Why we let the yellow bus go right on by. . .

As I write this, it’s 8:17 am, and the kids are still sleeping. We have had a super busy few days: bedtimes have been pushed back, they’ve been playing outside, Daddy was home for his days off, and there is just a physical need for more rest. I have enjoyed a lazy coffee this morning, watching the sun rise after my handsome hubby went off to work. I can either wake the kids up and continue on with our schedule for the day, or I can indulge them, and let them catch up on some zzzz’s.

I get to choose.

That’s my favourite part. Me, as the God-ordained mother of these precious little ones, gets to choose how our days will flow, where we will expend our energy, where we will invest our time,  and how slow or how fast we will learn our lessons. Some, we learn quickly; some, we need to invest hours and days until we are completely satiated.

So why is this our family’s choice- to keep our children at home? The reasons are probably not what you think.

  1. TIME: The average school day, plus busing is over seven hours. Once you add in getting ready for school, and meals- and never mind extra curricular activities- most of their day; and in essence, their year, would be spent with other people. They would spend most of their time with children in the same age group, and with a grown up who I have only met in cursory circumstances. My handsome hubby is off of work on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, so we take Monday off instead of Saturday. We can adapt “school” based on our life. When we had a trailer, we could pick up and go whenever we wanted; either taking school with us, or knowing we were ahead in our books anyways. We are usually done our lessons in April or May, this year with a new baby and a myriad of life and family circumstances, we won’t be done until June. I don’t mind, this means we were able to take time off when we needed it.
  2. EDUCATION: If you read through most public school text books, it is not the same as it used to be. Many of my friends are teachers (and I want to be one, if life allows me to go back to school!) and yet they homeschool for this reason. I remember reading a few good literary novels a year, whereas we can read triple this amount at home. There is no limit on how long we cover a topic, we can go deeper and deeper until we’ve felt that we have ourselves experienced periods in history. We can study places until we feel like we’ve lived there. Once they understand math concepts, we review often and periodically, but we don’t waste hours doing the same things over and over again- we go further. If we are stuck on something, like the multiplication facts (x7 and x8!!!) we camp there until it’s understood and a reflex. I don’t care if they can guess or give the right answer on a test, I want them to be able to tell me in their own words why something is the right or wrong answer, and apply it within their life.
  3. LIFE: We can learn how to cook nutritious and frugal meals together, how to care for our home and all the work it entails. If their days were spent outside of the home, they would know more about “playground rules” than how to take care of a baby; more about surviving through long days indoors than how to take advantage of beautiful weather. I want to live real life with our children.We love making meals to help people recovering from illnesses and hard times. We have gone through stints at the local “Wise People’s House” (read: senior’s center) where we go visit. I’m thankful that I can take them with me to funerals and grocery stores, government buildings and banks.
  4. JOB SATISFACTION: I say this tongue in cheek. Absolutely, homeschooling is hard work, and does involve a degree of sacrifice, but I am so thankful that I have received the gift of watching two very high energy boys learn to read. When the light goes on in their eyes, and they start reading books of their own choosing, there is nothing like that feeling. In my opinion, everything they learn is by the grace of God- I sure don’t feel very patient some days! But I am so thankful that I get to be there as they learn  and grow, and that I’m not on the sideline, hearing it from someone else.
  5. RELATIONSHIP: I love watching our children take care of each other when they are sick, and choosing to play together. They are the best of friends, but they certainly fight. I can teach them (over and over and over and over and over) how to resolve conflicts and live peacefully. They don’t just get to decide to not be friends with each other. They must live together, so they have to find ways to get along. I am able to equip them with words and tools (over and over and over and over and over). I can make sure that the relationships with each other are being nurtured, and us parents can have a strong bond with them, because of the sheer amount of time we spend together. There is nothing like stopping a spelling test to talk about friends that have died, or chatting over lunch about funny times. We make so many memories together.
  6. DISCIPLESHIP: Yep, I went there, and I know a lot of people do not have the same calling as we do. I believe that spending these long years of short days is so important as we raise our children. I want them to learn our faith along with us. I want to fulfill Deuteronomy where it says to “teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I don’t believe I can successfully disciple our children when the majority of their life is somewhere else. If that is offensive, please hear that my intent is not to judge or injure, I am just following in obedience to what I think is right. 

