January 2015


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Once upon a time my son helped paint a mural on the wall of a family health centre in the inner city community of Regina, Saskatchewan. His art portrayed a mother eagle feeding her babies. Sometimes, when we go to the city, we drive by the painting, just for fun.

The day I picked him up, after he’d been painting for a week, was sign-your-work day. We drove over to the sight and I stood in the parking lot with my camera while he added his name to the names of the other artists who contributed to the project. He was happy and proud to do so, and I was happy and proud to witness it.

I think about that moment from time to time. It was a beautiful mural when all was said and done, completed by several artists and volunteers. But it was watching him put his name on it that choked me up, that day in the parking lot.

There’s a story told about Michelangelo who, after his sculpture of the Pieta was installed in St. Peter’s Basilica, returned in the night and carved his name on the sash running across Mary’s breast. He’d overheard someone suggesting the artist must have been someone else. He was twenty-four years old and it was the only piece of work he ever signed. The translation of the inscription is, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made it.

Maybe one signature was enough for Michelangelo. Maybe he became so popular and so well-known he never felt the need to sign anything ever again. Maybe he regretted that impulsive first signature. I don’t know.

I guess I hope my kid – my artsy-fartsy kid with his bluegrass-music-loving heart and his piles of history books and his paintbrushes – will spend his life doing things he’d be proud to sign his name to. I hope he paints his life with relationships and jobs and ministry and experiences and choices that contribute to the masterpiece that he was created to create.

And when he doesn’t, well, I hope he’ll own those times, too. Claim them and restore them and forgive them and redeem them.

Sign your work, Son, and be proud. Because it’s all beautiful if you let it be.

There’s this little peanut who lives in my home, and I love her. She has a mom and a dad and a whole other scattered family, but because of stuff, she lives with me. She calls me Gubba.

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One day, maybe soon, they will take her away. She’ll go back to the mom, or maybe the dad – whomever gets his or her you-know-what together sooner.

Someone will come in a van and load up her barbies and her bike and her dress-up clothes. That someone will take her out of my arms and buckle her into a car seat and they will drive away… out of my yard and out of my life and I’ll wonder forever how she is doing and if she is happy and if her life is good.

Going in, I knew all this. The minute I got the phone call and said yes, I’ll take her, I knew there would most likely be a goodbye at the end of it. The first time I kissed her, I knew there would probably be a last kiss and a final hug and an end.

This is how it works in the system, usually. There are beginnings and there are endings, and the time between is all I’m given, and who knows how long it will be.

This baby girl, though? She snuck right into my heart from day one, and oh my.

Be careful, warned someone who loves me and who has held my broken heart in past days.

Be careful.

But how can you be careful with love? That’s what I said and that’s how I live and I don’t know any other way to do it. Even though I know there might be a mountain of hurt to climb, because one day, maybe soon, they will take her away.

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I have a picture-perfect life. I live in a place of beautiful sunrises and open spaces and sparkly snow-filled vistas. It’s beautiful, in photographs. In real life, though, it’s like anyone else’s life. Good.,, and bad. Beautiful… and ugly. Wonderful…and hard.

I guess I think that’s just fine. I mean, what else would I expect, really?

I mean, who am I that my life should be always fabulous and hardship-free?

The thing is, I’m a believer. I really and truly am a sold-out-Jesus-loving-freak of a girl. I believe in miracles and eternity and love-conquers-all and forgiveness.

The other thing is, none of that means much if I can’t face the bad and ugly and hard things in life with that faith I say I have. Walk the talk, so to speak.

I’ve stood at the beginning of uncertain roads and been fearful of the next step. It’s not easy or fun. Except, sometimes it is.  Isn’t that ridiculous? Uncertainty can be kind of an adventure. It’s sometimes kind of exciting. That’s the crazy thing about walking in faith. The uncertain times are when I get the chance to really practice the stuff I read in that book I say I believe.

I don’t mean to minimize struggle or pain or challenge. There are real, hard things that most of us will be faced with in our lives. You may be facing something more difficult than you could have imagined, right now. There are times to sorrow and weep and lament, and my heart breaks with you for these times in our lives. I’ve been there.

But sometimes, uncertainty is just the beginning of a new road, and fear is only the natural beginning of bravery.

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I’ve been trying to do some writing about this thing we call “home” and I keep stalling. I’m blaming it on my couch.

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I mean, what right to I have to say anything to anyone about home and beautiful spaces and loveliness when I have the ugliest couch in the world?

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I know it’s not my couch’s fault. Poor couch. It can’t help being ugly and old and worn. It can’t help having been sat on and jumped on and napped on and pee’d on for who-knows-how-many years. It can’t help not being fashionable or fancy or pretty.

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Okay, okay. I get it.

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I need to look beyond the tattered, today. I need to spend some time on my home, and quit fussing about my house.

I need to see the real furnishings, and love them for the gifts they are. I haven’t been doing that very well, lately.

