Marking Milestones

And now, summer.

A change in rhythm, a welcome break from the beautiful things that fill our calendar through fall, winter and spring with more space to breathe deep the sweetness of the season, more time to explore new places, more freedom to linger a little longer.

In the coming weeks, we’ll reach another milestone in raising our family: our youngest will join his three older sisters as a school-aged kid with a whole new world to discover. For more than a decade I’ve carried and cared for our babies, toddlers and preschoolers and it has been worth all the blood, sweat and tears so far. Perusing older posts with the stories of life with four kids under the age of six, I’m in awe of how the Lord has provided what I have needed in the moments I needed it most! I found these words I wrote four years ago when the pressure of raising small children was at its peak:

The other day, the older kids were fighting and spilled blueberry applesauce all over the carpet. After cleaning it up, they trotted outside as friends again (nothing like a shared chore to encourage sibling bonding), where one promptly did a trick on the swings and ended up with a possible fracture. I heard the shrieking from inside the house where at the very same time the baby was having a meltdown while I was cleaning up a potty accident from our three year old who was ill. 

While we’re in the thick of a challenging season, we don’t even know that the whole time He is carrying us! It’s only when we find ourselves in between the waves and we have a minute to breathe that we realize we’re still afloat.

In a world that values filters and highlight reels, I’m thankful for authentic reminders of God’s goodness to me in times past. As we mark this family milestone with a celebration of our youngest, I’m praying that I won’t forget these lessons I’ve learned in these early years. We have a long way to go before they’re grown, and I may have no idea what challenges lie ahead, but I know the Lord and I’m confident that He will hold me fast throughout the journey.

Image: Bob Richards/Stocksnap

No Night

As the younger three kids rip around the house before 8am deep in a game of hide and seek, I open the fridge to grab the milk for breakfast and discover an inspirational dollar store magnet stuck between the doors. I pull it out and pop it on the front, taking note of its message. 

“Love grows here”, it says. When it fell to the ground and broke long ago I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It still fit together, though a few little pieces were missing, so I pulled out some clear tape and secured it before putting it back on the fridge. I like it better now; it feels more authentic to me.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have of growing up in our home. Everyone experiences the same things differently, don’t they? Each one has a different personality, way of seeing the world, needs, wants, goals and dreams. With four young humans in our care, my prayer and patience muscles get a daily workout and my heart has grown many sizes beyond what I thought possible. Parenting can feel like one giant guessing game where you don’t quite know if you were right until years later. Praise the Lord that He is gracious, working and moving in the areas I simply can’t see or anticipate. Love definitely lives here, imperfect, but still secure in the One who made us and put us together in the first place.

We are in the stretch of the year now where night never comes; we just move from twilight to twilight throughout the wee hours of the day until the fiery, life-giving sun peeks over the edge of the city for another long, warm, slow journey across the sky. Late into the evening now, its light is never quite gone. Just as it dips below the horizon and the edge of the day disappears in the west, the hint of dawn begins to creep along the eastern horizon, stars winking across the inky blue zenith before they fade with the gradual return of the light.

So much beauty while we rest and rejuvenate for a brand new day, a reminder that the grace of God never stops even while life is bumping along at a grand pace and we’re running to keep up.

Love grows here, friends. Even when we can’t see it. Even when we don’t understand. Even when things go sideways and we can’t imagine how it’s all going to turn out.

And even when we’re in a season of no night – no true darkness – just light around the edges of each day marked by the warmth of the sun, God’s love holds us fast. We know without a shadow of a doubt that He is our light and our salvation; we have nothing to fear when trouble comes.

Psalm 27 reminds us:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Love grows here

New Year, Same Things

New year…same things.

We’ve cultivated some beautiful rhythms over the past year that I’m not quite ready to replace. I love the small signs that we are, in fact, in an entirely new year, with decorations safely tucked away and some small progress made in our organizational plans around the house. The calendar hanging in the kitchen has a new theme. I’m writing ’22 in my journal. And we’re receiving invitations to make plans in the months to come.

But some things have remained the same, thankfully.

