Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where to Now

While our lives have taken a different direction this does not mean that we are lost in what to do.  We are actually somewhat excited, a whole new world has opened up to us.  For Rob it was never that he felt like a failure if he did not carry on, he knew, and had been warned going in that if at any time the work seemed to much to never be afraid to stop.  The struggle to make the decision came more from the concern of whether we were doing the right thing or would he be giving up too easily? was the Lord telling us something through the various events that led us to this?  when one reaches a mountain does one right away give up and turn a different direction or does one find a way to climb that mountain?

Sometimes I joke that the reason we had to go through this was to train me to accept Rob for who he is.  Each school year had it’s stressful times and almost all school years Rob talked about quitting (except for Year 2 at the College) when it came to crunch time saying he wasn’t cut out for this.  And each school year I stood by him and said I supported him in whatever decision he made, except if he quit school he could not going trucking.  This usually sent him back to his desk with a new determination to stick to what he was suppose to be doing since his other love was not an option.

Rob is a licensed mechanic turned pig farmer.  When he decided to go to school he needed a job to support us for the first part of his schooling while he was part-time.  This job ended up being trucking (he had acquired his AZ license when he was a mechanic), more specifically wide-load trucking.  He often said over the past few years that of all the jobs he’s done he loved trucking the most.  The diesel is in his blood and each summer he looked forward to getting back in the truck to relax and refresh himself, ready to tackle another school year.  While one can love certain things in life, one also has to determine if these are proper things to love or be involved in.  In the case of trucking it usually meant that Rob would leave in the wee hours of the morning and come home after dark when the kids were in bed.  This would results in long periods of time where he seen little or nothing of the kids (although now that they are getting older this is getting slightly better).  This was okay during the summer when we were trying our best to bring in as much income as possible during a short period of time and where we knew that he would return to being with us for breakfast and supper again in a few months … but this job is not ideal or in my opinion (I know some will argue with me) right for a family man. God teaches us that the man is the head of the household and this is awfully hard to accomplish when the man of the household is never home.   Rob has always agreed with me on this aspect but this does not mean that the pull to go trucking is not there. 

What to do with his life if school ended did play a short term factor in the decision making process.  Rob looked at various ways he could use the training he had to benefit others (e.g. Christian counsellor, teaching) and at various jobs that would allow him to apply his diverse abilities while still being home and involved in church.  In the end the decision came to return to his favourite job at this time.  Will this be long-term??  We have no idea.  What we do know is that in making this decision we came to realize that the last few years had taught us something about the value of money and family time.  Sure more hours means more money, but it means less family time.  God has given us our children and we promised at our baptism to raise them to fear the Lord to the best of our ability … if we are not there are we raising them? are we raising them to the best of our ability?  Raising our children does not mean providing them with every want, but providing them with the basics of life and nurturing them in the Word of God so they can grow to serve Him.  I hope that we can keep this focus as Rob returns to work … with a few restrictions on his working hours. 

Rob will be returning to his part-time summer job in a full-time capacity, working for Ike and Heather who run a trucking business that moves modular office buildings.  His work will involve a little of this and that - shop time, manufacturing/engineering time (see here for a bit more on that end), truck time, PR time and likely some office time too.   When he is in the truck we cannot apply those restrictions on his working hours, but he is geared towards only being in the truck from time to time, with his main work being closer to home in the shop.  This is where he has to learn to set his limits, being home for supper and the evening for family time and other evening events/meetings and if the extra hours are needed then he will have to rise early and put those hours in during the morning hours when the family doesn’t notice the difference … and when he has to truly evaluate if the work is so necessary to be done immediately that he has to get out of his cozy bed earlier (let’s just say that Rob is NOT a morning person).  Rob is determined to work hard on learning this and as family we hope that we can help him to stick to this so that I’m not always saying “you know how much I hate your job”.  I love that he loves his job and that he loves to go to work, but I hate it when it takes him away from the kids so much.  But yet through these past years, especially these past months I had to come to realize that this is where Rob excels and together we have to work out how he can best go about doing what he loves and still be home enough to function within the church and his family.  This is a challenge that I am sure many families deal with.

