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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
I recently asked my ‘getting to know her better and better since Facebook’ friend, Susan, if she could be the very first person I interview for my new category–Plainly Remarkable People.
Here’s how that went . . .
Me: What’s a typical day in the life of Susan?
Susan: Nearly every morning at seven, Muffy wakes me up. I sit up and pat her and sing to her. I smile at myself in the mirror, and at God and at my new wrinkles and how much I like the grey in my hair, and start waking people up. I eat right away, because of low blood sugar and check my computer mail while I’m eating breakfast. I’m very food oriented, so I scan the refrigerator to see what I have on hand to cook with that day. We have a lovely Christian woman coming in tutoring Mel, which makes it my job to clean the house before 9:30. This is difficult. I realize how dirty my house is. Then the day really begins. I hug a sleepy girl, and smile at a grouchy boy. Somewhere between this time I am praying. The afternoon goes swiftly. Evenings are spent being an encouragement to my family.
Susan: One of the best days I’ve ever had in my entire life happened two weekends ago. I drove all the way to New Liskeard with my guys. We met up with a couple of friends from church. We laughed and talked all the way. I saw God’s hand in this adventure. I wasn’t tired, and no mishaps. I never got lost. The rain stopped when we went for a walk at the Provincial Park in Englehart. Mostly, I got to be with two very happy fellas and their friends. It was about being exactly where the Lord wanted me to be at the exact time. I will never forget that day.
Me: What is the most difficult thing in your life now?
Susan: Oh boy, it’s not a stretch to say the depression that my son is going through is huge for me to deal with. He’s wrestling with God and I see the darkness ensuing. It is like I’m standing in this gap and the burden to pray is mine. I look at my son in the morning and I ask, “Are you happy, yet?”
He says, “Do I look happy?” I ply him with Jelly bellies and smoothies. We walk and talk. I drive him to doctor’s appointments and work–hoping that, one day, I’ll look back on this time and say, “Hey, look at how the Lord got us through this,” and everything will be fine.
It’s a struggle. I am not quite convinced that the fault lies squarely on heredity or the lack of trying. Sometimes I see Satan’s hand in this and I get confused. What is spiritual? What is chemical? What is circumstance? I get depressed at times but have little time to wallow in it.
When someone you love is depressed and talking about dying and how hateful life is, well where do you go with that? On my knees, I suppose. I pray and pray. This too shall pass; the sun is just beyond the horizon waiting to rise.
Me: How does dealing with issues like Tourette’s affect your outlook on life?
Susan: Tourette’s is an ugly word. It makes someone do and say things that are so involuntary. It looks like demon possession at times. But it’s not. When we first suspected Mel of having Tourette’s, she was only seven. I put my head in the sand until she was about nine. Then we had her diagnosed. The diagnosis makes it real. I believe God allowed this to come about for a reason. It brought me out of my place of comfort and taught me acceptance. It causes me to pray and cry and care more. I think the best thing, though, is that it’s taught me that there is only one ‘normal,’ and that’s a setting on the drier. I’ve learned to look at others who have disabilities with more compassion. I always say to God, “You know I can’t handle this, don’t you?” And he always tells me that I can and that I will.
Me: Tell us about your faith in God.
Susan: Truthfully, he’s my best friend. The trials in my life seem only to draw me closer to him. I struggle with church–you know, the ‘institution.’ I go for the message but can hear it via the internet and sit comfortably on my little chair and sip on my hot water. I struggle with wearing appropriate clothing to church to please others. I sing and forget the one I’m singing to and look around at everyone else. I have C.A.D.D.: Church Attention Deficit Disorder. I smile and shake hands because we’re told to greet others around us. Do we all really care about each other? Church used to be the Pregnancy Care Centre; Meals on Wheels. Our friends and family were with us and we cared. Now, it’s just strangers shaking hands, worried about catching germs, careful not to share too much. But, God–he’s my rock and my strength.
Me: What was it like for you growing up?
