December 2012


Hello, Friends. I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas.

Today I’m writing about the after-Christmas blahs over at my newish blog, How to Homeschool High School. I’d love it if you’d stop by and take a look!

The season.. pregnant with anticipation and preparation. Baking and choosing and wrapping and sharing. An evening service in a barn. The time draws near.

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When it’s time, it’s time.

The list and the undone and the rush… it all slows to the one thing that is happening. It all drops away, and creation does her thing, and birth happens.

It’s time.

I’m up early, tea and quiet my friends as I wait on the excitement of children and the sleepy dad who will pretend scrooginess. I can’t help but sit with her a while, that mother named Mary. We share the quiet, nodding at each other over our warm cups. Sharing plans for dinner and smiling at the memories of our children when they were small.

That day, that birth. I want to ask her more about it. I want to hear from her what it was like, to bring him into the world. The first time she held him, bathed him, kissed his toes.

In this bit of quiet, I let it all fall away, and I stop.

Today is a birth. Today, the pain of labour fades and the joy of the new unfolds.

Today it begins again… the wide-eyed wonder.

May you smile and cuddle and kiss a dear, sweet face. In his memory, may we cherish one another. May we love and laugh, and rest a bit for there are sure to be some sleepless nights to come.

Merry, merry Christmas!

It’s been a week, and if we were living scripture, these past days would be read in Lamentations.

The book written after the fall of Jerusalem and the pillaging and the destruction of the temple.  The book read each year on the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. The book that weeps. The book whose name in Hebrew means, How?

How can such a thing happen?

It’s been a week, and there have been funerals and memorials and deep, deep sadness. There have been words flung about, some with questions and some with answers. And some, simply, despairing.

I find myself sitting, just sitting, and mourning this tragedy. I mourn with the families whose children’s Christmas gifts will go unopened. I mourn with mothers and fathers of babies lost. I mourn with those who loved these teachers. Who shared their lives with these people and who will forever live with the wound carved by this day and by those missing.

And I mourn for a mother, her life taken in her own home by her own child’s hand. A child who went on to do… this. And I ache a mother’s ache.

I search a bit and I find Sandy Hook on the map. A stretch of land reaching out toward New York like a crooked finger, beaches and historic homes and… a lighthouse. A landmark featured on tourist brochures and t-shirts, and somehow this means something to me.

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In this darkness, light.

This is my prayer. That each of us, as we lament, as we sit in sadness with those who have lost so much, will find ways to shine a light.

Shine a light into a world that seems at times so perversely dark. Shine with kind words, open hands, generosity, sweetness, beauty.

Shine a light with love.

Hello friends. A few weeks ago, my friend Anne and I launched a new blog, How to Homeschool High School. We’re still working out the kinks, and it isn’t as pretty as we’d like it to be yet, but today I posted this:

How to have a conversation with a teenager:

It’s a hard thing, growing up.

I ache for my kids sometimes as I watch them struggle with difficult things. I cheer for them, and I rejoice with them in their victories. I cry with them, and I pray for them.

One of the things that brings me the greatest joy over the years, is talking with them. I hurt for moms who say they can’t talk to their kids. As I navigate the teen years with my kids, here are a few things I’ve thought about.

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Five tip of the iceberg tips for having good conversations with teens:

1. Have lots of conversations with them before they are teenagers.

Obvious, but so important. A relationship is built on time and experiences. And conversations flow out of relationships.

As a homeschooling mom, time has never been an issue. I spend my days with my kids. But experiences are made. Experiences either present themselves and ask you to take advantage of them, or they are created. Either way, they require the effort of attention.

I’ve always read to the children, usually scripture at breakfast, and history or a novel or whatever at lunch. There are times when we’ve read together and then just carried on with the day. Life is like that sometimes. But most of the time, some kind of conversation is generated by the reading. It’s fun. It helps us remember. And, it’s good conversation practice.

Once in a while, I take one of the kids out for coffee or lunch. We go to the nice cafe in town, order a treat, and visit. One on one, in a different setting, makes for some interesting and memorable conversations. I treasure the memories of these times, and look forward to more.

The joy I reap, now that I have two teenagers, is that they still like to do this with me. The other night, when I had an event I had to attend to which I didn’t want to go alone, I asked if anyone would go with me. I love that my seventeen-year-old son unhesitatingly answered, Sure, I’ll go with you, Mom. He didn’t care about the Christmas music festival we attended, but it makes me happy to know he cares about me.

…if you’d like to read the rest of the post and check out the new blog, please do. Hop on over and say hello!

I met him in 2001 when I moved to Calgary. When I agreed to officiate at his funeral, the title of a book, Longing for a Homeland, written by my friend, Lynn Anderson, kept going through my mind.

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He was born in 1974 in South Sudan. When he was a very young man, soldiers from the north shot his father, who died in his arms. He was shot too, but he escaped into the bush and eventually made his way to an Ethiopian refugee camp. He finished his elementary schooling there and received a scholarship to a United Nations high school. After he finished high school and some college work, he went to another refugee camp. In 2000 he was granted refugee status to Canada, and made his way to Calgary.

I believe his heart was still in South Sudan though, the Promised Land as he called it, and in 2007 he returned for a year. When he returned to Canada he was ill and didn’t completely regain his health.

He died on November 28, and on Saturday I stood behind a podium looking out on 150 or so South Sudanese and talked about Searching For a Homeland. Because he spent most of the thirty-eight years he lived doing just that. He lived and loved and cared and learned and worked and searched and didn’t give up. People helped him along the way. And those who did learned and cared and loved. He found his home land – not in power and prestige or wealth or property, but in a place where people are able to practice their faith and be respected for who they are. His search began in Africa, moved to Ethiopia, then to Canada and ended in eternity.

