Tuesday, May 27, 2014

30th Wedding Anniversary

This is a bit of a long post, so you might want to grab yourself a cuppa... 

On June 16th, Paul and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage.  I can't help but wonder where the years have gone, it seems such a short time ago we were young and in the throes of preparing for our life together, eagerly anticipating the day when we'd become one.

How I thank God for my honey.  He's been such a faithful and tender husband to me, such a hard working provider for our family, and such a good and kind dad to our six children.  Oh, we've had our ups and downs, not sure any two people could live together for as long as we have and say it's all and only been "up".  :-)   But when there have been trials, when the stresses of life have been intense and have threatened to overwhelm, he's always been there, committed to our God, to me, to our children.  He's been a man of vision who's endeavoured to leave a legacy of faith and faithfulness to us and to those yet to come, our grandchildren, and there's no man on earth I'd have rather spent the last three decades of my life with... or the remainder.

When Paul and I met in 1983, we had little in common really.  He was a farm lad, I was a city gal.  He'd grown up in an intact family, I came from a broken home.  He was quiet and reserved, I was chatty and outgoing.  He was tall, I was short.   What we did have in common, however, was the most important of all, a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.  He was a seasoned Christian, I was a relative babe in the Lord, having only come to faith three years prior, but today as I contemplate what God has done in and through us over these past three decades, I stand in awe at how He has not only brought us together as husband and wife, but how he's birthed and grown within us the same vision, the same purpose, uniting us so completely that I can scarcely remember a time when we had any significant differences at all.

When I look at these photos, I hardly recognize those two people, so full of hope and anticipation, and so young!  In actuality, we weren't that young, I was just shy of 25 and Paul was 30. 

In commemoration of this upcoming milestone, our sweet children and precious daughter-in-love went above and beyond in order to bless us. They generously spoiled us with a "Celebration Package" from the Chateau Laurier Hotel (circa 1909) which we thoroughly enjoyed this past weekend.  The package included a lovely roast beef dinner, a night's stay at the hotel, as well as a wonderful breakfast the following morning.  The kiddos also threw in valet parking, which allowed us to pretend we were hobnobbing with the rich and famous. In addition, they bought us tickets to see Il Divo at the National Arts Center that evening. 

We so thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, declaring it the best date we've had in many years!  Truth is, we seldom do anything alone together.  With having six children, homeschooling, a busy dairy farm, and very limited down time, we've pretty much always chosen to take that time as a family.  We don't regret it at all, our decision many years ago to forego as much of the "me mentality" as possible, trading it instead for a "we mentality", we meaning our entire family, has borne much good fruit in our family dynamics and relationships, but I do admit that from time to time it's nice to be alone, just the two of us, to recharge and recommit, and this past weekend was just the thing. 

About to leave for the weekend...

Hotel room at the Chateau Laurier

Gift and card from the hotel management

Looking northeast down Sussex Drive from our hotel room window
 towards the American Embassy.


Looking east down George Street toward the Byward Market

Looking southeast on Sussex Drive toward Rideau Street.

About to enjoy dinner together at Wilfred's
in the Chateau Laurier

View from our table - Parliament Buildings


Bread Basket & Butter (no, we don't get out much)

Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

To my meat lovin' hubby, a salad is merely
a promise of better things to come!

Wonderful cut of roast beef, with garlic flavoured mashed potatoes
& grilled veggie medley.  Mmmm....

Crème Brule to finish things off... exquisite!

A nice touch!

Here's a video of Il Divo performing Amazing Grace. 

Obviously, it wasn't shot in Ottawa.  :-)

I thought I'd tell you a bit about our experience at the concert and something related which took place the next afternoon.

When we received the tickets to Il Divo, we were pretty thrilled.  While we'd never followed them, per se, we had seen Youtube clips of them performing from time to time and were in awe of their amazing talent.  There's just something incredibly powerful about men harmonizing together, and particularly men as gifted as these four, so it was with considerable anticipation we prepared for our big night out.