Susan: The best part of growing up was where I grew up, on 100 acres of land so remote that the only sounds we heard were birds singing, wind rustling and the occasional wolf howling. I knew every inch of the property. When I was seven, I was off on my own, picking wild berries and visiting my favourite secret haunts. We had an apple orchard and my mom had this huge garden. The water we drank came out of a well and it was pristine. We had no running water and a wood stove to heat the house. God had His hand on me even then. When I first learned how to read (around six, I think), my dad brought home a box of donated books. I chose two that I still own. One was Little Pilgrims Progress and the other a book of children’s prayers and verses. As I got older I was very shy and quiet. Despite that I had eight brothers and sisters I felt alone, but I stopped feeling that way years ago when I realized I never really was–that Jesus was (and still is) with me.
Me: What’s it like being in a second marriage and having mixed relationships?
Susan: The Bible say’s that God hates divorce; I hate it, too. It’s a brokenness. I covet those marriages that have lasted forever. Where the children in the home have had the same two parents raise them up. My older kids have a fear of marriage and having children. In a perfect world we don’t make mistakes and we wait for God to bring us our perfect mate. I’m thinking that, no matter who you’re married to, there will always be struggle. I think it’s best to stay single and own a really loyal dog–isn’t that in the Bible somewhere?
Me: What are a few of your favourite things?
Susan: Brown paper packages tied up with string. Walking the dog to the pond. One-on-one time with my kids. Answers to prayers. Apple pie and chocolate (not necessarily together, but sometimes). A clean home–which is rare. Friends–I don’t have many, but those I have I treasure. I know that one day we will all be in Heaven together.
Me: Do you have any pet peeves?
Susan: Don’t get me started. The bathroom left in a mess. Running out of money in the grocery store and the cashier looking at me with daggers while we play Let’s Make a Deal. People constantly asking me where things are. Mel’s friends coming over and listening to rap–trying to understand the words– then having to Google the lyrics. Being sound asleep and someone knocking on my door asking me if I’m asleep. Peanut cans that have the warning “May contain nuts” on them. Googling a Grandma’s Never Fail – Best Ever in the whole wide world recipe, only to have it fail. Should I go on?
Me: If you could leave us with one word of wisdom, what would it be?
Thank you soooooo much, Susan. My life is much richer because you’re in it.
Remember when you used to play marbles and you finally won that beauty that wasn’t going down without a fight?
Once you had it you never wanted to play it—just in case? You treasured its uniqueness; admired its beauty. My friend Susan is like that. She’s . . . different—in the best way possible. I’m tempted to tuck her into a private pocket of my own safekeeping and hoard her all to myself. I like the way she dresses, her quick wit–tempered with off-the-cuff hilarity and genuine compassion, and most of all, I like her unpretentious integrity—especially in matters of the heart.
I’d like her to be my best kept secret, but, since she’s one of those Plainly Remarkable People I’ve been talking about I relented and decided to share her with the rest of the world.
‘Personable’ comes to mind. I can’t help feeling comfortable with someone who wants to know how I’m really doing, and also what kind of mascara I’m wearing. She knows what it is to soar, and she also knows what it’s like to live in the trenches–and if you find yourself in one, too, she’ll splash a little sunshine on you with her signature smile, a kind word, her unassuming wisdom and a chicken casserole–and you’ll think you’re staying at a five-star comfort Inn.
She’s refreshingly honest, too, a homeschooling mom with an amazing family—but not the ‘Wow, it’s amazing how much better I am than you’ kind of family—a real family, replete with down-in-the-dirt challenges and some satisfying successes, too.
Recently, one of her sons graduated with honours (top marks in Technology) from high school and she celebrated the accomplishment on her wall. If you’re blessed enough to be one of her Facebook friends you’ll get a daily splattering of her sentiments and music pics (usually retro tunes you can’t imagine how you ever got on without) or recipes.
