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.
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.