June 2014


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I’ve been the victim of some embarrassing autocorrects, that’s for sure. List has been changed to lust more than once, and How To lust is a lot different from a How To list.

The one that happens most, though, is the adjusting of love to live. And that change actually makes some sense.

Love is meant to be lived, you know. Love needs to breathe and to touch and to do things.

Lived out love is like exercise. Lived out love develops muscles and a good set of lungs, if you know what I mean. Coach potato love doesn’t do anyone any good.

Love is living when it stops and runs into a ditch by the railroad tracks to bring home the sweetest smelling flowers that grow on the prairie.

Love is living when it takes a whole day to bake cinnamon buns for the grandchildren, and a special batch with pecans for the son-in-law.

Love is living when it buys a set of tools for the one beginning his carpentry career.

Love is living when it takes the time to order euros from the bank for the grandson heading to Estonia in a few weeks.

Love is living when it sits and listens to the stories it’s already heard.

Love is living when it lets a kid do a job instead of stepping in and taking over.

Love is living when it insists on holding the crying baby so the mom can eat her lunch.

Love is living when it steps up, holds on, stays late, shares a load.

It’s nice to say I love you. It’s even nicer to live it.

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He was filling out an application yesterday, to help with our church’s Vacation Bible School this summer, and when he was done he magneted it to the fridge and as I was walking by, a statement caught my eye.

One of the points he was to address on the application read: Describe your current relationship with God, and I noticed he’d crossed out the word relationship and above it he’d written the word fellowship.

I asked him why he’d changed the word, and he answered, because I’m not dating God.

Relationship is just a weird word in today’s modern English language, he said. It’s a Facebook status implying romance… you are in a relationship with someone. That’s not God and me. We are a team, you know. I’d never say I’m in a relationship with my dad, or I’m in a relationship with my friend Jesse. That would be awkward. But we enjoy doing stuff together, which is fellowship, and that’s what it’s like with me and God.

Interesting.

It made me think about the things we say, and what we really mean by them. All my life, I’ve heard people talk about having a relationship with God, or wanting to be in relationship with Jesus, or that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Now, I’m kind of wondering what that means?

I’m thinking relationship is about status. I am a daughter. This is my relationship with my parents. I am a mother. This is my relationship with my children. These relationships will never change. A relationship is about blood or commitment.

Fellowship, maybe, is the living out of the relationship. It’s what makes a relationship good or bad, strong or weak, happy or troubled. How well I fellowship with those around me (or those with whom I have a relationship) is a function of time spent together, enjoyment of that time, and activities or experiences shared with each other.

Maybe this is just semantics, but I found it interesting that my son chose to make a distinction between the two. If nothing else, good for him for diving deeper into the language I typically accept without question.

I love it when my kids make me think about stuff.

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I was in fifth grade, I think, when our music teacher announced she was moving on to a new school or a new town or getting married, or something. She was a good-hearted teacher who brought instruments into the classroom and sang the songs of the seventies while we tapped on wooden dowels and clanged tiny cymbals together.

Once, she asked us to write a story based on the song, Seasons in the Sun, by Terry Jacks. Most of us wrote stories about someone who was dying and wished he could have more time with his family and friends, but the cool guy made up a story about how it was all just a joke and nobody was dying and it made all of us laugh, except the music teacher. She was angry and hurt, but at the time we were all, Relax, lady. He’s just having some fun.

Because he was cool, you know, so his disrespectful story was, too.

Anyway, the teacher was leaving and one of the girls in the class – a not very popular, kind of geeky girl – suggested we have a farewell party for her. The geeky girl suggested we put on a little talent show, and sing or play instruments or read poetry for our music teacher, and at first everyone laughed and made fun of the idea. Not because of the idea, but because of who was offering it.

Then the cool guy stood up and said, I think we should. Why not? It will be fun.

And all of a sudden, it seemed like it would be. Just like that, we were all on board and excited and falling over each other with ideas of things we could do.

I’ve thought of this from time to time over the years. I was only eleven or twelve years old, but I think I learned then and there that being cool and popular would take you places.

I spent a lot of my growing up years trying to be those things, and when I realized I wasn’t, really, I at least tried to hang out with the people who were.

I thought I’d matured and that I wasn’t so shallow, but recently I’ve wondered if I’m still a lazy follower a lot of the time. Without realizing it, I join my heart to others because some cool guy says I should, you know?

