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.
So I’m sitting outside the other day with Loco and one of the neighbour girls who often comes over to visit, and she turns to me and asks, “Can I have your dog when you die?”
Ah, I’m thinking to myself, the innocence of children. She thinks my little Loco (who’s already nearly ten in people years—making her eligible for Old Age Security in dog years, if they actually paid it out to dogs [I’ll have to write a letter to Peta]) is going to outlive me.
“Oh,” I say, “Loco’s ten years old.” But she keeps looking at me for an answer, so I continue, “She’ll most likely only live to be about 15.” She continues to look at me as I rock back and forth in my porch chair, feeling now like I should be knitting socks and pulling a shawl over my shoulders.
“Um, do I actually look to you like I’m going to die before that?”
She nods. And with childlike sincerity adds, “Yes… well, except for your hair.”
Definitely not getting the dog. And, although I did enjoy the rest of our time together (I have THE most darling neighbours), all I could think about was getting back inside so I could look in a mirror and scrutinize the latest attack the aging army had launched against me unawares. Should I have invested all that money in a good straightener when a set of curlers was more my speed?
Suddenly, how old I looked to the rest of the world mattered very much to me.
I have to admit, though, getting older isn’t the struggle I thought it was going to be—it’s those other areas of my life where people’s opinions have either validated or demeaned who I am; those areas set in stone, cemented into something sculpted by what others have said about or to me–and I find the Christian life is somewhat of a perplexing paradox at times.
We have within us an inner witness to the forgiveness, life and promises of our Creator—while outward circumstances bear down with such force they threaten to snuff it all out. And, if that isn’t bad enough, those looking on can threaten to annihilate us completely by their erroneous assessments—judging who we are by our situations.
True, we sometimes bring the storm on ourselves, and often we’re just reaping what we planted—but even then, when our hearts are repentant God is with us, and we must hold on to that truth without ever letting go, because that, alone, is our lifeline to getting through. We must learn to swim against the onslaught of opinion.
A man who’s fallen overboard and is floundering to keep his head above water in the middle of the ocean does not worry about how his hair looks as he clings to the lifesaver tossed out to him. God is not concerned about how well we impress others as we ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling;’ clinging to what His Word says about us as the umbilical cord keeping us securely connected to the womb of faith.
Joseph had to do it. So did Job. David did it, too. All of them looking pretty insignificant in the eyes of their contemporaries—suffering scorn and contempt. One thing they didn’t do, though, and that was listen to popular opinion, not even their own. They believed what God said about them; they chose the path less travelled—and that, like the famous poet said—made all the difference.
Feeling a little boxed in by other people’s opinions? Don’t give up, God has a lot to say about who we are…
even when the rest of the world has our days numbered.
My friend, Claudia, got a very nice camera for Christmas from her loving hubby. And just because she’s naive enough to believe I know something about photography, she sent me a few of her practice shots for feedback.
I think Claudia is a natural picture taker. She has a good eye–and the more she gets out there and shoots, the more that talent is going to shine through.
I couldn’t help but be captivated by two of the pictures, though–and only because they were so ordinary…
…in the most extraordinary way.
Sometimes we miss the beauty of simple things. A cozy neighbourhood corner sporting a spiffy red stop sign is so comforting close up–it reminds me that we should all have a place to go back to at the end of the day.
And who ever takes the time to stare at a chimney? It pours out heat from the hearth of happy homes.
Even the most mundane things look appealing with the right focus.
That’s the way it is with us, too. None of us are really all that, not really. But when we get our focus on God, and He gets us into focus–well, He makes us look a lot more appealing than we ever could have otherwise.
But He has a good eye–and He focuses on making the most out of ordinary people.
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?
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.
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.