Full Bellies and Humbled Hearts

Stacks of empty Tupperware and Casserole dishes (and this is only half of them!) are a symbol of the most precious gift for parents of three tornadoes, including a 2-week-old. We have full bellies and very humbled hearts thanks to our faith community.

Every single day over the past two weeks, someone different from our faith community (usually someone with a busy family of their own) has faithfully rung our doorbell between 4:30 and 5:30 pm, their arms laden with casserole dishes and Tupperware brimming with delicious food. They stay just long enough to sneak a peek at the newest addition to our family and wish us well before jumping back in their cars and heading home.

And every single day I find myself thinking, “how can we ever repay this generosity!?!”

Truth is, we can’t. And we were never meant to. Because this is what the Body is for.  

These days we are swaddled in vulnerability. Our youngest is just two weeks old; our older two are little tornadoes; and I’m still recovering from surgery. These days, the challenge before us is to just accept, with gratitude and humility, the gifts offered to us.

I find it interesting just how hard it can be to simply receive knowing there is no way we can repay the kindness and generosity.

Truth be told, it’s humbling. And it’s good for us.

It reminds me that as much as I pursue a life of independence, especially here in North America, that I really do need others. And, others need me. We need each other and we belong to each other.

Sure, we could have stocked the freezer full of frozen lasagna and pizzas, but that eliminates precious interactions with real people who really care. It eliminates interdependence. As much as I feel indebted to our faith community, I also know they aren’t hovering over a scorecard keeping track of gifts given and received.

The time will come in the following months where we can care for and serve our friends. The way we have been loved in this time of very real need will be a motivation, that’s for sure – not out of guilt, but out of gratitude.


Introducing our Peace Child

FullSizeRenderIt’s dawn outside. The moon is still high in the sky.

From my place here in my bed at the hospital, one of the Okanagan’s mountain ranges stands tall, framed by my window.

As I glance to the left, I see a bluebird sky and the textured mountain range in the back. It is a gift.

The view to my right is another. A 24 hour old baby. Perfect, tiny and precious. IMG_7373

This little one decided she would enter the world in all her glory on our 10th anniversary.

She is here. 

Paxten (Pax) Arelea Gosselin. “God’s Messenger of Peace.”

Born May 7, 2015 at 10:34am. 8lbs 1oz. 53cm tall.

She is beautiful and perfect and wonderfully healthy.

Praise be to God.

Love 10 Years Later

9th anniversary
Cheering nine years together in Dubrovnik, Croatia

A year ago, our anniversary was spent on the road. We were part way through our epic trip and had just landed in Croatia to meet up with a good friend. She graciously allowed us to sneak away from the kids for a couple of hours to devour a platter of Croatian delicacies and sip wine al fresco at a stunning street-side cafe in one of Dubrovnik’s gorgeously charming alleyways.

Somehow I shoved myself into the little black dress and heels I’d picked up along our travels. Steve kinda sorta tamed his wild mane of hair for the occasion. Together we ate and walked around the old city and listened to live piano music.

We are not a particularly sentimental couple. We forget to give gifts and we forget to hold hands.

And yet.

I do marvel at this life together. How the practice of our covenant has unfolded over the past decade; in several communities around the world, with friends and family, through adventures and celebrations and grief and joy.

This year, trying to be as pragmatic and as stress-free as possible, we have decided to postpone any formal 10th anniversary celebrations until things quiet down a bit. May is a ridiculous month for us – both girls’ birthdays AND the new baby’s due date compete with our anniversary.

Still, I can’t help but recollect the past decade. How our marriage has survived (and become stronger), through the ups and downs of living life together in four different countries on three different continents. How we’ve had the privilege of traveling and adventuring together through 31 countries. How our daughters have helped us explore in new ways and experience elation and frustration and growth like never before.

And I am in awe at how love changes over a decade.

familyFor us it has become more practical and down to earth. These days love is shared in the form of changing dirty diapers and sweeping the kitchen floor and wiping snotty noses and managing tantrums and giving each other breaks to do the things we love and plotting weekend outings that a 2 year-old will enjoy. 

