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Where are YOU Going in 2020?

This year started out with a bang. Like an emotional bomb kind of bang. It seemed like only moments after I had envisioned the incredible relationships that I was going to build and the amazing achievements that I was going to reach, a critical personal relationship took a nose dive, like a scuba diver to a shipwreck. While trying to finish the lessons on vision board and goal setting with my kids, my insides were screaming ‘it’s too hard, give up, let it go’. 

I marched forward, wiping away my tears, and determined to find a way through this surprising road block in my day.  As days & weeks passed and I had more time to analyse the frustrations of the unexpected turn of events, I was reminded of a story that happened in my own family a few years ago. Many of you may even remember me talking about it. 

First let me remind you that we live in a rural town in a cold Canadian province. My husband Eric and our daughter Lizzie were on an adventure together visiting some important people in Mesa Arizona. They had been gone for almost a week, and things didn’t seem to be going their way. Each time I called them to see how they were, or what they were doing they were flustered, frustrated, or late. 

There were numerous appointments to keep, meetings to attend, and planes to catch, but It seemed like no matter where they need to go there was no quick route to getting there. 

Remember, we live in a tiny town in rural Alberta. They were in a real city. Although they had a GPS, they were constantly getting lost or being misguided. Thinking he was just out of practice with big city driving, Eric found his way to one appointment after another going this way and that way, turning around dozens of times and never seeming to get where he wanted in a direct path. He was constantly battling tiny backroads and unexpected turns. One of the roads he was on actually ended in a dirt path and another one went right until could go no further, due to a barbed wire fence locked across it. 

Confused and frustrated they bumbled their way through the week, apologising as they showed up late again. On the last day of their trip, as they were driving to the airport, they discovered something fascinating. When they had only minutes left before they would miss their plane, and with the highway within site running alongside them, they were instructed to take a different road that was much smaller and ran parallel to the highway rather than go on the highway itself.  In exasperation and confusion, over the strange directions, Eric finally pulled over and took a look at his GPS. That is moment that he saw that one of the kids had changed the GPS settings to ‘avoid all major highways’. 

When my husband told me this story I almost died laughing. He was crying. His ridiculous journey suddenly made sense.

As I reflected on it this year, It made me wonder about my own life. Am I allowing Jesus Christ to REALLY be the centre of my life? Am I allowing Him to REALLY direct my life? Or do I have some personal GPS setting that says ‘must do this alone’, ‘never ask for help’, or ‘your guess is as good as mine’. 

What are my personal GPS settings set to? Are there ways in which I am avoiding ‘all major highways’?

2020 is a new year, it’s a time to start fresh! I want to make sure that I am headed in the right direction 🙂 I plan on resetting my GPS, and I’m going to start by asking myself honestly:

Despite it’s rough beginning, I have every anticipation that the year 2020 will be my happiest, healthiest, most exciting year yet, and I wish you the same!

May you put Jesus in the centre of your life, may you get exactly where you want to go, and may you never have to ‘avoid all major highways’ 🙂

XOXO

Becky

Why I don’t give My Kids Christmas Presents and What I Do Instead!

I remember it vividly. The 9.5ft tall Christmas tree filling up the living room with sparkly presents stacked so high around it that half of it seemed buried. At the time I was the oldest with 7 foster kids younger than me, and the 2nd youngest of my 8 biological siblings. There were a lot of us, but even at 17 years old I sat looking at the tree and wondered how many of those prettily wrapped up packages would be for me. When the much anticipated Christmas morning came I was as excited as the younger kids. My mom was the BEST present giver ever, and I couldn’t wait to see what surprises awaited me.

I remember opening gift after gift, delighted with each new one, but eager for the next. When the tree was empty I secretly looked around it searching for any lost presents with my name on them that might have been missed underneath the mess of wrapping paper, disappointment filling me when I couldn’t find any. 

The first few years Eric and I were married we did what everyone else does. Got ready for Christmas by executing carefully thought out gifts for our little girls. It was fun to be the mom and to do all the shopping for Christmas, but I also remember a lot of late nights and stress over how to provide the perfect gift, not only for each other but for the kids as well. It seemed like the more Christmases that went by the less I was thinking about the baby Jesus and the more I was thinking about how to create the perfect experience for baby Proffitt’s. 

On our kids 3rd or 4th Christmas together,  we decided together that there must be another way to do Christmas that helped keep our little family focused on the Savior, but that would still provide a magical experience we both loved from our own childhoods. After much prayer and debate, we kindly asked our extended family not to give presents to our kids, and we also agreed not to buy anything ourselves.

That first year we decided not to give gifts, Christmas morning was a total failure. We still hung stockings and we told the kids that all of us have Christmas Angels in our lives.

The Christmas Angel is anyone that loves you.

It could be your mom, or grandma, or even a neighbour down the road.

The thing that our Christmas Angel has in common with all other Christmas Angels is that they love us and want to bring a little magic into our lives. 

It was easy than to tell the kids that it was the Christmas angel that filled up their stockings that morning. But after we had opened stockings we didn’t really have anything else planned. While other families were excitedly cleaning up their houses to get it ready for present opening we were looking through the stockings, hoping we’d missed something. While other families were unwrapping, and playing with their new toys, we were sorta hanging out at home doing nothing. I had envisioned us just sitting around in a circle talking about Jesus all day, and thought that somehow that would have been exciting for the kids!

