Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

There's something about sitting in the dark, in the still quiet of Christmas morning, that makes a person ponder about this special holiday. In mere moments the kids will be flying around, screaming about their Santa presents, and demolishing the remainders under the tree in no time. When I was a kid, I remember my mom saying, "Well, that's it" or "It's all over" once all of the presents had been opened. Now, as an adult, with few, if any presents to open, I see that there is so much more to this day.

We have been invited to spend the evening with friends - friends who are "orphans" in their family because they have seven kids (and an eighth on the way!) and overwhelm any family member whom they visit. Truthfully, it's probably just easier for them to stay home anyway! They asked us over, to add another four mouths to their hungry brood, and I didn't realize until we had a place to go that it would have been very lonely here by ourselves.

Christmas IS a time that should be spent with friends and family, and too often at this time of year it either becomes stressful to deal with that family and the whole day becomes an anxiety-filled day of little joy, or in our case this year, we are just avoiding the family all together. I don't know which would have been better - a day of lonliness or a day of anxiety. Thankfully, we now do not have to deal with either.

I wonder sometimes if Scott can ever be freed of his anxiety - it threatens to eat us up like an ungly red monster, until there is nothing left of us. If we were to be spending time with family today, his pacing and mood swings would start from the moment he awoke, he'd be medicating himself all day (just tylenol for anxiety-induced headaches, but way too many!), and by the time we would see the family I'd be all tense due to his day-long tension. It happens every time we have to do a family thing and it will happen on Boxing Day before his parents arrive on their way back home.

We did watch a historical account of Christianity last night that Scott seemed very interested in. He has been asking lots of questions lately and is interested in any historical show he can find (yay - a good use for TV!). I'm not pushing him in any direction, but I wonder how the Holy Spirit is working in his heart, and if one day he can be saved from all of his pain through faith in the One who can help. I wonder.

And so, as I wait for the noise to arrive, I think about the birth of that baby two thousand years ago, and how He is the only means to our salvation. I think about his friends who proclaimed the good news after his death, and died horrible deaths as a result. And I think of the promise He left us with, to save us from our sins, and give us eternal life.

The presents under the tree seem to be so insignificant now.

Monday, December 21, 2009


We had another fabulous church potluck and musical celebration last night. I didn't go too hard on the food (loaded my plate with carrots and just a few other things, including a very garlicy bruchetta that was very yummy, but stinky!) and Scott's sweet and sour ribs were a big hit. I had selected some music to play for the musical part, and it was a fairly simple version of "Do You Hear What I Hear". My practices at home had gone very well and I wasn't nervous at all...until I sat down at the piano.

I knew I was in trouble when I wasn't postive that my left pinky was on low C - the note my left hand needed to start on. My chest tightened up and I made many mistakes. Likely, only Mrs. Chapple (my piano teacher) knew of all the mistakes, but still, it wasn't a great performance. Last year (my debut) I was so proud because even though I made a big mistake, I covered it up very well and no one noticed. This year I felt like all the mistakes were magnified.

Oh well - I guess I can't have a stellar performance every time, but I wondered why I was having a small panic attack at the piano. I need to get over that pretty quickly if I want to play on a worship team. I gave myself five years, and still have two and a half to go, so maybe that's enough time to get the butterflies out.

Friday, December 11, 2009


The other day in the Edmonton Journal, there was an article about a social group who had given a formerly homeless man a camera to take pictures in our inner city. It was a great article about how this man had been sober for 17 months and had his own home for the first time in 30 or so years, and a cat! Today's paper included an editorial from this same man about how people still give him dirty looks when he walks into a store, and they assume he is homeless and a threat. He challenged us "Normies", as we non-homeless people are apparently called, to get off our couches and come down to the Boyle Street Community Centre to see what they are all about.

That really gave me pause for thought, during this Christmas season when the Food Banks and Santas Anonymous warehouses are overflowing, but they are desperately calling for volunteers to wrap presents, fill hampers, and get the job done.

