In times of plenty
it’s hard to imagine
could be anything but waste, to be wiped away with the trash.
A good meal
is taken for granted
in times of plenty.
Sometimes, when my heart is filled up with plenty–plenty of activities; plenty of dreams; plenty of goals to achieve–I give God the crumbs.
When my prayer time gets swept away with the wastefulness of life it’s never long before famine sets into my soul.
And I find myself back at the altar,
begging just to taste the crumbs at His table, once more.
It was blizzardy when I left class early. The wind pelted the few exposed centimeters of my face and jabbed at my eyes as I followed the other wayfarers into the warm refuge of the bus terminal. Still half an hour before departure—I thought I’d spent more time at the drug store than I had.
The grime accosted me the first time I had to wait inside—months ago; but now it seems normal, inviting even.
I walk around and look through windows at nothing in particular. I watch the others without trying to be obvious or ill-mannered—people make me curious. I check my phone to see if my daughter messaged me and take a seat along the back beneath the window; that way I can catch what’s going on. Also, there are a few empty seats in a row.
Mostly it amazes me. The cacophonous quiet. That so many people could be in such a small space and only a spattered few are engaged in some kind of conversation. There’s a double row of seats facing me like someone set them up to play musical chairs. People slip in–trying not to make contact with the person next to them, as though they might detonate. Some are pacing, some passing through—but almost all are busy button pushing or scrolling across the lighted screens of their gadgets. I’d like to blame technology for our lack of horizontal contact, but if I’m real honest, I don’t need technology to keep me from not striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. Still, there’s something surreal about seeing so many people hooked up to the heavens—completely oblivious to what’s going on around them.
I think about what I was reading in computer class—about networks. They can be hierarchical or peer-to-peer; and all the devices connected to them are nodes. A woman walks by in front of me looking like an angel, her face glowing from the notebook device she’s looking into as she goes. She’s a node, I think to myself with a smile. We’re all nodes, connected to something.
I enjoy being here today; watching people go by, waiting for my bus. Sometimes I listen to sermons on my Mp3 player, but for the moment I’m contented just holding God’s hand with my heart. His is a secure connection–hierarchical and peer-to-peer at the same time. And I’m just a little node… learning to be content, even when the ride (as it often will) takes me places I’d rather not go.
What endeared me most to my grandfather growing up was the way he always saw a little humour and a ray of sunshine in every situation. When my grandparents’ dream of buying a new home with the income from their taxi stand and diner was dashed by medical expenses and trips south to Toronto for Mama’s endless eye operations–leaving them to share the little one bedroom apartment with my mom while she grew up–he patiently endured it, spending the rest of his life caring for her in her blindness.
When I came along he was well seasoned by life’s hardships. “Hurry up and wait!” he’d tell me with a grin, instead of bemoaning something taking too long. I often think about my grandfather’s words when it seems like God is taking a long time to answer my prayers.
Like the time I needed to approach someone meekly about a situation. I’d prayed it through and gone with the best of intentions. As I turned off my ignition and stepped out onto the asphalt the lyrics for ‘The Best is Yet to Come’ flooded my soul, and I went in expectantly. I thought the ‘best’ would be waiting for me in the parking lot on my way out.
But my efforts were not well received and because of that, my life took a course I’d never planned on. Nearly a decade later–my prayers seemingly vanished into the unpredictability of it all–I’m still waiting.
I thought about them when a divorce I never wanted left me unable to keep my house and I was offered a chance to slip in somewhere on the sly—getting graciously bumped ahead of other equally needy families by well-meaning friends. As I prayed, God told me to wait. I still remember the time of release in worship I had when He gave me the assurance it was all taken care of–accommodations were coming right around the corner.
What followed were two gruelling years and a Red Sea experience. Illness made it impossible to keep working, and soaring housing prices made it impossible to find anything cheaper. I’d been on a waiting list for a local co-op, but they’d informed me there wouldn’t be an opening for months at the earliest. God told me to wait.
Within days the tables turned. People moved out of the co-op, others switched units, and those ahead of me declined their spots—we were in. My house sold at the peak of the market, giving me extra to sustain me through the worst. The best had, indeed, come—in God’s timing.
Like Joseph and Abraham, sometimes we feel like we’re hurrying up to follow God and He puts us on His celestial waiting list—our prayers seemingly slipping through His snoozing radar. Not so.
And another angel came and took his place at the altar, having a gold vessel for burning perfume; and there was given to him much perfume, so that he might put it with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar which was before the high seat. Rev. 8:3.