Her youngest son just got a promotion with the Web designer he works for because he was so impressed with his web designs. Not bad for a 16-year-old working hard at getting good grades and battling depression. She also has two grown children from a previous marriage she’s very connected with who have great jobs, and a beautiful young daughter dealing with the daily difficulties of Tourette’s syndrome. When I asked her about the successes in her life she put it this way:
…successes for me, are those things that allow me, firsthand, to see God in action.
Mostly, I’m impressed with the way she’s devoted to being a mom. An unsung pillar of support, striving to stand in a world of walls crumbling and collapsing all around. I’m impressed with her willingness to reach out to others with a kind word or a good deed. And, though she’ll tell you honestly about the struggles she’s facing, she doesn’t brood on them or let them control her. I asked her if there were days she wishes things could be different:
Several years ago I decided to be a Pollyanna. She played this glad game. You know, if life throws you a lemon then make lemonade. It really set in–made a big difference in my home and with people. You smile, they smile. The sun is shining, and you want others to experience its warmth and brightness. On the other hand, some days I need and want others to smile at me and to tell me things are going to get better. I gravitate towards positive people. If that sounds new age forgive me. Saying that, I also want my friends to be able to feel that they can share their trials and hurts with me and not be afraid, and I can do the same.
When I was earnestly seeking direction in my life a few years back, my answer arrived in the form of an unexpected card from Susan, and a note inside with a story that just happened to coincide with the very thing I was going through. No surprise, though, she really does walk to the beat of the One who measures our motives and keeps us instep with his purposes–even though the music might be a dirge, for a season.
Oh—and she also has a very cute dog named ‘Muffy.’
I recently asked Susan if I could interview her for my new blog category, and she graciously accepted. You can read all about it here.
Just tending my dandelion garden
if you have a nice lawn, I beg your pardon
weeds have a certain beauty, too
To savour–just change your point of view
noun: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
I can’t believe my washing machine broke down again. I tried to fix it on my own so the local repair guy doesn’t think I’m sabotaging it just to get him over. I went down armed with screw drivers of different shapes and sizes, but I couldn’t even figure out how to take the spinner off–and that’s the problem, the spinner doesn’t spin. So, now we’re washing-machine-less till Tuesday–when he comes to fix it, again.
Which is why I was washing my clothes at the centre today. But after scrounging through various change reserves throughout the house I came up three quarters short and wondered where I was going to get the change for the last load. That’s when I remembered I’d taken some out of the machine the other day after doing a load of my son’s work clothes.
I’ve always been a ’no change falls out of the wash without me knowing about it–and therefore having to carefully determine, by every means possible–including, but not limited to forensic testing, mathematical deliberation and possible interrogation, because I don’t want to live with the guilt of taking someone else’s money, or worse–giving my money to someone else’ kind of mom. If there are too many pairs of pants in the machine, and no way to be certain whose pockets the money fell out of–and if everyone is pretty certain they had change in theirs, nobody gets it. I can’t even bring myself to keep it, or consider it a tip–it gets given away. So that’s why I’d put the change on his bed with the clean work clothes.
I am well aware that no sane person would think twice about going back and getting that money for the wash. But we’re not talking someone whose mind has been fully renewed yet. We’re talking someone who is insane enough to still be washing and folding her son’s work clothes and setting them neatly on the bed so that he can toss them onto the floor with the rest of the previously folded clothes that he rummages through when he needs to find something fresh to wear, when it’s time to get into it.
We’re talking someone who took, quite literally, the words of that Nobel Peace Prize winning book by Robert Munsch I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my BABY you’ll be (oh, it didn’t win a peace prize?–well, it should have). Someone who really has to learn to do a little less thinking about things before doing them so she might finally move ahead with the really big decisions. Someone who has to do a little less for her grown-up kids so they can get on with the business of growing up.
And, so, I wondered if going back and sifting through that change to see if there might be any quarters was the right thing to do. And, as ‘serendipity’ would have it, there were three! Three tarnished quarters to finish the wash with. And then began the debate, because on matters of such extreme importance one must carefully consider the ramifications of one’s actions.