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We do not homeschool because of:

  1. Fear- I am not afraid of bathrooms (and who is in there), school shootings or bullying. I am thankful that it’s not really an issue, but I believe God takes care of our children, wherever they are. If they have to go through trials and hard times, I will rest in knowing He has a good plan for our children.
  2. Statistics- at first I added this to the reason why we live this way, but I changed my mind as I don’t believe any of them are a marker to a successful life, in and of itself. But, for the record, homeschooled kids make more money, seek higher education, are more involved with social and civic organizations and duties, and are less likely to be on government assistance than their public schooled peers. In a public school setting, middle to higher income children always do better on test scores- it’s just a statistical fact. However, home educated children all average higher than public school peers, regardless of their family’s income (which is interesting, because more homeschooling families live on the “smaller side” of family income- usually but not always, they’re a one income family, and they usually, but not always, have more children.) Here’s some great resources, if you care about this type of thing. I found it interesting, but this isn’t our primary motivation. Homeschooling in Canada has a 40 year history (unless you count the thousands of years before public schools were established in the 19th century).

If any of this seems like a blast or an affront against the public school system, please understand my heart. I am so thankful that the system is there, for those who choose to use it. I have no issue with our family tax dollars supporting something we don’t use. If I could allocate more to schools and less to other things that our government spends money on, I would! I am just sharing our primary motivations to provide another viewpoint, and to show that there are other options for raising children. If I can inspire someone else to think long and hard before making a decision in their children’s education, rather than just going with the flow of life, then I want to do so! If you choose to send your children to school, that’s absolutely wonderful for you. Just know, that in the end, it’s a choice, and you alone as the parent get to make it.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

May you learn lots today, wherever you go.

Elijah- God is Jehovah

Every pregnancy is exciting; all new life is to be celebrated. But our Elijah James, well, I’m just so darn excited.

His labour sucked. Sorry if that sounds crude, but it was super intense and pretty fast and I was so afraid and just couldn’t get my head in the game. But while the contractions left something to be desired, I pushed him out in under a minute. May not be material for a resumé, but I am proud nonetheless. I went from out-of-control pain and agony to the most complete and utter elation and joy in one life-changing moment.

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He was born on Dec. 1, and I still catch my breath when I look in his eyes. He is my rainbow baby. He was born after the one we lost. After your baby dies, no matter how small,  your happy cloud is popped. You know that life can change, life is fleeting, and that pain exists in this world.

And oh, how that was so evident in his nine months in my tummy.

A friend I love to pieces also lost her baby. She found out while she was carrying him that he had Trisomy 18; he had many challenges that she couldn’t change, or fix, or take away for him. And that’s when I saw the hypocrisy of our medical system and society: if you were in a car accident and there was only a 25% chance of being saved, doctors would tirelessly and heroically work to save you. However, if you haven’t been born yet, they call it a “an incompatibility to life.” Which, if you think life begins at conception, is ridiculous. You’re either alive, or you’re not. This precious baby, Eli, was alive. He was growing, moving and living inside her body. Pro-life took on a whole new meaning as I watched her and her hubby live out their beliefs. They had to fight the doctors and the system to make sure that their baby, after he was born, would have the same access to health care as someone 5, 10 or 15 years old. Watching it all unfold, we were so challenged by their faith.

After gearing up for a fight and finding people all over North America to support them, their precious baby Eli was born, and then went to be with Jesus soon after. It was a relatively short life, but he touched so many people, including our family. We have named our baby Elijah to honour Eli, and what he’s taught us about life.

Soon after baby Eli went home, my precious Oma left us. It was such a shock to me. I didn’t see her when she was sick, so it was easy to believe everything was exaggerated and we would all laugh about it later. I was always close to her- she used to babysit me when I was little and my mom worked, and then she would stay here in our home before we had kids for a few days each visit. With every new baby, and every funny story she was the first person I would call. I can still hear her voice, feel her hugs, and smell her Listerine. I miss her so badly.

And not long after we got home from Oma’s funeral, we lost three little girls that meant the world to our family. It was horribly and tragically unexpected. Our children have dreams about them and ask questions that I can’t answer. Their parents and brother are on my heart and mind every hour. It’s a pain that hasn’t dimmed.