After 10 years together, I’m more grateful than ever for my husband/friend/companion who demonstrates love in washing dishes and cooking meals, being a phenomenal dad to free spirited girls, who encourages me wholeheartedly to pursue my passions and talents in career and personal life, and is an equal participant in this parenting gig.

I find that during this season of transition back to Canada and with small kids, love in this form is a far more meaningful 10th anniversary gift than roses or chocolates or any schmancy present could ever be.

Sure, I’d go back to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast in a heartbeat.

But I am also beyond grateful for this. All of this. For our 10 year old wild and crazy life together.

When There’s Nowhere to Go But Home

This blog post was published on the A Life Overseas Blog on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. 

IMG_7162When my husband and I decided to leave Cambodia, we had a hard time articulating why. Life was fine – very good actually. We had a decent groove with work, amazing childcare for our two children, and the most incredible faith community.

And yet. We knew.

It would have been easier in some ways if there was some sort of “reason,” like a family or health-related issue, or something to do with the kids’ schooling. But for us it wasn’t any of those. There was no crystal clear moment, no flashing light, no obvious sign, and no audible voice from God. There was just a visceral knowledge that it was time.

When we moved to Cambodia in the first place, we were young and typically idealistic. We wanted to “make a difference” with the gifts and talents God gave us and invest meaningfully in work and relationships. We loved Cambodia deeply (and still do), but after nearly six years of committing ourselves to the country, its people and to our work, we felt like we received an inaudible release. The call to Cambodia had come and gone. And that was okay. It wasn’t failure or lack of commitment, or even cutting things short. We had permission to go.

Even more, there was an instinctual, gut-knowledge that if we stayed, we were actually taking the easy route. To leave? Well…that was terrifying. It meant trusting that God would provide a new way, a new vision for the future and a new path to see it through.

That’s where we sit right now. Nine months ago we left Cambodia. We took the long way home to Canada, stopping in 14 countries to visit friends and family along the way. Each step in our journey, including the five months we’ve been back, have been important in piecing together the next phase of our lives.

It is a phase that is decidedly Canadian. It’s relearning how to live and work and operate in our country of origin. It’s about finding deep and abundant rest – in the form of closeness to family, play parks for our kids, a safe car to drive, lots of walking and biking in Canada’s beautiful outdoors, and public services like health care and libraries at our disposal. It’s celebrating our first cold, white Christmas in six years. And, it’s wrestling with all sorts of new challenges, like living simply when surrounded by overabundance and learning to make new friends and find our place in a new church community. Sometimes I feel like I’m the new girl back in high school.

It hasn’t been easy, and there are days when I desperately miss Cambodia and question our sanity in leaving.

But I still know deep in my gut that leaving was the right decision.

I am reminded of the countless times throughout Scripture where God calls people outside themselves and outside of the familiar. Whether it’s Abram and Sarai heading towards Canaan, the Israelites leaving Egypt, or Paul’s missionary journeys, God calls us out of our comfort zone and out of the familiar.

Strangely enough, for us right now, that’s Canada.

In his work, ‘The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church’, Alan Hirsch says:

“When we survey scripture with liminality and communitas [[1]] in mind, we must conclude that the theologically most fertile sections were in those times of extremity, when people were well out of their comfort zones.”[2]

And so we find that the driving motivation to go to Cambodia in the first place – one of adventure and challenge and wanting to be changed – has now driven us back to Canada.

All of this doesn’t mean that a life overseas is over for us. Not at all. It means that before we can go and minister again, we need to refresh and re-energize after coming dangerously close to burning out. And, perhaps we need enough time in Canada to remember why we left in the first place.

For now, we plod through day to day life praying for peace, the capacity to live well in our new context, and for a renewed vision for the future.

[1] In ‘The Forgotten Ways’, Hirsch defines liminality as “the transition process accompanying a fundamental change of state or social position.” Communitas is “what happens when “individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition, and marginalization.” Page 221

[2] Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI. 2006. Page 221.

Yes, this happened

IMG_0614So this happened last week. It’s taken me a good four days to start speaking about it publicly because it’s so humiliating. Who puts their wallet AND phone on top of the car, buckles in their almost two year old, then jumps into the drivers seat and just TAKES OFF.

Well, me and my 8-month-pregnant-self, apparently.