Maybe it’s my current stage of life, maybe it’s because the majority of our family celebrates birthdays in winter and it always has me feeling all kinds of ways about how fast life goes and all the constant changes each new year brings, but I love the little ways the Lord reminds me that His love never changes and His hope endures, even when everything else around me rides a roller coaster.

It has me asking, at what point does something become a tradition? For the third year in a row, I’ve brought home the same kind of short, wide plastic pot of spring bulbs from the grocery store. I’ve had great success plunking said pot on top of my piano and neglecting it until the hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, irises and other beauties sprout up like sci-fi monstrosities overnight. The first year I was amazed by this $15 burst of beauty. The second year, I tried it again, thinking Year 1’s experience was a fluke. And again, over the course of mere days these little green stalks sprouted up to reveal the most lovely of colours and shapes. So this year, I’ve been watching and waiting to see the daily growth of this little pot of delight! Less than 24 hours after taking its place on the piano, once-invisible yellow tulips peeked through their pale green stalks and by the evening, reached up and opened their petals like rays of warm sunshine. Since then, dark purple irises with golden flecks have peeked out and the daffodil is wide-eyed.

An Easter garden in January, right in my living room! What a gift to have a glimpse of warmth long before the ground finally awakens for the growing season, revealing the hope that the grip of winter will one day melt away into a season of bounty.

Experience teaches us where to look for God’s goodness. At first we may be surprised by it — like tulips suddenly bursting forth from stalks that seemed empty. But then, it happens again. And again. And yet again. And we train our hearts to watch and see what God is going to do in this difficult season of wintery waiting. Every single time we have made it through a difficult, painful or confusing season, we look back and see what the Gardener has been doing. Our stories become reminders of His goodness and faithfulness! The barren soil of our lives is tilled under, weeds, roots and rocks are removed, nutrients are added and God grows stunning things.

What a comfort to know that although we may not be able to change much of what is going on around us, we can fix our eyes on the One who makes all things beautiful in His time. We have the promise of life in Christ!

Two Scriptures have been resounding in my heart this week. The first one is from the Old Testament:

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Job 19:25 (NIV)

And the second is from the New Testament:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NIV)

No matter what we are facing today, this week, this month or in the year ahead, we can be filled with true hope! Jesus is the real deal — He breathes life into the dust of our hearts and grows gorgeous things in places we never expected. 

Be patient and train your heart to hope in Christ. Keep your eyes wide open to the beauty He is cultivating in your life. And always remember that our Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth. 

Praise the Lord that He always does what He says He will do!

 

Day 1, Day 4 and Day 5 of my mixed bulbs.

Morning Light

Golden October, when the weeping birch leaves whirl to the ground in a fiery yellow dance. Their ragged edges make them stand out among the rest of the round-edged, decaying leaves of the other trees of the neighborhood. They are one of the last to say goodbye to fall and embrace the cold to come. 

Everyone is ready now for the snow to fly.

Last night I looked out the window and couldn’t see across the street. Never late. That first impressive snowfall of the season usually blows through sometime in October. It won’t stay, not this early, but we’ll take it anyway, even if the kids need snowsuits under their Halloween costumes.

The morning after a snowfall has a quiet, icy beauty like no other. The temperature plummets in the clear, cold air and as the sun dawns on the world, the edge of the western sky is painted in a pastel pink and purple hue. The sun rises late this week but in a few days we’ll turn our clocks back and have our morning light again, although it comes with late afternoon darkness. Always a jarring reality to contend with but I’d rather have the morning light.

And morning light always comes. The simple rhythm of the day is soothing in the midst of changing seasons. Regardless of what it may hold I know that morning light dawns again tomorrow, a whisper of God’s grace each day. There’s not a day that goes by that the sun doesn’t rise. God’s loving care is woven into the very creation of day and night. His grace is closer than we imagine. And when put our faith in Jesus and open up His Word, we experience an even greater hope than creation alone can inspire.

1 Peter 5:6-11 has my attention today: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Humble ourselves. Cast all our anxiety on Him. Resist the enemy and stand firm in the faith. The God of all grace will restore us and make us strong.

