Getting Settled (September 2009)

Here are some of the things we did in our first month in Aberdeen.

We discovered the Train Park:

We had no idea it would become one of our favourite hangouts!

Peek! Jesse looks through the train

We discovered some strange mini beasts:

You can't tell, but this spider was as big as Brady's palm!

Snail hiding after the boys over-turned a rock

Elijah and Brady started school:

The boys put on brave faces for their first day at Sunnybank Primary School

Walking on a garden wall on the way to school

We explored the city:

Taking the bus for the first time

At Castlegate, where Union and King meet

Walking down Union Street

We played in the North Sea:

Matty loved the sand on his feet

The water was cold, but it was oh so fun to try and beat the waves!

We hung out in our back garden:

The boys on the garden wall

Matty and Jesse loved exploring the back garden. They always stuck close together.

It took some time to get used to hanging laundry. Can you spot the cuties exploring?

We celebrated Jon’s birthday:

Happy Birthday Jon! At Dunnottar Castle

Playing with Keziah and Naomi at the harbour in Stonehaven

Elijah and Brady were very brave and did so well with all the adjustments that came in that first month. By the end of September we were smitten with this fine city and had already settled into a wonderful church (called The Mission) full of very special people.

It All Started As…

A Dream

Then we had some funny pictures taken

On August 31, 2009, when Elijah was 6, Brady was 4, and Jesse and Matty were 9 months old, we said good-bye to our family and friends in Canada and began a 3-part journey: Edmonton to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam to Aberdeen! It was not easy. At all.

(These pictures are deceptive as they were taken on our first flight, when everyone was still in good spirits and sleep was not lacking.)

Finally we saw it! Scotland!

Next thing we knew, we were walking on new streets in our new city.

And it didn’t take long for Aberdeen to steal our hearts.

Homeward Bound

So, we have our tickets booked. We are moving back to Canada on 26 July. I am very excited! And extremely sad.

King's College, April 2011

Our time here has been incredible. Scotland is a beautiful country with beautiful people. We have made some wonderful friends and had some wonderful experiences that we will never forget.

I am hoping to go back over the last few years and post some pictures and memories of some of the highlights of our time here. Stay tuned…

(Not so) Interesting Stuff

Just thought I’d let you know a few things that have been going on around here:

In an effort to ‘go green’ I have been washing my face with oil for the past 3 weeks.

I have also cut down my habit of daily hair washing. For the past 2 weeks I have been washing my hair every other day. When my shampoo runs out I will not buy more. Instead, I will use baking soda and water.

Likewise, I have once again stopped using shampoo on the little dudes. When the big boys run out of shampoo, we will not be replacing it, either.

I am switching from plastic bottles of hand soap and body wash to bars of soap. (Less waste/recycling.)

On a different note, Mattias broke his leg jumping on a trampoline 4 weeks ago today. Next Monday he gets his full leg cast off. He is doing pretty well, limping along with his bright blue leg.

Brady’s eye has (mostly) stopped dripping dirt. For the longest time, his eye (which is quite watery) was dripping dirty tears that would stain his cheek. It still happens on occasion, but it isn’t constant like it was for a while there.

The Lord’s Prayer – Give us what we need each day… Part Two

A few posts back I wrote about the line: Give us this day our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer and how it was, once again, challenging me. (In order for this to make sense, it might be worthwhile to go back and read that post.)

The other way this particular line of The Lord’s Prayer is once again striking me is in praying for what we need, not what we want each day. I think sometimes it is easy to blur the line between what it is that I actually need each day, and the things that are merely wants.

Am I selfishly and without thought spending the money we have on things that are completely unnecessary? How much is too much of a ‘necessary’ thing? Am I being a good steward of what God has blessed me with already? Am I squandering away the money that God has provided for us on extras?

On Saturday we were out with the boys and I was so tempted on so many occasions to buy a cute little this and a cool little that for the boys. It is so easy to justify purchases, especially when they are for others. But that is not good stewardship.

Take the very real example that is weighing heavily on my mind these days: We are in Aberdeen, SCOTLAND, so Jon can get his PhD! We do feel that we are where we are supposed to be at this time, but we are wrestling with whether or not we should stay here for a third year of studies come fall. There have been so many amazing financial gifts that have come to us at just the right times over the last two years. God is providing for us in amazing ways. But we are in debt. And we will (most likely) be much further in debt if we stay another year. So I struggle with deciphering whether a desire to stay another year is complete selfishness: a want, but not a need. That makes me wonder if perhaps it is inappropriate to pray that God would provide for such a thing.

(On the other hand, going home could be seen as being equally selfish as I have such a desire to have our boys grow up closer to family. And the blessing of knowing that we would have a cheap place to live in Canada accents my lack of faith and perhaps shows another level of selfishness.)

