Monday, November 22, 2010

Coming to a place of Rest

Going into what is for many considered the busiest time of year (Christmas) it might seem odd to read a blog entry that contains the word "rest." However, since we haven't written since summer, and we are looking backwards not forwards, rest is a very fitting word. And since this coming season won't contain any moving, major furniture purchases, or trying to recreate almost 20 years of traditions from scratch, I believe our Christmas will also be very restful indeed!

Summer was truly restful time for our family because we were actually settled for the first time in three years. We left Winnipeg in the summer of 2007, moved into our new (now burnt down) house in 2008, were building our new house in 2009, and praise God just enjoying country living in 2010! Part of enjoying country living was building a woodshed and chopping and stacking wood. Personally I enjoy the work, and the kids don't mind it either, as long as the load is shared. I split the wood and they stack it. Right now I am sitting next to our fireplace enjoying the warmth and crackling fire noises that are possible because of our team effort to get wood ready for winter. It is great to be a part of a family team!

Lois was very, and I mean very excited about being able to finally pick more than 1 pail of blueberries. This year NW Ontario had the best blueberry picking in almost 20 years (according to our friends who picked over 300 pails!), and it was great for us to finally find a spot, only 25 minutes away with lots of berries. The picking was great there, and the only downfall was Caleb stepping on a hornets' nest and getting almost a dozen stings!

Resting for me meant actually having time to go fishing more than once or twice. I went with the kids, with my dad, with friends from church, and actually had some good success. The fish here was a 25 inch walleye caught on Lake of the Woods on a beautiful calm evening. I had first thought I was snagged, but it turned out to be my biggest walleye ever. God is good!

Here are a couple of other shots from a fun summer:
Two lakes near us are joined with a rushing creek, which made for a great crawl/climb/swim on a hot day.

Joseph and Stephen were Lois' painting helpers as they together made backdrops for the local VBS. They also helped with craft preparations. Lois led the preschool program, and Lorianne helped as a teacher and small group leader. Our family helped with set-up and take-down of the Preschool Area which brought back memories of the "good-old days" of GMC Daycamp in Winnipeg.

Visits from our Winnipeg friends are highlights for us and our kids, as we have a chance to share some of what God has blessed us with out here.

Lois' niece Heather got married this past summer, which meant a trip to Winnipeg for the celebration. Lois was actually there for two weeks with the kids for swimming lessons, because it is simpler to drive to Winnipeg and have all kids have their lessons in a two hour slot for two weeks than to do the 30 minute drive two or three times a week to Fort Francis for 10 weeks (and that is only if you can actually get all the lessons). She and the kids enjoyed one week at each grandparents' place, a more restful visit than our Winnipeg Weekend Blitz Trips.

Caleb really enjoyed his time in Winnipeg because he had a chance to have four drum lessons. He is becoming quite the proficient drummer, and with no one to give him lessons around here, he really loved the chance to learn some new technique. He continues to play in church, and even had a chance once to join our "boy band," a group of young godly men who are all in high school and have formed a worship team. He also gives mini-lessons to a friend after church on Sunday's! When not playing drums this summer, Caleb spent a lot of time mowing lawns for his Yard Care business. He bought and paid for a $500 electric start self-propelled push mower, and even "rented" it out to Joseph who had a short term job mowing the church parsonage lawn. We are proud of Caleb's diligence and dedication in work and money management.

Lorianne's summer was filled with lots of reading, serving at VBS, and as many opportunities as we would give her to do her favorite activity - baking! She often has friends over to bake, and offers to do all our desert baking for our monthly church potlucks. Not only is it fun for her, but it lightens Lois's load around the house. She also joined the Youth Group at church this year, and brings baking there when needed. She enjoys the challenges of Grade 9 at Fort Francis High, and gets herself up at 6:20 am in the morning no problems, makes her own gourmet breakfast, and then after having family devotions with us at 6:50 has a bonding walk with either Lois or myself to the highway to catch her 7:25 bus

Fall has seen us settle into healthy routines of school, work and play. Going into the summer and through the fall I asked many people to pray for me that I would do a better job of having fun with my kids. God has graciously answered these prayers, and there is a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere in our home. Over Thanksgiving weekend we combined one of my new loves (running) with a family event as we all did some sort of race at the Black Cat Run, near Virginia MN, 2 hours south of here. I ran my first ever 10km race, Lois and Lorianne walked 2 miles, and the 3 boys did shorter races. The weather was amazing so we actually did our first family camping of the year! I think we might make it an annual tradition, and next year the boys want to run even longer!

