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Archive for May, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 11.11.06 PMWe sat around the table, me and my three.

We ate, we laughed, we argued, the dog joined in with his moans and groans, we recalled moments and memories from days gone by … yet alive in our shared memories.

My heart heavy, and light. My eyes … my eyes wet looking at these three, my three.

It was an evening of reality, an evening of dreams … dreams I thought might never become real, concrete, alive.

As we sat, and ate, and talked. As tales were told, as laughter flowed, as frustrations boiled … boiled over all over, messy, tense … real. I felt alive in the moment, alive with these three, borne from me, real and blunt, harsh and gracious.

For I would rather this icky and sticky, this dark and twisty reality, than one fine and flawless, sleek and shiny show  … without any one of you.

I got what I asked for … and more.

One, one child to birth, one child to raise … was the dream back in the dust-covered past.

From my prayer, God blessed … and blessed … and blessed again.

I dreamed of real. Not perfect, polished and poised. I dreamed of sincerity … red hot, dented and sometimes stinky sincerity. I dreamed of this thing called community, family.

I dreamed of a life where the truth would be laid before them, not stuffed into them. Where the answers were not spoon-fed, but the tools to find them were at their finger-tips, that the instructions that we gave them were saturated in a love for them that could only come from the One who is love.

And as I crawled into bed, head and heart heavy with shared pain, shared struggle, shared life, I realized that I got what I dreamed of … the real thing, not a picture-perfect facsimile.

And that Jimmy Durante song played in my mind, as sleep surrounded me,

“Fairy tales can come true
it can happen to you …
and if you should survive
to a hundred and five
look at all you’ll derive
just by being alive.”

 

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IMG_3475I have been snapping and sighing up a storm this spring.

With each tree in bud, each flower in bloom delight has entered my heart. In an way I feel a bit parental, as each plant has a story, a beginning, significance.

There are the many perennials, tubers and bulbs that I have received from the sweetest three older women from our church. Each of their sharing of their beauty came with stories as well.

There are the living gifts I received in the form of a Magnolia, Red Maple and Japanese Maple from my kids and hubby. They all now sit were they began (most plantings in my garden don’t have the benefit of sitting in one spot, as I keep moving them around, never letting them become truly comfortable).

There are the boxwoods along the driveway, each one began as a hard cutting, pushed into the soil, and left on their own to do what they do best … grow. And now they are all one to two feet tall.

The trees and bushes that I transplanted from their original locations … the Oregon grape, rhododendrons and the forsythias that delight me each early spring.

There are the strawberries, thriving in my vegetable garden, the grapes that line the fence to the pool, the chives that have delighted baked potatoes for years.

Everywhere I look, there is an abundance of beauty for the eyes, the nose and even the taste.

This garden is lovely to spend time in, but it has also been my place of refuge and sanctuary. It is where, like the garden of Gethsemane for Jesus, I can pray without interruption, without ceasing.

It has been my place of worship, and thanksgiving, and praise. The flowers have been fertilized by my sweat and tears. There is even one, secret place, in my garden where I can go when “my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matthew 26:38).

But my present garden, my little piece of sanctuary, can go with me, can go with each of us, wherever we live, work, trod. For the refreshment from a garden, comes from the gardener of all gardens, and, as the Song of Solomon says,

“you are a garden spring, A well of living waters”
(4:15)

It is the Spirit of God, dwelling in us, that brings our refreshemnt, that brings refreshment to those we interact with, allowing us to have and to be the conduit for refreshment, for growth.

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Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 9.00.01 PMAs the purge of household goods continues in our preparations for our move, I have come to understand the phrase, less is more, in a new, fresh and true way.

We have sold and given away usable items, taken loads to thrift stores and to the local garbage facility. Much is packed, with empty boxes soon to be filled, filed and stored.

There are items we simply will no longer need in a townhouse, with a maintenance package. No longer will we need multiple hoses, tools or a lawn mower … thus, no longer will we spend weekends doing maintenance on a house or property.

