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.

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