June 2011

It is the last day of June. The year is half over, midpoint 2011. Time, perhaps, to take stock of the year so far. A midterm checkup, so to speak, before the last half of the year goes barreling on by. A review.

Stopping to reflect, to check in. To contemplate the time already spent. To refocus, reorient, reconsider all that had been planned at the beginning and where, at the half way, I am. So I remember, six months ago, the things I considered as goals for this (then) new year. To be nicer, healthier, to read the story in the Word, to be free from debt. Pretty standard stuff, really. Listable and checkable. Yep, doing okay here but oops, need to do a bit more work there.

I think I have been a little nicer. I’ve been conscious of it, anyway. Healthier? Well, I don’t know. It is up and down. Reading … I’m in Exodus. I love Exodus. I have a half-written post about Exodus. I’ve been distracted. Reading other things and not getting back to it. Inconsistent. (My husband slogged determinedly through Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and now he is already into Second Kings. He’s having a ball. All the battles and beheadings and bloodshed. It’s better than Lord of the Rings, he says. There’s a lot of stuff in here they didn’t teach us in Sunday School, he says. They left out all the best parts, he says!) And the debt thing. We’re getting there!

But the one I didn’t voice. The goal, the desire, kept close to heart, of openness, courage, transparency. Of living life out loud, in the moment, and through Him. Of doing what He says to do, living like He says to live, and … writing it down. For anyone to see. This is why I journal it and post it and facebook it, fearfully each time. What will they think? How will it be interpreted? Is it too much? Will I look silly? Is it just vanity?

And this has been the hardest. To be honest, to truly share a life. My life. This life, my one life, placed in His hands and yet constantly wrenched back in fear. Given and reclaimed. His and mine. The struggle of giving it up to become it all. Much easier to commentate, to write anecdotally about other people and events. But to share what He is doing in me, or how I am so often messing it all up … that is more difficult.

I am preparing, with others, to begin a season of workshops with women on sharing stories. Encouraging women to tell their stories. Believing with all of my heart that it is through this sharing that we truly become the church, the people, the women, that God intended for us to be. Stories are glue. Through our stories we understand each other better, care about each other more, trust. Sharing your story is like having a friend into your home. The relationship changes. Deepens. Community is created. Church, real church, happens.

But how can I ask for your story if I do not consent to tell mine?

So, on entering the second half of the year I’ll recommit to the telling. The sharing. Because it is what He asks me to do. It is what He asks us all to do.

I love this picture. The Reptile Gardens in the Black Hills, almost exactly one year ago. I love how into it Carter is. That snake followed his hand for several minutes, waving all over the place. An amazing game of follow-the-leader. Carter was entranced. I love that Tyson and Colton are reflected in the glass. I think this is my favourite picture from last summer.

Summer has been a guest slow to arrive this year. Weather has been the main topic of conversation. Old farmers in coffee shops talking about the rain and the flooding and I haven’t seen it this bad since

Soon the boys will be finished with math and the rest and there will be some time, I hope. Some rest and some long easy days. Reading and swimming and fun. Oh, this mom is looking forward to it!

I was in a restaurant the other day. Okay, it was McDonalds, but whatever. Anyway, there was a group of teenagers sitting at the table next to us. They were talking so loudly, just having fun, that they were annoying everyone in the entire restaurant.

The older man and woman sitting across from me kept stealing glances at them, and the woman actually put her hands over her ears for awhile. Everywhere, people were shaking their heads and tsk, tsking, but, you know, we’re Canadians so nobody actually said anything to the noisy group. The boys and I were saying “what” after every attempt at conversation. We finally looked at each other and burst out laughing. I turned around and asked the kids to be a little quieter. And they did. And everyone in the restaurant breathed a collective sigh and gave me high five eyes. Because, you know, we’re Canadians so we wouldn’t actually verbally acknowledge each other. But I felt the love. I was the McDonalds hero!

