May 29, 2012

Living History

One of the reasons I love this area is its rich history as a NWMP Fort, dating back to 1875. Growing up, I always romanticized the 1800's on the prairies, imagining open plains roaring with bison, roamed freely by the First Nations, their thriving culture lived day-to-day in completely un-tamed and un-tainted wilderness. Sometimes I imagine this land back to its 200-years-ago state, erasing our imprint, drinking in lush trees, open prairie and rushing rivers.

Neal and I recently took a Saturday to roam around historic downtown and visit  the reconstructed Fort, a little travel in time...


It was a picture-perfect spring day - green land, blue sky and white cotton clouds. We toured NWMP barracks with bison-skin blankets on straw mattresses, a dining hall complete with a playing organ, walls adorned with the Union Jack and a picture of Queen Victoria, and we spied the lay of the land from a corner lookout tower. The NWMP presence on the Prairies was necessary at first to deal with the no-good, rabble-rousing illicit whiskey trade, and the walls of the Fort came down after a mere 10 years of being in operation. The current city sprang up from families in the Fort, and a large farming colony across the river.

These lovelies are in bloom right outside the Fort,



It was a day filled with history, nature and good company - the best way to spend a Saturday in my books!

(if you are a fellow history-buff you may enjoy this recent read of mine... and this amazing series directed by Steven Spielberg)

May 19, 2012

May 15, 2012

Today...

was a good day. I was called in to work early this morning and had the privilege of helping out in a special needs Phys Ed class. Let me tell you, those kids are some of the most amazing I know - they have awesome attitudes and are so genuine and sweet, it really was a great way to start the day.

When I arrived home from work I hollered a 'hello', having already seen Neal's car parked out in front of our place, but heard nothing in return. Upon further investigation it appeared that although the car was home, Neal was not. Then I saw a message on our answering machine. It was Neal, asking if I could pick him up from work when I got home. How he got to school, and why he was there without the car was entirely puzzling. Being a man of occasional mystery, he left no hints on his message either. Upon arriving at school, and after joking with him about the options of either flying or teleporting to work, he explained that he left the house with his school keys and just as he closed the front door, had a sinking feeling that the car and house keys were not on the same side of the door as he was. So he walked to the nearest gas station and called a cab. I think teleporting would have been more fun...

So goes a day in our life. I have found fresh perspective in this past year, really trying to get a hold of all which fills the days. Every day is precious. I woke up this morning to warm sun, leaves bursting out green, and spent the day with laughing students and an entertaining husband. Not every day is easy, but each day, even today, is brimming with moments to be thankful for.

One year later - I am still here. I am alive.

And I will endeavour to live each day given me to the full.


p.s. thank you all for your kind words and messages of hope in these past few days, I thank God for each and every one of you! xo

May 14, 2012

One Year... our journey

One year ago I found myself in my backyard, chasing lawn furniture around as strong, warm winds bullied their way through town. It was May 14th. Forest fires were in the area, nothing unusual for that time of year, but this year outlying areas were on evacuation notice. I casually packed a bag that night just in case, though these fires did not seem to be much cause for alarm. Sunday morning came and I spent the day with Neal's mom, watching smoke billow from the nearby forest. In the heat of the afternoon winds suddenly shifted, the sky blackened, and fire scooped up from the forest rained down into town. Rained into my subdivision. Into my yard. Life would never be the same.
***

It has taken me this entire year to bring myself to look at pictures of the fire itself. I could view the devastation left behind, but it has taken oh-so long to look the cause of that devastation in the face. To see the smoke & flames and not break out into a sweat of both fear and anger. 

One year later - it is still fresh in minds and hearts.

Watching features on the news, I slide so quickly back to that weekend. Once there, it is hard to remember anything that has happened in the year since. Hard to remember anything good.

Yet there is good. And I must not forget.

There is also thanks, for the many people who stayed to fight for the town and surrounding communities. People who worked to states of exhaustion and strain never experienced before. Firefighters from many communities who came to help, crews who worked on gas and power lines and clean-up crews who attacked the acres of toxic ash. 

I am so proud of Neal's dad, who stayed to truck in food and supplies to the emergency crews and response teams in those dark days following the disaster. There are many unsung heroes, and to you, we offer our thanks.

To my family:

Mom M - I am so glad we were together that day, and I'm thankful that God provided a way out for us. I am also thankful we had a safe place to sleep that night (even if it was with the light on, and waking up every 10 mins to look out the window!) We went through it together, I do not even want to think of how things could have been different had we been on our own. Thank you for being there with me. *2 Corinthains 1:10-11*

Dad M - You were that solid rock of strength that we needed fresh out of the fire. I will never forget walking into camp, seeing you, and feeling like we were in a safe place. Thank you for your strength.

Mom & Dad P - Thank you for taking Neal and I in, when we weren't sure how to get back on our feet. And thank you Mom, for you hugs and words of encouragement when I broke down about not getting Cadi out, and when we went back to Slave Lake for that first visit after the fire. You seemed to know just when to ask me how I was feeling, and you met my feelings with precious compassion.

Brent & Karen - Thank you for asking us out to your place that Sunday. Looking back now, we really should have taken you up on that offer! Thank you too for always offering us whatever we needed, right down to your washer and dryer. Thank you for your support and your strength.

