March 2014


I send them out to clean the veranda. To wipe away the trailing threads of last years busy arachnids. To clean for spring. So out they go, cloths and brooms in hand but with their minds on other things. Just doing what their mother asks. And it takes them all of about five minutes.

I call them back and from the kitchen window I point out the mess still there. The mess that can only be seen by looking up. The mess that is hiding in the crevices of the ceiling. Oh, they say. We didn’t notice.

Out they go again, with brooms high above their heads this time. Looking up and cleaning the rest.

And it makes me think of the messes in my life, the hidden garbage that dangles out of sight above my head. And of the time I spend just doing what I’m told, my mind on other things. Doing my job, cleaning what is in front of me, but ignoring what is less obvious.

It can fill a day, a life … doing the least that I can get away with. If I don’t look up, that is.

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So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

from tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

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This post was first published two years ago. Time flies. The boys and I have been spring cleaning again this past week. I’m reminded that these are things that happen, over and over. And the spiders return with their webs and the mess, and I still need to remember to look up.

Some things happen quickly. A fast food burger, an internet search, an email. Quick, quick and on to the next thing, and it’s hard to adjust to the things that take their time.

Like a fixing a meal that doesn’t require a can opener, or reading a book instead of a blog post, or raising the kids or planting a garden or making a friend.

Fast has its place. Fast is about getting it done and moving on.

But time-taking, and the personal investment that requires… that’s living.

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Carter’s donkey, Joy, did not arrive in a ready-to-go box. No instant friendship or skipping steps to get to the fun stuff.

This one will take time. That’s a good thing for a boy living in a Hurry Hurry world.

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I’ve been reading/thinking/wondering about joy lately. The people kind, not the donkey kind. And about how joy takes time. Can joy be a habit? Can I deliberately do things to make me a more joyful person? I need to figure this out, because I’m talking about this very thing next weekend, and I’m still not sure.

And if you are wondering, Carter and Joy have spent this past year getting to know each other better. I don’t know if they’d call each other friends, yet. But they’re getting there.

Rest.

But then get up. That’s the hard part. The getting back in the saddle. The returning to the battle. The rising up, taking hold, marching on.

The children would choose the easy sleep in the morning, rather than the harder rise. They’d keep themselves tucked and cozy, if I allowed.

Once in a while, yes, I allow.

But most mornings I don’t. They get up to breakfast and scripture and a few minutes with Dad around the table before he leaves for work. And it’s outside for chores and inside for math and there are beds to make and toilets to clean.

The youngest boy, he’s felt a little beaten up lately. Life has seemed especially hard, with friends moving and a sore throat and the almost-needing-stiches gash above his eye. And he has a cold sore on his lip. He’s been full of heavy sighs and why me’s and this morning, when I call him to the breakfast table, he just… can’t… quite… make… it.

I understand.

So he rests for a bit, right there on the kitchen floor, through the porridge and the scripture and the visiting with Dad.

But he can’t stay there, or his rest will quickly become an obstacle. He’ll be stepped on and frowned at and resented by the other children.

Rest, yes. But then get up.

Do the hard rise, and carry on. Face what must be faced, do what must be done.

Today, don’t let rest become the goal. Instead, let it be the motivation. There are good things waiting out there for the well-rested you and me to be doing.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

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It’s been almost two years since I first published this. I’m needing the reminder this week, when life is pressing and deadlines are looming and much is calling… to do the hard rise and to carry on.

 

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We are in the city for the weekend. A Spring Renewal at a church we love, and it’s already been beautiful. Full and meaningful and dripping with emotion and nostalgia and music and message and love.

We walk into the hall for the Saturday lunch, a fundraising event for a ministry with which we are marginally involved, and there is my cousin Randy, big as life, sitting at one of those long plywood-topped tables. He’s been home for ten months and I’ve known that, but this is the first time I’ve seen him. The last was eighteen years ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, and I was pregnant-like-crazy with my first baby.

That was the last time anyone in the family had seen him. He’s been lost, you see.

He has a story but it’s his to tell, not mine. I can tell you this, though. He was lost, but love found him.

I can tell you this, too. He was my cousin, a boy cute-as-a-button with a smile that could light up your heart and he grew up handsome and strong and charming. Family gatherings brought us together from time to time, and he was sweet and one of the boys, and that was how I knew him.

But he was my husband’s friend.

I see Randy first and my heart fills as I hug him and whisper my happiness at his return, and I cast a look around the room for Lyndon, and I tell Randy how happy Lyndon will be to see him. Then, there he is, and all I can do is stand back and watch the reunion. Holy ground.

I watch as two grown men weep in each others’ arms and I count the seconds as they turn into minutes and that embrace, faces wet and arms tight, is the manliest thing I’ve ever seen.

Are you home? Lyndon asks. Are you really home?

