Friday, May 25, 2018

Photolog: March, April, May 2018

I've said it before, like a broken record, that this season of life hasn't been conducive to blogging. I'm terribly behind posting pictures (so much, in fact, that I never even added our Christmas day images!), and I rarely find the time to write like I used to. The structure and obligations of my days no longer lend themselves to blogging like in years past. Maybe now that Jacob and Andrew's flag football season has ended I'll have a few more minutes? Probably not, if my past experiences are any indication.

The end is in sight for the school year (hip-hip-hooray!), so I'm going to do a photo dump post for the spring months. Too bad for those Christmas pictures. Maybe it's "so long" to individual birthday posts, too. I'm not going to feel bad about it; I'd rather embrace reality instead of feeling guilty about it. Not only that, but I'm committed to enjoying moments of life in the present tense before taking the time to recount the past. In a few minutes when Andrew finishes up his math, we're hopping on our bikes and heading down toward the beach for some lunch tacos. I have a strong feeling this post is going to take me a few days to assemble, even if it's with minimal commentary...

I love the simplicity of black & white. Sometimes simplicity is the most compelling~

And I love color. Color is compelling, too, especially considering these are beets! My camera has often helped me to lift beauty up out of the mundane. At times, it has saved me from being lulled into complacent duty and assisted me to delight in the commonplace. My camera has helped to give me eyes of thanksgiving.

Outdoor excursions with my kids never get old. I will surely miss romping around with them when I am old; I hope to be a granny that still climbs trees and tall ladders and hikes cliffs! Maybe I'll have the pleasure of doing it with my grandkids, too. And when we get tired of that, we'll build a fort or find a nice rock to rest on.

March is Olivia's month. This March marked 17 years of life.

My life is more than just enriched by hers. Words today seem elusive, but she is a gift from God that keeps on giving, keeps getting sweeter, keeps enhancing my life.

She and I were recently talking about her 17th year, and we both agreed that it has been a year of taking flight. Maybe it's the first in a series of years, but this one marked the testing of wings and the beginnings of soaring out independently. I am proud of her!

I used Bougainvillea from outside to decorate in a pinch the day of her birthday. The motto which says, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." has been somewhat of a theme in my life. Creative resourcefulness is a challenge I fully embrace, particularly with the use of plants. 

The coconut layered cake that Olivia picked out for me to make, however, was far too rich for the return in flavor. It was a fun recipe to try, but not one I'll remake. Pick your calories carefully. 

Jack's face! Olivia is going to be a tough woman, thanks to being raised with boys. Last night, in fact, she was engaged in a sweaty wrestling match on my bedroom floor! She has a good understanding AND appreciation of the fact that guys and girls are indeed very different, and I think this will serve her well. She has always been the kind of girl that equally enjoys twirling in a good dress and facing off in a sweaty physical challenge. I like that about her.

I may not be able to keep all the traditions of the past, but I was successful at getting a b-day pic with the b-day child...

We spent the day exploring Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island. 

Ferry ride to the island...

Side Note: California has become my home and I really love it. This transition took a long time for me. I eventually recognized that I am not entitled to the stability that "home" provides. However, in my disappointment over the years of never quite feeling the security I longed for, I had decided I shouldn't expect or even desire such comfort. So now, as long as I've got the feeling of home, I promise to savor and enjoy it.

Balboa boardwalk, where we walked/skateboarded/unicycled more miles than we expected.

Balboa Pier

My loves

Prom. I mean, PROM!!!

OK, this is a bigger deal in the US than it was in Quebec where I grew up. Maybe things have changed, I don't know, but Olivia and I had to figured things out together. I wasn't very knowledgeable about all the customary details, so probably not as much help as ideal. Her school is small, but it was a sweet event at a beautiful venue. She went with her group of friends (not all pictured). When I mentioned this was her first date, she looked at me stunned and said, "No! It's not like that!"

I think her expression here is priceless. She is a cutie!

Well, assembling this post took me nearly all week in small bits and pieces of time. There are more pictures of May but this probably exceeds what's recommended for one post... Something about loading time, I think. Hope it's not an issue.

Happy Friday, friends. Wow. Yes, just happy. Choose happy. Fight for joy.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Pain Before Beauty

I’m sitting in the middle seat of the middle bench of my car. I always call the vehicle I drive a “car,” but really it’s an 8-seat people transporter SUV. The sun is harsh this afternoon and I'm trying to limit my squinting and frowning, which threaten to give me more pronounced so-called “expression lines” while I wait on one of my kids. Had I been a little more prepared, I would have changed and used the time to workout while I wait.