This from the Apostle Peter, a person who walked with Jesus every day. He saw His miracles, watched Him die and rise again, experienced His restoration and forgiveness, and obeyed Him in breaking tradition to visit, eat with and baptize the first Gentile Christians. According to church history, Peter was martyred during the Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome.

Whatever you are facing today, you are never alone when you are in Christ. He is the Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).

To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Image: Stocksnap

Three Weeks of Thanks

I stand over the bubbling pot, slowly stirring as September sun streams in the window. The golden yellow tree across the street is at the pinnacle of its glorious but short-lived annual fall display. It takes about a week, but what a week! Just days after full fall colour fills its branches in a final majestic salute to the summer, its leaves are shrivelled and crunchy, fluttering through the air on the stiff autumn breeze. Thin, smooth branches reach up to the crisp blue sky signalling the end of its hard work for this year. Before long, it will rest under the heavy blanket of winter and awaken again with the thaw, ready to repeat its rhythm with enthusiasm.

Today we take the short hike up the big hill to stand on the top and see the brilliant brushstrokes across the landscape. The palette is ever-changing emerald to gold, ruby, burgundy, fire, copper and every shade of nature. The kids sit under the poplars and sketch the bark and branches full of brilliant leaves preparing to let go for another season.

I’m learning a lesson from the trees this year: there is beauty in letting go.

Have you ever seen a tree that holds onto last year’s leaves? Every single one is eventually replaced by the new growth of spring. The resplendence of fall reveals this season’s work, not last season’s decomposition. But last season’s decomposition played a part. The leaves that fall this year will feed the ground for next year’s growth.

Remarkable. Every process of nature reveal the glory of God and His wisdom, a living book to read and learn from.

Instead of just filling up on turkey and pie on the second weekend of October and moving on with our lives, I wanted to create an intentional season of thanksgiving in our home. Years ago when we began this tradition, I had no idea just how much it would challenge and shape my experience during what tends to be a whirlwind of a season.

It has become my annual reminder to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving regardless of circumstances. If I wait until everything is going smoothly, I fear I will be waiting a very long time. Our family’s rhythm has quickened from the wide open schedule of the summer to the more structured pace of the fall, adjusting to a new school year, facing cold and flu season, handing regular life demands. And this year again, more pandemic challenges. Throw politics in the mix and it’s explosive. Thanksgiving falls at a less-than-ideal time of the year.

And yet, we must pause. Perhaps it actually is the best time. We need to stop in the middle of the crazy and give God the glory. To remind ourselves of His faithfulness from generation to generation. To discover the beauty of His goodness in even the smallest blessing and the greatest challenge. To acknowledge that our perspective is limited but His wisdom knows no bounds. To accept what comes from His hand as His mercy and goodness and find ourselves quieted by His love in all circumstances.

We will let go of what has been and embrace the season we are in, preparing our hearts for the days to come. We will let the leaves of last season work to fertilize the growth of the next. We will choose to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. 

The familiar refrain of the Psalms invites us to send our roots down deep into Him and remember the truth of who He is,

even when…

even if…

even now.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

The brilliant tree across the street.

Yes and No

“Every yes is a no to something else.”

I don’t know exactly who said it first, but it’s the kind of thing you see in articles on productivity and time management and it’s giving me something to think about.

After more than a year of pausing and waiting, it’s temping to jump back onto the hamster wheel of busyness and do all the things! And yet the lessons I’ve learned about capacity, time and priorities are helping me to pause and count the cost of my yes with some important questions:

  • What has the Lord put in front of me right now to invest my time and energy into?
  • What do I need to say yes to this season? In this day? This moment?

Last night I said yes to a short break in the middle of my evening to-dos and and no to an early bedtime. This morning we said yes to rest and creative play and no to a nature hike. Tomorrow’s plans may be a yes to adventure and a no to home projects that need to get done. Sometimes the no’s are difficult ones, but I am trusting that these are simply a yes to something else that the Lord is unfolding in my life and the life of our family at that moment.

As our daily rhythms intertwine with the unexpected and the upcoming fall season takes shape, I’m praying for wisdom to choose well. I’m so thankful that Jesus knows me better than I know myself and that I can trust Him to work in and through each season and each day! 

