Category Archives: Gratitude

Full Bellies and Humbled Hearts

tupperware
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.

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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.

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

IMG_8021
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.

How shadows have helped me appreciate the light and other thoughts on grief and change

It is rather peculiar that after such a long hiatus from blogging, I’m finally finding words again. Now, seven months after leaving Cambodia and a couple of months after finishing our #epictrip, the jumble that was my brain throughout the duration of our big transition, is finally starting to unscramble. Part of this could be because our girls are finally sleeping through the night. (Amazing how eight hours of sleep numerous nights in a row will clear the mind.)

But some things can only be processed – unraveled really – over time. Our Epic Trip might have ended when we landed on Canadian soil in June, but our Long Way Home continues. It is taking time, as one would expect of course, to regain a sense of belonging in Canada.

This past year has also been laced with many shadows that have coloured and discoloured our experience.

shadowsThose moments of beaming, glorious light – like exploring the Cappadocia region of Turkey, or wandering the old streets of Jerusalem, or bobbing around in the Dead Sea, or seeing my gorgeous little sister get married to an amazing life partner – have been punctuated by dark, cloudy spots. As I reflect on the past twelve months, I can piece together a common thread.

Loss.

Lots of it.

Heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss.

We walked through grief and desperate sadness with very good friends. We left Cambodia. And while it was clearly our decision to do so, it does not change the inherent sense of bereavement – of the community, profound friendships and life we had there.

Then, death snuck up on us and caught us completely off guard. It punched us in the gut and left us in a crumpled ball on the floor. Literally.

These are the shadows. They are dark and gloomy and really hard. And, they are always there, lurking around just when the light seems to come out and dance.

When I read the following passage by Annie Dillard the other day, I was struck by it. It’s written in the context of darkness falling on Tinker Mountain and I couldn’t help but think how it sheds some light on my own story.

“Shadows define the real. If I no longer see shadows as “dark marks,” as do the newly sighted, then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light. They give the light distance; they put it in its place. They inform my eyes of my location, here, here O Israel, here in the world’s flawed sculpture, here in the flickering shade of the nothingness between me and the light.” (‘Pilgrim At Tinker Creek’ (Harper Perennial. 2007. p 63)

I find great hope in this passage for these times of dislocating transition and lingering grief and sadness. Shadows are not static. They don’t stay there stuck in one place forever. And while at the moment I might only see them as ‘dark marks’ – blotches on an otherwise clean canvas – there is more to it than that. The shadows, as difficult as they are to handle sometimes, show us there absolutely, positively, is light.

Gratitude for the sweet bundles

#thegratitudeproject day 8

photo (1)Look at that grin. Arwen Selah (means ‘fair one, like a rock who pauses to reflect) may have come into the world under less than ideal circumstances, including a last minute c-section in a strange little Cambodian maternity clinic, but she’s been capturing hearts and minds (well, ours anyways!) ever since with her sweet and cheeky nature. Every day she lives up to her name. I love that. 

And I’m thankful for this petite little bundle of fun and that when everything could have gone wrong in Cambodia, that it didn’t.   

Why I’m thankful to be driving in Canada

#thegratitudeproject Day 7

photo 3Yes this is a photo of a highway somewhere between Vancouver and Kelowna. At first glance, it might not seem too spectacular, though there is a lovely mountain in the shot. 

But what’s really going on here is just HOW AMAZING the highway is. Do you see it? At least two lanes of traffic each way. And all this in the mountains. 

After six years of driving a motorbike in Cambodia (here is a little primer my husband developed to really give a sense of what it’s like), Canadian highways literally help me to breath easier and feel less stressed. I remember towards the end of our time in Cambodia dreaming about them. I dreamed of how wide and open and free they are and of the absence of animals, people, carts, and horrendously awful drivers. 

And here we are, really enjoying them. Sometimes I do miss the nutty chaos of driving in Cambodia. It really did feel like you were driving in a video game and you had to be alert every single second.

But for now, I’m thankful for cars and car seats and all the wonderful folks in this country who actually stop at red lights and stop signs. 

 

 

Goofballs, and other things to be thankful for.

photo (2)#thegratitudeproject Day 4

So I’m a few days late on keeping up with this gratitude list. Better late than never…right? 

Well, today, I’m thankful for this one. On the left.

This three-year-old spitfire has kept us moving since the day she was born. Her name means “full of colour” and not once, ever, has she not lived up to that. 

A goofball, indeed, challenging for sure (we’re in the talking-back-sassy stage now), but I love this lil’ one to bits.