So what do we take from this? How do we go on and live in such a painful world? I haven’t even taken into account societal issues- modern day slavery, refugees, governmental tyranny. How do we bring hope to this world?

It’s easy- hope was brought. Hope was given. And it didn’t come in an answer everyone expected; it wasn’t a huge symbol of God’s mighty hand and His strength.

It was a baby.

It changed everything.

And now 2,000 years later, a very normal, completely unDivine human baby has changed my little life. He probably won’t change the world, and that’s absolutely fine.

He changed mine.

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Date Night #2

A couple years ago, I told about Date Night, and how it really added some fun to our marriage, and our home. I heard a LOT of feedback, and it sounds like a bunch of people started adding it in their homes also. Well, now it’s bigger than ever (actually, since my handsome hubby’s new job, we haven’t instituted our own date night! Note to self: schedule again.)

Like every good thing we do, I got the idea from someone else. I tried to track down the blog, but I cant find it now. If you’ve seen it, let me know. I would love to link to it, so everyone can read it. I also don’t know if we do it the same as they do, and I’d love to get some more ideas.

So, what’s the diff?

This Date Night, is for the kids. Well, precisely, one kid. On the anniversary of their birthday each month, that child gets to stay up an hour later. It sounds like no big deal, but to them, it is. They count down to it within a week of their last one.

What do we do?

Well, whatever they want to. The Clever One likes to do science experiments. The Pretty One likes to watch a “Grown Up” show (we’ve settled on Reba. She laughs with the laugh track, without fail.) Usually Uno is involved, or charades. Pretty much whatever we can fit into an hour (and they have planned it for a month!) I also try to have a special snack- hot chocolate, favourite food, etc. At the end of the hour, we pray a blessing over them, and pray for anything that they bring up through conversation.

Why do they love it?

They have Daddy and Mommy all to themselves, and they get to stay up late while their poor siblings have to trudge off to bed. That in itself IS AWESOME. My handsome hubby and I also genuinely try to do whatever they want. There is something intensely exhausting about hunting up Borax and food colouring (and loooots of paper towels) but within that hour, the sky is the limit.

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Why do we love it?

We get to see new parts of the kids in full view. The Pretty One wanted to help with kitchen renovations, so we got the girl some tools and she worked with Daddy. The One with The Role showed me some of his favourite toy videos on YouTube. It was like him letting us in to a part of his world. They open up, and talk to us about things that might not come up during the day. There is nothing I love more than snuggling on the couch with my HH as we pray over our children. Blessing their gifts, their talents, their relationships, their futures, their friendships, their struggles. That time is priceless to me. Sometimes they pray for us in return, and their words to Jesus just melt my heart.

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Some advice:

Stick to a limit. If the night goes super late, not only will they expect that each time, but you will be exhausted and not likely to keep it up. Commitment is key: the nights have gotten better and better each month. Our children go to bed at 7:00 pm, which means that a few times a month, one child goes down at 8. It still gives us downtime and a good night’s sleep, and it doesn’t leave us with exhausted kids in the morning. We always try to DO STUFF BIG, sometimes, doing something little and being consistent is way better.

How do you make your kids feel special? What traditions do you hold dear, and what do you want to start? I’d love to hear from you!

Venturing Out With Children- A How-To Guide

The first time I left the home, alone, when our third child was born was terrific- because it was horridly awful, and set the bar low for what a good experience would be.

My beautiful mother in law, who had been SO helpful, boarded a jet plane and left me in the city, two hours from our home. Technically, she was with me for the first part of our excursion, so it was really only the return trip that was done independently. Navigate the stroller through the airport, through the parking garage, load ’em up, and drive two hours home. Sounds pretty simple! And it was. The biggest one held on properly to the stroller, which was carrying the two year old and newborn. We got to the car, I buckled them in (and laughed because now they couldn’t move) and started on the drive. I blared their favourite music, we got on the highway, we can DO THIS! Look at me go!

Until one had to go to the bathroom.

In all fairness, he was three and a half. For SURE he had to go the bathroom, his bladder was the size of a grape on the best of days.

We stopped at a Tim Horton’s, and my whole universe fell apart.