Bob Goff, who I don’t know but who I’ve absolutely loved ever since I heard about him through Donald Miller, who I also do not know but whom I am also very fond of, said something I’ve been thinking about. He says a lot of things I really like, but this is my point to ponder recently. This is what he said:

Do something heroic every day.

Really, Bob? Do something HEROIC? Every day? Is it possible? I think I could count on one hand all the times I have been even slightly heroic in my entire life.

A daily heroic act. What would that consist of?

As I’ve thought about it, it seems that doing something heroic would involve three basic things:

1. Doing: an action that

2. Something: has some kind of story or meaning attached to it

3. Heroic: and requires meaningful effort, expense, sacrifice, involvement, investment … on the part of the doer.

I think I’ll give it a go. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Oh ya. One of THOSE days. A day that started early and felt like it should be over by noon. A day like a bad sitcom, without the laugh track. A day where I said the wrong thing and did the wrong thing and didn’t say or do the right things. A day that reminds me that I am completely human. A day of doing much and accomplishing little. I blame it on the rainy weather and the postal strike and the children. I blame it on whatever I can think of. I wallow a bit, feel sad, feel tired. Bark at the kids for barking at each other.

I sit for a minute, sigh, mumble a prayer, and ask His help to redeem the time that is left in this day.

And I wonder, again, why it is so easy for me to let go of joy? Why it is easier, sometimes, to harbour unhappiness, to share my time with resentment, to fuss.

Deep down, I know the answer.

I know it is because I have let myself believe the lies. The ones that whisper their untruths into my heart. You are not good enough. People can see right through you, right through to the mess. You are failing your children. You are failing.

And sometimes, crazy as it seems, I give in and I believe. I let the lies steal what I know is true. That I am loved. That I live in daily grace. That there is beauty and purpose and joy even in the mess. There is beauty, even in the mess.

Be still and know that I am God.

… so I sit, still, and I KNOW.

I know the plans I have for you.

… so I sit, still, and I KNOW.

You are a holy vessel.

… so I sit, still, and I KNOW.

And the knowing seeps deep into my heart, and covers the lies. The knowing bathes the hurt; it is a salve. The knowing gives purpose to the doing. The knowing fills the emptiness and turns human into holy.

Be still and know.

Dads and their boys. In our house, that translates into noise, wrestling, disagreements, hugs, challenges, competition, and I love you’s. It is a busy, messy, stinky world … this world of men. But I love it, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

He’s a great guy, this husband of mine. He loves to be outside and he loves to have fun. He loves nature, his God, and his family. He works hard to be a good provider, a good husband, and a great dad. He’s a keeper!

I was visiting with women, stumbling to communicate, on the driveway of the little Mexican church when my seven-year-old and his playmates came up to me. In my ear I heard the gasp of a woman beside me and I turned and saw my son, blood streaming red down his face and covering the front of his shirt. In a second I registered the white of his face and the fear in his eyes and the blood. My knees gave a little and my breath left me as I reached for him and tried to gather him, bloody, into my arms.

Voices explaining. His little friend describing the climbing and the bumping and the falling. I’m going to lose it, I said to my sister, and she led us to a chair and we sat and we searched for the source of the red.

In the end, the injury was less dramatic than the scene warranted. Relief. No need for hospitals or stitches. But the feeling, the awful unknown, the sight of my bleeding boy … that will never leave me.

I think of another mother and another bleeding son. The tearing of her heart. The wanting to run to him, to gather him, bleeding, to her. The fear. The remembering of baby at breast, and toddler in kitchen, and chubby arms giving sweet hugs, and first day of school, and letting go. The picture of him, imprinted on mother’s heart, covered in streaming red, mocked and disrespected.

Often, Mary, I have thought of you and your boy. From mother-heart to mother-heart, I have thought of you and your son, the Son, and thanked you for your courage. And I am awfully, undeservingly thankful … for the blood.

