Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

Fight the Apathy

I’m a feeler.

I cry a lot.

I cry when others cry, I cry when a sad commercial comes on, I cry when I watch the news.  When I’m mad, I cry.

And there’s no controlling it.

I used to hate it, the crying.  It used to make me crazy.  But now, while I’ve not necessarily embraced it, I have accepted it.

I cry.  I feel.  It’s who I am.  It’s how God made me.

But, it also makes things hard.  The feeling.  Feeling everything, feeling everyone’s hurts.  Especially when you, whether correctly or not, start to feel as if you’re the only one feeling for everyone else, but no one is feeling for you.

Then, enter loneliness.

Even though, even THOUGH, my head, my brain, tells me that it isn’t true.  That while we often can’t count on people, God is always there.  Always on my side.

People will let us down.  I will let people down.

But there’s Grace.  So much Grace if we just choose to reach out and accept it.

However, even knowing all of that, I seem to have entered this stage of apathy.  Of exhaustion.

Fighting is hard.

Fighting for yourself when you feel as if no one is on your side is hard.

Apathy is easy.  Not feeling is easy.

Until it isn’t, and then all of those feeling whoosh back in and take you.

And the devil, he whispers that you aren’t worthy, that you have no one, no one, and that no one cares.

And you try to keep that cloak of apathy on, because having that, instead of dealing with the truth, of dealing with those whispers, it’s easier to not.  It’s easier to just be, to just go through the motions, to just feel as if you can do it without others, as if you can just keep trucking.

But it slips, that cloak, because it’s not true.  You do care.  You care far more than you should.  And you want to feel valued, and you want to feel important to someone for more than just what you do for them.  You want to feel loved for who you are.  Just as you are.  Flawed, feeling, crying, you.

And still, that voice it whispers, it whispers that you aren’t enough.  That no one will ever find value in you.  That you are not worthwhile.  That you are alone.

And you have to drown out that voice with the truth.

The truth needs to be louder than the whispers, and you have to keep going back to them.

Grace, it’s here.  You just have to reach out and grab it.  You just have to believe that it’s yours.  And even if you need to be reminded every. single. day.  It’s there.

Fighting is harder.  Fighting means feeling.

But fighting is better.  I don’t have to fight for grace.  It’s been freely given.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

After a long week where Ja has worked overtime. Where it’s been hard to be the one doing everything at home. When it’s difficult because it feels like you are the one responsible for everyone and everything. When you feel like everyone wants a piece of you, but you have nothing left to give. On those weeks? That’s when I need to count the blessings all the more.

Because the blessings? They pour like rain on the tired garden that life can sometimes be.

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Lego creation

502. Crazy pastors, driving the table cart around with a pile of kids on top
503. Sweet baby toes
504. Ten year old compassion
505. Days just being
506. Ja taking the van to work, leaving us to HAVE to stay home
507. Morning thunder
508. Cozy duvets
509. Almost 13 years married
510. Good friends
511. Crazy neighbours
512. New climbers
513. The secret beach
514. Excellent Kijiji finds
515. Tomato plants
516. Great Great Aunts
517. Learning to distinguish weeds from plants
518. Wise advice
519. Yogurt Oatmeal
520. Tidy house
521. New hand knit sweaters

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Supermom

A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for tea and dessert.  We were sitting around the table just chatting and laughing, getting to know each other better.  At one point, one friend said, “wow, you really are Supermom.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  I laughed, and just sidestepped what I assumed was meant to be a compliment, changing the topic, moving on.

Supermom?  Me?

I homeschool my kids, sure, I cook healthy food, for the most part, we’re involved in our church.

My kids are reasonably well behaved and articulate little monsters when we’re out in public.

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But, I think that calling me Supermom?  It puts down every other mother who may be doing something different in their parenting journey.

I think the woman who works all day, comes home, does homework/housework/quality time all in an evening is also a Supermom.

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The single mother who struggles to make ends meet, yet still manages to let her kids know that she loves them?  She is Supermom.

