Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My 2016 Christmas Letter to You -- from Christine

Outside is a winter wonderland as I write this Christmas letter. What a sweet surprise to have so much snow around our brand-new house, that is tucked much closer to the mountains than our previous home.

2016 has been one of the most hectic years we have ever experienced. Back in
January my mum was busy knitting winter hats for the homeless, my husband David was working full-time at our local hospital as engineer, and I was pounding away on the laptop doing last minute edits on my first non-fiction book Finding Sarah Finding Me. As a family, we also experienced the grief of losing Ian, the dad of our beloved son-in-love, James. We all miss him so much. What a joyful singing voice Ian had for God.

By February, though, we were perplexed by the number of real estate agents who’d ring on the doorbell, asking if we were interested in selling our townhouse.

By March David and I had the idea that the Lord was nudging us ever so slightly. We started working on the house to show it off at its shining best, and I started to dig up my favorite rose bushes and shrubs (after they finished blooming of course) into pots for the eventual move. I’d dig, and my mum would bring me tissues to blow my nose from all the hard labor, and cups of tea to sustain me. It’s a two-man job.

By the end of April we were ready, and our agent showed our house in May. Four days later we had an offer we couldn’t refuse. Very quickly we found a new house a little farther east. A cute, smallish bungalow that we can share comfortable with my mum. It feels like a cottage, and I love it. Perfect for us old folks.

The month of May saw me scrambling like crazy to promote my brand-new
release, a historical romance titled Sofi’s Bridge. I feel badly—I really haven’t done justice to that book as far as promotion is concerned. But then—promotion—YUCK. It’s the bane of an artist’s life.  So hard to remain a human being if you’re always saying, “Hey, buy my book…..Pulleeeeeeeeeezzze.”

June !!!   Ah June. Last minute preparations that found my daughter, Lana, Granny, and me, making the burlap and lace aisle and table runnbers for my son Robert's wedding to his beautiful Sara. We all drove to Alberta in separate cars. Our car was loaded with pots of fresh lavender plants, wedding stuff, much of Robert's stuff he'd left behind at our house, as well as Charlie, our 2-year-old Welsh Spring Spaniel. I promise here, that I will never, forevermore, ever travel with that dog again. He insisted in sitting in my lap through the entire range of Rockies.

Granny flew in to Calgary, and we and Sara’s family all stayed in houses at the Canadian Southern Baptist College and Seminary. Whew. During that time, my son Kyle and son-in-love James helped David and I clean our son Robert’s old apartment, and move his stuff into Sara’s place. Talk about exhausted. But we were overjoyed to meet our new daughter-in-law’s family from Virginia, Pastor Julio and his wife Carmen, and family. One of the greatest joys in my life is to now be related to the Ruiz family. J  And the wedding was sublime. Overflowing joy.

July. Oh my word. July. We came home from the wedding, packed, cleaned, packed and cleaned some more, and moved to our new house. Once the inside of the house was reasonably set up, I started to dig my front garden. I had all those pots of roses and shrubs that needed to get into the ground long before winter set. By the end of August I had this done.
Granny and I moved rocks. Like a chain gang. I’d send my 76-year-old mother out with a red bucket—like any good Irish woman—and she’d toddle off to the unbuilt areas in the complex and load up her pail for our garden. We dug one rock the size of a giant dinosaur’s’ egg out of the front yard, and planted the lilac tree in that hole. Thank the Lord, my sister-in-law Michelle found me a $10 wheelbarrow on an auction site, and that’s made the whole chain gang business so much easier on Mum and me. But the garden is starting to shape up. 2017 we will work on the back garden. I’ll have Mum digging holes for the trees in no time.

In the middle of August, I was once again scrambling—at the same time as rock
digging—to promote the release of a second book this year, Finding SarahFinding Me.  Again, because I was so busy digging my new rose garden I have not done a proper job on promoting this book either.

But also in the middle of August we had the joy of our very first granddaughter being born. Kyle and Crystal had no idea that I had used the working title Just Like Hannah for my non-fiction book. So what a joy it was when they decided to call their little girl Hannah, just because they liked the name. Talk about serendipitous.

Late September David and I took a 10-day trip to Alberta to visit Robert and Sara, and I spoke at 2 Christian Women’s Clubs (Drumheller and Disbury) and at a book club at Unity Baptist Church in Red Deer.

We also squeezed in a short fishing trip for David.