As a trash can full of rakes, landscape fabric, shovels and other gardening items was picked up by a purchaser, last weekend, my smile widened.

Freedom is in the air!

All of a sudden (perhaps I am just a bit slow) I am realizing how our possessions have a way of possessing our time, us.

I am reminded of Romans 13:11, and I love how the Message records it:

“But make sure
that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted

in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations
that you lose track of the time and doze off,
oblivious to God.” 

I can, to be sure, attest that I have met God in those obligations (more about that in a couple of days). I can certainly also attest to dozing off, after a day of gardening, house maintenance and yard work, oblivious to God.

As we prepare for our move I find myself eagerly anticipating smaller living with a bigger life.

Perhaps this is the change that we didn’t even know we wanted or needed.

 

 

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Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 10.36.09 AMOne would have to have been living under a rock to have not been aware of the royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle yesterday.

There was pomp and circumstance, movers and shakers in many arenas, delightful children being … children, spectacular music and decor, the exchange of rings and vows and even a rather evangelistic message of love and redemption.

The vows that were made were simple, traditional and sombre (serious). There were vows spoken by many before them, from the most prosperous to the lowest pauper. Perhaps that universality is what makes them as significant as the promises themselves, for the effort to keep such vows is as daunting for all, no matter their circumstance.

A vow is many things. It is a promise, but more than that it is a pledge, a commitment, a dedication, a pledge … a guarantee. When one makes such a vow, as one at a wedding, one is saying,

I will see this happens, until death.

Vows are not necessarily a mandatory custom of marriages all over the world. Nor are they legally binding. So, why say them?

Tradition is probably the main reason that many people still respond to or repeat in their wedding ceremonies. Yet, is that all that wedding vows are for those who repeat or speak them?

In the Bible, vows were addressed, by Moses,

“This is what the Lord commands:
When a man makes a vow to the Lord
or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge,
he must not break his word
but must do everything he said.”
Numbers 30:1-2

This message from God reminds us that the words we speak, whether to God or another promise or pledge, is a serious commitment, and must be honoured. Truly we could say that this scripture is the same message as the phrase, my word is my bond, which is “used to indicate that one will always do what one has promised to do” (Mirriam-Webster).

Our vows, spoken in a wedding ceremony, are not just words of tradition, but words of the will. We rise each day willing ourselves to fulfil them, in honour of our word.

May God grant Harry and Meghan, may God grant us all, strength and will to do what has been said … as long as they, as shall live.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 8.54.33 PMI bought a book recently. Not one off a bidding site, or Craigslist or at a thrift store. I bought this book, with not a hint of a bend in the spine. I even had to order and then wait over a week for it to arrive. It doesn’t smell dusty or musty. It was brand new …

So, why?

I had come across an article about a new book, by Barbara Brown Taylor. In here book, she says,

“this is not the life I planned …
and the central revelation in it for me –
that the call to serve God is first and last
the call to be fully human”

And so, the next day, I ordered the book.

And as I read a chapter, a page, a paragraph, a line … I sigh and groan, for I am reminded that I am a mere human, and that is all God has called me to be.

To be fully human is to feel fully all of the joys and sorrows of our human existence. It is to taste the sweet as well as the sour. It is to sometimes gain, and sometimes lose. As Brown-Taylor says, “loss is how we come to surrender our lives” … our fully human lives.

Her words remind me of the words of Jesus (Matthew 10:39):

“Whoever finds their life will lose it,
and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

In the Expositor, Plato quotes a paradox from a lost book of Euripides:

“Who knows if life be not death, and death life ?”

We live, each day, knowing that the reality of being fully human means that we are frail, with Earthly bodies, with an end hear on Earth. To acknowledge our mortality is to begin to live with purpose, to live his purpose for our lives.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 1:21

 

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Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.07.52 AM

Though NO ONE would ever want to hear me sing, I do so love to sing at church. Then, a couple of months ago, I found that I couldn’t sing at a church service.

It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with the songs. It’s not that I had laryngitis or another such ailment. It’s that I couldn’t sing the words anymore. It was as though my voice refused to go through the motions.