Analaea celebrates her 3rd Christmas

Although I was terribly disappointed, with vision vs reality, I knew there had to be a better way. I had thought it would be enough to take away presents and suddenly everyone in the family would become focused on the Savior, but I was wrong! If anything it made the focus on the Savior non-existent as the kids felt sad, lonely and really let down.

As Eric and I lay in bed that night we reflected on what we could have done better. We realised that if we were going take something as big as Christmas presents away from the kids, we needed to have something pretty fantastic to replace it with. And so over the years we began slowly creating our perfect Christmas Day, making sure it was filled with traditions that were meaningful, fun, memorable AND that helped us turn our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. Today, 15 years later, here is a list of what we do to Celebrate Christmas starting from December 1. 

CHRISTMAS BOOKS

At the beginning of December I always get my favorite Christmas stories and wrap them up under the Christmas tree. You might remember that I don’t give my kids presents on Christmas morning, however, I do like giving presents I just don’t want it to eclipse the real meaning of Christmas. So If there is something I really want my kids to have that will ADD to the spirit (the real spirit) of Christmas than I wrap it up early and leave a little note from the Christmas Angel under the tree. A few new picture Books about Jesus definitely qualify as adding to the spirit of Christmas.

CHRISTMAS TREE

As soon as December  rolls around we are eager to find a lovely scented pine to adorn the center of our home.  We usually bundle up the children and tromp through the nearby community pasture in search of the perfect tree. The snow is deep and more often than not we end up getting stuck, but it’s all worth it when we strap that beauty to the top of the car and bring it home.

My husband and brother loading up the ugliest tree, they’ve ever brought home!

Somehow the trees seems to look better in the forest than they do when we get home, but isn’t that just like me in some ways? If someone was to strip away all the surroundings of my life, my friends, my family, my lovely house and nice car, would I look as beautiful? I think not, but it is in those imperfections that we find room for Christ, He is the great Jehovah who can make up the difference.  And so as I adorn my tree each year, I think of Christ and how because of Him we are made whole, perfect and eventually presentable to God.

The decorating of the Christmas tree is a special event in our home and over the years we have made a conscience effort to create a tree that reminds us of all things Christ. Here are some of the decorations I put on our tree this year and why:

STARS- To represent the Star that led the wisemen and shepherds to the Christ Child

DOVES- To represent the Peace that Jesus brings to our hearts when we let Him in

BIRDS- To represent the Freedom that Jesus will bring when He comes again

ANGELS- The scriptures are full of references to Angels spreading God’s word

BABY IN A MANGER

CROWNS- To remind us that He is king

PINECONES- Or anything nature to remind us that He was the CREATOR of all things

KEYS- To remind us that God has the Key to all power

HEARTS- To remind us why He died for us- “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life”

CHRISTMAS MUSIC

Music has a great power to influence the feeling in a home and in a heart, which is why songs about Santa, and Snowflakes aren’t top of my list songs for a Christmas playlist. When I play Christmas music, I want it to be deliberate, extraordinary and add to the spirit in our home by delivering a powerful message about Jesus Christ.  That doesn’t mean that Santa and Snowflakes don’t sneak in every so often, but by and large our Christmas playlist is comprised of songs that testify of Jesus Christ.

We have a really lovely playlist on Spotify that has lots of the old classic Christmas carols and but mostly includes beautiful songs that talk about the Savior and not Santa. Here is a list of some of our favorite Christmas Albums:

  • Josh Groban- Noel
  • Pentatonix
  • Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square
  • Susan Boyle
  • Vienna Boys Choir
  • 4 Tenors
  • David Archuleta- David
  • Celtic Woman-A Christmas Celebration
  • Charlotte Church- Dream a Dream
  • Jackie Evancho- Dream With Me
  • Susan Boyle- The Gift

SECRET SANTA

We spend a lot of time doing secret Santa to our friends and neighbours throughout the month of December. We wrap up packages of books, or treats, or hot chocolate and drop it off. We ring the doorbell and hide, and the kids always get caught and the chase is exciting 🙂

CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES

We fill December with Christmas Activities such as: Skating, sledding, skiing, singing, reading Christmas stories around the fire, drinking hot chocolate, & decorating gingerbread houses.

Decorating gingerbread houses

CHRISTMAS DEVOTIONALS

We often have a Christmas devotional each night of the month leading up to Christmas. Usually I’ll prepare a treat, like hot chocolate, and then we’ll sit around the tree and read something inspirational. The kids are allowed to invite their friends to join us for these devotionals. 

I have collected my favorite stories and scriptures into a devotional packages that you can get which is filled with sweet stories, songs and easy activities 🙂

LIGHT THE WORLD

Lighting the world with our cousins

We try to do a ‘Light the World’ act of service or love each day in December and can find the calendar for these activities online HERE.

CHRISTMAS CAROLLING

We love to sing to our neighbors, the old folks homes, and the people at the hospital. Often I give the kids electric candles and we bring them while singing. It makes it feel special. 

CHRISTMAS EVE

Acting out the nativity with our friends in Vanuatu

ACTING OUT THE NATIVITY: Christmas Eve is a special night for us no matter where we are in the world. My favorite family tradition of Christmas has got to be acting out the nativity play on Christmas Eve.

We Buy a pre-recorded version of the Nativity play HERE and the kids all dress up.

