The August Blur…

Hey there ūüôā
It’s been a while…I know.
The past month has been a bit of a blur around here so I guess that’s kind of what this post will be. A recap of the blur. Let’s see…

Canada’s Wonderland – which was fantastic! We have two little thrill seekers on our hands ūüôā Alexa’s favourite ride was the Thunder Run…the only adult ride that allows little kids on it. It goes through a dark tunnel and has loud thunder noises. Akeisha’s favourite ride of the day was The Bat roller coaster, which she did with me. I still cannot believe she was brave enough to try it, but after she heard that was my favourite she was determined to do it with me. I kept giving her chances to back out while we stood in line and listened to people scream, but she was resolute. She said, “I am scared, but I’m with you, Mommy!” While I screamed she squeezed her eyes shut and when it was over she wanted to go again!

Cottage – we spent a week at the cottage with family, which was lots of fun. I had no idea how the girls would handle a whole week with other people around, but they did really well. We were lucky to have a Bunkie on the property that was our home for the week while the rest of the people were in the main cottage so that gave us some breathing room when we needed it. It was so much fun relaxing and spending time with my siblings, in-laws and nephew. Akeisha and Alexa now know their Freeman relatives quite well ūüôā Both the girls made some huge progress with their swimming over the week. Akeisha loved to jump off the dock with her lifejacket and go for ‘long swims.’ Alexa loved splashing in the shallow water and playing with the sand. I am so happy they love the water and are comfortable in it since we are surrounded by so many rivers and lakes. Both the girls also got to try tubing for the first time and love it, though they still have moments where fear overrides the thrill.

Camping – we spent this past weekend with friends camping out on the Bay at the same spot we enjoyed last time. Beautiful weather, delicious food, and comfortable companions made it a relaxing weekend we all enjoyed.

School shopping – A few weeks ago I took the girls for our official ‘school shopping’ trip. My mom accompanied us as well and it was an exciting day as they picked out their new backpacks, lunch pails, pencil cases, pencil crayons, etc.

In the middle of all that we ‘officially’ transitioned to worshipping with a new body of believers, which really didn’t affect the girls but was wrought with emotional landmines for me. So many words I could express but I feel so small and unwise and fear I will only say the wrong thing. I do not wish to lay myself foolishly on the tracks before a roaring train. Maybe later the waves will calm a bit and I’ll be able to examine the beautiful shells beneath the surface but right now I’m just not ready. We are relieved to have found our spiritual safe haven and a place to plant our family, but sad to be leaving friends we love. We will be ok, despite misunderstandings and awkward moments. God is still the same.

School is next on the horizon, and last week we were able to meet the girls’ teachers and principals as well as see their classrooms. They are so excited for school to start and are anxiously counting down the days. Alexa will be entering Gr. 1 and Akeisha Gr. 2. Their school is just down the street from our home and we’ve had wonderful experiences there in the past. The environment is inclusive and flexible to create space for children with exceptionalities to thrive. Though some question our decision to enroll our daughters in public school, we are confident we are making the right decision for them at this time. We will take a year at a time. I am excited to get back in the classroom as well a few mornings a week and get back into the routine of school. I feel we’re all ready for some space and predictability, though I will miss knowing every little thing that’s happening in their lives. It’s been such an intense summer and I’m ready for a little breathing space each day. I can feel myself running extremely low on emotional energy some days, which is of course followed by guilt when I respond with impatience to my daughters’ craving for affection and reassurance of my love for them. I easily forget the tumultuous half year they’ve had when it feels in so many ways we’ve known each other forever. But I’m really excited to be a part of my daughters’ school lives and to bless them in all kinds of new ways. Meeting those smiling eyes each afternoon at the gate, packing those small lunch bags with thoughtful care and listening to the day’s experiences told in their scattered sentences and phrases.

So that’s us.

Day after day, we live life and breathe in the gifts God has given us. Sometimes it feels like we’re stumbling around in the dark or turning on our own team mates. We grow discouraged, we cry and eventually we get back up to try all over again. Just around the corner our lives will swell to include extra people again. We’ve been pretty secluded this summer…focused on building our family identity. We needed that time. But there’s a teenage girl I’ve missed all summer who will be back home across the street very soon, and we will set an extra place at the table, play games, cook together and try to immerse her in the grace and love we’ve been given through Jesus Christ. Our 3 year old god daughter is starting school for the very first time while her beautiful mommy recovers from chemotherapy and surgery to hopefully end her battle with cancer. We’ve missed them both so much and they’re two of the people we hold closest to our hearts and family. There will be teachers to meet, new friends to invite for play dates and birthday parties to attend. I am missing some of my adult friends after a summer with the kids and I am looking forward to walks, chats and phone conversations that will not be interrupted. I am looking forward to a cleaner house and more alone time with God.

My Mom has shown me through her life that each season of life brings beauty and joy if we are willing to embrace it. So we will. We will surge into September with zest and courage, knowing that God will be faithful to carry us over every hurdle in our path. As long as our hearts are turned toward Him and our empty hands raised to be filled, He will guide us.

