Leaving

We made a huge decision last year. A decision that rocked our home and our family. A decision that had been a long time coming, yet still was impossible to predict.

We decided to stop going to church.

Ben and I both come from a long tradition of attending church services on a regular basis. His grandparents went to the church that his mom and dad both attended, and he attended the same church his entire life. My parents found the church we were attending when I was less than a year old and had been members for my entire life.

Last year, we changed that.

Leaving a church is not something we had ever thought we would do. Ben and I met through the church’s youth group. Ben was a minister and head choir leader. I was crazy involved as an organist, a Sunday School teacher and leader, and a choir member. We decided to live in the city we do because of church, even though when we got married we were looking for work in other cities. We didn’t want to commute to the place where we spent a third of our time. At the height of our involvement, if we weren’t at home or work, we were at church. We LIVED church. And loved it.

We had a community of believers that were living the same life we were, that had the families and the marriages that we wanted, that were the volunteers we strove to be, and were our friends.

And then we had Sophie.

I’m not blaming Sophie, but as you know (or maybe you don’t…) after you have a kid EVERYTHING changes. EVERYTHING. Think of something, anything, in your life. Now, have a kid and it’s CHANGED. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done (as any new parent will confirm). And because I had an undiagnosed round of PPD, it was worse. And my interaction with the church, because it was SOMETHING, changed. But we still held on.

Then we had Lillian. And I broke even more because PPD with a newborn and a toddler looks vastly different than PPD with just a newborn. And in therapy I was told if I wanted to survive, to live, to keep my family together, to keep me together, I would have to take a hard look at our extracurricular activities, or things that we were doing or were involved in that weren’t an absolute necessity, like eating, or bathing, or sleeping. Getting dressed didn’t even make the list, so volunteering in the church, attending church services regularly, being involved were no longer options. So, we stepped back and attended when we could, and weren’t involved anymore.

And then we had Isaac. And all hell broke loose. People say that having three kids is harder than having two, which is harder than having just one, and that going from none to one is by far the biggest change. In our experience, this has all held true. Having three is switching the defense from man-to-man to zone, and being outnumbered all the time, not just when one parent is out of the room. It’s hard and crazy and, now that everyone is sleeping again, awesome. But, there was no way we could pick up where we were in the church, where we were in the community, where we were when we were a family of two, or three, or even four. We were five and church was a really hard thing to maintain.

This was half of our trouble with our church. The other half is a long, complicated story of intimate details I won’t go into. I love lots of people who still go to the church. I respect so many people who go to the church. And I’m not going to use this platform or any other public forum to tear apart such a personal piece of people’s lives. If you have a true relationship with God, and you have found the best place for you to worship, you know what a deep commitment and what an intricate piece of your life it is. This post is not to rip apart what other people have with our old church. It’s to talk about what it was for us.

Our biggest trouble was feeling like there was a lack of support for young families and specifically young mothers. So when the bottom dropped out on our lives, we lost all the connections we had with our faith and with our worship.

I think it’s important here to describe the difference between faith and worship. It’s as different as belief in God and organized religion. There’s God, the perfect being, the One who loves you through everything and anything, and the religions that are man-made, imperfect bodies set upon this earth to help us get closer to Him. The trouble? All of those man-made rules, judgments and complications. For us, our relationship with God was there, through ups and downs, but our ability to worship and to receive support in our relationship with God was destroyed and non-existent. We loved God. He loved us (because that will always be). But we had lost our place in a community of believers. We had lost our connection through worship, which is singing, praising, working and sitting in that community of believers and hearing God’s word.

It hurt. A lot. And it just kept hurting. Until I decided that I needed more.

So I told Ben that. I explained to him that I couldn’t go on not worshiping, but that I couldn’t go back to how we had always worshiped. I told him that I wanted to go church shopping. I told him that I needed to go church shopping. And then I asked him what he thought. And then I started apologizing.

Asking someone to change pieces of their faith or all of their faith, or having someone jump ship on the faith when you have spent your entire lives and relationship believing and worshiping together, in my opinion, can be such a blow. It’s like you had a deal and the other person reneges in the worst, biggest, most awful way ever.

I needed to find a way to worship but I hated that I was asking Ben to give up everything for it.