For the time being we are looking forward to the idea of having a husband and father who is actually here when he is here.  Who is here for more then meal times.  Who is here in mind and body when he’s home (hopefully).  Who has time to do stuff with the kids after supper or on Saturdays.  Who is able to take care of the kids when I have a meeting at night.  Who will be able to attend church and school events/meeting again.  Who will be more physically involved in our lives and church life.  Who will have a social life on days other then Sunday.  Who does not have to stay up until late at night (or early into the morning) working at his desk six days of the week.  Who actually has statutory holidays (we just enjoyed one, it was so nice that he didn’t have to study).  Who can actually go away on weekends.  We are really looking forward to these changes and the others that come with likely staying in one location long enough to actually think about some day owning a home and putting time and effort into that home.  Let’s be honest … who really looks forward to living in a glass house?  I am not the least bit upset about the idea of leaving that prospect behind.

All in all we look forward to the coming change and the adjustments that will come with it.  Realistically I don’t think it will truly set in until September when Rob does not return to school and when we slowly begin to distance ourselves from the going-ons of the seminary life.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Change in Direction

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his stepsProverbs 16:9

As a family we have been reading the book Training Hearts Teaching Minds by Starr Meade- for our evening devotions and we recently worked through the topic of God’s providence. When it comes to God’s providence we as humans want to try and understand immediately what God is planning for us. We wish that we could see ahead to understand why we must go down the road we are going, or maybe that he would drop us a little note to guide us in the right direction … or just send a bolt of lightning that wakes us up and clarifies our situation. Whatever it is that we are wishing for, the end result is the same, we do not know what God’s purpose is for us in this life, each day again we start fresh and we move forward in our desire to serve Him to the best of our ability and that is the best that we can do. Sometimes we can look back and begin to get a small glimpse into God’s plan by seeing how the pieces fit together even at times where we thought things were all going wrong. Ultimately, as we go through each day of our lives, we know that God is there, watching over us, guiding us, caring for us and we must trust in Him every step of the way.

It can especially become difficult to see and know how to accept God’s providence when one has to make a decision … where neither decision is against God’s word but yet a decision has to be made. God has a purpose also for putting these trials on our path and He has His reason for why the answer to the decision is not immediately clear, but as we walk through this decision-making time it can become difficult and murky to understand if one is making the choice for their own benefit or because they want to serve God as He desires them to.

For the past seven months we have been working our way through one of these decision making processes.  Many times in the past seven months I had thought through how I would write this blog post if/when the day came.  I’m sure if I wrote each of them down at the time I would have a large variety of posts to work my way through.  Whether any of those posts would have included the peacefulness that we now have in our decision I am not sure, but they certainly would have displayed the rollercoaster ride that the past months have been like, especially for Rob.  At certain points in the last seven months I would call it a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, going one way or the other or just hanging there wondering what was next.  At other times it was more like a pendulum swinging back and forth from one decision to another, sometimes at a rapid pace, other times more slowly.  Regardless it has been stressful, making for many discussions and prayers and I am glad that we can now move forward with the clear decision we have made.

On April 27, 2012 Rob wrote his last exam for year 3 at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS). With one more year of school and a couple more sets of exams he would be done 3.5 years of University schooling and 4 years of theological training and have his M.Div.  We were finally in the home stretch. What we did not know at that point (although in all honesty we suspected it) was that this was Rob’s very last exam ever at the CRTS.  As of last week Rob has decided that he will not be returning to the CRTS in the fall but hopes to instead to graduate in September with a Bachelor of Theology

Back track some months and one would see the rollercoaster ride that it took to get to this point.  I made brief mention in my Survived Year 3 post that Year 3 was indeed the hardest year for more reasons then one.  While I could go through several posts of all that caused these stresses I will save you the agony and suffice to say that during this time Rob came to know that he had to seriously consider whether he was truly cut out for the ministry.  There were many aspects to consider but in the end it came down to whether he was really cut out for this.  Those who know Rob know that he is not necessarily a desk boy, he is a blue collar guy with a natural ability to be a handy man at everything along with being a mechanic, engineer, truck driver and farmer.  He loves the outdoors and everything about the country.  Yet for 6.5 years he worked hard in his office from sun-up to long past sun-down with his heart set on bringing the faithful word of God to His people.  There were times that he wonders if he was cut out for it, but not until this year did he truly have to begin to question his ability to continue. 