AF

Backyard Adventures

So I wish I could post some¬†more photos for you of some of this stuff but until our adoption is finalized I can’t legally do that.¬† So…you’ll just have to be satisfied with my descriptions ūüôā

I love to see kids using their imaginations and playing outdoors.¬† It is so healthy for all of us and it’s the sort of activity they don’t get to enjoy as much during the school year.¬† Recently I feel like the girls have really found their groove with the long summer days and are coming up with all kinds of things to do!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my husband has been working on building a tree house the past week.¬† He was actually pretty stoked about this since he’s always wanted a good reason to build a tree house apparently!¬† ūüôā¬† The girls were so excited about this and loved helping him.¬† I cringed as they wielded hammers,¬†winced as they helped him saw and covered my eyes¬†when it was¬†finally¬†complete enough for them to clamber up there…WAY up there!¬† Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but¬†spending the last few years providing daycare for other people’s kids and being a foster parent for the Children’s Aid Society has¬†sharpened my ‘safety first’ instincts!¬† I¬†tried not to¬†let my nervous squeaks ruin their¬†excitement and pushed away the jelly feeling in my stomach when I climbed¬†up¬†with them the first time.¬†¬†Is it safe?¬† Barely.¬† But is it fun?¬† You bet it is!¬† This is why Akeisha and Alexa need a Daddy.¬† I encourage and applaud¬†them when¬†they are adventurous and brave…but I’m not as¬†good at providing opportunities for them to practise those characteristics.

It really has been tons of fun, though, this tree house thing.¬†¬†It can become a pirate ship, a secret clubhouse or a cool place to have lunch!¬†¬†Yes, that was today.¬† Tuna sandwiches, carrots and apples are so much better when devoured¬†with grimy little fingers as we gaze around at¬†green, leafy walls.¬† Even the chipmunks, who have been feasting¬†on peanuts right out of our hands, managed to crawl up there and try to steal a few crumbs!¬† It makes me feel¬†like a child again…climbing trees, brushing the dirt off my sandwich, feeling rough wood on my feet and going out of the way to make¬†each little moment extraordinary.¬† There’s even a trap door, which makes you feel like you’re entering a secret¬†hideaway!¬† Akeisha tied a rope to a bucket so that they could transport all kinds of treasures up and down.¬†¬†She also tried ‘fishing’ for chipmunks from her leafy hideaway which resulted in one clever little chipmunk¬†getting quite the surprise when his peanut wouldn’t come free!

 

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There is also still a little fort in the bushes¬†that gets some attention, a bear trap that was created ‘just in case’¬†and a new favourite¬†hobby…picking¬†apples from the wild apple trees¬†beside our house!¬† Every now and then we still catch caterpillars and put them in our bug buckets…though they rarely get attention after that so they have a rather unfortunate end.¬†¬†Akeisha is usually the ring leader of all these activities and the past few days working alongside Daddy¬†she became enthralled with the idea of¬†‘working.’¬† So yesterday all day I was her boss and she drove to work¬†in¬†her workboat, just like Daddy.¬†¬†She was so cute all dressed up in Daddy’s big work boots, a Rockscape Design hat and¬†a big sweater that¬†covered most of her body.¬† She took lunch breaks and even did a bunch of jobs for me as my ’employee.’¬†¬†Hey, if she’s into working and having fun I’ve got all kinds of jobs that can be done!¬†ūüôā¬† After making the beds, doing dishes and sweeping the floor she was ready to go back to pretending to work like Daddy, not¬†me!¬† Lol.

Our poor little doll babies who got such devoted attention a month ago have been rather neglected, but every now and then they still get a few cuddles, a walk to the park or a diaper change.  Crafts have been a big hobby lately and this mother has had to grin and bear all the glue, string, little paper pieces and wasted tape that goes with that!  Most of the crafts have been things for the fort or tree house.

I am so grateful for the little haven we have here up at the top of a quiet dead end street.¬† We have a perfect backyard for kids to be able to explore, play and create despite it’s small size.

So much to be thankful for.

Alongside all these backyard adventures I am just celebrating every little sign of attachment I see in our daughters.¬† Today Alexa, mimicking the words I’ve said to her so many times, told her doll “I’ll love you always and for ever NO MATTER WHAT!”¬† She also played shy and stuck right by my side the whole time a woman selling books dropped by this morning, which is a great improvement.¬† The last phone conversations we had with the girls foster parents were remarkably different than a few weeks ago.¬† Instead of the girls needing to know all about their former homes and what they were missing, they were able to excitedly share about the fun things that have been going on here!¬† We are hearing mostly Mommy and Daddy again, after a few weeks of reverting back to our names, and they are even able to have conversations about their new last names without feeling quite so threatened.¬† Alexa has a habit of coming up to me any random time and saying, “Mommy, I love you.”¬† No reason at all.¬† No particular emotion to provoke it.¬† Simply I love you ūüôā¬† She loves when I call her my baby.¬† A favourite bonding activity is to be wrapped in a big towel after her bath and carried back to her room.

Daddy still gets¬†greeted with huge shrieks of joy each and every evening…and he deserves every ounce of adoration the girls give¬†him.¬† He’s amazing.¬† Day after day he comes home from work and pours a truckload of energy into¬†the girls.¬†¬†Alexa loves her snuggles from Daddy, climbing into his lap after supper just like I used to do with my Dad every night.¬† My favourite quote of hers was one Saturday morning as she crawled into bed to snuggle beside him.¬† “You’re my warm and fuzzy Daddy,” she said as she rubbed his whiskers affectionately. ūüôā¬† She has been a Daddy’s girl since day #1 and there is just a bond there that I love to watch.