Our house has been under construction for the last while. Most of our exterior siding has been torn down for replacement because it was in very bad condition. Some of the older areas needed replacement studs, window headers, fresh insulation, and foundational supports; all of our windows and exterior doors will be replaced as well. This has been so needful: no more rain coming in, no more wind blowing locked doors wide open, no more glass rattling in old aluminum frames, no more views obscured by foggy windows due to defective seals…and an opportunity to recreate and modify according to our preferences and needs.

The incessant banging and pounding is a little obnoxious, but it’s a necessary step to progress. So is the dust and dirt that is appearing everywhere inside, and the interference to my ability to accomplish as much as I’d like in a day. I’ve often thought that progress usually comes by way of setbacks. In fact, as I often do, my mind makes connections between the things I see and experience, and the facts of life. There is a necessity to trouble, inconvenience, and pain in life if we desire progress, personal growth, or change. A few examples come to mind:

Demo and dirt before new construction
Muscle pain before muscle strength
Mental exertion before new concepts understood
Messy kitchen before meals
Greater disorder before reorganized closets
Winter before spring
Rain before growth
Labor before delivery
Toil before harvest and feast
Failure before learning
Trial before faith and perseverance
Repentance before forgiveness
Death to self before new life in Christ

Sometimes great pain must come before triumph. Several of my recent conversations have been about faithful women, and over again I keep noting that the strand that connects their stories together is great pain, trial, and adversity. Strong women are not the result of an easy life. Remarkable beauty, depth of character, wisdom, virtue, and true hope in God are typically birthed through pain. And a deep and life-giving relationship with Christ that goes beyond mere head and Bible knowledge often comes through the bonds of suffering.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that one of the rose buds on my bush had been severely damaged as a result of the demo/construction project of our house. The tiny bud was wilted and appeared totally doomed, hanging from a stem that was nearly completely severed. A week or so later, however, I discovered that it had begun to bloom.

Though the stem was still crooked and bent, it had fully mended. The once delicate stem had transformed to a gnarled stock, stronger and more defined than it had been before. The bloom was now receiving water and nourishment (not from itself, but from the plant), allowing it to flourish and carry out its created purpose. The purpose of all flowers is not only to add beauty to the environment, or to provide nectar for other creatures, but to produce a seed for a new plant to grow with many more blossoms to come.

Sometimes the mere fact that a person has been violently torn down makes their rising again so remarkable, so beautiful. Because of its shape and story of survival, this blossom was now best suited for a higher place.

It makes me remember not to fear pain or hardship, and that a bad situation may need to get worse before beauty can arise.

Today I’m confronted with the fact that I’ve got to tear down some incorrect notions before rebuilding correct thinking, and before living with confidence. Freedom comes at a cost. All my life I’ve been a player in someone else’s disturbed scheme, and I’ve been required to play along, trapped in a nightmare. Scared, confused, hopeless, hurt… frequently carrying a burden never meant for my shoulders to bear.

Ever notice that nightmares are hard to describe to another person? Words used to communicate a night terror never seem adequate to describe the mental torment and the reason for night sweats; mere words are inadequate to describe why in the morning the thoughts can’t be easily shaken. Some bad dreams never seem to end. And so it is with me: I’ve been silenced, unable to tell my story. I’ve run and hid many times, set the burden behind, determined to set a new course, make a new beginning. Then, once again, I’m confronted with the need to rescue another and I’m caught in the twisted game once more.

Seems odd for me to write such things here, sort of veiled and rather abruptly. It’s my constant quandary: needing the courage to speak (and receive help and hope), and respecting the privacy of others. Does truth always need to be spoken? If not spoken, am I taking part in a lie?

I'm left asking the same questions over again: What is most loving in this situation? What is the right thing to do? Courage through telling, I think, will be our freedom.

If truth sets free, then freedom is going to hurt.

Pain before freedom. Suffering before the beauty of freedom.

I think this is most loving, too.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Unstoppable Love

Monday is nearly gone. In fact, by the time this post is clicked into existence, it may very well be a new day, and a whole new month. It's no joke - time flies.

I finished the last week with the same feeling I get when I cross the finish line of a race. That is, with my hands and arms timidly above my head in quiet contentment. It may not be a glorious accomplishment, but effort and completion are noteworthy nonetheless. I didn't actually have my hands held up after the weekend, but the feeling was the same.