So we talked and talked and I cried, and we talked and talked, and I apologized and cried some more, and we decided – we’d go shopping. We’d keep an open mind. We’d look for the support that we so desperately needed. And we’d attempt to find a church that would work for our little family, not necessarily one that worked for the generations of church-goers before us.

We have found a church and a community that gives us the opportunity to worship in a completely different, yet sacred way. We have found a church that is giving us support that our former church just couldn’t muster. We have found a place to sing and praise and stand in a community of believers again where it doesn’t hurt quite so much.

It still hurts. It hurt over Thanksgiving when we weren’t in our old congregation with the altar laden with harvest and the singing being incredible and feeling of gratitude overwhelming us. It hurt over Christmas when we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning because there are no services in our new church. It hurts every time I see a minister get up to serve and I know that for Ben, if we stay in this new place, that it will never happen for him again, whereas he had that opportunity in our former church. It hurts when I think about all of the people that we have left behind, people who loved us and helped us get started as a couple and as a family, people who baptized our babies and loved them like their own. It hurts.

But.

It doesn’t hurt as much as nothing or as returning to old habits that don’t work for our family anymore.

And it feels lovely to be sitting at the feet of God again, praying in a community again, loving other believers again. It feels good. And it feels like there’s hope. It’s hope-full. It’s promise-filled. And for now, for today, it’s working for us.

I never in a million years thought that we would leave our church. I watched other people leave and I didn’t understand it, I worried for them and their souls, I shook my head in disbelief.

And now we are in a place of such flux, of leaving and of looking, of trying to find a way to stay and being resigned to look elsewhere, and all I know now is that God loves us. He’s there, like always, like forever. And we have found a way for today to worship with others like us.

~ Julia

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You can’t control the hand you’re dealt

It really is all in how you play the hand, your attitude as you face adversity, what you choose to focus on.

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I believe you lose a lot of peace and joy in life when your focus is on the negative, when you stay and wallow when heartache knocks at your door, when you embrace and thrive off playing the victim.

In fact, I don’t just believe it, I know it’s true.

While compared to some, my life has been anything but challenging. Compared to others it’s not the easiest story to read. If I chose to sit here and list all of the damaging moments, the moments I didn’t think I could survive, the moments I questioned, “why me?”, I am sure I could make some of you, our faithful readers, feel sorry for me in some way or marvel at how strong I must have been to face those challenges.

But, what is the purpose in doing so? Other than to use these moments as examples of survival, there is no purpose. Other than to relate to another human in an intimate way by shedding light on the darkest scars found on my heart, there is no purpose.

While I do believe part of overcoming and rising above the situation presented to you is fully feeling and processing what is happening, I also know the most important part is 100% your attitude. It all boils down to your ability to gain perspective and how capable you are in accepting the situation as it is – as much as it does really suck sometimes.

HUGE difference.

HUGE difference.

If you’re in a constant state of struggle and life just seems to keep handing you the short end of the stick, maybe it’s time to reflect a little. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re causing the extent of the heartache. Maybe you’re drawing negative situations to yourself. Maybe, just maybe, you’re playing the victim a little too well.

Take a pause to reflect on how often you complain or find yourself in a less than desirable mood?

I used to let the silliest things take up rent in my head and space in my heart. I would focus on what was wrong and worry that it was never going to get better, that I would never learn how to deal or manage it, that I would never feel whole again.

And I know first hand that there will always be some aches that never fully disappear,  but you do learn how to take the lesson and make peace in order to find your happy – no matter how different it may look and feel after.

And I think that’s the key. I think that a great deal of peace comes from knowing, innately, that pretty much no matter what you face in life – you will be okay. Trusting completely that there is a greater purpose, that you will always be taken care of, that God has a plan. It really takes a fight to consistently remember that.

But after it’s been practiced, after it’s been applied to the crappy, non life-altering situations that in the grand scheme of things don’t define you, when it does come time for life to throw a big curve ball at you, you might not necessarily be ready for it, but you do have a better chance at dealing with it well, knowing that it’s all so temporary and that in five years, most of our today worries won’t matter so much.

~ Toni

Morning meditation

I sneak out in the morning, before this sleepy little town wakes.

Before my dogs realize I am gone.

To be so comfortable in bed!

To be so comfortable in bed!

I run through the tiny trail that cuts  through the town.

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I stop and sit on the bench at the duck pond, I cross my legs. I put my head phones in, I press play and I breathe.

