February 2012


It has been pretty crazy around here lately. Lots going on. Lots of plates in the air, or pots in the fire, or whatever. Here’s the skinny.

We’re moving. We have reno-ed and cleaned and polished, and now our acreage is officially up for sale. Yes, lots of emotion around that statement.

Around all that has been happening with this upcoming Major Life Change (to Yorkton, did I forget to say that? Yorkton, Saskatchewan where, I might add, I do not know a soul) … anyhoo, around all of that craziness has been the normal craziness. Kids and community and friends and laundry and ministry and even a little dreaming-about-the-future thrown in for good measure.

And then, to make things even busier, a friend called two weeks ago to see if Lyndon and I wanted to go to Las Vegas with them for a few days. And, crazy people that we are, we said YES.

So, to make a long story longer, I am packed and ready to leave in two short hours for a Ladies’ Retreat. Lyndon will be home later today to be a dad for a night. Then he will take the little man to Grandma and Grandpa’s where he (Carter) will spend six nights. Then, Lyndon will travel to where I am retreating to pick me up, and we’ll go on to Regina to spend the night, as we need to be at the airport at 5:00 on Sunday morning.

This means I need to be packed, not only for the retreat but also for Vegas. If you know me at all, you’ll know this whole being organized thing is not my area of greatest strength. But I think I’m good. I have my speaking materials for retreat packed, as well as passport, plane e-tickets, travel insurance, blah, blah, blah. I know, I’m boring myself. I can’t believe you are still reading!

I have frozen pizza in the freezer for the big boys. I’ve asked our good friends and neighbours, Dayne and Alison, to check on them every now and then. Carter is packed, except for his toothbrush, and has been assured about five hundred times that we will be gone less than a week.

Yep, I think I’m ready. Except for the leaving-the-children part, and the worrying-about-the-children part, and the wondering-if-the-children-will-be-okay-while-we-are-gone part. Other than that, I think I’m good.

So, I’ll be a non-blogger for the next week. Hope it’s a good one for you. See you soon!

There is a popular video zooming around the internet. When I grabbed it to show here, it was on its way to receiving almost twenty million views and had been “liked” almost 320,000 times. Something this guy is saying is getting our attention.

So, I was surprised when I googled Jeff Bethke, the author, to find he was a member of the huge Mars Hill megachurch, pastored by the controversial and conservative and often offensive, Mark Driscoll. And I was surprised, and a little ashamed, by my reaction to this finding. My impression of this young man changed. I judged his message differently.

I’m not sure what I expected. Did I think he would be anti-church? Or maybe part of a small house church that emphasized justice and green living? At the very least, I guess, I suppose I thought he would be one of the people who disliked the message of people like Mark Driscoll. But he seems to be a fan, promoting Mr. Driscoll’s newest book as the imspiration for another video he has made about love and sex.

Curious, isn’t it, that my initial impression of this young man and his message could be so easily tainted. Shame on me. Especially since I don’t know him or Mark, outside of the representations made of them by the media.

 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Live creatively, friends.

Galations 5:24-6:1

It is true Shirley and I will have been married for fifty years this summer. Janelle shared her thoughts about love with you on Valentine’s Day and wondered what I have learned about love in the past fifty years.

I remember the day we were married, and how beautiful she was as she walked down the aisle in her white dress – the friends that were there – the new families each of us became part of – going to the next town to visit an older relative, who had lived most of her life in a wheelchair, so she could see her in her wedding dress, and the “wow” God really knew what he was doing when he said “it is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helpmeet for him.” Fifty years later I think of two chairs that don’t quite match the rest of the furniture in the family room, but are still there because they are comfortable, and the two people who sit in them and are still together and on most occasions comfortable with each other. And I reflect on what I have learned about love in those intervening years.

Love means learning what it means to be two instead of one but also what it means to be one instead of two. Even as I learned about oneness I also learned Shirley had many skills and interests that made her who she was, and that it was my responsibility to encourage and support those skills and interests and to love her for who she was as a unique person. I think for her, love said I will support you even though I am not sure I want to do this when I went back to university or changed jobs or we moved considerable distances from our home turf. It also meant I became part of large family gatherings where strange things like lutefisk and lefse were served, and that over the years the uncles and aunts and cousins that were part of those family gatherings became my uncles and aunts and cousins.