Did you know that one of the most important steps in making perfume is letting it sit? The longer a scent base sits with the pure grain base, the stronger the perfume will be. God has not forgotten our prayers. Not one vapour of our hearts’ anguish soaking the altar of His affection has escaped His concern. Every petition is being painstakingly preserved and perfected for that precise moment when it will spill over our circumstances in a glorious and fragrant outpouring of answers we never imagined possible.
Hurry up and pray. The best is yet to come.
This morning, as I was hanging my laundry on the line in descending order of weight and size, I took my time to drape the last few articles—with stains—facing the sun. Nothing can disintegrate mustard spots and fade the vilest blotches of blood like a June morning’s piercing rays. Last week I hung a white tunic up with a mango mark that hadn’t come out in the wash, and hours later I reeled it back in without spot or wrinkle. Okay, it still had a few wrinkles—we’re at the mercy of the wind for that—but the yellow fleck had forever fled from the sun’s penetrating gaze.
That wasn’t the first time this morning I’d aired my dirty laundry, though.
I hauled my basket full of soiled cares and sullied concerns to my prayer place and washed them in the water of His Word. I let His mercy pour healing agents into the rinse as I scrubbed every anxiety over the washboard of His wisdom and commands. Ours is no quick-cycle chemical cleansing—prayer is a ‘roll up your sleeves’ kind of rewarding work.
Sometimes I get up from on my face before God fully cleansed and refreshed. Other times, like this morning, I find there are things that just don’t come out in the wash.
So I hung them up on my faith-line. I tethered them to mercy, and secured them with trust—carefully positioning each one before the Son’s face. He sees them, I know. They don’t stand a chance against His penetrating gaze.
Clouds might get in the way, this is true. But out there they will stay until He comes through.
I like to think that prayer is a little like doing my laundry. I have to keep up with it or I don’t have anything to wear. Sometimes a gentle rinse cycle is all I need. Some requests get put through the wringer. And some things just have to hang and dry.
… purify yourselves and change your clothes. Genesis 35:2
Ah, spring—and a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of…
Mud, of course.
The snow’s finally beginning to melt around here, and underneath it all is lots of muck—in my front yard, anyway.
Looks like there’ll be a little more excavation going on, and in the meantime we get to enjoy everything the bulldozer trudged up.
I’m saying enjoy because the neighbourhood kids and I have been finding really cool rocks to paint. We spent the afternoon out front with newspapers spread across the patio blocks–and painted everything from ladybugs and bees to Easter eggs and each other.
I must say, Haley’s execution of me is remarkable—it looks just like me. Of course, Sammy doesn’t think so, but these children are too young to appreciate the beauty of painting a fresh face on every morning.
I figure, if you’re stuck with a front yard full of rocks and dirt, you might as well make the most of it.
We sure did.
It’s going to take some work, though, to get the lawn looking good again—wouldn’t want the front yard like this the rest of the summer. Want to go back to the way things were, before it all got dug up.
I’m wanting some other things to go back to the way they were, too–before some things inside of me got all dug up; when nothing was more important than the nearness of God.
“If you, Israel, will return,
then return to me,”
declares the LORD (Jeremiah 4:1).
We’ll have to rake up all the soil, dig out the rocks and get rid of the weeds and other debris that was churned up.
“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
and no longer go astray…
It will all need to be levelled out before planting grass seed,
“Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
circumcise your hearts…
Spring’s a good time to get things ready; to realize–some of those mountains that just won’t budge?
Can only be taken out one little stone at a time…
Moses was a problem child.
Okay—you may not think a little crying in a basket, while floating down the Nile River was actually ‘problem’ material, but I think it’s easy to see, if we keep on reading—that Moses did not step out of Egypt on his way to the Promised Land, with all of Israel in tow, as the most humble man on earth.
In fact, I find it especially exciting to discover just how quickly he was capable of ticking God off.
And let me say—I love to read about other people’s faults and failures in scripture. It motivates me to do better when I know other people have gone on before me and… well—messed up, because that gives me permission to do the same thing. No one pointing fingers in my face and taunting ‘I told you so’s,’ no lectures and no feeling like I have to sail on into eternity with ne’er a blooper or blunder to be had—for I surely would never make it.
But I don’t want to suggest that I’m making light of messing up. It makes me shudder to think about the way my attitude used to be, when I discovered God, in His grace, really did forgive me for sinning even after I’d given my life to Him—ho hum, God will forgive me… again.
