July 2011


Have you ever felt this way? That every time you open your mouth your foot finds a home there. That the more you talk, the worse it gets. That you think you have said one thing only to find it was heard very differently. Or that even your actions, the non-verbal, are sending messages you didn’t intend. I seem to be excelling at this lately! I think, sometimes, that a vow of silence might not be a bad idea. But then someone would probably think I was sulking. Oi!

It is the daily challenge, isn’t it, to live our broken lives in this fallen world in the best way we can. The best way I can. To rub shoulders with others without rubbing blisters.

I could try to insulate myself. I could hide. Or move on. Or pretend. But it wouldn’t work. I am destined to hurt others and they to hurt me. Blisters. It is the inevitability of this thorny, cursed world in which we live.

Or I could blame. But that wouldn’t work, either. I know my faults too well. I know the challenges I present, the work I make, the effort I take. The blisters I cause.

To see the beauty among the thorns, to continue the journey despite the blisters … this is life.

To continue with joy, with courage, with anticipation … this is life well-lived.

This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:17

… his command is that we walk in love.  2 John 6

 

 

 

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I guess that is how I am feeling. At loose ends? Tested? Uncertain? All good labels, things I feel from time to time. But I think restless is the best definition for this Monday morning. I get this way from time to time. And then I feel guilty. For feeling restless. Because, really, what do I have to complain about? So now I am restless and guilty. Which throws me into procrastination mode. Which is maybe where the restlessness originates? Because there are things I need to do, the doing of which, to be completely honest, does not excite or inspire me. I am officially in a funk.

So there you have it. On this Monday morning I am a funky, restless, guilty, procrastinator.

I know what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to count my blessings, be grateful, pray, do something nice for someone else, remember the less fortunate, call a friend, read my bible, make a to do list, pull myself up by my boot straps, look on the bright side … and get’er done.

And I probably will do that. Later.

I’m kidding! Kind of.

No, really. I’ll be fine. I recognize these feelings for what they are. A few difficult relationship experiences that led to some negative internal dialogue which resulted in some defensive posturing (how’s that for a psych major!) followed by those I just don’t really want to do this anymore feelings which make me feel … restless. Like I’d rather just escape for a while.

So there you go. I’ve thrown these words out on the page and I’ll post it and then I’ll read it later and think, Oh Janelle, you shouldn’t have said that. Or, You should have at least found a bible verse to attach to the end. It would seem less whiney with a verse to end on.

But I can’t think of a verse at the moment that fits my funky, restless, guilty, procrastinating Monday morning blues.

Or maybe I am just too restless to spend the effort.

 

We had our first big fight when we were on our first big car trip. It was over a cup of coffee. Except, of course, it wasn’t really. You know what I mean.

We were driving from Regina, Saskatchewan to visit my family in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It was early in the morning and we were navigating our way through Edmonton and we stopped for fuel and I said I’d really like a cup of coffee.

We could share one, he said.

Well, why don’t we each get our own, I said.

I think we should just share one, he said.

Fine, I said. But then don’t put any sugar in it because you know I don’t like it with sugar.

And when I took the first sweet sip … oh my goodness. It wasn’t pretty.

Because then it became about the thing that had happened the day before when we were packing, and that disagreement over how to read a map, and the way he had said good morning like he didn’t really care, and the long drive, and the hot day, and the coffee was simply the last straw.

We occasionally refer to The Coffee Incident. It has become symbolic of what happens when you allow misunderstandings and hurt feelings to accumulate.

Yesterday was my birthday. The boys and I had driven to Moose Jaw, where Lyndon was working, to spend a few nights in the hotel with him. I woke up in the morning to the sound of my husband getting ready to go to work. He said goodbye and headed out the door, only to slip back into the room a few minutes later with a bran muffin and a cup of coffee from the breakfast room down the hall.

Happy birthday, he said. One cream, no sugar. Just the way you like it.

They know us, now. He smiles and hands me a card key before I can ask for it. He’s in room 108, he says, and I thank him and we carry our bags down the short hall to my husband’s home away from home.

He has left it like he always leaves it. Towel on back of bathroom door, black travel bag on bathroom counter, curtain closed, bible on bedside table, reading glasses on bible, yellow traveling bag in closet. Tidy and organized. And in we come with a rush of boys and shoes kicked off and bags dropped and the channel changed, from his commercial-free classic movie channel to the blaring, tedious cartoon channel. Only one hour of this, I say, and I retreat to the Business Room where I hammer out words on the clunkiest keyboard I have used since I was in college.

