I just wanted to pop in to say that we made it through B’s first day back at work! And Bubby and I had a bunch of fun and only a few hiccups. He ate his first whole fruit, I gave him a nectarine and he chowed down, we replanted a few things in our garden (I had to remind Bubby a number of times that “grass is for bunnies, not for babies” as he kept crawling to the edge of the blanket and cramming his mouth full of it), we walked to the mail box to post a letter and met another neighbour on the way, and had a few friends stop by as well. All in all it was a good day. It sure was nice to see B again, though.

Thanks for all you guys who sent up some prayers for us. So far so good.

How was your day?

So, after a lovely six month parental leave, B goes back to work in just over a week. I’m not sure how to feel about it and I know it will be a big adjustment for all of us, especially the long days and shift work aspect. I think our little Bubby will find it lonely with out his Daddy around to play with him and spend time with him.

For me I’ll miss B, I’ve loved having him home for so long, but I’m most unsure of how we will handle the logistics of running a home, feeding everyone and making sure there’s time for fun and special moments crammed between loads of laundry and night shifts. I love spending time with our little Bubby and I love making a home for B, making sure he has his huge cooler of food for each shift and clean clothes when he leaves the house, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to do both of them well, at the same time.

So the question will become one of priorities and needs and I, with my (sometimes overwhelming and unhealthy) desire to do everything well (perfectly?), will have a lot to learn about grace, good enough and what is really important. So if we disappear for a few weeks/months you know where we are: readjusting and learning what it’s like to be a shift work family of three.

Any tips on priorities? Things you saw your parents do well? Things you are trying to do well in your family?

We were chatting with friends yesterday who are expecting this summer and they asked us what has changed the most since Bubby arrived. It is a good question. There have been a lot of changes. The typical ones: not sleeping through the night, becoming a pro diaper changer (even in the dark), building muscle as you carry an increasingly heavy kid. But I think the biggest change in us is that we have far more fun than we used to. Not that all these things are fun or that we never had fun before this change, but more that we’re finding joy in many more places as we see the world differently because of our Bubby. I mean, with a smile like this how can we not?

This adventure has been one of the harder things we have done but as we work together as a team and just let it be what it is we are having more fun, laughing more (maybe that’s just because we’re tired and things are funnier when you’re tired) and enjoying the many little blessings in life.

I just thought I’d throw that out there. I feel immensely blessed and have found a level of contentment that I’ve never before experienced. Perhaps that is the way it works, as you give of yourself and sacrifice, what you have been given grows in value and you understand better how you have been blessed.

How have you been blessed today? I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for.

Since last summer a lot has happened and, though I can’t see all the things that have been growing and changing in my own heart, I know there have been all sorts of things germinating and taking root. A quick re-cap of the last twelve months includes:

  • moving out of our apartment into the basement of some great friends while looking for a house
  • finally finding and getting the perfect house after 5 bids and losses on other houses we thought perfect at the time (thank God he let us get the one we have)
  • renovating the whole entire house before we moved in; this meant painting every surface that holds paint, ripping out the nasty carpet and refinishing the hardwood underneath, knocking a hole in the wall between the kitchen and living/dining room, and so many other small projects that it took us a month of work before we could even move in. Big thanks to the many people who helped us out with this, especially my parents who basically lived here for a few weeks and provided lots of moral support in addition to the many hours of labour they also contributed
  • we’ve been given amazing neighbours on both sides of our home who also both have boys within a year of Bubby so there are built in friends for our whole family. The moms and boys have been getting together once a week to visit and let the boys play or we have been going for long walks together. It has been such a gift for me. Our neighbours also watch out for us, which is really nice to know that I have someone to go to if there is a problem when B’s at work, from coming to light the pilot light in the furnace when B was gone to scaring off someone rifling through my car at 3 am we are looked after
  • in October we welcomed a baby boy into our family, making us the perfect-for-right-now family of three and turning the whole world on it’s head. There are so many things added to life now that our little Bubby is around, things we never thought important before take on new importance and other things fade into a past life
  • since I don’t work and B works for the government who tops up parental leave, he was able to take six months off to be with us and get to know our son, saving us the difficult adjustment of doing shift work with a brand new baby we were just getting to know
  • Christmas and Easter fall in there somewhere, don’t they? Our family headed out to visit B’s family for a special Christmas with the whole extended family around. I was apprehensive of travelling with an almost three month old and being in a different space for a while but B’s family welcomed us and made us feel as comfortable as possible next to being at home and it was great to share  our little Bubby with B’s grandma
  • B’s grandma was sick, hence everyone coming home for Christmas, and passed away a few months ago. We would have all liked to be there but B went out for a few days to be with his family as a representative for all of us and out little Bubby and I spend our first few days just the two of us. We survived, that’s all I’ll say about that, and we were glad B was able to have lots of time with his family
  • we’ve found a great church in our neighbourhood that we enjoy a lot and is within easy biking or walking distance. We have been enjoying meeting and getting to know the people in this church, and it’s a Mennonite church (if you know anything about me you will know I am passionately theologically an Anabaptist and have grown up in a Mennonite church so this is going back to my roots) and they sing from Hymn books! in four part harmony! It makes me smile and I want Bubby to grow up to know how to sing in parts from a Hymn book.
  • on top of all that, in the past few weeks, we decided to move the whole house around so that we’ve been working on making the new rooms comfortable and free of clutter so we can spend a few weeks in a put together house before B goes back to work

So there you have it. Consider yourself caught up. Now we’re half done rearranging the house and have spent many happy times dreaming of our next project; trying to decide which ones are most important and which ones would be the first ones that need to get finished. Should we replace windows, a practically wise choice, or put in a two piece bathroom upstairs where our bedrooms now are, a choice of convenience (especially with a baby in cloth diapers) or do we spray foam the basement or or or…

We’re also planning on selling both our cars and paring down to a one larger car family to save some money (for all our house dreams) and have room for all of Bubby’s stuff when we travel, so if you know anyone who would be interested in a 2008 Mazda 3 in great condition or a 1992 Honda Accord in great condition for her age let them know and let us know.

So there you have it. We’ve been busy and growing and learning and adjusting and rejoicing and exploring and celebrating and mourning and praying and planning and moving and sharing and so much more. What have you been up to?

So, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been around for a while… if you know us, you know that we have been pretty busy and life has been full of many exciting things. Many new things. To recap: we found out we were expecting a baby in January, didn’t tell anyone till February/March; my brother left for Korea in January; we decided not to renew our lease since we were expecting and wanted more than a one bedroom to share with the baby; my dad retired (Congrats Dad!) and my parents took off for Texas; and we started looking for a house. This was all before March.

We found that buying a house in this city was far more difficult than hgtv makes it seem, offer dates make buying a house more like a blind auction and since we had decided on how much we were going to spend, we lost a few houses. This was getting pretty stressful, especially since our lease was up at the end of April and we had to move out! We had no idea where we would go if a house didn’t pan out. Thankfully we had friends who had bought a house a few years ago and they offered a room in their basement to us while we kept looking. I figure this is what church looks like, what Acts talks about, everyone had enough and took care of each other.

We were hoping to live in the basement for only a few weeks but weeks turned into two months. During this time B was working crazy shifts, three rotations in three weeks, with only days between, not enough to recover, so he was exhausted. I was pregnant, so I was exhausted. And we were looking hard for a house when we could. We bid on a few more, didn’t get them. I cried a lot, by the end I just wanted a place so I could know where we were going. The baby was growing and I wanted a place to put it, I wanted to settle in before this new change threw everything back into chaos.

We prayed like crazy. And I mean like crazy. And we held on. I knew God knew what was best for us and what we needed and I knew he would do something when it was time. In my experience with trusting God for things he is always on time, but never early. And so we waited. And I cried a lot, pregnancy hormones and living in someone else’s house while dealing with the stress of trying to find a home are not a great combination if one wants to be composed, add to that B’s very busy and spastic work schedule and it was quite a crazy few months. But finally we found something.

