Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas

Christmas is normally my favorite time of year.  I just love everything about it. The smells, the sounds, the sights. But this year, Christmas day has just been a big fat reminder to me of what's coming for me and my kids: moving day.

Noah--Christmas 2010

It started in November, when we had that first cold snap.  I got excited for a second and then quickly remembered: oh no. This means the move is coming. And then Thanksgiving rolled around and I started to feel that kid-like excitement growing in me at the thought of Black Friday, Christmas shopping, and I'm not gonna lie...Christmas food. One of the best parts, right? But, again, I stopped myself before the excitement could gather. Because, frankly, even though I KNOW this is where God is moving us, it's been hard to think about how the goodbye's will happen. What could I possibly do to say goodbye to my friends and family the right way? Is there a right way? A way that's more meaningful than just a hug and a "bye"?

So, obviously, my attitude has been less than stellar. I've been trying to remind myself that I have excuses for sadness this holiday season: leaving home, leaving country; saying goodbye to precious friends and wondering how soon I'll make new ones; saying goodbye to family and knowing full-well that this is a void no one else can fill.

So, yeah, I've been excusing myself. I've allowed myself to be slightly pitiful.

And then sometime last week I started thinking about Mary and the painful life changes she went through in less than a year. A teenager, probably 14 or 15 at best.  Pregnant. Engaged to a man who may well be the only person who believes her story about an angel appearing and telling her she's to be the mother of the Messiah.  She was most likely abandoned by an ashamed family, or, at the least, given a horrible dose of judgement.  We women know about those cutting eyes other women can make. Kinda like high school? And we all remember how much fun THAT was.  And this was probably 10x worse. Then when the time came, she was alone, without her mother or sister, giving birth, in a dirty barn. Exactly the way we little girls dream it will happen, right?  She was in a situation where God called her to do something beyond herself, give of something greater than her own life.

The Bible is vague about so many of the events recorded on its pages.  Yet, it records in detail Mary's response to the life path that is suddenly thrust before her:

"My soul magnifies the Lord! How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me." Luke 1:46-49

I love that she says her soul magnifies the Lord. It not only challenges me, but last week, it reminded me of why Christmas is Christmas.

Although I do love all the wonderful things surrounding the holiday season, I was reminded of Mary's response to the Lord.  I'm sure she thought that carrying a child without being married was the "worst" thing she'd face. Little did she know that 33 years later she'd watch that perfect baby boy be beaten and whipped. Not just for me. But for her too. For all of our sins. I wonder if after he was buried and the finality of his death settled over her, was she able to say "my soul magnifies the Lord"?  My gut tells me that she could.  That in every stage, his birth, death, and then his glorious resurrection, Mary's soul magnified the Father.

So, who am I to stop myself from celebrating the greatest birthday in history? The greatest story, really. Because it didn't just happen in a day. The full meaning of Christmas happened over the 33 years of Jesus' life.  So, I am officially in full-swing Christmas mode.  Bring it on.  The food.  The family. The fun.  But, more than anything, reflecting on my Savior's birth. And creating an environment within my spirit that enables me to say, "Lord, my soul magnifies you."

Merry Christmas!!!

Me and the hubs; Christmas 2009

Seth- Christmas 2010

Jackson and Noah- Christmas 2009

Noah-Christmas 2007

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Please Remove Your Shoes...and other Canadian Curiosities

Once upon a time I went to Canada as a young 15-year-old girl visiting my best friend.  I planned my outfits carefully and packed as many outfits, including shoes, as I could in my suitcase.  (This was back in the day when flying with a suitcase was free and there was no 50 lb. limit. Ahhh...those were the days.  Wait. Did I just age myself?).  So, imagine my surprise when I landed and found out that shoes were not allowed in Canada.  I'm kidding. Sort-of.

You see, it is a part of Canadian culture to remove your shoes when you enter someone's home.  Shoes are welcome in any public place, obviously. But, listen you Americans! Don't you dare wear your heels or boots or flip flops or whatever it is your feet are transported in, into a Canadian home. You take those bad boys off!

But what do I do with my shoes, you ask?