A day or so before, however, we received an email from a dear friend.  She didn't want to rain on our parade, so to speak, but did want to give us a bit of a heads up about an Il Divo performance her hubby had taken their eldest daughter to in Atlanta.  They'd been pretty disappointed when the group began to engage the audience through the use of inappropriate "innuendo", to the point where my friend's husband and daughter had actually considered getting up and leaving.   We now had the tickets and the kids had dropped a bundle on them, so we went hoping the Atlanta performance proved an anomaly.  Alas, it wasn't to be.

During the first set of songs things went well.  The singing was superb, very classy and immensely enjoyable.  Two or three unnecessary, but rather tame, comments were made, so we figured it wasn't too bad for a secular performance.  Then came the second set.  Oy.  Two of the performers bantered back and forth inappropriately for some considerable minutes, perhaps five or six, to the point that it was getting downright embarrassing.  There was a little girl of about nine or ten right in front of us and the audience was filled with people of every age, including the very elderly.  Truth is, the banter was extremely disconcerting.  Not wanting to "waste" the generosity of our children, we rode out those few minutes hoping it would end soon and they'd get back to singing, which they did, thankfully.  Nevertheless, it put a considerable damper on the entire performance, immense talent notwithstanding. 

As we were checking out of our hotel the following afternoon, I happened to be sitting on a bit of a stone wall which separates the slightly elevated hotel driveway from the sidewalk and street, waiting for the valet and bellman to sort out getting our car and luggage together.  I looked up and happened to notice a few bodyguard looking fellows standing in front of three black SUV type vehicles and thought to myself that they may be connected to Il Divo, as we knew they, too, had stayed at the Chateau Laurier the night before (a valet had inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when we were checking in).  Sure enough, out walked one of the group's members, stopping close to the street and their vehicles, about ten or fifteen feet from me. 

After contemplating for a moment or two, I decided to call out a greeting.  Not knowing any of their names, I called out, "Il Divo!", and the young lad (everyone looks young to me these days) turned to face me.  Smiling my biggest smile, I told him we'd attended the concert the previous night and had really enjoyed their talented performance.  He returned the smile and thanked me.  I then asked if I could tell him something and he responded with a "Sure!"  He appeared somewhat apprehensive when I invited him to come a little closer as I didn't want to shout out what I had to say.  He likely thought I was some crazed, star-struck, middle aged woman, possibly even posing a bit of a threat to him.  Ha!  I smilingly told him that I wouldn't touch or harm him, I just wanted to ask him a question. 

With the stone wall between us - me slightly elevated on the driveway and leaning a bit - he came closer.  I again told him how much we'd enjoyed their singing, expressed delight over the incredible talent they had, and then asked why they cheapened their performance with the tawdry and lewd commentary scattered throughout.  A bit taken aback, he asked me to repeat what I'd just said, so I did, and to my surprise he reached up and took one of my hands into his, looked me right in the eye and said something to the effect of, "How would you like to be me standing up there night after night, having to be part of that?  I hate it!  I'm a singer, all I want to do is sing!"  I told him I'd contemplated writing his producers, telling them how disappointed we were to have had to endure such banter in the midst of what had otherwise been an excellent performance.  He gave my hand another squeeze and encouraged me to do so, and at that was whisked away into his waiting limo.  So, I guess I'd better make sure I write that letter, huh?  

Earlier in the day, we'd enjoyed a lovely breakfast buffet at Wilfred's.  We had the option of the buffet or an a la carte breakfast in our room, we opted for the former.

When the chef learned we were celebrating our 30th anniversary, he insisted upon preparing this tasty morsel for us - a chocolaty/fruity crepe  for two with a special message.

Our breakfast view, looking slightly southwest, more west than south, toward downtown Ottawa. 

Looking north toward the Ottawa River.  Between the Chateau Laurier Hotel on the right and the Parliament Buildings on the left, there are a series of locks which enable boats to enter the Rideau Canal from the Ottawa River and vice versa.

