Category Archives: Just Life

Sanctification and March Snow

The snow pack in March is a sedimentary formation of snow, ice, and road sand. This time of the year, we are all eager for warm rain, and green points from the ground and tree branches. Instead, we get more snow. It’s disheartening to watch the white flakes blanket the road, and swirl over the windshield in a lazy folk dance. I want spring. I want the snow to go away.

The Carrier native nation who live in the Interior of B.C., where I was born and raised, call the late spring snow “the snow to take away the snow.” Were those eagerly anticipated warm rains to fall, the drops would skate lightly across the crusted surface, bounce along frozen ground, over flow the sill frozen rivers and streams, and collect in basements. Too much rain, would be a very bad thing. The spring snow, however, doesn’t pool, or stream down hill. Instead the fresh flakes blanket the wind hardened snow dunes, melting in the warming sun, and pockmarking the crust. The shell that would have resisted rain gives way beneath the gentle pressure of its own kind. Layer by layer the strata of snow peels away. Grey grass appears around the edges, and damp puddles color the banks of the icy streams. Spring is brought by the last snows.

The grey banks along the road are not the only things about which I grumble. The circumstances of life are significantly less within my control than I believed they would be when I was a child. I grumble about snow, and other things equally out of my control. The Lord deals with all of these things in the same way. He teaches me contentment in my circumstances by giving me more of it.

The gentle sameness of life is the most effective tool by which my hard heart is softened, and turned to fertile soil. When truthfully examining my personal history I must admit that the times of drastic change are more likely to reveal previously unknown crusts of anger and bitterness in my heart, rather than being transformative on them. Instead, it is in the momentary sameness that I am gently melted.

In the same way, the Lord changes us all through the sameness of the ordinary means of Grace. The weekly rhythm of Word, prayer, and sacraments settle like spring snow on our cold hearts, warming us in a way that thunderstorm events cannot. It is in the soft sediment of ordinary that He has appointed to speak, and mold, and cut away the cold death of our sin. The erosion of that crust happens so slowly that I am not aware of when the layers are melted back. I just realize, one same day, that I am seeing the green shoots of growth I hadn’t seen before.

This is the power of ordinary things applied regularly. Daily practice improves skill. A single drop of water or a few grains of sand can carve mountains. Snow can melt snow. The word preached and prayed and in sacrament can do no less. The snow on Sunday brought visible grass today. The word on Sunday is at work still.

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This Wasn’t How I Thought This Life Would Go

Jonathan and I married 22 years ago this month, and like all newly weds we had big plans for our life. Among the certainties we presented to God, were the following:

  1. Jonathan would be a youth pastor forever, because youth ministry wasn’t just a stepping stone to “something bigger and better.”
  2. We would be young parents. Our four children would be born before we hit our 30’s so we could be grandparents in our 40’s.
  3. We were never leaving Canada.
  4. We would never renovate a house, or farm sheep.

In case you’re new here, I’ll remind you that we have, thus far, managed to not farm sheep. We hit our tenth anniversary, still childless, and Jonathan leaving his youth pastorate at the beginning of what would be a five year theological overhaul. One would think I would have learned not to give God absolutes. Still, I continued to be surprised when my plans were not His. Here I sit, approaching 43, expecting my own bonus doodle, instead of the granddoodle of my initial plans, and I find myself thinking “but this wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.”

Almost nothing about the life I have now is the life I pictured then. I “should” be published. I “should” have teenagers in an excellent Christian school on whose PTA I would gladly serve. I “should” . . . does it even matter? The point is, I’m not.

And still, as I look back over 22 years of “shoulds,” I am struck also by the things I never saw coming. Would anyone who knew me even ten years ago have anticipated that I would own three separate rolling pins for three separate baking tasks, and use every one regularly? Would the naive almost 21 year old who walked that aisle have anticipated the day she/I could gut, skin, and process both large game and small animals and birds for our family’s consumption?  Hardly. My political shift from liberal to angry conservative to undefinable was probably not as surprising to others as it was to me. However, I know that no one could have foreseen the day in which I found joy and peace within the bounds called “confessional.”

I didn’t set out to be a confessional Presbyterian, any more than I set out to spend ten years of life infertile, but the journeys are not separate. This isn’t the life I set out to live. This isn’t the road map I unfurled at the dawning of my early adulthood. It doesn’t even look like the same country, some days. Still, I wouldn’t trade it. Some of the greatest beauties of my life and things that stir my soul today couldn’t even be found on that first path. The things in which I delight today are things I didn’t even know I wanted then.

So six months ago it wasn’t my plan to have a baby in my 40s. What joy and delights are to come that I cannot anticipate? This bonus doodle follows in a long line of things I receive from the Lord that I didn’t know I wanted. Some of those things have been terribly painful, and the heavy hand of providence may lay on this too. Even so, all things considered, He has continued to make my boundaries lie in pleasant places. This isn’t the way I thought my life would go, 22 years ago, 10 years ago, 6 months ago. This wasn’t my plan. What a comforting place to rest.


A Needed Adjustment in Perspective

On Friday we had a speech evaluation for the Cheesedoodle. Getting help for school aged children is more difficult here, but the therapist who has been seeing the Snickerdoodle had agreed to evaluate Cheesedoodle in order to give me tools to help him continue with his speech development. Her words to me at the end of it were an amazing answer to prayer.

She said, “If I didn’t know his history, I would have told you he has no speech issues. He is in the normal spectrum for speech development for a 6 year old.”