But years of correction, and facing up to the consequences of my actions—and realizing all that I missed because I didn’t ‘get’ the whole concept of obedience before—have been whittling a deep sobriety about the seriousness of sin into the softened flesh of my once arrogant attitudes. I know that God did not come to earth to humble Himself as a man, teach us how to live, and pay the ultimate sacrifice with His life—to spend the rest of eternity winking at our mishaps or just overlooking them. The whole thing is far too serious to make little of.
Even so—I think He purposely put things in scripture so that we would take heart; realize that our human natures will never be perfect this side of eternity, and have hope that, if He can work miracles in other people’s hearts, He can do it for us, too. There’s no going forward until we can make peace with our mess-ups.
I think we should consider that God—the one who said that with Him, one day is as a thousand years; who is slow to become angry; who waited decades while Noah built the ark for people to repent–that God is the same one who went from zero to exacerbated with Moses in their very first conversation.
Could we put this in perspective? Because I don’t think you’re getting it. Picture this—Nebuchadnezzar captures and enslaves the Israelites. He sets up an image of himself and makes everyone worship it—and tries to burn those who don’t in a fiery furnace. And what does God do? He sends him out into the wilderness seven years to humble him. What amazing patience on God’s part. We are talking about a God who waits years and decades for people to learn from their mistakes.
Now Moses argues with God on his very first encounter with Him. That would not be a good idea under any circumstances—but Moses keeps on arguing with Him until God is actually infuriated—on their first encounter! The God who is slow to become angry! Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Moses heads out in complete disobedience to do what God was asking him to do and God is ready to kill him.
Yep—God had already told him to circumcise his sons, and–for whatever reason we could fathom–Moses just didn’t seem to think doing what God said was all that important because off he went without having done it; as though God didn’t really mean it; as though he could pick and choose what to obey and what not to obey. Compare that to Abraham and Isaac and you see a whole other attitude at work.
And God had had it this time—his second blunder and God was ready to take him right out. If not for his wife’s quick thinking all of history would have gone down differently. God was dealing with a problem child—He had His hands full with Moses way before the rest of the gang just about drove Him around the bend in the wilderness.
Now, I’ve been around almost half a century so far–and, I have to admit, I can’t say that I’ve seen anybody yet who’d make me think we’re not ALL in this together–the whole problem lot of us.
But here’s the hopeful part. When it was all said and done, and Moses had come to the end of his days–even though he still couldn’t enter the Promised Land because of his sin–God let him see it, took him home peacefully and honoured him so much He buried Moses Himself.
And God made it known for all the ages to come, that he was the most humble man on earth back in the day.
Wow. Everything Moses went through—from the time he thought it was okay to argue and disobey, to getting close enough to see the Promised Land with his own eyes, all of everything along the way—in the hands of a God Who works all things together for our good; made him the most humble man on earth. That means there’s hope for us, too.
And you know what that means, problem child—one day (though you may not believe it looking at yourself now), God might very possibly bring you into eternity—the most humble person on the face of the earth.
While everyone may have been thrilled about Goliath going down, not everyone was thrilled about who God chose to accomplish it, and his unyielding faith. David’s brothers despised him, and later Saul’s envy was so out of control David spent years in hiding and constant flight.
Are we willing for God’s deliverance to come through the faithful hand of someone else? Someone whose life might cast a shadow over our own–and might that shadow look a little like envy or contempt?
Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag…
I go down to the valley
where Goliath begs to be felled;
from where he is a mite
scaling the footprint of God.
But he has become a giant,
and I find solace in the crowd;
comfort in the collective
cowardice. All of us
tethered to the same insecurities;
fastened by familiar fright.
United we stand
against our own success.
Pity the poor lad who dares
divide us asunder
with just a fist full of faith
and a pocket full of rocks.
I’m hoping to be just like my dog, Loco, when I grow up. Not that I want to bark at strangers and follow myself around the house all day—just that I’d like to be as consistently happy as she always is.
From the moment I surface beneath my mound of blankets to hit the snooze button for the first time each morning, until I submerge again into the sandman’s shadows—she’s happy. And she’s not just ‘happy’ happy, she’s ecstatically thrilled about everything. If I get up from reading, a wagging tail propels her into spirals around my feet. Any sudden movement brings on a whole new carnival of contentment; a gala celebration.
If she goes outside she’s overjoyed. When she comes back in she tears up the floorboards with her enthusiasm. Even if she’s sound asleep and I slip quietly by, her tail—as if stirred by my overwhelming presence—wags at my passing. She’s no less enthusiastic about everything life has to offer than she was nearly a decade ago when she christened the threshold of every happy moment at the altars of our affection, with her wiggling wee bursting bladder.
