Thursday, April 21, 2022

Multicultural Upbringing.

Lately I have been reflecting on my multicultural upbringing.  It feels strange to say that, given that I grew up  in a small, isolated community on the west Coast of B.C. However, the  combination of a deep sea port and  sawmill drew a diverse population of immigrant families to our community.  


While we were not poor,  our family lived in a singlewide trailer. My dad firmly believed that it was important to live within our means and remain debt free. As a child I had no idea that living in a trailer park had negative stereotypes. All I knew, is that I lived at the foot of a mountain and that the forest and the rivers that lay beyond were mine for the exploring. My world consisted of  building forts, exploring rivers, leaping off our local dock into the cold ocean, exploring caves, exploring our inlet in our skiff, and riding my bike with the other neighbourhood children. Our living room window looked out on a incredible mountain vista. 


It was not uncommon to see up to ten eagles perched on a nearby snag or witness black bear wrangling our garbage bin.  Many mornings we had to bang pots and pans to scare them away so that we could access our bicycles. 

We were blessed to be surrounded by families of Asian, Punjabi, Italian, Polish, German, Russian and Yugoslavian descent. It was in this tiny village that my fascination with other cultures and religions began.  

I remember one particular  Russian family who invited us over for steaming bowls of Borsht, which we ate with tiny, painted wooden spoons. Borst became one of our families favorite dishes and I secretly loved grossing out my schoolmates out when I opened my thermos at lunchtime. They thought my favorite soup looked like eyeballs soaked in blood. They had no idea what they were missing out on.   Their father played bag pipes in his yard- a sound shook my bones.  Our Ukrainian neighbour introduced us to Ukrainian eggs and it has since become a tradition to paint them each Easter - a painstaking operation that my husband  has much more patience for than I do. Two of my closest, neighborhood playmates were Punjabi. I still remember the way their long, thick braids would bounce on their backs as we ran around other trailers in our neighbourhood. I easily recall the incredible aroma of curry that would waft out  their home when I would stopped by to pick them up for our daily trot to school. Our family had the pleasure of being welcomed into many Punjabi families lives and they kindly taught my mother how to make roti, pakora and samosa. To our great pleasure, it became regular fare at our dinner table. After school I would sometimes visit my Indian aunties and they would feed me warm, buttery roti filled with brown sugar. I remember watching their strong, deft fingers expertly reach into the hot pans and flip the flatbread at just the right moment. It was magical. Many years later I got to sit with Muslim women in Zanzibar and watch them prepare something similar in the streets for their children. I wanted time to stop. 

 My mom enjoyed a close friendship with a woman of Chinese descent and it was in her home that I was introduced to egg rolls. I inhaled her son's collection of anime comics. In school I became aquatinted with a young polish man.  I vividly remember the stories he would recount of his difficult childhood in Poland. 

My mother intentionally nurtured a profound appreciation for different cultures. One of my favourite yearly events was a multicultural dinner that  she would host with her friends. I can't remember if it was the ladies axillary or our church.. I just remember tables laden with textiles, dishes and relics of people's home countries. It gave them an opportunity to share their culture and treasures with the community. Each table provided cuisine from their home country and a glimpse into their world.  I felt like a minority basking in the beauty of other cultures.  I remember wondering how they left their country to come to our rainy, isolated village.  Of course I wasn't aware until much later,  of the poverty, government corruption and desperation that existed in their homelands. They all had different stories but the common thread was that they wanted to give their  children better opportunities than they had. 

When we weren't enjoying far flung cuisine at our neighbours homes we were welcoming missionaries to our table. Our home was a revolving door for guests, neighbours, and sometimes perfect strangers. In one bizarre instance I woke up to find a stranger sleeping on our couch. It turns out he was a homeless man who had come to visit our community and wound up on our couch as there were no local services. We invited him to join us for breakfast and then sent him on his way with a bagged lunch.