Akeisha likes to¬†get quality time and attention, like helping him build the tree house or sitting on his¬†lap chatting.¬† She got to stay up late a few nights just chatting with¬†Daddy and it was so eye opening to hear her questions and comments.¬† They talked about everything from house fires to school to¬†her day.¬† She was amazed to hear that Daddy would come back in the fire to find her if he knew she was still inside, and once again I was reminded how much we need to voice those things.¬†¬†When trust is just being built,¬†those things are not simply taken for granted as obvious facts¬†like¬†they were for me when I was a child.¬† They love to hear us say adamantly how much we would miss them if they left us and how we would follow them!¬† They’ve decided once they’re big enough to be¬†moms themselves they will live next door to us in the house that is for sale so that they will not be far away, and¬†talk about saving up their money for that.¬† ūüôā¬† Right now I am listening to them play house.¬† Akeisha is the mom and Alexa is the child.¬† Alexa has just been¬†put on a ‘time-out’ by¬†her sister and Akeisha is carefully explaining why exactly she is there and what will happen.¬† Wow.¬† Sponges.¬† It is incredible to hear your voice being parroted back at you.¬† The other day Akeisha said to me, “Mommy, I wish I would have been in your tummy.”¬† We’ve had this conversation a few times.¬† When I smiled, hugged her and said “Me too,” I could see her beautiful brown eyes glow.¬† We have so much yet to cover about the life they’ve already lived without us, but in those little moments we understand who we are.¬† We are a family.

I have no idea why God has allowed me to parent these girls.¬† I feel so unworthy some days.¬† But it really is the little things that matter so much.¬† It’s the way I speak, the way I go about my day and the things I place at the top of the list.¬† Through two pairs of young, searching eyes I get the chance to portray a tiny piece of what Jesus looks like.¬† When I stand before Him some day, I know what I am doing today is going to matter.¬† They are golden opportunities.¬† That can feel overwhelming, but I also know that it does not all depend on me.¬† God chooses to use me, but He doesn’t need me.¬† He will bring the increase.

AF

 

 

 

I want to be ALONE!

Ok.

So this is me being honest and letting you all know that even though we’re pretty excited about our new family of 4…we’re normal.¬† Not every day is rainbows and shimmer.

Right now I am hiding downstairs in my jammies while my husband builds a tree house with the girls and let me tell you I am just drinking in the quietness here!¬† Some days I am full of energy and happiness and amazement…and other¬†days I’m just plain old¬†tired.¬† Also…my personal bubble is nonexistent these days which sometimes makes this Mama Queen of the Grumps!¬†¬†Wiry little arms hugging, pulling, yanking and poking at me all day long.¬† Affectionate?¬†¬†Yes…but¬†Mommy is not always in the mood for affection.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for silly, nonsensical chatter and stinky morning¬†breath in my face.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for bony little bodies jumping on me.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for whiny little voices following me all¬†over the kitchen as I try to get everything done that needs to be done¬†between 5 and 6pm.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for markers all over the floor, glue on the table¬†and macaroni¬†bracelets¬†in the bathroom sink.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for little bodies climbing up on the countertops and sending a zillion cups¬†crashing to the floor while clumsy hands search for that perfectly pink favourite.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for¬†an out of control garden hose spraying my basket of¬†dry laundry.¬† Mommy is not always in the mood for little voices calling “Watch me!”

Sigh.

Yup.

Pretty normal.

My¬†husband is awesome about this.¬†¬†He¬†helps chase away the “Mom guilties” that want to come in and just bash me to pieces when I just need to be ALONE!¬†¬†The other night after the girls were in bed I went¬†out¬†for like 5 minutes to pick something up and I could’ve just laughed out loud!¬† I felt like a FREE WOMAN!¬† Of course when I got¬†back 5 minutes later two little faces were peering out¬†the window at me calling…”Mommy!¬† Where did you go?!”¬† Like it was the most insane thing ever that I¬†would¬†go somewhere without them!¬† After all, we are pretty much inseparable…and to bring some balance to this post…I¬†am SO thankful that I am in the position where I am able to be a stay-at-home Mom¬†to my daughters.¬† I truly am grateful for that, and would not change it for the world.

However…that doesn’t mean my patience level is any¬†higher than¬†yours and I just wanted you to know that it’s real life around here, too!¬† Bedtime is usually one of my favourite times of the day.¬† I love to be able to tuck them in, read stories, hear them pray and just feel connected at the end of the day.¬† But there are some days all I want is to give a quick kiss and then BE ALONE!¬† Days like this one can make me feel incredibly guilty, because I know there is a Mom somewhere who would love to be able to have just one more exasperating, annoying Monday!¬† Some days I am that Mom…there are two little faces etched forever on my memory that make me ache with loneliness some days.¬† I love my girls…but I’ve learned that nobody can be replaced.¬† Each new little person finds their own place in my heart…a place I didn’t even know existed until they came.¬† The one left empty will always be just that…empty…except for the memories.¬† So I understand we need to treasure every second.¬† Just writing that made me cry.¬† There is a little buzz cut that used to come lay softly on my cheek every single morning and make all kinds of happy, endearing noises…and every single morning I miss that little buzz cut.¬† There is a pair of vivid, joyful brown eyes that used to make me smile every single day as they danced to the sound of belly giggles…even on the worst days…and I miss those brown eyes every day.¬† I did not think it would hurt this bad for so long.¬† But I’m getting off topic.¬† The annoyance is already starting to fade!¬† Lol.¬† Count your blessings, right?

