Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday ~ hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneI had to laugh last Thursday morning as I re-read my Thankful Thursday post about being grateful for some things that NEVER change.

I had sort of lamented the fact that I had nothing new to be thankful for and I struggled with coming up with things to write sometimes for fear of seeming boring and repetitious. My life seems pretty ho-hum most of the time.

But on my walk last Thursday, I had opportunity to throw stones at two sleeping raccoons atop a hydro pole and witness first-hand my dog's friendship with our resident skunk. While the neighbour's dog came away smelling a little ripe, Shadow was stink-free (well, other than his own doggy odor, of course!) and carefree.

And so when I came back inside and re-read last Thursday's post, I couldn't help but chuckle a little. So much for nothing exciting! I love my life. Maybe it's the boringness and mundaneness that makes these little redneck moments such a delight, but whatever the case, I'm so grateful for these simple pleasures that break up the sameness!!

(And don't knock it until you've tried it! You would just not believe how much fun it is to throw rocks at a couple of sleeping raccoons. I dare you to try it sometime and claim you didn't have fun! I only wish I could have shared the moment with someone ~ or at least had my camera along!!)

I'm also grateful for the ability to learn and the opportunity to get away with The Bushman again. This past Monday, I attended an all-day QuickBooks seminar in a city 4 hours away that will hopefully make me a better bookkeeper for our little trucking company. At least, I learned a few new tricks and I understand more fully exactly what it is that I'm doing with our accounting software now. I was using it before, but now I actually know why I do some of the things I do!!

Because it was an all-day course, we had to be there Sunday night already.  Monday evening we actually went out ON A DATE ~ dinner and a movie (Salt) ~ and then Tuesday we hit the W*lM*rts and our favourite second-hand store chain before having a late-ish lunch and coming home.

After all the ordinary-ness of the last few weeks, I'm thankful for a week that was very OUT of the ordinary for a nice change!

* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our host and check out other thankful people.


Practicing Gratitude

>> Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thankful Thursday ~ hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneI struggled with this post this week.

Not because I've got nothing to be thankful for. Not even because I just couldn't THINK of anything I was thankful for.

Mostly because I felt like there was nothing NEW to mention. I've already posted about being thankful for a return to routine (even though it's a new one for all of us!). I've posted about my girls, my friends, my church family, my extended family, my husband.... and I wondered, what's left?!

Of course, I'm continually thankful for all these wonderful people in my life, but y'all don't necessarily want to keep reading the same things over and over each week!

And then I started thinking about all the other unchanging things in my life, and I got to thinking how nice it is that some things DON'T change. Especially the wonder that God, Himself, doesn't change. EVER. When I think about my fluctuating moods, the circumstances around me, the physical and psychological changes in my girls as they get older, the seasons, I can't help but be thankful for the things in my life that never change. The things I rely on; things I can set my clock to.

One of the things I've loved over this last year is participating in The Bible in a Year ~ and Beyond! blog. Not only do I love having a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedule, but I've so enjoyed reading and helping write the daily posts. I've developed a new, deeper appreciation for the Word of God ~ even the tougher and/or more boring parts!

It's easy to dismiss the majority of the Bible as just being an historic account of the Jewish nation. It's easy to say that Jesus' death on the cross changed everything about how God relates to mankind and so we don't need to consider the rules and regulation of the Old Testament as applicable to our lives, and yet God, Himself, hasn't changed. His Word hasn't changed. His heart hasn't changed.

In some ways that's kinda scary, given how obvious and passionate His hatred for sin is in the Old Testament, yet at the same time, His unchanging-ness is so reassuring. It's nice to know He's a God of His Word. When He promises to strengthen, He strengthens. When He promises to uphold and encourage, He upholds and encourages. When He promises to love and discipline, He loves and disciplines. When He promises to have mercy and to restore, He is merciful and restores. And when He promises eternal fellowship with Him, He sends the Savior to make it possible.

I am so thankful for a God who never changes His mind. Who never retracts His forgiveness and mercy; who never lies about keeping my soul in His hands, no matter what happens to my body; who never stops loving His children.

I am so thankful some things never change!

* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our host and check out other thankful people.


Motherhood is not about Mom.

>> Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I've wasted many valuable messy opportunities with my girls because I've often declared their little projects are just more clean-up for me and more clutter in their room.

I still have trouble with those feelings, but I'm learning there are some things are more important than my feelings on clutter and half-completed or disintegrating projects strewn about the house. Crafting with kids IS messy. It DOES generate more clutter. It definitely means more work for mom.

And this is where it seems so many of us get held up ~ why we don't allow our kids to go nuts with paper, glue, scissors, paint, and tape. Why we secretly dread what precious works of art they'll be bringing home from school today. Why we think up excuses to NOT participate in these sorts of activities with our kids.

But we forget...

Motherhood is not. about. us.

Motherhood is not even about MOM!! Motherhood is about SACRIFICE.

And raising children to be adults. Teaching them, training them, celebrating their accomplishments, consoling them in their failures, and yes, even punishing them for their disobedience. Hoping and praying they will surpass our expectations and example.

Motherhood is tough; no doubt about it. It's rather inconvenient from time to time. Doing all these things with two or three kids (or however many you may have!) is definitely more work than doing it with no kids. But we chose this! It is what we desired. Yes, most of us made the choice without having a hot clue about how much of us the job would demand, but we still chose it.

We chose God's gift of family. We chose the career of a lifetime (in all respects!): motherhood.

Someday, when I'm older and watching my children parent their own children, how am I going to feel when I hear the little ones saying things like: "mommy doesn't let us paint because it makes too much of a mess," or "mommy doesn't have time to play with us because she's too busy working on her computer."?

I don't know about you, but that prospect almost breaks my heart.

But I can do something about it YEARS before my grandchildren are even a physical possibility!

I can help prevent that future scenario from happening by not acting it out NOW!! If I want my daughters to value the creativity of their own children, I need to place a high value on theirs. I need to treat each dubious work of art like a masterpiece! I don't need to hang it above the fireplace in the livingroom or in my formal dining room (which I don't have anyway!), but my girls need to know I love their gifts ~ both the kind they give, and the kind they possess.

A cousin's wife recently told me of a time when she'd visited her mom's house and she'd noticed that her son's fingerprints were STILL on the patio door from the last time they'd been there to visit. She'd commented on it to her mother and her mom had said she liked to leave them there because this way she could see how tall he was getting.

I don't necessarily want a patio door covered with greasy fingerprints, but that is precisely the ATTITUDE I'd like to have about those little things. Things that usually just get seen as an annoyance ~ another mess to clean up, another chore to add to the never-ending "to do" list ~ I want to see it rather as a way of loving and raising my daughters so they will desire to be selfless mothers someday.

If they never surpass me in their desire to be godly mothers, I need to make VERY sure I leave the very best example I'm capable of. I don't want to be ashamed of what I modelled for them. I don't want to see years from now how selfish I really was. I don't want to break my own heart.

And that simply doesn't allow for raising children while focusing on having things MY way. Or getting what I consider to be enough ME time. Granted, this is easier for me to say now that my girls are both in school full-time, but it's amazing how tempting it is to still insist I get some "sanity time" in the few hours between when they get home and when they go to bed, or how much I look forward to getting them off to bed. It's a constant battle to change my attitude.

But change it I must. Because this is not about me. It's not even just about them.

It's about raising generations and about understanding the trickle-down effect into the future with every decision I make. How I parent Peanut and Fidget and the decisions I make don't just affect them; it affects how they will raise their children, too.

This is SO much BIGGER than me.

* the picture above is of the bracelet I ordered/made myself for my birthday. I saw the disc and pearl pendant originally on a necklace shown here and knew I had to have it. (and I knew I had some birthday money coming!) I added the girls' birthstone charms, purchased from Down 2 Earth Jewelry on Etsy, and put it on a shorter, heavier chain to wear around my wrist.


Legacies of Faith

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

At my dad's annual family gathering this summer, I was asked to give the devotional. It was an honour to be asked, but it was also incredibly intimidating. I've spoken in church before and you'd think that would be more nerve-wracking than speaking to uncles, aunts, and cousins in the semi-darkness around a campfire at the lake.

