Friday, September 25, 2009

So, as you can see again, I'm trying out another template. So far I think I like this one the best. It's pretty snazzy and dramatic. Don't you think that's me? ;-)

The script column appears to be narrower than my others however, so if you're taking a look at our summer adventures, the pics are slightly cut off, but you can still see them fine. I may attempt to get into picasa and resize them today.
I also changed up templates in the kids blog and Haydens blog. I checked on them and found that my old templates had somehow expired. Could that be because...I've not posted on them in over a year?! Yes, I'll admit it. But it's been purposeful. I don't post on Haydens because it stays static, and I took a break from blogging last summer and that included the kids blog. I'm actually thinking about having the kids blog printed up and then I'll delete it.

Today is a PD day. It's nice to have my boy home. It's nice to not race around getting him ready and the girls ready and a lunch made and, and, and...
We're all still in our pj's----me blogging, the kids watching Scooby Doo even though our rule is no TV until we're all dressed.
This is the first morning Honour hasn't thrown up since Monday. That's nice too. I think she's finally on the mend from her tummy flu.

So, this is just a little filler post, really. Wanted to comment on the templates.

Wanted to mention an important prayer request.

I'm taking a chance that Jamie's boss or anyone at his current work does not read my blog. It's a pretty low risk, I'm confident.

James found a job at McMaster University yesterday. We were SO excited. James needs to find a job in Hamilton. The commute to London is literally going to kill him any day now. I know that sounds dramatic, but, it's actually true.
This job is an AV Technician, and looks extremely similar to what he did at Moody when we were there. Probably slightly more technology as it's now been (gulp) ten years since we moved home.
There have been a few other jobs he's found over the last few years and applied for and to tell you the truth, it's been pretty discouraging. He's never even gotten a call for an interview, which was always so perplexing. Most often, the jobs seemed tailor made for him. I started to wonder if perhaps his resume or cover letters were substandard.
Well, last night we spent more than 2 hours tweaking his resume and crafting a cover letter. I thought the results were exemplary...but I guess the proof will be in the pudding.
The one hurdle is that they are giving priority to internal applications right now. So, please pray a door would open that he can get his foot in. Thanks.

And they'll know we are Christians by our Love

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This fall marks the start of my second year co-directing the children's program at church. My mom is the other director. We had a good first year I think. We made alot of changes to the program, which of course a few people in the church had issues with, but by and large, people responded well to all our ideas.

One change we made was to move the children's program from before the church service to during it. This made it a little hard to get teachers willing to miss church all the time. We were very grateful for those sacrificing souls who did so.

At the end of June we held a BBQ lunch for all the kids and parents, and, of course, leaders. We took that opportunity to shower our wonderful support crew with gifts. The teens and children who were in leadership roles recieved a 'cool' gift: a music download of the new Hillsong Kids cd (we love Hillsong Kids :-) Other leaders and helpers recieved flowers or gift cards. So then we had our teachers. What could we say to express our thankfulness?

I enjoy giving unique gifts. Usually, I shy away from traditional, typical gifts. No plaques or books or cutsy little figurines. I wanted to find something different and meaningful. I mused about the teachers and what being a part of our program had cost them during the year. I imagined that their husbands were likely also on the recieving end of this cost factor. As strengthening marriages has been both a personally important thing to me, and something we focused on at church with the showing of the Fireproof movie, I decided to pull a unique gift idea from my gift-giving past and give each teacher a 'date in a basket'.

Now, we had about 12 teachers so I knew this could get costly. So, to keep expenses down, the first thing I did was hit the dollar store. I bought each teacher a woven basket and picked up some lace placemats in packages of 2 to lay inside. Then 2 long stemmed glasses, a lovely frosted votive candle holder (embossed with virtues) and a tea light started out the goodies. A trip to the grocery store yielded a personal favourite for celebrating events in my house: sparkling grape juice.
What else would create a romantic and relaxing night for our most appreciated teachers? Oh yes, can't forget some chocolate. The boxes I found were cheap but yummy.
Finally, tucked in the midst of all these items in each teachers basket was a 10$ gift card to the local video store. Sparkling juice to sip by candlelight, chocolate to share while watching a romantic movie...ahhh, sounded wonderful to me!
Judging from the delighted looks on our teachers faces, I think they all agreed. I was so pleased.