Everything with her is as new as a freshly spanked baby’s bottom—she lives on the delivery ward of blessings about to be birthed; the cusp of perpetual penchant.
She’s the sound of an ice-cream truck on a sunny Saturday morning. She’s new furniture and old books, slapstick comedy, clowns and every happy thing you could conjure up.
If she were a drink she’d be champagne; if she could fly she’d alter the earth’s orbit. She lives life like it’s some huge pie eating contest—gobbling up all she can before time runs out.
And, it’s not as though she’s any stranger to hardship, either.
Oh, the troubles she’s seen…
She just knows how to bounce back from it is all. She doesn’t know anything about letting circumstances keep her down.
So, yeah—that’s pretty much the way I’d like to embrace the rest of my life. Living like it’s a walk in the park, because truthfully—sometimes it’s more like a walk down the plank.
And as much as we’d like them to be—trite and shallow canine comparisons, however clever—are not enough to keep some of the very sobering situations and circumstances from seeping inside and petrifying the very marrow of us.
We can’t always tear up the floorboards to the next adventure when the next adventure is another disappointment or letdown. Sooner or later, exuberance buckles beneath the last straw. It’s not all that easy to wag your tail in that place, much less sit up and beg for more. But God doesn’t expect us to, either. He promised to find us wherever we’ve been scattered to—bring us back, bind up our injuries and strengthen us. That’s where I’ve been lately—getting all bandaged up and better.
I can’t help feeling more exuberant about life again, though I’m nowhere near altering the earth’s orbit yet. Some of those circumstances and situations are just as foreboding.
Still–I aspire to live life like my loco little dog–in a carnival of contentment; on the cusp of perpetual penchant–bouncing back from the brink like it was just a nasty old bath or something.
I have to confess–God has been nothing but GOOD to me. Lately I feel as though I am living under the Divine downpour of His love and mercy. At every turn I hear His still, small voice of compassion–from the wellsprings of His goodness–bubble up from inside of me; cleansing and healing, and washing all the debris right out through my tear ducts. I think I would always like to rest in this place. Feels like grace to me…
I have found there
at the end of the day;
dressing my injuries–
drawing the weeping
pouring clean water over
all my sin.
When faith is frayed
on grace I lay
and rest my
And still I long
not just go till
the end of the day
to find there was grace
all along the way.
This is a cleave poem. I was first introduced to them while spending a lot of time on a writing/reviewing/critiquing site. This genre, created by Phuoc Tan-Diep, was introduced to the site by a very talented writer. I’ve since discovered that the art of combining more than one poem (I read one that had four poems in total) goes back well before cleave poetry. But, since that is how I learned it this is what it will always be to me.
I also like the ‘cleave’ concept–that each thought leans into and is dependant on the other. We are left with a tapestry of words to wonder over; woven works of art having something truly unique to ponder depending on which way you look at them. And when you read one all together it is like taking a step back to gaze on the complete picture.
Last night I was thinking of Job, and how much better his life was after his suffering was over. God blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. Sometimes we forget that suffering will end, and that, if we are truly trusting it to a faithful heavenly Father, our lives can only be all the better for it. That’s what inspired this one.
Read it through first as one complete poem; then read each side separately. There are three distinct poems or variations of thought in this.
If Job became blessed
more than he was before are
the cruel arrows of those who
plunder wasted, should we mourn for
the suffering, despair? Knowing— they
rise up now and shall
in the end be comforted
In case you were thinking of asking me to take care of your plants while you were away for the holidays, there’s something you might like to know.
This is what my poinsettias looked like only hours after bringing them home last week.
When I’d spotted these lush plants on sale as I was scooting down the aisle, I couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful they would look on the piano. Since it was my last stop—just a moment’s drive from home—I scooped them up, and off we went.
But we live in a dangerous part of town (what with KFC being just across from Canadian Tire) and after my senses were assaulted on the way to the van, we were taken captive and somehow I found myself in a line-up handing over a ransom for supper.
By the time Shopper’s Drugmart enticed us in for a little pick-pocketing fun I’d completely forgotten all about my plants. It wasn’t until we started to unload the van, and I saw the cavalcade of wilted petals weeping between the passengers seats like a funeral procession, did I remember I was supposed to get them straight home—out of the cold. I had, once again, assassinated another houseplant—two this time around.
That meant I needed to plop them atop the piano for a while.