But you'd be wrong.

You see, at church, it's fairly safe to assume people are there because they believe the same things ~ or at least that they're expecting to hear something similar to what they generally hear on Sunday mornings. It's different with a large family. They don't necessarily believe the way I do. Faith in God isn't important to all of them.

I knew instantly what I needed to say, but struggled a little with how to go about it. Some subjects can be presented in either a very positive or a very negative way. Creating and honouring legacies of faith in our families is one of them. It would have been oh so easy for me to be harsh and critical given my natural tendencies, but I really wanted to present the message in an encouraging, inspiring way instead.

So here's how I began:

Chances are, most of us here have inherited something of monetary or sentimental value from a loved one who’s passed on. Whether from a parent or grandparent, maybe a great-aunt or uncle, maybe even a brother or sister, many of us have things that were either of value to that person or are of value to us because they serve as reminders and priceless treasures, regardless of their monetary worth. Maybe you have antique china figurines, tea sets, salt and pepper shakers, writing desks, Bibles, or diaries. Maybe a wedding ring or dress. Maybe a prized painting. Whatever the inheritance, you probably have it in a prominent position of honor in your home, right, like the china cabinet, the living room wall? Maybe you wear it on your finger or around your neck.

How do we display the legacies of faith we’ve inherited from godly parents or grandparents? Are those highly visible in our homes as well?

Click HERE to read the entire devotional.

*top photo: my dad's family, at last count, was about 140 strong. We usually get about half of them out for the annual summer gatherings and this is how a good percentage of that half looks when they're hanging out by the lake on a beautiful day.

*bottom photo: my dad (centre, facing left) and half of his siblings, with two brothers-in-law in the background


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thankful Thursday ~ hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneI'm thankful for a wonderful first week of getting into a new routine. For the girls, it's back to school ~ first year of full-time for Fidget ~ and for me, as a result, it's been getting used to pseudo-empty nest.

My mother asked the other day what on earth I was keeping myself busy with now that I had so much time to fritter away and I had to laugh because in the past 6 weekdays, I've spent less time FRITTERING than ever before!!

Sitting here, writing this, is probably one of the longest times I've spent sitting here at the computer. Here, where I used to waste hours, even when both girls were at home. It's a work in progress, but I'm happy to be able to say that for the days the girls have been in school now, my computer time has been very successfully controlled. This has been a serious problem for me over the last couple of years, so this is a huge development for me!!

Interestingly though, it still doesn't look like I'm accomplishing much. My house doesn't look that much tidier, my garden still looks as neglected as ever, BUT... there's been a walk almost every morning (OH, how I've missed those!!), a COMPLETED "to do" list every day with an additional few things almost every time, and most importantly, my girls have my undivided attention in the few hours between coming home from school and going to bed.

Being organized and controlling my time here on the computer as made that possible. We don't necessarily do anything special and it's not like we're constantly playing games and just doing everything they want to do, but I'm there for them without distraction. And boy, it feels good to be able to say that!

I'm grateful for our this season of change in our lives. So far, it looks like it will be a good one!

* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our host and check out other thankful people.



>> Monday, September 13, 2010

John Piper brings up an interesting point in his book Don't Waste Your Life about magnifying God. I came across the same point while reviewing a DVD Bible Study series by him that our Sunday school class is going to be using this fall. He says there are two ways to magnify: 1) like a microscope or 2) like a telescope.

Attempting to magnify God like a microscope is to imply we are bigger than God, more important than God, and the only way He can be seen is if we make Him bigger than He really is. This method of magnification is nothing short of blasphemy.

And God doesn't need my help making Himself look big anyway.

But if we magnify God the way a telescope magnifies, we help others see how truly incredible, immense and awesome He is, though He may appear unimportant and insignificant to them. I thought about this while receiving some compliments on these photos after I'd posted them on Facebook the other day.

I'm not a great photographer. I have taken some very beautiful pictures, yes, but I've taken infinitely more that aren't! The ones that are ~ the ones I consider worth sharing ~ are among the very few that most accurately reflect what I saw. They're the ones I feel come closest to evoking the same emotion I felt, what made me want to take the picture in the first place.