It’s hard to sift through all the different subjects on all the different tables these days. It’s easier to believe what the cool guy (popular podcaster, blogger, preacher, etc.) says, rather than figure things out for myself. But of all the table offerings and all the sharing of what others say would taste best, I think I’d still rather choose my own meal.

I hope I’m teaching my children this, too. I hope they are learning it sooner than did I. That cool is overrated, and that to be honest and true and humble and open and seeking and learning and trying and trying again… these are what make great lives.

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I am a bit obsessed with the whole tiny house movement. I follow tiny house blogs and click on tiny house Facebook links and I’m amazed by the whole I-built-this-home-for-$4,000-out-of-trash-and-ingenuity-and-look-how-beautiful-it-is thing.

Then I count us all up and, oh yeah, there are, at the moment, eight people living in my house. A composting toilet couldn’t keep up with us. And where would we all sleep? And eat? And do stuff?

I’m digging a little deeper, exploring my inner tiny house longings, and I think I’ve come up with something. I think I can have a tiny house mentality without actually having a tiny house.

A tiny house mentality, according to moi, means spaces that are: simple, efficient, and beautiful. Spaces that have a sense of purpose about them. They know themselves and they desire to be what they are meant to be.

I’m putting my tiny house dream on hold, and instead, I’m looking at my spaces – my kitchen, my living room, my office – and I’m trying to love them for what they are, and to see them as they could be if they were as simple, efficient, and beautiful as I could help them become.

Maybe I don’t need to go on a house diet. Maybe, if big is what I’ve got, big can be beautiful, too.

Maybe I just need to be thankful and grateful, and love the one I’m with.

I am visiting with women, working hard with my limited spanish and their non-existent english to communicate, on the driveway of the little Mexican church, when my seven-year-old and his playmates come up to me. In my ear I hear the gasp of a woman beside me, and I turn and see my son, blood streaming red down his too-white face and covering the front of his shirt. In a second I register the fear in his wide and staring eyes. My knees give a little and my breath leaves me as I reach for him and try to gather him, bloody, into my arms.

Voices trip over each other, trying to explain. His little friend’s words tumble into the air in front of me, telling of the climbing and the bumping and the falling. I’m going to lose it, I say to my sister, and she leads us to a chair and we sit and we search for the source of the red.

In the end there is no need for hospitals or stitches or much beyond holding close and washing and that reluctant release back into the newly re-realized unknown. But the feeling, the gutted Oh My God uncertainty, the sight of my bleeding boy… it haunts me.

Mother’s say goodbye to boys and boys go out and do their things and there is a whole lot of unknown about it. And for the girls too, I know, but the boys are what I have and the boys are in our Canadian News these days.

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Three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, fallen in Moncton and remembered yesterday with the red that I and so many wore, and the sea of red uniforms at the memorial service. All the red, and there are mothers who will be forever haunted by the stream of it running down the streets in honour of their boys.

Yesterday, my heart was with the community of Moncton, and with the families and friends of these men.

Today, the day after all the emotion of the public farewell, my heart is with the quiet, private grief of the mothers. May your sons rest in peace.

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(because we just got chicks and they are cute)

(because we just got chicks and they are cute)

When you get an email from the amazing Audrey Chin, and she asks if you’ll participate in a blog tour with her, well, you just say yes.

Audrey is a great writer and a dear online friend. She’s one of the reasons I love the internet. One day I hope to meet her in person and have her sign a copy of her most recent book, As the Heart Bones Break. Among many accolades, my Singaporean friend was honoured this spring at a reception hosted by the Singapore Embassy in Washington, D.C., as part of her U.S.A. book launch tour.

Audrey shares some thoughts about her writing process here, on her blog Sometimes Words Help. She’s got some cool stuff on the go over there.

I, on the other hand, am about the least cool person I know. I am a vicious non-joiner of things. I don’t easily participate in groups, especially groups that rally around a specific ideology or theology or popular issue-of-the-day. I’m not saying that with pride, mind. I’m sure it’s a trait that has kept me from some awesome sorority-like experiences. And one day, when I’m asking you to participate in something about which I am passionate, you can throw my words back at me and I won’t be upset at all.

Because not only am I a non-joiner, I’m wishy-washy and inconsistent and unorganized and almost always late. Put all that together, and you can imagine my struggle with stringing some words together about writing process for a GROUP project, for heaven’s sake. Process? What’s that? And you want it when? Honestly, there are many many people who are much much better at this than am I. And they have better grammar and know when to use commas and stuff, too.

Are you sensing my resistance?