All that to say, in the end, I don’t know what to pray in this regard. Do I pray we are able to stay here in Scotland or do I pray we are able to go back to Canada? I really don’t know. So instead of praying for one or the other, I ask Him for wisdom and for unity of thought for me and Jon as we seek to do the best thing for our family.

If I could do it over again…

Mother's Day 2009

Me and my boys, May 2009

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been re-reading Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Last night I was struck by a story that Kimmel tells in Chapter 7, ‘The Freedom to Be Different’, and I want to share it here.

Whenever I read great or interesting magazine articles, I file them away for future reference. I’ll never forget the impact one article had on me as a father.

The writer had penned one of those “If I could do it over again…” type articles about being a dad. He listed various things that he wished he could go back and do differently with his children, who were now grown. One of the things he said went something like this: “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about my son wanting to go to sleep with his desk chair on his bed.” There was an explanation that went with this incredible statement. Apparently, his son (in the three- to four-year-old range) really liked the desk chair in his room. Every night, he wanted to have his mom or dad put the chair on his bed—near hs feet on top of the bedspread. When they asked why, he’d say things like “I really love it” or “I just enjoy going to sleep with it.” When they asked what was wrong with the chair staying where it was since it was still close by, he’d tell them how much he preferred having his desk chair on his bedspread as he fell asleep. When they resisted his requests, he’d get teary-eyed or actually start crying. His parents would scold him, and he’d cry more. On those occasions when they accommodated his wild request, he’d always tell them how thankful he was. What was most amazing about those nights was how easily he would fall asleep.

For the most part, however, his parents (especially his father) would make a scene about putting the desk chair on his bed, which always led to the tears and the shouts. When they did let him sleep with his desk chair, they’d stop by the room before their bedtime, and invariably his sleep movements had already knocked the chair to the floor. They’d roll the chair back to his desk, wish their son sweet dreams, and close the door. Every morning, their boys was fine.

As this father looked back on those months of nights that their son had cried himself to sleep because of their refusal of his simple request, he was overwhelmed with regret. He realized after the fact that his son’s request, though weird… was not evil. There were no moral issues at stake, and any parent who would try and make one is simply not willing to see the obvious. This father, with the advantage of time and the wisdom gained from years of foolish decisions, wondered why he hadn’t gladly picked up the chair, set it gently at his son’s feet, and not made the least little issue of it.

…. This was a father that wished he could go back and exhibit more grace in his son’s life. (pp 143-145)

I teared up as I read this story. Then I sputtered and cried as I read it aloud to Jon. What am I keeping my boys from doing that would make them happy and, in turn, make me happier, too? In what ways am I letting my OCD tendencies take over and run the show?

If Matty wants to bring his penguin AND his puppy to pick up Elijah and Brady from school, what’s the big deal? Why do I feel the need to insist he brings just one or the other (or on occasion, none)? Yes, there is a 75% chance that he will end up dropping one (or both) of them. And with Mattias there is a 95% chance that he will fall and they will be wet and muddy by the time we get home. (Oh, and that means that my jeans will also be wet and muddy, as they have become the place to wipe all things dirty.) But there are worse things. And so what if he insists on wearing a Thomas shirt EVERY SINGLE DAY! (He and Jesse do share 5 of them, after all!)

Matty loves Thomas!

I want love and acceptance of my boys and their unique qualities to over-ride my selfishness. My personal desires. My “good sense”.

In twenty years, I want to be able to say, “If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!”

An Awesome Children’s Bible: The Jesus Storybook Bible

We moved to Aberdeen and (gasp!) left our children’s Bible in Canada. So we decided recently that it was time to get off our backsides and get our boys some Bibles! Saturday morning we headed down to George Street to see what we could find.

In the end we got four Bibles, one for each of the boys. Elijah chose The Action Bible. It is pretty perfect for him right now. It is done in cartoon fashion. He started reading it as soon as we got home and didn’t want to stop, even reading between his turns while we played Pick Up Sticks.

Brady chose The Christian Focus Story Bible. It’s not bad, but we did try and talk him out of it.

Jon and I chose 2 for the twins. The first one is Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It is really neat — the stories are illustrated by many different artists, and are so different from one another.

A friend of ours, Melissa, did some major research on Bibles aimed at kids a few years ago, so we took her advice and bought the one she found to be the best. Our fourth and final Bible purchased on Saturday was The Jesus Storybook Bible. And let me tell you, it is AMAZING! (Thanks Melissa!)

Here is an awesome quote from the introduction:

God wrote, ‘I love you’ — he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror — to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.

The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims.

And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called ‘the Bible.’

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is — it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell His story. And at the centre of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

Man! It gives me goosebumps! If you are in the market for a Bible to read with your kids, you really need to consider this one.