Later in the evening of that fateful day, a lovely man from UPS dropped my wallet off at our house. He’d found it on his run, checked to see who it belonged to, and kindly went out of the way to hand deliver it completely intact. I feel profoundly indebted to UPS right now, especially since there was over $200 of cash in there. Yes…to make matters even more humiliating, I had just gone to the ATM before the pregnancy-mush-brain fiasco.

I spent the rest of the day blocking credit and interact cards and racking my brain for what other gems I’d had in the wallet. Thankfully, because of honest Mr. UPS, I didn’t have to spend the next day getting new health cards, library cards, and all those other life essentials.

But the phone, oh the phone. That was a different story. My husband, convinced he would be able to find it and wanting some closure to the horrid tale (was it stolen? what happened to it?), rode his bike around the area looking for it early the next morning. Found it he did. Scattered all over the highway. In about a bazillion pieces. He picked up what he could, including a fully intact case and the battery leaking acid everywhere.

It was an epic case of pregnancy mush brain (one that comes close to the Baby Brain incident of 2011). I am grateful that no one was hurt in the process and that of all things to lose it was just STUFF. Sure I lost time searching for my wallet and phone and making several trips back and forth to the area where I thought I’d lost it. But, it wasn’t the people in my life. And in the end it was just a phone, something I was able to replace relatively easily.

The moral of the story for me is to not make any big life decisions one month before a third baby is due. And never put anything on the roof of the car. 

A Sunday to Be Grateful For

lilyMy nails are painted. Bright fuchsia pink. It had to be something bright and light and hopeful. In these last weeks of pregnancy, all wobbly and waddling and breathless and awkward, it really is about the little dignities: feet up in my new second hand reclining chair; painted nails; an Afternoon nap; warm cookies straight from the oven; spending time writing.

At this stage – 35 weeks – 5 weeks to go until full term, my body is controlled by a bundle of nerves and tissue that kicks my ribs and keeps me up at night. The little dignities give bursts of energy to my otherwise extremely empty tank. Now today, after an hour of quiet and solitude, I find myself grateful:

  • For Resurrection Sunday. Of death overcome. Of beauty from Ashes. Of hope in the midst of darkness.
  • For a fearless, humble, suffering, life-giving Christ.
  • For a strong heartbeat in the growing little being inside me.
  • For my parents who whisked my two daughters away for a drive this afternoon so I could enjoy solitude and my hubby could go on a long, sweaty, bicycle ride.
  • For those family and friends (both new and old) who have sustained us over this very challenging year of transition.
  • And for the spring. For the hope it holds. Of new life. And joy. And a season of beauty to come.

Embracing Joy

HyacinthIt’s 6:15 and the sky is just starting to brighten. I can hear magpies chirping and cawing outside.

The street light is shining its warm, almost amber light, in the throes of dawn. I can see it from the living room window. Soon it will turn off and let daylight take on the job of illumination.

This year has been one of my more challenging years to date. I have found myself edging towards the precipice of despair more times than I am able to count. Drama has always been part of my life, so sure, there may be a bit of drama at play here. But if I’m honest with myself and really unpack the past 365 days, there has been a whole heck of a lot going on.

So much uncertainty and so much fear at play in my life this year. And with the pregnancy hormones, all the emotions have been even more extreme. Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” couldn’t have found me at a more opportune moment. Her chapter on ‘Cultivating Gratitude and Joy’ particularly struck a nerve:

“Most of us have experienced being on the edge of joy only to be overcome by vulnerability and thrown into fear. Until we can tolerate vulnerability and transform it into gratitude, intense feelings of love will often bring up the fear of loss…The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”

Yeppers. That’s me completely. Fearful that if I really enjoy and bask in the joy of a season that it will suddenly all be stripped away. Brené speaks to that honestly.

So…I hope that over the next six weeks as we anticipate Baby Goz 3 that I can cultivate joy and gratitude. There are some things that naturally make this easier – like the spring weather, and six more weeks to go in pregnancy, and a string of very exciting visitors lined up in the month of April!

And still, it’s important to practice joy and gratitude in the little things to.

In this moment, I am so grateful for solitude. My two littles aren’t awake yet and hubby’s still snoozing. It’s early, yes, but I have these moments all to myself.

