June 24, 2017

My oldest son trying his best at road hockey while my youngest brother tends the net

My husband and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past weekend.

While my mom and dad watched our kiddos, we went out for an overnight together. Besides being Father's Day weekend and really busy at every restaurant we tried, we landed up at a nice place eating great food. We got a bit of shopping done, sans enfants, the next day.

Our wedding wasn't that long ago when I compare with my grandparents who will celebrate their 62 years this weekend. However, it still feels like we've lived a whole pile of special and unforgettable moments in our short life already. And in many ways, living in Canada, renovating our first house, and having four babies, seems like another life ago itself. Everybody says it goes by so fast. I feel like we've jumped on the fast-track of life now. The kids are growing up so quickly. If the last 13 years went by this quickly, I can only imagine how the next will past. Yikes....

Thinking about how quickly time passes makes me want to make the most of the moments we have all the more. Being content, and resting in God's plan for our life today, as it is right now. A common question we've been asked over the past several weeks is, "How long are you going to be in Madagascar?" This question is difficult to answer. There is a determined amount of time, sort of. There are a few factors to consider when thinking about this. Would it be advantageous for our children to have their teenage years in Canada? or some of them? Are we called to live our entire lives on the field and say good-bye one by one to our children as they fly the nest overseas or wherever God takes them? Does God want us to serve in another place one day? If so, when? I can't answer any of these questions right now. So when the question comes up, I remind myself as I relay to the individual that this is a matter we keep putting back into God's hands. We don't know our futures. But for now, we are living each day as they come.

 Downtown Vancouver on Granville Island looking down False Creek

 We road the Aquabus from Granville Island back over toward Science World

On the Aquabus looking toward Science World. Vancouver is so beautiful in the summer!

June 16, 2017

The Journey Continues

This week was another great reminder that I'm on a journey. I had a lovely opportunity to share at a ladies' retreat this past weekend, just for an hour in the morning. First of all, I hadn't been expecting to have the chance to hear the main speaker (a long-time missionary) give her session.

She spoke on us as believers being stretched, ready to go, and obey. At the end of her session she left the ladies with a challenging question,

"How deep are you willing to go with God?" 

In other words, when He calls me out to do something or go somewhere or walk through something, am I willing? There are still little pockets of hesitancy to trust in His big plan. This question struck me fresh because I had kind of pridefully found myself resting in this thought that I had already decided to go "deep with God" when we decided to leave everything that was familiar to us and go on the mission field. I'm discovering this is only the beginning of the journey, and God still asks me the question "Are you going to let me lead you?"

Secondly, when it was lunchtime at the retreat, one woman at our table in particular was listening to me chat with the speaker who was farther along in mothering and on the mission field than me. And I expressed my uncertainties about our future timeline: How long do we expect to live overseas? Where should the kids be teenagers? This lady, listening, expressed how encouraged she was to see people she saw on the outside as being "mature in their faith" or "had it all together" still wrestling with surrendering their future plans to the Lord.

We are all still on a journey figuring things out.

We need to encourage each other more and more in the fact that the only thing certain in our future (as believers) is our life with the Father in Heaven. Why can't we rest in this? And none of us have "arrived," or have everything figured out. We shouldn't put anyone up on a spiritual pedestal. God has us on a journey to heaven. We will "arrive" on the day we enter those gates into eternal glory.

We sing this song at our church in Madagascar and it came to mind as I was thinking over the verses in Ezekiel 47 that the speaker shared with us this morning. How deep will we go?

Whenever we sing this song, I feel haunted somehow, challenged, and realize how much more I need to place my trust in Him.

Not to shift my hope onto anything else.

June 9, 2017

This week we headed back to beautiful Vancouver Island. It was a beautiful ferry sailing over here from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay near Victoria.

In between preparing photos, speaking, sharing about MAF, and shopping..... we're taking walks down to the ocean, minutes away from my parents' house. The weather is still intermittently sunny, I can't say summer has arrived just yet though. This week, Rob and I found ourselves getting our teeth checked out, and I landed up with two large fillings. The children will see dentists in Canada later on.

June 2, 2017

Little Routines Can Make a Big Difference

We've been finished official "school" since mid-April already, so once we were over the jetlag and adjusted more to a Canadian routine, we broke out the school books once again.

I'm not a round-the-year-homeschool-mom by any means. I think we all need an extended break once a year. However, I find it helpful if there's some structure in our day, even if it's part-time.

We are spending much of our time indoors, despite a summer-tease last weekend! The rain has returned, and the temperatures have dipped down once again. So we've instituted a Mon, Wed, Fri school morning, to keep the wheels in our brains turning, and the free-for-all playtime not entirely free. Total free-time for anybody can be overwhelming, and for children especially when they aren't living in their own home, has the potential to be taxing.