Should I merely take the quarters? Perhaps I should just borrow the quarters. Maybe the quarters really weren’t his in the first place, anyway–but, how did they get in the machine, then? And that would beg the further question: what would I do with the remaining change? Would it be right to keep it for, let’s say, laundry purposes? As opposed to giving it away?
Mind you, the rest of the change amounted to two pennies, but that’s not the point. It’s the principle of it. If taking two pennies today with total disregard as to who they actually belong to could become an easy thing to do, then maybe tomorrow it wouldn’t be all that hard to nab that little old lady’s purse; or pull off that bank heist–do you know what I mean?
But time was running out (I had to get back to put the fabric softener in the rinse cycle). I took the money. The money that was, as ‘serendipity’ would have it, at the right place at the right time in the right amount. From the dirt it was taken, and to the dirt it would return.
Random thoughts I was having today about the story of the prodigal son:
Heard some good messages this week about this passage. I have some prodigals in my life; I’ve also been a prodigal, and perhaps nothing is more painful than knowing someone you love is going headstrong into things that will harm them and others.
It was wise of the father not to send the older son after him. He needed to release the situation totally into God’s hands. That’s not easy to do–as parents, aunts, uncles and friends of prodigals we sometimes want to enlist others in the ‘hunt.’
You can’t chase after a prodigal, they have to come to their senses.
The father had to live with the neighbours ‘talking.’
So did the older son. Maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on him.
Love gets perfected in the waiting. It suffers silently, and it suffers long, and every day it holds out hope.
This story is really about two prodigals, not one.
At least one of the sons came to their senses.
The most loving parents can have prodigals.
God doesn’t look at what we’ve done, or hold it against us as long as we’re truly sorry. No matter what the wrong was.
Love is not merited–it’s based on the lover’s capacity to love.
The only lecture necessary in this story was for the ‘good’ son.
While I’m waiting and watching . . . I’m gonna start fattening up that calf.
When I bought this Boston Fern several years ago,
I wasn’t really expecting for it to last as long as it has.
“Careful,” the woman at the hardware store told me on my way out. “They’re very temperamental. Better not touch it too much, don’t let the fronds rest on anything (they hate that, and will probably die), just hang it somewhere out-of-the-way and keep it watered.”
“Those are hard to take care of,” my friends told me. “Try not to let the fronds touch anything,” they said.
Since my track record for plants succumbing to a slow and painful demise in my presence was pretty much 100% I was pretty sure it was only a matter of time. After all, consider the Peace Lily–mine neither complains nor weeps, yet after five years with me it’s an anemic nervous wreck.
Apparently, Peace Lilies are practically impossible to destroy. Which is why they’re considered the perfect plant for the ‘houseplant challenged.’ Which is also why there are some things about my life I just don’t get.
Since I figured the fern’s days were numbered anyway I subjected it to the usual abuse and neglect: days without rain followed by the requisite drenching downpour. Just the conditions Peace Lilies are supposed to thrive under, by the way. I plunked it right on top of my hutch and let the fronds fondle the edges.
I shake it out when I notice brown leaves and fluff it up when I get the whim. I take it down regularly and give it a thorough soaking and shaking, then plop it back on top again–all the while letting its gorgeous green talons brush up against walls and countertops, and not to mention, me. And what do I get for it? It loves me!
In fact, most of the pot is completely overtaken with amorous feelings (and roots) and it’s still thriving. Maybe ferns are just sick and tired of people mollycoddling them. Maybe they want to be treated like everybody else.
And that has me thinking about some of the relationships in my life. Maybe I’ve just mollycoddled the life right out of them. I just can’t figure out where I went wrong, but, thank God I’m surrounded by so many finicky ferns flourishing despite all the shaking they get sometimes. And, I still have those gorgeous Ivies.