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Picture perfect

I pray for the day.

Although I stopped going to church, I am still connected to something – something that I send my thoughts and prayers to.

I pray for my family.

I pray for what I have. The air in my lungs and the food on my table. The four walls that surround me and the two arms that hold me. The women who guide me and provide me with strength. The friends who ground me.

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I start every day like this. I stop my world from spinning for a moment…before it turns uncontrollably again.

Sleepy town

I run away before I start my day.

I run away to start my day.

~ Jacqui

Dear 16-year-old me

Dear 16-year-old me,

This is the year that you change high schools (by choice this time), the year you start grade 10 as the new girl again, meet and fall in love with two of your still-close girl friends, meet and fall in like with a few boys and then finally meet and fall in love with your first serious boyfriend. He will teach you that laughter really is one of the most important things in life and also that saying goodbye to people you love is hard, but sometimes completely necessary.

Michelle, myself, Katey

Michelle, myself, Katey

I want to tell you that you should be a little more sure of yourself, you’ve got more to offer the world than you give yourself credit for and you shouldn’t put so much weight on the negative influences you’ve faced. I want to tell you that your anger was so, so wasted and it took some joy out of what could have been even better moments. I wish I could tell you that if you could have been a little softer, a little sooner, you might not have been so quick to cut people out of your life. But, you eventually get it in your own time – go you!

You will know by now that your curves – especially your boobs – can and will be both a curse and a blessing. You will one day embrace them for both sides of the coin, especially when it comes time to attend court for your first speeding ticket…don’t worry, he lets you off way easier than the cop did.

You will kick yourself when you realize you should have thanked your big sister sooner for stepping in, every time, without question, whenever, wherever and however you might have needed her – she kind of raised and saved your ass…a lot. (Seriously, thank you, Julia.)

Where would I be without you?

Where would I be without you?

You don’t know it yet, but you are about to make the bold, almost stupid, decision of not attending college directly after high school – I want to thank you for that. Seriously, good move. You get to meet the next great loves of your life – your future fiancé, the man you will marry and his beautiful children – because he remembers you years after your stint in the automotive industry is over. He’ll contact you on a site called Facebook (which I won’t even attempt to explain to you) and the rest is history.

Future You still doesn’t fully understand the feeling women are talking about when they say they “can’t wait to have a baby!” and that’s still okay, but stay open. Try not to let the influential voices in your life dictate this one for you – it is a choice that only you are allowed to make as you are the only one who will live with the results of that choice. And when women who don’t understand your indecisiveness about it make you feel small and ashamed, please don’t let them get into your heart. Not wanting or wanting children of your own does not shape the woman you are and the quality of life that you will have. Those women can suck it.

I wish I could find some way to tell you to be kinder and to go easier on your mama (not that you would have listened, you mule). She has always been your biggest cheerleader and your biggest defender – whether you believe me or not. One day you will be blessed to count her as one of your best friends and won’t ever be able to make it up to her for all the heart attacks and aches you’ve caused her. No matter what path you will choose – even the decisions you’re not proud of (there are eventually a few, trust me) – she will never leave your side. She’s also kind of the best example EVER for a mother’s love and will unknowingly provide the strength and wisdom you need when you become a step-mom.

mama and me

Mama and me

Also, it turns out there is a way to get what you want out of life without fighting and building brick walls at the first hint of heartache. You don’t have to be so ready to fight for your life at a moment’s notice and you will learn the hard way that people will only love and care about you when it’s good for them too. You will also learn that if you continue to make it impossible, they will walk. And some never come back.

Please don’t stop painting. I guarantee you will regret it.

You foolishly will stop running when you begin your first full time job. Thankfully, somewhere in your mid-20s you will fall in love all over again – with the freedom you feel mid-stride, heart pumping, legs aching, sweat dripping, telling yourself just one more kilometer, every kilometer, until you feel satisfied. It’s an even more amazing and rewarding relationship the second time around. ***Bonus hint: this rule DOES NOT apply to all relationships…but you’ll learn that one eventually too.***

Yes, you still cry easily – when angered, when happy, when sad, when overwhelmed, when frustrated, when elated…even commercials do you in. You don’t yet fully love this trait so innate to you, but you get used to it. Eventually. I hope.

