Beauty for Ashes


Beauty for Ashes

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain. You can’t have one without the other.

Today I’m sharing a story of how God created beauty from ashes:

“Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt: “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding.  Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more … ”

Read the rest at Anchored Voices.

Life & Love

anni2016Last month my husband was part of a stealth operation. One of his friends wanted to propose to his longtime girlfriend and asked Nathan to provide the music. He chose a specific song – “Wanted”, by country singer Hunter Hayes. Nathan smirked the first time he heard it. “Seriously? Barf!” were his exact words.

We hung out the night before the proposal, three married couples and the dating one. All of the married couples split up on the couches, leaving one single beanbag chair for the lovebirds. “You guys sit there,” we joked. “You still like each other!”

The next afternoon Nathan covered himself in bug spray and hid in the bushes next to a walking trail. As the couple approached, he started to sing: “You know I’d fall apart without you. I don’t know how you do what you do. ‘Cause everything that don’t make sense about me makes sense when I’m with you …”

She said yes.

* * *

Nathan and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary last week. The proposal reminded me of us at the beginning of our relationship. We were constantly touching, arms around each other, holding hands. I remember one camping trip where friends bet us we couldn’t complete a mountain hike holding hands – and we won!

Life looks different now. After being pulled this way and that by kids all day, with a clingy toddler in my arms, Nathan’s lucky if he gets any greeting when he gets home from work, never mind a hug or a kiss.

Love looks different now too. We don’t have the time or the energy or the money to go on extravagant (or frequent!) dates, so we collapse on the couch after the kids are in bed and my work is done for the day. We hold hands in the grocery store parking lot instead of on mountain trails. We may not snuggle at friends’ houses, but we have more than eight years’ worth of inside jokes and communicate better with each other than with anyone else. Though we still haven’t managed to successfully escape a Breakout room

Most days aren’t filled with the freshness and passion that mark a new relationship. We’re more comfortable. We’re established in who we are as a couple. We celebrated our first anniversary with a romantic weekend getaway; we celebrated our eighth anniversary with burgers and an hour and a half of uninterrupted Pokemon hunting.

Sometimes, I will admit, I miss the newness. I miss the romance of it all. My husband is certainly more practical than he is romantic – he’s the man who catches our kids’ puke in his hands on airplanes, not the one who painstakingly crafts 1000 origami paper cranes and gifts me his wish.

But I love him more because of the life we’ve created together. He’s the one who proposed on bended knee on a dock while wearing rollerblades, and he’s the one who stops at the store on his way home from work almost every single day because I’m missing one ingredient for the dinner I’ve already started to make.

Our marriage isn’t glamorous. Romantic getaways are few and far between at this stage of life. Instead we sway together, dancing in the kitchen while the sink fills with bubbles and our children try to sandwich themselves between us.

And I wouldn’t give up these everyday moments for all the romance in the world.

Joy in the Ordinary

Today I’m over at A Little Light – an online network for Canadian Christian women – sharing my story about how I find joy in the ordinary.

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Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen while my children played at the table.  I had brought the Christmas boxes in from the storage room and the first thing I unpacked was our nativity scene.  They immediately got to work setting it up, lining up the fences, arranging the animals just so, and moving Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus inside the stable to keep warm.  My two-year-old daughter placed the angel in its spot on the roof of the stable, pressing the button so the sound of joyful music filled the room. 

These are the moments I miss when I am busy.  

And Christmas is a very, very, VERY busy time for my little family …. 

Continue reading here.

Wedding Superstars

It wasn’t long after Nikki got engaged that she asked if Ellie could be her flower girl.  Ellie was barely a year old and couldn’t walk but of course I said yes!  I knew she had more than a year to master walking in a straight line, and I figured that if she couldn’t handle it,  the ring bearer could just pull her in a wagon.

Since Nikki chose the flower girl, her fiancé, Orry, was given the task of selecting the ring bearer.     Five months before the wedding I received a panicked message from Nikki:  “Orry doesn’t know anybody with kids!  Will Topher be the ring bearer?!?!”  It took some convincing (and outright bribery!) but Topher finally agreed.  (It helped when I told him he could dress up – though he thought I meant dress up as in “dress up as Darth Vader” until a week before the wedding!)

I was worried about how they would behave, but  the kids were fantastic.  Ellie woke up sick the morning of the wedding (she actually threw up in the car on our way to pick Nikki up for breakfast!) but after napping all morning and most of the afternoon she woke up refreshed and ready to be the star of the evening.

She walked down the aisle with Topher …

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Then turned around to walk down it again with me!

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She stood beside with me for part of the ceremony, then sat with Nathan for the rest.

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She smiled, waved, and twirled for the wedding guests …

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And thoroughly enjoyed popping all the bubbles at the end of the ceremony!

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Topher was a pro!

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He had been reluctant to even be involved in the wedding at first, but he took Ellie’s hand and walked her down the aisle, and then solemnly went to his spot with the groomsmen and stood like a little statue for the entire ceremony.

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His arms got tired of holding the pillow, though.  I’m glad he didn’t have the real rings!

