"(God says:) Forget about what's happened:
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
It's bursting out? Don't you see it? . . . .
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands." (MSG)
As I look back on the past year, I can honestly say that I did not always hold to the promise of hope depicted in the above passage. I didn't always "forget" what's happened. I did continue to "go over old history". I wasn't always alert. I wasn't always present. I didn't always look for the "brand-new" that God was "bursting out" to me. And sadly, I didn't always "see it". I didn't see the "road through the desert", or the "rivers in the badlands".
I actually spent much of the year in despair, especially the second-half of it. I didn't always feel hopeful, and I definitely didn't always feel like I was trusting that God's plan was better than what I ultimately had in mind for myself, my family, my friends, my co-workers, the world, etc. This year has left me with many unanswered questions, but lately I've been reminded to continue to trust, despite my sinful nature to become suspicious of God, unable to trust that He really knows what He's doing in the lives of those closest to me, as well as His plan and purposes for every human being on earth.
People in my world and outside the borders of my own existence have suffered huge losses this year. There have been unexplained deaths and unexpected diagnosis . . . failed marriages and failed churches . . . struggling friendships and bad choices leading to serious consequences . . . an estranged child and a mother who is somehow trying to be everything but somehow feels like she is nothing in the process . . . the underlying heaviness that is being carried around due to unresolved issues from the past . . . a world divided due to core belief systems . . . and a world so desperately in need of a saviour . . . . . . the list could go on and on, and some of what is noted above is about me personally--some of it is not, but I am somehow connected to it all in one way or another.
I arrived at December 18th, my last actual work day of 2015, and after getting home from work and opening my gifts from my students and co-workers with my boys, I crashed on the couch and stayed there for two hours until Wayne came home from work. I was literally to the point of being unable to move when he saw me lying there. The supper hour had come and gone and I had no ability to get off the couch. With the hope of celebrating the end of another school session, Wayne suggested that we abandon my plans for supper at home and try out a restaurant in the town next to ours. Somehow I was able to drag myself off the couch and get somewhat refreshed. We all piled into my husband's truck. The supper was delicious and I was hugely relieved to not have the responsibility of cooking a meal that evening.
Fast-forward to the last day of 2015 and I will say that the past 13 days have allowed me to revitalize myself so that I am ready to embark on the next adventure in school for myself in terms of my job, as well as for the next segment of school that my boys attend. God has been reminding me for the past several weeks, in various ways (to get my attention, I'm sure), that I need to rest. Tomorrow I will reveal my theme verse for 2016 and I'll give you a clue . . . it has to do with the very concept of resting and being still.
For the sake of keeping track of my own little world, the following is a season-by-season synopsis of what happened in my life in 2015 . . . at least of what I can remember. I know I've missed something, but this is the best I can conjure up. I'll try to focus on the positive, with a little does of reality as it may be necessary from time-to-time.
January - March 2015
The end of Mitchell's first semester for grade ten occurred at the end of January, and he finished it off with stellar marks! He began his next semester and had to do extra assignments for the first two weeks of February so that he could attend a missions trip. Mitchell attended SOAR for ten days in February, a missions trip that took place right in our very own city! He and a group of seven other youth and youth leaders from our church embarked on a mission to serve and minister in the city closest to where we live. It was a very eye-opening experience for Mitchell and this really encouraged spiritual growth in him.
At the end of March we celebrated the first birthday of our puppies, Vimy and Juno! Following their birthday, they both had the unpleasant gift of being transformed into "altered females", as the vet now notes their gender in their files.
April - June 2015
April consisted of some tricky end-of-winter weather to contend with, but my highlight for the month was attending and speaking at my future niece-in-law's bridal shower. She married my nephew at the end of May, and it was a joy to celebrate this occasion with my nephew, new niece-in-law, sister and extended family. Speaking some words of encouragement at the bridal shower was an honour and delight. Helping with the wedding preparations was one of the highlights of 2015 for me.
Being silly at the Wedding Photo Booth
All dressed up for the wedding!
In May I was also given the amazing opportunity to speak to a group of women at a friend's church. My topic was "Grace in the Home" and it was a unique opportunity to share about my trials and triumphs with step-parenting and parenting and overcoming the challenges of transforming my legalistic mindset into the mindset of grace-based living. That's my talk in a nutshell, but in all reality I spoke for almost 30 minutes to these women--another highlight for me in 2015.