In the end it’s probably best to describe it as Rob does … from a perspective that is from Rob’s natural side.  Rob has had to opportunity to work with guys training to be mechanics and he has seen one guy come through who had two left hands, at the end of the day this guy could get the job done, but in the meantime the mechanics would be shaking their heads wondering what he was doing or how he was ever going to be efficient in his job.  This is Rob at his desk.  I don’t think anyone can say that he did not try hard and that he did not put his hardest and most into his work … at the end of the day the work got done, but it took longer then the guy with the natural ability and that extra time did not allow him the freedom to put the extra special touch on what he was doing as he was just doing what was needed to get it done.  For Rob the biggest struggle was getting his research on paper to present in a clear and concise manner for others to hear and learn. With the realization that a minsters number one job is the preaching of the word he also knew that if one cannot do this aspect of the job well then the rest of his job becomes a bigger challenge.  The struggle came in determining whether it would just take time to learn how to better put things on paper (realistically he had only written 5 sermons during his three years of school) and while sometimes it just seems right to go with ones natural ability he also had to work through whether the easiest route is the right route.

In January it was decided that Rob would not go to Classis this summer to Speak and Edifying Word (SEW) but instead would work with two of the professors on writing sermons to help him gain experience in this area.  This decision was met with some ups and downs at times as he wondered whether it would be better to just get out there and try the job … but in the end we see this was the right direction to go as Rob did not even make it through his first sermon and the answer became clear.  I don’t know if anyone can explain, not even Rob, why the answer suddenly became clear at this point.  Nothing different happened, the sermons routine presented it’s regular struggles of trying to get it together after the research was done … but for Rob it suddenly became not only clear but peaceful.  Prior to last week it was always a swinging pendulum but the pendulum suddenly stopped.  It has been almost a week and pendulum remains in the same position, Rob no longer questions whether to keep going or stop, the only questions remaining are the ones that we cannot answer and do not need to look for the answers to: why did the Lord lead us on this journey in the first place?  why did it take over 6 years to reach this conclusion? is there a purpose to the fact that he went long enough to complete with a BA? what does the Lord have in store now?  how does he use what he has learned to benefit others? etc.

We know that we can now go forward without being pulled in many different directions and for the time being that is simply what we do and we take one day at a time, knowing the God looks after us each day and that He has a purpose for this also.  We have ridden the rollercoaster from time to time in the past in our lives.  This hasn’t made us any more experienced or better at the ride, but it does teach us time and again to rely on Him alone, to have patience and take the ride with our faith in Him knowing that at some point we will arrive at the end of the ride … one way or another.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”  Proverbs 3: 5-6

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Missus Teacher

During the past year Marietta has taken Voice Lessons and Matthew would come along each time.  Marietta’s teacher, Mrs. C. would occasionally take the time to teach Matthew some music concepts, giving him some papers to take home and work on.  Matthew loved being big enough to learn something like the girls and looked forward to this.  When Marietta stopped taking Voice Lessons with Mrs. C. Matthew lost out on his music instructions … until a new teacher came along.

Marietta decided to take on the challenge of teaching Matthew.  It started as just fun but when he showed an interest in learning and was doing well in it we decided to keep going with this idea.  Most afternoons after school Marietta and Matthew work together for about half an hour learning piano.

I looked into what piano books to start Matthew with and ordered a set, but then found out they were on backorder and with Matthew getting impatient to get going on his lessons I dug out the books that Rebecca started with and since they said they were for ages 5 and up I decided it was worth trying him on them and saving myself the money of buying something else.  So he is now working his way through Alfred’s Basic Piano Prep Course Level A and is about a quarter way through the Lesson Book.  When Rebecca started we also had her working with all the other books in the series – Theory, Technic, Notespeller, Activity and Ear Training, because the series was new to the teacher she had and he wanted her to order them all.  We now only use the Lesson and Theory book for each level. I usually only buy the book once and then copy it for the other kids to use so Matthew has lots of copies and lots to work with.  Most of it is colouring, I remember Rebecca complaining that she had to do more colouring (she was in Grade 2 when she started so that much colouring wasn’t very thrilling).

Matthew works diligently at his lessons as Marietta assigns them.


Each day when Marietta gets home from school he pulls out his books and is waiting to start his lessons.  He is very disappointed if he has to wait for a bit because Marietta has homework or Rebecca needs the piano first.  Often Marietta will work side by side with him, doing her own homework or piano while Matthew works on his theory.  Marietta is very good with him and they work well together.  Marietta realizes that teaching Matthew is not an example of how it would be to teach other students, Matthew is an eager student and a quick learner … two things that make for fun and fast learning.