Gene - I know I've said this before, but you really do deserve some kind of medal for welcoming any of us to crash at your place at any given moment - without a second thought. You jumped in with your whole heart, and for that we thank you. 

Mike & Meghan - Meghan, that box of clothes (which fit amazingly) was, and continues to be, a saving grace in the wardrobe department! Thank you for your loving and generous heart. Michael, I was so relieved to talk to you over the phone that day after the fire, happy to be alive and able to share a story of escape. Thank you for being there for me. You have both been an amazing support to us.

To our extended family and dear friends - thank you for your love and generosity, we could not have made it through this year without each and every one of you!
          
***

The following video is a small offering of the deep gratitude we have in our hearts for all those who helped us get through this disaster, and the year following.



* it posts quite small on here - if you click the YouTube button at the bottom of the video you can a view it larger/full-screen *

Please keep Slave-Laker's in your thoughts and prayers this week as we remember...



May 11, 2012

write it on your heart

Heading into this weekend, I really feel the need to fortify my heart with encouraging words. Words that have the ability to pull me up, keep me going, continue patience, and focus on good.

This coming Tuesday will mark 5 years since my miscarriage, and one year since the fire. Heavy stuff.

It is this segment of writing from the last chapter of 'Kisses From Katie' that I keep going back to, words which flesh out these hard places in life, how sorrow can transform into joy.

"I have learned along my journey that if I really want to follow Jesus, I will go to the hard places. Being a Christ follower means being acquainted with sorrow. We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy. Joy costs pain, but the pain is worth it. After all, the murder had to take place before the resurrection.

I'll be honest: The hard places can seem unbearable. It's dark and it's scary, and even though I know God said He will never leave or forsake me, sometimes it's so dark that I just can't see Him. But then the most incredible thing happens: God takes me by the hand and walks me straight out of the hard place and into the beauty on the other side. He whispers to me to be thankful, that even this will be for His good.

It takes a while sometimes, coming out of the dark place. Sometimes God and I come out into a desert and He has to carry me through that too. Sometimes I slip a lot on the way out and He has to keep coming back to get me. Always, on the other side is something beautiful, because He has used the hard place to increase my sense of urgency and to align my desires with His. I realize that it was there that He was closest to me, even in the times when I didn't see Him. I realize that the hard places are good because it is there that I gained more wisdom, and though with wisdom comes sorrow, on the other side of sorrow is joy."

It is here I find myself - just barely squeaking through a sorrowful season, yet finding pockets of joy, and longing for the beauty on the other side. 

It takes time. 

As Ashley so eloquently put it, in a post on the 5 year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings,

"Sometimes the best way to remember a defining point in your life isn't to dwell on it's origin, but rather to find joy in the journey you've taken since."

So I will press on and continue to trust, seeking joy in the journey.


***
Post Script - late Saturday night:
It is all freshly playing in my mind, after pouring through others' experiences of escaping our neighbourhood from the flames, frantically leaving homes and possessions behind. Information is power, and somehow it helps me to read these stories. Like loose, individual puzzle pieces the stories come together, revealing a complete picture. In this picture's light I again stand in awe. I truly, truly cannot believe we all made it out alive. I close the word document and open Firefox, my random bible-verse generator glowing this not-so-random encouragement;

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1Peter 1:3-5

Deep in the dark I thank God for a living hope, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, and for being guarded by His power through faith.

He is everything we need.

May 10, 2012

healthy eating randomness...


Neal happened to spy this curious fruit as we were strolling through our local grocery store and thought we should give it a try.

I must say, it is a rather pretty fruit. Tastes kinda like a kiwi, a little sweet, and cold & juicy straight out of the fridge. I'm thinking it could be a stand-in for ice cream on a hot day. Who am I kidding... ice-cream will probably win...

However! Having a new variety of fruit in our arsenal of healthy foods is quite exciting (as this cookie monster is always on the lookout for alternative healthy snacks). The fact that it is called 'dragon fruit' just adds to the intrigue...

I was intimidated at first by the look of the thing on the outside - but I found this handy on-line guide and chopped and scooped away!

So the next time you see a strange fruit, give it a try! It might just become your new favourite snack...


May 8, 2012

salad suppers & thoughts on spring


Eating at our place seems to go in cycles. Winter brings warm comfort food, meat & potatoes, casseroles, pasta and a variety of hibernation-type fare. Yet every year, as soon as the weather warms, I find myself craving fresh fruit, veggies, salads and would much rather warm up the BBQ than the oven!

Here's what was in our salad supper tonight:

mixed greens
diced cucumber,
orange peppers
and chicken,
a little crumble of feta cheese
and
a drizzle of ranch dressing.


It was the perfect fuel for an hour-long stroll.

Winter holds onto the prairies a little longer than most places, but when spring arrives, she is no less breathtaking.

Had I eloquent words, I would wax poetic on the smell of new leaves, warm air mixing with the heavier cool air of evening, or sunlight dancing on wide open fields, sinking slowly beneath a gauze of fresh new green.

Tonight, it was enough to just get out there and take it all in...

"For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!"