We have become a society that way too often just thinks if we throw money at a problem it will clear our conscience and go away. Time is so much more valuable to people these days - giving up some of that precious time is a true sacrifice. We can truly help our neighbours by doing, instead of just giving. Let them see the light of Jesus shining through our actions.

And as for the Normies treating the homeless people like outcasts - we are all of one race, all created by the Creator in his image...often the only difference between us and them is that we were able to get more lines of credit to keep us off the street.

No one is a mere mortal.

Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortenin' Bread

I have spent a good chunk of the morning making shortbread cookies for my grandma. Once of my favorite memories of Christmas was running into grandma's house and there would be a coffee container full of shortbread in the freezer. They were even delicious when frozen! Grandma hasn't baked at Christmas for a few years now, and I thought it might bring some nice Christmas spirit back into the house. She could serve them to the ladies at coffee, or she and grandpa can nibble on them over tea and a crossword puzzle.

It's tough seeing grandparents get older, but I'm so fortunate to still have three grandparents, and two who are close by. We can't ever take them for granted, because they won't be around forever, and then all we will have left are the memories of shortbread cookies at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Procession

Last night I had the honour of speaking at the Edmonton Family Worship Centre, a church smack dab in the heart of the inner city. I had been asked to help out with one of their FPU sessions, since it was a very "Americanized" session and they needed some translation into Canadian terms. It was a wonderful night and I met a lot of nice people. This Dave Ramsey thing sure has been a blessing! They nudged me further towards going down to Brentwood for Counsellor Training, as there are few, if any Canadians who have ever gone down.

But the moment of the night that is etched in my memory was not anything to do with FPU, but of when I pulled up to the church and parked my car. It was a cold night, at least -20, and I exited my car to try to find my way into the church. As I stepped out, I saw the waves of people heading for the Mustard Seed church just a block away. It reminded me of heading to a football game and there are groups of people walking towards the stadium, but last night there was no game, and it wasn't a warm summer night, and these people were heading to a place where they could warm up, get a cup of coffee, and chat with friends in an escape from the frigid cold.

I wondered who these people were, and wondered if my cousin was among them, since last I heard he was on the streets downtown. I wondered where they were going to go after they left the church, and would there be enough room in the shelters for all of them. And I thought about my warm car and how they'd probably love to just sit in the warmth for a few minutes.

When I left the church there were still people at the Mustard Seed, but it wouldn't be open much longer, and the procession would be heading back out into the cold. I drove past and stopped at the corner where my prostitute friend had flagged me down only weeks before. She wasn't there, but I hope she was warm wherever she was. I continued down the road in my warm car towards the warm comfort of the suburbs.

No one is a mere mortal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Heart of a Teacher

Our first Financial Peace University class ended last night, and I was overwhelmed by how appreciative the class was of the materials and my teaching. They presented me with some gifts, and I was awestruck when they provided some funds to help send me to Counsellor Training in Brentwood, Tennessee! I always thought of myself as the facilitator, sometimes the Little General, telling them to cut up their credit cards and stop spending foolishly, and I always wondered if they griped in their cars on their way home. I am amazed that they thought the course was a Godsend and that I was a good teacher.

When I was in grade 6, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, but somewhere along the way I was convinced that I was "too smart" to be a teacher (sorry for anyone I have offended with that remark), but you know what I mean - when you're killing your math and science classes at school everyone says, "You should be an engineer, or a doctor, or a scientist." - teacher is the last thing that comes to mind. Now that I'm a little wiser, I think of how cool it would have been to be a physics or calculus teacher, which is probably why I have fantasies of home schooling my kids when they are in high school. Sadly, neither will likely be interested in calculus or physics.

In 1999 I took some "train the trainer" courses in Ontario through Ernst & Young, and come back to teach first year articling students, and in Banff no less!! But that was a disaster - my co-teacher was an overbearing loudmouth who loved to hear the sound of his own voice, and I could barely get through two sentences without him popping in for a commentary. As a result, I left that experience feeling like I didn't know what I was talking about, and that I wasn't meant to teach.