Another memorable event of the weekend was when Paul and I went out for a walk through the downtown core.  While crossing the bridge over the locks right beside the hotel, we stopped to admire the artwork of a rather down and out looking fellow.  He'd meticulously drawn various buildings and landmarks in the area and we were incredibly impressed with his skill.  We ended up buying six of his prints to give to the children, but not before we'd enjoyed talking to the artist for about an hour.

The artist calls himself "The Artist On the Bridge", because all of his sketches are from the vantage point of the bridge between the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.  This sketch is looking northward toward Quebec and down the locks which connect the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

We learned that at one time the artist, Stewart, had been a middle class kind of guy, had trained as a cabinet maker.  Some years previously he'd had a bicycle accident in which he'd broken his neck.  He wasn't expected to live, had spent many months undergoing rehabilitation and, subsequently, became addicted to prescription meds.  From there it all went downhill.  He'd lost his ability to work, his family, the whole shebang, and had eventually found "family" amongst the "down and outers" in Ottawa's Byward Market community.  It was a tragic tale, though one more common in many respects than we'd like to think.

This view looks south from below the locks toward the Chateau Laurier Hotel and the bridge previously mentioned.  These locks are still run manually, on the right is the original lockmaster's house.  Notice the intricate details Stewart has captured.  Many artists have sketched various landmarks in Ottawa, Canada's Capital City, but few renditions are as detailed as these.  Stewart told us it takes him about a month to complete one sketch.

Over the course of time, Paul began to share God's Word with Stewart, explaining how we're all in need of a Saviour, that Saviour being Jesus Christ, that we've all sinned against a Holy God and are deserving of death and eternal damnation, but that God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for the sins of those whom He will call.  Like many, Stewart claimed to believe in Jesus, but the "Jesus" he believed in, as expressed to us, wasn't the Jesus of the Bible, rather, the "jesus" who demanded nothing of anyone, but was merely a political and social gospel kind of Jesus.  We were able to share much more with him and he became genuinely attentive to what we said.  So if the Lord should bring Stewart to mind, do please remember to pray for him, that the Lord would reveal Himself to him and call him to repentance and eternal life. 

This is a westerly view from the bridge, looking down Wellington Street toward the Parliament Buildings.  Once again, observe the minute detail Stewart has captured.  He's an incredibly talented man.

Prior to strolling around downtown and meeting Stewart, we'd gone into an art gallery on the main floor of the Chateau Laurier, a gallery which clearly caters to those of significant means.  There was a painting on the wall, a series of eight perfect stripes, with alternating hues of orange and beige - nothing to write home about, frankly - yet it came with an $80,000 price tag.  Yes.  $80,000.  

I made an off-hand comment to Paul about it reminding me of the fiasco around the Government of Canada purchasing a piece of "art" for 1.8 million dollars some years ago, it was called , Voice of Fire.  Like the one now before us, it contained boring stripes, three of them, something any self-respecting six year old with a ruler and a canvass could pull off.  The purchase had rightly caused much incredulity amongst many of our fellow Canadians.  

An employee of the gallery overheard my comment and took considerable umbrage, haughtily informing me that it had been an excellent investment on the part of the government for the people of Canada, because if we were to sell that painting today at Sotheby's, it would command upwards of 50 million dollars.  My response was that we should sell it then!  Of course, his elitist attitude was that a nation ought never sell its "national treasures".  Oy.  And then there's Stewart, hawking his wares for $10 a print, $50 for an original...

Looking northwest from the bridge, a summertime view of Parliament Hill. 

After leaving the Chateau Laurier and the downtown core (which was about to host 43,000 runners for a two day marathon event), we treated ourselves to a second night away, this time at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Kanata, took ourselves out to dinner at the local Kelsey's restaurant, and then went to the movie, "Mom's Night Out".  While not particular fans of slapstick comedy, or of many (most!) movies today, we did enjoy a few laughs and spending this time alone together.

Shortly after arriving at the Holiday Inn & Suites, these were delivered to our room! I'd mentioned it was our 30th anniversary when I'd booked, but surely didn't expect this nice surprise!

This card was an extra special touch, personalized
and signed by all of the staff!

We had such a wonderful time together and are so thankful for such kind and generous children who made it all possible for us. 