I look at these and I remember feeling like I was the only one on the planet who got to see that sunrise. And that despite being the only one on the planet, God had still gone to such great lengths to handpaint the endless sky with those glorious colours, made me feel immeasurably loved and cherished. Special.

And while I know I was NOT the only person in the world to witness the sunrise ~ probably not even the only one in my small community ~ I believe The God of the Universe, the Creator, the Beginning and End of EVERYTHING, did paint that sky for ME.

So I could share it with you.

I believe God allows me those occasional pictures so that I can maybe, in some small way, help you see and appreciate His absolute grandeur, perfection, holiness, and grace. My sharing it shows my love for The Creator ~ and more importantly, His love for mankind. It's just a small glimpse of His glory, but I hope when you see it through my eyes, you'll begin to understand why I think God is great and why He deserves my praise, my devotion, my life.

And hopefully why He deserves yours, too.


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday ~ hosted in September by Iris @ Grace AloneI can't believe it's been two weeks since I last posted for Thankful Thursday!! Is it just me, or did August just WHIZ by and leave us all blinking and looking around in confusion?! Seriously, where did it go?!!

Yesterday my girls went back to school. They hopped on the bus at 8:12 (SIX minutes earlier than I'd been told the bus would arrive, so I never even got to take "back-to-school" pictures!), loaded down with their year's worth of school supplies, and were gone for eight hours.

Eight very silent hours. (good thing I had to run to town for some grocery shopping!)

It was a welcomed change, and I'll enjoy my solitary days today and tomorrow too, I'm sure, but I think once reality sinks in and it becomes routine, the house will feel very empty at times.

I'm thankful my girls are growing up. I had health problems during both pregnancies and as a result, both were stunted in the womb, both were induced early, and Peanut, my oldest, was a 6-1/2-week preemie. You'd never guess now that her growth had EVER been stunted!! Man, I can not keep that kid in pants that fit!!

I'm thankful I had such a great summer with them. July was all about little routines around the home ~ learning some chores, going to the library, hitting the playground, working through a time-telling workbook ~ and August was about coming and going and doing all sorts of fun little mini-vacations. It was tiring and I'm glad things are settling, but I'm glad I made the effort to make the summer a meaningful one.

It kinda felt like it was my last season of great influence in their lives, so I purposed to be a very deliberate parent and I think I made huge strides in that area as time went on. I know there will be other summers, but this was the last one before Fidget started school full-time. Now someone else has more control of what they learn for the majority of time during the week and for 10/12 of the year!

It's a bit of a scary feeling, knowing my influence will start to wane a little. I hope and pray that in the hours we do still have together each evening and weekend that I will continue to demonstrate to them an attractive, godly life ~ one they'll want to live as well. (I hope that's what I'm demonstrating anyway!!)

I'm thankful they love school and that they were excited to start a new year. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow and learn even more new things.

I'm thankful for a new heart for motherhood. I wish I'd developed it sooner, but I'm so grateful it happened in time for this summer.

* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our host and check out other thankful people.


Where does YOUR education come from?

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today is my girls' first day back to school. I'm looking forward to hearing what they learned today from their new teachers. I wonder what they'll learn ABOUT their new teachers and old friends...

Fidget's Grade 1 teacher is the same gentleman who taught Peanut last year. He's a good Christian man who lives and attends church in a nearby town. Peanut's new teacher is a neighbour who lives only a mile down the road from us. Her husband is our home insurance agent. Two of the EA's that work at the school ~ one as the librarian, the other as a special needs EA with one of Peanut's classmates ~ are wonderful women from our church, both of them great friends of mine. I know the people involved in my girls' education.

I also know something about the curriculum, and divisional and provincial policies, having attended most of the Parent Advisory Council meetings last school year. I've gotten to know the parents ~ or at least most of the mothers ~ of the children my girls play with at school. I've also paid attention to what my girls learn away from school, and I love that they're starting to notice the underlying messages in TV shows and commercials.

I've educated myself about their education. I'm betting you've done the same for your kids.