As I learned when I was 15, you take your shoes off and put them by the door.  That's right.  You'd better hope that you aren't wearing your "special smelling" socks when you pop by someone's house.  Because it's socks, not shoes, that are welcome in Canadian households.

So, I'm going to try my best not to offend either side of this situation.  Because, listen, I can surely see the necessity of having guests take off their shoes in a northern climate.  Vancouver gets more rain than almost anywhere in North America.  I don't want mud on my floors! And what about snow and slush in the winter?  Another good reason for taking off shoes.

But...I'm not gonna lie.  The whole concept is a foreign thing to me. Obviously, being from the south, I wasn't raised removing my shoes every time I entered a house.  In fact,  if I ever took my shoes off in a person's house we were visiting, it was considered rude.

So, at 15 years old, I had certain questions run through my head.  Questions I still struggle with.  For example:  What if you have really stinky feet?  Like the kind of stink that doctors have to treat?  That could be embarrassing.  Or what if your socks have holes all in them because those were the only clean socks you could find that particular day? (Yes, I'm speaking from experience. Don't judge me, man).  What if you are wearing hose that you don't want to snag?

But, and this is the most important question of all, what if your shoes MAKE the outfit? GIRLS!?!?! WOMEN!?!?! Do you hear me? What if you are only 5 feet tall (cough cough) and almost every pair of jeans requires  heels or wedges? When the shoes are taken off, you look deflated. What if it's winter time and you are wearing boots with leggings? And then you have to take the boots off? Outfit destroyed. What if you are going over to a friend's house for dinner and you get all cute with skinny jeans and boots and leg warmers.  And then you get just take it all off?  These are the questions I need answered!

So...I've made a decision for our Canadian-mostly-American home.  Once we have one, that is.  All guests will not be allowed to take off their shoes.  Unless, of course, it's a horribly rainy or snowy day.  But, if it is beautiful outside or if their shoes are clean, I want our guests to know that in the Friesen are welcome! Shoes of all shapes and sizes.  So those with smelly feet: you are welcome! No need to be embarrassed anymore! Those who love their new boots: c'mon over and show them off!
Those who have an aversion to picking through other people's shoes to find their own (this has happened to me and it almost scarred me), you are welcome in our house!

I've picked through much larger piles than this. Disgusting is what that is!
I think I will have a sign at our house that says "please KEEP your shoes on!" But, because I've never lived there and my opinion is entitled to change, I will keep one on hand like this that I saw on pinterest:

Or, I may pull that sign out on days that I just don't feel like vacuuming. Which may be more days than not.

For my American friends, here's a totally un-related picture series of beautiful Vancouver.  We will be living there in (gulp!) 16 days.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Forgotten Blog

It's been over 2 months since my last post. And I realize this is a huge let-down to those millions of people looking at my blog every single day waiting for a word from me. To those millions, I offer my sincerest apologies.  If you could each send me 1 dollar, I will start blogging full-time.

To the rest of you: there are a lot of reasons I haven't written. I've felt...overwhelmed, I suppose. So much change happening so quickly has stressed me out more than I thought it would.  Allow me to offer a quick update:

We sold our house, as you may remember. We moved on a particularly fantastic day. Whoever said that a Tropical Storm makes for a bad moving day was a liar. A liar, I tell you!

A HUGE thank you to our awesome friends that helped move us. We love you! And we need you again on December 27th. Seriously. Mark it on your calendars.

After we put our stuff in storage, Ryan left for Vancouver. (With Mollie, I might add.)  The boys and I stayed in Mobile and moved in with my parents.  I realize that many of you don't understand the reasons for the forced separation, but it's been good. For one, Noah started kindergarten in August and we didn't want to uproot him so soon after starting school.

 Noah's first day of school.  How has 6 years gone by so fast?!

Secondly, I was honored to be the Preview Party Chair at the 2011 Junior League of Mobile's Christmas Jubilee.  I had been working on it since January and it was important to me to see it through.  (The Preview Party happened last week, by the way, and was a huge success.  The whole market was! We raised a lot of money that is going straight back to our community).

Here's a few of us from the Christmas Jubilee Committee at Preview Party.