It wasn’t perfect but we figured with a few changes we could make it great. We put in our offer, we were getting tired of the whole process, and waited. Wednesday night, the answer: Nope, this isn’t the one either. Almost pushed me over the edge. And B was working the night shift so I couldn’t even really talk to him. But there was this other house, with no offer date, we decided to look at it the next day when it went on the market.

We looked. We bid. We won! We finally had our house. And, it worked out that we could get possession almost right away, which was different from many of the other houses we had looked at. So here we are now, expecting a baby in October, living in our new home, which is far more than we expected or imagined. It has been worth the wait, this place is better than anything we had previously bid on and pretty much exactly what we were looking for. My parents came by a lot and helped out, this dad being retired thing was a great help, especially because my dad is so handy and willing to try anything once. The house needed a lot of work, and there’s still tonnes to do but we’re getting settled in and soon it will be time to get the baby room ready.

We have great neighbours who are also in a similar spot, one couple has a baby, the other is expecting any day now, so we have really enjoyed the chance to chat over the fence and share stories, we have felt very welcomed by them. We live near a river valley so there are lots of birds and bunnies running around and the occasional deer wandering along the sidewalk. At the same time we’re in the middle of the city, only a few minutes from anything, including B’s office and the hospital.

So that’s where we’re at. Lots has changed. And lots will be changing in the near future. But we have been blessed and loved in all of this. Blessed in the gift of this house. Blessed by friends who let us invade their space for a while. Blessed by parents who have helped us work on making this house a home and who have helped us celebrate the upcoming baby in between coats of paint. Blessed that the baby seems to be doing well. Blessed by friends who have cried with us, prayed for us, helped us and cared for us. And all I can say is thank you, and you’re welcome to come by anytime (just make sure B isn’t sleeping).

As a church we have struggled with a proper definition of Sabbath for ages and often churches have gravitated to one extreme or another, some have regulated everything that can or cannot be done when celebrating Sabbath while others, in violent reaction to these rules, have deemed the Sabbath as just another day, business as usual. In Dan Allender’s book, Sabbath (part of the Ancient Practice Series), he seeks to explore the concept of the Sabbath with new eyes. Circumventing the debate that seeks to regulate the Sabbath Allender shares his experience and study based on God’s Sabbath commandment to his people Israel in Exodus.

Breaking it into three parts, Allender focuses on the basis of Sabbath, the purpose of Sabbath and how life will be formed when understanding these foundational concepts. Removing the stiffness of regulations, Allender introduces his reader to a God who calls us to live in the present but take time to rejoice in the future he promises, even in the face of brokenness. In this book he shares how Sabbath calls us to live, one day a week, in peace and wholeness in the face of division, in abundance even in the face of destitution and in joy despite the surrounding despair. He presents Sabbath as a day to look to God’s redemption of his people, calling us to rest in his presence and live lives pursuing justice and relational healing on the six days surrounding Sabbath.

Though I have a hard time articulating the whole of this book in only a few sentences, I really enjoyed Allender’s perspective and the freedom that can come with this understanding of Sabbath. His encouragement to take times of delight when no work needs to be done and one can experience relationships and joy in the midst of weeks that are often filled with hurt and sorrow was something that I feel many people need to hear. Growing up in a family where Sundays were days to not work gave me a glimpse of the freedom that can come with having a day for relationships, free of homework, at the same time I feel this book has invited me to even more, to a deeper relationship with God and with those around me. Though he challenges his readers to do the hard internal and external work that allows for freedom, justice and healthy relationships, he presents this concept of Sabbath both as a respite from this work and as a labour that brings, in one more way, the kingdom of God to earth.

I highly recommend that this book be placed on your reading list, whether you’re staunchly committed to a specific understanding of the Sabbath or are exploring the idea to find out what it looks like in your own life. This book is a great resource that will give much food for thought.

