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Mercy is not a virtue that you choose to put on one day. Mercy has to be your deepest way of seeing, a generosity of sprit that draws from your identity, your deepest dignity, which is love. It is basically a worldview of abundance, wherein I do not have to withhold, protect or hoard myself.  Richard Rohr

Isn’t that beautiful?

I can mercy all over the place when I have a worldview of abundance, when my spirit is not shackled by fears of not having, being, or doing enough. “Not enough” is the death of mercy.

Even “just enough” is limiting, if I think about it. Just enough suggests I’m good, I’m taken care of, I have what I need. Honestly, it keeps the focus down and in instead of up and out. Just enough is the mantra of Justice.

The scenery of merciful abundance, though, is expansive, lush, gorgeous… more than enough. Mercy is kindness and patience and generosity. Mercy looks beyond the limited view of just enough to the expanse of more than enough for all. And in that grandiosity, from out of that deep well of love, is drawn the overflowing bucket of understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness.

Justice is important. Mercy makes it beautiful.

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Wait. What? February?

I’ve been sleepy since December. I’ve been yawning and stretching and snoozing, slow-poking my unpurposeful feet through days of HGTV escapism and too much sugar.

I went to church a few nights ago with a boy, the middle one, the one leaning into Catholicism, and sat with him through the Ash Wednesday service. Prayers and bells and songs and then the invitation to come for the marking with ash.

“Is it just for Catholics?” I whispered to my son.

“It’s a blessing. It’s for anyone,” he said, so I followed him through the crowd and stood in front of a stranger who dipped his fingers into an ash-filled bowl, marked my forehead with an ashen cross, and offered me a word of blessing.

I was prepared to feel something in this new experience. I was expecting some kind of joy or a spiritual something, but I was not ready for the hot prick of tears when his fingers touched my skin. The emotion of being touched unsettled me, even as I smiled and turned and went back to my pew and all the while I wanted to raise my hand to my dirty face.

I stood in my place, all uncatholic and uncertain, and I watched the worshippers around me as they dipped and bowed and kneeled, as they crossed themselves and as they folded their hands in prayer, finger tips together in a steeple, as I did when I was taught to pray in Sunday School.

These are things I’m not used to. I’m not familiar with kneeling for prayer. I’m not comfortable with being touched in church. I’m not experienced in such physical expressions of worship and that is my loss, I think.

Faith-family, back in the day, was a physical thing. Reclining at the table together and holy kisses and washing each others’ feet. Our ancient brothers and sisters exerienced their brotherhood and sisterhood in tangible, touchable ways, and I find myself moved by a thing I didn’t know I was missing.

I’m not criticizing, mind. There are beautiful congregations of worshipful people, living their faith in service-filled ways, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of many of them. It’s not a this -way-is-better-than-that-way thing.

But a few days ago, a stranger-brother in faith marked a dirty cross on my forehead, and I was undone. It woke me up, and today I washed the sleep of inertia out of my eyes and wrote these words for you to read but, mainly, for me to remember.

It’s Lent. I’m walking toward the cross.

 

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When I moved from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, I was expecting some things. I was expecting to enjoy the weather and the view. I was expecting to have a few anxious moments along the way, and to miss my friends and my familiar Saskatchewan life. I was expecting some fun/uncomfortable/stretching feelings as we searched out new grocery stores, coffee shops, and churches.

What I hadn’t expected was to begin remembering myself.

I’m remembering myself here, on the shore of the Shuswap Lake and on the bank of the Enderby River and on the deck of the house of the friend who is letting us stay with him. It’s coming back to me in slow waves of warmth and a gentle soul-awakening. I’m waking up, is what it feels like. I’m turning, returning, to the girl who loved the lake and the sun and baggy shirts and cutoff jeans. I can feel her stretching inside me, turning her face up and smiling toward the sky.

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It’s not the place, really, although there is no denying the beauty of British Columbia. It’s the change and everything it took inside to make the change. It’s the bravery of saying goodbye and the courage to say hello. It’s less stuff and better goals. It’s opening up to possibility and the freedom of starting fresh. It’s a longing acted on, and believed prayer, and going when it seems right to go. It’s accepting the hassle and stepping off the curb.

I’m remembering myself in all of this. I’m fifty-two years old, and I’m the youngest I’ve been in a long long time.

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Ask me a question these days and chances are good my answer will be “I don’t know.”

Where will you live after you move?

I don’t know.

Will you buy a house or rent?

I don’t know.

Will you keep fostering?

I don’t know.

What will the kids do?

I don’t know.

Do you think your foster daughter will be okay?

I don’t know.

Why aren’t you stressed out?

I don’t know.

There are a lot of things I don’t know about how life will work over the next few months. Honestly, I’m not sure why I haven’t felt more stressed and anxious about that. I’ve felt so many other things about this move: happy, sad, excited, lonely, uncertain, melancholy, rushed, tired, joyful. But I haven’t felt much stress and I haven’t been much worried.

I wonder if all the things I don’t know have helped me focus on what I do know? Maybe. I don’t know much about the future, but I know these two things…

I know I want a smaller life. I want a teeny tiny house with a teeny tiny yard to care for. I want less stuff and less busy and less unnecessary, because I have other ways I want to live before my living is done.

Now, if you are someone who seeks the egg-gathering, gardening, canning, or whatever-ing kind of life, that’s great! I did that and I loved it for many years. The goats and the chickens and the butchering and all the gritty beauty of life and death that country living has offered our family has been wonderful.