May the lessons we’ve learned from the past year and a half mark our future decisions. We don’t have to run ourselves ragged! The badge of busyness can quickly turn into chains. Praise the Lord that we have permission to pause and consider just what we are saying yes to, and what the implications are. If these choices feel big, that’s because in some senses, they are. Life is made up of a series of little moments that shape the bigger moments we experience. Isn’t God so gracious? He is walking with us through it all. We need His wisdom to learn how to make the most of the time He has given us and the courage to live for His glory.

James 1:5 (NIV) — 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Image: Artsy Crafty/Stocksnap

The Gift of a Regular Day

Lord, help me to live this day by the truth of Your Word, not by how I feel right now!

This was my bleary-eyed, early morning prayer after I was jolted out of bed, not by the happy singsong greetings of a shiny-eyed, cherub-cheeked preschooler but by the angry edicts of a grumpy, pint-sized dictator. I did not feel particularly ready to greet the day in that moment. In fact, you could say I was on the verge of an internal temper tantrum of my own. My irritability revealed to me that perhaps I too need more sleep after last week’s intense heat wave and rather quick pace. The rain and cooler temperatures have ushered in better sleeping conditions which will hopefully mean better moods as the days roll on, but for today we’re still catching up. The heat and summer fun is all too much when you haven’t slept well for many days in a row.

Working through the morning crabbiness, I began to tackle the long list of things that will make our home liveable once again. When you spend the week with the blinds closed to keep the heat out, living mostly in the open air of the backyard where the slight but hot breeze is blowing, you can’t really see the growing mountain of things inside that may need some attention. Today we find ourselves exhaling, working on home things and resetting for the week ahead. As I build in these rhythms of rest into our life and embrace the quiet, I experience the grace of God in ways I tend to miss when I am moving at the speed of light.

Dirty dishes mean good food. Dirty laundry means great memories. Dirty floors mean a place to call home. I am not immune to deep grief and heartbreaking realities, but I also know that joy and sorrow are not independent of one other. Even in the middle of difficult things, I find myself experiencing moments that fill my heart with in praise of the Lord. His goodness and mercy are unending. Early this morning as I was chipping away at the to-do list, these ancient words bubbled up in me and became my song:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
-Psalm 27:13 (NIV) 

It struck me that this particular moment was a direct answer to my prayer to live this day in the light of God’s truth, not by my crotchety attitude. I know He reveals Himself in unexpected places, like discovering a sparkling gem in a pile of dusty old river rocks. You may not see it immediately, but upon further inspection you realize that what you are holding in your hands is precious. In my life, God has met me while I rocked my babies in the middle of the night and care for them through their childhood illnesses. He has met me on my way into the grocery store. Over broken dishes, weed-filled gardens and vehicle breakdowns. Through bread on the doorstep, text messages, phone calls and unexpected visits.

He knows our needs. He hears our prayers. He is good. 

Even a regular day reveals His glory. To be completely honest, it has taken me many hours to finish writing this short post due to constant questions, conflicts, caring for the needs of littles and listening to the ones who need listening to. If I had shut myself in a room to wax poetic about the goodness of God in the middle of the ordinary, the power of this truth would have been lost on me today: His goodness knows no bounds.

Praise the Lord. Amen.

Blue sky beauty

Learning to Rest

The enduring daylight of summer is upon us and it’s so beautiful.

We’re in an 8-week stretch without actual night. The sun dips below the horizon just enough to give us all the phases of twilight, but no actual nighttime hours. Every night before bed I look out the window and marvel at the edge of the day lingering on the western horizon, and in the morning the light streams through the curtains long before my body is ready to rise.

The created world always fills my heart with wonder and awe. It’s not just the beauty that surrounds me, it’s the remarkable rhythm of life that teaches me lessons over and over again.

I grew up with the idea that productivity is a measure of your worth. Farm life is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no shortage of things to do and serious ramifications if you don’t do them. While Sundays were for church and a short nap, Saturdays were for to-do lists. Weeklong summer vacations were for visiting family in another province, not for laying on the beach in Mexico. The only thing worse than being lazy was being thought of as lazy so I learned to work hard, or at least give the appearance of busyness, at the expense of my body, my mental health and my spiritual life.