At the end of May, Mitchell was able to be part of a performance to a group of young men fighting addictions. Mitch played his djembe (hand-held drum) while his youth pastor and the youth pastor's father sang and played their guitar and fiddle. Because the facility was male-only, I was not able to be there for the performance, but Mitchell was very blessed by this opportunity. While Mitchell was embarking on that adventure, Wayne and Ty got to spend the weekend together with other men and teenage boys from our church on a fishing trip. Ty and Wayne had a great time together and I was so thankful for this opportunity they were given.
June brought about one of my favourite events of the year--Mitchell's and Ty's annual drum recital! I love hearing them perform. They both did an excellent job. June is also Ty's birthday month, and it is always fun celebrating the day this amazing teenager was born. In 2015 Tyrone turned 14, and in true Star Wars fan fashion, the cake I made for him was a storm trooper head.
Happy 14th Birthday, Ty!
June wrapped-up another school year for us all, and my boys did very well with their online school courses.
July - September 2015
July began with very hot and dry weather. The crops in our prairie world were looking very bleak. Finally, rain arrived and I think all-in-all, considering the lack of precipitation in early spring and early summer, the fields in our area produced better than expected. Summer brought the anticipation of Mitchell's longest stint at camp for a summer yet. His original plan was to attend staff training, work for 2 weeks as a junior counselor and work 4 weeks in a Work Crew program that the camp offers for teenagers. In total he completed half of those assignments, due to illness and another major life change that happened for our extended family as a whole. The description of that event follows.
The second week of July my parents announced that they were planning to sell their house in the small town where I grew up and move into the city. To make a long story short, the summer in which I was anticipating a leisurely two-months of relaxation, turned into the summer of preparing for, selling and moving my parents into their new home. The sale of the house took place very quickly, and with the much-needed and appreciated help of my five siblings, we managed to get our parents moved out and settled into their new place by the end of September. They now live only 35 minutes from me and I travel mostly on pavement to visit them, whereas before it was a 50 minute trip on mostly gravel roads. They seem to have made the transition into city-living with success, and I'm very grateful that the changes mostly took place during the months of July and August when I was off work. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to go through the process of selling their house, finding an alternate place for them to live, plus moving them during a season in which I was working. That would have been brutal.
Because Mitchell was away at camp a lot of the summer, Tyrone and I got to have a lot of one-on-one time. That was wonderful. Wayne had two weeks off at the beginning of August and we got some renovation projects completed, since the "moving my parents" mode during those two weeks was pretty laid-back right then. Ty and I took a trip to another province with my sister and my niece to visit another sister and her family. It was great to get away and literally do what felt like "nothing" for a few days-- nothing but eat, relax and play games. Those were probably the most relaxing days of my entire summer.
Our renovated kitchen
I came off of my summer not feeling as rested and recuperated as I should have. This brought me into the crazy month of September with limited physical and emotional resources, and I literally felt like I was drowning in my own life. My workload at school came with the awesome responsibility of teaching five grade two students, whom I love dearly. However, working with students who claim English as their second language is not always easy. I ended the month of September feeling like I hadn't really made any progress with them at all, but I am happy to report that as the fall continued and turned into winter, my students have made major progress and it's hard to believe they are the same kids who entered my "learning space" only a few months ago . . .
September brought challenge for my boys as well, since they had to get into their own rhythm of balancing schedules in correlation to their online school work, and we all struggled to get back into the groove. Mixed into this was my parents' official "moving day", church issues, friendship challenges, family birthdays, integration of a new dog into our home (we inherited my parents' dog, Billy, whom we love and adore), financial strain, vehicle problems, my leadership of a women's prayer support group, and a plethora of other run-of-the-mill day-to-day activities. I was so glad when the end of September arrived.
The newest addition to our family . . . a Bichon Frise named Billy!