You should be warned that people will tell you whatever you want to hear to get what they need or want from you. You learn this rule the hard way a few times (See a theme here? Donkey.). However, be grateful that it still has yet to harden your heart and you learn to always hope for the best from people, every time. The good thing with this is you’re a lot happier this way and more in tune with your gut feel about people or situations.

16 year old me

16 year-old-me

You still have an amazing circle of people that love you and want only the best for you – you have just become a whole lot more appreciative of them and almost hyper-aware of how incredible your friends, family and loves are.

Please, try to remember daily – you are so blessed. Never forget what God has done for you.

Love,

~Toni

The new girl

Growing up, we moved. A lot. Which means that I was the ‘new girl’ at school, A LOT.

New Girl

New Girl

By the time I was 16 years old, I had attended five elementary schools, two high schools and my future-self would face two more colleges. While not a completely unfortunate or unique situation (army-brat, anyone?), I often find myself a tad envious of the friends that can revisit their childhood home anytime and still have some of the same friends they did in elementary school. That legacy and history sometimes tugs at my heartstrings and make me yearn for a childhood with a few more roots.

However, I attribute our moves and the inevitable new schools that came with them to some very positive personality traits that have helped me in everyday adult-life and even some priceless lessons that have helped me conquer some pretty big demons.

While being the new girl had it’s many disadvantages – especially when you attend a snobby country school full of rich kids whose parents had forgot to teach them basic kindness – it also had its many advantages.

can't sit with us

Mean Girls

1. The less they know, the more they want to:  If I were able to remove the inevitable nerves that come with a new crowd or situation, the allure of being the mysterious new girl is one that I secretly enjoy. Realizing at a young age that I had the control to be able to pick and choose the pieces of myself that I wanted to reveal, when I wanted to, helped me a lot in my dating life, but also when it came to making new friends. Even now as my career life evolves and I face another new team and a whole new set of people, the idea that these people know nothing about me is sorta thrilling.

Never Been Kissed

Never Been Kissed

2. The popular girls aren’t all they’re cracked up to be: I was once immediately accepted by the ‘popular’ girls – this never happens, especially true in elementary school. As an outsider, the popular girls were a group you really had to work to be a part of – something I never had a knack for, so you can imagine my surprise when a group of 10 of the most liked, prettiest and wealthiest girls wanted to hang out with me. It was the worst week of my life! They wanted to control everything – from what brand of jeans I should ‘tell’ my mother to purchase, to how to wear my hair, who I could socialize with, who I was allowed to be nice to, how many turns I had to take at the end of the double-dutch rope… seriously, horrible. After that, I stuck with the boys and the misfits – so much more fun and I was accepted just as I was.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

3. Variety is the spice of life: Often times we fight to hold on to the old and familiar. Throughout our lives we become attached to people, places, things – the things that provide comfort and give us the feeling that we belong. Not having the chance to create those deep-seeded roots through school coupled with the constantly changing scenery has given me a certain kind of advantage that one might not expect. While I do find comfort in the familiar, I am fiercely independent of the need for these things and have very little fear of being alone. This ability to be comfortable anywhere, with almost anyone has allowed me to meet some pretty funky characters, go on some amazing adventures, sit down at some of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants and have some of the best meals of my life without hesitation. I often find people who are creatures of habit lack the ability to do this and I chalk up the ease at which I step outside of my comfort zone to the frequency of moves made in my young life.

4. You only get out what you put in: As a self-proclaimed expert in all areas of being the ‘new-girl’, I can tell you this is 1000% true. If you don’t try, be kind, stay open, make an effort, there will be no reward in return. If you close yourself off, play cool, be cold, not take that leap of faith, you will forever be sitting on the sidelines – even if it is just the sidelines of the Kings Court game with the super fun crew at recess.

5. The mean kids get theirs too: And no, I don’t mean that you’ll run into them 15 years down the road, working at the local gas station while you’re busy driving your dream car, paid for by your dream job, gassing up at said station, looking oh-so-fabulous…well it might. But, what I mean by this is it’s easy to forget that after the bubble of high school is popped, life has its own way of leveling out the playing field. Not all of those mean kids will realize it right away, but how popular or mean you were in school has little play in real life and it kind of boils down to your brains, skills and drive.