Guess that’s the thing about relationships–sometimes it’s not about how careful we are to keep them from dying. Sometimes it’s all about just letting them be.
silent stalker of delectable delights
sitting before the refrigerator door
monk at the altar of a grudging god
beggar at the gates of the callous affluent
piously awaiting that blessed cornucopia
trove of tuna pâté and salmon Quiche
dribbles of leftover fried chicken and Alfredo sauce
so much like me
so often sitting on the steps of sumptuous expectations
silent stalker of dreams just out of reach
sister in the habit of having the door close in my face
vagrant wandering the back roads of my own ambitions
devoutly devoted to that blessed belief
elusive illusion that somehow
abundant fulfillment will shower me
the next time that door opens
there it will have been all along
When I walked into the kitchen last week and saw my daughter baking a cake, I was like one who dreams. Had she been bungee jumping from the ceiling I would not have batted a Maybelline encrusted eye lash; but here she was mixing and measuring–and I knew something had to be up, something was going down. It was a Boston (shudder) birthday cake, a surprise for her good friend. A gang of them walk over from the high school every Wednesday for lunch and she was getting it ready for the next day.
My beautiful beloved daughter. If she didn’t look so much like me and cock her head to the side when she’s intently listening to something I would have to conclude she somehow got switched at birth.
She likes thrill rides, whitewater rafting, mud bogging, quadding and hunting. I like reading about bungee jumping and whitewater rafting–imagining I was courageous enough to try them. I like cooking and baking and planting pretty flowers in the front yard (plants used to play dead when they saw me coming just so I wouldn’t mess with them, but now that they let me near I don’t miss an opportunity to plant, prune or take pictures).
When she was little I would try to put her hair up in fancy braids, but I’d have to hold her down with one hand as she wriggled away. I used to put her in pretty dresses until she revolted and walked around in track pants and T-shirts for two years. I tried instilling a deep and abiding love of poetry into her but she’s just not into reading.
I once forced her to take piano lessons until dragging her there each week with bribes of Tim Hortons afterwards was not producing any degree of musical appreciation and huge ruts in my pocketbook, and I wondered how it could be that someone who had sprung out from within my own body could be so totally unlike me in every way.
Not that I mind, though. I rather like it. She somehow came out of the womb ‘organized.’ I’ve been a ‘piles’ kind of person most of my life–letting things accumulate and then shifting them around now and then. Only as I am getting older am I truly appreciating the logic behind being organized. I hate to get rid of things and she will just tell me, ‘Throw it out, Mom.’
When we moved a year and a half ago, after disregarding her many pleas to throw most of the stuff in my basement out, I had to let other people in on my aboxaphobia problem. Why throw out a perfectly good box that might be needed some day? I couldn’t bear the thought of someone pounding on my door in the middle of the night (for that heavy corrugated waxed one to transport an organ or severed body part in a pinch), and me–having carelessly tossed it into the recycling bin only days earlier.
Because of my daughter I can appreciate my mother in a way I never could before. My mother has always been the practical, no-make-up-wearing, sensible type. We didn’t have fancy ornaments all around the house waiting to get knocked off coffee tables. She dressed me in hand-me-downs and those jeans from Sears with reinforced patches glued into them. I walked around school practically inciting people to kick me in the knees.
My mom is so organized she actually cuts and labels the edges of the phone book–making ‘tabs’ so you can find numbers quickly. Maybe she got this from her mom, who had to keep everything in her head because she was blind.
I wanted Barbie dolls, knickknacks and flowery bedspreads growing up, but that wouldn’t have gone over well in the room I shared with two brothers. So, I tried to inflict my love of all things girlie on my daughter by buying her dolls and Barbie sheets and comforters and a pink rug. She didn’t like any of it–she’s a stuffed animal kind of person.
I wonder if God takes special care to sandwich the generations between each other–a divine trifle of sorts. Layering personality traits throughout the years like a living strata; the bedrock of being. Tucking us in between each other’s strengths and weaknesses for stability, and balancing our tendencies to teeter in our own directions.
