

Don't look to the church to be your savior. This is idolatry.

Our church and fellowship with believers are not replacements for relationship with God. If you feel that your church hasn't met your "needs," consider that maybe you are expecting what only God can give. Let's not make an idol out of our church, then turn around in anger and complaint when fellow heirs of grace cannot satisfy.

Give what you expect to receive from others. Be the first to engage in meaningful conversation. Be the first to extend an invitation, or a visit, or a word of encouragement. Don't expect others to do what you are unwilling to do. And serve; use your gifts instead of complaining you aren't being served. Church is not a consumer oriented enterprise. Love others the way you want to be loved; our standard of love is not how we presently feel loved.

Then through all the giving, I promise you will receive something in return.

But... know that you won't receive everything that you need; only relationship with Christ can satisfy.


"I did not know how to paint a mural. I did not know how to prepare the surface. There was nobody from the Renaissance around who could advise me, and I did the best I could."
-Maurice Sendak


A note for you:

Sister, you are loved. Know that.

Because you are loved by the author of love himself. 

God IS love, and Love has sought you and sacrificed for you. You don't need to earn it from God, so you don't need to earn it from others.

Stop chasing perfect love and bask in the knowledge that you already have it.

Go live to give love in return. Freely. Live free, giving freely.



Sunday, January 21, 2018

Family and Snow

{As is often the case, I've worked at assembling this post over the course of a few days.}

We are wrapping up the first two weeks since returning from our trip to Canada, and it's a good feeling. Wow. I was expecting these couple of weeks to be heavy-duty, and they certainly were. Through it all, though, God was greater still. 

I stand amazed at how the Lord went before me and paved our way, answering prayer in ways that were beyond "best case scenario." I'm so thankful, yet I have to remind myself daily to depend upon the Lord as I tackle one issue after the next. Tomorrow will have its troubles too-- there is no question there-- but God will be faithful to provide grace for this day. Then he'll provide again for tomorrow, then the day after that.

So that is how I've faced the last two weeks: one day at a time, or one issue at a time, even just focusing moment by moment. Diligent and bold work pays off, yes, but not always. In every case, I have to learned (and continue to learn) to work hard, pray harder, and then be at peace with the results God intends for us.

But TGIF! Truly.

The prayers that were answered these last few weeks are "small" in comparison to the big things of life, but they were a gift to me. Not only are some immediate needs met, but I have all the more reason to believe that the Lord hears my prayers and supplications... in the big things and the small.


Scenes from the Quebec side of our trip~

The indoor lighting at my sister's house lends itself to more indoor pictures than at my mother-in-law's. I still would have liked more documentation and preservation of memories and moments. The weather outside was harsh on most days, and biting cold temps from a weather system dubbed the Bomb Cyclone kept the outdoor photography to a minimum.

Boy cousins. There are seven boys in all, and just my one Olivia-girl. She is used to the boy-ish atmosphere, including the non-stop wrestling and physicality, comedy, and, well, their frequent farting. 

Fact of life: Boys think farting is funny. 
You can expect manners, but you can't change the way they feel about it.

Games of all kinds are a must to survive Canadian winters. The kids played enough Uno and Battleship to last the whole of 2018.

"Being with family" and "the snow" were voted the best parts of our trip...

My SIL, sister and mom...
Melanie, Melissa, Marielle (aka Maman)
All names beginning with M, also all nurses...
Ha! I am the odd one out in more ways than these! 😉

A little egg from the coop, and the littlest member of the crew...

Endless wrestling, especially with the "big guy" Michael.

Me, 'cause I was there too. 
La cabane à sucre at my sister's, where bottles of maple syrup will emerge this spring.

For boys who don't play hours of video games normally, my brother's phone was evidently an attraction.

All the cousins January 1, 2018

For the sake of comparison, I added the picture we took four years ago. 
Caleb was still being waited for... ❤

The entire family January 1, 2018

On the "mildest" day (relatively speaking), my dad treated us to skiing/snowboarding. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures with my dslr like I did last winter visit because of the temps. Occasionally, I did force myself to endure frozen solid fingers to use my iPhone for pictures and video. It was so cold my phone kept shutting down! I have a few pictures and video I'll probably post to Facebook, but they are limited.

My kids loved the slopes! It was their second time ever, but they did amazing. Olivia tried skiing for the first time, and the boys seemed to have retained all the snowboarding instruction my brother gave several years back. Jon even enjoyed himself, and he is definitely not one who typically enjoys anything with cold and snow! Me? I love skiing. I was a team player and stayed on the same slopes as everyone else, but I was sure tempted to take off in another direction and feel the thrill of speed. (I can closing my eyes right now and imagining the feel of speed as my body leans side to side, descending powdery slopes, with the wind pressing against my chest!)

The spa was a fun experience for my kids, too. It's a different experience when you have to wear a hat and when you get to do a Polar bear run!

I was fumbling in the dark with my camera settings. I hardly ever shoot with flash. I wanted to reduce the intensity of the flash, but in all the action I accidentally left my aperture wide open. The result was unintentional, but I like the effect it produced...

They would run past the hockey net, up the hill and back.
There's no shame in being a little nutty, or encouraging behavior that could be considered questionable. To me, this is part of embracing life!

More games... All the kids know that if you win when playing against Dad/Uncle Jon, then you win fair and square. He doesn't let anyone win on purpose.

Crokinole Tournament

I think this is a Canadian game? I've never known an American to be familiar with the game.
I'd like to get one for our family eventually. They are less affordable in the US, and too big to fit in my suitcase to cross the border!

Morning snow shot through the window the morning we departed...

It's not easy for us to travel over the Christmas break for a number of reasons, and it took a lot of preparation from our extended family to gather head-to-toe winter gear for us to use. They sacrificed in arranging their holidays plans to coincide with ours, and planned family gatherings that would enable us to see the people that are precious to us. We are thankful. I hope we don't wait another four years to play in the snow, nor do I wish for the crazy harsh weather patterns that seem to make travel plans in conjunction with ours!