I hefted the car seat in one hand, which is always awkward, and encouraged the two boys to hold each other’s hand, and walk with me inside. Well, of course, the two year old saw the donuts and wanted to choose one. He needed to wait, because his brother REALLY had to go to the bathroom. I raised my voice a little too quick- he could hear my desperation- while I’m trying to balance the carseat, diaper bag and my purse (a combined total of 112 pounds) and he broke. Loudly. Started screaming, laying on the floor. I had no way of picking him, so I tried to pull his hand. This is in the middle of the line, people walking around me to get to the counter. The biggest one, trying to push open the bathroom door, starts crying, “I HAVE TO PEE NOW!!!!” I finally manage to pick up the screamer, the baby in her carseat, the diaper bag and my purse, and rush to the bathroom to help the Clever One.

We went to the bathroom, I changed both of the littles’ diapers. Took a breath. Regained my cool (mostly waited for all the customers that witnessed the spectacle to leave.)

Back into the store, I had to nurse the baby- maybe we could all have a snack together. What a treat!

Well, now a tour bus emptied into the store. The line up was pretty long, and I was caught in the middle. I could no longer carry the baby seat, the purse and the diaper bag. My arms were shaking, my back hurt. I had the boys sit at a table seven feet away, and put the car seat on the table so when I looked back I could see our precious little girl, less than two weeks old, embarking on her first all-Canadian visit to Tim’s. I ordered our snacks, thanked the good Lord I didn’t have to wait in line after all these people, and started walking back.

With the wrong donut.

Well, if I thought the display in line was humiliating, this one was enough to switch provinces. He crashed to the dirty floor, bumping the table. The car seat FELL TO THE GROUND. The whole restaurant collectively gasped/screamed/shouted in a foreign language. There was pointing. There were faces. Thankfully, I had buckled her in, so she was unharmed, but of course, the other people didn’t know this. I grabbed the food, grabbed the kids, and with superhuman strength carried/dragged everything to the safety of our car where I fed the baby and cried. Of course, the car was parked facing the restaurant, so I could still see everyone pointing, and they could see my crying.

So.

How do you leave the house with more than one child?

1. Safety first.

Hands must be held in the parking lot, at all times. If they let go- back to the car to try again. If they won’t stay with you in the mall or at the zoo, they must be in a stroller or grocery cart. I never used the harness type things, but I respect the fact that they can be a necessity at times. Do what you have to do, crying or not. Freedom is earned. If one goes to the bathroom, everyone goes to the bathroom. The car gets parked if seatbelts or car seat buckles are undone. Know that everything will take longer- try not to be in a rush. If you can train your kids at a young age to stay with you, you will save time later. Talk in the car about what happens if you get separated.

2. What does the situation call for? What are the children’s capabilities?

Determine how long the event or outing will be. Will it overlap with a scheduled snack time or meal? Is it a quiet ordeal (like a funeral) or will noise be okay? Plan accordingly:

*I do not bring snacks unless it’s a normal snack time. We eat at home- no spills, no I-want-something-different- and honestly, it’s a pain to have to pack around either a bunch of containers, or a bunch of baggies. I have enough getting out the door without having to pack a variety of snacks I think they will like. Sometimes, we’ll have a snack in the car before we leave, or right before we get there. Unless it’s something over two hours, I don’t pack snacks. It’s more of a pain then it’s worth, in my opinion. And candy doesn’t work. Don’t do it. They’ll just want/cry for more.

*Pack appropriate activities.

Books, dinky cars, Little People (the people and a couple animals), colouring books with special crayons- all of these work well for long things-grads, retreats, ceremonies, etc. Then, give out the activities ONE AT A TIME. Do not give all the books at once. Nor all the toys. Kids are way better occupied when they have one thing to focus on. When they are done, have them pick it up and switch it out- also keeps the mess down.

*Involve them.

Make sure they can see what’s going on. Talk to them about it (or whisper, depending).

*Know your children, and what they can do.

Every child is different. If it’s something short, like a wedding, often they will be okay just watching what’s going on, and toys/books will just be a distraction. If it’s something longer, and past their attention levels, give them the activities. Don’t frustrate them by expecting more than they can do. 

*Take a walk/bathroom break when needed.

Honestly, probably every thirty minutes, depending on the event or the day. Use these times to talk about what’s going on, how much is left.