It’s normally $9.99 but there is always a sale in December for $4.99

It’s usually noisy, and fun, and instantly reminds us what all this fuss is really about. It’s also something that I video tape and which gives us lasting memories 🙂

GRATITUDE CEREMONY: If we are alone, we go around in a circle, each of us holding an unlit candle. We take turns saying something that we are grateful for and as we do we light our candles one by one.

Doing our gratitude ceremony

SINGING: We make sure everyone has had something to eat and then we bundle up warm and go out singing to people. We sing to our neighbors, friends stuck at home, people we miss at church, people we love, people who are in hospital and anyone that comes to mind! It’s one of our favorite things to do, and we never put a time limit on our activity. As long as the kids are still having fun we keep going.

Singing to people we love


FEASTING: Finally it’s time to go home. We either go home and have a huge feast of yummy food that I’ve prepared before hand or we go to a friend or family members house and feast with them.

Feasting

HANG OUR STOCKINGS: Lastly, right before bed we hang our stockings.

CHRISTMAS DAY

When we lived on the other side of the world, and the only Christmas tree we could buy, cost us a fortune and the only thing we had to decorate it with was some tropical flowers 🙂

After celebrating Christ every day in December, I am always the most excited about Christmas Day.

By now our family has immersed ourselves in trying to think about, become like, and follow Jesus Christ and this is the day where you really feel HIS spirit in your homes and hearts.

STOCKINGS: Christmas Day the kids wake up and we open the stockings together. Since this is the only present they will open we like to all be there. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS: After stockings we invite a family over to celebrate Jesus’s Birthday Breakfast. We have a fancy cake with birthday candles in it and Eric makes us a delicious feast that we eat together after singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. 

WARTIME: After the breakfast we have a war of some kind (nerf gun war, silly string war, elastic war) This has nothing to do with Jesus, but the kids really like it!

CHRISTMAS SCAVENGER HUNT: Next we go on our Christmas Scavenger hunt- we have a pile of 25 pre-wrapped gifts and we always invite 2 or 3 families to join us. We drive around town doing the acts of service or giving out the gifts that are written on our lists.

Download the FULL printable Christmas Scavenger Hunt lists for Free HERE

Download the FULL printable lists HERE

LUNCH: After the Christmas scavenger hunt we come home for lunch. 

VISITING: After lunch we  bundle up again and go and sing and visit people. Sometimes we start visiting at 12 in the afternoon and don’t come home till 11 at night. There are no schedules or rules, we just know that It’s our time to connect with those that might be lonely or sad, or that we love. 

We skip Christmas dinner, although, many times while we are visiting people they invite us in and we eat with them. This is our favorite part of Christmas. It takes some courage to knock on peoples doors and just visit, but it’s always rewarding. 

Christmas night we come home, our bodies exhausted, but our hearts full. 

I have found that the best way to make Christmas special is by making sure we include good food, good friends, and service into all our activities. 

HOW THE KIDS FEEL

This is what some of our kids have to say about Christmas time in our home. 

For Christmas growing up we would wake up at the crack of dawn to open up our stockings that the Christmas angel would fill up for us then we would have a big breakfast with my 11 cousins. The house was bursting with people, so you can imagine how loud it got! With the smells of breakfast that dad was cooking in the kitchen, and the spirit of Christmas in the air, it was a very festive place.

After we had eaten our breakfast, we’d get all bundled up and go out with this Christmas Scavenger hunt basket full of things that mom had prepared beforehand. We would drive around town giving out hot chocolate and shovel driveways and of course sing to our old friends.

As a kid I used to wish that I could have a normal Christmas where Santa would come and bring us a lots of presents, and all we did was play with our gifts all day.

Now that I’m a bit older, I have learned that the true Christmas spirit is about family and service, and even though we never got worldly gifts we were gifted with the special feeling of having family and being able to serve others. I will always remember Christmas time as a beautiful time in my family

– Lizzie 17 years old

I remember one particular year when I was sitting in circle with the other members of my class. These were boys and girls my age, most of which I still felt uncomfortable around. The teacher asked us to take turns going around and telling what we got for Christmas. I was about 13, and was still in the midst of the great struggle of growing up. The kids started telling the wonderful things they had received. One of the boys announced casually that he had been given a brand new iphone.

I was super jealous, and started feeling self conscious, wondering what I was going to say. When it finally got to be my turn, I shyly admitted that I hadn’t received anything for Christmas. It was so embarrassing. My face went red and I remember this awkward silence that came over the group as they tried to act like that was totally normal. In this moment, I just wished so badly that I could have been like everybody else. But my parents never were, like everybody else!

There were definitely times I wished we could have had presents, mostly that is until we started doing service for Christmas. It meant so much to all of us that we were in a position to do the Christmas scavenger hunt and join with other families in doing service activities for other people. It became a tradition we looked forward to year after year. I wondered at first why my mom would spend money buying gifts and gas cards to give to other people instead of just giving her own kids gifts, but eventually I figured it out.

Something happened when I was busy serving, I was no longer thinking of myself, and the presents were the last thing on my mind because they weren’t what mattered.

The true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the presents, and I’m although it was difficult to understand when I was younger, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to realize that now.

-Analaea 19 years old

We have been doing this for 15 years, and our kids really love it. Yes they ask why we don’t do Christmas presents, and I always tell them, because Christmas is about Jesus and not us. And they get it, and even the little guys are happy. There is no financial stress around Christmas time, even with our big family, and our entire month is rich with traditions, and fun that the kids look forward to all year.

