>> Thursday, January 27, 2011
Last week was a fun one. Busy, but really good.
Most of the week was spent in preparation for Peanut's NINTH birthday party, which was Friday after school, as well as for my parents' weekend visit. So I was busy, but for a change I didn't really feel overwhelmed or stressed out. I'll admit I was a little intimidated at the thought of having eight little girls here for three hours, but I didn't back out!!
But I'm so thankful The 'Man was around though ~ he's such a hit with kids wherever we are! Even though it was super cold and windy that night, he was outside with all those shrieking little girls for about an hour, pulling them around the yard and down the road on various sliding implements with the quad. They LOVED it!! I'm also thankful the hamsters were such a hit ~ all those little babies consumed quite a bit of their time, too!
I'm thankful for Peanut. We've had her for NINE years now, and given her shaky beginning as a 6-1/2 week preemie, that's an incredible blessing! Well, she'd be an incredible blessing even if she'd been born full-term, but you know what I mean! Over and over, we're reminded of the uncertainty of life itself and so to be granted these years with her make me feel so fortunate.
I'm so thankful for my parents and the relationship we have. It was so nice to visit with them again and celebrate Peanut's birthday together as a family.
I'm so thankful for all the prayers and kind words of comfort I've received from online and real-life friends alike over these last two weeks. Normally, when trying seasons like this come, I struggle a lot with depression, but I can honestly say that other than a few days during the worst week earlier this month, I have not had any trouble with it. Your prayers (and mine) are indeed doing some good!! GOD is good, even when our circumstances aren't, and it is in our most desperate times that His presence is truly awesome.
I was reminded this week of the significant peace and beauty a warm sunny day holds when it's experienced in the eye of a hurricane (from what I've heard, anyway!), and how the beauty and warmth are so strikingly obvious under those circumstances compared to when they're experienced on normal good summer days. I think that's how "the peace that passes understanding" works, too. The rest offered by a loving God is always there for us to enjoy, but somehow, in times of distress, that rest is so much sweeter. I'm so thankful for HIS peace.
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>> Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I have been reminded over and over again in the last two weeks of why my daily walks have almost nothing to do with exercise. Why I've come to cherish and jealously guard this time alone.
I like to start my day off with my Bible reading and prayer time and while it works to pray in the pre-dawn hours before everyone else is awake, I'm finding the prayer part works much better while I'm walking. In the darkness of the early morning, I tend to drift off ~ either mentally or physically! ~ and if I wait until I'm more awake, then everyone else is awake, too, and then concentrating on prayer is virtually impossible for me. But on my walks? Perfect. I'm almost never distracted and I'm definitely never drifing off!
But best of all, that lonely mile road is where God meets with me.
Standing a mile away from home in the dead of winter at 8:40 in the morning, watching the sunrise over a quiet farmyard, I feel His presence. He's there with me, witnesses the soft sight and sound of the frost-covered horses chomping on some hay they've managed to paw loose. I see the hooves pound the ground, but the sound seems to come from somewhere else, hollow-sounding on the cold morning air.
It's -32C/-26F and my eyelashes are literally covered with frost. But it's almost perfectly quiet. The sky is clear and the pinky-orange glow on the south-eastern horizon is intensifying. In a moment, the sun will appear. Shadow stands still as a statue, his fur laced with frost, too. He stands at attention, as if ready to pounce on the first rays of sunlight.
And God is there. I can't really explain the feeling; it just happens. I just know.
It's interesting how almost invariably, the tone of my prayers changes at that turn-around point. Up till then, I've often been begging for wisdom, for guidance, for the power to forgive, for repentance, for the scales to fall from my eyes. And after that moment or two a mile away, when I stand still just to look out over quiet farmyard or to watch the sunrise over the windswept field...
>> Monday, January 24, 2011
>> Thursday, January 20, 2011
Last week was ROUGH, no doubt about it. Even though I spent much time in prayer, much time reading God's promises in my Bible, even though I listened to every encouraging Revive Our Hearts broadcast in their archives.... it was hard to think positively.
