Thursday, July 26, 2012

At the Bottom of the Sea

You know those mirrors that they have in hotels for 'make-up application' that show the most intimate details of ones' face?
Well, I've had many mirrors lately [small children, health issues, surprise kitchen demolition, trials, difficulties etc] revealing my thoughts, attitudes and beliefs and was becoming rather discouraged at what I saw.

I starting sinking deeper and deeper into frustration and despair over my nasty traits.  The list was growing ever longer the more closely I examined myself:  I'm easily angered, bitter, frustrated, self-serving, controlling, apathetic, entitled, selfish, ungrateful, negative... I thought that as a Christian I would be better at all these things?  [Self talk: "How disappointing, how discouraging, how defeating"]...but then I had a wake up call last night:

Sweet grace.

I didn't expect to find grace.   Having seen and listed my fault-list, I expected God's discipline or the voice of my religion-idol banging harsh words against me, "try harder, be better, look at all these Christians at this conference doing so much 'better' work and here you are bawling on the bathroom floor because your kids aren't napping...buck up!"  Instead I was met with sweet grace.


Looking hard at my own reflection and seeing how far I am from 'the mark' of perfection does nothing to inspire change.  My condition, as it always has been is that I am hopeless, utterly helpless, completely incapable of saving myself.  I cannot change my filthy habits except for the grace of Christ poured out.  I am awed and overwhelmed again by the miracle of what God has done for me through Christ.  

When Christ came he did the impossible: he brought sight to the blind, made the lame walk, healed the leper...  what part of any of their healings could they take credit for?  


It was all Christ's work.  They were helpless, desperately unable, completely inadequate to earn for themselves wholeness.  It is the same for my sinful habits and tendencies.

Why have I started to think again that any part of this Christian life is of myself?  I cannot be more patient, more caring, more compassionate, more loving, more kind, more 'whole' apart from Christ. NOR does my salvation depend on the accomplishment of being more like Christ.  In fact, by focusing on my sinfulness I have been actually proud.  It is pride that says, "I am irredeemable" or that, "I'm never going to see any changes in my life" or "God can't use me because I habitually fail."  Aha!  But that is pride, disbelief and a lack of faith:

How can I possibly say of the one and only God, who breathed life in my womb where there was none, that He is unable to bring life in the dead and ugly areas of my life?  How dare I say that God cannot change me or use me even in my sorry state?  Do not be fooled Shannon, God WILL accomplish the work He started in you.  Not for you, or by you, but for HIM and by HIM.    

O Grace. Amazing grace.

Grace is like the ocean waters.  It doesn't matter if I'm the gravest sinner at the deepest part of the ocean floor - His Grace floods over and reaches down to cover even the darkest, loneliest, deepest part at the bottom of the sea.  No righteous act can earn His grace, and no grave sin can change what His grace is capable of doing in each of us.  I just need to receive this gift and marvel at it.  Every. Day. 

I received salvation from death when I first accepted Christ years ago...but I am learning again that every day the gospel saves me.

May this grace and this love inspire true change as I move forward in reassurance that I am indeed acceptable, and indeed righteous but ONLY because of the gift of Christ.

Friday, July 13, 2012

[My Ghanian Quilt] the Journey Continues...

This post has been in progress for awhile but with the chaos of our living space right now, it's been back-benched.  So here's the story of my quilt.  
Rewind: 3 years ago.  No kids, no home, no 'jobs' and we were doing missions work in Burkina Faso, West Africa.  During our time there we had a mini 'family vacay' down to Ghana.  Funny, things on the map always seem so close.  Case in point: "Ghana is right next to us let's visit the coast!"  Ha ha, 12 hours later (felt like the longest bus ride ever) we arrived in beautiful, colorful, loud Cape Coast.  I was forever admiring Ghanian cloth before this trip and everywhere we went during it.  If you've ever been to Africa you know that cloth is pretty significant.  You buy cloth then have a tailor make clothes specifically to fit you.  Burkina cloth was nice but Ghanian cloth, well, that 
was something else.
I have always wanted to make a quilt so decided to buy a bunch of different colours of Ghanian cloth to make it into said quilt as a memory of our trip.  However, shopping turned out to be quite the ordeal.  Sweaty, busy, loud, pushy, aggressive marketplaces.  Hot sun, indecision, walking walking walking. Not like shopping for cloth here.  
We had a lovely trip at the coast and finally did find all the cloth I wanted to (phew).