This is the day, that your heart is filled with gratitude because of the blessings and sacrifices that our Savior made for us. On this day, you know what the true meaning of Christmas really is and why it feels so good to celebrate it simply and beautifully. You don’t miss the tinsel, or the presents, because HIS presence is so strong in your home and it fills you up!

I’d love to know what your favorite Christ-Centered Family Christmas Traditions are, or if you’ve ever tried doing Christmas without presents!

Shattered

The glass windows were frosted over and icicles were starting to form from the roof, scattering light across the room. It wasn’t even December yet and I had no intention of decorating the small trees that sat in front of the fireplace in our living room. In fact I had just woken up from a long nap to see that the entire world was covered with a thick covering of white sparkly snow for the 8th time that season, making it feel like a winter wonderland yet again.

That must have been what they were thinking when they found the box I had tucked away. 

When I got up, and saw how sweetly they were working together and how tenderly they were carrying each ornament, I didn’t have the heart to tell them to stop or put them away. Instead I sat close by, and watched quietly, as they carefully placed each ornament on the tree; My 6 year old son, my 4 year old son and the 6 year old neighbour boy.  These boys had my heart and they knew it!

After a few minutes, just decorating must have got boring, because my oldest son got excited and squealed, ‘look this one’s plastic’, and then attempted to bounce the pretty, thin, glass ball on the ground. 

It shattered on impact before I could even squeal a warning, and the three boys stood silently, their mouths forming o’s as they surveyed the scattered pieces of fragmented glass. Isaiah, the one who had bounced the ornament, bent down and slowly began to pick up the pieces. He brought them to me, reverently presenting them in outstretched hands and trembling lips.

At first I wanted to scold him, getting angry that he had taken the balls out without permission in the first place. Then I was mad at myself for allowing them to do it while I just sat and watched. But something quiet whispered to my heart, and instead of scolding, I asked a question. The three pairs of eyes moved from the sharp, tiny pieces, up to my face as they considered the answer. ‘Can any of us mend this broken ball?’

It was obvious that the hundreds of tiny slivers couldn’t possibly be put back together, Isaiah shook his head sadly, apologising for his mistake, still trying not to cry. But it wasn’t regret that I wanted him to understand just now, it was hope

I reflected on my own life. My hopes and expectations for what I thought it would be like to be a mother and a wife. I clearly remembered how many times I had fallen short despite my best efforts. The times when I had shattered the beautiful gifts that I was sent with, times when I wanted to give up much more desperately than any human but myself knew. Times when I felt cracked.

The marriage I’d experienced for more than 20 years was always rewarding, but never easy. We definitely were not the couple that never fought, or whose passionate love made daily life a constant bliss. Between significant shared mental, & physical challenges, it seemed like few things had turned out the way I had expected in my family.

And then there was parenting… I had always dreamed of being an awesome mom, reading stories to the younger kids around a fireplace, chatting late into the night with the older ones, as they poured out their secret dreams and fears, exposing their hearts with me. All of this in preparation of course, for taking them on grand adventures around the world where we’d feed starving children and sleep on dirt floors and eat nothing but mud cakes and tea for dinner.

As each new child was born, they were welcomed with enthusiastic delight into our growing family. And the plan was working flawlessly. The sleepless nights and poopy diapers had never overwhelmed me much, but when those chubby cheeked angels grew up a little, and the toddler days were behind me, I was surrounded by complications that I never imagine I’d be facing.

Never-ending access to technology, friends, and the distracting messages of the world took its toll on my happy world. Kids became teenagers and it seemed like nothing was the same anymore. Suddenly our united, fun home, seemed to turn upside down as children ventured off on their own long before my mother heart felt ready to let them go. Private struggles with my oldest 2 girls, fought Goliath battles inside my heart, persuading me that I was a monumental failure, and the relationships around became strained and distressing.

I guess no mom likes it when their children leave home, and I was no exception, the only difference was, mine left when they were only 16  & 17. Still far too early to be on their own, in my opinion. 

Ridiculous questions plagued my days and especially my nights:

Had I been too strict, or maybe too lenient? Maybe I never should have given them cell phones, or allowed them access to social media at all. Had I chosen the wrong diet for my kids, maybe it was GMO’s. Was it because my devotionals weren’t interesting enough, or was it because of all those mornings that I missed even teaching devotionals? The vitamins that I bought were probably the wrong kind, or when we visited Drs. They were most likely the wrong Dr’s or they must have prescribed the wrong medicine. It was the underwear, definitely the thong underwear I found secreted away in their drawers that had started it all!

Endless dark thoughts crept in whispering convincing lies and foolishly I believed. 

footsteps in the beach

Days past in darkness and despair, spending hours locked in my room weeping into my pillows, and begging God to take away this pain. When my daughters were doing great in the world, going to school, making friends and working, I was proud, and felt glad they were having this grand adventure without me. But when I heard word that they were alone, or afraid, or cold, or hungry, or hurt, or abandoned, or abused or sick or in bondage, I thought my heart would surely collapse. In fact one day, my heart did give way and I fell in heap onto the floor where I couldn’t breathe. I felt the beats of my heart slowing down and I wondered if this was the moment where I would leave this earth life. In all honesty, I was glad at the possibility of escaping all this pain and finally going home.

But then it came; The vision of all my other kids and my husband, my parents and my sisters and brothers. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave just yet, and If I did, I would regret it for eternity.