And Randy says, yes.

All weekend my husband leaks joy. Over and over, with wonder in his voice and tears in his eyes, he whispers in my ear, Randy’s home.

This is Spring, I think. This is Renewal.

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Wow, it’s been a year already. Spring Renewal is once more around the corner and this year I play a mini role, teaching a class on joy. It doesn’t get much more joyful than remembering this sweet reunion.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge in nostalgia this week.

A few years ago we took a family vacation to the Black Hills in South Dakota. We toured museums and viewed mountainsides that had been carved into art and we played.

One day, after stopping in at a university to see yet another display of fossils and rocks and bones, we had lunch on the grounds. I’d packed sandwiches and such, and because we didn’t see any Keep Off the Grass signs, we spread it all out and picnicked. People were coming and going so it was a little like picnicking in a fish bowl. I was mildly uncomfortable because that’s how I get whenever I am doing something that causes people to look at me. I imagine their disapproval. I wonder if I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

While I’m sitting on the grass, handing out the food and imagining all that criticism from all those passing people, I look over and see Carter. Eating his sandwich. On the lawn. Where people can see him.

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My husband and my children don’t have the same hangups that I do. They don’t think the same way. They don’t wonder or care, usually, what other people think. They say things like:

No one is looking, or

You’ll never see these people again so who cares, or

If it’s really a problem, someone will tell us to stop.

My husband and my children, because of their whatever attitudes, often have a lot more fun. They seem to live more freely. They try things more easily. They do things like:

Going to a movie alone, dressed in his Hallowe’en costume complete with creepy-eyed contact lenses, just because he wanted to and couldn’t find a friend who could go with him. As a teenager, I would have never done that.

Taking up interesting hobbies, like knitting, even though he might be teased for it. I still have a hard time doing something for which I might be teased.

Developing their personal tastes in things like art and music, even though they aren’t typical interests among their peers. This one, I understand.

I’m getting better at all of this. I’m getting better at caring more about what God thinks and less about what people think. Oh, what freedom! I’ve been able to say no sometimes and to be okay, for the most part, with what others might think about it. I’ve also been able to say yes to some things I wouldn’t have said yes to before. Nice.

I keep this picture of my uninhibited, creative, sandwich-eating boy on the desktop of my computer. It reminds me to let go of the fear of being criticized, and to embrace the joy of living in the moment.

Thanks, Carter, for showing me how to really eat a sandwich.

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Life has been fast-paced lately, and I’ve found it hard to write enough sentences to put together into anything resembling a blog post. This week I’ve decided to repost some old stuff that was fun to write at the time, and fun to remember now. I hope that’s okay!

Thanks for your patience.

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I remember the box of stationery I received when I was seven or eight years old. It was a gift from a grandma or an auntie, the kind of gift grandmas and aunties gave little girls back then. A box of folded notecards with pictures of fairies on them. Delicate little purple, pink, and green ladies with sparkly wings hovering over flowers. Garden fairies, I suppose, and I thought they were magical.

So magical, I couldn’t bring myself to use them. They sat in their box, tucked away in a drawer under my pastel coloured days-of-the-week panties, for years. I never wrote a single letter to a single person. Not on that stationery, anyway.

When I was older, I cleaned my drawer of the little girl stuff, and in the midst of the tossing of the old underwear and the socks with the holes in the heels, I found the forgotten fairy treasure.

I opened the box, anticipating the thrill I remembered, but it was lost to me. The paper was dingy with the years, and the fairies who had so captivated me seemed gaudy and cheap.

The magic was gone. The time for it had passed and I’d missed it.

I don’t know if the gift was wasted or not. There’s something, I suppose, in hiding away a treasure, keeping it for the single purpose of knowing it’s there.

But it’s better, I think, to use it in the time it is most glorious. Use it up, and let it be what it’s meant to be in the time it’s meant to be it. When it’s at its grandest.

So I mostly wear my jewelry and drink from my crystal and if I lose an earring or chip a glass, well, maybe that’s part of it all.

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I’ve been thinking about gifts for a while. Since my husband gave me this amazing copper cooling tray for Christmas, actually. Because when he gave it to me, it wasn’t a cooling tray at all.

My husband and my youngest son created this kitchen-art out of plumbing material – copper pipe – for me. Out there is the cold garage they took the most humble of materials, meant for the most humble of uses, and they made this beautiful thing.

It came in a huge box, awkwardly man-wrapped, and when I opened it on Christmas morning I had to ask its name. I knew it had a story, but I didn’t know what it was. Turns out it was intended to be a bathroom tray, a place for shampoos and lotions and such but what I really wanted, I told my husband, was to put it on my kitchen table and to use it every day to hold the hot loaves of bread and the supper casseroles.

So that’s what it became. A gift given for one purpose but destined for another.

A story can always change its mind, you see.

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