This week is better. I'm not worried and depressed this week, so that's a big step in the right direction! Nothing much has changed with our business, but my attitude has changed. Which is, of course, what prayer does.
The thing I'm most thankful for this week is the way God speaks.
Exactly a week ago, I believe, I was suddenly compelled to change my morning routine around a little to ensure I'd get a walk in each weekday. I had become a little lazy and it often only happened later in the afternoon, if at all. Most days, it seemed, I was just too busy and before I knew it, it was too late to go before the girls got home from school.
But in thinking how I could change a few things in order to enjoy staying up later with my husband (who's a night owl) and not have my mind wander so much or be nodding off during my prayer time first-thing in the early morning, I decided I needed to make walking in the mornings a priority again like it was for so many years. I've found that works best for prayer. (I'm rarely distracted and I never fall asleep!!) So I've been pulling on all my snow gear when the girls are getting ready to leave for school in the morning and then I wait with them for the bus and start walking as it leaves.
This week has been perfect for watching the sunrise ~ it's finally happening before 9 am again!! It's been absolutely spectacular the last three days, and I've been learning a few things along the way:
On Monday, I remembered why I love to walk in the stillness of the early morning... God meets with me. As I stood at the farm a mile from our house, watching the steam rise from the horses' mouths as they ate, hearing their hooves pounding the frozen ground to clear a spot to graze, I was reminded we always have enough. Shadow was by my side, standing at attention, like he was ready and waiting to pounce on the first ray of sunshine, and I was reminded how important it is to relish the blessings in life, to recognize even the smallest ones and be grateful.
On Tuesday, it was much colder and the sky was cloudy. But before the sun fully rose, a narrow crack of clear sky at the horizon allowed an incredibly intense dark pink to flood the entire overcast sky and it was breathtaking. I don't think I've ever seen that before. And I was reminded that while God, Himself, is unchanging, His grace and mercy are new every morning. Interestingly, once the sun was actually up, the sky was drab and virtually colourless again, reminding me that though our circumstances sometimes cloud our vision, He is still always there.
Yesterday was BITTERLY cold. Seriously, I think I had a patch of frostbite on my one cheek and I had to wear my one arm inside my jacket instead of in the sleeve because the wind was just cutting through my jacket like a million razors!! The sky was clear and the wind was whipping whatever loose snowflakes it could find in sheets across the roads and over the blanketed fields. It was stark and lonely. But the blazing pinky-orange rising sun beautifully highlighted all the little ridges and valleys the driven snow was creating, catching the sheets of blowing snow and setting them on fire. And I was reassured that God is with me in the storm, helping me see His glory more clearly.
I have learned a lot from walking this week. I don't think it's a coincidence at all that I suddenly felt compelled, at the end of last week, to start walking and praying at 8:20 every morning.
God had a few things He wanted to show me. I'm so thankful His Spirit moved me to make those little changes that made it possible for me to see them.
* None of the photos are from this past week, but taken in winters past. I haven't been bringing my camera these last few days because there's just no way I'm takin' my mitts off long enough to snap any pictures! Brrrr!
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>> Friday, January 14, 2011
The morning started out very white. Even the trees didn't provide the normal stark separation between earth and sky. Here we are looking south down the little river just west of our house:
Even though I'd been careful to watch my rearview mirrors, there was SUDDENLY another vehicle bearing down upon me, so I really had to step on it and get off the bridge!! (I suppose it would have been helpful if I hadn't been parked right in the middle of it, but on country gravel roads, that's just where you drive unless you cross paths with someone else!)
Along the highway into town:
After I'd finished my errands in town, the clouds had moved off and the sun was out, highlighting all the snow-clad tree branches.
I had some time to kill before meeting The 'Man for lunch, so I chose to drive around and take pictures. I can't stand store-browsing anyway, so it's a good thing it was a good day for photos!