Fast forward ten years and I have become a confident professional, wife and mother, and follower of Jesus. I met Dave Ramsey through the radio and thought that teaching FPU could really change people's lives, and I decided to get out of my comfort zone and start a class. I heard later that there was a little concern from a few people as I am typically very introverted and anti-social at church, but apparently they were pleasantly surprised. Maybe I can make a go at this teaching thing after all!

My biggest surprise at the end of this whole thing was last night's closing prayer. Each week I close the class in prayer, which has always been a quick "thank you for everyone, get them home safely, etc." kind of prayer - I hate praying in front of other people. But last night, as I closed, the words exited my mouth and my brain was saying, "Who is that speaking?", and my prayers were bountiful and meaningful. What a time for the Holy Spirit to decide to finally work through me in prayer!

What is in store for me next....I can't even begin to imagine....

Sunday, November 29, 2009


There are so many things in this world that are completely meaningless - stuff that will not matter one iota at the end of it all. This past Friday, people lined up for hours in the US to spend money they didn't have on junk they didn't need. Moms and dads are waiting like a circle of lions at the gazelles' watering hole, waiting to pounce, outside of toy stores to get this year's "It" toy - a toy that their kids will likely play with for a few days (if they are lucky) before discarding it onto the pile of toys in the corner of their bedroom.

At Matthew's school, they had tryouts for a floor hockey team at school, and the competitiveness and elitism of the whole thing just sickens me. Matthew is small and not a hockey player, and would prefer to cheer on everyone as the puck rolls by him. It wasn't a surprise when he didn't make the team, but I still felt bad. HE didn't care (at least he said he didn't), but I felt bad - so bad that I bought him a cool bionicle, and while I told him it was because of his great report card (which was great, mind you), it was really so he'd play with it all weekend and forget about floor hockey.

It's great that Matthew doesn't really care, but I think what bothers me is that someday he WILL care, and then what? Do I want him to be at a school that appears to only care about who wins Cross Country and who was on the Floor Hockey team? I guess school was always that way, which is probably why I was dreaming about my high school last night. The cool kids were the jocks, and I was a jock, but didn't hang out with the cool kids (I thought they were a bunch of morons). But still, most kids DO care and that's how they get into trouble. When kids care more about the clothes they are wearing and whether the cool kids give them the time of day, they start getting into trouble. I used to think it would be neat to have "cool kids", but what happens to those kids after high school? Not much, I'm guessing in a lot of cases.

And so I've been thinking about Solomon a lot lately, and his words in Ecclesiates, the words that captured my attention on Mother's Day 2007. It's so depressing, this world of ours, and we need to find some meaning in a world that seems void of values and genuine good. But how do we find that meaning when those closest to us don't even seem to care?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rocks and Minerals

Yesterday I was lucky enough to hang out with a bunch of grade three kids at the Telus World of Science. It was pretty fun, and I realized that Matthew is just a normal grade three boy - they all dance around and stand on their chairs and act silly. We had a classroom session on rocks and minerals, and many childhood memories came back: Going rock hunting in the field behind our house, going to Drumheller in grade 8 (especially when she pulled out the Gneiss rocks) and being a kid. When Matthew and I hopped in the car, he said "Mom, I'm really glad you came today." So even though I had work to do and people to call, it was worth spending those hours with Matthew. In a few years, he won't even want me around, so I had better take advantage now if he wants to hang out with me. It's sad to hear people say "They grow up so fast." I don't think they grow up too fast - I just think we're all too busy to notice them growing.

We also saw an Imax film on India, and the narrator remarked that 80% of Indians live a slow paced life in small villages. I've tried to slow down, but for some reason it's just not happening. October and November have whizzed by at the speed of light and here we are, faced with Christmas, and I don't have the tree decorated yet! I thought that by staying home and limiting activities to those in Devon would help slow down the pace, but it hasn't. There is some elusive factor that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's the fact that we can't live in the moment...there is too much to think about down the road.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give 'em the Finger!