Abraham Maslow, humanistic psychologist famous for his Hierarchy of Needs diagram, apparently said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” I saw this quote used as a Facebook status today and it struck a chord with me. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. This whole communication thing. I hope I have more than a hammer in my communication toolbox.

Communication. It is simple and basic and yet so darned complex. The reciprocal sharing of thoughts and ideas. Why is this the number one difficulty in relationships?

I guess it is because relationships are, at their core, about relating. Good relating is key to good relationship-ing.Whether in a marriage, a company, or a church … relating is the whole point. Otherwise, why bother?

But we mess it up. Because of The Fall, and all. That original relationship, between God and His creation, was perfect. Everything Adam and Eve needed to feel good about themselves (to be self-actualized, as Maslow would say) was found in their relationships with God. They were completed by Him. And then they weren’t.

It was no longer perfect. God couldn’t have the same relationship with His people anymore. And ever since, we’ve been struggling to find that completeness, that fulfillment, in our relationships with others. And doing a rather poor job of it.

True, Jesus is perfect for us. His sacrifice allows us to reenter that relationship with God, but it won’t be perfect again until Heaven. And so we continue, I continue, to try to validate myself through my relationships. Which means, communication is typically about me. My point. My ideas. My brilliant plans. My attempts to seem like a good person. That doesn’t mean communicating is never productive or positive or … good. But it is and always will be a struggle. Good communication with be a challenge. I will have difficulty making myself known, and you will have difficulty hearing and understanding my attempts to do that.

But hey, knowing the problem exists goes a long way toward overcoming it. Just acknowledging that communication is hard, really hard, and that we all have difficulty with it, helps. It puts me in a frame of mind that is more receptive to my communication partner. My ears open wider. My heart is more sensitive. I care more about what the other guy is saying. I’m less likely to become defensive or judgemental. Cool.

So … goal for the day. Be a better communicator by acknowledging how easy it is to be a poor one. Listen more. Talk less. Care.

My baby. The last one. The dark head in a sea of blonde. The one who kept me up at night more than any other, who fussed with every single diaper change, who nursed backward! Today he is ten, the age of miracles. Double-digits, finally.

This boy, so different from his older brothers, has brought so much into my life. His questions challenge me. His fierce love amazes me. When the fire of passion is lit in him, it is consuming.

When he was born, I marvelled at his head of dark hair. His piercing blue eyes. His dimples. His inability to sleep for more than ten minutes at a time. He enchanted me and he exhausted me. He still does.

This child is energy in motion. When I would sneak down to my quiet sanctuary in the early morning for a bit of reflection and tea, he would join me within minutes. He would want my lap and my arms and my attention and how do I read and ponder with these arms and legs and wiggles taking up my quiet?

I would try this: I’ll wrap you in this warm blanket and you can curl up on the couch while Mommy reads.

And he would answer: But you’re warmer than a blanket.

Warmer than a blanket. Ah, mommyness defined by a child.

Today he is ten. Leaving babyhood behind. Quickly moving up and away. I watch him, still full on movement and energy and passion and life. I think of the ten years past, and wonder about the ten years ahead, and I know they will pass in a moment. In just an instant I will be hugging a tall twenty-year-old and will be thinking back on what is yet to be.

Bless this boy. Bless this next decade. I pray these next years will take this whirlwind of a boy on a journey into adulthood … his energy directed, his passion focused. I pray he will be offered the experiences that will mature him. I pray for joy and love in his life. And I pray for challenges that will sharpen him. And for people along the way to mentor him.

But today … well, today he is my baby. And I wish him the happiest of birthdays. Cake and ice cream and friends and fun.

Happy birthday, Carter!

Ah, another sweet Book Club gathering. Salads, cheesecake, and book talk. Perfect!