We then carted those cloths home
through 5 European countries and stored them until we were back in Canada and bought a home for them to reside in.  
I didn't have a sewing machine which delayed my project and then I had this handsome project delayer:

Finally, when Silas was almost 8 months old I just threw caution to the wind and as I often do, dove headlong into this outrageous quilt project.  I didn't research, didn't plan, just started cutting. 

My grandmother donated me her mother's old, quality, swiss Bernina sewing machine (affectionately known as 'Bern') and I was off.
That was 2.5 years ago.  YEARS.
And it's still not done.
I finally cut it and sewed the top of the quilt together, bought back material and filler, and basted the whole beast together.  You might have remember a post with me displaying what the quilt looked like at that point.  

Through one maternity leave and entering into another one the quilt was finally 'almost' complete but then I had another cute project delayer:

Funny, having not researched I didn't realize that all of the above, which took me over 2 years to do, was actually the FASTEST part of the project.  [So funny].  I put it in my calendar "stitch whole quilt together" on one evening.  I had no idea that the actual quilting begins now.


So back in November before baby boy the second arrived, I had a King sized quilt that still needed to be sewn together.  Oh boy.  I could send it out to get someone to do it, do it by machine (which would be tricky since it's so thick) or do it by hand.  Well, even though no one hardly does this anymore, I opted for the less convenient, most time consuming, and ridiculously tedious job of hand stitching/embroidering this gigantic memory blanket together.

Once I resigned myself to how much work this was going to be and stopped focusing on the end result, I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying the process.  Stitch by glorious stitch I am making my way.  I get to sit.  I get to think and pray.  I get to enjoy the bliss of seeing my dream project come together.  Me.  Who often enjoys getting much done in little time, the queen of efficiency, this fast-talking, multitasking mama is enjoying the slow pace of hand sewing.  Crazy.  I am realizing that a lot of things in life are like this quilt: garden growing, child-rearing, relationship building, character change, spiritual development,  all of these happen little by little.  One square a day, stitch by stitch.  And here's the kicker: the process needs to be experienced and enjoyed every bit as much as the end result.  I am learning a lot through this memory making.

 So here it sits.  Like this.  And most evenings or nap times, if the blinds are open and lights are on, you will see me sitting here stitching away.
 *Special shout out to all the grandmas, omas and nanas that helped me along the way: my great 'grandma' Carole for her sewing machine,  Oma Brink helped me baste it together, my mom: Grandma helped me figure out Bern, and Nana purchased my fine quilting frame.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trouble, Sweeet Trouble

He's on the move and boy is he a sneaky, cute little mover.
All boy.  Oh boy.  He's the sweetest little baby though so no complaints here.
Not sure Silas will agree with me soon though...

yup.  He really did grab his brother and push him down.  Hi-larious.  Silas wasn't so thrilled.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

[Oh] Canada

Kids weren't napping, sun wasn't shining but we decided to go for it.  We packed up the car, threw the boys in it and drove for an hour to Steveston to enjoy the Canada Day celebrations.  We saw ships, we ate snacks, we picnicked on the beach, Silas pooped his pants and got to go sock-less for the rest of the day... good times!  They ended up falling asleep on the ride home at like 8 pm, worn out and full of dirt.
Here's some pictures to prove we went, and survived:
 Lucky Toby gets to ride on Papa's shoulders!
 Brothers hanging out on a ship
"I don't like the ships Papa"

Cuddles from Nana on board


Seeing a crab up close (ewww, ewww, ewww)

Log hopping with Daddy.  They were both positively giddy.  A boy after his father's heart!