Billy's mom, our dog, Alaska
However, there were some highlights from the month and the two main ones were Mitchell's 16th birthday as well as another performance by him and his youth pastor (repeat performance of what he did in May). This performance was held at our church and we were all able to attend. It was a wonderful concert and I was so proud of Mitchell's participation in this event. Sadly, the same day, he took his driver's test, and failed by three points. That was hard for him---to come off of a disappointment that huge and then having to perform with a servant heart only a few hours later. However, he did it and came out feeling less defeated by the end of the day than he might have had he not been performing.
Happy 16th Birthday, Mitchell!
One other exciting thing that stemmed from the summer and found its way into my fall and early winter is a prayer support group I started for myself and 6 other women in my life. This group initially began as a study and prayer group, but our need for prayer has forced it into becoming a sharing and praying group instead. We meet bi-monthly, but we have access to each other on a minute-by-minute basis thanks to modern technology. I've created a system through Facebook by which we can ask for prayer, encourage with words, and give updates on our lives between the times we meet in each others homes. This summer I felt a strong prompting by the Holy Spirit to begin this group. There are times I wish I would have said no to this prompting, because it has taken a lot out of me emotionally and spiritually. However, I think that it is because of my responsibility to these women and praying for them and the many needs they have, I have been able to focus more on others and less on myself and my own problems. These women have blessed my socks off and I don't know what I'd do without them.
October - December 2015
While I thought October would be somewhat less busy, I was wrong. It wasn't. However, we seemed to have adjusted to our regular routines by the time October arrived, which made me have less days where I felt like I was drowning. I previously mentioned that we had vehicle issues, and thankfully, Wayne and I were both able to trade-in our older vehicles for newer and better ones. I am now the owner of a red Toyota Yaris sedan, and Wayne has a Toyota Tacoma truck. Both of these vehicles are using less fuel that our previous ones did, so we're already ahead financially just by that sheer fact. I'm enjoying my car much more than my SUV, and Wayne's smaller truck is serving him well in comparison to the larger truck he had previously. And speaking of driving, Mitchell was able to obtain his driver's license in October, with a score of zero. You can imagine how validated he felt after failing one month prior. He's driven several times on his own, and I'm slowly but surely learning to "let go and trust God" for Mitchell's safety. It's hard to be the mom of a 16-year old boy.
November brought the opportunity for the boys to attend a youth retreat for a weekend with their youth group, and during this time I was blessed with having a five-day break from my job at school. It think after having that many days off in a row and allowing myself to take a break while the boys were gone, gave me the resurgence of energy and restoration I needed in order to see myself through until the Christmas holidays. While the boys were at their retreat I read an entire book and watched four movies. Wayne and I actually went on a date. I honestly felt more rejuvenated after that five-day break in November than I did after the entire summer holidays.
This brings us to December and the close of another year. In December we've been able to participate in a lovely evening of comedic Christmas entertainment at our church with Phil Callaway; participate in a youth Christmas dinner; attend a fundraising event for the Bible camp we support; engage in family gatherings and school activities with my students; plus spend part of our Christmas Eve at our church with fellow believers, reflecting on the amazing story of Jesus' birth. I spent most of that service in tears--some tears were of gratitude, some were of sadness, and a few were of joy. But being there gave me the opportunity to release much of the emotion I had been allowing to "pile up" over the past few months prior to the Christmas season. It felt good to release it.
Overall, I will say that the highlight of the year for us as a family was taking on our church's challenge to read through the Bible in a year. We chose to do this as a joint effort, so every night after supper in the year 2015 (as much as possible), we grouped together in our living room to read passages from the Bible--many that I had forgotten about--many that were once somewhat insignificant to me have now gained more significance--many that brought certain perspective at just the right time for us in 2015. Sometimes our reading felt chore-like and mundane, but I think that is normal when you take on such a challenge. Reading Leviticus aloud is painstaking. Reading Song of Solomon aloud to your teenage boys is a unique experience. The prophetic books can also become tedious to read aloud. However, we did it. We made it through and I think we were all encouraged and blessed by this challenge. My new favourite book of the Bible is Esther. I love how God used her precisely, at just the right time, to fulfill His purposes for His people.
I can look back at this year and say that I've grown. Sometimes the growing has been painful. There are many individual experiences that I so badly wanted to write about here on this blog in 2015, but the issues of time and privacy would not permit me to do so. My heart has ached and has been torn this year. My heart has also been made fuller by the many blessings and joys I've been able to experience.