Still, I do see so much of me in her, too. Just like I see so much of my mom in me. Some of those things leave me awe-filled and some make me cringe. Like our mothers, our daughters are an honest reflection of our own hearts–the good, the bad and the ugly. I wonder if any of us could truly appreciate ourselves, for who we are, without them.
As a believer, I love the Easter season. As a not-so ‘politically correct’ Christian I’m not so much into chocolate bunnies and eggs. Let me rephrase that: may it not even be imagined that I might be trashing chocolate in any of its many mouth-watering amalgamations–it’s just that they have no significant meaning for me in relation to having my sins forgiven and my life restored. Although, a therapeutic dose of chocolate goes a long way in alleviating many an ill. Isn’t that a proverb somewhere?
I also don’t expect most people to ‘get it’ the way I do. It’s up close and personal for me. You can’t really appreciate an oasis till you’ve been wandering around in the desert dying of thirst for a while.
As someone who really does believe the resurrection message I don’t think there could be a bigger picture of people coming face to face with Jesus, for the first time, in a tangible telling way than that of the two men crucified beside him.
Like most of us, they mocked at first. So much for a ‘no show’ God who never bothers to make an appearance when I need him most. What has God ever done for me? There was no reason for pretenses here. And yet, one man’s heart softened and repented, while the other’s was filled with disdain and loathing.
The rest were nowhere near comprehending this. Some were just in the crowd watching with genuine curiosity; even compassion. Some were walking right on by, and some were forced a little nearer than they wanted to be–like the man who was made to carry the cross.
Perhaps, like the two thieves, the most critical place to get to is ‘face to face’ with the cross and our own undoing. No more excuses, no escape plans, not even the remotest possibility of earning any favor. Just the opportunity to accept it . . . or not.
two men out of borrowed time
walk the green line, fulminate
railing bane on spittle chime
gawking crowds who love to hate
two men feel the twisted ropes
that tear through flesh and raucous screams
two asphyxiating hopes
sucking marrow from their dreams
two men who never learned to live
now required of them to die
raging criminals must give
payment for their crime
two hurl insults spewing hate
at a callous stolid god
his failure to abet, berate
the acrimonious swift rod
two are raised to hang and thresh
as silent from the ground is lifted
the hideous, grisly, shocking flesh
crusted, bleeding, seeping, sifted
and one would see a lunatic
and one Divine descent
one a monstrous casualty
and one the offering rent
one would damn an impotent being
and ask what of his claim
and one with comprehending seeing
would hang his head in shame
one would see in blood’s reflection
the filth encrusted deep
and hear in anguish’s inflection
pardon for depravity
and one would leave this cold world railing
not see the crimson ransom, dear
nor comprehend salvation’s failing
as the Father’s coming near
but one would suckle mercy’s breast
born of faith’s unfailing womb
and carried to eternal rest
be spared for ages come, the tomb
The Eiffel Tower:
The Taj Mahal:
The Roman Colosseum:
The Leaning Tower of Pisa:
Wait! Don’t go–I was going to spruce it up with a sprig of parsley and put it on a fancy plate beside a gorgeous table setting, but I only had a few minutes before heading out the door. Besides, it’s what’s inside that counts:
Cheese and bacon! It’s like the Big Mac of meatloafs–without the bun.
Here’s what people are saying about it:
“It’s good, Mom. It’s not the pyramids, but it’s okay.” (my son) Like he’s ever tasted the pyramids.
“Mmmm…” (my daughter)
“Meeoomoreooww. . .” (my cat) All right, I made that up. My cat snubbed her nose at it.
“Rrrrrruff!” (my dog)–okay, I made that up, too. But she did ask for seconds.
It’ll be all gone before it even has a chance of making ’wonder of the world’ status so I’m just letting you in on what might be the best kept secret of the modern-day world.
If nothing else, it should conjure up memories of your mother telling you it’s what’s on the inside that counts; that you can’t judge a book by its cover; yes, you have to eat every last pea–and a slew of other clichés you thought you’d squeak by without.
I’ll try to get out more.