Interestingly enough part of my "training" for this race was done in Phoenix, where Lois and I spent a wonderful week of studying and relaxing. Our church here blesses me with 2 weeks of study leave each year, so Lois suggested that we see if we could get access to my Mom's family condo (which we graciously received) so I could actually have quiet while studying. We did our early morning runs/bike rides, I studied during the day and the evenings were spent relaxing. I was studying what scripture says about marriage, and it was great to do that with Lois, and to celebrate and praise God for what he has done in our own marriage over the years. Actually the last time we were in Phoenix alone was on our honeymoon, over 17 years ago! My Mom and Dad spent the week watching our kids, and everyone had a great time. The kids did great, we had fun, and when we got back together again we celebrated my 38th birthday and my Dad's 70th. I thank God for the gift of a wonderful wife, children who well behaved and work together as a team, and for my parents who are both generous and willing to sacrifice their time to support us in our marriage and ministry.

Hunting as also become a fun family event as we walk around the property looking for partridge. Caleb loves to hunt, and shot his first bird this year, about 20 yards from the house with our 20 gauge shotgun! They are pretty small birds, so we had to do a lot of hunting to get a meal for the family. To make my deer hunting more successful this year the boys and I did a male bonding project and built a deer stand big enough for three of us to sit in. Stephen was especially excited about the project, and it was fitting that he was in the stand with me on a warm November evening when I shot my first big doe! We followed the blood trail to where it lay in the bush, then hauled it back out on a trailer (it was pushed/pulled by Dueck6 power since we don't own an ATV or even have a hitch on our van yet!). Stephen helped me skin it, and butcher it, and we are looking forward to deer burger, pepperoni sticks (best in the world made by a friend from church), and jerky. I have one deer tag left, and the boys are wanting me to get a big buck - which is easier said than done!

Owning 140 acres of God's beautiful NW Ontario forest is great for hunting, and for ministry. This fall we had two firsts - an MSN fall party where we hosted 20+ youth in our back yard and our home (Thanks again to my brother Paul for helping us create a great movie room for events just like this!)
We also had the first of what will hopefully be many "Wilderness Skills Day" put on by the church at our property. They event was advertised around town as a chance for parents and kids to learn some woodcraft skills such as fire making, shelter building, and nature identification. As you can see from the picture below, there was a pretty big crowd out, and we had a lot of fun. God blessed us with great weather (plus 15 in mid October!), a chance to bond with our kids, and the opportunity to hear how He is at work in the life of my good friend and very qualified outdoor instructor Steve.

The end of October saw us as a family back in Winnipeg, celebrating the premier of the "Bonus Features" portion of my parent's documentary film on the Mennonites, And When They Shall Ask. It was a gala event held at the Convention Center, and it was great to see many family, church friends, and other people we know and love from our years in Winnipeg. The event gave us an excuse to get dressed up, which isn't something we do often out here in little old Emo.

We are so thankful for our Shepherd that leads and guides us. He led us to Emo, He helped us adjust to a new place, He helped us day-by-day when dealing with fire loss, insurance, and building, and He is now bringing us to a place of rest. We are thankful that He is with us at each stage of the journey.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.....

May you also let God be your shepherd and experience his tender care and wise guidance.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hitting the Road with the Dueck 6

While the plan is to relax and take it easy here at home this summer, we actually started off the summer with a great road trip vacation, discovering once again that we love to travel together in our van seeing the sights and just doing life as a family. Lois and the kids drove from Emo all the way to my sister Sonia's place in Port Perry (about 1 hr from Toronto) over the course of 5 days, while I flew in to TO (right in the middle of the G20 summit!)and met them there. I am thankful for a wife who thinks the idea of camping with 4 kids by herself is fun, and that she doesn't mind driving almost 2000 km while doing it!

One interesting addition to the usual roadtrip vacation came about because of the fact Lois and the kids camped their first night on the shores of Lake Superior, near Duluth, MN. After putting their feet in the water there, they camped the next night near the Mackinac Bridge, next to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Because they were heading towards the last two great Lakes in Southern Ontario, they made it their goal to put their feet in all 5 of them - and they did! Quite an impressive feat in my books, especially because they didn't set out with that goal originally.

Lake Superior

Lake Michigan

Lake Huron

Lake Ontario - on the way to Niagara from Sarnia

Lake Erie - we took a 20 minute detour from the 401 on our way to Chicago and found this great spot.

It was nice to be able to get in on at least one of the five, and actually get a shot of Lois in the water as well!