And I feel at home. Because we are here and he will be home in a few hours and we will talk and he will nuzzle his nose in my neck and tell me I smell good and he might take the boys to a movie. And I’ll walk down the hall to the desk with a box of pizza pops, and the guy with the beard will smile and unlock the breakfast room and I’ll microwave supper for my family and the guy with the beard and I will  chat about the heat and his family and such.

And we will swim and waterslide and argue over whether to watch discovery channel or the family channel or one of those dance shows, and two boys will fall asleep on the floor and one will toss and turn in the big bed by himself and my husband and I will smile at each other.

Family makes it a home. Love makes the home. Even if it is a hotel room.

The land is sold. The small piece of dirt that held some of my husband’s dreams belongs to someone else. Sold.

He can no longer drive by and look across and think, this is mine. He can’t plan for fencing or cattle or trapping muskrats on prairie soil owned by him.

He was so excited when he bought it. I was excited for him. He seeded the hilly land back to grass and sold it for years as standing hay. It was a good arrangement with a good guy. But one day, he always thought, one day it will be paid for and I’ll do something more with it. One day, I’ll do it myself. One day …

One day turned into too much to do and not enough time, and time passing and children growing and other dreams. And the letting go is for something new. And it reminds me again of goodbyes and hellos, and the ebb and the flow. The going and the coming that brings with it pain and pleasure. Both.

Boys almost men. Younger self giving way to older woman. Dreams and wishes left behind in the reality of circumstance and situation. And I fight it because it seems that the thing had is better than the thing to come. But as tightly as I grasp it, it slips away. The children grow, the hair greys, and isn’t it better to let it go, open the hand, release it? Because grasping, holding … it doesn’t work. Holding tight only makes the inevitable more painful. More wrenching.

I know better. Experience has taught me better. The experienced have taught me better.

Submission to the letting go to make space for something new. Or different. Or inevitable. Daily I am taught this. I am trying to learn this.

Opening the hand.

Because, really, it is just dirt.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Our Gravelbourg youth just finished a Water Walk. It was part of a year-long fundraising effort that they have committed themselves to. Their goal is to raise at least $5,000 to supply water filters for homes in places where clean water is not available. The project is coordinated through Samaritan’s Purse, and the Canadian-designed filters cost $100 each.

I’m so proud of these kids. Already they have raised over $2,000. That means twenty families will now have clean water in their homes! Something we take for granted every day.

The Water Walk was a fantastic accomplishment. The kids named themselves Team H2O: Hope to Others. Here is a taste of their adventure.

Starting out with lots of energy!

Left Sunday afternoon. A short 7K but it was 30 degrees and very humid.

Day 2: 25K to go!

Carter and Sweet Michelle

Brothers

Taking a break along the way

Playing the Water Walking Blues

Lunch

Hungry, Michelle?

Team H2O, ready to start the last leg of the walk.

Almost there.

Back in Gravelbourg ...

... and SO thankful for clean, safe water to drink!

Around the last corner ...

... and VICTORY!

Thanks so much to Wendell and Dina, and Dayne and Allison for letting us stop at your homes along the way. The shade and the bathrooms were very much appreciated! And huge thanks to Wendell and Lorna for the meals on the road. Every time we stopped, food appeared! And Holly, you are amazing! You kept everyone upbeat and smiling. Thanks for your willingness to take on this project.

These kids are the best. I loved hearing their comments, about understanding better what it would mean to have to walk great distances for water. And how great it felt to accomplish something challenging. And how fun it was to work together as a team. Thank you, Destiny, Kayla, Michelle, Katja, Brianna, Ariel, Brandy, Clayton, Tyson, Colton, and Carter. You are awesome.

Way to go, Team H2O!

So … I went to the Grassland Production’s Christian Women’s Trail Ride last Saturday and came home without a single picture of a horse. Or of the main speaker. There were horses. You’ll just have to take my word for it. And the speaker, Corrine Aupperle, spoke beautifully about the power of living a life bathed in grace. Because it is only by his grace that I can truly forgive, love, share, or trust. And the music, oh my goodness. The talented Gina Stewart performed in the afternoon, and the equally talented Harmony McMillan shared her gift of worship throughout the day. Beautiful spirit. Beautiful day.

Corrinne gave us each a verse to consider and then share about. Mine was Proverbs 16:3.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

I am still contemplating this verse. It sounds a little fortune cookie-ish, to be honest. I find it hard to take one sentence on its own and really grasp the meaning of it. I want to have a conversation with God about it. Ask him what he really means by it. Like, do you mean all plans no matter what they are? And what does committing them to you really entail? Because I do have plans. And I think I am committing them. I want to commit them. I hope I am.

Thank you, Corrinne, for the wonderful lessons, for making me rethink some things, and for reminding me that grace is really power, God’s power, at work in me to help me do what I couldn’t do on my own.

 

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