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There’s a cross at the end of this week, but I’m having a hard time finding it.

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It still seems silly, the whole Easter candy thing, but I bought chocolate Easter bunnies in Walmart last week. Five of them (four for the boys and one for the mom who wondered aloud if babies got Easter treats). Then I read about ethical chocolate and now I have chocolate guilt because I’m guessing these bunnies are the unethical sort. And what does any of it have to do with that looming cross, anyway?

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The wind is cold and last year’s soggy leaves cover the ground and inside we are all coughing and blowing our sore noses and it’s hard to find the holy in this week that’s named such. There’s that cross waiting down the road a ways but when I sit and try to think on it for a bit, my eyes close and my thoughts wander and I feel bad when I can’t make myself feel what I want to feel. It’s not the end of the world, I tell myself, but it’s my world and we’re sick and that’s real life, right now.

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Sometimes, writing real things feels like complaining. And not very holy at all.

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I’ve never watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, except for the parts that have been played during communion from time to time. I resisted watching it when it first came out, even though I got raised eyebrows and was told it was something every Christian should see. I resisted though, because I’ve learned the movie is never as good as the book and I really like that book. And I wasn’t sure I wanted the movie to play in my mind every time I read those verses or thought about those events. I know it’s a movie some people watch this week to help them feel the holy.

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The moon was blood red one night this week, Passover, but I forgot to look and the lunar eclipse happened without my experiencing of it. Isn’t that just the way it is sometimes. The event happens whether I remember to experience it or not. The documentation is all I have to go by. Other people’s writing of it. Other people’s pictures of it. It’s like that this holy week. I’m reading other people’s holy words, seeing holy through their eyes. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got, and it’s better than nothing.

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There’s a cross at the end of this week. And a weeping mother and a bleeding son and mocking crowd. I wish my heart would engage more with it all. I’m not sure why it won’t – maybe it’s all that coughing – but that’s honesty and real life for you. Sometimes, I have to simply know and honour, even when I can’t feel. God knows why the feelings are absent. God knows.

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When you get home from a great weekend and boom, life begins right where it left off with the kids and the kitchen and all those life things that jump up in front of you like grasshoppers when you’re summer-walking the back roads behind the house.

For a while you do great, fending off the bugs and fixing lunches and you feel prayerful and joyful and thankful, and then you catch the baby’s cold and there’s a phone call that sets you on edge and you miss having that Saturday morning breakfast with your husband, and a week passes and it’s Monday again and you start the day with a sigh.

And that joy stuff slips away without you realizing and instead of smiling you’re gritting your teeth.

But you remember what you said back when you were talking about joy, about how it’s not about success but about surrender. And how it doesn’t come from accomplishment but from acceptance. And how it’s not something you manage through muscle, but it’s how you breathe.

It’s breathing him in and breathing him out.

You remember all that and you blow your sore, red nose and you slip into the day, knowing joy will find you there.

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I spoke at a Spring Renewal on the weekend. I mean, I spoke a tiny bit. Mainly I soaked my soul in words and music and the fellowship of a gathering of beautiful people. My soul needed that bath. And it came away fresh and perfumed and lotioned with Holy Spirit joy.

But the tiny speaking bit was fun too. I shared some words about joy and Jesus and the cool thing was having my husband sit in one of the classes. I’ve never taught a class to my husband before. It was odd, for sure, but kind of wonderful at the same time. To look out into the crowd and to see his face there.

I think I saw good things in his face.

After, when they asked a couple of people to come up and pray over me, my husband mouthed an apology to me from his seat. I’d cry, he said, and that was the most wonderful, prayerful compliment I could have received.

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It’s not about food. Well, maybe it could be about food, kind of. But no, not really. It’s about real life living and what living well means and how sometimes it might mean scraping the cold nasty peas off my analogous plate to make a bit of room for dessert.