3. Take care of necessities first.

Always go to the bathroom before ordering or getting in line, or anything that requires you to stay in one place. And you, too! Be comfortable. Make sure diapers are clean. There is nothing worse than ordering your food, sitting down at a table, and then realizing you have to pack everyone up to go to the bathroom. This will still happen despite your best intentions- but it will happen more if you don’t build in these breaks. Make sure everyone has eaten, babies have been fed. This is important. If you try to brush it off, you will pay. Be willing to take a break from the graduation and take everyone to the bathroom.

4. Tell the children exactly what’s expected.

From the time they are born, they can understand SO much. And if they are still super little and don’t understand, this gives you practice on talking to yourself (a needed Mom skill). Tell them, chronologically, what will happen- which stores you are going to, how they must behave, how long you think it will take. How would you feel if you were tossed in a seat, driven somewhere (rear facing, no less!) and then forced to sit quietly for an hour? We call that kidnapping. Tell them what’s going on, who’s getting married, everything you can think of. Things to look for, symbols they may see. Seriously, tell them bananas are on sale- when they see the sign in the store, they will be excited!

5. Encourage! Don’t Bribe. 

Do not point out the negatives. Deal with those things later when you talk about it at home. When you are out, focus on the positive. If they feel like “they can’t get it right,” they will stop trying completely. Don’t bribe. Ever. That’s just manipulation so that you can get what you want. Point out or whisper how proud you are, how thankful you are, how much fun you’re having. Try not to “shhh”, but whisper in their ears and model what’s expected. The only negative things that should be pointed out are safety issues. Make stuff fun! This goes hand in hand with. . . .

6. Never let them see you sweat.

If you are starting to lose your cool, how can you expect your kids to have self control? Try to stay patient, kind and encouraging NO MATTER how they are behaving. You can’t control your kids- you can only control yourself.

7. DO NOT CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY/THINK.

Give up. Kids are kids. Adults are adults. Everyone has bad days. It is NOT a reflection on you as a parent. Learn to smile and nod! How else will they learn, but by making mistakes? Always apologize if there’s an issue, but do not take it to heart or take it personally. Kids need to be stretched, they need to learn how to act in everyday situations. They can’t learn it unless they do it. Live life with your children. 

I would love to hear your horror stories of when things went wrong! Tell me in the comments.

Seeking Joy in a Sad, Dark Place

Last year, I shared my “word” for the year, which was Presence. I really wanted to focus more on being in the Presence of my Savior, as well as being totally in the presence of my children and friends. I always have so much on the go, I felt very scattered. I learned a lot throughout 2014, and I know much more about my shortcomings, believe me.

This year has started out rough in our province. In December alone, there were over 30 people that died in car accidents. In our area, there were so many back to back that every time I hear sirens, I literally run through attendance in my head as to where everyone is. Children died. Parents died. Friends died.

One of the ones close by was a lady my age, from my town, driving an SUV. It puts a lot in perspective when you get numerous texts from friends finding out if it was you that lost your life. In small towns, you know everyone, or at least know someone who is grieving. Although I was not deeply and profoundly impacted by any one accident, I think we were all affected a little by each.

Life is hard. Winter is long. Things don’t go how we plan. Our dreams don’t always become reality. What we want is not always what we get.

But I serve the One. The One who knows. The One who sees how all of this makes sense. How the dropping oil prices, the lay offs, the deaths, the attacks, the miscarriages, the fights, the destruction, the sick babies, all of it is according to Plan.

And we have choices. Not in what happens, but how we react.

This year, I choose joy.

Not in a Pollyanna-look-on-the-bright-side nonsense. Some stuff has no “bright side” and it’s offensive to those in pain to try and find it.

But I will choose to be joyful in a quiet, faithful way. One foot, in front of the other. I will cry, I will lose my temper, I will get it wrong, but I will choose to joyfully accept His grace and forgiveness. I will joyfully start a new day each morning, I will show my children that pain will happen and the world will fall apart, and yes it affects us, and it hurts us, and it wounds us, but we know.

We know who’s in control.

We serve Him.

He loves us.

He’s on our side.

He’s got this.

