Heidi here this year! (Can we all heave a big sigh of disappointment? I know, I’m not the one with the funnies coming out left and right. Hope you survive!)
Life through kids’ eyes is the best. When God walked the earth, He specifically welcomed children, and called us to have our eyes wide open, childlike, to seeing Him on the move around us and in us.
The other night, Sophia (7) stood by my bed and just started telling me the griefs weighing her heart down, and the ways she saw God more clearly through them. She misses our miscarried babies, Davey (2011) and Emmy (this summer), and Jesse’s grandma (2013). Emmy has been an especially difficult loss for her – for all of us! – because she was really hoping the baby would be her much-longed-for sister. But she said she has been learning to trust God more when she’s sad or afraid of loss. This conversation happened in a season when I have not been able to parent and disciple as much as I would like (morning sickness again), and God used it to show me that He is ultimately the One gently leading and guiding our children’s hearts. He is a good, good Father.
Most of the time, Sophia is a spunky ray of sunshine, busily experimenting with melodies on the piano and leading her little brothers in adventures, and these glimpses into her deeper thoughts aren’t common, so I treasure them. We are so enriched and comforted by her sympathetic heart. I’m 10 weeks pregnant now, in the thick of morning sickness, and Sophia says sweetly every day, “Aw, Mom, I hope you feel better really soon!”
Her brothers are no different. Elijah (4) often comes up and with those great big, soulful, long-lashed eyes, he says, “Can I do anything for you, Mom?” Sometimes he does, sometimes he forgets his good intentions and runs off in merry play. He is eager to do workbooks like the big kids, make jokes like the big kids, and stay up with the big kids, and yet when he gets time with just me and/or Jesse, he is beyond delighted and wants to know if the big kids can go away again so he can have another date with us. He’s such a sweet kid. And at devotion times when the others get scolded for being noisy, he chimes, “I want to know God better, Mom! I’m listening.” Hand him a halo, somebody.
John-Michael (9) is a champ. His brain never stops, which means his chores regularly take longer than I thought humanly possible, and his bath room visits (he’s going to hate me for this when he’s older) are record-breaking in length because he reads tomes in there. I know, you’re thinking, “ban the books!” Sometimes I do. And sometimes I let it go because I know how much a mind like his loves to eat up ideas. I’m married to a man whose mind works like that. An endless trail of activities, inventions, money-earning schemes, and learning opportunities follow J-M everywhere, some completed, some forgotten. Much of it is self-guided, and I don’t say this out of pride (“oh, look at my self-taught child!”). On the contrary, it’s because he tires me out. I’m thankful he loves to learn, and is passing on that passion to his siblings. And really, when his brain is directed to what’s at hand, he’s a very reliable boy. I lean hard on him, and see so much of his dad in him in the way that he looks out for his siblings, takes on responsibility at home, and wants God.
We’re in the middle of a cold snap (-20s C), and I’m beginning to wonder if I can order a hamster wheel sized for a toddler. Because I have a hilarious, exuberant 2 year old named Justin who hasn’t been out to play for over a week, and needs a safe outlet for his energy. Jumping off couch arms doesn’t count as safe in my books. Or running down the hall with his head back, Eric Liddell-style. It worked for Eric Liddell, but he had better coordination. The other day J-M was watching Justin getting all wild, tried to calm him down, and shouted, “Dad, you’d better get the van ready! Justin’s going to need the hospital soon.”
Justin’s face is as lively as his little body. His delivery of statements or “jokes” makes us all laugh, which makes him giggle and try again for the same reaction. He asks a lot of questions about the how’s and why’s of things, and offers much commentary on life as well, with sage nods of knowingness. There are many times I look at him and thank God for this kid who makes us want more kids.
Of course, I don’t have to look far for inspiration on the kid-making front… (whistle) Enter Jesse. What a dude. What a guy. What a real man! I tell him he’s my dream: tall, dark, and handsome, and he says ever so humbly, “Well, at least I know I’m one of those.”
But he really is my dream. Better than anything I dreamed. We celebrated ten years of marriage this year by revisiting the church we were married in, and the hotel where we had pictures taken. The church was closed, but we stood outside in our wedding clothes and said our vows to each other again, and I tell you – the faithfulness Jesse has shown me through these years together has increasingly meant more to me than I can express. I see the brokenness around us, and also daily in us, and I know what we have is the sheer mercy of God.
So we vowed to each other ten years ago that we would seek to: give thanks in all circumstances, glorify God in whatever we do, and seek His kingdom first.
The gratitude part has been an ongoing challenge, and we sharpen each other in the growing process. Jesse is a more focus-on-the-positives person, but in an inspirational, non-cheesy way. We joke that when everyone else is talking about the hard stuff in their life, they’re complaining, but when we talk about our hard stuff, we’re just being honest. Under the joke, we are reminding ourselves to be humble and kind, to be thankful for chances to learn character when others misunderstand us or we misunderstand others. As we grow older (yeah, go ahead and laugh: “you’re in your thirties, for crying out loud!”), we see God drawing deeper lines on our souls, lessons in humility: to hold our perceptions as just that – perceptions and not necessarily reality; to try to see things from others’ perspectives; to receive criticism and be willing to grow from it rather than be embittered by it; to let go of offense. When I list these lessons, I see the rest of our lives stretching out to learn and re-learn them. We have failed and forgotten countless times. Good thing God doesn’t give up on us!
And that sentiment goes for the “glorify God” part of our vows: We daily fail that one, but thank God that He is patient and so forgiving.
The “seek His kingdom first” part: We have traveled and spoken at a wide variety of venues over ten years, all of which have crazy-blessed and enriched our own lives, especially the people we’ve met along the way. We want to have a “yes” attitude to opportunities to share God with others. This spring, Jesse taught two sessions (healthy romantic relationships, and Scripture memorizing tips) at the home school convention in Red Deer, Alberta. In July we returned to Big Sky Bible Camp in northern Montana, and Jesse spoke to junior high boys and girls about the existence of God, Jesus’ life and death, the reliability of Scripture… all things I’ve heard him teach many times, but which are always fresh for me, and re-ignite a desire for God. He is gifted at the teaching thing, for sure.
I finally got my book “If Only You Knew” (about my sister Katrina’s addictions and suicide) up and available in paperback and kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. In January, I will be speaking at a local women’s event, sharing Katrina’s and my story.
We have loved our year at Foremost Evangelical Free Church, watching God continue to heal hurts and hearts, drawing us all to His freedom. Sophia told me recently that Sunday School has changed her life through the lessons about how God has worked in others’ lives. We care a lot about the people inside the church walls and outside them, and are so thankful God led us to a place where we can continue to share that never-ending, hope-filled news:
God is for us! He is FOR US! We are never alone.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.