I’m glad the kids grew up on our little farm and we’ve been blessed by so many country experiences. But I’ve learned to let go of things, even when they’ve been precious and lovely things, when the time is right. And for us, now, the time is right right right. It’s bittersweet, of course. There’s some loss and that means there is some grief. But there’s beauty and freedom and healing in a good goodbye said well at the right time.

I know I want a “funner” life. Okay, it’s not a word. Whatever. A funner life is what I want. I’m not saying I want a more leisurely life or more money or more holidays. I think (and I’m figuring this out as I go, you guys) it means I want to engage in better ways with the things that make me who I am, deep deep down in my soul. Or maybe in my gut. You know?

Simply, I hope to spend the next years of my life doing what I’ve always encouraged in my kids: to be true to who they were created to be and to live out of the confidence that who they are is enough.

Who I am is enough. That takes a certain amount of courage to say when you’ve spent most of your life trying to be good, be better, be more, be seen. But it’s truth. And I think it’s the key to having fun.

A smaller life and a funner life. It’s a start.

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I read Matthew all through Lent. Fifty-ish days of Matthew and a little N.T. Wright and some stuff on vulnerability and a fair bit about the Kingdom. Funny how the threads of all these different words have been weaving their ways into some kind of garment I’ve been wearing for a while. Like a loose, flowing summer dress, these words have been sitting on my shoulders and falling across my breasts and belly and floating around my legs as I walk through my days.

This is how I read words now. Wearing them instead of studying them.

I wore them through my mom’s heart attack and bypass surgery, through hard and happy family days, through challenging and exciting life-change days, and through heartbreaking and sweet foster parenting days. I’ve dressed myself morning after morning in their comfort and security and they fit perfectly. They make the hard days less hard. They make me feel beautiful.

The days rush me toward change – as my husband heads west for work and the house gets packed up and the children near the finish line of another year of math – and even as I feel the wind of all the rushing blow through my hair, I wrap the comfort of all the good-fitting words around me and I know I am well-dressed for the weather of this changing life.

If clothes make the woman, then these are the clothes I want to wear.

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I gave up Netflix for Lent. It’s been easier than I expected, except when it’s been hard.

It’s been my distraction, you see. It’s been the escape-from-reality and the end-of-the-day reward. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escaping and rewarding. But I know myself, and of all the things I considered fasting from, Netflix was the one that made me kind of sad. And that’s, well, kind of sad.

So I gave up Netflix. It’s my first time to practice Lent, let alone to fast from anything during Lent, and it’s been slow and deep and kind of beautiful in ways I didn’t even know to expect. I had no clue, basically.

I signed up for an N.T. Wright online Lenten devotion, and together he and I and the book of Matthew have been making our way through the season. Slowly and carefully, like picking our way down a pebbled path, looking for wild flowers that might be growing along the edges. It’s really been a lovely walk.

And Netflix? Mostly, Netflix has been replaced with reading or visiting or watching movies with the family. Mostly, it’s been a fairly easy temptation to resist. Easier than I expected.

But the other night, after tossing about for hours and finally relocating to the downstairs sofa, I gave in. I tapped the app button on my phone and looked through the menu options and feasted on three episodes of a show I’d been watching before the whole Lent thing started. I caved, big time.

I’ve been trying to feel guilty about it, but you know what, I really don’t. I’m not sure what that says, exactly. I guess I’ve decided it’s not about perfection. I know I am weak. I’m totally the follower fretting in the storm while Jesus sleeps, or sleeping in the garden while Jesus prays.

This morning, N.T. and Matthew and Jesus and I picked up where we’d left off. And you know what? It’s still beautiful.

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I have a little girl who lives with me. She’s three and she knows I’m not her mom. She calls me Gubba. I pick her up from daycare on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:00, and we drive home. Every trip, we have the same conversation.

Home, Gubba?

Yes.

Your home?

Yes.

My home?

Yes.

I’m not sure what internal stuff she is processing as we repeat this ritual, but I know home is an important place.

I think its significant that after God created the world, the first thing he did was make a home. And not just any old home. A beautiful home, filled with love and possibility and friendship and Him. And, because every good story needs it, the tiniest potential for things to go wrong.

This is the thing about homes. As beautiful and comfortable and safe as we make them – and let’s make them as beautiful and as comfortable and as safe as we can – things go wrong. Always.

People fight or pets die or jobs are lost or children walk away. Just ask the prodigal son’s dad about children leaving nice homes. Stuff happens in homes, no matter the furnishings or the landscaping or even the love.

This is the other thing about homes, though. As much as things go wrong in them, homes are meant to be places of beauty. Sometimes, beauty is tears in the night or puppy poo on the living room floor or children sharing fears. Sometimes, beauty is hanging in there when it’s tough. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing is the hardest or the most challenging or the messiest.

Homes are meant to be beautiful and clean and safe. I wonder, though, if that means beauty over time, instead of beauty every time. I hope so.

My home isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. I can’t seem to keep up with the dusting and the furniture is ancient and the living room needs repainting and once in a while I lose my patience with the people I love and, to be honest, I’m not the best cook in the world. I can focus on any or all of those things, in the moment.

Over time, though, my hope is that people who spend time here will find some beauty in spite of it all.

If they do, it will be because of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

He made a beautiful home, way back then, and He says he’s making us another one, so I think beautiful homes must be important.