*Note: This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

It is a curious thing, the ways of time. One moment time is moving at a comfortable pace; you’re comfortable in your skin and in your schedule and life is in balance, the next second time has escaped stealing any peace that it had previously promised leaving us confused and stressed, wondering where it went. On and on this cycle continues, from Monday to Sunday, from weekend to weekend, just like clockwork. This is real life in an age governed by time. This is what my life used to look like, somewhat stressful but comfortably predictable all the same. Now this has changed.

Where time used to be easily sectioned off into days and weeks, months and years, holidays, work days and weekends, I am now living in a timeless land. I live in a family with a rhythm of day shifts and night shifts, days off and 9-5s. Growing up I lived in a family with a life rhythm built around the days of the week. Of course we had school Monday to Friday but in addition to that, Mondays was laundry day, Saturdays was cleaning day, and Sunday was a day set apart from the mundane for visiting and playing, we mowed the lawn in summer and shovelled snow in winter. It was regular, it was comforting.

Needless to say, when I married B, I had no idea how shift work changed one’s perception of time and messed with those daily and weekly life rhythms, and even how it impacted one’s perception of holidays and weekends. From the first weekend I spent alone while B was at work till now we have been on a steep learning curve, trying to find ways of instituting some sort of regularity in the face of an excessively irregular schedule.

For the first eight months of our married life I was a part-time student, finishing off my MA, and worked part time, this meant I was gone three days a week. This meant that if B was working the weekend I would hardly see him at all and if he was working a rotation during the week I would see him even less, about five hours in five days. Add to that the fact that we were newlyweds and there was a lot of stress coming from working and my last semester of school, this was very difficult.

When I completed my degree and finished my work contract we decided that I would take the summer off to recuperate and focus on finding more effective ways of dealing with shift work. We also wanted to focus on building relationships with some of the great people we had been getting to know. When working the type of shift work that B works it is impossible for him to be involved in weekly activities that grow relationships through regular contact, and, since neither of us grew up in this city, we only had a few people we knew well enough to be comfortable letting them see the unpredictability of shift work.

And that is what it often feels like it is, unpredictable. With me at home it has allowed us to reach out more and be more involved in what is going on around us, and even to spend more time on our own relationship since I can get all the chores and food stuff done while B is at work so we have more time when he has a few days off, but at the same time it has removed any sense of regularity.

I have been reading a book about Sabbath (stay tuned for a review of it) and it has reminded me of how much I miss the rhythm that was established when I was growing up, when we took Sunday off. It makes me miss it and wonder how we can incorporate this idea into a schedule where B is working 13 hours many Sundays. So this is our new challenge: we have found ways of coping with the shift work so it doesn’t tire B out for days, now I want to work towards finding a way of instating a rhythm in our home, a rhythm that can be soothing, at the same time I want a rhythm that can be flexible so that when B has Monday to Friday off we are free to travel and explore and Sabbath on those days as well.

Christmas has come and gone and I am back. Much has happened since I last wrote and there is lots to share. Back in November B had almost six weeks of work without night shifts. It was, in one sense, lovely but in another quite difficult. Since I finished school and work B and I have been working extra hard and finding how we can cope with the long hours and night shifts that are part of his job. It has been a tough road but for now we have found a rhythm that works for both of us and allows him space to recoup after working a bazillion hours in a few days.

So we were just on the cusp of finding a solution for the unending exhaustion that B seemed to experience after his normal rotation (two 13 hr. day shifts followed by two 13 hr. night shifts), we had tried a few things that seemed to be working, when we moved into November, a blessed reprieve from night shifts but this launched us into adjustments in the opposite direction. It was lovely to have him home for dinner and for us to be able to spend time with friends in the evenings, but it was tough to find spaces for the time that we needed alone and together.

Come December we jumped back on the night shift merry-go-round and tried to find our groove again. Needless to say that caused quite a lot of re-adjustment again. Add to that an art show that I was privileged to help organize, an early Christmas visit from B’s parents, a new and delightful hobby, and other Christmas themed things and you have your answer as to why I have been silent over the past few months.

But life has been good, so many lovely visits with family and friends and the promise of another year full of adventures.