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

6. No one knows your older sister: Thanks to the age gap between myself and my BRILLIANT older sister Julia, I was always fortunate to be the first of the sisters to make the mark on any new school I attended…sorry Jacqui and Andreah. Thank goodness. Seriously. After the first round of elementary school, which Julia and I attended together, and her reputation of being a somewhat goody-two-shoes, I was happy that this was also the last as I was less than stellar in the areas of listening and rule following…sorry mom. It was the first time in history that I didn’t have a reputation to live up to – both thrilling and terrifying. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was getting my first lessons in first impressions and I made sure to make my mark a memorable one…again, sorry mom. Thankfully, my understanding of the importance of first impressions has evolved and I feel that I owe my ability to usually nail them properly to the multiple chances I was granted at every new school I attended.

7.  Everything is so temporary: I have not always been the best at putting life’s funny surprises into perspective – something I really am only mastering now and still have far to go. However, much like my stints throughout multiple schools, the realization that situations are only temporary was one I did happen to grasp quickly. Sadly, during one particularly rough year of middle school, thanks in large part to a group of girls to whose standards I just didn’t measure up, I remember sitting on the bench of the baseball field and telling myself that everything would be okay because next year it would be a different school, with a different bunch of kids to fit in with. It was temporary. I’m not sure how I exactly came to this conclusion, or why that memory of 11-year-old me has stuck so well, but it is one that has helped me to face every inch of adversity in my life with a bit less panic than innate Toni would have managed. If life isn’t going so well, just remember, it’s all temporary.

That Charlie, so smart

That Charlie, so smart

8. There will always be that one teacher: For me, it was Mrs. Radkey. As previously mentioned, I was not exactly a teacher’s dream student. I was rambunctious, outspoken and opinionated. I was tough. I had to be. And the majority of my teachers made sure I knew it. The truth being, I was and still am, kind of hard to love. Mrs. Radkey was different – she accepted me, dealt with me in kindness (even when I really didn’t deserve it) showed me patience and love and, for what seemed like the first time, I was thriving in school. She was my favourite elementary school teacher. Not confined to the walls of an institution, every once in a while, special teachers come along – to show us grace, humility, love. To make us come alive in ways we had not yet learned about. These teachers can be partners, friends, unexpected relationships, children, seniors. They come in tough bosses, and kind ones and in the least expected, sometimes temporary people. And, of course, they come in sisters. Be open to the teachers that spend a little extra time with you and make you want to learn whatever lesson they were sent to teach you. Often times it’s a lesson about what’s in you and what you’re really made of.

~ Toni

My inner child

Lately, I have been spending my days playing ‘nanny’ to my incredible nieces and nephew for my wonderful and BRAVE older sister, Julia.

Nanny Toni

Nanny Toni

A series of unfortunate events led me to being unemployed this past December and for the first time in my fairly young career-life, I really started questioning my happiness in my most recent roles. Whether it was the type of organization/role or the field of marketing itself has yet to be determined – whatever the root cause, I am a firm believer that happiness is one of the most important aspects of life, in all areas, and it was a bit of a wake-up call.

For the first few weeks or so of my ‘vacation from life’, I thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of my new found freedom and lack of responsibility – soaking in the early morning light as I woke with no alarm, working out whenever I wanted, spending days with friends that held opposite schedules of my previous 9-5 office life, going days without having to put on pants (seriously, best thing about not having a job), dropping in to see my sisters, nieces and nephew during THE DAY, properly preparing the house for Christmas and all the events of Christmas coming, getting sick with the flu – twice – and having the proper time to take care of myself and sleep as much as I could.

And then reality kicked in. Hard.

Reality of my blaring lack of income, lack of purpose, lack employment, lack of contribution to society, lack of ‘insert negative attribution of not having a job here’ and my natural reaction of pure panic set in. I had never been unemployed for longer than a few weeks and while I was applying and interviewing, I still had not found the role for me and it was FREAKING me out.

And then I got the call.

An innocent request to retrieve my oldest niece Sophie from school triggered my sister’s brave admittance to struggling with PPD and her even braver request for help.

I was needed.

Call it fate, kismet, God’s intervention (my personal belief) or the like, there was a divine reasoning behind my lack of gainful employment and I was needed.

While I would like to say I have been selflessly aiding my sister with her beautiful babies – trekking to and from school while negotiating with Sophie regarding outfit/hair accessory/schedule of the day, handling Lillian’s toilet-training-tantrums and mishaps, changing Isaac’s poop-exploded diapers – with grace and determination, I would be lying.