Part of me secretly hoped they’d bounce back. They didn’t. Part of me wanted to be reminded of how beautiful it would have been… if only. And part of me thought I should remind myself of my mistake. After all, wouldn’t it be living in denial if I didn’t? Having to face up to them for awhile might make me feel rotten enough about wasting all that money to never do it again.
I felt the need to explain it to my friends when they were over. Susan, of course, thought it gave a sort of ‘Goth’ look to my Christmas decorating. They all thought it was a funny, unfortunate mishap.
But every time I saw the dead plants, I only felt worse. It was just another one of those ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ reminders tearing away at my confidence. So, yesterday, when I happened upon this gorgeous poinsettia (on my very last stop), I decided to give myself another chance.
This morning I threw the dead ones out.
Sometimes we keep little reminders of our shortcomings around. But what we really need to be reminded of, is that life is already hard enough. We have to be intentional about not letting all the things that go wrong (even when it’s our own fault) flash-freeze us on our way to where we’re going.
But if they do?
For goodness sake, throw them out! Don’t set them up somewhere in front of you where you’ll always be reminded of them.
It’s okay to start over.
Part of today’s message at church was about taking off our old selves and putting on the new. Sure sounds easy enough up in the balcony, praising with the angels. But, I know this week I’m probably going to get stuck in my old ‘me.’
I’m not really the ‘button-up-the-front,’ dress shirt kind of self you can just slip in and out of on a whim–more like the smothering, ‘too-tight’ turtleneck type that gets stuck around my shoulders while I’m trying to wrestle me over my big, fat head. I might need someone else to grab an end and give me a good yank.
I was thinking about this on the drive home: how changing isn’t always easy. Getting rid of some of the old things is… well, it’s hard. For one thing, I can’t always remember where I’ve left the new self, and sometimes I feel like–at least the old me’s got me covered.
You know what I mean: it’s hard to stop being angry at someone when you feel like it might leave you naked–exposed and vulnerable again. So, I just want to hang onto that outfit a little longer while I rummage through the house and find that forgiveness jumper. And, anyway, I like the way it enhances my curves. Oh!–you said it gets on your nerves.
I had no idea it was going to be like ‘Groundhog Day,’ either. You know–the movie where he keeps waking up the next morning and starting the same day over? No matter how many times I take myself off–I’m all wrapped up in me the very next morning. When I was young I had some friends who carefully laid their clothes out every night before they went to bed– I also had some friends who stuck my head in a snow drift till I thought I was going to faint–I just can’t live up to trying to be like my friends anymore.
This is why I’m glad the pastor reminded me that I have to let God change the way I think about things–by getting into the Word. It’s all by grace–I can’t earn it, or be good enough to do it, or feel bad enough to get it right. God does it–but I have to ‘co-operate.’
And, BOY, do I really want to learn to get it right. God is forgiving–this I have discovered with great delight–but, people? Honestly, sometimes sitting out in an arctic snow bank in my birthday suit with a pack of ravenous wolves seems more appealing than apologizing for a sudden slip of the old nature. Especially if my ratio of old to new days is one in ten, and no one even notices the other nine. Dressing to the ‘Nines’ doesn’t always cut-it with other people–which is probably a good thing because putting off ‘falsehood’ is right at the top of the list, anyway. It’s the first thing to go.
I was thinking about that, too, because, let’s face it–we’re all a little deluded about ourselves, and sometimes we’re just the last to know–wouldn’t it be easier if we could rip off each others’ outfits, instead? Cause I sure wonder if some people aren’t getting dressed in the dark… What’s that? Did I get this log suit at the lumberyard?
Life has been seeming a little heavy lately, like it sometimes does.
Locked up emotions seem impenetrable.
I usually just wait for the fog to lift when that happens.
Enjoy the view in spite of it.
Wait for God to bring me out and breathe new life on the dead bones.
I did make it out to raid my parents’ garden, though.
There’s nothing like fresh plunder to perk up a slumping soul.
Never underestimate the power of peas in the pod,
a welcome mat,
a good dog,
and knowing you didn’t have to do any of the work…
to reap the rewards.
Still, parents can be a little scary–at any age…
Lately, I’m back in poetry mode.
It just happens to me out of nowhere–all I want to do is write poems and be very deep about everything. If I don’t succumb I’ll be completely miserable, so I’m learning to go with it.
This is what came to me this week after encountering someone who seemed terribly cold. This person’s coolness was so tangible it was chilling.
I was thinking about the way that is–that when we have a cold heart we feel somehow justified; like it’s our right. Even if we knew how it affected those around us we wouldn’t care–we couldn’t care, really.