But I’m not supermom.

And some days I am just plain old selfish…or didn’t get enough sleep…or it’s that time of the month.¬† Some days I am overwhelmed by the intensity of life with two little girls who need to be loved so well.

Being a mother means you get to see the worst and best of yourself almost daily.¬† It’s really quite the rollercoaster.¬† I never knew how selfish I was until I got married.¬† Then I knew.¬† Two years later, I became a ‘mom’ for the first time and I learned my selfishness ran much deeper than I’d realized.¬† These little people in our lives teach us so much more than we could ever imagine we didn’t know!¬† I like to think, though, that with so much opportunity for messiness and absolute failure there is so much potential for growth!¬† Every moment I choose to force a smile instead of a scowl, every time I choose to soften my tone…I get a zillion opportunities every day to be like Jesus!¬† And if I fail…well…at least there are still many more chances to make it right.¬† And the little people we learn from?¬† They are so quick to bounce back with a smile and a hug.¬†¬†They will forgive every time.¬† They will love you¬†no matter what.¬† After the worst day, they will still want goodnight hugs and kisses.¬† After¬†the fiercest tantrum they will smile and say I’m sorry before you’ve even sorted through your own mass of¬†feelings.¬† That is beautiful.

I’d like to think it’s ok to fail sometimes.

I like to remind myself we all get grumpy every now and then.

This is where abundant grace comes in…for my children and for ME.

Akeisha and Alexa love to hear us say we will love them no matter what.¬† Always and forever.¬† Some days I need to hear that from my heavenly Father, too.¬† He will love me no matter what.¬† Always and forever.¬† It isn’t my acts of service or my moments of graciousness or my stunning successes that earn me His love.¬† He loves me simply because that is who He is.

Thank you, Father

Ps. On a lighter note, the girls have been playing pirates the past few days!¬† LOL¬† It’s hilarious!¬† “Arty AR AR” is apparently pirate lingo.¬† Outfits are complete with paper eye patches, stick swords in a fabric sheath and paper hats.¬† So adorable ūüôā

 

Happy, Tired & a Little Sunburnt

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So I promised to tell you about our first camping trip with the girls, so here it is! ūüôā

We, being the greedy locals that we are, took advantage of our rights as the hometown crowd by setting up our tent on our chosen site a night early.¬† We found an amazing spot on Huckleberry Island that friends had told us had a great little sandy beach.¬† It was absolutely fabulous!¬† Definitely our new favourite spot.¬† It was perfect for the kids to play in and out of the water and there was plenty of space to set up our tent on sandy soil covered with soft pine needles…which around here is like discovering gold!¬† Most places, especially on Georgian Bay crown land, you are literally pitching your tent on a rock.¬† So this was a bonus! ūüôā

Since this is a popular spot for people to go camping it includes a fire pit, rack for cooking, ‘toilet’ in the bushes, table/shelf built between two trees and rope to hang your food in trees overnight.¬† For those of you who are not campers, this is so that the wildlife does not get into your food.¬† Bears and raccoons are not welcome midnight guests!

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Finding this spot on Thursday evening was just such a special gift from God.  The girls loved it and seeing it beforehand helped them be even more excited!

Friday I scurried around all day crazily trying to get everything packed and Kirby was able to get off work by 4 o’clock, so we loaded everything up into¬†the work boat. I will add in here that we’ve been abundantly blessed by Kirby’s employers at Rockscape Design. Their generosity is a challenge and huge blessing to us! We are so grateful for them and the many ways they have blessed us in the past few years.

The girls were so excited to get there and explore our ‘home’ for the weekend. They went into the water briefly Friday evening already, but didn’t last long since it was pretty chilly. Kirby ended up having to run back home for a few things I forgot…the camera battery and memory card and his swim trunks! Sigh. One of those moments where you go…really?!

Once we had everything we wanted and needed there, we settled in for some FAMILY TIME. Was awesome having all the time in the world to just be together and enjoy the outdoors. I forgot how exciting things like camping are for kids. It was so much fun watching the girls set up their beds in the tent (complete with ONE stuffy Mommy allowed them to bring), run around exploring, searching for caterpillars, finding a perfect spot to build a fort with Daddy and pretending to drive the boat.¬† They love campfires at home, but cooking all our meals over the fire was so fun for them.¬† Alexa thought that was her favourite part of camping ūüôā¬† We got to stay up late eating s’mores, have story time beside the campfire, have chips and PB&J at random times, go for bear hunts in the bushes and swim in the beautiful, pure waters of Georgian Bay.¬† The girls slept great in the tent, bundled up in their fuzzy onesies and sleeping bags.¬† Our tent was on a bit of a hill and Alexa ended up at Daddy’s feet by morning, curled up in a little ball somewhere in the fluffy depths of her sleeping bag.¬† We all had fun doing dishes in the lake, though an awful lot of dishsoap seemed to disappear over the weekend with two small pairs of hands squirting!¬† Akeisha got to help Daddy drive the boat and practise her lefts and rights ūüôā¬† Both girls hate porta-potties, so this makeshift toilet in the bushes with spider webs just under the rim and an awful stench was not the best experience!¬† Every time we had to take a trip there we’d talk about being brave all the way there and then sing songs to distract us while we got the job done…this is something I started awhile ago at a park where we needed to use the portable toilet.¬† It works! ūüôā