Being with my sister and her babies every day has been one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I am not sure of many other aunties who are nearly as lucky as I am to get to spend so much quality time with their nieces/nephews. In fact, among our sisterhood, there has been explicit expression of the jealousy they have of me – with one working insane-o hours and the other so very far away.

Don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned struggles do in fact take place daily. There are stressful and overwhelming moments, moments filled with wonder at how Julia does it/what was Julia thinking having SO many kids and moments that make me question my abilities to handle and guide such young and precious minds.

But none of these moments will ever compare to the other moments that fill the days.

The influence these little people have had on me has been nothing short of profound, enlightening and priceless. They have gifted me something that I thought was long lost and unrecoverable: they have found my inner child.

No-pants-wearing inner-child

No-pants-wearing inner-child

I have noticed a shift in my behaviour, even my attitude and I attribute it fully to the impact of these little people on me. Based on the following changes I can say I know the child-like Toni has returned to breathe new life into what was once a blindly living adult:

1. Announcing and celebrating burps: while my sisters can attest to my ability to burp like nobody’s business and reveling in it when I was younger, when boys and dating started to become of interest to me, this habit quickly stopped in order to appear more eligible. I refuse to this day to fart in front of my fiancé, so you can imagine his surprise when I let out a large, rather gratuitous burp last week while watching TV. Instead of my usual “Excuse me” and apology for how gross that was, I turned to him and announced, “I burped!” He looked at me, quite confused and said, “Good for you?”. While I was slightly horrified at my initial reaction, a smile formed on my face as I realized I had picked up this adorable behaviour from my youngest niece, Lillian. Now the lesson here is not in the burp itself, but in the ability to embrace your inner silly-side and give yourself a bit of freedom to relax. Not only had I broken one of my own impossible-to-live-up-to standards for living with another being, but I had reacted with pure joy at the surprise of how freeing it was. Yay me!

2. Waving your freak flag: up until quite literally yesterday, you could not pay Sophie to spend a day without her purple, plastic crown. This crown was a gift from me to her, something I never imagined would ever become so important to her, so quickly. A freebie in a Happy Meal, the crown came along when I gave into an insatiable craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Sophie has believed of her royal status long before the purchase of this Happy Meal, so I felt it only fitting to gift it to her, instead of returning it to the counter. I could have never prepared myself for the reaction and love she would have for this crown. She never took it off. Ever. Becoming her signature accessory, Sophie has not been seen at any moment without her crown – even when she played a sheep in her Sunday School Christmas Program.

Princess Sheep Sophie

Princess Sheep Sophie

Not only does she wear her crown, but she proudly shows it off to anyone who may glance in her direction and introduces herself as Princess Sophie. She does not care what people may think, as her childish joy in this item outweighs her awareness of the judgey world we live in. What a lesson to be taught by someone so little. While I do not revolve my life around the opinions of others, I do let insecurities creep up and wonder how people will receive and perceive me. However, being exposed to the surety in which Sophie carries herself, made my heart ache with a bit of sadness for myself – at what age did I start caring what people thought? How many things have I backed out of, changed my mind about, didn’t wear, wore too much of, based on other people’s opinions? And how many of these ‘people’ really mattered? Not many. From now on I am going to wave my freak flag, whatever it may, proudly, with less concern for other’s opinions and more concern for my own child-like joy in life.

3. Shrills, shrieks and laughter: pure, unadulterated joy – for no freaking reason. As silly as it sounds, Isaac’s ability to both entertain and thrill himself just by blowing a few spit-filled raspberries with his mouth amazes me. It is one of his new-found talents and the smile that comes to his face after he’s created that sound with his mouth is infectious and lesson-filled. He has joy for no reason. Lillian will often look at me and shriek with excitement that bursts through her piercing blue eyes and causes her face to run red with life – for no reason at all, other than to show her happy and get a laugh out of me. Seriously, at what point in our inevitable growing up do we lose focus of our ‘happy for no reason’ joy? It may be the long hours worked at a sometimes-thankless job, or the wear of financial burden when the outcome is more than the income, or the schedule to keep with the children to get in all of the committed activities, or the increased awareness of ‘things’ to do, have and desire, or our inability to unplug from our cell phones, social media and work that sometimes sneaks home with us. But when did any of that mean we should lose our happy? Huge life lesson here for me: be happy like a child for no reason and be worried when your happy is attached to something – nothing in the life is permanent and that reason can easily be taken from you.