Once coldness sets in, only the warmth of God’s love can deliver us–I know.
Communicable Deep Freeze
A cold heart is contagious:
creeps like osmosis
through the air;
seeps like silica
into the senses,
arteries of faith,
cell, by steely cell.
A numbing invasion
seizing unsuspecting souls
till every beating
heart is congealed
in the bloodlust of trust.
When I asked Diane to be the next PRP she was hesitant. She may be the life of the party (most of the time), but she’s also pretty private, and having your personal life splayed across the World Wide Web is not for everyone. She did agree, though, with minimal arm twisting and bribery (just kidding), and here’s how that went:
Me: What are some of the things you like?
Diane: Cherry cheesecake, silence, sounds in the woods, amusement parks at night, walking in the rain, walking when it’s a full moon, loud rock music while driving, singing out loud, blueberry picking, potato chips.
Me: Pet peeves?
Diane: Coming home after work and the dishes aren’t done.
Me: How was it growing up in a remote Northern Ontario village?
Diane: Positive: running through overgrown bushes, singing, falling into my own imaginary world where I was in control. Knowing the people that lived around me, no one was a stranger. We had freedom to walk anywhere, anytime. Once, at two in the morning, I walked along a railway track about half a mile long without any fear. I was fourteen at the time, and we didn’t fear for our safety. If we did get hurt it was within our own circles. Outdoor skating and swimming at a nearby provincial park. Everyone was invited to weddings. Town activities were fun because you knew everyone.
But, we were often bored, and the town had its own pecking order. We were isolated from the big cities–no playgrounds, malls or restaurants. Activities were limited and everyone knew too much about you.
Me: Describe your family life.
Diane: I am blessed with a man who is kind, gentle, and dedicated. He has been patient, caring, understanding, and stood with me through many shared hardships. Together we brought four children into this world and dedicated our lives to raising them. He and the children have been my greatest pleasure and joy to this day. If everything disappeared from my life, all would still be well as long as they were in it.
Me: You’ve often mentioned a ‘Turning Point.’ What was that?
Diane: At seventeen I went to a retreat with a Catholic youth group. By this time I was broken inside and didn’t know what to do about it. I had built many walls to protect myself from people, from allowing them to hurt me in the ways they had. I went for a weekend of spirituality, what I received had a major impact inside of me.
One of the events was a two-hour time of prayer. Praying without books or beads was foreign. What would I do? After what seemed like five minutes the announcer said we were at the end of the two hours. I was in tears when the lights came on, and something was different inside of me after that. I was alive. I could feel joy, happiness, and freedom–emotions I had tucked away. I found myself volunteering for activities (not something I did).
I loved every moment of the rest of the retreat. It was like I was floating, in love and loving life. But, I tucked all those wonderful feelings back where they belonged when I had to return to the real world. It would be years later when I felt that love again, when, at twenty-four, Christ opened the door for me to see who God was and the love he had for me. It continues to be a journey of healing, and I have found myself many times needing grace, forgiveness, and mercy.
Shame had always been a constant companion. I would never look anyone in the eyes. When someone spoke to me and I was expected to look at them, my heart would beat faster, my body would stiffen and I felt like I was shrinking. Anyone outside my comfort zone would trigger these reactions inside of me. I know it’s difficult for most people to engage in conversation and interact with others but, for me, it went beyond the ordinary. So, I avoided interacting with people. Making appointments and answering the phone were difficult and I had to prepare myself for those conversations. Over the years I have conquered these hang ups.
Me: What’s the biggest breakthrough you’ve experienced lately?
Diane: I love the woman I was made to be–now. I was the girl they laugh at in high school for growing up to be fat with kids hanging on her hips (as though it’s a tragedy not to remain a knockout).
Being a mother is one of the greatest joys of my life. But, my weight was not embraced with such joy. When my stomach started bulging out I hid it with loose clothing. It’s the mushroom that got the best of me. I never looked at a mirror for years, only at my face. I never wanted to see those bulges. I would never look at myself in a picture. I had aged. I was fat. I avoided these things… until lately. I love who I am with the bulges. Not that I promote being unhealthy, for those reasons I try to eat better. But, I am who I am. Not perfect, but full of many things that have blessed my family and others. I bring to society the good and the flaws.
I cannot fully explain why, but today I can look at pictures of me, knowing that I am who I am, the person who, should we meet, would want, somehow, to be a blessing to you.
Thanks, Diane. You sure bless everyone you come in contact with–just by being plainly, remarkable you.
My friend Diane is like a magnet.
