What’s in a Red Bucket?

On a hot day, nothing cools down a little boy like playing in cool water straight out of the tap. We have a weensy inflatable pool that our boys splash their toys in. We transport water from the driveway into the yard via the red mop bucket. My 3 year old is very proud to do this task independently. 

I let him fill it with about a 1.5 quarts. I watched as he struggled to find the right way to hold the handle so the bucket wouldn’t hit against his legs and splash everywhere. It was awkward and somewhat heavy. He stumbled ocassionally across the 50 feet to where he left his little pool. This is one of those little tasks we give preschoolers to help them build a sense of responsibility and feel as though they are contributing. In the third world, little boys and girls carry buckets of water too, but it’s key to survival. 

As I watched him manage the bucket that wasn’t even a quarter full, and 50 feet being of no distance at all, I pictured children in Africa lugging pails that are litres full across 2km, 5km, 10km! From my research on World Vision, most children my oldest’s age are not yet laden with the responsibility of fetching water, but only by a few years. 

I tried to envision the Mom waiting in their little home. I could picture her surrounded by other younger children, waiting for the water so she can do things like cook or maybe some washing? For whatever tasks she may need the water, is she impatient for their return? Is she worried that water might spill and be lost on the way? Is she fretting over what harm may come to her children as they journey alone?

As I sit in a comfortable chair on the deck in the shade, watching my son play intermittently between flipping around on my smart phone, it’s an impossible situation to imagine personally. I would be terrified to let my boys walk for hours alone lugging a heavy pail of water. 

By the third trip back to the tap, I had that sick feeling. You know the one you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize how privileged you are? My boy was fetching clean water from a tap in our home and dumping it on the lawn. The water isn’t free. We pay for it. But I couldn’t avoid the evidence of waste. 

My son begrudgingly returned to the backyard as I tried to explain that there were other children who didn’t have clean water to drink and had to walk so far to get what water they could find. I want to instill a sense of gratitude and responsibility in my children that I freely admit I do not naturally have. 

What’s in a red bucket? In our neighbourhood in Canada? A game. Fun. A learning opportunity. A privilege. 

In a third world country in another land? A chore. A burden. Survival. A necessity. 

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Spelling Agape

     What do you want to be when you grow up?

     This has to be one of the most common questions a child is asked throughout their development. From the age of 2, when I declared that I would become a missionary, to my High School years when I wanted to pursue child psychology, I aspired to be many things. Even in adulthood, I have considered various career paths. Despite my inconsistency on selecting the right vocation, there were two things that I ALWAYS wanted to be: a wife and a mom.

     For a period of time, I was needlessly scared that it may not happen for me. I was married by 26 and gave birth to our first born at 28 on our actual wedding anniversary. On my life’s timeline, it looks like two little years from marriage to motherhood. And yet, it was two of the longest years of my life. In that time, we experienced four miscarriages. There were four little angels whose sparks of light dimmed almost as soon as they were ignited. There were hours upon hours of pouring despair into my pillow. There were many doctors’ appointments followed by many tests, and for all the many questions we had, there weren’t many answers. Our firstborn son was a miracle.

     For all the trials and uncertainties we experienced in the early months of our son’s life, he filled us with such joy and hope. We were pregnant again before a year was up. Sadly, we found ourselves back in the old season. The day before our son’s first birthday, I was in the ER receiving confirmation of a 5th miscarriage. It was our baby’s first birthday and our 3rd wedding anniversary. Kevin and I did not want to celebrate. We maybe have had a house full of people, full of food and full of laughter, but the celebrating was superficial.

     I felt so disillusioned. Ridiculously, I had given God an ultimatum. My emotions were raw, my hormones were playing ping pong and my faith felt depleted. Despite my anger and unbelief, God was wonderfully gracious to me.

     It was early 2015. I was trying to rebuild my faith as best as I could, but my grief was still very fresh. Kevin and I had committed to believing that this would be our year of restoration. I wanted to believe it more than I actually did. One evening, I was lying on the bed flipping through Facebook. An article caught my attention. It was from a private support group for mothers who had experienced loss. Someone had posted an article which told the story of a couple, from North Carolina, who lost all their septuplets at once. It was terrible. One detail stood out to me.