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Mommy and Daddy?¬† Well…we just relaxed in the sun and water, enjoying our beautiful daughters ‚̧

The girls are already anxious to go again…and so am I.¬† It’s the best thing in the world for a family trying to spend lots of time together and shut out the rest of the world.¬† I’m not hard core enough to be able to head out tenting for a week, but a weekend is perfect.¬† Easy, fun and FREE vacation ūüôā

AF

 

This Little Life of Mine…

This week has been so good ūüôā

I am just¬†so enjoying each day I have with my girls and it feels like we’re hitting a nice little groove…which I will try not to expect to last too long!¬† Last week felt a bit bumpy and I just felt the Grumpy Mama Syndrome setting in, which is the last thing any of us need these days.¬† So this week I was determined to be positive, say yes when I can, keep things light and just enjoy my daughters.¬† The pay off has been awesome! ūüôā

Monday we just enjoyed being together after a busy weekend.  Hung out at home, cleaned up the house a bit so we felt sane again and ran a few errands.

Tuesday we went strawberry picking with some great friends of ours.¬† It rained a bit on us, but that was ok.¬† It was wonderful to spend time with friends again, and since these particular friends include kids ages 4 and 6, the girls had a great time.¬† By the time we made it home it was pouring rain and the house felt cool and damp, so we all ended up in jammies making strawberry pie for dinner.¬† On my way home from our friends I had noticed Pizza Hut’s sign…Tuesdays kids eat free…and we couldn’t quite pass that up on a rainy day ūüôā¬† So we ate pizza for dinner and even managed to squeeze in biking up and down the street with Alexis from across the street.¬†¬†Akeisha and Alexa love to bike, especially with Alexis, and I am so proud of how¬†well they’re doing!¬† Akeisha loves to zoom up and down the street, showing off her tricks to us.¬† Alexa is gaining confidence each day and making lots of progress, despite the hard work it is¬†for her little legs to pump those pedals.¬† She’s so proud that she can now bike down our big hill!¬†¬†The girls also had fun watching Alexis¬†try out her¬†four¬†wheeler-turned-two wheeler on Tuesday night.¬†¬†She had been saying for about a week to Kirby, me and her Mommy and Daddy that she was ready for her training wheels to come off!¬† So Tuesday night ended up being the big night, and off she went!¬†¬†The first few rides were rough, but in no time she got the hang¬†of it and by today she’s a pro ūüôā¬†¬†This is what I love about¬†our¬†neighbourhood…the whole street felt like it was lit up as the kids zoomed up and down shouting out “Look at me!”¬†and parents and neighbours waved and smiled and clapped.

Wednesday was¬†the day for grocery shopping,¬†making strawberry¬†jam, and some laundry since it was nice and my dryer is broken ūüė¶¬† I just have to insert here that I LOVE strawberry jam!¬† I love it on toast, muffins and icecream ūüôā¬†¬†My girls now love it, too, and even though it is super unhealthy because it’s loaded with sugar we eat it almost every day.¬† Alexa loves PB+J…on toast or a wrap, especially with this jam!¬† It is the recipe off the Certo¬†package, which my Mom used when I was a kid.¬† I just¬†can’t quite imagine anything better!¬† Yesterday I realized there is also a recipe on their for Strawberry-Banana Jam, and since I had¬†bananas I tried a bit of that too.¬† Thinking that is going to be super yummy as well, though I haven’t actually tried it¬†yet.¬†¬†Anyway, back to Wednesday.

Early afternoon Alexis wandered over, as she does most days, and she and Akeisha got creative making a fort in the bushes!¬† Copying Franklin’s Secret Clubhouse,¬†I agreed to sacrifice an old sheet and they strung it up over their little house.¬† All afternoon they blazed¬†trails, collected¬†treasures and cared for their worms and caterpillars in their little fort.¬† I love seeing kids¬†use their imaginations to play this way, so I¬†was delighted¬†ūüôā¬† They had hot chocolate…yes, in July…made¬†signs and got¬†covered in¬†mud and sand.¬† Alexa joined¬†in the fun a bit, but was a little less enthralled with tromping through the bushes.¬†¬†Akeisha was so excited, it was all she could talk about all evening.

Today¬†we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and¬†scheming¬†about our camping trip this weekend.¬† As long as the weather cooperates we plan to spend the weekend roughing it on one of the many crown land islands on beautiful Georgian Bay.¬† If it rains…well…I guess we can always head out early, since it’s so close.¬† FREE, FUN and CLOSE BY!¬† Love¬†living here in the summertime ūüôā¬† We’ll see how tenting treats us and what kind of adventures we can come home with on Sunday.¬† This morning¬†Akeisha woke up early and went straight out to her fort, bundled up in her housecoat and two coats over top of her¬†pajamas!¬† LOL.¬† So far she has eaten breakfast (her toast, milk and banana) and lunch (KD) out there.¬† Alexa cautiously joined the fun a bit later, but was a little worried there would be bears!¬† She came in¬†sniffling to tell me that Akeisha was out bear hunting with her water gun¬†but she was afraid she would get “attackled!”¬† I reassured her that, though there are bears around here, they would stay far away from noisy children ūüôā¬† She still has not ventured back there much, however.¬† I guess the mud, sticks and mosquitoes don’t draw her quite as much.