This is my favourite street. It's not a through-road and obviously not quite as well-maintained as a result, but it just always looks so magical. If I lived in Town, I'd want to live down there, I think!
Coming home again:
These horses were posed so beautifully on a small hillside just before I exited off the highway. I love the spotty pattern their hoofprints leave in the snow!
Here's what you see when you first leave the highway to turn into our village:
And here we are again crossing the little river, looking north. I see at least one snowmobiler and a few animals just couldn't resist the urge to make tracks on the pristine blanket of snow on the ice!
Looking north. You can just barely make out a crow flying, wings down, in the centre of the picture. A moment later, he banked right and the sun shining on his back and outstretched wings would have been amazing ~ if my camera had been ready to capture it (it was still recovering from this shot!)
I love these storage bins. Especially against a blue sky and white fields!
And here I am, home again, looking up from beside my van before I pull it into the garage.
Thanks for coming with me! I hope you enjoyed the drive!
>> Thursday, January 13, 2011
...has been significantly harder this week than normal.
Lots of what some would call bad luck goin' on around here lately. The kind that gets to be a little overwhelming feeling at times. Quite honestly, I feel a little fake participating this week because it feels like almost anything I write here will be little more than lip-service.
Nonetheless, I'm thankful no one was hurt in our latest trucking mishap. Ashamedly, I have to admit when I first heard the news, I was instantly engulfed with self-pity since we're still dealing with insurance in the aftermath of November's incident. I didn't really even think about the driver until much later. Though it's a significant financial burden and a huge inconvenience, two trucks can be replaced. A life cannot.
Speaking of irreplaceable lives... a special friend of mine passed away on Monday night. Not a close friend in the sense of contemporaries or "besties," but a very dear woman, nonetheless. But through my tears, I find myself smiling at the thought of her being woken up by God like so many times in the past (because she was so hard of hearing, she relied on God to wake her up so she wouldn't miss her ride to church on Sundays), but realizing, once she opened her eyes, that she was literally face to face with Him. What a glorious surprise that will have been for her! I'm thankful she got to experience that.
I'm thankful that all our trials "come to pass." Someday they will be over. Maybe here in this life; maybe not till the next. But they will end. And through them, we will see the infinite glory of the Almighty God in a way that we couldn't have had we not endured them.
(Rom. 8:18 NKJV)
I'm thankful to have something so wonderful to look forward to.
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>> Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A special friend passed away last night, just seven days shy of her 96th birthday. She was kind of like my surrogate grandma. My mom's mom passed away when I was only three or four, and my dad's when I was 12, and this woman never purposely stepped in to fill the gap, it just sort of... happened. Not immediately, and not at all the same really, but somehow similar.
In the years since we moved out here to The Valley, I haven't seen her much. I'd send her family pictures periodically and a Christmas card most years, but whenever we attended our old church, I tried to seek her out and at least give her a hug.
She was very hard of hearing and had been for many years already, but one time she told me that she'd learned to rely on God to wake her up Sunday mornings so she could catch her ride to church. Unless her health didn't permit, I don't think she ever missed a service. I always marvelled at that.
And I can't help but think what a wonderful surprise it was for her this morning, when she felt God's hand gently shaking her shoulder, His soft, low voice telling her it was time to get up, to turn and open her eyes and gaze straight into His. I imagine the twinkle in His eye at her surprised expression and His arms holding her tightly in a welcoming embrace. I imagine her laughing and crying and dancing and not really knowing how to express herself, maybe giggling nervously because she couldn't quite believe it.
But then He quietly reaches for her hand. Instantly she calms and smiles up into His face, and they turn and leave her room together. She never looks back.
NOW, she is home. She can hear the music again and it's better than she remembers. Her voice is young and strong again and she knows all the words because they've been stamped on her heart for all eternity.
And she'll never worry about missing the worship service again.