And finally, this is our year to be with my parents for Christmas.  We knew that if we flew to Vancouver in August, we couldn't afford to fly back to Mobile in December.  Because, as anyone who has ever flown in or out of Mobile knows, it costs $756,000 dollars to fly here.  Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not by much.  What can I say? It's a high-destination city.

So, that's where life leaves us. Ryan is up in Canada working very hard. And the boys and I are here.  It's not been easy, necessarily, being away from Ryan. But it's been easier than I thought it would be.  And that has so much to do with my mom and dad. I have never felt more humbled or more grateful for having such wonderful parents.  I will always remember these months spent living here as some of the best times of my life.  We've made memories that will help carry me through the long, lonely days ahead.  So many tender little moments I've witnessed between my parents and my kids that I will treasure forever.  I have never felt so at-home in my life. It's been a good time for me, for the kids, and for my parents.  And I will miss it, with all my heart.

my dad reading to the 3 boys. just 1 of many moments like this!

The next month is when all the big changes are happening. Ryan comes home for Christmas and then we move our stuff into 2 PODS on December 27th. Ryan and his dad then drive my car up to Vancouver. And on December 29th my parents are helping fly the boys and I to Vancouver. (Because I'm just going to be honest here and say that I'd lose at least 1, possibly 2 kids, if I flew by myself.)

When we initially get to Vancouver, we will be staying with my in-laws.  And, oh yeah: I'll be homeschooling Noah for the remainder of his kindergarten year.  And that is the extent of what I know about our future.

I get a lot of questions from people about what we'll do when we get up there.  Let me just answer all the questions with one big blanket answer: I HAVE NO IDEA.  I have no idea where we'll be living.  I have no idea how I'm going to homeschool Noah while I have the 2 little ones climbing all over me.  I have no idea where we will be going to church.  Trust me. I wish I knew.

Here is what I do know: God is good. He hasn't left us in a vulnerable place. He is walking this road with us and providing the means to do it. I don't know what the future looks like for the Friesen five.  I don't even know how to begin to think of our future. And yeah...that bugs me.  But, I know his grace will be sufficient. It has to be.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Boxed In

As I mentioned in my last post, we sold our house.  And we are moving out tomorrow. TOMORROW.  In case you were wondering, it is actually an impossibility to pack your house with 3 small children in the house at the same time.  Don't believe me?  Here's the boys room that I have already packed twice now:

I have found myself boxing up things only to find them in a different room a few minutes later.  At first, I would think "hmm...I thought I already packed this. Oh well."  And then I'd re-pack it in the box.  But, after the first 20-30 times it happened, I began to realize that I wasn't in the early stages of dementia, but it was my kids. So, I called in help.  (That's my mom, by the way.  She has made it her job these last 6 years to be a grandmother.  It's actually what I aspire to do.  No kidding.  To be a mom to my kids. Work a while. But once I start having grandkids, I want to be available whenever and wherever. I so look forward to serving my kids in that way!).

I totally needed her help this week.  She took my boys while I packed. My house is wall to wall of boxes.  Literally:

I am not a clean freak, per se, but I definitely like my house in order and things put away.  So, THIS is driving me nuts:

I've caught myself murmuring prayers as I box things up, mainly the breakable things: "please, Lord, protect our stuff."  Then just 2 days ago, I said it again, and clear as the dawn the Lord just said right back to me: it's just stuff.  And it kinda hit me about where we store up our treasures.  Don't get me wrong, I sure hope our stuff makes it through all 6 moves it's going to make (literally, 6 moves. first on a truck, then into storage, then into another truck, then driven across country to another country, then unloaded and re-loaded onto another truck. Do you also have a headache?).  So, you see, I do hope our stuff, every single thing, makes it without a scratch and in proper working order.  But, if it doesn''s just stuff.  And I am being reminded through this whole transition who my trust is in.  My treasures had better be the eternal kind.

Meanwhile, please allow me to share with you how incredible our house looks. This is what it looks like right now. At this very moment. And we are moving out tomorrow.  It's ok. Go ahead and laugh. Or cry. Because that's what I'm doing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On The Move

I've debated about how to tell this story.   Because it needs to be told.  (Especially after my last 2 blog posts about change and being under stress!)  When God does something for us, we need to tell others.  And that's what this story is about.  It's about a God who provides every need we have and about a Father who has bigger and better plans than we do.  This story is just another beautiful testimony of a faithful God who is SO interested in using us beyond ourselves.  If we'll let him.