I wrote a post yesterday about being full. As in overeating to the point of uncomfortable, can’t-do-anything-because-you-can’t-move kind of full. I’ve been there, sure. I’ve felt like I never want to eat again, but you know what? I always do. And actually, yesterday’s post wasn’t really about food, either.

I’ve been thinking about this whole thing of balance and I’m even quite sure I’ve written about it here before, but I’m just a bit too lazy to go looking through the old stuff to find out. I’ve probably changed my mind about it all since then, anyway.

I like the idea of a balanced life, in theory. Like I like the idea of a balanced diet. It sounds good and healthy and there are charts and apps and you-name-it to help me with either of those good goals.

But real life is sort of random. Real life doesn’t always follow the rules. And sometimes, real life wants more than what you can get from a pie chart.

Sometimes, real life wants pie.

And sometimes, real life eats pie even when real life is already kind of stuffed.

I’m over-working the analogy, I know, but I think there’s something in there for me to think about. Instead of getting upset with myself for over-doing (my word for the year is “do” after all) I think I want to enjoy the meal as best I can. And if I’m starting to feel too full, well, maybe I’ll set that cheesecake aside and eat it tomorrow. For breakfast.

I’ve had a season of fullness. I’ve heaped my plate to overflowing and I’ve done my best to eat it all up. But I’m realizing it’s okay to toss some of what isn’t so tasty anymore. Don’t you think? I’ve eaten some veggies and I’ve finished most of it. And most of the time I don’t take more than I should.

It just happens once in a while, after all. And I know I’ll be hungry again soon.

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There are times when, figuratively, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

I mean, there are such great things out there to feast on. Classes and opportunities and exciting challenges and good books. I find at times I load my plate with way too many tasty tidbits. And then I try to eat them all. I try to clean my plate because I chose it all in the first place, you know, but when you are too full, nothing tastes good.

It’s a waste, I suppose. But I think I’d rather heap my plate full than miss out on that great curry.

Sometimes, though, you have push back from the table and digest for a while.

And put the leftovers in the freezer for later.

I send them out to clean the veranda. To wipe away the trailing threads of last years busy arachnids. To clean for spring. So out they go, cloths and brooms in hand but with their minds on other things. Just doing what their mother asks. And it takes them all of about five minutes.

I call them back and from the kitchen window I point out the mess still there. The mess that can only be seen by looking up. The mess that is hiding in the crevices of the ceiling. Oh, they say. We didn’t notice.

Out they go again, with brooms high above their heads this time. Looking up and cleaning the rest.

And it makes me think of the messes in my life, the hidden garbage that dangles out of sight above my head. And of the time I spend just doing what I’m told, my mind on other things. Doing my job, cleaning what is in front of me, but ignoring what is less obvious.

It can fill a day, a life … doing the least that I can get away with. If I don’t look up, that is.

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So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

from tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

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This post was first published two years ago. Time flies. The boys and I have been spring cleaning again this past week. I’m reminded that these are things that happen, over and over. And the spiders return with their webs and the mess, and I still need to remember to look up.

Some things happen quickly. A fast food burger, an internet search, an email. Quick, quick and on to the next thing, and it’s hard to adjust to the things that take their time.

Like a fixing a meal that doesn’t require a can opener, or reading a book instead of a blog post, or raising the kids or planting a garden or making a friend.

Fast has its place. Fast is about getting it done and moving on.

But time-taking, and the personal investment that requires… that’s living.

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Carter’s donkey, Joy, did not arrive in a ready-to-go box. No instant friendship or skipping steps to get to the fun stuff.

This one will take time. That’s a good thing for a boy living in a Hurry Hurry world.

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I’ve been reading/thinking/wondering about joy lately. The people kind, not the donkey kind. And about how joy takes time. Can joy be a habit? Can I deliberately do things to make me a more joyful person? I need to figure this out, because I’m talking about this very thing next weekend, and I’m still not sure.

And if you are wondering, Carter and Joy have spent this past year getting to know each other better. I don’t know if they’d call each other friends, yet. But they’re getting there.

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