They had selected baby names to form the acronym ‘Messiah’. I had heard of the parents of 5 children choosing names to spell ‘Jesus’. There is no greater name, but I always felt bad for the child introducing themselves as Ursula or Ulysses. Messiah. I liked that. “How great to be reminded of our Messiah when thinking of the babies in heaven!” I thought to myself. “I wish we had done something like that…” It was a silly thought. We didn’t experience a mass loss. We never imagined we would be robbed of so much life. There was never an opportunity to plan out an acronym. I couldn’t shake the concept though.

     We had chosen names for all 5 heavenly children. Kevin and I took turns lovingly writing their names in a special family book. “Could it spell something?” I wondered. I started flipping the letters around in my head. In order of conception, their initials were as follows: A, G, P, E & A. It took seconds to find the word. What a word, indeed!

 

A.G.A.P.E.

 

     My temples were pounding. I felt shaky. Their names spelled agape, the highest form of love! God’s love! It was a revelation. In this time of recovery, God wanted us to know that we had His agape. In our season of heartbreak, we were not forgotten. We were loved! We had His sacrificial love that prompted Him to give up His only Son so that we could have eternal life.

     I do not believe that God took my unborn babies away from me. I don’t believe that the losses were a part of some plan. I do believe that God loves Kevin and I very much. Out of the darkness, He brought light. Out of the pain, He brought hope. He restored to us what the locust’s had eaten. To some this may seem silly, but this ministered to my heart in such a powerful way. The Lord Jesus was revealed to us in the memory of those 5 lives. This was the first moment where I thought, just maybe, that out of this troubled season, God would do something amazing and glorious. From death, there would be life.

     2015 was deemed to the be the year of restoration. Before the year was out, I gave birth to another boy. How gracious is my God?! His mercies are new every morning. For as much as I was grateful to have the reassurance of His agape, God was only beginning to reveal His hand.

An Open Letter to My Husband

     I have the heart knowledge that I married the best man I have ever known, but sometimes my brain forgets. 

     Complaining has to be one of the laziest pastime’s in existence. It takes no effort or skill to look around and see reasons to be disappointed. We might be able to claim cleverness in the way we deliver the zinger part of the time, but we are lazy all of the time if we choose to express dissatisfaction rather than gratitude.

     As strife has increased in my life, I have slipped into a mindset of resentfulness. I have decided not to offer up any explanations or justifications in this paragraph. The characteristics of our humanity comes with pros and cons. This one is a con; that wrong thinking leads me to so say wrong and do wrong. Therefore, I leave here an open letter to my husband where I offer repentance and appreciation.

“Kevin, recently, I could have afforded you more credit than I gave. The lists of your
admirable qualities and acts of kindness are extensive, yet I can easily summarize them.
You have loved me well. Since the beginning of ‘us’, you have been a constant source of
comfort and strength; even when I was undeserving. Whether we are relaxing under the
warmth of a brilliant sun, or navigating through a fierce storm on a dark night, I am
grateful that you are by my side guiding and supporting me. For who you are and all that 
you do, I honour you. I love you.”

How a Kitchen Aid Mixer Taught Me an Important Lesson on Gratitude

     You know that little voice in your head that prompts you to do things? Sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s Spirit and what is flesh. For many months now, I keep hearing “Write.” I, of course, ask a zillion questions about what to write. “Just write,” is the returning answer. Seeing how these two words are not going away, I am dusting off this old blog. I have a lot of reservations about what I may end up saying. But if I am just to start writing, I might as well start with the lesson I’ve learned from owning a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

     I am a little weary tonight. Today, I spent hours cataloging items to post for sale on social media and Kijiji. I am thankful to God, that I have made quite a few sales. He is always good, though! Shortly before 8 pm, I was pacing back and forth in my living room. My 3 year old was already in bed. My 17 month old was still up. I held him on my hip. We both stared out the back window at the yard, and the park, and the street beyond. The sun was setting. I was not looking forward to this last transaction. I was fighting second thoughts as well as the temptation to give into self-pity. After planting a long kiss on my little guy’s cheek, I said to him, “I don’t want you to ever think that we are anything other than rich.” Compared to billions of other people on this planet, we are very rich indeed. I was trying to convince myself of this because it felt like the opposite. Let’s just say that I haven’t been selling things for extra spending money. As my husband and I are getting serious about being extracted from the current circumstance, it seemed like an appropriate time to sell the Kitchen Aid mixer.