Wow, it's amazing how things are all starting to come together. To backstep a bit, on Sunday night, just before the prostitute flagged me down on 96th street, I noticed a cute little white church just before the Mustard Seed. Strangely (or not so strangely?), I had a message this morning from the Pastor of that cute little church, asking if I could call him about FPU. I called, and had a great chat with him, and thought what a ministry he must have, to preach to the inner city and on financial peace. I sent him my notes about one of the more challenging sessions, and he joked that I should just come over and give a lecture on it. Next thing you know, I'm going to be a guest speaker at Edmonton Family Worship Centre on December 8th, travelling into the inner city, passing the homeless and the prostitutes along the way, to speak about financial peace.

After my "issues" from last night, I woke up this morning raising my finger in the air, giving the finger like I was preached on Sunday, speaking allowed, "This is for you, just for you!" And look what happened.

God is amazing...I am awed to tears right now....

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Otter and The Beaver

Last night at the People Pleasing sermon the Pastor mentioned that you know you're a People Pleaser if you take criticism personally. It means that you continue to care more about what others think of you than what you believe in your heart to be true. At FPU (which has been criticism free until tonight), I was criticized for not having more small group discussions - this coming from an Otter personality who likes to talk and is "a party looking for a place to happen" (Dave Ramsey's words, not mine!). What Otters don't realize is that not everyone wants to have small group discussions about everything. Beavers (like me) prefer order and rules, and I have been running the class on order and rules. This is about results, not discussion - our culture is far too full of talk and not enough action.

Anyway, I let this criticism anger me, and then I doubted myself and why I was leading the class, but then I remembered from the sermon last night - "Give them the finger!", meaning to raise your index finger to the sky....I only answer to one person, and that person is Jesus. We all have different styles and preferences, but my call from God is to teach this class and get results, and get these people out of debt so that they can fulfill their God given purposes. I'm not compromising my style, because it is working.

Boy, I am so glad I was called to the sermon last night...otherwise I might be handling this whole criticism thing way differently....He knew what I was going to need today!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

People Pleasing

Since I left my job in the city in June, I thought that it would now be the perfect time to throw myself into all the stuff I had wanted to do for so long but didn't have the time. I thought that I would finally be able to fulfill the purpose for which God put me on the Earth, and that seemed to mean saying yes to everything and everyone that has come my way.

As a result, I am now once again overloaded with stuff, pulled in a million directions, and I don't think I'm doing what God wants me to do. I have become resentful of the church, I don't want to go but have to go because I made a commitment and no one else will help, and I'm mad that people can just waltz in and out of the church without contributing at all. I've know for a while that there has been a problem, but kept thinking, no, as long as I am doing God's work, I can't be resentful, it's all for Him, etc., etc., but the truth is that I hate going to church on Sunday mornings.

So we've been listening to the White Horse Inn program on Sunday mornings (it has actually piqued Scott's interest), and have thought for a while that we should go to the local sponsoring church, an Orthodox Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Scott took the kids to Vermilion today, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to check out the church and then bring Scott back. I wavered on it all day, but a small voice kept telling me to go, so I was sure that God was leading me to a church that Scott would connect with.

As I drove through downtown, I saw the people on the streets, just walking around, some huddled in front of bars and other buildings, most with no place to go. I was flagged down by a prostitute on a corner, and when she saw I was a woman, she waved me along in disgust. My heart went out to these people, and then I drove past the Mustard Seed Church, dark and quiet until 700.

I arrived at the Church just past six, and the first thing I heard was AN ORGAN! Oh no, what had I come into? This wasn't a "contemporary service" as the pastor had advertised....this was like a church service from 30 (or more!) years ago. I thought it would be rude to leave, but a voice was calling me away....calling me to go back to Church on 99 to catch the end of their service.

And so I drove down to Church on 99, parked in the overflow since I was 20 minutes late, and was greeted by a young usher and booming music....during a baptism! The energy was amazing, and the band played one last loud song, and I knew this was where I was supposed to be tonight. My suspicion was confirmed when the Pastor began to speak on People Pleasing. It truly is a form of idolatry.