Until....last week.

See, one teacher didn't make the BBQ when we handed these out and publically announced our thankfulness to all the teachers. Try as I might, we never crossed paths ALL summer.

Last Sunday, we had the new team up onto the platform for the pastor to pray over us all and bless our upcoming year. I spoke a few words at that time and took the opportunity to thank that last teacher and hand her her basket. It was important to me that she be recognized in front of the congregation as the other teachers had been. As the others, her faced glowed and I was so glad that she seemed to be pleased.

I thought nothing more of it all until nearly a week later when I learned that our pastor had been dealing with repercussions. It seemed that a number of people had been highly offended by the gift.
After reading my description, I'm sure you're wondering, "What in the world is offensive about a lovely little basket of goodies for a romantic evening with your hubby?"

Well, first off, my church doesn't do drinking. At all. The sparkling grape juice was of course in a bottle that from far off, looked like wine. That people from my congregation could have watched me co-directing the children's program all year, have seen me in various roles over the years as a soloist and musician, choir director and generally devoted member of the church, and think that my mom and I would have the gall to present a teacher with a bottle of wine in the middle of a church that is offensive.
But no, apparently the phrase "above reproach" was even batted around. My goodness, don't let them read about what Jesus did at that wedding in Cana.

I also heard that some objected to the money spent on such a 'lavish' gift. Yeah, those dollar stores are getting more and more lavish all the time. I think I even have to pay $1.25....$1.50....even $2.00 for some items! Even if the gift 'looked' lavish from truly astounds me that a church expects a group of people to voluntarily give of their time and energy to do something that is often a thankless job--challenging, frustrating, tiring...teaching children is HARD, especially these days when 1 in 5 has some kind of delay, learning disability or condition....and then criticizes a lousy $20 gift basket.
They didn't limit themselves to complaints and criticisms however. There were even threats that "if this is what our money is being used for" can imagine the implication there. That really stung. I'm just stunned that people in our church would be so hung up on such a tiny thing, after a wonderful year of successful ministry to the children of the church. They would actually withdraw their support over this? They would hit our ministry where it hurts the most, to the detriment of the children?

I tell you, that was a heart-wounding blow. I had to ask the Lord to deal with some strong feelings towards these people. I knew I couldn't go into the weekend, kicking off our first Sunday back in the children's program with such resentment inside. And He did.

That didn't mean it wasn't difficult to go into the church this weekend and face everyone. I was there all day Saturday and all Sunday morning until about 1pm. When I wasn't completely occupied with everything that needed to be set up, rehearsed, designed, put in place and so many other tasks, I had to fight my growing suspicion. I didn't know who it was that complained....was it that lady walking by the office door? Was it the old guy with the cane? That young mom with the handful of kids? I had no idea. Were they all secretly disapproving of everything I did? Who knows what they might target clothes, my hair...too much make-up!?!

I know, sounds a little over the top. Brains do funny things when their hearts are wounded.

But...the Lord could see all that. And he sent reinforcement.

First off, it was a great morning with hardly any problems. Kids were happy and seemed to enjoy the program. Teachers did great.

After the service, I was out in the foyer when an older lady stopped me. She looked familiar but I didn't know her name. She wanted to tell me that she had met a mutual acquaintance of myself and my husband last week. After that, she said such a wonderful thing. She told me that I had a beautiful spirit. She said that her and her husband have watched me in the church and said again about my beautiful spirit.

You know, I realize that we will never please all the people all the time....but it's SO nice when the pleased ones say so.