A Pathetic Goal for 2011

I had a day to myself early in January. While I was sitting in a coffee shop I decided to think about some goals for the year. One of those goals was to read 12 books in 2011. Yes, I said 12.

I love to read. But I honestly can’t say that I have read 12 books in the last 2 years. Thus, the reason for making a goal of reading one book per month.

And guess what!? I read 2.5 books in January alone! Yahoo! Following in the footsteps of Jon, I will be giving the books I read this year a rating out of ten. So here they are, the illustrious books that have thus far reached my night table this year:

First I read The Bell by Iris Murdoch. Iris Murdoch is a great author, I have discovered. She is well worth reading. I hope to make it to the library in the next few days to find another of her novels.

As for The Bell in particular, the subject matter was at times uncomfortable. Overall, though, I found I had trouble putting down and didn’t want it to end. I think that’s a good sign!

* 7.5/10

Next, I read Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie. I am embarrassed to admit that this was my first Agatha Christie read. I enjoyed it a lot, too.

It was a fun read with lots of twists. This is what I would call a holiday book: the kind that you bring on vacation and read when you get the chance, whether it’s 5 minutes here or an hour there.

* 6/10

I have also been reading Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. This is one that I have read before but in December I decided give it another, more thorough read-through. I don’t fully agree with everything that Kimmel says. I have also found it a bit daunting at times. But I love the basic idea behind this book and it has challenged me in many aspects of parenting. I will hold off on giving it a rating until I finish this reading of it.

Give me a while for this one!


I have not included this little number in my 2.5 books read so far this year. Another goal that I have this year is to read through the Bible in chronological order in 6 months.

The Lord’s Prayer – Give us what we need each day… Part One

Many years ago, we wanted to teach Elijah and Brady The Lord’s Prayer. We also wanted it to make some sense to them, so Jon made a kid-friendly version. We would say it together each night at bedtime and it went something like this:

Our Father in Heaven, Your name is great!
We want You to have Your way
On Earth just like in Heaven.
Please give us what we need each day;
Forgive all our bad things as we forgive each other.
Help us to do good; save us from evil.
For the world is Yours, and the power and the glory,
Forever and ever. Amen. So be it.

It was a nice way to finish off a day with the boys, praying the words that Jesus prayed.

A few months ago Jon began a series during our Sunday morning services at The Mission on The Lord’s Prayer. This time, he decided that instead of using his kid-friendly version (which he says he would change now anyway), he’d go back to the original (non-KJV) version. It was a 6 week series and each week the kids would review the part of the prayer that they had learned up to that point and then Jon would give a brief ‘lesson’ on that day’s section. It was a wonderful opportunity to study Scripture intergenerationally. (But that’s a bit off topic.)

So, anyway, the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about this special prayer and what I can learn from it afresh. The line that has been jumping out at me again and again is:

‘Give us this day our daily bread’ or in our kid-friendly version, ‘Give us what we need each day’.

I am reminded, once again, that what Jesus taught us to pray was not that God would provide what we need in the future, but what we need today.

What do we need today? Sometimes I think that what I need today is some assurance that God will provide for us tomorrow. But in truth, he’s already given me that, I am just good at forgetting it. If I am thinking clearly, I can look back on my life and see so many times when God provided (sometimes quite miraculously, I would say) for us. More times than that, I admit, I can look back and see times when I have worried and stressed and cried out to God, desperate for him to provide for tomorrow, unable to rest in the knowledge that God had provided in the past and would continue to take care of us each day.

At the moment, I find myself in that same place, restless and worried about our future finances. Do I think that things are going to change and that God is suddenly going to stop providing for us? No. But I worry that we are not being good stewards of what God has given us; I wonder if we are spending frivolously on extras we don’t need. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

Oh that I would truly live simply and with a thankful heart, fully aware of Who has given me everything I have, which is more than I need or deserve or ever imagined He would bless me with.

It’s been a while

We’ve had a busy month or so.

There were lots of things going on in December, not the least of which, was Brady’s sixth birthday!

Happy Birthday Brady!

And another valiant attempt at doing a Jesse tree leading up to Christmas day. Maybe by next year I’ll have my act in gear enough to do it all the way to Epiphany. That’s my goal, anyway.

Our first 11 days of advent. I forgot to take a picture on/after Christmas day. (More on the Jesse tree later.)

And of course, Christmas,

Christmas jammies from Grandma & Grandpa Z

which included a visit from Dave and Amy and began very stressfully with a call from the police letting us know they had been in a car accident near Glasgow. Thankfully, Amy ‘only’ had whiplash and a sprained wrist and Dave’s broken back was stable so Jon was able to bring them home on Christmas Eve!

Despite the broken back, Dave was a trooper and we were able to get out and about and see lots of good stuff with them before they headed back home.

It was a wonderfully foggy day at Dunnottar

Saying goodbye in Edinburgh