I learned more about love when our three daughters were born, and was overwhelmed with the beauty I helped create, and as they grew, love caused me to be happy with their successes, to support their decisions, to laugh with them when they were happy but also to hurt when they hurt.

Love said we will be there as soon as we can when phone calls came that someone we loved was very ill, had been in an accident, or had passed away.

I have learned it is love that causes Shirley to text our grandkids, write them encouraging notes, and to be happy and prepare large meals when we hear they are coming to visit.

I have also learned that love is a journey, that wrong turns and mistakes happens on that journey and as a result, unkind things are said and feelings are hurt. But this love thing causes forgiveness to take place and allows the journey to continue. To help me on this journey, I often end or start the day with a little prayer: God please help me to love Shirley as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle. God, help me to love Shirley this way.

*** posted by David

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Mom and Dad were here on the weekend, helping us get our house ready to sell. We worked during the days, and visited and drank tea in the evenings. And on their last evening here, Carter talked us all into a game of charades. Lots of fun and great memories.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already “one” in marriage.

Ephesians 5:25-28 (the Message)

It’s a magical thing, isn’t it? When you really think about it. It’s holy magic. It’s so much more than words on a page. WORD became FLESH. Imagine!

It’s sacredness, holiness, spirit-ness … God-ness … with skin on it. Word, born to woman, raised in a home. Touched and fed and nurtured and loved. Shared. The most incredible act of sharing, ever.

People have been asking me lately why I do it? Why I try to put words on a screen and send them out there for others to read? Why I talk about women and stories and sharing? And I think of the Word becoming flesh, and I turn it around, and that is my answer, I think. It is flesh becoming word. It is that magic, that mystical precious thing that I can barely wrap my thoughts around, placed in my own hands, gifted to me to be offered to others. It is flesh become word.

If Jesus coming to people, if Word becoming flesh, if that ultimate act of sharing was about God putting skin on, then does it make any sense at all that the sharing I do with my life is skin putting God on? That the sharing we do, sharing lives and words and stories, sharing ourselves, is skin putting God on?

Next weekend I will be part of the annual Saskatchewan Sister Triangle Ladies Retreat. Women gathering in a beautiful place to hear about the beautiful stories God has written with our lives. Women who have been gathering, year after year, to encourage and be encouraged. And for one and one-half hours on Saturday afternoon, my friend Lorna and I will be motivating(?) these women to ponder some and write a little and share a bit, their stories with each other. And next Saturday, for an hour and a half, the flesh will become word.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

John 1:14 (the Message)

I am the mother of three boys, which means one of them gets to be oldest (like I was), one is the baby (like my husband was), and poor Colton is the middle child. No one understands what it’s like, he sometimes says. And he’s probably right.

Colton was the easy one. I don’t think I threw up once when I was pregnant with him. He really liked vanilla milkshakes, though, so I gained a ton of weight. I had a prenatal appointment the week before he was born, and since it was close to Valentine’s Day, the doctor jokingly asked if we could please wait a bit so she could spend the 14th with her sweetie. Ever obliging, Colton waited and was born on the 15th.

He arrived chubby and pink and happy. He went to bed early, was up for a quick drink in the night, and then slept late in the morning. Even after he woke up, he’d coo in his crib until his wet diaper or empty belly began to annoy him. He smiled early and walked late. Perfect.

The only thing he fussed at was being in his car seat. He hated that. But otherwise, he was the sweetest baby you’d ever seen.

Now he’s fifteen, and I’m scratching my ever-graying head and wondering where on earth the time has gone. When did that sweet, cuddly baby become this tall, charming young man?

He wants a unicycle for his birthday. Or maybe an accordion, ’cause they’re kind of cool and he likes to be different. Or, maybe one of those ancestry kits that National Geographic is offering. They are way cool. You swab your cheek, mail the kit back, and find out where in the world you came from. And you become part of the huge genome study that NG is sponsoring.

He wants me to make him Flossie’s Chocolate Sheet Cake. (Thank you, Pansy Bien, for submitting this recipe to the Western Christian College Millennium Cookbook!) When he was little, I’d buy a package of zoo animal figures from the dollar store to decorate his birthday cake with. Now, I suppose he’ll settle for an extra piece and double the ice cream.