The woman who occasionally loses it and yells?  She is also a Supermom.

The one who spends six days a week in some arena or another?  Supermom.

The homeschooling mother who occasionally lets weeks go by without doing anything official for school?  She is Supermom.

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I don’t think that what you do with your kids is what makes you a mother.  If you let them fingerpaint in the dining room, even though it’s winter, if you grind your own flour, bake your own bread, have a 5 acre garden.  If your five year old is doing algebra, that is not what makes you a Supermom.

Women, especially mothers, are the worst group of people that I know of for comparing and judging each other.  We only let the “good” parts of ourselves shine out, so that when people see us, they don’t have a chance to know about the giant pile of dirty laundry in the laundryroom.  Or the fact that you had macaroni and cheese three days in a row.  Or that you haven’t picked up the math work in at least two weeks.  We don’t share that, and it makes us each think that every other mother on the face of the earth has it together… and we don’t.

When we are only portraying our Supermom traits?  And yes, we all have them, we are doing a disservice to other mothers.  We all struggle.  We all can only make it with the help of someone higher.

Here’s the truth of my Supermom-ness this week.  Monday was the only day we got dressed.  We have had oven baked fries twice this week, and eggs and toast for dinner the other nights.  The laundry is piled up.  The kids have watched an entire season of Little House on the Prairie in just a few days (and I am totally calling that our history lesson.)  My bathroom has mold build up in the shower and the walls, and I can’t get the disgusting crusty scum out of the toilet.  My kitchen floor is sticky from a maple syrup spill that happened on Monday.  Most days this week, I couldn’t be bothered making sure that the hooligans had brushed their teeth before bed.

Do I sometimes have it all together?  Sure I do.  But, most often?  I do not.

If your children go to bed at night, knowing that they are loved unconditionally.  If your children are raised with a love of the Lord, wanting to serve Him, knowing that He created them, and that He has a plan for them, then you, you are Supermom.

Even if your cape is a little tattered and torn.

 Funny faces for AmyJ

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When you feel like God has let you down.

Sometimes I look around me, at my house that oftentimes makes me so unhappy… it’s untidy, it’s cluttered, if I only had this or that or some of those, then, THEN I could be truly happy, I feel the discontent seeping into me.  Poisoning that which could be enjoyable.  Making me blind to that which is all around me.

The sunlight coming in the window.

The children fighting, then one of them, just one turning it around and making everyone laugh.

The colour.

The warmth.

I am a Christ Follower.  I believe that God has given us promises, promises to an eternal life with Him.  Where He will dry our tears.  Where we will rejoice always.  Where there is no reason to sorrow.

I believe that God is good, that he works all things for his good purposes.  I believe that He is incapable of anything ill.

I believe that the bible is His word.  His TRUTH.  His message to us.  That we can hold on tight to those promises, knowing, KNOWING that He is in control.

And then.

Then friends of ours, friends who have lost one baby already, they lose another.  God takes that baby home.  Leaving them, leaving them with empty aching arms.  This baby, there was so much hope.  He was surrounded by prayer.  This baby was prayed for by people who didn’t know him, who will never know him or the rest of the family on this earth.

And I’m angry.

I’m angry at God for allowing the infection that took this child, that took this family’s hope away from them.

I’m angry that the world is such a place.  A place where some have so much, and others have so little.

I’m angry that children suffer.

I’m angry that loving parents have empty arms, while others take for granted what has been freely given to them.

I’m angry that God just doesn’t wave his hand and make it all be done.  All be good.

And while I’m angry, what carries me through, is the knowing.  Even midst tragedy, even when the world is falling apart around me, I have to hold tight to the truth.

We, as Christ followers, are not immune to suffering.  In fact, we are promised that suffering will happen.  The difference is that we are carried through it.  We never have to suffer alone.  He will not leave us.  Even when we feel bereft, when we want answers when there are none, even when I am angry, I am still held in the gentle and loving arms of God.