Yes they're whining about school. No, they're not completely thrilled with having to do some school 3 mornings a week. But I believe they'll be better off for it. And they seem quite motivated to spend 30 or 40 minutes on homework before having free-time on electronics. In fact sometimes, I'm finding that after the homework is done, they are so happy to be finished that they go off and find toys or ride bikes, leaving the tablets and tv shows in their distant memories. (Only sometimes.)

Electronics, or screen-time, hasn't yet become a free-for-all commodity in our house. No one owns their own device yet, and we don't feel that we've reached a stage where time can be managed well without some guidance or boundaries. (Especially my 6-year old, who would probably live on the tablet if we allowed it.) So when the tablets go on, or when the tv is turned on, there are limits in place that everyone abides by, or else the privileges are lost. At this age, it's pretty simple, and it's worked in our house so far.

Our morning of homework looks like this:
Grade 6: Saxon 7/6, SpellingYouSee, free reading
Grade 4: Singapore 4A, SpellingYouSee, free reading
Grade 3: Singapore 2B, SpellingYouSee, free reading
Grade 1: Singapore 1A, SpellingYouSee, free reading or read outloud to one of the parents

As our furlough schedule allows, we are trying to continue reading our read-aloud as the kids go to bed. Furlough tends to ebb and flow with busy evenings out, and quieter ones in.

May 26, 2017

Magical Summer Weather of Western Canada

I have missed these while living in Madagascar ....  Lilacs!
They smell incredible, and they are truly beautiful.

So you'd think we would be tired of warm weather, and bright blue skies, living on a tropical island where this is what we have about 340 days of the year... but no, actually, we're not.  :)

Warm weather in western BC is just as magical as I remember it being. Everybody is in high spirits after experiencing one of the longest, grayest, coldest winters and springs they can remember. The BBQs have been fired up, deck furniture has been placed outside, and the windows and doors are open everywhere! The long sunny days of summer, where children are put to bed amidst din of lawn mowers in the evening heat have arrived.

Living in a climate where this is my everyday has made sunny weather pretty normal and nothing to get overly excited about. My appreciation for sun after a dreary gray season has definitely diminished... I musn't take it for granted! However, there is something magical in the air when it comes to warm temperatures on Vancouver Island the Lower Mainland of BC. The air is so fresh, the smell of spring is lifegiving. I truly can't get enough of it. For anybody who has stepped foot in Africa, or any third world country, you can appreciate a good dose of fresh spring air. It might be warm and sunny most days where we live, but often in the air hangs the smell of charcoal, burning trash, and farm animals.

While I'm here, I'll just continue enjoying this good old west coast air!

Oh fresh strawberries.. each the size of a small apple, how you have been missed.  

On My Side Table

May 20, 2017

Birthdays, Playgrounds, Ferries

We are enjoying our second week in Canada. Happy not to have our heads spinning, thinking we should be sleeping!
We've visited Walmart, Costco, Old Navy.... so many choices, so many sales. :)
Last week, we celebrated my youngest's 6th birthday. This was his first birthday in Canada since he was born, which made it extra special. The grandparents were gathered around, as well as many aunts and uncles.

Playgrounds are a huge novelty! With the cool spring gracing the island and much of Canada, we were too cold to venture very far from the fireplace. As well, a constant drizzle kept things damp much of last week. There was one afternoon however, when an aunty wanted to take the kids to the playground. This was a huge hit of course!

After saving their allowance, birthday money, and gifts over the year, the kids were really happy to spend it on Lego products here. In Madagascar, the Lego selection is small, and fairly expensive. So they were thrilled to be able to afford some larger sets in Canada.

The next couple of weeks will be spent on the mainland, catching up with more family and friends, and our home church.

May 12, 2017

We're Here - and so is the Jet Lag

3:30am, beginning our first flight, 10.5 hours from Antananarivo to Paris

Day 1 in Canada at 5:00 pm, waiting for our second or third burst of energy
We arrived in Canada after a very long 35 hours of travel. It is so nice to be here, despite the jetlag and all the symptoms it brings along.... upset tummy, dizziness, uncontrollable nodding off.... my eleven year old has probably been the most affected by it. In previous trips, her body adjusted fairly quickly and easily... but this time the trip is taking a bit more to recover from, so she's been pretty discouraged, even letting me know she hopes not to feel this way when we go back home... I told her not to think about that right now.

With a 10-hour time difference, and basically zero sleep for 45 hours, the main order of business is trying to get our body clocks changed around. It has been super nice to have a few visitors around the house to distract us away from how tired we feel.

Spring has kind of arrived? The sun is trying to poke out now, but the temperatures are still way below what we're used to in Madagascar. There, we were already feeling the chill of the seasons turning to winter, as we saw the temperature dipping to 10 degrees celsius, we put flannel sheets on our bed along with a down duvet! Where we're at in western Canada, we're seeing lows of 5 degrees during the night, and highs during the afternoon aren't yet reaching 20. We are so thankful for central heating, a warm gas fireplace, and cozy blankets and slippers. Summer will be around the corner shortly, we hope!