I am all too familiar with burnout. In my early twenties I poured myself into a broadcasting job for 60 hours a week and found myself desperate for a break after three years. I took a two week vacation in another province to recharge my batteries and remember weeping nearly the entire 14 hour drive home at the thought of going back to my old pace of life. So I quit and took an opportunity 1300km away to allow myself space and time to reset.

“Your job will never love you back,” someone once said to me. “Boundaries are a blessing.”

Truth.

As I’ve spent the past ten years rocking babies, fixing owies, feeding hungry tummies and answering millions of questions about all the things, there have been long seasons of bone-crushing exhaustion that all the naps in the world could never have erased. Some seasons of life require all hands on deck and circumstances don’t always allow for vacations on the beach or even Sunday afternoon naps. But thanks to this gruelling season of parenting and most recently the pandemic, I’ve been learning to smash the idol of productivity and embrace the necessity of resting in Christ in mind and body. We always have a choice in the little things, like actually admitting when we need a break and asking for help. Or pressing pause on some of the things in our life that can wait and actively pursuing a slower pace.

It’s a tough lesson for a goal-oriented person. Regardless of my circumstances though, what am I saying to the Lord when I constantly push myself beyond my limit and refuse help or avoid acknowledging my need for rest?

I’m learning that resting my body actually gives Him the glory. It’s an admission that He is God and I am not, and that I can fully trust that He is taking care of me in every way. On nights when  my body is still but my mind won’t stop, I remember Psalm 4:8 — 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.”

And Matthew 11:28 —

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

And even Job 38:4 — 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.”

God is able. In His wisdom, the One who does not need to rest chose to rest on the seventh day after creation and built rhythms of rest into His creation as a beautiful gift. He even commanded it for our good, knowing how much we would resist it and how much we would need it. Watching long summer daylight fade into twilight reminds me that this is a very good gift indeed and that I would be wise to embrace it as an act of worship.

Thank You Lord. Teach me how to rest in You, in every season of my life.

10:15pm on an early June night

Lessons from a Mug

This is the one I couldn’t put back together.

Earlier this week, I placed an empty white coffee mug on the lower shelf of a small table and promptly forgot it was there. A few days later, we needed to move the table.

“What’s your mug doing there, Mom?” my third child asked. I glanced over at the coffee table that held my small blue flowery tea mug from the night before. 

“Yeah, I don’t know, I guess I forgot to put it away,” I answered as I lifted the other small table and moved it quickly, inadvertently flinging the white mug across the room. It landed with a loud smash on the basement floor, white shards spraying over a wide area as the kids cried out in chorus, “MOM! Your favourite mug!”

“Oh THAT mug,” I winced. I sighed. It was true, I did love that mug.

“That’s the one I was talking about!” Number Three cried. “I tried to tell you!”

“Aw I am so sorry! You DID try to tell me and I didn’t understand!” 

“We can fix it!” 

“No,” I said gently as I placed the pieces in a small cardboard box, “this one I can’t fix.”

Since then, my own words have been echoing in my heart.

This one I can’t fix.

The careless word or action. The uncontrollable circumstance or sudden turn of events. The sin that breaks a heart into a million pieces.

Grief washes over me in giant paralyzing waves. Other times it slows to a trickle, and still other times it’s a dull ache that lingers when my mind turns to those things I simply cannot remedy in my life. The things I can’t fix, no matter how hard I try. I need comfort and healing, which find in Jesus. But I’m finding that I also desperately need the hope that one day it won’t be like this anymore. One day, all will be made right. 

We have a Healer and Comforter who tends to the deepest wounds of the heart and brings restoration from destruction. But He is also a Warrior King who has wiped out the sin that entangles and the death that separates forever — the very source of our grief and sorrow. Only He can make “justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24).

And He has done it.

It is finished. 

Romans 5:1-12 says,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Hallelujah! On this Holy Week we remember the cost of such love and fall down in worship of the One who willingly gave up His life so that we could be healed and restored forever and the world could be made new.