His promises are real.  His promises are true.  He can be nothing else.

And He can handle my anger.

And loves me in spite of it.

Please pray for our friends who have lost their precious and much hoped for baby boy last night.  My prayer is that they can hold onto the promises, even as they mourn.

 

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

We’re smack in the middle of a heat wave here in Ontario. The heat so dense and thick that you sweat while sitting still. That beads of water form instantly when you pour yourself a cold glass of water.

The heat does something though, it encourages quietness. Slow movements. Relishing in the relative coolness of the basement. Of the mattresses spread down there, ready for the tired and hot bodies to fall at night.

It seems to me that this heat wave has created in me a lack of motivation… motivation to put the dishes away, catch up on the laundry, vacuum… all those things seem so hard to get up and do. And in that moment, I put myself down. I think about how I should do this, and I should do that. How that laundry mountain is never going to be scaled if I sit here.

And then, when I look back over the days, over the weeks, and I think, but what value does being still have? And yet, and yes, even He tells us to be still. Sometimes it’s in the stillness, in the quietness of the heat, that is when I can most clearly hear Him.

And while I snuggle my fevered child and have a nap on the swing, and while I “watch this, mama!” just one more time, and while my darling holds my hand, because it’s too hot to touch anywhere else. That’s when I know the importance of being still.

But it’s still a lesson I seem to learn every moment of every day.

There’s a time for the busy, a time for laundry mountain. But right now? This moment? Is the time to be still.

481. New baby toes
482. That sweet new baby smell
483. Giant cloth diapered bums
484. Kids who can’t wait to hold that baby – it may be the only time they’ve sat without wiggling in months!
485. Forced stillness
486. Smoothies
487. Dogs obsessed with water
488. Little boys giddy with glee over that obsession
489. Reading books on the swing
490. Napping on the swing
491. Too hot for mosquitoes
492. A sister obsessed with babywearing, breastfeeding, and cloth diapers, and how that has brought us closer together
493. Last swimming lessons
494. Happy kids, so proud of their accomplishments
495. The basket of wet and dirty towels, a sign of a good time had at the beach
496. Wading pools
497. A beach five minutes away. The ‘secret’ beach
498. Snuggles from sick little girls
499. A husband who takes the well children away for the day
500. Roly poly babies who won’t stay still, even for a second!
501. Being still

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

This week, oh this week. The recovery period after a crazy busy and wonderful days away. A week of regrouping, reprogramming, of finding the rhythm in our day to day that keeps us going… it seemed out of reach this week, with sickness, cranky tired children, obligations. All of those things that prevented us from finding the peace that occasionally exists in our home.

But, if I was careful… I could see it, just peeking around the edges of the whining four year old. The oversensitive nine year old. The seven year old who just wanted to build with Meccano.

I could see it when the nine year old asked to hull the strawberries. When the seven year old spoke nicely to the four year old. I could see it in the splashing at the beach on the oh so hot day. On the joy at mastering a new swimming stroke, on listening to the teacher, on making the body obey what the mind wanted it to do.

So maybe, just maybe, part of our rhythm IS the chaos. Maybe out of that chaos, as I seek those moments of peace, that’s where they’re really learning. The midst of the chaos, of berry picking in the rain, of dashing to swimming lessons every night, of the usual day to day laundry, cooking, cleaning, schooling, reading, bedtimes, in the midst of that is where the learning happens.

Most importantly? In the midst of the chaos is where I am most likely to see grace.

463. Strawberry fields, generously given to the gleaning program
464. The cooling sprinkle of rain
465. Helping children, actually picking more than they were eating
466. Sand between the toes
467. The heat of the sun on my back
468. Girls, best friends, playing together
469. Building rivers, figuring out which way the water will go
470. Patient fathers, bringing bucket after bucket of water
471. Making new friends at the beach
472. Gathering with friends new and old
473. Sweet newborn baby, asleep on a shoulder
474. the encouragement of a friend to just. say. no.
475. pudgy toddler feet
476. singing while riding a bike. Always singing.
477. The washing machine at the beach
478. Life jackets
479. Pruney fingers
480. Jumping off the diving board

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Multitude Monday – One Thousand Gifts

I’m a homeschooling mom. The education of my children lies solely on my husband’s and my shoulders. I stress about it sometimes, even though I firmly subscribe to the better late than early model of thinking around education.