The original plan was for Nathan to take the kids back to the hotel after the ceremony and a few pictures, since the wedding started at 6:00 p.m. and they’re typically in bed before 7:00, but they were both behaving so well that we decided to let them stay.

Topher had an absolute blast getting his picture taken at the photo booth,

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And even though they were both exhausted and a little on the whiny side after their long day, it was nothing a little Paw Patrol on the LeapPad couldn’t fix!

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We left as a family right before the dance started, at about 10:30 p.m.  I couldn’t believe how amazing the kids were!  We definitely don’t make a habit of late nights with the kids in tow but we might be a little bit more willing to risk it now that they’ve proven they can behave themselves in public when overtired!

Maybe we’ll try a summer family movie night in Churchill Square after all …

Marriage is like Star Wars.

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Last month my little family travelled to Winnipeg to celebrate Nikki and Orry’s wedding.  We spent four days driving and only three days in the city –  but it was worth it!  Nikki and I  typically only see each other once a year since she moved to Winnipeg right after Nathan and I got married.  We Facebook multiple times a day, Skype every couple of weeks, talk on the phone, and send letters back and forth, but nothing beats being with your best friend, even if it is only a quick visit!

This is my Toast to the Bride.

“I’m the matron of honour, and I get the honour of letting everybody know how lucky Orry is to be married to my best friend. I’m sure he already knows most of this, but sometimes it’s good to have a reminder!

I met Nikki ten years ago, when we worked together at Brightwood Ranch. I remember the first time I saw Nikki: She was a few days late for staff training because she was still in high school and had to finish classes. She got out of her mom’s can and I remember thinking “She’s on staff?!?” She had blue hair and this high-pitched giggle and she was younger than some of our campers!

Nikki – or ‘Lil Blue, as we called her – and I were both wranglers and we worked pretty closely together that summer. It didn’t take more than a day of working with her for me to realize that Nikki may have been the youngest, but she was also probably the hardest working member of the entire staff. She would be up at 5:30 or so (usually because I had stuck my alarm under her pillow …)  at the barn, saddling horses, then rushing back to the café to serve breakfast. She would eat as quickly as she could, then head back to the barn for a full day of work. After that it was time to serve dinner – then participate in evening games, sometimes deal with unruly campers or runaways … I was 21, used to being up all hours of the night – and I was exhausted. But Nikki? She was always bright and cheerful. Well, maybe not before breakfast … If something needed to be done, we could count on Nikki.

She was also one of the friendliest on staff. I moved to Alberta from New Brunswick to work at Brightwood so I didn’t know anybody outside of camp. Nikki was the first to invite me to stay at her house for the weekend – the first to include me as part of her family. Since that summer, Nikki hasn’t only been one of my best friends – she’s been my little sister.

And like a little sister, she hasn’t always listened to my sage advice. I remember one weekend that first summer, we were getting ready for church when Nikki realized all of her jeans were dirty. She was going to wear them anyway but I suggested it might not be such a good idea to wear jeans that smelled like horse manure to church and offered to loan her one of my skirts. She put it on – then pulled on her poo-covered boots and marched outside to get in the car. I think she lasted all of 27 seconds before she changed her mind – hitched up that skirt, and kicked the door open to go back inside and change into her smelly jeans.   I don’t think anybody noticed – that was probably the summer a couple of the boys were trying to grow mold on their jeans.

The first time Nikki mentioned Orry in a brief message on Facebook, I suspected he might be the one. It didn’t hurt that he sent me a private message himself shortly after they started dating, introducing himself. When Nikki brought him home for a visit a few months later, I hoped he would be the one. I saw the way he looked at her, the gentle way he put his hand on her back, how he reached for her hand as soon as he sat down on the couch, the way he listened when she spoke. After they left, I sent Nikki a message, something along the lines of “I like him. Hold on to this one!”

I’m glad she listened.

I want you to know that I am so very proud of both you and Orry, and I am truly blessed to be your friend. But I feel like I would be failing in my duties as a friend – as a big sister, if you will! – if I didn’t give you something to think about.

Marriage is sort of like Star Wars. In the world of Star Wars you have the good guys (Luke and Yoda, who are the Jedi together with the Rebellion), and you have the bad guys (Darth Vader and the emperor who make up what is known as the Sith, or the Empire.) Most of you probably think I’m going to talk about the good guys and how they use the Force and they work together to bring freedom to the galaxy. While all that is true, I’m here to talk about the bad guys. The bad guys (the Sith) have a rule called The Rule of Two. The entire premise of this rule is that there will only ever be two, never more, and they are both guided by the force. They followed this rule for about 1000 years – because they found that if there were more, there was more opportunity for fighting and disagreements. The whole point of the Rule of Two was to keep the Sith strong.

What does this have to do with marriage, you ask?

Well, marriage is like the Rule of Two. You have the husband and the wife in a lifelong relationship who must rely on each other to ensure that the marriage remains strong. As the Sith were so committed to this rule, being completely sold on this rule for hundreds of years, it is equally important for you two to be completely committed to each other – if not for hundreds of years, then at least for your lifetime.

And with that, I invite you to raise your glasses with me to toast Nikki. May the force be with you.”