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“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

And my prayer for all my friends and family this year:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ” (Romans 15:13)

Not that you will have happy circumstances. It’s easy to be full of joy then. But that you will be filled with joy from its Source.

What about you? What are you focusing on this year? Do you do resolutions? I’d love to hear from you!

A Letter to Myself

When putting away the Christmas clutter decorations, I wrote a letter to pack along with them and open next December. I know it will be new again, and I won’t remember writing it, because I wrote a grocery list last week and I didn’t remember anything on that by the time I get to the store.

Dear Me,

You’re looking well.

It’s all over. Another holiday season, another chapter, another year. Your tree was pretty bad. Seriously. Lights on half the tree is not better than “none of the tree.” It’s not usually a choice like that. I know that lights go on sale for 50% off on Boxing Day, but then you bought two packs of lights. If you would have just bought one box of lights three weeks before, you wouldn’t have as much stuff to put away now, and people wouldn’t look at you all sad when they see your tree.

I’m glad you took the whole month off school. It was busy enough! I’m glad you took them to do a few service projects, so that they can be a light to others (not 50% of a light, like your tree) and to teach them the world is much bigger than they are. Metaphorically and literally. They won’t forget that. Now try to be as courageous as your kids- people might not call you “so adorable!” but they may listen and you can be a light too. (Again, a WHOLE light. Not half.) It’s easy to hide behind their cuteness, but make sure you model evangelism and a “fear not” attitude. They will catch on one day, when you are always in the background. They will follow.

The gifts went well. Three each is enough. Every year you get all worried that it’s not enough, that other kids get more, blah, blah, blah. THEY LOVED IT. The gifts were thoughtful, in budget and you didn’t hurt yourself on the sewing machine. Well done.

The Christmas books, movies and activities were fun. You didn’t do all of Truth in the Tinsel, but your kids do not all like crafts, and don’t like them every day. It’s a beautiful thought to make a Christmas ornament each DAY of Advent, with part of the story to go along with it, but you have four kids. Four children X 24 Days= 96 ornaments in total. Are you really just trying to make up for the lack of lights? Either way, they had fun with what we did. Maybe next year you’ll do a couple more. Who cares? Not them.

The family Advent went WAY better than you thought. Special Sunday dinners, reading a litany and lighting candles in your wreath was something all the kids looked forward to. But the way you introduced it to your handsome hubby (Remember? “Hey! We’re going to do this.”) left a lot to be desired. If you have something you want to do as a family, present your ideas thoroughly and don’t get absolutely furious if he doesn’t love them as much as you in the first ten seconds. Good grief. Give the guy a break. Your homemade wreath was fun to make, even if it doesn’t look as nice as you wanted. I’m just proud you didn’t spend any money, and used stuff from around the house. Maybe next year you can find a special one to keep from year to year (and remember, November 30 is NOT the day to start looking!)

The baking. There’s something special about filling the house with yummy smells, and mixing cookie batter with the kids. Flour on their noses, accidentally spilling the chocolate chips in the bowl. Christmas music in the background; making up beautiful platters to bring to all your parties. What are you even talking about?! That didn’t happen. You used a hand mixer once, but other than that, there was not a square/cookie/snickerdoodle/chocolate yum yum to be found in your house. Who cares? Use the excuse that you’re trying to eat healthy or something. No one cares. The kids didn’t, and you were actually a little more peaceful than last year.

The decorating (other than your tree) was fine. Definitely mediocre at best, but you don’t care about that anyways, so why pretend like you do? It took way less time to put it all away in the end.

The date night with HH for dinner and the last bit of gifts was awesome. Do that again. Don’t forget to make his Christmas fun and special too (even if he doesn’t jump up and down like the kids do.)

All in all, I think this year went well. You took time to prepare Him room- in your heart and in your home. The little things either happened, or they didn’t, but they were little anyways. You bulldozed your way through a few things it would have been better to ponder in your heart, but that’s what it’s all about. He came for you just as much as He came for your babies. Accept His grace, His mercy and start fresh again. Marvel over the fact that a baby has saved you.