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Matthew learned the key letters by animal names (this is how Mrs. C. taught it) – Abby Ant, Buzzing Bee, Curious Cat, Dabber Dog, Ellie Elephant, Friendly Frog, Gomer Goat – and is working on his note timing (Happy Half-Note, Quinsey Quarter-Note, Hokey Whole-Note and  Quiet Quiggly) and some basic “songs” for his fingering.


With the age gap between the girls and Matthew we see how Matthew is always striving to fit in with what the girls are doing.  For a period of time whenever the girls talked about school Matthew would talk about what he did at school that day (to the point where we began to wonder if he realize it was just his imagination).  You could tell he felt left out and wanted to be included in what they were doing.  For the past half year he has been very ready to go to school.  He used to play very well on his own but now is not so willing to play quietly by himself but wants someone to play a game with him or do interactive things with him.  He pulls out his colouring book and works on it throughout the day and just generally shows signs of being ready for school.  Since he already recognizes and writes all his letters … something he learned on his own without anyones help, and also knows the sounds of most of the letter.  I really did not want to be teaching him more as then he would find school boring next year.  He knows enough that I don’t need to worry about him next year, but I do want him to still be challenged a bit and not lose interested because it’s not stimulating him enough.  So music seemed like a good answer.  He gets to learn like the kids but it doesn’t take away from his schooling.

Hopefully they both keep at it as it’s a good experience for both of them.

After I posted I realized that I forgot to get to why I had the title Missus Teacher.  I just find it so cute when I’m working in the kitchen and I hear Matthew saying “Missus Teacher”  to Marietta.  I’m glad they’re having fun with it all.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Survived Year 3

April 27th was a day of celebration in our home … not until the afternoon … but regardless it was a day to celebrate.  Rob wrote his last exam that morning and could sigh with relief that Year 3 was behind him.  By that point in the “game” it’s not so much a question of whether he passed but simply that he survived to the end of the year … the marks will arrive in a few weeks to confirm if Year 3 is truly completed.

Year 3 has by far been the most stressful year in our house.  In reality this was not all because of the school work, but it was school related.  Rob knew that this would be a difficult year due to the courses he had to take this year, so as far as the work load goes this was no surprise.  As far as some of the other stresses that arose this was not expected and certainly caused a rollercoaster of stress throughout the year.  Rob also seemed to always have all his major large papers due at the same time making it just a little more stressful.  But in the end it all got done and the year is behind him now.  He left early Monday morning for a truck run to Calgary … while I don’t appreciate it when he’s gone for long periods, I do know that this is exactly what he needs at this time.  He loves the truck and it’s a good place for him to unwind and work through his thoughts which at this stage in the “game” are very mixed up and need some processing.

The tradition is that after the last exam pictures are taken of the student from the year and then they proceed to have a potluck lunch the the professors, professors wives and staff.  This year it did not work for us to make it to the Potluck due to an already extremely busy week and the fact that we were hosting the annual Year-End BBQ that evening.

Due to the change in the school year structure school is finished earlier now then it used to be.  This poses a problem when the tradition is to have an outdoor BBQ, picnic and fire and it’s still April.  The weather was not looking very promises as far as temperature goes, but at least there was no rain in the forecast. 


Since most of the student live in the city they did not expect the extra wind that we get out in the country which further reduces the temperature and made for a very chilly evening.  We found a corner beside the house that was in the sun and out of the wind, but even there it was still chilly.


Moving around is a better way to keep warm then just sitting in one spot.


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The BBQ is potluck style, as pretty much all student functions are, with everyone bring something.  Burgers, sausages and hotdogs were served along with salad and lots of hot chocolate. 



After supper in the shop we were all chilled to the bones and decided to move indoors for dessert to thaw out.

Johan brought dessert … the first cake he’s ever baked.  Everyone survived so it must have been okay! :)


We all piled into the living room for some chatting, joking, general good times.

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Thankfully the wind died down a little later on and we were able to get a fire roaring and spend some time outdoors around the fire, something that many are not able to do since they live in the city.  We had our chance to roast marshmellows and chat around the fire … and surprisingly even though the weather wasn’t that warm our backs weren’t even that cold sitting out there. 

There you have it … the end of the 2011/2012 school year.  The students now have four months to kick back, relax and do nothing … haha … if only!