While I am excitedly looking forward to the next chapter of my career-life, I am revelling in theses moments filled with lessons being freely taught to me by such young influences. Lessons that I will happily apply to all aspects of my life. I pray daily that I am making a difference for my sister, brother-in-law and their precious babies, but more so, I am sending prayers of thanks for these lessons taught to me by these incredible souls and to God for giving me the time to learn.

~ Toni

Meant to be

Do you believe in fate?

Or do you believe that when things fall into place, it’s simply happenstance, coincidence, or serendipity?

I fully believe that things not only happen for a reason, but that the timing is always perfect.

I don’t believe that it’s fate and obviously I’m anti-coincidence. I’m a firm believer that God ensures things happen when they’re supposed to. 

This is not always an easy thing to do.

It’s hard for people who don’t believe in a higher power to accept that there’s something bigger guiding things from above, or below, or over there. It’s tricky to hang on and have faith when everything is falling apart and nothing feels like it’s going to work out. And for people who are very logical and want everything rooted in something tangible, this idea is impossible. It can not and does not exist.

But for me, it’s what’s true.

Examples of this, of God’s hand working hard for me, have made themselves apparent very recently.

The first one is pretty easy to see why I would believe that God is making sure myself and my family are being cared for.

One of the sisters, Toni, lost her job in November. This in and of itself is not a great moment. In fact, some would argue that this is a crappy circumstance, and God is certainly not behind it or if He is, He’s a meanie. She’s not a millionairess (yet) and she needs her job. But, shortly after losing her job, my baby Isaac got sick. He was so sick that he had to be hospitalized for three days. My husband, Ben, had already used up all of his vacation time, so taking time off work would have been unpaid time. Toni was able to step in and be me for those few days, taking care of my home while I was taking care of Isaac in the hospital. That was divine intervention.

She still doesn’t have a job, which again might be construed as even jerkier, but in truth she’s saving me by helping me every day with my babies while I recover from postpartum depression again. It’s not great for her bank account, but the love I’m receiving is priceless.

The second example is a bit more convoluted, and the naysayers (such a biblical word) and doubters (another one!) would argue that this is complete nonsense, but bear with me.

My friend Jill is a superb Tupperware lady. Through Tupperware, she met a fabulous travel agent guru, Emily. Emily goes to church with an incredible woman named Laura, who runs her own Stampin’ Up business. Jill and I both know Paula, another awesome woman, and she asked Laura to put on a card-making party for her (so. much. fun.).

The night of that party, which happened two Christmases ago, was nothing out of the ordinary. When you’re a woman of a certain age, direct sellers target their parties directly at you. When you’re a stay-at-home mom, you are drawn to the idea of getting out of the house simply for the the potential of adult conversation.

But that night, I felt as though Laura was a kindred spirit to me. Have you heard of this idea? A kindred spirit? The best example that I can think of is Anne Shirley and Diana in Anne of Green Gables.

They are people just like you, whose heart beats like yours and whose outlook matches yours and when you look at each other you think, “I get her (or him)”. That happened for me and Laura that night. We are kindred spirits.

Fast forward more crafting opportunities, more conversations that proved we were in fact kindred spirits, and it’s today. Today I am broken. Today, my brain needs love and care and rest and help. And today I’m enrolled in a bible study with Laura. She invited me and it’s two hours in the middle of the week at her church where I get to sit and think and be with God and ponder Him.

Last week we studied Psalm 3, which is all about the strength and protection and help of God. Verses 3 and 4 really stuck out for me:

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill.

Now, you might say that of course we liked each other since we both go to church and of course it would be natural that Laura would invite me to a bible study. Of course.

But it’s so much bigger than that. It’s the perfect storm of circumstance, created and curated by the big guy in the sky that made it so that I could go and sit in a room full of women and pray with my kindred spirit Laura when my heart would be hurting. It’s got Him all over it.

So as we plod along, day by day, keep your eyes open for moments of fate or kismet, or serendipity or God. Because even the smallest ones can lead to the biggest comfort.

Or maybe it’s all just coincidence.

~ Julia