If I can give you any advice next season, while I am still fresh from this one:

  1. *If something is pushing you or pulling you along, and it’s not Jesus, cut it out.
  2. *If you are staying up late to make something magical the next day, you will just ruin it with your fatigue and lack of energy. Don’t do it.
  3. *Pick a couple things and do them well, and with love. It’s better than a lot of things rushed through and done with impatience.
  4. *Smile more.
  5. *Don’t be embarrassed when you cry through the Christmas songs. Your soul has felt it’s worth!

Love always, your biggest enemy your friend,

Me.

P.S. Buying all your gifts online so that you only went out once- DO THAT AGAIN.

Sandra

How about you? What did you learn (maybe the hard way) this year? What saved you time or heartache? What is the most important thing to remember about Christmas with little kids? I’d love to hear from you!

The Local Lie

Is it better to give locally than globally?

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Here.

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There.

School-kids

Here- access to free education, and enforced.

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There- in many cases, girls cannot go to school when they begin menstruation. Also, most schools are too far for children to walk to, they can’t afford them, they can’t afford the needed school supplies and often children are needed to work to support the family.

dr

Here- We have access to health care. It’s not perfect, but death due to minor illnesses is anything but common. The rate of death for children in Canada under the age of five is 5/1,000 children.

sick

There- No access to health care, free or otherwise. In Sierra Leone, the rate of death for children was 161/1,000 in 2013. This is due to many factors- war, illness, malnutrition. All are bad for your health.

I was born here, in Canada, through no doing of my own. We have help available in thousands of ways. If we made a little less money, we would qualify for free dental work prescriptions and optical also, here in Alberta (besides our provincial health coverage). If I can’t afford a carseat, one is provided by a health unit. If I need anything, I can go to a church or government office, and they will provide me with help. Heck, I can even have a friend post on Facebook and a flood of help will come. I can go to a food bank if I need food. Maybe it’s not the “best” food, but it is food that will fill my belly, and my children’s bellies. Not one of these options are perfect; there’s many holes in these systems. But there are systems in place.

If I lived in a developing nation, chances are pretty good I would have no husband. It’s a vicious cycle: men are brought up without dads, so when they have children they don’t feel the need to stick around. I would not be able to take my kids to the doctor when they are sick. Seeing as I graduated as a community services worker, there is no chance I would be able to get a job- no community services. If I grew up there, I would probably try to support my kids with selling anything I could find, maybe try my hand at a chicken or goat (if I’m super lucky and can buy one.) Maybe I could get a job at a factory and make clothes for my Canadian sisters, and get paid $1000 a year in dangerous conditions, but that’s unlikely. Most get paid less. My children, once they hit age 5, if they live to that, can get a job in a sweatshop. That’s where 250 million children work. Pretty amazing when you consider that 35 million people live in Canada. In some countries, it is not uncommon to sell your child into slavery. (I am not even going to get into what would happen if I were raped in another country. If you don’t know what happens to women in some countries: find out.) And you know why I don’t have to deal with any of this?

Because I was born here. Through no doing of my own.

And mercy, I’m grateful. It’s not an accident: God put me here, in this place, in this small town. But the minute that my little neck of the world starts to become more important than the rest of the world?

Please, punch me.

The minute that the needs of my neighbor become more important than the needs of my sister in Somalia?

Again, punch me.

We have absolutely no right on this earth to judge what needs are more important. Should we give in our communities? Should we help the people who just had a baby that are down on their luck? Definitely! No doubt about it! Do we help people in our towns? Yes, yes, yes!

Is their plight harder? Is their need more great? Should we STOP giving to other countries and complain that our taxes are helping them?

NO. That’s a flat no.

I’m thankful that I was born into a country that recognizes that basic access to water should be a right of humanity. That living in the turmoil of a typhoon where thousands of people are homeless, for months and indefinitely, is more important than getting every person up to what we think our standard of living should be. I am thankful that I live in a country that recognizes needs here, and abroad.

Matthew 25:40- 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Luke 3:10-1110 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Find the “least of these.” Find them in your town. In your province, in your country. But never forget that the poorest of us is still rich in many means. It is not up to us to put one need above another: we are told to give, give, give. Cheerfully. To whoever is on our hearts. If you have a heart for people that live close to you, that’s great. But never think that one is better or more deserving than the other.

rich

And just because I love this picture:

period

Blessed are those who give, and won’t be thanked in this life. Matthew 6:3“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

I am so blessed to be born here.