October, we drove home and put on Thanksgiving dinner for our all our kids and family. And oh how I love my kids. All of them. Pleased as punch that David and I now have 5 grandsons and 1 baby granddaughter.

After that, I took a long rest. Oh my word, did I need it. So did David and my mum.    

November, Mum and I drove down to Washington State to visit my birth-daughter Sarah and her hubby Mark and the two baby boys. Note that this Sarah has an "h" at the end of her name, a slight difference to my daughter-in-law Sara's name. 
I am so honored and thrilled to pieces that my birth-daughter Sarah has her little boys call me Nanny Chris. What a joy to see my first-born’s children and to play with them. It is one of my greatest joys to have grown children and grandchildren.

By November I started back to my writing career which has stalled due to the busy-ness of this past year. David continues to work steadily at his engineering job in the hospital, and we recently attended a seminar for people retiring in the next year or 2. We can’t possibly be that old already. Can we?

And Mum found her knitting needles and has started again to knit toques for the homeless and baby toques for Prolife, while I, in the living room, pound away on my laptop once more.

As we look forward to 2017, we pray that we will continue to serve the Lord with whole hearts.

It is my particular prayer, that I especially will grow more and more in love with Christ, and love my neighbor as myself, as Jesus instructed. These days in the news Christians seem to get such a bad rap. Too bad people only hear those voices that do not speak the way Christ wants His followers to speak. Real Christians are busy, head-down, hard at work to relieve the suffering of people in missionary work, or in churches, and speak words of love to bring comfort to those who are hurting.
As I finish off this Christmas letter, I bow my head and pray for my friends, that the Lord will draw you close to Himself. That you come to know Him in truth. That you let him shine His face upon you.

Hugs for now, have a wonderful 2017. I promise next Christmas letter will be much shorter.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Why Not Consider the Children? By Guest Author Dianne Barker

“How are the children?” I said to a friend who had just told me she’s single again.

“They’re fine with it. They’re glad we’re not together.”

Really? I seriously doubt that. (No, I didn’t say it.) The faces of her teenage sons told a different story. I could only imagine their heartbreak.
Twenty years of marriage down the drain. Another Christian couple couldn’t make it work. I’m never shy about asking what happened.

“I got tired of the arguing,” she said. “I didn’t want our children to grow up thinking this is what marriage is supposed to be like.” She didn’t mention any alarming issues such as physical abuse,  addictions, or unfaithfulness.

I’m thinking…how many people does it take to have an argument? Can’t one person who chooses to be self-controlled keep a discussion from escalating?

My husband and I are as opposite as two people can be, meaning we have a different perspective on almost everything. That has led to some spirited discussions, but we’ve managed to work through our difference of opinion. Accepting my role of submission has proven crucial—I express my opinion, but he makes the decision.

We’ve been happily married for fifty-one years—happier some days than others. Two children blessed our home, added their own distinct personalities. Finding a way for four people to live in harmony could be challenging, but we survived.

I can tell you this: feeling disgruntled toward my husband affected my relationship with the children. I was preoccupied, annoyed, and short-tempered. And that’s my problem with the Lord. No matter what my husband says or does, my responsibility is to please the Lord. Good news! Choosing to please him affects the children as well.

A young woman who had set her heart to divorce said friends advised her, “Don’t stay together just for the sake of the children.”

For heaven’s sake, why not? If that’s the only reason for giving everything you’ve got to make the marriage work, it’s reason enough.

Every day families are ripped in half by lies. “Divorce is the only option. Children are flexible…they’ll adjust.”

How it must tear a child’s heart to learn that Daddy and Mommy won’t live together any more. Adult children who had already left home when their parents divorced have told me it was the most heart-wrenching thing they ever experienced, and they never got over it. Children who’ve witnessed or experienced violence in the home may accept the reality of separation. But many children of divorce say, “In a perfect world, my parents would still be together.”

Daily relationship stuff can be difficult and messy. Life drains. People change. The enemy never lets up. He suggests divorce—an easy way out to avoid dealing with a contrary spouse. The reality is—if you have children—you’ll still have to deal with each other. You’ll have some kind of relationship (possibly more complicated than the present) until the children reach adulthood and independence—and thereafter as well.

One verse can transform a troubled marriage, if both husband and wife apply it. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  I’ve seen relationships improve when only one person decided to live out this basic principle of kindness.

Why not try putting that into practice? Consider the children.

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit. She’s a member of Christian Authors Network, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.