But what about OUR extra-curricular education? When's the last time we've examined what and from whom WE learn during the course of our week?

If you've been around here on the ol' blawg for a while, you probably know that I'm a regular listener of Revive Our Hearts Radio ministry. A while back, I was catching up after being gone for a week and I found the one broadcast had some startling statistics about women and their media consumption.

Mary Kassian, the featured guest, stated that studies show the average woman exposes herself to 70 hours of mass media a week. This is any combination of television, radio, video games, Internet, podcasts, magazines, newspapers, and movies, but still, 70 hours per week.


That's TEN of every 24 hrs!

That's frighteningly close to half of your life!!!

How can we possibly think we can do that and NOT be influenced by the message that's coming through?! And before we argue we aren't and haven't been affected by secular entertainment, I think we need to examine the collective Christian perspective on the "badness" of sin and how it's been down-graded in the last several decades. You can probably look back in your own life, as I can in mine, and identify certain things that used to be flat-out wrong, that are now unfortunate, but not necessarily wrong anymore; "grey" areas that used to be black and white. Some wrongs have become completely acceptable.

So how did that happen? Sometimes we argue it's the perspective of maturity and life experience. And certainly, I see things differently now in my almost-40's than I did in my early 20's. But how many of those changes have come about because after thorough study of God's Word I've come to the conclusion I was wrong, and how many of those changes are because, well... "it's just how the world is these days"?

I suspect the writer to the Romans would be absolutely appalled. He says in chapter 12, verse 2: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (this is supposed to be an ongoing process, and it won't happen while watching TV, reading a romance novel, or the latest Hollywood gossip magazine) Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (you might even return to your original conviction that something is actually wrong, even if for a while you thought it was acceptable because all the Christians around you seemed to think it was.)

None of the aforementioned media forms are wrong in and of themselves, but if we're learning more from them than we are from God's Word, it becomes a problem. I'm not even condemning secular entertainment; I'm just saying I think we often don't realize how much we've allowed worldly literature, art, and entertainment to affect our worldview, which is supposed to be based on how we know God views our world.

We absolutely CRAVE entertainment. It is more abundantly and readily available, and infinitely more accessible than in any previous period of history, and we are willing to pay dearly for it.

And we have, in more ways than one.

Our constant pursuit of entertainment has dulled our sensitivity to sin. It has taken the place of time spent with God and time fellowshipping with other Believers, and as a result, has become our chief worldview influence.

We give careful consideration to our childrens' education, both in and out of school. Maybe it's time to start putting some thought into our own education.


It's all over but the cryin'.

>> Tuesday, September 7, 2010

That's it. Summer's over. Tomorrow the girls start school.

Both of them.


I think that's one of the reasons I concentrated a little more on doing things specifically for their benefit this summer, but it's also just part of an overall attitude change about parenting. Now that I'll have all sorts of time on my hands, maybe I'll post about that!

  • Get to the local library once a week ~ July 8, 13, 22, Aug 10, 26, (planning to go later today)
    Not quite as good as once a week, but better than expected, especially with all the comings and goings in August!

  • Go to a playground once a week ~ July 8, 11, 27, Aug 4 , 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, (maybe later today, too)
    Here we averaged just over once a week, but only thanks to 5 days at a campground with a playground right across the road from our site!

  • Spend 20 minutes a day in the garden ~ July 7, 8, 9, 12, 24, 27, 30, 31, Aug 2, 11, 12, 27,

    Not. anywhere. CLOSE! to achieving this goal. Ugh.

  • Teach the girls how to do some simple chores ~ girls have made their beds and given the bathroom a "swipe 'n' shine" pretty much daily, have helped regularly with setting and clearing the table at mealtimes, have done a pretty amazing job of keeping their room relatively tidy this summer (WITHOUT being constantly reminded!), and have consistently helped with the laundry. I think this fall I'll start getting them to do their own laundry, bedding included.

  • Get them to take turns setting and clearing the table for supper, as well as helping me with meal prep and dishes once a week each ~ didn't do any meal planning with them and virtually no prepwork either. As stated above, they regularly set and cleared the table. We did make a whopping TWO things together this summer:

    July 24 ~ we made Unbaked Cookies together. Yum!
    July 29 ~ made Banana Chocolate Chip muffins together and the girls actually did most of the work themselves with me just supervising and helping out here and there. They even filled the muffin tins on their own with almost no spillage!!