It grieves me that my children are not exposed to other cultures the way that I was. They hear the beautiful south African accent  in our church but don't rub shoulders, visit homes and get to know people from different backgrounds like I did. I try to compensate for it but cooking ethics dishes and choose curriculum  that explores other cultures, but it is still a far cry from my own experience. I long to travel with my children and expose them to the color, vibrancy, and beauty of other cultures. In the meantime we read them living books and tales about children growing up in other cultures. We recently finished reading  "Amal Unbound" by Aisha Saeed. It is the tale of a young girl who becomes an indentured slave when she challenges a powerful, rich family in her community. We just started a novel study called Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker. It recounts the storey of a young slave girl and her journey to freedom. Both have been springboard for conversations about difficult things as well as an opportunity to learn about another culture. More than anything, I want them to develop an appreciation and curiosity about other people and cultures. 













Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sobering Thoughts

 


I just started reading Klaus Schwab's book "The Great Reset". I have been following it's author, an engineer, economist and chairman of the World Economic Forum, for over a year.  While I am not interested in economics per se, I am interested the insights and inner workings of those who have tremendous power and sway in our fragile world.  I have always had an intense desire to understand how powerful, and visionary men are able to capture people's hearts and use that power for the betterment of society or its destruction.

 It is the same reason I have read and re-read the  propaganda of Hitler; Mein Kampf  and A Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. I want to understand their intent as well as  their methods. The  Pol Pot regime in Cambodia has always been of particular interest to me, especially after I visited the country and witnessed its "killing fields" and "re-education centers". I have sought to understand how its proponents committed genocide against their own people in the quest to create an agrarian socialist society. They were well intentioned but the outcome was devastating nonetheless . They annihilated anyone who challenged them, particularly the scientists and the educators. And then there is the Holocaust against the Jews. I have not not been to the concentration camps in Europe where women, children and men were stripped of their humanity and dumped into mass graves, but I have read enough biographies and historical documents to verify that it occurred. These atrocities only scratch the surface of the horror visited on  humanity throughout the ages. And it continues. How many months ago were the bodies of first nations children discovered in mass graves? We like to imagine that we are above such acts of cruelty. We are not . 

History repeats itself. 

There is always this fallacious belief: "It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible." Alas all of the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere. - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

We like to imagine ourselves "evolved", conscientious and incapable of the crimes our ancestors committed. How I wish that were true. A brief glance at the world news will remind you that sexual child abuse is rampant in India, that there are more slaves now that ever before in history and that intolerance of religion is at an all time high, particularly in countries where there is an Islamic extremist presence. 

I find myself asking: how did German citizens turn a blind eye to the  annihilation  of their Jewish neighbours and friends. What would I have done if I were a young German woman during the rise of Nazi power? What I would have done as the daughter of a rich plantation owner?  I hope against hope that I would have stood up, resisted the tide of hatred, and fought to protect the oppressed rather than subjugate and enslave them. 

I currently find myself in a position where I disagree with the mandates being issued by my own government. And while they are a far cry from the historical refences I mentioned above, they are an infringement of our constitution.  I have witnessed countless friends loose their hard earned careers careers because they are not willing to bow to governmental control and loose atomy over their bodies. Do I remain silent? Do I speak? I have been in agony over the issue, because I have been uncertain where I stand on many of its divisive issues. I am not a conspiracy theorist but I am aware that there is value in looking at the present through the lens of history. 


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Musings

 

Sometimes I muse about the life we have chosen. It's messy, time consuming and unfinished. I smirk when I think about how ridiculous and impractical it appeared to leave our new build in a residential area. We had a mortgage helper, space for a small garden, fabulous neighbours and were walking distance to a quaint elementary school.

But deep down, we knew it was temporary; a stepping stone to our dream of owning acreage. We found ways to stay content in our home while we nurtured our dream. We didn't want to wait until we had property to have bees and garden and were blessed to find found lovely people who were willing to share their property with us.

 We gleaned wherever we could, knocking on doors when we saw fruit trees laden with apples and cherries in people's yards. They were always more than happy to let us pick to our heart's content. 

We appreciated experiencing aspects of "the country life" while living in suburbia. We cared for other's chickens, harvested our honey and LOADS of beeswax. I registered my eldest for 4H and she got to patriciate in various local fairs. I guess in some ways it was our way of dipping out toes in the "country life" that neither of us was familiar with. 


I have vivid memories of weeding our allotment in town while Nate tended to his bees. I would always have to leave early because the children would get hot or bored or hungry (you know how it goes) but I longed to linger in the sunshine with my hands in the dirt. I longed for the day that bees and vegetables and flowers would only be a few steps from my front door and I could garden to my hearts content while my children played contentedly nearby. 