I’m thanking Audrey now, though. Like most things that take you down a path you might not choose, it’s caused me to think about some things on which I haven’t spent much noggin-time. Because basically, my writing process involves throwing words up on my computer screen and hitting the publish key. Sometimes the words hit a chord with readers, and sometimes they don’t. Once in a while, I’ve regretted them. Occasionally, I’ve been misunderstood or misread. Usually, when I read those words later, I think a little editing would have been a good idea. But I keep writing them, and this blog tour exercise has made me consider why?

There are three questions the tour has asked me to answer. Here we go:

1. What am I working on?

Honestly, I’m working on very little at the moment. I’m trying to get some words on the blog at least once or twice a week. I get this weird, unfulfilled kind of feeling when I’m not writing. Blogging has become a kind of spiritual discipline for me and when I’m not doing it, I think I lose a bit of my grounding.

I do have some things I’ve begun and hope to finish, though, when life settles just a wee bit. (I know, when will that happen?) I’ve got a couple of books in the works, non-fiction stuff about home and life and such, and a few other ideas noted on my phone in a folder called – wait for it – Ideas.

2. Why do I write what I do?

Writing is a weird personal/public intersection, where self-examined meets self-exposed. I blog about myself, my family, my faith, and how all those things work (or don’t work) in the spaces in which I live. For better or for worse, I don’t self-censor much. It’s been important for me to write as honestly and transparently as possible, without totally freaking out my family or my readers. Sometimes, I imagine I’ve crossed the line, and I’m sure there have been times I’ve held back. But the working it all out, from internal thought to external words, has been the most revealing and growing experience of my adult life. And I’ve stuck with it now for about five years, which says a lot about how important it is to me.

The other stuff I’m working on, well, that’s a little different. It’s not so much train-of-thought or what-happened-to-me-today-at-the-grocery-store kind of writing. It’s about chapters and flow and actually saying something. So, yeah.

3. How does my writing process work?

Kinda covered this already, in that, basically, I don’t have much of one. Blogging involves coffee and a few minutes alone in the morning and a random thought or maybe photo that generates a few other thoughts which then fly from fingers to the screen. Add a bit of formatting or what have you, and hit publish. Ar least hat’s what I thought when I first considered this whole process thing, because I’ve been blogging for a long time and that’s my routine. I don’t think about it a whole lot.

When I did give it some thought, though, I realized I blog all day long in my head, as things happen or the kids say funny things or I read something on the internet. I stumble over these little bits of life and I think, I’d like to write about that.

In the past, I’d stand a good chance of forgetting the moment and when I’d sit down at the computer, the memory would be gone? Now, I try to jot a bit of a note down in my phone in a folder called – wait for it – blog ideas. Surprisingly, writing things down helps me remember them.

If I could give a new blogger one piece of advice, this would be it. Write the idea down when you have it, because you won’t remember it later.

Honestly, my phone has revolutionized my blogging, and I’m only half kidding about that. The ability to quickly make a note about random life events has been huge, but the ability to snap a photo has been, maybe, huge-er. The random pictures I take throughout the day are memory-joggers and inspiration-makers when it comes to sitting down at my desk and facing a blank screen.

So, that’s how it goes for me. I observe as I live, I try to take notes or photos of it all because of my terrible memory, and I sit down with a cup of coffee as often as I can and write a few words about it. And when those words touch another’s heart, well, that’s just about the most amazing thing in the world.

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As part of the blog tour rules, I was to find three other bloggers who would participate and write their own process stories to share. I found two who were willing to give this a go, but these women will be more than up to the challenge, I assure you.

Fay Spencer is another internet friend. We found each other through our blogs, and I love her to pieces. I know all about her kids, Amy and Jake, and her husband, Dan, and their lives in the United Kingdom. She loves to travel and knit and is generally the crafty sort of momma I always wished I was. She’s not been blogging quite as often of late, but when she does it’s a treat to read her words over at A Diary of Me.

I’ve known Trinda Jocelyn for a while, in the way you know people you bump into from time to time, but recently I’ve been awakened to the treasure of her and her writing. She’s a younger mom than I, and her creativity and artistic talent astound me. She’s one of those people who just knows how to make things beautiful. She’s raising a houseful of kids with her husband, Adam, and I’ve come to appreciate her honesty about her journey as a woman and a parent as she writes on her blog, My State of Mind.

Fay and Trinda will write about their own processes within the next week or so. Stop in from time to time and check them out. You’ll be glad you did.