His search led me to reflect on mine.

The journey is what is important and it has led me to a place where I feel loved and am able to love in return, where I can help and accept help, where I can learn and share and be blessed by people from many countries and cultures. It has led me to a place where I am confident that, even with all of my warts, God loves me and I am free to love and accept others with all of their warts and idiosyncrasies.

My prayer is that you too will be blessed as you search for your homeland.

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A few months ago I discovered a blogger/writer whose work has challenged me more than anyone has in many years. His name is Jeff Goins and a few weeks ago I took his writing course.

I haven’t taken many courses since college. I tried an online thing (that I didn’t finish) about ten years ago. I’ve been blogging for about five years. I’ve written the odd thing over the years that I’ve sent in and had published. But it’s all been dabbling. Sticking a toe in and pulling it back out again.

I started reading Jeff’s blog, subscribed to his newsletter, and purchased his book. And I decided that he was the real deal. A deeply spiritual man who was interested in helping other writers write better. Engage better. Share their work better.

Jeff raised the writing bar for me, so when he offered a writing course a few weeks ago, I signed up for it. Now he’s offering it again, and because I respect him and because I gained so much from the course, I’m recommending it to you.

If you’d like to check this out, go here and read more about it. (This is an affiliate link, which means if you end up deciding to register and pay for the course, I receive a few bucks because I shared this with you. But I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t believe in it and use it myself.)

If you are interested in raising your own writing bar, think about taking Jeff’s course. If you do, I’ll see you there, because there was so much valuable content in it, I’m going to take it again!

Registration closes today. Join me?

 

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There’s commentary on everything these days, including the inaccuracy of beloved Christmas carols like this one.

Silent Night. As in, the night wouldn’t have been so silent, because have you ever seen the birth of a baby? ‘Cause there’s all this mess and pain, and since when are babies quiet anyway?

Sleep in heavenly peace? Ya, right.

But I love this song. It’s one of my favourite Christmas carols, and I don’t really want it criticized. People, leave my song alone.

What I love about this song, besides the fact that it’s been part of every Christmas I can remember, it’s on almost every Christmas album ever made, and it’s one of the few songs to which I know all the words… besides that, what I love about Silent Night is the feeling I get when I hear it.

A mixture of nostalgia and peace and a whole bunch of warm fuzzies. It just does that to me.

And yes, I remember what it was like. The labour and the agony and the mess, but I also remember this.

I remember the deep place I went to each time I was birthing a child. I remember how it all became so focused. It became my whole existence, me and my body and breathing through it all. Everything narrowed to this one thing we were doing together, baby and me.

This is the silence, the holy, of that night. The focus on the babe, his coming and then his being here, in flesh and blood and yes, the mess that goes with it. The mess of humanity and the world. My mess and yours.

But there is a silence in a birth, before it all begins.

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It’s your turn.

I’m thinking.

The two most often repeated sentences when playing a game with kids. My kids, anyway. And it’s often not so much about making the right move as it is about finding any kind of move at all. They don’t like to have to pass. They don’t like inaction. They want to contribute to the progress, to move it along.

It’s not so much about competition as it is about participation.

No one likes to see the game happening around him and just… sit. Especially if, you know, a brother is finding all kinds of great moves to make. (Ok, maybe it’s a little bit about competition!)

There are some wonderful things happening around me. People are being amazing, right before my eyes. Friends are doing their dreams, trusting God, stepping out in faith.

Living it. Doing it. Being it.

Playing the game, taking their turns, moving it all forward.

I can feel, sometimes, like the stuck player. Can you? Like everyone else is making the good moves and I’m sitting there with no play to play. It can take the fun right out of the game, you know, if I let it.

Or, I can cheer. I can suggest one son be patient with the other. I can take a peek at what the younger is holding, and make a suggestion. I can say those good job, smart move, way to go kinds of things.

You know what? That’s fun, too.

It’s fun, choosing these gifts for these kids. Finding the thing that will bring a smile and be a continuing gift throughout the year. Hoping that what has been chosen will be just right and well-used for years to come. This is part of Christmas for me, and I love it.

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I love baking the treats and snuggling on the couch through the corny lineup of Christmas movies. I love the smells of the season, and Johnny Reid singing Silent Night, and the anticipation in the air. I love praying with the children for those less fortunate, and reading together those ancient words, and finding new stories to share.

All do Christmas in their own ways. Some with many gifts, some with few. Some with service, or hospitality, or simplicity, or family.

This year, the shouting about it is making me a bit sad. The do this or buy or don’t buy that. The I have it figured out, do it like me.

The say it this way.

People, there are no rules.

How about this. How about instead of shouting about Christmas and how it should be done, I choose instead to be Christmas. I choose to be peace and good will. I choose to love with the love of a mother birthing her first child. I choose to whisper a quiet Merry Christmas over the din.

Many will mock. Some will campaign. The shouting and fighting will likely not end, and the pressure to take a side or join a group or make a stand will always be there. But I can choose to live outside it all.

I can choose to be Christmas.

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December is a deep month. The deeper I go the quieter it gets, like when I was a kid sitting on the bottom of the swimming pool. Solitary, echo-y silence while the splashing and swimming go on around me. A womb.

I think of him, still tucked away inside of her now, the knitting-together of him in his silent darkness, and the waiting. The stable a quiet retreat from the thronging streets of Bethlehem.

There is something in a birthing that cannot be shared. That only a mother knows. Dread mingled with anticipation and excitement. Pain and joy. Fear and wonder. Filling and emptying.

This is the deep of December.

Mary and I, on the bottom of the pool, together.

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