So when an opportunity presented itself, we sold our home and moved to a decrepit house in a rural location with more land than we ever thought we could afford. 

Why? Why, well I think it came down to our priorities and what brings us joy. There are so many beautiful ways to love one's life and it is a tremendous privilege to be able to CHOOSE your life instead of having it thrust on you.

This summer I experienced my dream to the fullest. My son built dirt ramps and ran barefoot through sprinklers while I planted scarlet runners, my daughter sat in the grass and read to her bunny while I watered the potatoes and my eldest sat at the picnic table under the cherry tree and sketched while I picked sweet peas. Sometimes they would join me to plant or weed or munch on a raspberry, but most of the time they just relished unhurried time outside while I gardened to my heart's content.






"Trust in the LORD and do good;  dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.   Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will do it." 

  - Psalm 37:4



 








































Sunday, September 26, 2021

Posture of the Heart

I want THIS to be the posture of my heart as I navigate life. 

I have a subscription to a beautiful magazine called Wild and Free and when I pulled this particular issue out of the mailbox, I sighed audibly. 

This image captures the posture of my heart.

I love how her face is upturned towards the heavens, her body at rest. She holds a book of some ind in her hands. Is it is journal, a Bible? I don't know, but it symbolizes that she values wisdom. She holds it reverently. She is not striving but rather peacefully waiting.  She knows who she is. 

                                                       A woman who trusts in the Lord.                                                    

I want this to be the posture of my heart each and EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

This is why I get up early each day- to sit at the feet of Jesus, to soak in His presence, to read His word and let His peace permeate my soul. To journal the things He speaks to my heart, to read  life giving words in His love letter to me. 

Life is crazy these days. There is so much that I could agonize about right now- but stress, anxiety and fear are not the answer. 

Waiting at the feet of Jesus is the only place I want to be. Because when THIS is the posture of my heart, the rest will sort itself out. 





Sunday, September 19, 2021

Make room for intimacy




How do we cultivate an atmosphere within the church that embraces people in their broken places? How do we create space for open, raw and vulnerable conversation about how hard life can be.  Lately I have found myself sitting at kitchen tables, hands wrapped around tea and witnessing hearts unravel. Witnessing loneliness and depression in its most crippling form.   

Let's just address the reality that being a Christian does not make you immune to pain, brokenness, heart break and despair. Sometimes it can actually make you lonelier because there is the unspoken expectation that you need to pretend that everything is fine.  Sometimes it feels like the church is full of "happy, shiny, unrelatable people" but I know that this is not true. I know that many are suffering silently. Let's not let that happen on our watch.  At connect group last night we were joking about difficult it can be to connect with people in a meaningful way at church when  your children are running circles around the building and impatient to get home and have lunch. There isn't time to adequately answer the question: "How are you" or have any conversation of substance.   Let's make more space for people to answer the question "how are you"? 

I think that is why I have become so passionate about small groups meeting together on a regular basis to share their hearts, sorrows, revelations, and food. We need community- especially after the mess of the past eighteen months. We need connection, vulnerability and physical closeness. Zoom cannot possibly replace the beauty of that. Our home isn't finished, in fact we are down to one unfinished bathroom, our deck is non-existent and our property currently smells but chicken poo. It's not about creating the perfect environment. It's about hospitality. It's about glorifying our Lord through the simple act of opening one's doors and saying "come as you are". Don't wait until your environment is perfect to welcome people into it. Welcome them into your renovation, counter piled with dishes and noise. We were created for community. If we rub shoulders enough, we can speak hope and life into another. 

I love that I have cultivated an environment of honesty in my relationships. It has come through sharing my own brokenness, of asking hard, uncomfortable questions and sitting with people in those hard uncomfortable responses. There is no room for pretending. If you want to be friends with me I am going to invite you into the beautiful world of vulnerability. Why? Because I believe that we are supposed to carry each other. We cannot possibly expect our spouses/partners to carry that burden alone. It is meant to be shared by many. We all have unique gifting's and experiences that can bring hope, encouragement, and life to people in the trenches of life. None of us are immune to the rigors of life, loss, depression, sorrow, grief, and disappointment. Life is rife with it. Let's stop pretending that our lives are Instagram posts. While there is a place for this.  I am more in favour of  rubbing shoulders, prayer, and intimacy in real time. 




Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Reluctant Homeschool Momma


Two years ago I was giddy with the prospect of sending all three of my children to school and having much anticipated time ALONE. I realized, however, that I wasn't willing to sacrifice my alone time for their welfare. My priorities had to shift when I realized that my hyperactive son was constantly in trouble,  that my middle daughter needed more academic support than the school could provide her and that my eldest daughter had been sworn at and threated  nearly every morning on the bus and at school. I grieved when I realized that they were not thriving, that I would have to give up my free time, that I would have to teach them. I was MAD and disappointed and felt like a failure. Why couldn't my five year son sit still in class and just pay attention, why did my daughter have such a significant learning disability, why were kids so cruel? I know that children endure these things and manage to overcome them, but I didn't want my children to just "endure" life. I wanted them to THRIVE!

We began our second year of homeschooling yesterday. Even as I type the words I find myself shaking my head and thinking, "how did I get here"? How on earth did I decide it was a good idea to be responsible for my children's education. It's almost laughable. It sounds illogical to take on such a task without any prior training. It's not easy, a popular choice, or financially benefiting but here I am,  confident that it is the best choice for this particular chapter in my children's lives. 

I was journaling this morning and reminding myself WHY I am homeschooling. When you choose to do something hard you need to have a good reason to spur yourself  on when certain things hit the fan.

To cultivate the hearts and minds of my children

To raise strong, resilient children who know who they are and are not defined by their peers. 

To help my children feel successful

To cultivate a love of learning.  

To give them time to pursue interests and passions

To reduce stress and provide them with a feast of literature, art, music and ideas to devour.

I am becoming increasingly aware that I cherish simplicity and an unrushed lifestyle. While homeschooling may sound more complicated than sending my children to school for the day; I prefer it to the the stress of contending with endless school emails, lunch kits, pick ups, drops off, extracurricular activities and the emotional fall out before and after school.

That being said, I going to try and share a little more of our homeschooling journey with you this year. It helps me to pause, reflect and appreciate where we have come from and where we are headed. I have no idea if anyone even reads my blog anymore, but I will write nonetheless. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

It takes time to create beauty


It's been awhile since I shared a little of my heart and life on this neglected blog of mine. While enjoy sharing snapshots of our life on Instagram, there is something about sitting down and sharing a slew of photos that encourages me to write with intention. 


We are just finishing up another fun filled summer and slowly shifting out attention to the school year that lies ahead. I have been printing out curriculum and acquiring supplies. More than anything I have been preparing my heart and deciding what my focus will be for the year. But I will save those insights for another blog post.  


My husband and I have dreamt of a life in the country since early in our marriage. We initially imagined that we would purchase land on the wild west coast far from civilization but life taught us how important community is. Over the years we have purchased and sold homes with aspirations to one day be able to afford a chunk of land. We have gardened in nearly every place we called home over the course of 18 years of marriage. In the beginning it was just an assortment of bonsai that Nathaniel had scavenged from rocky west coast cliffs. At our townhouse we cultivated a beautiful little flower garden composed of foxgloves, hydrangea and roses. When Nate became a police officer we were deployed to a tiny community in the Chilcotin. It was in that there that we had our first taste of country life and we loved it. Nate rebuilt an existing chicken coop and we built garden beds from fallen trees. We grew tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini and an assortment of other veggies. It was thrilling.  

We learned that gardening brought us life and togetherness. We loved the satisfaction of planning, cultivating and harvesting something that we could consume. When our term in the Chilcotin ended we requested a move to Vancouver Island. I knew that I would want to have another baby at some point so we purchased a newly built home with a basement suite. I needed a space that didn't require work, a space where I could just focus on my little people. We also knew that we would need the income from the suite to allow me to stay home with my children. Our house hunting trip  allowed us only two days to find a suitable home and we chose the second home that we viewed. 

Our life in that neighbourhood proved to be a perfect fit for out family. After moving in we discovered a school within walking distance and fabulous neighbours. Within a couple months we made friends with a farmer down the road. He agreed to a give us space to keep our bees and space for a little garden. It was bliss. We revelled in those rolling open fields just a five minute walk from our home. We would often meander down in the the evening after supper and collect baskets of sweet cherry tomatoes, fists of dahlias and more scarlet runner beans than we could eat. The children would hold chickens and collect crickets and my heart would do flip flops. In the those moments I couldn't help but thank the Lord for his provision. 