I begged my heart to breathe again, I desperately wheezed in one breath and then another. It felt like my heart was being crushed and my lungs were screaming for air. I knew that I was meant to win this battle. I was going to get up and fight. I suddenly became determined to never allow this darkness to consume me again.

I was going to shine a light on the lies and the whisperings that were holding ME captive. I was going to believe that regardless of all the things I did and didn’t do, that God had chosen me to be this wife, this mother, this sister, this daughter, and somehow with His Grace, I WAS GOING TO BE ENOUGH!

My husband found me a half later on the floor shaking, covered in sweat, my breath finally having returned normally and the crushing pain subsided. He picked me up gently and carried me into the bedroom where we discussed our options. We made a plan together of how we could get through this experience, and how we could be the parents and companions that we both wanted to be.

We had a support network of amazing friends and family members that helped inspire us, and we discovered powerful mentors in the professional world that taught us things in our personal lives that were game changing.

I learned the power of meditation, affirmations, deep breathing, exercise, water, sleep, emotional stress management, and prayer.

Above all else, I learned how to share my burdens with our Savior Jesus Christ.

If you are in this situation, overwhelmed or paralyzed with fear or despair I encourage you to check out
THIS POST about Emotional Stress Management and get help from friends, family or medical doctors.

As the days turned into months and the months into a couple of years, the fears and doubts that had previously seemed to rob me of my happiness at the most inconvenient times, slowly began to transform. My heartaches got tumbled inside and the jagged edges were smoothed into something that didn’t feel quite so painful.

I began to see the transformation of my own children at home and away from home, as they made mistakes, picked themselves up, and tried again. I got visits and small messages from my girls who were away from home, reminding me of how magnificent and strong they were, and how the beautiful gifts that they had possessed since birth had blessed other people. 

It seemed like I could feel the muscles of my heart being torn apart and then fiber by fiber stitched painfully, slowly, back together. I was learning to turn my life over to God, to have faith in His great plan of happiness for my family. My feelings of despair, and discouragement gave way to something unexpected. I was growing a heart that was stronger, happier, and full of the expectation of joy for family and future. 

Here I was two years later, staring down at my son’s outstretched hands, looking at the shattered pieces reflecting the light from outside in a million different directions. There was no way to put all my thoughts into words  that this little boy would understand, but I hoped with a simple explanation he could at least grasp a little of this message. 

Even with our hardest work and most focused attention WE WILL MESS UP! We will be surrounded at some point in our lives by shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful and that we cannot possibly repair alone.

But the splendid & wonderful news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that if we let Him, the Great Healer CAN repair our lives and makes us whole again!! 

I am glad that my sons reminded me of this heart saving lesson. I am glad my daughters continue to test me and try me, and even though 5 more glass balls broke before the afternoon was over, I am glad that today I learned about Christmas.

My Classroom

The warmth of the sun rises, and the cool of the evening sky sets on our family classroom. 

It happens through the summertimes, and during holidays, starts early in the mornings and ends late at night. 

There are no limits to the students curiosity, no walls to their classrooms, no ages to their classes, no boundaries to their questions. 

This is the place where it’s okay to teach kids about God, Jesus, giving up and holding on. This classroom thrives on physical touch, hugs, high fives, and arms wrapped around each other.

In our family classroom it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to leave. It’s okay to choose not to participate.

Our family classroom is rarely clean. In fact, it’s usually overflowing with messes, and spills and books and toys and projects.


There are never enough walls in our family classroom to hold all the priceless treasures that my children create. And I mean that honestly. For somehow, each one of them is exceptionally talented.

Oh, in case you wonder, our family classroom is noisy too. There are squeaky flutes & pounding pianos, and loud teenage music (that I rarely like), and kids squealing and teenagers crying, and toddlers racing, and moms and dads yelling to be heard above all the commotion. But it’s a happy, busy, noise, and if it’s too much, there are quiet corners. In our family classroom I’ve noticed that one rarely chooses to escape to silent bedrooms when instead they could be enjoying the community we find in being together.

This classroom is a safe place to make mistakes. It could be the mistakes of the teacher, or the mistakes of the student but either way, you are given the grace to figure it out and try again while still being loved and accepted.

One of my children took her first university course at 12 years old, another was just opening a book for the first time to read on her own. But in our family school, there are no bully’s to make fun, or grades to compare.

It’s okay to show up late, or show up in your jammies, as long as you’re willing show up at all, you can join us.

Some months our family classroom looks like endless mathematical equations, other months it looks like flying across the world and standing at the top of a volcano while hot lava literally explodes in bombs above your head, or diving to the bottom of a sea discovering creatures you never dreamed existed all around you.

All. Across. The. Globe. I get people asking me if I really think my family classroom is the healthiest choice for my kids. 

My answer is… ‘Yes, it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done!’

Hanging out on the Windy Prairies of Alberta, Canada

Some people may peek into my classroom and wonder when I’m gonna teach spelling rules and calculus. I reassure them that they need not worry, because at precisely the time when my children’s minds are ready to expand, they will get to immerse themselves in these important subjects, and nothing will stop them!

Until then, I am going to go from one end of the world to the other, and hopefully, spark a love of learning so deeply in their souls, that it can never be extinguished. 