There is coffee in my hand.

Our tulips and crocuses and hyacinth are blooming in the front yard adding much-anticipated bursts of colour.

The world map on the wall beside me beckons me to dream about travel lists and far-flung lands. I want to be fully present here and now, yes. But I never want to stop dreaming and working to make those dreams realities either.

I’m 34 weeks pregnant. That means there are six weeks to go until we can start expecting to meet this sweet lil’ new one!

It’s all about the little things isn’t it?

Spring has sprung

Green bursts forth from the weeping willows at a park near our house

For the past several weeks, spring has come. To be honest, I heave a sign of relief and think to myself, hallelujah we MADE it!.

After six years living in Cambodia’s tropical climate, I knew that our first winter back in Canada would be a shock to the system. To be fair, we are in the Okanagan, where winter winter only lasts a couple of months. To our family and friends in the Prairies, this must sound like pathetic drivel.

But still. We got used to 40 degrees every day remember. Also, I maintain bragging rights for surviving two hot seasons in my third trimester of pregnancy. It was at least 35-40 degrees every day and I assure you, I was a huffing, puffing, sweating mess.

So this first winter back felt daunting. And while I mentally prepared for the cold, it was actually the dark that shocked my system the most. Day turned to night by 4:30pm. Crazy!

But we made it through the slushy snow and the bad roads and the worst storm the Okanagan experienced in something like three decades. We made it through the gloomy days and exceptionally dark evenings.

And I’ve made it through 33 weeks of pregnancy, which in itself feels like a remarkable feat.

So dear spring, thank you for finally arriving with all of your hope and light and expectation.

Burn, burn, burn

What the heck does “living fully” actually mean?

I was thinking about this today and mulling over a few different definitions. I liked dictionary.com’s enough for “living”, “abundant” and “full”.

Full: completely filled; containing all that can be held; filled to utmost-capacity

Abundant: present in great quantity; more than adequate; oversufficient; well supplied; abounding

Living: having life; active or thriving; vigorous; strong; burning or glowing as a coal

But Jack Kerouac nailed it for what people might look like if they were to live life to its fullest potential.

fireworks and jack kerouac

I would love to look back on my life and know that I had plumbed the depths and heights of what life offers. Not in a way that was out to make a name for myself or trying too hard to be that bright roman candle (that lacks authenticity!), but because of the way I invested in relationships, and navigated sorrow, and was present with my family and community, and the way I gave love away, that I knew I burned as brightly as I could. With every ounce of energy in me.

Living fully in the midst of transition, or trying to anyways

photo (5)How to do this? Living fully in the midst of transition?

It seems to me it’s a whole lot easier to seize the moment when there are beautiful Greek sunsets out your window or fabulous crusader castles to explore. While we felt a whole new degree of exhaustion on our Epic Trip through the Middle East and Balkans, that part of the transition to Canada felt a whole lot easier than actually settling in.

We decided to move to Kelowna, BC, because of its beauty, outdoor adventure possibilities and wineries. (Yes, seriously, that’s why we moved here.) Thankfully, my husband got a job in town which legitimated those hedonistic desires!

We’ve been here for about six weeks and much of that time has been a whirlwind of unpacking boxes and scouring garage sales for cheap furniture.

Only now are we beginning to feel more settled. And now, real life is setting in.

To be honest, some days I feel like we have all the time in the world. Like life is lazily sipping away at a freshly brewed latte with a gorgeous sunrise in the background.

But there are other days where I feel frantic. Frantic that we don’t really have any friends yet. Frantic that I’ll never find a way to balance working part time and shuffling kids to daycare and preschool.

And then there’s the reality that we are stationary. We are bound by work and school schedules, fewer national holidays, and the fact that Canada is ridiculously expensive.

Much of the time, I don’t actually feel settled at all and transition is still a daily experience.

So. This Nester’s #write31days challenge is a personal journey for me. It’s an attempt to live more graciously, more abundantly and more joyfully in my crazy-mundane-exciting-lonely-full new life.

Want to join me for the ride? Goodness knows the more wisdom, the more joy, the more stories, the merrier the journey will be.

thoughts on faith and life and the world