  








 That plot of land sang to me and created a longing in me for my own wide open space.  In the years that followed we began to hunt for the perfect piece of property. It was a disheartening experience and it made me question if it would ever be possibility for us. I questioned whether I was reaching for something that I wasn't supposed to. And yet, the longing persisted.

We nearly bought twenty two acres with my parents but when the owner decided not to sell at the last possible moment, we were devastated. I grieved the loss of that land for over a year. After that I let go of our dream and determined in my heart that I learn to be content with what the Lord had provided us. I remember the moment when Nate and I| looked at each other and realized that perhaps we would never own acreage or maybe not until our children grew up. Perhaps we would never have land and we were okay with that. It was a beautiful release and it allowed us to just focus on the Lord's provision.  We had space to garden, our children could walk to school, we had a wonderful church family, a bustling connect group and able to live within our means. 

About a year later we purchased a sweet cabin on half an acre in the Gulf islands with my parents. You can read about that storey here.  We spent the following year clearing land, having huge bonfires, and watching the whales at East Point. We were ridiculously content and thankful. 

In July of 2019 I clicked on a link for real estate listing for the first time in over a year. I was cleaning up my email inbox when I noticed it. Within minutes I was coaxing my husband to get out out bed and look at the listing. Ordinarily he disregards them within minutes-explaining that it doesn't have the right sun exposure, that soil looks poor or that it is too close to a busy road. This time he didn't have any objections so we called a realtor that specializes in  rural properties. By some miracle we were able to see the listing later that afternoon. 


It was covered in blackberries, unruly gardens and garbage. 




By oh, the space, and the potential. I was elated. 
That afternoon we were touring the house, stepping over animal feces and garbage bags when I looked back at my husband and said "it's not that bad". His face lit up in shock and delight! While it looked like a raging disaster it ticked all our wish list boxes. 
South East exposure 🗸 Water rights to pond 🗸 Wood lot 🗸 Acreage  🗸 Home with character 🗸 Views 🗸 Maple Trees 🗸 Privacy 🗸Affordable🗸Space to garden🗸Long driveway🗸 and so many other things that only the Lord knew we wanted.  We took a week to pray and then put in our offer. 
They accepted. We had finally purchased our long awaited acreage. 



While renovating this fixer has not been easy, it has been such a deeply satisfying and meaningful project. We are FAR from finished and there are many aspects of our home and property that are ugly, ugly, ugly. If you haven't been to our property, there are no rolling hills, picket fences or picturesque barn. Our property is primarily forest with a few clearings. In fact we don't even have a garage. The contents of our previous double car garage are stacked to the roof in my windowless bedroom. Blackberry vines threaten to consume our property if given a couple months traction.. The seals on many of our windows have have failed and thus have a "cloudy" appearance. I can count three others that have shattered but have not yet been replaced.  We have the remains of a cracked cement pool in our front yard. It is typically filled with fetid water and bullfrogs. I have painted quite the idyllic picture haven't I?  Don't you want to come visit? The shocking thing is that people do want to visit- especially children. They don't notice the weeds, the garbage, the unfinished projects or the defunct hot tub outside my window. *Deep breath*. They see the frolicking goats, the free range chickens, the garden over flowering with jewel toned naturisms and enormous zucchini. They see the gigantic net in the maple trees, the trails, the pond and the tadpoles. 

They see freedom and open spaces. 




Sometimes I have to remind myself to notice these things; to adjust my lens to see the beauty in the chaos. I joke that walk around with blinders to avoid seeing the aspects of our property that make me cranky. Other times my heart soars when I meander down the garden paths I have collected with a  basket of eggs or cherry tomatoes on my arm. 



Sometimes the unfinished projects and  piles of drywall get to me. It only takes a quick walk through our massive garden bursting with life and I am reminded of what we are doing here. 
We are creating beauty together and beauty takes time. 

Sometimes I have to scroll through saved  Instagram pictures to remind myself that I will have the wallpaper and wainscoting that my little design loving heart has always longed for. However I have to remind myself that these things are only icing on the cake and often unnecessary. What my soul needs  is an unhurried life, quality meaningful time with my children, soil to cultivate and thankfulness.