It is all the wonderfully ordinary moments that I am just loving this week.¬† Dirty feet, sticky hands and messy faces.¬† My bathroom floor covered in bubbles from a little girl’s messy bath; what feels like thousands of ketchup stained purple and pink shirts in my laundry; tousled auburn hair against my cheek every morning on top of a sleepy smile.¬† I guess it’s because that’s what motherhood looks like.¬† KD on the floor, caterpillars on the deck, little arms and legs covered with scabs and bruises, shoes inside the door and markers and stickers everywhere.¬† Right now there’s a little girl sitting in my lap with hair that smells like mosquito repellent.¬† There’s another little girl dashing in the door giggling about something.¬† It’s time for me to go and give them some attention, but I hope this gives you a peek into our lives these days ūüôā

The other¬†night the girls were dancing around the living room¬†and snuggling with Daddy while I played the piano.¬† Since we’d just been biking I thought of the song “You Can Let Go.”¬† I started singing it, but even though I’d sung it a thousand times before I only got a few phrases in and felt my throat closing up.¬† For the first time I thought about these two little girls someday growing up and walking down the isle beside my husband.¬† Because of that, I want to treasure every moment.¬† Too soon they won’t be little girls anymore tugging at my hands and holding up their treasures for me to see.¬† There is so much to do, and so little time…so one day, one moment at a time we will treasure this little life we have.

YOU CAN LET GO

By Crystal Shawanda

Wind blowing on my face
Sidewalk flying beneath my bike
A five year old’s first taste
Of what freedom’s really like

He was running right beside me
His hand holding on the seat
I took a deep breath and hollered
As I headed for the street

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

I was standing at the altar
Between the two loves of my life
To one, I’ve been a daughter
To one, I soon would be a wife

When the preacher asked
“Who gives this woman?”
Daddy’s eyes filled up with tears
He kept holding tightly to my arm
‘Til I whispered in his ear

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still feels a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

It was killing me to see the strongest man I ever knew
Wasting away to nothing in that hospital room
You know he’s only hanging on for you

That’s what the night nurse said
My voice and heart were breaking
As I crawled up in his bed and said

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Your little girl is ready to do this on my own
It’s gonna be a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

Hope you all have a super weekend!¬† I’ll let you know how the camping goes ūüôā

AF

 

2+2=4

And then suddenly we were 4!

By day #13 we are struggling, an hour¬†or moment at a time, to create our new normal together.¬† Sometimes it feels¬†like we take five steps backwards to get forward an inch…but I know that we are¬†moving forward.

Every day reality sets in a little more…that we are in this together now…and that comes out in all kinds of colourful ways!

Sometimes it’s refreshing and endearing.

Other times it’s just plain frustrating or painful.

But it’s without a doubt, worth every second.¬†¬†In those moments when I stop and look around at my family, I am overwhelmed by the rush of love and joy I feel.¬† I love those doll clothes spread all over the house.¬† I love those off key voices singing¬†at the top of their lungs.¬† I love those giggles¬†rolling all over the lawn and the sweet scent of bubbles in the bathroom.¬† I love those big blue eyes gazing up at me asking¬†questions and the spontaneous hugs¬†that nearly knock me off my feet ūüôā

Some people¬†wonder if it bothers me that I have missed so many firsts in my daughters’ lives…

but there are so many firsts¬†I am celebrating these days that in a ‘normal’ family would fly by unnoticed or seem insignificant.

The first time we make cookies together,

go swimming,

go to the grocery store

or walk to the park.

The first time a sleepy little body curls up next to mine in the morning,

the first time I get asked to comb that soft, fine hair.

The first bedtime story,

goodnight kiss

and the sound of soft snoring in the room next door.

The first “I love you”…the kind that you know is an honest expression of a little girl’s adoration for you.

The first time we go a whole day hearing “Mommy” and “Daddy” instead of Alicia and Kirby…I’m still looking forward to that one.

Alongside all the firsts, I am amazed at the resilience and strength of these young hearts.¬† We are far from perfect, yet they are more than willing to extend grace to us again and again.¬† I do not deserve the adoration and genuine love I keep receiving each and every day from my daughters.¬† No matter how grumpy or tired I am, they are always happy to see me.¬† They are always eager for more attention and affection, and they forgive easily.¬† It is humbling to be the second, not first, to apologize after a hard day with my 5 year old.¬† They have let me into their worlds and hearts despite the vulnerability they feel.¬†¬†To my daughters, I am beautiful and brave and wise…even though I am¬†fumbling through each day.

“Mommy, you’re beautiful.”

“Mommy, I love you¬†more than the bubbles in my bathtub!”

“Mommy,¬†I made this for you!”

“Mommy, will you¬†rub my back?”

“Mommy, I want to stay with you forever!”

Their Daddy, of course, gets the other glorious half of this adoration, acceptance and loyalty.¬† I love to hear…”When will Daddy be home?!?¬† He’s taking forever!¬† I miss him!”