Grace.

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There’s a crazy calm after Christmas. A detox, in a way, after all the sugar and all the meaningfulness. Life is ordinary again, and it takes a bit of adjusting. But it’s a gentle time, made gentler by snow days that keep us all home and bound.

I took the Christmas tree down on December 26. Yep.

I started a book one Christmas-holiday day – read about three pages – and now it’s lost. I can’t find it for the life of me, so I started a massive declutter/purge/clean/reorganize challenge. Rather, I read about massive decluttering online but truthfully, I’ve not gotten much further along than that. The book is still lost and the clutter still mocks. I’ll get there.

It brings me joyful heart feelings to watch my son head out each day, snowshoe clad, to take himself and the dog for a walk. The dog needs it and so do I, he says, and I know it’s not just exercise. I must do more things this year that I need.

Is it just me, or is it ridiculous, the amount of planning and organization that goes into trying to get away for a weekend? We’ve been trying to get together with our good friends forever. I almost want to say forget it and stay home, or send the boys without me, but it’s one of those I need things I was just talking about. I need time with this friend, I think, and it will be worth the challenge of the obstacles, so I’m trying to make it happen.

And is it just me, or does everyone feel like January should just be one giant nap? Like, let’s all grab our blankies and pillows and we’ll meet up again in a few weeks.

And also, the whole new calendar thing. Is that fun for you? I’m trying out a daytimer (old school) this year, in my ongoing attempt to magically become a more organized person. It was kind of fun filling in the first few months with the potlucks and muffin Sundays and scheduled appointments, although I’ve already had to cross out and rewrite things more than once which at first was stressful because new book, but now I’m okay and quite happy with the whole process.

I am starting to think my second child will never get his driver’s licence. He’s almost eighteen years old! Today’s appointment had to be cancelled because of the blizzard, although taking a driver’s test in a blizzard would have been a very Saskatchewan thing to do, but honestly we are stuck in our yard until the friendly snow-moving man can plow us out.

And by the way, my one word for 2015 is finish. ‘Cause there are a bunch of things about which I want to write The End this year. Metaphorically, I mean. But you knew that.

Happy second week of January, friends.

I met a friend the other day, a woman I hadn’t seen for a few months, and when she saw me she said, Oh, you look so young! It pleased me more than I think it should have to have that word applied to me, even though it was most likely out of charity and sweet friendship.

I really think I should be more mature about my maturity by now.

But in spite of that, I think I’m entering this new year with a sense of beauty I haven’t allowed myself to experience before.

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There’s this period of time, you see, between being young and beautiful, and being old and beautiful. It’s a settling time, a learning-to-find-peace-in-the-changing-landscape-of-one’s-body time. It’s my time, and while I’ve a ways to go, I’m finding the adjustment more peaceful than I thought I would. I’m looking at us all, myself included, though wiser, kinder, gentler eyes. We are gorgeous women, we really are, in our wholeness. Gorgeous in our years and our bodies and our spirits and our minds. Lovely in our selves, beyond the youthful yearning for perfection.

These days I am sweet to myself, mostly. I look myself in the eye and I like what I see, because what I see is a woman living her story, treasuring the chapters past and anticipating those to come. There’s no hollywood script with perfect words or well-chosen wardrobe. There’s little yearning for better or more. There are only lives, mine and yours, winding and bumping and crashing their ways through the days allowed.

I am softer now, and it’s not just in the skin. There’s a deeper gentleness that forgives easier and accepts flaws more gracefully and is more content with the making do of imperfection.

Today is the first of a new bundle of days. There is some magic in this beginning, if I look for it. It’s the magic of renewal, and renewal is meant to be kind and sweet and encouraging. I’ve spent other firsts more critically. I’ve seen failure and need for improvement and I’ve been stern with myself.

Today though, this first day of this new year, I’m not looking to recreate. I’m not looking to improve on or make better. I’m not scolding myself for not being more or not doing enough. Instead, I’m smiling at myself and laughing a little at the way that smile folds up my face in generous lines. I’m combing my hair and not telling myself it’s too long for my age or too silver for its length. I’m pulling warm clothes over a body that has borne three babies and hugged sorrow and shaken with anger and with laughter. I’m pulling bright red fuzzy socks over feet that have walked miles around the world and around my kitchen. I’m rubbing sweet lotion into fingers that have held the hand of a husband for almost half my life, and it’s all a wonder.

Women, we are adorned, so adorned, with all our years and all our stories, and we are beautiful.

Hello new year. Let’s be friends. Let’s mark these days with laughter and great love and sweet moments and grace. Let’s be quick with forgiveness and happy to overlook the small offence. Let’s wear comfortable clothes and drink our tea with honey and read good words and smile at all the children. Let’s be women… gorgeous, lovely, beautiful women… in our worlds.

Blessings on your heads, blessings on your hands, blessings on your hearts, dear friends. May 2015 find you drowning in kindness and love.