Cynthia's Thoughts

Then Sings my Soul

Listening to: Carrie Underwood – How Great Thou Art

As I was growing up, I rarely identified with people my age. I was always looking to the future, to this longing that I had, but could never put my finger on. That longing made me different, it made me think of my teenage friendships as fleeting, not something that I should hold on to. I felt as if I viewed life differently than all of my peers… I always felt ahead of them somehow. These feelings made me feel like I never quite fit in.

I can’t say that this is truth, but I can confidently suspect that God was present even in those years of unbelief—at work in my life, stirring up my heart to yearn for something greater than I whatever it was that I presently settled in—stirring up my heart to not quite fit in.

Shortly after I married Luke, I lost touch with all of my friends from high school. When I got married, most of my friends were in school or figuring out what to go to school for, while I was marrying the love of my life and dreaming about children. I never quite fit in.

Shortly after having Isla, I realized that I needed some friends. The church we were attending was large and I felt unnoticed, even unwelcomed sometimes. It was hard to make meaningful connections and reaching out to women my age was hard. We attended that church for about six years and while we were blessed with meaningful relationships with our pastors, we never seemed to make really good friends. I never quite fit in.

One weekend we decided to try our current church—Renaissance. A friend had been attending for a year or two, and we were already attending bible studies at the church, so it seemed like the logical choice. That was the Sunday that changed everything.

For months, I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t quite fitting in. I was shy in approaching new women, and many women seemed to know each other so well that it seemed as if they didn’t need another friend. But God! In His good timing, God opened up my eyes to women who I could reach out to and He blessed me with a group of women who I would develop deep-rooted, meaningful, sisterly relationships with. These women support me, encourage me, listen to me, pray for me, babysit for me, visit with me, cook for me, cry with me, laugh with me and love on me—among so many other things.

Even though I was blessed with these relationships before we left on our journey, I still didn’t feel like I fit in. I was accepted and loved, but I doubted my value in my relationships. You see, because I thought of my first teenaged friendships as fleeting—it was hard for me to understand that others found value in my friendship. Only now, do I have a true perspective.

Since we left Brooklin in August, we’ve received several invites for weekend sleepovers from our brothers and sisters. We’ve only taken one family up on their offer, simply because it’s a familiar space and there are only two people living in the house—our pastor, John and his wife Janine.

We left my mother-in-law’s cottage 28 days ago, we’ve been in Brooklin for 14 of those days, taking over John and Janine’s basement (and Netflix). Each of those days has been filled, to overflowing, with visiting with friends, eating with friends and praying with friends. We’ve had the privilege of being a part of a family I didn’t fully understand the value of. From being invited to stay much longer than planned, to being treated just like another daughter, from being invited to take part as the only non-familial guest at a family dinner, to crying together and being encouraged by sisters at a women’s dinner… We’ve been on the receiving end of a John 13:35 kind of love. The love and relationship I have the privilege of experiencing while we live with them is beyond anything I could ever imagine. I quite fit in.

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other.

We just returned from our second weekend with them and the only word I can ever utter as we drive away from Brooklin is… Overwhelming.

My heart is filled—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. God, the giver of good gifts, is abundantly blessing this once lonely heart with an entire church family full of love—redeeming what I didn’t even know was missing from my own life. I find myself buried under the weight of this practiced biblical love and I wonder…

How can this be just a small portion of what is to come?

Luke's Thoughts

It Is Well…

Am I really that different?

This is the question I ask myself after each year passes, on my birthday. I look back at the promises I made to myself, to others and to God. Most people look in the mirror and are disappointed with their aging as years go by. I know I used to be a bit like that. But now instead I look into my journal and see if I’ve grown “older” in the person I am. If I am wiser, making better choices than I did the year previous. My disappoint does not come from growing “older” in that way, but by staying the same; by not changing and by not growing.

My biggest fear has become the slew of pages I write, filled with biblical truths about man and his separation from God, and what I must to strengthen that relationship again. Fear in writing what I know to be true but doing very little to follow it.