Riding the Ferries on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Kayaking, Shipwreck diving, And Snorkeling at Irriki Island
Surfing on the West Coast of Long Beach, British Columbia, Canada
Girls on Island
Making New Friends on The Island of Efate
Taking Hikes In The Mountains of Waterton Alberta, Canada
photo credit: www.thousandwonders.net
Girl in front of Beach
Collecting Seashells on The Beaches of Vanuatu
Kids from the village
Sharing food in the South Pacific
mom in Arizona
Standing by 400 year old Siguaro Cactus, Mesa Arizona
Starting a Primitive Fire with no match in Wilderness of Arizona
Climbing trees in the Jungle of North Island Village
Kids in Mexico
Trying on Sombreros Street Vendors on the boardwalk of San Felipe, Mexico
Discovering Spiders on the boardwalk of Brisbane, Australia

See you around,

BeckyBoo

P.S.

YES!

Yes my kids will learn to read, and hopefully also learn to change the world with the wisdom they’ve gathered from endless hours sitting in the sunshine, basking in the ideas of history’s greatest thinkers. 

Yes my kids will learn to write, and hopefully use that gift to spread the cause of freedom, & equality.

Running With Dad on The Run 4 The Rescue
a 500 Mile Run in Chains to bring Awareness to Human Trafficking,
Washington DC

Yes my kids will learn to socialise, because from the time they were tiny they got to play with kids from cultures and countries across the earth, and philosophise with adults, and have one on one conversations with leaders and politicians. 

Yes my kids will learn to add and subtract, and multiply and divide, and hopefully use those tools to seek further education or build something beautiful or to heal bodies & hearts. 

My oldest left home at 17, is attending emergency medical training in another country, and trying to decide if she should go to Indonesia on a 6 month service mission with her cousin.

My 2nd oldest left home at 16, and is using this time on her own to discover the world. She is paying her own rent, buying her own groceries, and getting her own jobs.

My 3rd oldest of 15 years spends most her days reading, dreaming about horses and studying for the ACT.  

My two next girls attend our local public school in grades 6 & 8, (don’t worry, I’ll help them catch up later).

My two little boys spend everyday chasing words and animals and books as we explore together. They dress up, dig up, and build up all blessed day long.

Each of these 7 children will take their own path, but hopefully, if I’ve done it right, they will each know who they are, or at least how to become who they want to be. That is the beauty of my family classroom.

4 Easy Ways to Celebrate the True Meaning of Easter With your Kids!

I love to celebrate Easter! It’s by far my favorite holiday of the year. But sometimes with all the world around us advertising chocolate, candy and bunnies my kids forget why we celebrate Easter.

So every year, I do a few things that keep us focused.

1. Read the Easter story from the scriptures:

The Last Supper 

Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-23

Judas Betrays Jesus

John 18:1-13, Luke 22:1-6, Luke 22:47-54, Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50

Crucifixion of Jesus

Matthew 27:1-54, Mark 15:1-40, Luke 23:1-48, John 19:1-30

Resurrection of Jesus

Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20

2. Celebrate the Passover

On the Thursday before Good Friday our family gathers together with a few other families and have a passover meal. The meal is rich with symbolism and tells the story of Moses and Elijah and our Savior in a way that the kids can remember.

Here is a movie of this years passover meal:

3. Good Friday

Every Good Friday I wake up before the kids and take garbage bags to all the windows. I cover them and pull all the curtains and blinds. When the kids wake up the house is dark. Whenever we have guests and they ask ‘why are your windows dark?’ all my kids answer, ‘because without Jesus there is no light’. This easy and simple illustration costs no money, takes very little time, yet teaches a profound lesson. We leave our windows blacked out, even throughout the day until Easter Sunday.

4. Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is our favorite day! When Easter Sunday arrives I take off the blinds and turn back on the lights. It reminds us that with Jesus there is light!

The kids wake up to the the bright, beautiful sunshine. The table is set with our best dishes and pictures of Jesus displayed around the home. We usually have a basket or gift for each child. I like to include a book about Jesus, and a few eggs filled with treats for them to eat. I always leave one egg empty to remind them that on Easter Sunday the tomb was empty because He Has Risen!

Thats it, I’d love to hear what your favorite traditions for celebrating the true meaning of Easter are! XOXO
Becky Boo

Light the World with Fun, Magical Christ Centered Christmas Traditions!

Wanna Light the World with the funnest, most magical Christmas this year? We’ll show you how with our Christ- Centered Christmas Traditions!

The truth is I still can’t believe it’s December 1 and we have been home in Canada for 7 months already. The time goes by so quickly and so much happens it’s hard to imagine that we are already getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is our families favourite time of year. As soon as December hits we go all out doing our best to Light the World and celebrate Christmas.

We don’t give presents to each other under the Christmas tree, but we do try our best to make each Christmas magical and unforgettable for the entire family!

Light the World with Magical Christmas Traditions

Click Here to send Shoe Boxes https://www.samaritanspurse.ca/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions

Download this to have an easy no fail Christmas Eve! www.nativityscript.com

This is link to the easiest Christmas Nativity that you will ever find! Makes your picture perfect Nativity every time, with almost no work for the mom! www.nativityscript.com

Christian Christmas Traditions

Magical Christian Christmas Traditions

Light the World Christmas Traditions

Jerusalem dinner Christ Centered Christmas Traditions

Christmas Service Scavenger Hunt

Christmas Service Scavenger hunt

Want to print out this whole list? Click Here: Christmas Blog

Click Here to Find out my Favorite Christ Centered Christmas Stories! Best Christmas Stories

Click Here to Find out my Favorite Christ Centered Christmas Music! Best Christmas Music

Wanna share your Christmas traditions with me? Drop me a line!