Monday, July 2, 2012

"I spilled the blueberries"

"I spilled the blueberries."  This phrase has come to haunt me over the past week.  
The scene: 
I had attempted to grocery shop with two little boys.  It was mostly going well although it was requiring an enormous amount of energy to keep them entertained, behaved, and prevent them from de-shelving everything (while simultaneously navigating a grocery store that I hate).

However, mid-shop I needed to take Silas to the potty.  Can someone please tell me how one is supposed to hold a wiggly, acrobatic 7 month old who can reach further than seems humanly possible and is keen on sucking on every surface WHILE stripping a toddler of their clothes, lifting them onto the potty and then doing that whole thing again in reverse?

My options were 1. leave Toby in the grocery cart outside of the bathroom (Obviously this would be neglectful and dangerous so that wasn't going to work) 2. take the cart into the bathroom (they wouldn't let me nor would it fit) 3. put Toby on the floor in the bathroom stall (gross, gross, gross) or 4. grunt, groan, complain and exclaim as I tried to both hold Toby and help Silas.

The shop continued with Silas getting restless and aggressive with Toby so he ended up walking at his toddler -5km/hr pace making me ever so frustrated.  By the time I had paid and finally loaded the groceries in bags (I would almost pay to have someone do this for me) I was very ready to be done shopping.

My exhaustion was rising, I had to pee, and both boys needed to get home to be fed and sleep so the scene was worsening by the second.  Just at the exit I realized I couldn't find my keys.  We were in-between doorways and I was in the home stretch and I was rooting through my purse to no avail.

No keys to be seen.  Frustration rising.  Well, I gave Silas the box of blueberries to hold, instructing him to hold onto them very carefully.  I gave him the berries partially to placate him and partially to motivate him to behave. I told him he could have some once we got to the car.  I'm on the floor at this point, almost to the desperate point of dumping my purse out when:


All I see are blueberries around me.  Silas is wailing and I just snapped.  I didn't yell and scream, but I was very angry.  I gave Silas a hard time and made him feel bad about him dropping the blueberries.  "Look what you've done.  Now you won't get any blueberries.  I told you to hold them carefully now look what's happened... etc" But I went too far.  Much too far.

Oh, I can justify my actions: "I was exhausted, I was tired, I was pushed to the limit of what I am capable of doing as a person..." But I made him feel ashamed for what was probably an accident.  
Over a week later and Silas still brings this up every time I discipline him.  He'll be in trouble for something and I'll be trying to discipline him, he'll be upset, and then he'll just cry and say,"I dropped the blueberries."

Uh oh.

Can someone please tell me how to raise a rambunctious, boundary-pushing, strong willed, emotional, smart, and incredibly literate boy? I am pushed and pulled and worn thin and rung out each and every day with this boy.  He depletes most of my emotional energy.  One minute he is creative, imaginative, playful, fun, energetic, charming and charismatic making me laugh and wonder at this gift of life.  The next minute (literally the next minute) he is obstinate, deaf to instruction, rude, aggressive, obnoxious, loud, aggressive, controlling and temperamental.  

How am I supposed to be a firm but loving Mother?  How am I supposed to be kind and gracious, compassionate and forgiving while also needing to be firm and provide discipline?  How am I supposed to weather this toddler season without going literally insane?

I don't want to repeat the blueberry incident but I am stretched so often in my abilities to care for this 2 year old, I'm afraid these scenes happen too often. I am often out of wisdom and creative ideas in how to motivate, instruct and inspire obedience.  Oh, by the way I have a baby in the background who may or may not be crying, falling off of furniture and barfing into clean laundry baskets.  Oh, by the way, it hasn't stopped raining for a month. Oh, by the way, I get easily angered, I am trying to maintain a perfectly clean home, I am desperate for control, I try to do this in my own strength, I am incredibly hard on myself, I'm very selfish, I am a horrible sinner and I rarely get a solid 6 hours of sleep a night.  

Okay God.  I need your help.  No, I really really really mean it this time.  

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