It's no secret that the American economy is in turmoil.  Everywhere we look, people are losing homes, jobs are being lost, and families are in trouble.  Ryan has been very blessed throughout these last 3 years of the recession.  He's done amazingly well, and that is nothing but a complete testimony of God's faithfulness.  There is no reason, really, in Ryan's line of work (he owns a construction company) for him to be doing better than others.  We've watched friend after friend close up shop and go look for jobs at places like Home Depot because of the economy.  But, God remained faithful to Ryan's business.  Month after month.  These last 3 years. Even this year has been incredible.

Until June. It was like a wall went up that couldn't be broken down.  It literally happened in 1 day.  Ryan came home from work one day and commented, almost under his breath, how weird it was that there was no job lined up for the next day.  But after 9 years of living on complete reliance on the Lord to provide the jobs Ryan needs, neither of us worried.  A week passed.  And then two.  And still, God was faithful. Even with no money coming in and no job, God was faithful to provide every need we had.  After 4 weeks, and after exhausting every contact he had, Ryan made the decision to fly home to Vancouver to see what the Canadian economy was doing.

Before he left, Ryan and I had been praying and fasting about our situation.  We decided to continue the prayer and fasting while he was gone.  So we made a list of things to pray for.  It was a big list, but then again, we had a lot of stuff we needed God to provide for. :)

While he was in Canada, the Lord settled it on Ryan that Vancouver was the answer to many of the prayers we'd been praying.  That he was calling Ryan, us, home.  It was one thing for the Lord to settle it on Ryan.  We both knew it would take a mountain moving for him to settle it on me.

(I must pause for a moment and say that I have always told Ryan that if God said to go, I'd go.  Anywhere.  Any time. But when it actually happens, it's a whole different ballgame!)

So, after Ryan came home from Vancouver, he didn't spit it out and tell me what the Lord had spoken to him.  But I knew.  He had spoken to me too in Ryan's absence.  I could feel it, in every inch of my being, what He was requiring of me.  The Lord was asking me to leave my family, my country, my home...and follow my husband.  For me, that's what it boiled down to.  It wasn't the where.  It could have been anywhere.  It was the fulfillment of a vow I made to the man I married over 8 years ago that I would go where he went, and stay where he stayed.  Even if my flesh was saying "no way."  And let me tell you: it was!

The Elita in me was digging in my heels and screaming out every argument I could find.  The biggest, of which, was leaving my poor parents here with no kids or grandkids.  My boys are so incredibly close to my parents, I couldn't (and still don't want to) think about about pulling them away.  And my parents have been the support system I needed to be a good wife and mother.  My mom is like my 3rd and 4th arm.  Dropping anything she's doing at anytime of day (literally) to help me.  Thinking about losing that just made me weep.  Seriously.  I wept.  I did not cry.  I did some serious Old Testament weeping.  If I had ash and sackcloth, I probably would've pulled 'em out.

But, when God speaks, it is impossible to ignore.  Remember Jonah?  I didn't want to run from where God was going.  And I also didn't want to be a thorn in my husband's side.  I desperately wanted to be at peace with what God was speaking to us.  So that's what I started praying for.  And guess what?  He was faithful in that too.

As soon as Ryan and I got on the same page with where God wanted us, which was last week, things started moving.  FAST. Our house, that's been on the market almost a year, sold the next day.  THE NEXT DAY.  Ryan did get a couple really good remodels here in Mobile that are helping to pay the bills until the move. Another answer to prayer. There are so many little stories I could tell about how God met our needs these last few months.  (Like when I prayed for $500 so we could pay Noah's school fees and God met that need less than an hour later?  That was a fun one!)