It is Project Attachment.¬† Just like that newborn baby, every little moment strengthens that bond of love.¬† Despite our daughters being 7 and 5, we look for those little ways we can meet their needs and teach them to trust and rely on us.¬† Tying shoes, washing hair, singing, snuggling and playing together are tools to build our family.¬† We have to prove we are worthy of the trust they’ve tentatively placed in our hands.¬† When there’s been a bad dream, a tantrum,¬†they’re feeling homesick, or they’re scared to get back on that bike…those are all chances for us to prove that we will be reliable.¬† We will keep them safe.¬† We will love them no matter what.

Trying to build this new relationship helps me realize how gracious my heavenly Father is to me.¬† Despite all the evidence I have of His faithfulness and love for me, I test and try and pull back in fear.¬† I hurt Him so many times by denying His love and guidance.¬† I push against the arms that so desperately want to hold me.¬† I struggle through the deep waters on my own, refusing to call for help.¬† Yet He is still there.¬† He never gives up on me or decides it’s just too hard.

Thankyou, Jesus!

If I can mirror even a tiny fragment of that love to my girls, it will create something beautiful.

Life is far from easy right now, but it’s rich and wonderful and right.

We are not alone.

AF

 

Our Beautiful, Diverse Family

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the different spiritual gifts and talents possessed by my brothers and sisters in Christ.

About valuing other people’s passions.

About seeing truth in another’s experience and validating that, even if I don’t understand it.

About having confidence in other people’s spiritual lives…choosing to lay aside my own perspective of situations and¬†dwelling on the¬†characteristics of that person¬†that¬†I know to be¬†true, noble and lovely.

About letting my own experience, not another’s, influence my relationships.

I know that true love is not blind.

I know that trusting does not mean ignoring our bent toward sinfulness as humans.

I know that love and truth are sometimes painful.

But still…

What if I just chose to be less cynical?

What if¬†I were humble enough to realize there is much¬†I don’t yet understand; much¬†I have never experienced.

What¬†if I were willing to listen and speak honestly, and to say “I don’t know,” sometimes?

What if I chose to only allow thoughts inside my mind that I could in good conscience voice aloud to the ones they include?

How much less would I struggle with anger, bitterness and insecurity?

I am a firm believer that God does not have the same spiritual journey laid out in the same sequential order for each and every one of His children.¬† We do not all learn the same lessons.¬† We do not all learn them in the same way.¬† We do not all learn them in the same timing.¬† Our differing experiences both past and present play a large role in shaping where God takes us and how He¬†chooses to take us there.¬† We do not all share the same sins…or as we prefer to¬†call them…weaknesses.¬† I struggle with pride and anger.¬† You struggle with envy and cynicism.¬† I¬†fight daily against immorality and lust.¬† You battle dishonesty and materialism.¬† In God’s eyes…our sins are not on the levels we’ve conjured up here on earth.¬† My lies are as black as your murder.¬† My pornography and your overindulgence are equally in need of repentence, cleansing and forgiveness.

Some of us have walked some very dark and lonely paths, with memories and experiences others don’t like to see held to the glaring light.¬†They are much too hard to explain.¬† We feel alone in the chaotic aftermath of realities such as¬†sexual abuse,¬†betrayed marriages, homosexuality, mental illness or addictions.¬† It is uncomfortable for¬†others to see our questions.¬† It is unnerving to face the truth of our existence and have nowhere to run or hide.¬† It is frightening to have to face the fact that as Christians, we are not spared from Satan’s destructive work and that indeed…innocents suffer at the hands of¬†the sinful.¬† That God works in ways that seem very wrong at first glance.¬†¬†It is hard for us to trust, and just surviving each day is a minefield experience.¬† Our¬†faith is so fragile¬†we can almost see it beginning to whither and die at the first¬†sense of a¬†breeze.

Some of us have spent much time in the light.¬† We’ve been sheltered and protected from the¬†darker side of our adversary, but¬†he comes to us in the form of an angel.¬† Subtle.¬† Soft.¬† Seductive.¬† Deadly.¬† We are fearfully self righteous¬†and staunch in our¬†convictions.¬†¬†We see it all in black and white, while we¬†cover our sins with masks of a thousand layers and colours.¬†¬†We are so far from authenticity that even¬†we cannot see past the first three layers.¬†¬†It is so easy to look down one day¬†and find, to our dismay, that our hands are¬†caked with¬†mud.¬† We are devastated at the maze¬†we find ourselves in.¬†¬†Clothed in all the right armour, we¬†find we have no idea how to use¬†it!¬†¬†It is such a cruel awakening to¬†fall into the reality of our own sinful existence.¬† Materialism, greed, anger, pride, selfishness.

Obviously, these are both very bleak pictures…and I¬†have no intention of even attempting to cover all the bases.¬† Please do not read these as labels or as reprimands.¬†¬†They are simply meant to¬†illustrate how vastly different we can be, in this diverse family of ours.¬† It is beautifully colourful, yet frustratingly complex.¬†¬†Our own experiences and perspectives are so large.¬† It is very hard to see¬†through another’s eyes…especially when we cannot even comprehend what it might feel like to be¬†in their shoes.