  • Weekly piano lessons for Peanut ~ we did great in July, but there was only one lesson in August. The plan is to resume on a weekly basis next week, once school is underway.

  • One craft, special activity, or playdate each week ~
    July 7, 8, 9 (see Week 2 post for details)
    July 13, 14, 15, 21-24, 25 (see Week 4 post for details)
    July 27, 30, Aug 4-8 ~ (see Week 6 post)
    Aug 12, 16-19, 21-22, ~ (see Week 8 post)
    Aug 27-29 ~ spent two nights sleeping in our camper up at the lake again, this time for my dad's family's annual summer gathering; I think a two-and-a-half-day playdate with numerous second cousins counts!!
    Aug 31-Sep 3 ~ The Bushman's parents came with their camper and "camped" on our yard for 3 nights, all of which the girls spent "sleeping over!" This is always such a treat for the girls.

  • Try to head to the lake or pool one afternoon a week ~
    July 25 ~
    FINALLY went to one of the nearby lakes a family!
    Aug 2 ~ The Bushman took the girls fishing
    Aug 4-8 ~ spent several hours each day at the lake while camping
    Aug 21-22 ~ spent a day and a half up at the lake for church family camp
    Aug 27-29 ~ spent the weekend at the same lake, but with a different family (biological this time!)

    July 26 ~ shared a picnic supper with an uncle we hadn't seen in a few years, who popped in for a surprise visit!
    July 29 ~ do indoor picnics eaten on the dining room floor count if we use the picnic blanket?
    Aug 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 ~ all meals while camping count!
    Aug 27 ~ had an outdoor weiner roast supper to kick off my family gathering at the lake
    Sep 1 ~ while the in-laws were out, they cooked waffles one morning over our firepit and we ate brunch outside.
I'm quite pleased with how the summer went. Good routine of fun things at home in July, and in August, because we were gone so much and then had company for a few days at the end of the month, we didn't accomplish as much at home, but still had a lot of fun. That counts as success in my books!

And now, it's time to think up some new goals for this fall!


The Week in Pictures

>> Saturday, September 4, 2010

Family gathering up at the lake.

Moonlight on the water.

A beauty that lingered instead of fluttering by, and seemed to be after salty snacks instead of sweet.

Father and son waffle-making over the open fire.

Picnicing with the in-laws while they camped on our yard.

The beehive The Bushman "discovered" while getting firewood.

Our entire, sad potato crop. And good use of the puddle!

And rain.

Which meant The Bushman was actually home all week during his parents' visit. Not great for the bank account, but great timing for their stay. And fortunately, some farmer friends asked if he would help them out this weekend. They put in long enough hours during harvest that he might actually earn a week's pay between Friday and Monday anyway!

And so here we are ~ Labour Day weekend. The last weekend of summer. The sun (when it's out) is still warm, but the air is crisp. The nights are getting downright cold and half of our winter fleece sheet sets have made it onto our beds already. On Wednesday the girls start school so my focus this weekend is organizing and labelling their school supplies and planning a grocery list that specifically has their lunches in mind.

Summer is grinding to a halt.

It was a good one.

But every step away from this summer brings me closer to next year's,
so bring it on, Fall! I'm ready.


History Repeats.

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy September, y'all!!

Best wishes for a wonderful, colourful fall!

....Hey, look what got left on my dining room table!

A box of donuts!


A box of donuts FOR ME?!

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

You shouldn't have! Thank you, you're too kind!!

Wait, WHAT THE... Where's the rest of them??!!

Oh, riiiiight...

I visited this box last night already.

Nevermind.Shy Whistler

Now what was I saying, again ~ before I got distracted?

Oh yes, I hope your September is off to a wonderful start! Mine certainly is ~ hot cup of coffee in hand, birds singin', sun shinin', donuts sittin' on the table, and the in-laws cookin' up some brunch outside on the firepit! Woo-hoo!!


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