Blasted Bureaucracy

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Well, I'm having trouble getting pics for our last trip up. Since both our cameras are pooched, I've been using my cell phone, or dad's camera. For this past Friday's trip, I used the cell phone, and I discovered last weekend after trying to download the pics after an impromptu Saturday adventure, that my cell phone is suddenly encountering a problem communicating with my computer.

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to tell you all about a couple situations from this past week.

On the last Friday of VBS, James and I tried to get downtown to the police station to get my background check, which I apparently need for both choir and church. I say apparently because I'm not nearly convinced that in the grand scheme of it all, that these things are really worth anything. My administrator with choir tells me that really, it's for my own protection. How is that, exactly? Because if some kid accuses me of something, I just hold up my clear police check and all is well? I think not. Clear police check or not, if someone suspected me of something inappropriate, the exact same series of events would fall into place, regardless of my blightless history. Let's face it, we all know that just because you've not been caught, it doesn't mean you are innocent. How many stories have we heard, and are reported every year about that much admired hockey coach or school teacher who everyone looked up to...and suddenly late in their careers we find out that they were secretly molesting kids or running a kiddy porno ring or something. People can hide things. They can hide them really well.

Nope, what I'd like to know is, who decided that we all needed police checks to work with kids, who is benefitting financially from every $40 that comes in from the checks...and how are those two groups connected?

Anyways, the last time I had my check done, it was a matter of walking in and signing a form and waiting a couple weeks until they call you. Since 4 years ago, they've set up a whole waiting room, with ticker tape numbers and four windows that service all the people. I arrived around 10:15am, and was number 21. They were on number 14 when I sat down. By 10:30 I knew I had to get back out to the van to make it back up to the VBS for the 'final program'. So I handed my ticket to some other lucky soul and beat it out of there.

So last week I went back....with all four kids....armed with a book bag full of colouring books and crayons. I was number 45 and they were serving number 15 or there abouts. The colouring books and crayons lasted about 2 numbers and then I was chasing Afton up and down a nearby hallway. Visions of nasty passport office security guards still in my head, I shushed and hissed and plunked them back at my feet over and over again. Overall it didn't take nearly as long as I thought, maybe 45 minutes.

When we came out, we walked back to the van which I had parked a few blocks away to avoid paying a meter. Directly across from the van was a playpark which the kids had of course asked to play in when we returned. They had been fairly good in the police station so I agreed. As we came upon the park sign, I read that it was Beasley Park. This jogged my memory....I recalled that the Beasley neighbourhood was the subject of a friends photography exhibit. It had been displayed at the Freeway coffeehouse and I remembered that she reported that the Beasley neighbourhood was the poorest in all of Canada. Right here in the middle of Hamilton. And here I was about to let my kids play at the Beasley Park.

It did make me a little nervous, but it was a bright sunny day, in the middle of the afternoon, and there were not many people there; just a family of 3-4 adults watching some kids, and two young moms with 2-3 kids between them as far as I could tell. I don't know the ethnic makeup of this area, but I was surprised to realize as I walked back to van that a Native housing project was located right next to the police station. I hadn't realized there was such a strong Native presence in downtown Hamilton and suddenly I noticed that many people I was passing on the street were Native. This has no particular relevance to my story: it's just what I noticed that afternoon. I've actually been long interested in Native culture and did a few projects in highschool about Native history in Canada. I once named a fish after a character in a CBC movie about the residential schools as a teenager. The family in Beasley Park were native. One of the young moms was darker skinned, perhaps Hispanic, and the other just looked white.

