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
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.
I love me a good egg.
I love dipping my toast in a couple almost every morning. I love them over easy, in a salad or whipped in heaping piles atop a lemon meringue pie. I love the way they line up neatly in the carton and stack conveniently in the fridge. I like that you can even put the ground up shells in your compost.
They’re bursting with heart healthy nutrition, low in saturated fat—and have very few calories.
Recent studies reveal a plethora of reasons to include eggs as often as you can in a healthy balanced diet. Turns out they’re not just good for your heart, they’ll help you have the right kind of cholesterol. They contain high quality protein, and all 9 essential amino acids.
They’re good for your eyes, brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, and are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D. They lower your risk of breast cancer, promote healthy hair and nails, and may actually help prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.
Not bad for such a humble little powerhouse of provision, who’s had to stand up against a bad rap for so long. They’ve had to fight incredible odds against the barrage of misinformation assaulting their good reputation.
But truth is always truth; and once the air clears and misconceptions are shown to be what they are, truth stands as it had all along. It doesn’t cower to consensus, and it doesn’t blush with shame at the false accusations–it is a pillar planted in the roots of eternity past, present and future by God Himself, who will bring all truth to light in His time.
And in the same way you can’t put a good egg down (pun intended), eventually lies and deception will give way to truth in our own lives.
Sometimes I buckle under the weight of misconceptions, slander and half-truths–thinking it has all obscured me even from God; that He either doesn’t see what I’ve been buried under… or He doesn’t care. But often, in that obscure place He shines the light on my own misplaced motives, judgments and accusations of others–and I wonder if it’s all scrambled eggs from His point of view.
If I fail to see the ‘good’ in those who harm me, am I doing the very thing they have failed to do, as well? What a mixed up carton of eggheads we can be sometimes.
And, from this place of improved perception, I am learning to release, one by one, all the hurtful and damaging things, real… and imagined, maybe–and finding the benefits of a few good eggs in my life is very much worth the weight of any harm done in the process. And the hard shells of past offences?
They make for a richer soil to grow in when I grind them all up and toss them away.
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.
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.
When we first got Min, the ‘nasty’ cat, she was, well… she was nasty. My daughter talked me into getting her from her uncle’s friend because no one else would take her and she absolutely had to have a new home.
This, of course, was after she’d talked me into getting ‘Loco,’ from the girls’ dance group teacher because no one else was going to do it, so we absolutely had to.
“Min likes being brushed every day,” he told us. So we brushed Min.
Min liked being brushed very much. She liked being brushed the way a serial killer loves stalking their next victim. She loved to let the brush glide gently over her silky fur and around her appendages, and then suddenly thrust her front talons deeply into your humerus, while pummeling the exposed flesh of your forearms into shreds with her back paws. It would sometimes take two of us to pry her off.
We tried oven mitts, but she would only exact revenge later by swiping out at us from unexpected locations while we went about our day. We gave up.
Min also liked to back Loco into a corner and lash her repeatedly. I had no idea cats could move their paws so fast it looks like a blur. It took me a while to rescue the dog the first time I saw it because I was mesmerized by how much it seemed like I was watching an old cartoon flick.
Min grew older and mellowed. She adapted to our dog and rabbit, and eventually became approachable when Mia came on the scene. She’s the CatFather, still–and the other pets know it, but she’s become affectionate over the years (in her signature scabrous style), and we love her dearly–nasty quirks and all.
Lately, Min seems to be aging exponentially, though. At first she couldn’t hear very well. Now she can’t see–we find her sleeping in odd corners because she just ends up somewhere, and there she stays. She’s become skeletal. If not for the huge amount of fur she has, she’d be an eerie sight.
She’s also slow going up and down the stairs and doesn’t always make it to the kitty litter on time. She makes messes almost daily. I have to lock her in the room where the litter is every night so that I can keep the messes to a minimum.
And, I am battling the age-old, old-age pet dilemma–when, if ever, is the right time to put them down? Now, see–I can’t do it. Just typing those words makes me cry. There’s still so much life in her yet. She loves to hop up on my lap and fall asleep. She loves for me to bring her out on the back deck and brush her–I can finally do it without oven mitts or fear of retribution.
I left her out there the other day and after a few minutes found her emaciated body curled up, fur wafting in the breeze and tail thumping the deck, a look of contentment across her face. So, I came up with my grand, baby gate idea.
Surely, the two younger pets would learn to leap over it, and Min would be confined to the upstairs–with food, water and kitty litter seconds away.
I propped it up and started teaching Loco how to jump it.
She cowered and waited until this afternoon when I lifted her over, and made a beeline for the food and water. Mia slept through the whole thing.
Then I heard a loud thump, followed by a lamenting meow, and Min limping down the stairs. She walked into the kitchen, spread herself out on the linoleum, and wagged her tail. How can you mess with determination like that?
I don’t have the heart to put her down, so I’m praying God will take her peacefully in her sleep–on billowy clouds of ascension, while angels play harps, and visions of tuna pâté dance in her head. But, in the mean time, if you have any ideas, I’m game.
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?
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.
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.