Sunday, May 14, 2006

celebrating jonna

some of you may already know that jonna is a special family holiday. it was instituted years ago when b was fed up with halloween, which she understood as extolling ugliness, evil, and death. she wanted to have a holiday that would be the exact opposite — one that honours all that is beautiful and good and full of the life of God. so every year on may 13th (the anniversary of b's baptism, which she counts as her christian birthday), we celebrate jonna. it's a time for b to reflect on her life as a child of God, to consider what he has revealed about himself and how she has grown, and to share her hopes for the coming year. it's also a time for the rest of us to praise God for his continuing faithfulness and generosity.

this year, we went with international friend y to marathon souvlaki, b's favourite restaurant in canada. in between enjoying the garlic toast, souvlaki, fries, and tzatziki, we had the chance to ask b to share about her walk with Jesus. her responses revealed a depth and maturity that delighted and impressed us. here's a taste of what she shared:

what words of God have been an encouragement to you in the past year?

jeremiah 29: 11-14 — for i know the thoughts that i think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and i will listen to you. and you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. i will be found by you, says the LORD, and i will bring you back from your captivity; i will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where i have driven you, says the LORD, and i will bring you to the place from which i cause you to be carried away captive.

philippians 4:6-7 — be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through christ Jesus.

isaiah 41:10 — fear not, for i am with you; be not dismayed, for i am your God. i will strengthen you, yes, i will help you, i will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

what have been the saddest and happiest things that God has revealed to you over this past year or two?

saddest: learning that i need God. it's not a sad lesson to learn, but all that it took to learn that lesson has been very sad. there's been so much loss and so many painful experiences. before we moved to montreal, i loved God, but i didn't realize that i needed him to live every day. now i do.

happiest: discovering that God knows what is good for me, even better than i do. i didn't think so at first — i thought God was wrecking my life — but he has given things i never would've thought to ask for:
  • my school, which gave me the chance to take advanced placement exams in 10th grade, afforded me a place to compete on the track team, is offering a trip to costa rica next year, features a public awards ceremony and honour roll list, supportive teachers, and so much more. it's a great place to be;
  • international christmas. we were away in a safe place with people from around the world, who were mixing, enjoying one another, sharing their cultures, and becoming friends. it was all the goodness of ethnic diversity without the racism and segregation that so often taint it.
until we moved here, i really thought i knew better; after all, who could know my life and desires better than me? thinking about it, this is still not my favourite place in the world, but i guess something good did come out of coming here. and i never would've expected it.

last year, you mentioned growing in joy and in reading the bible. how are you doing in those areas?

with respect to joy, i know there is a ways to go, but i feel more stable, happier. i sleep more peacefully.

with respect to bible reading, i've read matthew, mark, and luke, and i've read jonah in french, which was a lot of fun.

how do you hope to grow in the coming year?

i hope to trust God more. if i do, i expect to be less anxious and to have more hope that God will cause things to work out for good.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

there's no place like home

on sunday, about 20 of us gathered for inter-varsity's eastern canada staff days in new brunswick; it was my first look at the province — what a beautiful place! the terrain is textured, with rolling hills, forests, rivers, and picturesque lakes. the little housing complex we inhabited (loaned by generous donors) was right on the shore of skiff lake — a gorgeous morning sight from my bedroom window. it's always a great time away when you're studying the scriptures (in this case, a section of the gospel according to mark) with a group of sharp, highly motivated people who are already laying down their lives for the gospel. i could, however, do without the swarming insects — especially the biting black flies

yesterday, after a nine hour road trip, i finally arrived back home to the warm welcome of my family. m made a delicious dinner. b told me about her track meet (finishing first in her 100m and 200m heats) and shared with me the essay questions from her advanced placement english exam. n wanted to show me the test from her math contest, which we went over problem by problem. and to top it all off, they had a pecan pie waiting for me. it was a sweet homecoming, in every way!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"i see smart people, but they don't know they're smart…"

well, actually, they do. but n and b are pretty nice about it. the third term report cards are in, and both of them finished with astonishing 94 averages. that wouldn't be that amazing, but it includes their french marks (a subject where the girls are at a bit of a disadvantage, having arrived in quebec less than 2 years ago). how good is a 94? well, it put b into a tie for first in her class for the second term in a row and slotted n in the third spot in her class, just two points out of first.

and school isn't all they've been up to. between soccer and track (b), drama and youth orchestra (n), tutoring and community service (b), violin lessons (n) and leadership in their youth group (both)… well, let's just say that they have very full lives. sometimes, they're up way too late for my taste, finishing projects and preparing for exams; i worry about whether maybe they work too hard. still, it's difficult not to be impressed by their drive and commitment.

the trick from here on out will be for them to learn to prioritize, to focus on the things that really matter. that'll mean saying 'no' to some good things, so that they can give themselves to the best things. and that's not an easy lesson for anyone.

so what's next? well, b is slated for an advanced placement exam (for university credit) in english literature today and for a track meet next week. she regularly weighs her options for life beyond high school — a scant 14 months away, though "who's counting?" as she likes to say. n is preparing for a youth orchestra performance in just over a week and has just joined a chamber music group. in her spare time, she is making her bid to become the tallest person in our family (not that that's a huge accomplishment, but someone has to do it!).

Monday, May 01, 2006


these are a couple of our favourite relatives. above is baby s, the latest addition to the pratzner clan (m's sister and brother-in-law). below is big sister l (known in our family as chocolate before she was officially named because "everybody loves chocolate!"), who joined the family a couple of years ago. too cute for words, aren't they?

imagine how their mom and dad must feel about them. it took a lot of waiting and praying for these two to become a part of their new family; literally years of longing and hoping, of pain and disappointment, of hard work and great cost and even suffering are wrapped up in these two tiny packages.

those first photos they received from china must've thrilled mom and dad, setting into motion a thousand dreams about what it would be like to hold their babies for the first time, about nurturing them into toddlerhood, about the day when each precious bundle in their arms would understand that these weren't just kind people, but their own dad and mom — the ones who love them more than anyone in the whole world, who knew them before they ever knew their parents, who loved them before they even had a relationship with them. l and s are special, in part, because they were pre-loved (a term i first heard used by pastor ken fong at urbana 2003).

and the dreaming won't stop. as the years go by, the dreams will grow in scope and complexity. think of all that these two might be, might do some day — partly because of what dad and mom are giving them. yes, all of their parents' resources will be utilized for their benefit. but the real gift is more than a house to live in or clothes to wear or fun toys or the chance to receive an education, as important as all of those things might be. the real gift is everything that comes with belonging to someone, sharing their name, and receiving their nurture and discipline and encouragement and guidance. it's an on-going relationship of love.

if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. it's the echo of a deeper story that undergirds all of history, of a voice that is still calling to you and me.

so also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. but when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his son… that we might receive the adoption as sons. because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying, “abba! father!” therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. galatians 4:3-7