Looking over the rather grungy splash pad, I instructed the kids to leave their sandals on as they played. The baby as usual, did not have any shoes on. I checked the diaper bag but only found a single sandal. As I searched, it became obvious that the two moms and the family were in the middle of a verbal sparring session. The two moms, the white one in particular were quickly becoming very angry and curses were starting to fly. My anxiety began to rise and I gauged how my kids were fielding this....they seemed to not notice. The fight rose and fell and seemed to be calming down. Remembering that there was a pair of baby sandals on the van floor, I took stock of where the kids were at and walked back over to the van, which I mentioned before was right across from the park, about a stones throw from where I had parked the stroller. It took all of 30 seconds to walk over and back, with about 10 seconds to open the door and grab the sandals.

When I returned, I sat and put the sandals on Afton and let her go to it. I was sitting on a small meandering wall that sectioned off the playpark section from the splashpad. The Native family and the two moms were at the south end; I was on the north end. I was probably 25 feet away.
I did a head check on the kids and saw that Jairus was now sitting on the wall too, about halfway between myself and the other people. He was looking dejected and I stood and called to him, asking what was wrong.

As I did this, the angry mom stood and walked over. "Is that your son?" she asked, in a slightly hostile tone. I said it was.
"Well, he grabbed my daughter and shook her", she announced. My eyes grew wide and I covered my mouth.
"She's only two you know, that's just not right", she continued in an annoyed manner. I immediately started to apologize, but she was completely uninterested in apologies. She turned around and walked back to where her girlfriend was sitting and I crouched down in front of Jairus. I asked him what he did hoping maybe he could show me with some actions, but he just sat, sad and droopy. I tried to get him to get up with me so we could find this girl and apologize but he wouldn't stand up.
Finally I picked him up, and long and heavy as he is (ok, not so heavy), I put him on my hip. I walked over to the mom and tried to start apologizing again but she was just clearly not accepting any apologies. She didn't seem all that angry, more annoyed than anything. She just kept blabbering and gesturing to the Native family, saying that she'd been having enough trouble and didn't want any more. I tried to explain that he couldn't speak, hoping to suggest that perhaps there had just been some kind of misunderstanding. She could have cared less.
You know that type? The type who has probably heard a million sorry's that mean absolutely nothing to her throughout her life. She was young, probably not yet 20, with jet-bottle-black straightened hair and dark black eye make-up against her rather pale skin. She wore low, slim fitting black jeans cinched at the ankle, as I've noticed is the new trend with teens.

I decided that despite what she was spouting off, Jairus needed to apologize. I walked a few steps towards the playpark with Jairus still on my hip and found the only white girl besides my kids. She was a big, stocky 2, with curly brown ringlets and I caught up with her at the bottom of the slide. I checked with the mom that this was indeed her kid, the only thing she co-operated with me about, and I had Jairus say sorry, which amounted to a murmur and a loose hug. The girl seemed clueless and showed absolutely no sign of such a trauma as being shaken.

We stayed another 5-10 minutes because I wasn't about to go running off with my tail between my legs. During that time, the family left and as they filed past me, looking disgruntled, I harboured a hope that one might tuck their head in my direction as they left and whisper that she'd made it up, or her kid had provoked him, or something that would exonerate Jairus. But they didn't.

When I had decided that we'd stayed enough time to look brave, I gathered the kids up and got back into the van. I questioned the girls as they buckled up whether they had seen anything. At first they said no, and then seemed to 'remember' when I asked in more detail. Sigh. I wasn't getting anywhere with that.

And so I fretted all the way home, so much that I turned into a wrong lane and got a good honking. It seemed that I was never going to truly know what had happened. While grabbing and shaking a kid is something I've seen Jairus do, it just didn't completely fit this situation. We'd only just arrived at this park, a brand new place we'd never been to before. Jairus usually takes a bit to warm up and become comfortable enough to run around a new place. And he would never approach another kid. Especially not to physically grab them....unless like in the previous instance of grabbing and shaking I can was to protect his sisters. Which if that was the case the girls would have known something about it. I just couldn't completely deny in my brain that Jairus would have done this....but I couldn't see him grabbing a little girl out of the blue either. It's made me quite nervous and watchful of him now when we are out.

It just makes my heart sad.