Lots of thoughtful discussion about The Daugher’s Walk, by Jane Kirkpatrick. The book is based on the true story of two women, Helga Estby and her daughter Clara, who walked from Spokane, Washington to New York City in 1896. Imagine! They were promoting the above-the-ankle skirts that were the scandalous new fashion. And even more scandalous … they were walking without male escorts! Shocking!

The first part of the book deals with the walk itself. The second part looks at the lives of these women and their family after returning home.

What I didn’t like about the book is what I often don’t like about historical fiction in general. A little too much history and not quite enough fiction. I had a hard time connecting with the characters because so much was about what they were doing. I wanted to know more about what they were feeling and how they were growing or changing. You know, the inside stuff.

What I liked about the book was, quite simply, the fact that these two women actually accomplished this incredible thing. Following the railroad tracks, they travelled 3,500 miles by foot. They had to support themselves along the way by doing whatever jobs they could find. They faced danger, ridicule, loneliness, and heartache. It was an almost unbelievable accomplishment.

These are a few of my thoughts after last night’s discussion:

– This story reminded me of a kind of Eat, Pray, Love from the previous century. I had a sense that Helga, the mom, was yearning for an adventure. Although the journey was presented by Helga to her family as a chance to win $10,000 to save the family farm, I wondered if it was more personal for her. A chance to get away from responsibility, perhaps? To find something out about herself? To achieve something grand? And, hasn’t every mother felt these same things?

– Family wounds are the most painful and the hardest to recover from. So much sadness and devastation caused by family in this story.

– Bitterness destroys … not only the one harbouring it but those around as well.

– One person’s adventure is another person’s betrayal. Oh my. It is never just about me.

– Norwegian women are tough old birds! (But I already knew that!)

I’m glad I know the story of Helga and Clara Estby. Their “walk” showed me, once again, the amazing things women can accomplish. Their “journey” reminded me of the obstacles – whether people, circumstances, or cultural taboos – that are so often waiting to steal the joy of victory.

On Saturday I spent some time in a meeting with several other women. I’m heading to my meeting, I said to my family as I left that morning. I felt so grown up.

The meeting was for Sister Triangle Magazine. I must gush a bit about how fun it was to talk about writing and layout and heritage and the future with the women who work to produce this magazine. Fun, fun, fun! Although after the meeting I did the whole did I talk too much? thing. But really, I was inspired by the women that I spent the day with. And encouraged by the grace and love shared among the team.

A portion of the day was dedicated to PD. (That’s Professional Development, doncha know!) So, okay, that part was super fun and interesting. Guest PDer Edward Willett, writer extraordinaire, spent some time helping us assess and plan for the future of this little magazine. Also, we had each been asked to bring a page of writing which he then read and critiqued. Since my computer had crashed and it had been a busy week and I tend, anyway, to be a last-minute kinda girl … my submission was very unprofessionally written in purple pen on notebook paper. Yes, I could use a few more PD days, I know.

I can’t write about Sister Triangle without mentioning the women behind it. The sisters of  the triangle themselves, Mary, Marilyn, and Marge. How these three women have inspired me. They were women leaders at a time when such a thing was barely acceptable.Mentored by their high school teacher and friend, Miss Torkelson, they stepped out in faith, working together on a project about which they all felt such passion.

Sister Triangle Magazine has been around for over thirty years. The commitment to this project by the women who started it all is simply remarkable. I loved it when, in the meeting, Miss Mary shared some memories about where and why and how it all began … not surprisingly, over cups of tea and heart-visits as most women things begin.

It was also encouraging to see the younger women on the ST team rising to the challenge. Talented professionals, missionaries, creative women, marathoners, dedicated friends. It was sweet to hear them support and champion each other, take on new challenges, and voice their concerns and their excitement. I’m so looking forward to getting to know this crowd better.

Sitting in the meeting and looking around at the women sharing the table with me, I was once again  reminded of the great blessing of working with women. With sisters. Now, I just need to get busy so I can meet my deadlines!