It's been a totally uncomfortable time in our life.  Especially for me. It's been a dying-to-self experience.  My dreams for our family, my desires for our future...all laid down.  But I know that's where God gets to us.  In our weakness, he is made strong.  He never strips us bare just for the fun of it. He does it to get at something in us.  And man, oh man, he's gotten to me. His joy is my strength.  When I think about not knowing where we will live or how we will live in such an expensive city, the Lord gives me peace.  When I think about trying to find new friends, new Kelli's, new Jessica's, new Katharine's and Katherine's, new Johannah's...(breathe Elita!) the Lord gives me peace. And even when I think about moving my boys 3,000 miles away from 2 people who love them and have helped raise them these last 6 heart is at peace.  I didn't say it doesn't hurt.  It's just at peace.

It's a strange, funny place to be. It's right where he wants us. And that's good enough for me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Recipe for Stress

When I am stressed I don't clean, which is what a lot of my girlfriends do.  Cleaning stresses me out entirely on its own.  I bake.  I cook like a mad woman. My kitchen becomes a disaster area and I love it.  LOVE IT.  There is something incredibly gratifying about bringing together ingredients that, on their own are okay, but when matched with others, are amazing.  

So these past 4-5 weeks, my kitchen has taken the brunt of my stress.  My husband and kids, however, have enjoyed the results that come from my time chopping, kneading, grilling, frying, and just doing anything I can in the kitchen.  So, because I am hungry, because I have nothing better to blog about it, and because I can, here are some yummy things that have turned up in my kitchen these last few weeks:

Lemon Blueberry Muffins. Delish.

Flat Apple Pie. Of course, I snagged a bite before I took the pic.  It's totally imperfect and rustic. Just the way I like it!

We went to a local pick-it-yourself farm about 10 minutes from our house and came home with, among many other things, a giant zucchini.  It was literally almost the length of my arm.  Here it is:

After I grated that bad-boy up, it turned into a lovely (actually, 2 lovely) zucchini loaves (see below).  My husband was in Heaven.  (Oh! You've never had zucchini loaf? It sounds totally disgusting and horrifying, I know. But once you taste it, you'll never go back. I promise! Plus, if you have 3 picky eating sons who would otherwise not eat zucchini, this is a good trick.)

Please don't judge me for eating a bite of every item I bake before taking a picture.  It's just who I am. 

Oh!  Here's one of those picky eaters now.  I have weird kids who like me to make their peanut butter and banana sandwiches into faces.  But because I do it in the kitchen, it falls into my stress-free zone.  (yah right!)

Back to the topic at hand! Here's blueberry cobbler (using blueberries we picked at the farm down the road):

And pico-de-gallo using tomatoes from our garden:

And chicken tetrazzini. ( I have to say that I've had a lot of chicken tetrazzini's in my day.  But this one is by far the best.  One of my best friends, Jessica, brought this to us after having our first baby and it's been a favorite of mine ever since.  Thanks Jess!)

See the bottom left corner? That's right. Ate it. Loved it. Don't regret it.

I made cupcakes and and a jello cake dessert-thing for the 4th:

Here's Mollie as I work in the kitchen.  She helps out in any way she can.  She's great like that.

I'm not done yet!  I've been very stressed!

Up next? Homemade stir-fry.  Which is definitely not a throw-together-whatever-you-have-leftover-in-your-fridge type of stir-fry.  But I guess, if it had to be, it could be.  It uses sherry to marinate the meat. Sherry always makes meat better.

Buttered Rosemary Rolls and Scalloped Potatoes.  Both are thanks to PW. She's my best friend, she just doesn't know it.

Chicken Alfredo Pizza and Vegetable Pizza (using all veggies, except the broccoli, from our garden!):

Homemade bread. YUM:

I made a few cranberry orange scones.  Only a few mind you:

And the epitome of all baking days included 50 cinnamon rolls, made completely from scratch.  My kitchen looked disgusting but smelled amazing.  The icing is a maple-espresso icing. OMG.

See that bottom pan?  How there's a section missing? Guess who ate it? 

Of course, after every baking escapade, I then have to clean it all up. I don't mind that kind of cleaning at all because I am the one who made the mess in order to provide something yummy for my family and/or friends.

I get hot in the kitchen, ok? That's why the giant fan is sitting on the counter.

My kitchen has seen better days. But as long as I remain under stress, the cookies will keep a-comin'.  And the 4 males in my house all said an amen.