Today tho, today, the sun was shining. The sky was that pure blue of early summer. The trees held all the hope and expectancy of warm weather and outdoor fun. And because of all those things, we took the day “off” and went to the zoo.

Where the hooligans learned about friendship. And about taking turns. They learned that if you step on one water spout, the others go higher. They figured out that 20 children cannot go down a slide at the same time, but if you squish together, you can all fit on a bench in the sun. They learned that if you knock a child down in a race of tag, that you need to stop and make sure that child is okay. They learned compassion. They learned manners. They learned how to be with other people.

They may not have done math and science today, but oh how they learned.

And I learned. I learned that while the noise was overwhelming, while I hadn’t really wanted the trouble of packing up and going. It was worth it.

And I find that now, these days, I am LOOKING for the little things, those little blessings that make up every day life. That make it okay that the laundry is still piled up, that there are dishes in the sink, and that I have to cook dinner AGAIN.

436. Getting groceries by myself. Lingering over the rows, enjoying the solitude.
437. Giggling children
438. Icy water on sun warmed skin
439. Squinty eyes
440. Little girls who insist on giving me giant hugs, and wonder why their name isn’t on my necklace
441. Rough and tumble boys, laughing so hard they can barely formulate the next tackle plan
442. Toddler bellies
443. Sleepy milky wide mouthed smiles
444. Brown toes
445. Bathing suit issues
446. Climbing trees
447. The ease of being with these women, this support system
448. Last minute plans that work out the best
449. Being able to take off for a day and enjoy the sun, the blue, the water, the friends
450. Coming home to quiet time in the cool of the basement

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Eucharisteo – a belated Multitude Monday

I skipped Multitude Monday this week. In spite of the gifts showered upon me every single day, in spite of the blessings that we receive at the turn of the head, I was overwhelmed. I was discouraged by the day to day… the seemingly neverending.

It’s a hard place to be, a stay at home homeschooling mama. When your self worth is completely tied up in things that you do over and over again. The laundry. The vacuuming. The attempting to calmly guide fighting children. Dinner, oh dinner, how you have weighed on me!

Every once in a while all these never to be finished things, they start to get me down.

It feels endless.

It feels pointless.

In spite of the fact that all I have to do is to turn my head and look, look and SEE the wonders that surround me, that have been given by God to me! Undeserving, ungrateful me.

Getting caught in that cycle is death for me. Not only do I get unhappy with my lot in life, as it were, but I become unhappy with those around me. If only he would put his socks away, THEN I could be happier… If only she would stop whining, THEN I could be happier… if only… if only…

Yesterday though, yesterday I was particularly low in my cave of self pity. That is, until the mail came.

In the mail I received a few books that Barry had ordered for me, and one of those books happened to be Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

It’s always a joy to receive a package in the mail. Especially when it’s books. I do love books, books of all kinds. I had put this one of Ann’s in my cart kind of as a last minute thought. Leave it to God to put it right into my hands exactly when I need it the most.

I picked it up and it took me about half a page to become so involved that I didn’t hear what was happening around me anymore. I was engrossed in her story. In my story. In the way that her story echoed much of what I had been feeling… much of what I feel over and over again.

On page 31, Ann says,

Isn’t it here? the wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we much be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize the grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice?
All my eyes can seem to fixate on are the splatter of disappointment across here and me.

It is here tho. The magnificence in the day to day. Beyond the laundry, beyond the dinners, beyond the crying eyes. The magnificence lies in the laughter of the children as they race around the newly cut lawn. The smile in my husband’s eyes as he sees me, in spite of my downtrodden demeanour. The joy, the joy is everywhere. I just have to open my eyes and SEE it. God gives it in abundance every moment of the day.