A lesson I learned from a seashell

The wave crashed up washing black sand and frothy sea foam onto my bare feet and with it came a little white shell. I bent down and picked  it up. Inspecting it carefully, I turned it around and around and then tried to return it into the ocean where it belonged. Rather than throwing it back I found myself whispering ‘just one more’ and guiltily stuffing it into my pockets.

I laughed aloud at myself. Every. Single. Time. I saw a shell or a sparkly bit of sea-glass I felt compelled to pick it up. IT’s like I was remembering my childhood and hadn’t yet grown out of the habit of trying to keep pretty things. In fact my own collection of seashells which sat neglected on the countertop at home, was bigger than both my other sea collecting daughters pile. This  obsession was becoming a problem and I’d have to stop soon!

My kids who were ahead me on our walk came running back with their hands full of large dirty and broken seashells that they had found at a burnt out fire-pit. They were the huge snail shells that the locals would catch when the tide was out and roast over the fire for dinner. I remembered clearly not too many nights ago when Eric and I had heard noises outside and gone with our flashlights and machetes to investigate.

We found a group of grown men squatted around a fire, laughing and joking. Eric and I were so entranced by their meal and methods had ended up staying and swapping stories until late into the night. When their rice was finally cooked in the heavy pot they had positioned overtop the fire, more men startled us both by seemingly appearing out of nowhere and throwing down their evenings haul. They had been out night diving and they had collected  one small fish and 5 large snails. This would make the perfect meal they told us with a grin.

We sat for hours visiting and watching as they taught us all the best ways to prepare snails and fish and rice. And then sometime after 10pm when their meal was finally cooked they divided it all up equally amongst themselves and dug in with their hands. Juicy snail water dripping off their fingers and contented smiles on their messy faces they offered us some of the food, but we declined.

My mind jolted back to the present and I looked at the shells in the kids hands. They were ugly, brown, and burnt from the fire. But as I turned one around I saw a hint of mother of pearl. I Remembered back to my old childhood days on the islands when I would bring shells to my father and as if by some kind of voodoo he would transform them into something so breathtaking I was sure it had been made by magic or mermaids. There was mother of pearl in these shells, I was sure of it.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and was sure it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and hoped it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I grabbed my scriptures and started flipping the pages. I remembered reading about this somewhere. The book fell open to Joshua 3: 5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you. 

I read another scripture:

The Savior said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. “Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;“Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The mother of pearl had always been inside that shell. It took a process that I am sure would have been painful to that shell if it had feelings to feel. But it was worth it! It’s light was shining. I want to be like that shell, broken and covered in sin and sorrow but humble enough to turn my life over to He who can heal. He who can make whole. He who can erase my sins and make me new again, even Jesus Christ.

Leaving Paradise and Heading Home…

My freezing cold body sunk down into the hot water, and I sighed out all the stress of sleepless nights and long days of travel that come with flying and driving with babies.  I was now taking the first hot bath I had had in over 1 year! It felt magnificent, and after I soaked, I dried off in a fluffy white towel, as I stood on a lovely bath mat, made of woven organic cotton and dyed various colors of blue. I couldn’t believe how clean, and white and beautiful everything was. 

It was 1:52am but the entire family was still wide awake. We were wandering around in a daze looking at and touching things like we had never seen them before. None of us could sleep. I had already tried tucking myself between the crispy white sheets spread tightly across my master bedroom bed, but nothing was working. I felt out of place, in this spacious, lovely decorated, house that looked like it had come straight out of a magazine.

White walls, curtains over the windows, carpets, lamps, sparkling chandeliers, paintings, soap, a dishwasher, a fridge…I couldn’t believe they even made fridges that big! It was all so pretty, and so big, and so surprisingly unfamiliar.

We had left Vanuatu nearly 36 hours ago, and we had just arrived for our first night home in Canada. I tried so many times to fall asleep, but the silence all around me felt like a great big black blanket, that I wished I could throw off me. The familiar sights and sounds of our home in Vanuatu had kept me company for the last 13 months, and now I was missing them desperately.

Where were those noisy crickets and frogs that kept me awake at night? Where was the steady beat of the ocean surf, coming and going?  There was no village music drifting through the warm tropical air, no whirring fans blowing off the mosquitos from our feet which stuck out of our damp sheets, or drunk men laughing outside, no dogs barking at every person that walked by all through the night.

I sighed, and cried, and prayed, reminded myself that God is the Master Planner and it’s He who knows all things and eventually my exhausted body succumbed to sleep.  In the morning, I told Eric I thought we should hop back on the plane and go home. By home, I meant back to Vanuatu. He agreed immediately.  Half of the kids said no, the other half said yes, but the bank account was the real thing that stopped us from turning around.

A couple hours later, real bacon was sizzling in the pan,  filling up the house with an aroma we had only dreamed of.  My daughter caught me drinking a bottle of maple syrup which had screamed my name when I discovered it in the fridge. Before long, my house was filled to bursting with the squeals of children who my heart had ached for this last year. When coming home, we had decided to keep it a surprise from everyone, just for the fun of appearing out of nowhere. The tears and amazed squeals from cousins was totally worth all the work it had been to keep our secret!