“But people still don’t always understand him!” I said.

She leaned across the table, and looked into my mothering soul and said, “He is small for his age, and he is six. People are expecting him to tell them about baseball, or hockey, or his pet dog. They are not expecting him to explain static electricity to them. He is just fine. Keep doing what you are doing. He is an amazing boy.”

So I can hear the chorus of praises from across the continent as people who have prayed for and loved my little boy. This is such a great thing to hear, after all the work and the struggles. It was also exactly what I need to hear at the end of this second full year of home schooling. “He’s fine. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

The truth is, I have spent the last two years feeling ill equipped and unprepared for these uncharted educational waters. I spent three years freaking out about Moriah’s birthday and cut-off dates for school and getting her in the right place. Now we’re homeschooling, where the grades don’t matter. Half of her friends don’t even know what grade they’re in, and no one cares. She’s fine. We’re going to keep  doing what we’re doing.

On the way home, the snickerdoodle was in the back seat singing, “2+2 is 4, 3+3 is 6, 4+4 is 8, 5+5 is ten, 6+6 is Idon’tknow, 7+7 is Idon’tknow, . . . ” She just turned five. I can’t freak out about the “I don’t know”s, when the sane realization is She’s fine. Just keep doing what we’re doing.

In the midst of the weight and lack of definition of homeschooling, it was really nice to have a neutral, non-homeschooling party reassure me that my kids are doing fine, and we should keep doing what we are doing.

 


For Your Entertainment: A Story I Did Not Write

039Today we drove to St. Andrews and St. Stephen with our friend Miriam and had a wonderful day. While eating lunch in the Ganong Nature Park, our middle doodle (and only son) looked at this building  and asked, “Who’s house is that?”

Jonathan answered, “I don’t know. Let’s make up a story about it. I think it was the home of a Ganong Aunt, who would wander these trails seeking her only love who was lost at sea.”

Mackerdoodle: “And then, one day, he came back and found her, and brought her a special present.”

Cheesedoodle: “Her very own sea turtle.”

Miriam: “And she was very upset that it wasn’t a ring.”

 


A Break With Tradition

It is the beginning of 2015 and I have been in the habit of ringing in the New Year by posting a retrospective of posts from the past year. This year, however, is better remembered by the things I didn’t post than the ones I did. 

If I were to pick a single post from 2014 to summarize the year, I think it would be this one from last March in which I ask the question “How do homeschooling bloggers do it?” Every church to which we have belonged since 2004 has had a school, so I assumed that the pattern would continue. I never thought I would be educating my children at home, and I think much of 2014 has been a year of adjusting to that new reality, and realizing how often I had assumed I would have more time to write after Jonathan finished with seminary. Turns out that was a flawed assumption.

In the summer there was the garden to keep me busy, and then Jonathan was being examined and licensed by Presbytery and then he was installed as the minister. We bought a house and tore out the carpet and we’re still putting the floor back. More to do. No time to write.

In addition, in September I began working as an evaluator for Tree of Life school. I am grading seventh and eighth grade writing assignments, which is certainly not a stretch for me. Now, often when I pick up my computer thinking that I may carve out a minute or two for writing, I see Mike’s face in my head and hear him saying, in an excellent Ricky Ricardo accent, ” Coralie. you got some grading to do!” To be clear, he has never, ever said those words to me in any accent (including his own), but you get the idea. More teaching. Less writing.

2014 can best be remembered in the silence of the blog and how the Lord has been teaching me contentment with what is, not what I think it should be.


A Pity Party and a Pretty Party

I have been in a bit of a pity party lately. We’re rapidly approaching the anniversary of our mid winter, mid-blizzard move here to the frozen north, and that is a difficult time for me. All of the novelty of moving has worn off. You know where to buy tuna and tires and you have a general idea of where neighborhoods and major streets lie, but information transmits so much faster than relationships, and right about now I always remember that real friendships take about three years to form. Over the last two weeks I was feeling misunderstood, and unneeded and generally lonely as activity and life in the church seemed to pass me completely by.

Turns out, a few of the ladies were planning me a surprise 40th birthday party, four months after my actual birthday, because . . . SURPRISE. It was sweet and beautiful and Bob cooked piles of bacon, and there was a TARDIS card. It was pretty perfect.

One of my favorite families moved to Colorado this summer, and as I read about their journey into a new state, a new culture and a new season of their life, I was slapped past my pity party. I have been so blessed, as all pastoral families are, to be dropped into the midst of a church family who loves us, who wants us, and who is eager to begin building those friendships. Most people move somewhere without that head start to relationship building. To say that I have been lonely is to completely deny the overwhelming love and welcome we have received here. Sure I don’t have the depth of relationship with people that two more, or six more, or seventeen more years of living and serving and praying alongside folks will give me; but I have 11 months of relationship, and a surprise party, which is more than most people get 11 months after a move.


This is All New to Me

I grew up with snow. Despite my protestations about cold, I was born and raised a northern girl, and I have snow experience. I know how to get a truck out of a snow bank. I have been to bonfire/sledding parties. I have skated on lakes. I am not a stranger to this season we call winter.

I have never, however, experienced a first snowfall that lasted twenty-four hours and resulted in an accumulation of fourteen inches of snow until this week. It is like someone flipped a switch from “autumn” to “winter” and shouted “ready or not, here it comes.” Turns out, not ready.

This New Brunswick weather is all new to me. This is going to take some adjustment.