No, not a fridge magnet
Not that kind of magnet, either. More like a ‘people’ magnet. They’re drawn to her–all kinds of people: big, tall, small people, thin, round–all people and especially hurting people.
Maybe it’s because she’s had a few struggles in life, herself, or maybe it’s just that she truly has the ability to accept others right where they are–no strings attached, no hidden agendas. Maybe both. Either way, she sure attracts people. Rabble-rousers, hooligans and schismatics alike (and a few regular folk, of course), all feel the pull toward her genuine desire to put others first.
‘Conventional’ is not a word I would use to describe her. But, ‘fun?’ Well, that’s another story.
She’s one of those plainly remarkable people who could jump out of her seat at the end of a six-hour office management meeting and get everyone up doing the limbo. Nobody gets hurt. When you’re around Diane, not only is it okay to be a kid again, you feel like you really are.
She’s got a radar for anyone who looks like they might be in need of a ride, an encouraging word, a card, a phone call, a friend… And, I can honestly tell you, in the more than ten years I’ve known her I have never once heard her gossiping, slandering or complaining. At times, we’ve shared our gut feelings together about some serious issues, but never a word to malign another. In fact, she does her best to slip out of conversations heading in that direction. That makes her my hero.
We all get a handful of really good friends who help make us who we are, who actually change the direction our life might otherwise have taken–just by being in it. Diane is one of mine.
I have found myself making changes in the way I’ve treated others by following her example, and secretly admiring her for how outgoing she is. She’s the kind of person who gets things started; big on ideas, and even bigger on helping everyone feel like they’re a part of whatever is happening.
You can’t possibly think of Diane without thinking of her wonderful family. And wonderful is not a word I use loosely here. They are creative, energetic, fun-loving and extremely caring. When someone near to me was going through a difficult time financially the whole family came up with a Wal-Mart gift card for $500. Not from the overflow of a lucrative lifestyle–rather, from a jar they keep to collect offerings for those in need. And, maybe that’s because they know about that, too.
This potato farming family spent several years running their own retail business, not only here in our small town, but way up north. Travelling Highway 144 up to Chapleau every week was just part of the family adventure of owning a dollar store operation. Her husband, Michel, even hit a moose on his way back, once.
They literally lived in the back of the store–all six of them. They’ve lived in basements and vans, too, and maybe that’s why they’re such a close family, I don’t know–one thing I do know is that they’re big on respecting others–almost as big as they are on having fun. Did I mention they like to have fun?
With one daughter just graduating high school and another going into it, a son going into college, another son working and a husband (who loves her to pieces–and it shows) farming fifty plus hours a week, she can breathe a little easier now. That’s because she’s saying goodbye to a season of her life that has so defined her for the past twenty years–being a home school mom.
Yes, remarkably, through running an organic vegetable farm, a small business in three locations and, more recently, a sleep shift at Christian Horizons (so she could be home during the day with the kids), leading a youth group, and lending hands to anyone in need she managed to do an AMAZING job of, not only being the glue that held her family together, but shaping, educating, forming and moulding some of the most absolutely delightful young people you could ever know.
I wish I could go on. This truly beautiful woman has blessed me more than my meagre words could ever possibly convey. And, if I could be half the blessing to others as she has been to me, I know that I will have lived a life well worth living.
I asked Diane to if I could interview her for my next PRP post, and she agreed. Why don’t you grab a coffee and come meet us over here?
Sometimes it hits me out of nowhere, when I’m least expecting it, and I wonder at how the dam could so easily burst when I thought the waters had all dried up. One minute you’re filling in forms and before you know it that insensitive piece of paper wants to know exactly what date your marriage ended on. I still cry sometimes.
No, it’s not the desperate, dark grieving kind of crying, the kind that once had me getting help because my children deserved to have a mom growing up. It’s not self-pity, either. That kind of crying is like your soul swallowing up the shards and letting them slice away at your broken heart–it only intensifies the pain. It wasn’t that.
I guess you could liken it to a healing salve. It’s the kind of crying that comforts. Wraps you in a hug of ‘I sure wish you never had to go through this’ assurance, and lets you feel like you’re still worth something. It’s when God lets you lean on him and lose yourself in his compassion.
Whoever thinks divorce is an easy solution has never had one. I don’t say that with fingers pointing in any direction–I have enough of my own ‘stuff’ to deal with to keep me out of everyone else’s for the rest of my natural life. It’s just that it kills. It really kills.
Sure, there is healing and recovery from it. There’s healing and recovery after a tsunami, too, but I don’t recommend one as a way to clean out your car port.