"For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."

 ~  Ephesians 5:31 ~


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Good Gifts

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" 
~ Matthew 7:11 ~

One of my greatest pleasures in life has been owning horses, and my sweet husband has been incredibly indulgent in allowing me to do so for the past 30 years.  Many dairy farmers wouldn't hear of such a thing, after all, "They're hay burners!".  Though they make extra work for Paul, with him having to bale more hay than he already does for the cows, and though they come with other expenses, like farrier and vet, he's always been amazingly generous in indulging me in this luxury. 

It all started soon after we wed in 1984 when he allowed me to buy a young, green colt named Cody.  Shortly after, as we were in the barn milking together, I looked up to see him gazing out the window toward the paddock.  I asked him what was on his mind and he replied, "Oh, just thinking about how much pleasure it gives me to fulfil a dream of yours."  That's my husband... always kind, always giving, always thinking of my needs and even many of my wants, more often than not putting himself out for me.  He's the same with our children, he's such a kind and loving daddy.

Today we own six horses.  Well, technically we own three horses and three ponies.  We've had others over the years as well, some of which have died and are buried in our horse graveyard up under the gnarly ol' pine on the ridge near the gravel pit.  Paul's even indulged me there, I never could stand the thought of sending a horse on the dead stock truck. 

Two of our ponies are more recent acquisitions, we bought them just this past December so each of the girls would have their own to ride, and if I haven't made clear just how indulgent Paul's been to his gaggle of girls, this'll surely drive home the point.  The man drove us six hours north, all the way up to Temiskaming, Ontario, to get one of them, and that during some of the most bitterly cold weather!  And then, on another brutally cold December day, Paul drove us three hours northwest of here to purchase yet another pony.

Our Temiskaming gal is Bo, short for "Boutique", a lovely nine year old bay-coloured Welsh Cob pony.  Our second December purchase is a cute wee grey and white paint Cob which the girls named Puddles, barely three years old now and just green broke, though coming along very nicely.  In addition to those, we've got Teddy Bear, our 21 year old black Icelandic pony; Mischief, or "Mistivios Bar", our 14 year old dun Quarter Horse mare who was born here on the farm and is our "steady Eddie"; Valour, or if you want to get fancy, "Tivios Valiente", Bethany's two year old Azteca colt, also born here and son of Mischief and a gorgeous Andalusian stallion; and Breezy, Bethany's other "project", a sweet five year old, black Hanoverian-Oldenburg cross. 

The girls spent the past two afternoons out riding.  It's been such a joy to see them delight in these magnificent gifts from their dad.  I thought I'd share a bunch of pictures and hope you enjoy them at least half as much as I enjoyed watching the girls have fun on their steeds... well, except for the part when the "sweet" five year old "project", Breezy, bucked Bethany off this morning.  She's only got a month under saddle and that was last September, so today's ride found her a little "energetic", shall we say?  Thankfully, Bethany's not much worse for wear, though she does have a bit of a sore neck.  Brave girl, that daughter of mine, she was back in the saddle just a moment later.  Can't say I'd be able to say the same if it was me.  I think falling off an airborne 16.2 hand horse makes for a long fall and a hard landing!

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
~ James 1:17 ~

The girls bringing their horses in from the field to prepare for riding.


Nope, not a bit happy about getting to ride "Teddy Bear".

After a long, cold winter, the horses are still shedding out and look pretty scraggly.  They'll be sleek and lovely looking in just a few weeks, I'm sure, but in the meantime, there's lots of grooming to do.

Christmas gifts of matching saddle pads and halters, finally getting to use them.

Ride 'em, cowgirls!

Buckin' bronco...

"Settle down now..."

Much better!

Very dignified... finally.

Taking the newbies out for a bit of a tour of some of the as yet unplanted fields, just to get them familiar with the place before the girls ride outside of the enclosed paddock.

How thankful I am for my husband, for the father of my children, and not merely because he's blessed us with so many good gifts, but because of his day-to-day selfless example of love, his tender patience, his kind benevolence, and most importantly, his unwavering faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is my good gift!