B and I were not sure how we would handle the long winter months since the past few winters have been very difficult for both of us in part because of the unbearable cold that can be part of Manitoba winters. This year we received a special gift that is making winter much more enjoyable. First, the weather has taken quite a while to get very cold so winter does not yet feel as long as in past years.

We also have a plant that’s just about to bloom. In the fall we cleaned up our balcony garden and put the pots away till next year but we took in two dead plants because there was some lovely ground cover still alive in the pots. A while after we brought them inside we noticed that there were shoots coming up from the lily bulb that we thought was dead for the year. Over time it has grown tall and produced buds that look like they are ready to bloom any time. It has been such a joy to watch life grow in the midst of winter.

How have you been adjusting to the new year? Has there been anything that has brought you hope this winter?

I know it is a little early to be thinking of Christmas, at least that is what I would tell you if you mentioned it, but when The Nativity Collection arrived in the mail it reminded me of fond Christmas memories from years past. Some of the most delightful memories that I can recall revolve around stories. For our family Christmas was a time of telling and retelling stories that warmed the heart and reminded each of us the true meaning of Christmas.

The Nativity Collection by Robert J. Morgan is a lovely hardcover book that holds within its pages six original stories of Christmas, centred around the Nativity. Though diverse, each story takes the reader on a journey that brings new perspective to the characters and meaning of Christmas. Morgan, a Nashville pastor, has been collecting these tales over the years, writing and sharing with his church a new story each holiday season.

It was the tradition of story that drew me to this book initially, the desire to have my own books of Christmas tales to read to those in our home at Christmas. Though there were two or three stories that I felt we a little weak or would not be appropriate for all ages, I did enjoy my read through this book.

While the seemingly stock photos that have been placed as illustrations for each story are often delightful, at times they seem quite disconnected to the story they are depicting and don’t seem to carry the theme presented by the cover. Though it was a light read, which is sometimes nice during the busy holiday rush, most of the stories it contains are lovely but not memorable. All in all, it would be a great book to have in a collection of Christmas stories but not one that should be chosen if you are hoping to read these stories to young children, though it could make a lovely hostess gift, just remove the dust jacket first as it doesn’t fit properly.

*Note: This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program.

It has been just over a year since B headed back to work for that first rotation after our wedding and honeymoon. Consequently, it has also been a year since I became intimately aware of the impact this shift work can have on those around the shift worker, even if they are not the one working through the night. The issues that come when learning how to live together were amplified by the fact that B’s non-static shift schedule left little space for any type of routine to anchor us in normalcy.

B started his life as a shift worker a year and a half before we got married and was still trying to figure out how to minimize the impact of his irregular 24 hour schedule when I entered the picture. Though he had been working the same non-static shift schedule the whole time we dated it was still a big adjustment for us when we began to live together. Previously, he would disappear when he was working a rotation (a combination of two 13 hour days followed by two 13 hour night shifts) and then I would get to see him during his days off (usually 3-6 days). But now, as a married couple, I was there when he came home and missing him when he was a work for the night.

Though I had some experience with shift work, my father worked regular shifts for a few years when I was younger and I worked a summer or two of shift work, I still had no concept of how much I would be impacted by the schedule that B worked. This has been, by far, the big “issue” in our marriage as we learn how to interact with and care for each other in the life we have. Both of us have had to work very hard to learn the delicate dance of marriage within this context.

Since shift work is a part of the profession that B has chosen and loves we are learning how to live with it without letting it control our lives and dictate everything. Right now I have a huge wall calendar on our wall marked up with his schedule so that we can see when he works at a glance, see our schedule for August and September on the right. We have also worked out a routine for when he finishes night shifts so that he can recover more quickly and minimize the exhaustion that can come not getting enough sleep. In this way we are seeking to slowly build routine into our irregular schedule.

I never realized what a gift a regular schedule can be and how much comfort can be found in the simple routine act of having weekends off. Now as I learn to live within this new schedule I am learning how to find constants and create routine in what can sometimes be chaos. Do you have a regular schedule or do you work or live within an alternate schedule? How do you craft your life around your work or relationship?