So I filled in the form. I had to stop a time or two and just let it out. All those dates I’d rather forget: the date we got married, the separation, the divorce… Then I got to the end and had to fill in today’s date (yesterday’s, now) and it was like someone opened the blinds and let the light shine in the shadows,
and I felt I should build my altar. This is it.
June 28th. I was still a teenager. No, not your ‘happy girl next door’ kind of teenager–the restless kind. The kind that couldn’t-find-anything-good-in-life-unless-she-was-drinking kind of teenager. The one who’d dropped out of school because she was going to live her own life her own way–who wanted, more than anything else, to be free, but carried her dark addictions with her everywhere she went.
It was the day I came to God when he called me out of my darkness to trust in his Son. It was the day I laid all my burdens down and sailed away six inches off the ground for so long. It was the last day I ever felt the overwhelming craving to have a drink–ever. And the day God promised he would never leave me, though I have lived in constant fear of it for so long.
But, today–looking over those forms, I know it to be true. I can look back over my life and see that he has been with me all the way. He has been with me EVEN THOUGH so much of my struggling has been my own making. I have often stumbled and fallen in my faith; have let God and others down, have been certain that next bolt of lightning had my name engraved on it.
But, though he’s taken me out to the wood shed a time or two, I’m still his. I can’t tell you how good that feels. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him… (Lamentations 3:25).
I still cry sometimes,
but I don’t mind anymore.
At my age, getting a love letter in your mailbox doesn’t happen every day.
Okay–it actually never happened… ever.
Which is why
when it does happen
it is a
Especially when that love letter
comes from a
Children have a way of giving us days to write home about.
Today was a rainy cold day–just the kind to stay inside and rekindle my Toasted Turmeric and Spinach Parmesan Rice recipe. Actually, I just thought that sounded good–I’m inside most of the time anyway.
Years ago, while flipping through a magazine I saw a recipe contest for brown rice that got me thinking about doing a little more than just steaming it.
Here’s what I came up with (though I never did enter the contest): The last time I made it I added a huge dollop of coconut cream, which made it creamier and gave it a richer flavour–but I was all out of it tonight.
Toast a half cup of brown rice. Toasting the rice first gives it more of a chewy texture.
In a small saucepan add to it 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese,
1/2 cup of milk, and 1 cup of water.
Bring to a boil while stirring often (to keep the cheese from sticking to the bottom), and add 1/2 cup of thawed chopped frozen spinach, well-drained and pressed.
Bring back to a gentle boil and add 1 1/2 vegetable bouillon cubes (I prefer the msg free kind), and stir until dissolved. Then add 1 tsp (or more if you like) of turmeric (I like). *This was a recent addition as I’ve added turmeric to just about everything this past year since I read about its anti-inflammatory properties. I also like to add a little onion and garlic powder.
Stir well, cover and simmer for 20-40 minutes (depending on the brand of rice you’re using).
And there you have it,
just the right side for buttery steamed string beans and garlicky broiled chicken wings–years ago I was introduced to my (then) boyfriend’s mother’s broiled chicken wings. They were lightly salted and broiled–and that’s it! But they blew me away, and I find I sometimes prefer them without the extra breading and sauces.
The Peach Betty, from this month’s Canadian Living magazine, was the perfect ‘warm me up’ finish to this hearty meal.
Have any of your own ‘rainy day’ recipes?
Jasper and Ralph could only watch helplessly behind the locked door at the aftermath outside–when the Small Rodents truck collided with the Small Flightless Birds truck . . .
Last night was a sailor’s delight
spilling tipsy smiles without warning
on an unsuspecting June morning.
The best part of yesterday was raiding my friend’s rhubarb patch (I’ll bake a pie tomorrow that we won’t eat–we’re just not big pie eaters) and picking buttercups at the creek with the neighbor girls.
The best part of today was finding some really cool yard sale treasures–like this photo box–for just $1.50,
Meeting Max (who lives a few doors down),
planning this really cool idea I have to paint the stairwell to the basement black with daisies on it,
and saying ‘sorry’ to my son for getting upset and yelling at him earlier.
I had this extraordinary friend, Sophie. I met her in Montreal, at a bus stop on my way to church one morning (she’s from Egypt and makes the best baklava known to man). I ended up going to her church instead that morning, and she ended up becoming like a second mom.
“Heather,” she told me one night while I was visiting. “Always keep a short account with God and everyone else.”
I haven’t always been able to do that, to be honest. But, at times like this I really have to wonder what’s up with that.