I am a classic People Pleaser, can't say no, don't want to offend, want everyone to like me, and as a result, I cannot fulfill my true purpose in life. I have overcommitted myself to my church because it's "the right thing to do", and now I hate going on Sundays. I have no issue with FPU on Mondays, as it is there I can help people, which is where my heart is. And my heart is with those people downtown, and that prostitute who scowled at me, for no one is a mere mortal, they are all children of God. I know what my calling is, and I will serve where I am supposed to be serving. Of course, I can't give up anything I've already committed to - and that's not People Pleasing, that's just common courtesy. But I'm not volunteering for anything else and I am leaving all ministries other than my Fnancial Peace ministry.

Does that sound selfish? I don't know - maybe to most people it does. All I know is that by caring about what others think means putting people before God, which should never be the case. I've said yes to too many things and now I have no time for the Ministry I'm sure He meant me to be involved in.

It's time to do what He put me here to do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goodbye Victoria

We just returned from what could be our last trip to Victoria for a long, long time. Mom and dad have sold the house and are moving into the condo, so we have nowhere to stay if we visit. We don't want to travel at Christmas and they move January 29, so this was our last chance to say goodbye to the house. It was kind of sad, but more because I remembered when we lived there in the basement, and Matthew was cute and innocent and worryfree, and when I went into labour with Elizabeth, almost not making it to the hospital, and that was her first taste of home, if only for a couple of weeks. There was the memory of Matthew splitting his head open on the bed, walking to the Lucky D for junk food, and inhaling the wonderful aroma of the ocean only blocks away. It was a time that seemed simple compared to now, and I miss it.

So it will be time to make new memories in Canmore once mom and dad find a house there. Memories of hiking trails and the wonderful aroma of the mountain air on a crisp morning. It's so nice to have memories...I think we all take them for granted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mr. Brown

Last night we had a rehearsal for our church Christmas play, and Zacharias is being played by Mr. Brown, one of the senior members of the church. He came into the practice with his lines obviously well rehearsed, and read them with such passion - it almost made me teary eyed. At one point he is supposed to get down on one knee when Gabriel is speaking to him, and he joked about having trouble getting up, but each time he read his lines he still dropped down on that knee without complaint.

Mr. Brown's generation of people never ceases to amaze me - they are regal, have tremendous values, are caring, and continue to work hard without complaint. They show up at church in their Sunday best, and truly believe that they are going home to their Saviour someday. I wonder what they think of the younger generations, who sometimes appear to have no respect for anyone but themselves (and that even comes into question on occasion).

We need to learn from this generation who is not going to be around forever. A little more compassion and respect would turn our culture upside down.... for the better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


It's the one thing that makes my job tough - the need to schmooze. Schmoozing is one thing I can do if I have to, but I sure don't like it. However, I have realized that I'm not going to build my business sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring - I actually have to go out and network.

So I went to the Leduc Chamber of Commerce lunch today and it was actually pretty good. Not much time for schmoozing, so that was a bonus, and the food was very good. We had a speaker from Economic Development Edmonton informing us that we are technically out of the recession, so all is good in the world....right?? I guess if we say it often enough, it might come true.

I'm glad I went - received a framed certificate as a new member, and met a couple of nice people, but it's definitely out of my comfort zone. On December 9th if I'm feeling the need for a good lunch, I may even go again. It's better than hanging out in my pajamas, I suppose (?!?).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Now THAT was fun!

In the summer of 2007, I finally took the big step and phoned a local piano teacher about taking piano lessons. For some reason, my sisters were allowed to take piano lessons and I wasn't, although I attempted to plunk around in their books once in a while. I had always wanted to take lessons, but then got into University stuff, partying stuff, and kid stuff. When the kids were 6 and 4 I thought I had some time, and gave Mrs. Chapple a call.

Well, here we are, just over two years later, and last night I went to a worship team "jam session", hoping to sit on a chair and watch a piano player. Unfortunately, no piano player showed up. However, the team asked me to jam anyway, even though I only know the basics of rudimentary chording. It was AWESOME and FUN! I could have played all night! I couldn't hear myself playing because the piano speaker wasn't on, so who knows what it really sounded like, but in my head I was really playing! A couple of times I almost had myself in tears because the songs were so emotional and I was up there contributing.