Some of us thrive on ministering outside of the church walls; reaching out to the lost and pouring out our time and resources for the ones we love who are outside the fold.¬†¬†We see daily the intensity of the needs around us, and ache with the weight of¬†their burdens.¬† We are intuitive, passionate, creative and motivated.¬†¬†Some days we feel all alone and wonder why others seem¬†not¬†to notice or care that the harvest is so great and the workers are so few.¬†¬†Our lives are filled with people of many shapes and colours.¬† They are children in our arms with skinned knees and broken hearts.¬†¬†They are bruised and¬†dark eyed¬†women on the other side of our smiles.¬†¬†Our houses are¬†filled with sounds and smells not our own.¬† Our grocery money disappears¬†and we can’t quite remember whom it fed.¬† This is a rich and blessed existence.

Others of us are focused on being the hands and feet of Christ to our brothers and sisters inside the body we love.¬† We are keenly sensitive to the glint of a tear, the stooped shoulders and the tight budget.¬† We have been so blessed by the family we love, and we pour out our¬†energy to bless in return.¬† We are arms holding the grieving and letting their sobs become our own.¬† We are eager, smiling¬†hands to the weary¬†Mommy of 4.¬† We are the card, the email, the phone call…just because we can and we care.¬† We are the diligent, faithful Sunday¬†School teacher…willing to say yes the third year in a row.¬† We are zealous in God’s¬†Word¬†and marvelling at¬†the awesomeness of His presence.¬† We are¬†consistently present and available to¬†maintain and strengthen the Kingdom of God.

So tell me…which is more important?

Which is most needed?

I think we all know that we need this diversity.  We need this differing of gifts and experiences.  We need each other!  But the resulting reality of these differences is confusing.  It is misunderstanding, conflict and pain.  It is a crazy cycle of hurt, disappointment, disrespect and resentment.

Why? 

Is it really so hard to extend grace to each other?

Is it really so hard to understand that we are meant to be this way?¬† Meant to be different?¬† Meant to serve in different ways?¬† Meant to experience our Saviour’s love and grace in different ways?¬† Meant to be healed, restored and sanctified in varying methods planned carefully by our Creator.

I don’t know.

I don’t know why we insist on chasing others down our own spiritual pathway, determined to see them understand what God has taught us long ago, while ignoring the progress of their own journey.¬† I don’t understand what makes us so arrogantly sure that we are right, that we see things from our Father’s perspective…therefore concluding that the other person does not.¬† I don’t know how we can claim love and yet lack any confidence when differences arise that God can and will do His work in others’ hearts…very likely in a much different way than I would plan and very often without my assistance.

I am not talking about issues that are clearly laid out in scripture…but please be careful what you say is clearly laid out in scripture!¬† There may be more gray areas than you’ve thought.¬† I challenge you to constantly question…is this an issue that makes a difference in salvation?¬† And be ok with admitting that sometimes we don’t know and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I know as I write this that this is a hard issue.

I know, but I don’t understand.

I am unwilling to believe we cannot be better than this as God’s people.

We have been offered so much grace.

Please insert here that I am the chief of sinners! 

I criticize.

I analyze.

I hurt, I cut, I kick down and destroy.

I am ashamed of the ways I have spoken and the thoughts that I have entertained.

I am proud, self righteous and selfish.

But I want to do better.  I need to be more than this!

I want to fully understand that Jesus came to me before I was all cleaned up and continues to come to me in my dirty, repulsive state so that I can understand that my fellow soldiers are experiencing the same daily surrender.¬† It is not my job to clean them up!¬† It is not my job to point out all that has not been done yet…lest Jesus Christ would reject me for all the lessons I have not yet learned!¬† What a stench I still am to¬†my¬†perfect Saviour!¬† Yet He loves me, He chooses to use me in His¬†kingdom and He gently leads me along on the path He’s planned.¬† I can walk with them on the journey, and dare to enter into their struggles.¬† I can be honest about my¬†own state of¬†wretchedness.¬† I can¬†bring them to Jesus and bring them to¬†Truth, but I cannot be their Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it will hurt, and it will mean leaving myself vulnerable so that I can understand their pain.¬† It will mean ferociously tearing down the walls guarding my heart, despite Satan’s screaming, to open myself to pure, honest relationships.¬† Am I willing to do this?

I don’t know.

But I know that I am tired of pretending to be perfect.

I know I am tired of holding inside the words I know are true, honest, pure…tired of refraining from fighting for what is right, though others may misunderstand.

I am tired of having my defenses so high I cannot simply rejoice with those that rejoice and grieve with those that grieve.

I am tired of feeling like I need to figure it all out, when it’s obvious it’s beyond what I can possibly understand.

I am tired of teaching my little ones to share, to be kind, to be gentle…while I devastate, cut down and drown others in doubt.

What happened to doing to others as I would have them do to me?

What happened to seeing the best in people?

What happened to saying I’m sorry?

It sure gets harder as you get older, doesn’t it?¬† Or maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten that it’s just that SIMPLE.

Smiling.

Forgiving.

Talking nicely.

Apologizing.

Sharing.

Maybe they’re right after all…everything you really need to know you learn in Kindergarten ūüôā

I’m sorry if this post ruffles your spirit.¬† It kind of does mine, too.¬† Admittedly I am frustrated often, which really makes me so ill equipped to even speak to this issue.¬† And who knows…I may be way off, right?¬† There’s a lot I don’t know.¬† There’s a lot I’ve never experienced.

One thing I am thankful for is that God never changes, and His Word is powerful.  He holds all the answers to all my questions, and with His Presence and power in my heart I CAN make daily, wise choices to be like Him every single day.

AF