I had long visits, in a language I understood, with my best friends and sister, and I was reminded again of the real reason that I had missed Canada so much. It wasn’t the house, or the cars, the computers. It wasn’t even the strawberries, bacon or maple syrup,  it was the people. The same thing that had stolen my heart in Vanuatu had my heart in Canada, and now I felt so unsettled, not knowing who I was or where I belonged.

I found my daughter holding back tears in the corner, and I wrapped my arms around her, and we cried together. Cried because we had left home, and cried because we had found home.

$22,000 USD is what it cost our family to fly to Vanuatu. Then we paid an additional $4500 in Visa fees to stay as long as we did. We both knew that if we were going to go back, it would take another monumental effort, a lot of hard work and a fair bit of faith. Faith was starting to come a bit easier to us nowadays, as living day to day really has a way of making you dependant on God and His goodness and wisdom, but we still struggled with it.

I sat on my best friends couch, giggling like little girls, and it felt as though we had never been separated. When she asked me why I had decided to come home, I tried to explain all the reasons that had made up this life changing decision, but my mind suddenly went blank. I honestly couldn’t remember why we had decided to come home. ‘To go to the dentist’, I lamely explained.

When I came home that day, I asked Eric to refresh my memory on all the reason why we had left paradise. He reminded me about our two daughters that had already left Vanuatu ahead of us, and about working- like that thing people do to earn money, and about my health, and about a dozen other reasons that sounded so convincing when I had booked the tickets a couple months, but that hardly seemed critical now.

I admit, I am afraid. I am afraid that I might be the same person I was when I left. I am afraid that I’ll get busy, and start caring more about things and less about people. I’m afraid that I won’t know how to minister to Gods children, because they are all around me in great big houses, with families that look so content. I am afraid that everything that happened on that tiny island will fade away, and with it all the love and adventure and memories will be gone.

 

Faith is the great healer of fear.  I feel like a little child learning something for the first time. Falling again and again, unsure of how to go forward without all the pain of repeated failures.  Faith is such a small word for such a big lesson, and I pray that God will send me an extra dose of it to navigate these next few months with my family.

‘I cry unto my God in faith and know that He will hear my cry’

Camping in Paradise

‘It’s okay, just breath deeply and go to sleep.’ I felt a giant spider scamper across my arm and a cockroach tickle my forehead as it made it’s way over my face. This was going to be a loooong week. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of bugs here.

Seriously why are there even spiders this size?

We had decided to take the family camping because well we didn’t have anywhere to live so that made it an easy decision. When we originally were planning to come to Vanuatu we thought we would just stay for 4 months. But the time came and went so quickly and everyone was enjoying our trip so thoroughly that nobody wanted to go home. We spent a few thousand dollars, changed our plane tickets, bought more travel insurance and extended our visa. It seemed expensive, but truthfully the price was so small in comparison to the gigantic return on investment.  For once in a long time our family was really content and everybody felt it and nobody wanted to let it go.

When we changed our tickets from 4 months to 12 months we needed to find a new place to stay and went camping between rentals.  It’s not like I had any camping equipment so we chose a place that had tents and beds already in them.  It was magical. Beach tents on the ocean, the breeze and the ocean and the birds.

We spent endless hours walking, swimming, playing with birds, roasting hotdogs, laughing and chatting around the fire. Everything was really fantastic. But there was more in store for our family.

The kids and Eric were walking down the beach when they found a path that led to a village through the bush. They ended up buying some island potatoes from them but when it was time to go home the entire village full of children followed them. For the next few hours they played soccer in the field.

At dinner time I called my kids for dinner and my kids as well as at least another 10 kids showed up. For the next four days and nights these beautiful village kids showed up at our tents at 6am, stayed around the fire laughing and singing with us and sharing our meals. Pretty soon I wasn’t cooking for 10 I was cooking for 20. I was running out of food, and you’ll see in the video the creative ways that we found to keep eating as there wasn’t a store in a million miles from us. We gathered coconuts, ate island potatoes and even collected sea urchins when the tide was low and roasted them over the fire! #gross

This group of sparkly eyed, brown skinned, big smiled children joined us for movie night cramming everyone into one small tent to gather around the little computer screen and watch Moana and home videos with us.

They followed us to the waterfalls when we went hiking and were waiting for us till well past dark every night if we ever ventured out anywhere.  At the end of every night Eric would load up the truck with everyone and drive them home. It was sometimes 10 or 11 o’clock at night when kids were sprawled out all over each other exhausted from hours of playing. Some nights they just walked themselves home dissappearing into the blackness without a sound.

The BEST most beautiful part of the entire camping trip was the morning that we were to leave. At 6am we heard noises outside. The mommas, the dads and the children from the village were all there.

They came up and showered us with shell leis, necklaces, fruit, potatoes and a woven mat. The momma’s said to me “you fed our pikininis everyday and now that makes you their momma too, so we bring you presents” Everyone cried as we left this magical bit of paradise and said goodbye to our new friends. It was truly an amazing, fantastic, unforgettable experience and I now have ALOT of new children!

Watch the videos to join in the magic and it truly was magical!

Rebecca

 

Tropical Trouble

The oldest girls took a hike through the jungle with a group of their cousins and local friends. All the locals knew that the plant was to be avoided but they forgot to tell my girls. Two of the girls ended up falling down and getting covered in a tropical stinging plant #should’vewornlongershorts. The sting lasts from a week to a month and the only remedy is to find the plant that stung you and crack open it’s stem, spreading the sap on the sting. Here’s the report!