This year was no different. As I took time to reflect upon the last year while enjoying the beautiful lake view at my mom’s cottage, I knew I had failed to meet my very reasonable goals.

Truth is, these goals were already years old and I was nowhere closer to fulfilling a better relationship with my wife, my children and my Saviour.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself when judging my actions by the world’s standards, but I don’t live by those standards. I’ve been called to be transformed, to be separate and to act holy in my thoughts and actions. Not because I’m better than anyone else, but because it’s part of the life I chose when I accepted my Saviour’s gift to be made new by his Grace. Where was this “new” me?

Sure I’ve grown as a father and husband since I started this journey, maybe even as a friend, and I was nowhere close to the man I was before I knew God, but it was time to look at where I didn’t grow as I hoped. Where I got stale and comfortable. After all, nobody changes without some honest reflection. I was hoping to do some of that now.

I decided to review this little moleskin notebook I had written all these things into, plus a few other writings I had compiled, and copy over the important parts into a new book I had made that would be my “one book to rule them all!” Consolidation is a good thing. Like many things I’ve collected over the years, I also collected leather bound journals and notebooks of all types. It was time to put all my thoughts and prayers, favourite quotes and scripture and whatever else I felt inspired by into one book. This books would have the Scriptures attached for quick reference.

As I copied things over I could reflect on their importance. This was my main goal while spending a few weeks at my moms cottage on Manitoulin, before heading back to the trailer in Bellville where it would be more difficult to do something like this.
I looked over my personal growth goals and was excited to put them into action. It would require a lot of prayer. Something I was lacking in the past. I hope to make that a more of a priority along with reading His Word more.

Sometimes I forget that moment I wrote a certain promise, or I forget why a particular scripture meant enough to me to copy down. I cherish these times when I can clear my head of all distractions and remember why I did. That truly refresh my soul. At these times I can honestly say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul”.


General Posts

Back at Belleville, Apartment “B”

Good day to you all.

We have returned to Bellville for the month of October after visiting my mom up on Manitoulin Island and after a quick stop into Brooklin.
My hopes up on the island were to get 5 solid weeks of relaxing, reflection and writing. I was hoping to take some creative photos for Instagram to rekindle that side of my brain a bit as well. As it turns out I did get to do all those things despite lending my efforts to my mothers building projects for almost 3 weeks.
It was good to see her. Our relationship has its challenges but love always prevails.

The kids had a good time being able to play outside constantly. They have really grown. I went up thinking that we would watch them every waking moment, but they learned to play by the water, in the water and in the trees with minimal hassle or supervision. Of course when we went swimming they were watched liked hawks, but for the most part they grew in independence. They wouldn’t go near bugs when we arrived, but in no time they were having them crawl all over them.
My brother Rich and his son James were up when we arrived, so that gave the kids a few good days to play with their cousin before they left a week later.

We decided to go up to the island “sans trailer” to save gas and the bother of moving it. We are nicely nestled at the Batty’s and I did not want to have to move the trailer in and out again. We lived in my mom’s guest house, which gave us privacy (because the kids slept in the main house) and the convenience of not having to stay on the driveway bringing water and electricity up to the trailer.
I enjoyed waking up every morning and seeing the lake plus the sunrise God chose to display that day. It was therapeutic. The weather turned out to be great for almost all the time we were there. We enjoyed swimming, ATVing, catching reptiles, insects and bats, fires & marshmallows,  plus fishing on the motorized dingy, even though we didn’t catch anything.
It was a nice time to spend with my mom and doing those kinds of things with the kids. You never know when it all could end so taking this time with her was very special in retrospect.

We originally were planning on staying 4 weeks but the extra week was added so that I could get a little more time to work on my own projects instead of my mom’s task list, plus I was hoping to go to a board gaming convention that I used to be an organizer of, back in Oshawa the following week. Our pastor and his wife opened up their basement to us to stay in while we spent an unexpected 8 days in Brooklin. Their kindness to us made us double our original stay time of 4 days. It gave us time to see friends again and go to church in our home town.
I had to make my way back to Brooklin and my pastors house the following week for the funeral of a friend’s grandmother. The Blackman’s really make it easy to return to Brooklin by always opening up their home to us. Thanks guys!