Maybe, just maybe, I have been pulling myself down by refusing to see it around me at all times. Refusing to see that which is designed to bring me up, to give me grace. Grace that is undeserved but that is offered in love, in so very much love.

On page 33,

So then as long as thanks is possible… I think this through. As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible. Whenever, meaning — now; wherever, meaning — here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the mess, piercing ache of now, joy might be — unbelievable — possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.

Eucharisteo meaning Thanksgiving
from the root, Charis, meaning Grace.
Chara meaning joy.

There is joy found in giving thanks. If every moment is spent with eyes wide open to the wonders around us, if every moment is spent giving, breathing thanks. Then that is where the joy is.

426. Coming together with a forever friend, a sister of the heart.
427. Seeing our six children play together, like they had never been apart.
428. A wonderful 13 year old boy who will still play puppies with little girls.
429. The eagerness at cutting down trees, at helping.
430. Their laughter as branch after branch is cut down.
431. The being, waking up every day, ABLE to do it all again.
432. His smile, all for me when he walks in the door.
433. The children’s shrieks of “DADDY” when they hear the door handle turn.
434. Dinner. That there’s always enough.
435. The swish of the washing machine, thankful that I have a machine to do all the hard work for me.

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Multitude Monday – One thousand gifts

With finger nails encrusted with dirt, and happy children streaked with more dirt, I watch them listen and learn… learn the way that I did from my Great Aunt, their Great Great Aunt.

A woman who is wise in many ways, with whom I share a love of the fibre crafts. Who used to come to our graduations, parties, and was always a definite fixture in our lives while we grew up. Now she is a fixture in my children’s lives. And I am glad.

416. Traveling Aunts. Who come bearing gifts of green.
417. The hooligans, gathering around her, learning about planting right alongside me.
418. Watching a newly planted garden form, take shape, and grow.
419. The gift of family.
420. Green. Oh, I am still enamoured with the green after the oh so long winter.
421. New patio sets from other aunts and uncles.
422. Laughing and enjoying a meal together.
423. Filthy mosquito bitten legs.
424. Shoes on the wrong feet.
425. Dirt under fingernails… a sign of hard work, the fruits of which are yet to come.

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Multitude Monday – One thousand gifts

It’s the day after the day that marked 12 years for us. 12 years ago we stood in front of all who loved us, who knew us, family, friends, all of them… we looked each other in the eye and pledged to spend the rest of our lives together. Through sickness and health, through good times and bad.

After 12 years married, and 19 as a couple, there have been good times, so many that it’s hard to count them all. There have been bad times, some that have faded over time, some that still occasionally feel sharp with remembrance. And yet, when I look at this man, this man who makes me laugh, who makes me cry, whose smile is the one I seek at the end of the day, and I am so very very thankful.

406. A man who has no qualms about wearing his precious baby in a pretty floral wrap.

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407. Who listens to his children, and is really interested in what they have to say. Even when they were very small.

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408. Who makes me smile when I’m playing around with a camera… has no worries about having his silly faces recorded for all to see.

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409. A man who shovels the front walk in classic Canadian winter gear. A touque, handmade of course, boots, a vest, and… shorts.

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410. the patented “Daddy hold”

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411. The way he still plays with me, just the way we did when we were teens.

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412. When he snuggles the sick ones. Just to give me a break.

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413. His strength in taking care of us. Making sure that we spend the winter warm, regardless of the extra work that it makes for him.

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414. His absolute and undying love for our hooligans. Even when they’re being rotten.

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415. Now is the time for honesty. I really married him for his butt.

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I can’t even begin to count how thankful I am that God gave this man to me. That I get to spend my life with him. That he is standing beside me when I struggle, that he is the strong support in our family, the one who keeps us all together. He is a solid man, and I am glad for him.

Hunna? I’m still glad that it’s you.

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