Besides seeing the lakes, the kids and Lois enjoyed the slower pace of camping (or maybe it was slower because I wasn't around wanting to do a million things - hmm!), seeing some beautiful parts of the country, and making some new friends at campgrounds. Lois was also blessed to be able to connect in Sarnia with Diane, the Ontario coordinator for the Mom's In Touch prayer ministry that she is involved in. It has been a blessing to see how God has answered the prayers of Lois and the other moms who meet to pray every second Thursday during the school year.

Niagara Falls was beautiful by day and by night, and everyone liked to see all the bright lights and sights. God blessed Lorianne with the opportunity to see "BODIES" a traveling exhibit of the human body, which was something just recently she dreamed about seeing (and never thought she actually would!). From the falls it was a nice drive on the 407 toll Hwy to connect up as a family.

As a family we hadn't been at my sister Sonia's house for four years, and in the mean time they had bought a nice new pad that we wanted to check out. The Dueck 4 had a blast playing with the Hiebert 4 and it was great to just connect as adults over games and lots and lots of food! It was a treat for us country folks to go to a "real" movie theater (that is in our own country - normally we go into Minnesota to the theater) to watch Toy Story 3 in 3D and we also attended church together. And probably the highlight of the weekend was a trip to Canada's Wonderland, where we did rides, waterslides and a show together.

When we left for Chicago on the Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and it was a great day for driving. For part of the trip Lorianne read us I want to go Home! by Gordon Korman (great book), while at other times we were all listening intently to the various Lamplighter Theater audio book productions we had purchased. These 3 hour stories adapted from historical novels written in the 1800's are not only highly entertaining, but they teach excellent Christian truths. We highly recommend you buy them and then share them with others you know, and if you can, buy the books as well. All our kids love it when we read these classics as a family together, and the oldest three kids have read over 10 of them already!

Since we now live "in the bush," and are surrounded daily by the birds singing, trees and hiking paths, and lots of deer, going to the city for a vacation is fun for us, and Chicago definitely has lots of options for fun. From shopping to walking and from listening to a Beatles tribute band perform at lunch to checking out what is happening in the Rain Forest Cafe right across from our hotel, there was never a shortage of things to see and do. Here are some of the highlights:

Shopping and seeing the sites on the Magnificent Mile!
Stephen found a special friend!

The Hershey Store!

Millennium Park - lots of great art to see, including a 2 story giant mirrored jelly bean!

Downtown Chicago from Navy Pier

The Field Museum (we spent 5 hours here, which wasn't enough for Lorianne!)

Giordanno's Famous Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza - Caleb's highlight of the trip!

As you can hopefully tell by the photos, we had a blast! We will definitely be going back for more. Our "travel agent" Mark Mast has given us a whole two pages of options for us to do each time we go.

The trip home Friday and Saturday was relaxing, and God provided a great hotel for us, with a quiet spot for me to work on my sermon, and a paved walking trail near by for us to go for walks. Truly we are blessed as a family for many reasons (health, resources to travel, time to get away, etc.) and we thank God that above all of these, we just really enjoy being together.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Milestones and Memories

Two months have gone by since I posted last, and that means that a tremendous amount has happened in the life of the Dueck 6. For starters, we now have an official granite welcome sign, made as a Mother's Day present for Lois. Of course you wouldn't know it is granite because of the paint(!), but it is still special, with each of us having painted one of the rocks, and Lois adding the lettering, all in hopes of welcoming those who come by to our place.

The beginning of June saw us as a family heading to Baudette, MN for my second Willy Walleye 5km race. It was fun to be cheered on by the family, and it must of helped, as I ran my fastest time of 23:53, good enough for 2nd place in the 30-39 year old men category. One of the fun parts of the day was racing with the Flying Friesens, a family from church. Ian, the young guy in the picture was first of the 89 runners in the race, Heidi won her age category, and my friend Wes was tops in the Old Guy (50+) category! I have tried to convince some of my kids to come run, but I don't know if it will happen, and doubt we will be as fast as our friends.

June 13 was a special day for Caleb as he got baptized in the Rainy River!!!! It was okay weather, not raining, a little cool. It was a special time for Caleb and two other youths who also got baptized, and it was a blessing for me to be able to go over scriptures with him in classes at church and be the one baptizing him. We celebrated with Grandma Hiebert, Auntie Elaine, Julie (MCC exchange from Russia), and two friends from Caleb's school. We invited their families to join us, one did. We had a watermelon and rollkuchen party with dessert too at the picnic shelter in Emo. We presented Caleb with a very manly cross chain that God gave us at a great deal while celebrating our anniversary in Bemidji. Continue to pray for Caleb as he strives to follow God in everyday life. He truly loves Jesus, and wants to follow him.