Being back in the trailer after 6 weeks was bitter sweet for me. I liked my own space but also liked to stretch out at the places we’ve stayed. For Cynthia it was different. She needs her own space quite a bit. Although glad for the hospitality of other, she was very happy to be back in her own space. No matter how small it is, it’s hers.

Towards the end of our time at my mom’s I came up with this idea of changing our trailer accommodations from a travel trailer to a truck camper, the kind that mounts on a truck bed, with no more wheels or axles or backing-up challenges. I drew out a concept and shared it with her and our friends to see what they thought. Even though I wasn’t even sold on the idea yet, I got decent feedback on the idea from most people, but when I realized that this new smaller space would not have the home feel Cynthia got from the current trailer, I knew I had to abandon the idea.

So here we sit, in our trailer at the Batty’s in Bellville. Like an apartment within the Batty complex. Waiting out the month of October. Slowly preparing for Hawaii. Our bags are partially packed, our tickets, accommodations and rentals practically all taken care of. Now we have some minor repairs to do on the trailer and some pre-winter prep. Other than that we wait, enjoying the fall as it comes upon us. The only plans we have in October is to head back to Brooklin for a few days so I can attend the church men’s retreat over a weekend while Cynthia visits friends with the kids. Other than that, the next time we will return to our home area is just before we put away the trailer for the winter and get on a plane. Cynthia’s uncle owns large train yards for new car deliveries in the Toronto area and had offered us to securely park our truck and trailer within 15 minutes of the airport over the winter, spared at no expense. We are sometimes overwhelmed by the love and kindness of those in our path. People who make it easier to do this journey.

People We Miss

Our Neighbours

Since returning to our home town after our first leg on the road, we had the privilege and pleasure of reuniting with loved ones. These same loved ones we had been writing about in this section of the blog had greeted us with the kind of open arms and love that you can only be experienced by a fond heart that’s been away for a while.
After getting together with all the people we wrote about missing I noticed that we didn’t write about our neighbours, even though we missed them very much.
Having good neighbours isn’t guaranteed no matter how affluent the neighbourhood. My friends tell me stories about their neighbour’s behaviour that would make it hard to love them. I’ve watched YouTube vlogs about a problem neighbour someone has and the nightmare of living next to them, with video evidence to prove their point. Can you imagine a neighbour that you have to take to court in order to have them respect your property? I can’t. I never had to. My neighbours always rocked! Each one, on every side, front and back.
I never got to know all my neighbours the way I wished. Some of them I’d know only by their faces, and I would greet them with a wave hoping their name would come back to me. Others I knew a little better and we’d have little conversations and give cookies n’ cards at Christmas. Some I could confidently lend and borrow a tool from, and we could share project ideas and talk a little bit about life together. No matter what the degree of relationship, we felt safe with these neighbours we had in Brooklin. There was never an issue, there was always kindness and courtesy, and even when ones would move away (as they tend to do), the new neighbours were just as excellent.
Did we miss our neighbours? Absolutely!
These are people we saw on a regular basis. People our kids played with. People that look after your home when you are on vacation. These kinds of people are hard to find, I’m certain of it. 
When our neighbours learned of our departure last year they were excited for us and gave us lots of support. I always hoped that the people who would occupy our house next would be good neighbours to them as well, maybe even better : ) This is how we saw them: as families deserving of our consideration, for the choice we make, of whom we sell our home to – that we make sure we sell to good folks who will “fill the gap” when we leave.
I think we have done that. My only regret is not taking the time to know my neighbours better over those 10 years.
So here’s to Stanton & Yvonne & Jordan, John & Rose, Krista & Allen, and to all the neighbours we knew only by their lovely faces – We have missed you and the great neighbourhood environment you helped create! We hope that our new home owners, Ryan & Amanda, know just how great you all are and how lucky they are.
When we settle down and buy again in some town, I can only hope and pray we get neighbours from the same stock as these.

Stanton, Yvonne & their daughter Jordan gave us this card with their thoughts before we left on our journey. Super awesome neighbours!