Then night came and the sleep was deep, then restless, then deep again... I felt Jon pull in close to me. What power touch has over me. That moment has whispered comfort and relationship to me all day long, even though Jon was up and gone sometime before our line of longitude leaned toward the sun.

Then my alarm rang quietly and Monday hit my consciousness rudely. A new week started with a new set of demands, and surprises waiting to, well, catch me off guard like surprises tend to do. Prayers went up like flares, and I asked for God's presence and goodness to envelop me, lead me. With my Bible pulled in close, I read through foggy eyes and struggle with a groggy brain. By eight o'clock the house was swarming with contractors, lunches were packed, breakfast was served, and schedules and rides and schooling and all that comprises my life right now was underway. Before we were all dispersed for the day, I led my children through some words of Isaiah. There were too many distractions as men began their work - pounding, sawing, passing through with materials - but I hoped that at least my children grasped one small piece of the passage, or, if not, that they know something of God's desire for us: We are loved and called into relationship with our creator.

Life as I know it has plentiful demands, but at the core of it all I find that it is quite simple: To know and love God, and to share him with others. The other stuff really doesn't matter, especially if I don't get this right.

Discouragement and disappointment comes when I see how swallowed up my mind and affections get with the temporal demands, the necessary stuff of life, and even the delights/gifts that are lavished on us by God. I am so easily distracted, easily pulled off course.

I was encouraged this morning during my time of emergency prayer and much-too-short time in the Word. The Lord is so tender towards me; he reveals himself in new ways when I am empty, softhearted, and desirous for him. I needed to be reminded in a fresh way that his love and his power are not thwarted or averted due to my failures. It seems so obvious, I know, but this knowledge on this day was incredibly helpful to me as I persevered. The knowledge of the completeness of his love and power, and the independence of his character, was such a comfort to me. My failure to truly know him as I ought and love him as he deserves (with my whole being, all of the time with no exception) will not keep him from accomplishing his good work. His mercy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love - all that he is - are never diminished because of me. He stands alone, and he reaches into the dark places of our being despite us.

And so, with the task of parenting my dear children - and all the ways in which I wish I was a better, more faithful example of love and devotion to God, and able to articulate and display it - I persevere knowing that he is always greater, able, and unstoppable. We are loved by him in this present state, beckoned to simply come.



Monday, April 23, 2018


"We find out that good communication requires more intentionality and pursuit and careful listening and humility and persistence and perseverance and real love than we originally expected or probably wanted to give. But if we really press into it, we tend to discover far more about that person than we knew before and experience new levels of intimacy and friendship with them. If we don’t, we won’t. 

The same is true of God."

-jon bloom


Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Break Beach

I am hunkering down at Starbucks with Andrew this afternoon because our Internet is down. Nowadays, there is no possible way for us to get through school work without Internet. But shucks, I'm looking over at his computer screen and he's play a typing game. Emphasis on 'game.' Hmm. Excuse me one moment...

There are a lot of pictures to sort through on my memory card and computer, so I'm tackling some of those this afternoon and posting some spring break images. The beach is always on the bucket list for school breaks, and it's especially nice if we can explore a new-to-us beach if we can. There are so many places I want to explore with my kids, and this place surpassed our expectations.

Our view to the right...

...and to the left.

My view from our picnic blanket hangout.

Sunshine and water, with gentle breeze of salty air...

Always checking out what lies beneath the surface.
(A good tip for many thing in life.)

Never sitting around or wasting a moment.

Nature is my place to breathe. It is where the reality of troubles fade away for a while; it's where I feel the pleasure and goodness of God in my life. I can't remember a time when that wasn't the case for me. I used to escape to the meadows and to the forest, occasionally by the edge of a lake. Now I look for opportunity to run away with my kids and pray that they would experience the same and learn to draw near to God as a response. 

Tide pools: where discoveries reward those who are most curious and patient.

Waving when he spotted me on the rocks.

We celebrated Olivia's 17th during spring break. Seventeen.

Gentle and quiet spirit

Hidden in the cleft of a rock

She is always willing to indulge my picture-taking hobby when she has time, and I'm thankful.

According to the high school yearbook poll, this girl is going places...

One of Michael's specialties is wooing creatures; he is curious, patient, and strategic.

Feeding fish and crabs with mussel pieces

Sea anemone

Sea stars

Coming in at the end of our day

 "You rule the raging sea. When its waves rise, you quiet them."
Ps. 89:9

If God rules the raging sea and quiets rising waves, I know he can rule and quiet a troubled heart. He has proven faithful to those who fear him alone, so I hold fast to his promises with expectancy when the waves arise. 


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