Caleb has also started a lawn-cutting business. He cuts three lawns already other than doing his turn on ours:the church's and two neighbours from the parsonage in town. He bought his own lawn mower with electric start from the local Husqvarna dealer (who attends our church), and it was very excited to see him work out a payment plan for it, which included mowing part of the dealerships lawn! We are proud of his hard working attitude and that he plans to have the mower paid off by fall. (We are also thankful that we don't have to start the mower for him anymore!)

A major milestone for Lorianne happened on June 17 as she graduated from Grade 8 (for our Manitoba friends, let me inform you that here in Ontario schools go from K - Gr 8, and then then High School is from 9 - 12). It was a special day for Lorianne as she celebrated with her friends from Donald Young School. She was chosen as one of the Valedictorian speakers, and really enjoyed writing her speech and did a great job of presenting it.

Lorianne enjoys school, and giving leadership and encouragement in the classroom. God has blessed her with a lot of skills, as well as solid Christian character, and for that we are very thankful. Her efforts at school were rewarded as she was presented with the highest academic award for a female, and she also received the Ontario Principal's Award together with Derek (who was also her co-valedictorian).

Joseph enjoyed playing soccer again this year, as did Stephen and Lorianne (Caleb begged us not to make him play, offering to bike the 2 miles to and from the field instead, which he often did). It was a bit tougher for Joe, as he was in the Gr 3-5 age group, and didn't get a lot of shots on goal. It did however give him a chance to get rid of energy, which he has lots of! He easily keeps up with Lois on their 8 mile bike ride which they often do (by the way, that is the distance around our block!).

Stephen continues to be our creative one. He suggested cutting crosses into the Rollkuchen for Caleb's baptism: it worked great - we had hot cross rollkuchen for the party! He loves playing LEGO, spending hours upstairs in our rec room during the day. He liked being on a soccer team with a friend from school, and enjoyed having me as his coach (Lois said he tried harder with me giving encouragement from the sidelines). He battled his way through the school year, having to daily choose to make right choices and be different than those around him. We pray for him lots, as he struggles to live as a Christian. He often shares at night about how he gets thoughts and words in his head from school that he has to fight against, and that he wonders if he is good enough for Jesus. As parents (and even some of the older kids) we try to just remind him of the Gospel - that we aren't good enough, but Jesus is, and his work on the cross is our only hope for acceptance before God. Now that it is summer, we are praying that Stephen can just have fun being a kid, and not have to worry so much about what others think of him, or how he needs to behave to fit in.

Lois is leading the preschool program at the local VBS, serving together with ladies from the Christian Reformed church that is hosting the VBS. She is excited to work together with 3-4 youth (including Lorianne) and train them up to tell Bible Stories, help lead a small group and be part of a ministry team. God is giving her much wisdom on this adventure. VBS is July 19-23rd, and she would appreciate your prayers.

Lois is thrilled that our garden is all planted and made sure we even planted an apple tree in honor of our anniversary and our first summer living at 583 George Rd. She spends a lot of time going for walks with different ladies from church and is thankful for the quiet life that is possible living in the country. She is truly an amazing woman, and does a great job of making sure our household runs smoothly. She also was really wanted to go camping this June, and so headed out for some camping and a trip to Niagara Falls with our children before meeting up with me at my sister's place in Port Perry, north of Toronto (I flew in while she drove the 20+ hours over 5 days). More on that trip later.

I had a chance to go fishing four times in June, which means that life is definitely slowing down. The boys and I went fishing off the Emo dock and Caleb was the fisherman of the evening. The next time was with a pastor friend from Thunder Bay who is mentoring me. We met to pray, talk, and fish together 1/2 way between Emo and Thunder Bay. Then my dad came up for our annual Father's day fishing trip. We actually turned it into two trips. One was a leisurely Sunday evening paddle in the canoe we have had since our Tadoule Lake days, and then we spent all Tuesday with a friend from church who took us up to the beautiful and famous Pipestone Lake. Dad out fished me on Sunday, but I caught the most walleye on Tuesday!

Another fun part of the spring has been working at cutting logs up for firewood. I enjoy the productive feeling that comes from cutting up a tree, and the kids do a great job of stacking up the wood. It is amazing what 6 people can accomplish when they work together!

We are now entering our third summer in NW Ontario, and with God's help it will be our most enjoyable one yet. With our first summer spent moving, our second summer spent restocking our life and designing and building a house, this year should be very different, as we are settled, have what we need in terms of stuff, are have as a main agenda to just enjoy what we God has blessed us with (ie: have fun!). Lois is very thankful for blueberries growing on our hill, the kids are happy to be done school, and I am looking forward to having a pastoral intern that I can work together with at CBC for the next couple of months. God is good, he is faithful in keeping his promises, and for that we are grateful.