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You know, there’s something glorious about having a playground to yourself.

You can twirl on the swing without anyone complaining. You can run up the slide or pour sand down it, and no one will say a thing. You can holler and sing and pretend you have a gun to shoot bad guys with, without any social pressure to be quieter or play nicer.

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, it is easy to be who you are and do what you want when you’re alone. It’s harder when people are watching.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I suppose it’s important to learn social acceptability. But maybe there’s also value in learning to be brave enough to be willing to be socially less-acceptable once in a while.

This has been the conundrum that has challenged me for my entire parenting career.

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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.

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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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Here in Canada, we’re about two weeks into the whole Jian scandal. If you aren’t Canadian, or if you are and you’ve been hiding under a rock or in a cabin in northern Saskatchewan or you’ve been lost at sea for the past several days, our Humpty Dumpty of radio took a great fall.

I don’t need to go into the details. They are there, like all scandals, in scarlet internet letters. Let’s just say the host with the most, our national treasure, the CBC’s so-called greatest asset, has been toppled from his throne amidst what began as a Toronto Star news story and has evolved into, as of now, allegations he assaulted and sexually abused nine women and a man. The Toronto sex crimes unit is investigating at least three complaints against Ghomeshi. No charges have been laid. Ghomeshi has hired a criminal lawyer.

This story has been sadly interesting to follow.

I kind of loved Jian Ghomeshi, you see, the way you love someone whose talent you respect and whose work you follow. I didn’t listen to him every day because, well, I’m a busy homeschooling mom. But when we travelled, say to Moose Jaw for shopping or to Regina for dentist appointments, I was happy if the trip coincided with Q, the CBC radio program he hosted.

Listen, I’d say to the kids. This guy is the best interviewer I’ve ever heard. He does his homework. He’s a great example of someone who knows how to use words well. He’s living inside his talent. I hope you find ways to do that in your lives.

So it’s been sad. And interesting. And rather curious to watch as the public (including myself) responds in various ways.

Mostly, people are rushing to assure each other that they are against violence toward women. Mostly, Jian has lost public support, in spite of his early assertions that all his activities were consensual and nobody’s business. Mostly, even those who initially agreed with him that what happens in the bedroom is out-of-bounds, have turned on him. He doesn’t seem to have many friends left.

I’ve wondered about my personal response to all of this. Initially, I was so sad, but when I voiced that sentiment publicly it was interpreted as support. I think. Who really knows what anyone means within the limitations of social media conversation? But that’s how it seemed. That being sad was unacceptable because, by gosh, he’s a horrible person who has done horrible things.

But, you see, I’d just found out about the horrible things and I was having trouble reconciling the horrible assertions with the voice I heard on the radio.

Honestly, I’ve moved on from sadness to disappointment to barely reading beyond the headlines anymore because the story has become, as all these stories do, a media thing. There will be jokes and stories about what the maid or the chauffeur or the guy who sat next to him at that fundraising dinner said, and who knows how it will end up when all the chips have fallen.

The thing I’ve learned, or relearned, maybe, is that talent isn’t representative of character. So what I’m saying to my boys now, is, Listen. This guy was a talented guy. He lived inside his talent, but talent isn’t everything. Be the most caring, loving men you can be, because that’s worth more than a silver tongue any old day of the week.

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Once in a while, on a Sunday afternoon, you need to run in back pastures with leggy llamas. You need to race the wind across an empty prairie, golden grass underfoot and wind in your face, and everyone watching and cheering and laughing.

Honestly, it’s what I want for them, all these ones I love. I want them to run their whole lives, chasing the things that challenge them and make them gasp for air because the running is so happily exhausting. I’ll watch them, and cheer and laugh, and I’ll sit them down at my kitchen table for tea and brownies when they need to catch their breath.

And when they call to me, from across a field or a country or an ocean, I’ll listen. I’ll cry or laugh or encourage, whatever. I’ll remind them of these prairie boy, llama-racing, windy days, and of how they grew up learning everything they need to know to keep on with it.

I’ll do my own running, too, of course. A little slower, and maybe a few more stops to rest and more potty breaks than I used to need, but that’s okay, because honestly, this crazy racing life is still so much fun.

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Multiply this number by these numbers, then move over a column, blah, blah, blah, and then you should have the right answer.

It’s twenty minutes and I can tell he’s heard more blah than teaching and I am frustrated and so is he.

I don’t get it.

I can’t do it.

I hate this.

But what he is really saying is I hate that I suck at this and I wish I could get it because I feel stupid that I don’t.

Evil math. The bane of our homeschooling existence.

As many times as I tell him he’s so super smart at so many things and he’s not defined by his math skills (or spelling, for that matter) and he has so many unique and non-scholastic type gifts, well, there’s still THIS struggle, day after day.

The thing is, I think it’s kind of good for him to have a burden. It’s good to learn that some things are just hard and take a lot of work and require perseverance. And it’s important to learn to accept that when it comes to ability, some people are better than others. Doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying.

A burden isn’t all bad. I just don’t want him to be crushed by it, you know?

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He was baptized by his cousin John and his father was so pleased.

I love this story. I love that Jesus asked John to baptize him, and I love that John didn’t want to but did anyway. I love the after-glory of the Spirit coming down as a dove and the Father’s voice echoing through the land. It’s a holy family scene like no other in scripture. The ancient heavenly equivalent of high fives and whoop whoops.

The next part of the story has always been perplexing, though. In the midst of the celebrating, Jesus leaves. He heads out into the wilderness, led there by the Spirit it says, to be alone. To fast for forty days and nights? To be tempted? What?

I’ve never been to a baptism that ended this way.

I can relate to the being-proud-of-the-son part. I remember the baptisms of each of my three boys, and I was so proud. I was happy and pleased and joy-filled because of their decisions and what those decisions represented. High five. Whoop whoop.

But not once did I think, let’s get these boys out to the wilderness right now. Let’s leave them on their own and stress them and deny their bodies nourishment and let’s let the devil have his tempting way with them, and we’ll just see what happens.

Here’s the thing. It happened anyway.

There’s the celebration of a decision, and then there’s life, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. And the boys, each of them, has the road rash to prove it. So do I. So does anyone who not only makes the commitment but lives the journey.

I don’t know why Jesus did it the way he did, but I’m glad he did. I need the example. I need the reminder. Because the temptations are real.