     The “we are rich” mantra helped me get through the exchange. I sold it for less than I wanted. I wanted to not sell it at all. The lady who came to collect it eyed me up and down as if I were a possible con artist. She seemed incredulous that there could be nothing wrong with the mixer. “Just accept you got a colossal deal and get out my house,” is what I wanted to say. Baby on my hip, cash in hand, I closed the door after she left. Despite myself, tears came. My flesh was entreating me to sit down and feel sorry for myself for awhile. Should I not feel wretched that it has come to this? For a moment, I entertained the idea of giving into that dull feeling in my stomach. Then I looked into my youngest’s sweet and honest face. Since his infancy, he has a manner of looking at me with such innocence that it pierces through any pretension that I may have unearthing the truth.

     How could I feel bad about what had just happened? How many women are out there who have sold their actual child (no less sweeter or precious than mine) in exchange for money or food? That is what real lack looks like. I am blessed beyond measure that I had an appliance I could sell used for $150. How many mothers out there have handed over their young to a stranger for less money than I received for that mixer?! I do not actually have a statistic to insert here. Let’s be honest though, any number above zero is obscene. This thought sobered me instantly. “We are rich.” I said again. Now that I could put my baby to bed, I rocked him in the most comfortable chair in the world. Seriously, I slept 6 straight hours in it once. Looking at my youngest boy, I felt a peace. I knew I had done the right thing. I began to recall how I came to get the mixer in the first place. Despite the fact that this appliance is the most coveted item on a typical wedding registry, I never wanted it. I was actually angry when it was given to me.

     It was my 20th birthday and I was anxious. My father was coming over. My parents had separated a few months earlier. I had been avoiding him as best as I could. The dread of his attendance was coupled with irksome news that he was bringing a gift. My mother knew about it and was trying to prepare me. “It better not be something big or expensive!” This wasn’t said out of pretence. I meant it. I wanted nothing from him. He arrived while I was in my room. After a few deep breaths, I walked down the hall into the living room. There it was. A big wrapped box was waiting for me in front of the couch. Every muscle in my body reacted to the frustration I was feeling. Of course, the Kitchen Aid mixer is a marvellous appliance. It eventually became the piece de resistance of my kitchen for many years. At that moment, though, the sight of it angered me. I knew that this gift, charged no doubt on a department store credit card, was purchased with the design of purchasing me. It was to buy back my time, my affection, my good opinion. None of these things were for sale. To avoid leaving an impression that I was spoiled or ungrateful, I should explain what had happened 5 months before my birthday.

     We have moments that change us. No one is exempt from this. Sometimes the moments are good, and other times they are bad. The goal is that if our mind and outlook are to be unavoidably altered, pray God that it be to our benefit and that of others. This was a bad moment.

     It was on a sunny Tuesday when my mother and I learned that his pornography addiction had gotten out of control. I was still asleep when the cops showed up at our home with a search warrant. Who needs coffee with a wake up call like that? He was formally charged a few weeks later. It should be clear now as to why I looked at this extravagant birthday gift with contempt.

     Life has many recurring themes coursing through it. Tonight, I was twice given the sobering reminder of how poorly the rest of the world lives. Twelve years ago, a mixer was purchased by a man, who had immersed himself into the realm of child exploitation, with the hope that he could redeem himself in his daughter’s eyes. Today, it was sold by a woman, who was blessed to not have to immerse herself into the realm of child exploitation, with the confidant expectation that she will always be able to provide for her family.

     There is not a single doubt in my mind that my Abba God cares about our cares. He values the most trivial things that matter to us. This almost made me cancel the sale tonight. I equally know that God doesn’t want us to put too high of a value on our possessions; for where our treasure is, there our heart is also.

     I follow Kristen Welch from the We Are That Family blog. I also sponsor one of the girls at the Mercy House (a blessed organization that she founded). Here is a woman of God who will challenge you in your outlook on life. I appreciate and admire her passion and message! This may seem like a random plug, but if you visit her website, you will not only see the connection but be inspired.