Living in the now and the not-yet is full of heartbreak and grief, but the glowing coals of everlasting joy are alive in us. We pray that the Holy Spirit will fan it into flame and incline our hearts to the One who has already redeemed what we ourselves are powerless to fix so that we may give glory to Jesus forever!

My broken mug teaching me life lessons.

A Priceless Gift

He was the OG up-cycling trendsetter. The master engineer without a degree. We had front row seats to “How It’s Made: Grandpa Edition” our whole lives long. There was nothing he couldn’t cobble together from parts and pieces or improve upon with a few days of thinking and tinkering. On the farm and later on in the little town where I grew up, his creativity and ingenuity continued to amaze.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of questions about the mechanics of things. Once, around the big brown table in the farm kitchen, I asked my dad how an engine worked. He encouraged me to ask Grandpa. His eyes lit up as he explained the inner workings of spark plugs and pistons in a way I could understand. Often when I visited Grandma in the kitchen, the shop across the yard was alight with welding flashes which I was always warned to look away from so they didn’t damage my eyes.

We grandkids wanted a trampoline more than anything. So he made one for us. A big rectangle with a green rubber mat. No padding on the springs, and spaces in the corners for you to sit with your feet dangling down while you waited for your turn. How those springs could pinch! We learned the hard way not to sit on them while we waited. He had one rule – no shoes on the trampoline! Double jumps got some serious air. That thing could hold an amazing amount of water and became ridiculously slippery when wet. We spent hot summer afternoons flailing around, playing Crack the Egg and Slip and Slide thanks to Grandpa and our uncles.

I remember helping Grandma bring supper to the field during the long hours of harvesting, the free range chickens that left their presents all over the yard – easy to find in bare feet – and Grandpa’s old dogs one at a time in succession who were always named Pup.

And music. How he loved to listen to us play and sing! Not at first though. When I was just learning on their old piano he’d tell me to be quiet because he was reading at the table. But something must have changed over the years because I remember how he loved it when I’d lead the singing at our little bilingual country church. I used to pick his favourite hymn without telling him. I was always fascinated by the German hymnals that sat next to the red English ones in the backs of the pews. When I learned how to sing in German in my high school choir, I signed up for a special number in church one day and surprised my grandparents by singing a hymn… in German!

I remember Grandpa wiping his eyes and thanking me, in his understated way, for singing that song. Grandma clasped my hand and gave it her signature squeeze. As the years went on, I moved around. But anytime I was back in my childhood town, I stopped by and sat down at the table for a few more stories, cookies and hugs.

My little corner of the world is darker these days. And my blog has lost one of its most faithful readers. My heart feels the ache of grief, compounded by current restrictions on group gatherings and travel. I watched through a screen as my dad and aunts and uncles stood up to tell his story. I never got to gather around his grave to sing a hymn or place my flower there. I didn’t see my cousins carry him or watch as he was lowered into the ground in my childhood church cemetery. No fellowship time with distant relatives and old friends over raisin buns and cheese and pickles and red funeral juice and bad church coffee in those little white cups. 

And worst of all, no hugs for those who suffer this loss from those who suffer alongside.

Jesus keep me near the cross
There is a precious fountain; 
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever
Til my ransomed soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

-Fanny Crosby

After the online funeral last weekend my husband and I sat on our little front steps drinking coffee with blankets on our laps in the March sunshine. As I processed my feelings I asked him why our generation had the tendency to be dissatisfied with a simple life.

“Why isn’t it enough?” I asked. “Why are we rushing around trying to prove ourselves, desperate to matter to everyone but those closest to us? Why are we reaching for the stars when we already have the real treasures right here?”

I have a choice. I can focus on the things that don’t matter in the end, or I can turn my eyes upon Jesus. I can do the hard, slow, steady work of cultivating what I already have right in front of me. I can plant the seeds, pray for rain, watch the growth and reap the harvest in the right season. I can practice creativity in problem solving, be a good steward of what I have, pour into others and choose to be content. I can love my family in the best way I know how, and I can praise Jesus for His goodness to me even passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

These simple things I have learned from the ones that have gone before me. They have given me a priceless gift of a life well-lived.

A little corner of the old farmyard in the trees behind the garden.