My friend Anne and I have been talking about our boys (she has three of them, also), and about how quickly it’s going, and how it seemed like we had all the time in the world when we began this parenting journey. And about how now, we’re counting the time left and thinking hard about making the rest of it count, and, like my dad wrote in an earlier post, about finishing strong.

Yesterday, while we were sitting together in the living room, Colton said, “In five years I’ll be twenty.”

Gulp.

I don’t know what you think of Valentine’s Day, or love, or relationships, or marriage for that matter. I’m married to a man who has loved me for twenty years. We’ve been married for eighteen of those. He’s loved me when he liked me a lot, and he’s loved me when he could hardly stand to be around me. He’s loved me well, and he loves me still. And I have loved him the same. Through the thick of it and the thin of it, and all that has been in between.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and this is what I’ve learned from twenty years of loving a man.

In the beginning, I thought a relationship was about balance. Give a little, take a little. Make adjustments. But balance is a hard thing to maintain, and if balance is my goal, I’m never really there. The scale keeps shifting, a little one way and then rocking back the other. And the struggle becomes about fairness or equality or something, and it is never quite realized. Striving for balance causes tension, I think. It’s tippy. It’s an illusion.

Instead, I have determined, I will work toward strength.

Did you know this? In Genesis, where it talks about the ‘helpmeet’, the Hebrew is not just ezer, but ezer kenegdo, which literally means ‘the help that opposes’. The rabbis explain this term like two posts of equal weight leaned against one another. They stand because of equal force. (source)

The help that opposes. I am in love with that image. I see strength and support and two-being-better-than-one in that image. I see roof trusses and doorway arches and bridges that span dangerous heights in that image. I see old trees leaning against each other in a forest, supporting each other as they sink toward their final rest.

After twenty years of loving a man, this is what I’ve learned. It’s a leaning toward each other. It’s leaning in to hear the whisper, to really look into his eyes. It’s my cheek snuggled into his neck, a fitting together. It’s leaning into him when he comes home from work, and his arms around me pulling me in. Breathing me in. It’s my tears on his face, and his words in my ear.

It’s a slow dance.

It’s the help that opposes.

It’s tilting, leaning, supporting so that neither falls, and both are strengthened.

After twenty years, this is what I’ve learned.

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Besides being Valentine’s Day, today is Tuesday and this post is my contribution to the My Dad and Me blog series. This summer, Mom and Dad will celebrate fifty years of marriage. Wouldn’t you love to know what Dad has learned about love in those fifty years? Maybe he’ll share that with us next Tuesday when it is his turn to write.

The weekend is a ride down a water slide. A blurry rush of travel and speaking and visiting and great fun and homecoming and caregiving and then, splash. I land in the pool, ungainly and with arms and legs akimbo and I’m a little disoriented, even. And on Sunday afternoon I surface from the ride, sputtering and rubbing the water from my eyes and I look around. And when I haul myself out of the water I am heavy and flat-footed and a little unsteady, and I’m looking forward to warm clothes and warm food and comfort. I’m tired.

The thoughts I try to share with a friend sound trite even in my own ears and I don’t think she gets it, what I’m trying to say. The day is pancake flat and I’m not sad or upset or negative or unhappy. I’m … nothing. I’m tired.

And my husband is sick and the kids are still coughing, too. There are things coming up in the next few weeks that I need to begin preparing for, and here it is Monday and there you have it.

I feel a little bit the hypocrite, since just a few days ago I shared with a roomful of women ideas about story and the importance of sharing and about this one life we are given and how do we live it well? And the not-so-well-lived life of poor Whitney is splashed around the internet and everywhere she is called a cautionary tale, and yet, with these reminders right in front of me, I still want to curl up on the couch with cups of tea and plates of toast and pretend I’m sick and watch movies all day.

I sit a minute, after the older boys have gone out for a day of work, excited to be almost grown and driving to the next town on their own to haul things and hammer things for money, and I pour a cup of coffee that grows cold on the table before me. I know that in a few minutes the day will begin and the youngest will be down for breakfast and we’ll try that subtraction again and I’ll read to him and he’ll read to me. I’ll remind him that the number three goes the other way and once again he’ll say why does it matter? And I’ll say, because it matters.

I pour myself a fresh coffee, dark and strong like a good Norwegian should drink it. And I bow for a minute, and i open that book and look for comfort and I find it here, In the words of that familiar Psalm:

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley,

I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

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