I figure I'm about two years away from actually playing at church - my initial goal was five years of lessons, but I'll try to cut that down to four. Of course, that depends on when Mrs. Chapple thinks I'm ready. She's the Jedi Master of piano, and I'm definitely going to take all the advice and training she can give!

So check me out in a couple of years...hittin' the ivories at Devon Alliance Church!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Sugar Hangover

Boy oh boy I felt like crap yesterday! On Wednesday night, for some unknown reason, I decided to consume half a box of cookies and a litre of ginger ale right before bed. When I woke up on Thursday morning, I felt like a truck had run over my head and it was POUNDING. Besides that, I also felt pretty sick to my stomach. Yes, I could have blamed it on H1N1, since half the town has that illness, but deep down I had to admit it...I was HUNGOVER! I was never one to get huge alcohol hangovers when I was younger, but if I drank beyond the age of 30, I wasn't feeling too hot. They always said it was because of the sugar in the pop/beer, and it makes sense, because the couple of times I drank almost pure alcohol (gin gimlets...yummy!), there were no issues whatsoever the next day.

So all day yesterday I was yelling at myself that it was my own fault that I felt so crappy, much like the day after partying WAY too much...except that I didn't smell like smoke. I don't drink anymore, and haven't for years, since it's not worth feeling crappy the next day. Could I have finally made this connection with crappy food. Not sure...doubt it...but I can always hope. I just know that today all I want to eat is spinach and drink lots of water. I'm sure it will only last until I have forgotten the horror that was yesterday and hear some chocolate pie calling my name.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Afternoon Blahs

It sure doesn't take much to get me down - I think it's a factor of not working regularily anymore. Sure, I'm doing lots of great things around town, but I worry about the money running out and having to grovel back at some CA firm, workin' for The Man. That's why I quit the Ratrace....I was tired of working for The Man. Now, everywhere I look there seems to be competition, but I guess there is enough to go around...right? I just have to do another little advertising blitz to get a few things to come my way....right? I wish I didn't doubt myself so much! I need to remember that I have excellent training and provide fabulous service, and word of mouth will get around. A couple of small ads last year brought me more business than I could have imagined. If one more ad could double what I have already, that's plenty....right? If I keep typing really fast, I might be able to convince myself.....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sometimes I feel (well, all the time these days) as if I live in the parallel universe in which Jo had kids. Out there somewhere is another parallel universe where Jo never got married or had kids, and she's living the good life in a high rise condo....that's always what I thought I would do as a kid. Now I just seem to be stuck between work and kids and can't make anything work. Yesterday I was trying to teach Matthew piano and he said "Mom, you're giving me a heart attack" and started to cry. And then Elizabeth is this alien extroverted kid who comes and goes and doesn't seem to fit in with our nerdy family at all. Sometimes I really wonder if she was switched at birth.

So what's the answer? Pray? Cry? I've been trying to resolve all of this for six years with no luck. Now I just want to curl into a ball and be alone for a long long time. Maybe I'm still not over all the stress of the last few years. I feel better, but still not "right". Maybe by Christmas I'll feel better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The New Monster

Why do we take all of our insecurities and transpose them onto our kids? It's like if they miss out on dance class or they're not in a million things or they get the wrong teacher that it makes us look bad as parents. More parents should realize that their kids are happier playing than being scheduled off to this and that all week long. It just makes everyone tired. Keep Up With the Joneses has taken on a whole new life in this culture, and it has fangs and claws. We are self destructing because we think that the more we do, the better we all look. Our kids are the ones to pay the price.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time For Bed

I should be going to sleep now, but thought I'd start this blog instead. Too many things going on in my mind - I start teaching a Financial Peace class tomorrow, and I'm worried that people aren't going to like it and no one will come back. Silly, I know - of course they'll come back! But people are finicky when it comes to finances, and when I tell them they have to give up their credit cards and Tim Horton's coffee, they may just start marching out the door. Time will tell....