The next week was worse. Not only could I not sing, but my throat got involved with a very hard lump … resting right in the middle of my throat.

The Sunday following was the height (or depth) of my non-worship ability, for this week my emotions joined in, along with my tear ducts. As soon as the worship began, as soon as I was on my feet, I knew I was in trouble. My knees weakened, lump lodged in throat, emotions accelerating my heartbeat, tear ducts filling and ready to flood down my red-hot cheeks.

I could not sing … I couldn’t even stay in the room.

So I left until I knew that singing was completed, until I had control over my voice, emotions, heart and tear ducts.

Driving to work, a few days later, I heard the lyrics of a song that filled me with guilt.

“how can I keep from singing Your praise”

Why do I share this? I mean … it’s kind of personal, right?

I was recently reminded of Psalm 13. This is David’s famous lament … this is David’s finest psalm/song (my opinion).

In this Psalm, David is not in a happy-clappy worship mood. He is, as Anne of Green Gables would say, in the depths of despair, and he is not hiding it from God. He actually accuses God of “forgetting him”. He demands, of God, “look at me”.

David is filled with sorrow, and not holding it’s reality back from God.

And that is what God desires of us, that we not hold back our sorrow from him. As Matthew Henry’s Commentary says,

“The bread of sorrow is sometimes the saint’s daily bread.
Our Master himself was a man of sorrows.”

God can hear our sorrows, despair and demands … he is one who knows sorrow all too well. He can empathize like no other.

When things go poorly in my life, I tend to respond well, optimistic and strong in the initial days and weeks of the struggle (I often think I would make a good first responder). But patience is not my strong point, and when the struggle drags on … I tend to loss hope, and need to, once again, cry out to God … to really cry out to God.

Those weeks of struggle to sing my praises to God … those were my season of silent lament to God. I got real with him … and God that is what God desires most.

And as I move through this season, I will, as did David, complete my lament with singing.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to
me.”
Psalm 13:5-6

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Attachment-1Though their flowers are delicate, the Magnolia is a very hardy tree. It is believed, the Magnolia existed before bees, as it is pollinated by beetles. This stately tree represents long life, beauty, innocence, joy and good health.

Years ago I received a magnolia tree from my kids, on the first Mother’s Day gift at our present house. At the time, it stood about four feet tall. Now, as the image (above) shows, it has grown to over twelve feet in it’s present location.

As I took time, a few days ago, to appreciate it’s physical and scented beauty, my mind drifted over my stages of mothering, since it was lowered into it’s present earthen home.

Fourteen years ago, our three children were eleven, seven and four. We moved into this house with three children, toys, bedtimes and dreams.

We snuggled on the couch to watch animated movies, read stories at bedtimes, kissed ‘owies‘ to make them feel better, swam in the pool all summer long and rode sleds on the steep driveway in winter.

Those were beautiful years of mothering, for whatever nasties arose during the day were gone by bedtime. Of course they were also draining years, as the demand for mom was a constant (what mom has not marvelled at how her children can be seated with dad, yet they will yell to mom that they are hungry?).

Those beautiful years were followed by the years of increasing homework, school and community sports and clubs, sleep-overs, friendship stretches and struggles, playing kick the can in the streets and memorable family vacations.

Those were the years of two steps out and one back, growing into the local communities of neighbourhood, school and church, looking for affirmation from peers, yet still a strong need to return, to be held, to non-verbally ask to be reminded of their value in their mom’s eyes.

Then came the teen years into the twenties. These were (are) the independent years of becoming their own selves,  individuals, separate from their place and people of origin. Everything from relationships, to music, to clothing, to future plans screamed ‘I am an autonomous human being’ .

During these independent years their dad and I wondered if we might sever our tongues for biting them so frequently. They have also been the years when sometimes my job was just to listen (no advice sought, just a safe, listening ear). Sometimes I have also had to give a boost … like when they were still littles and needed a boost to start sledding down the snow-covered driveway. Sometimes the boost is just that age-old mom cheer of ‘you can do it‘. Sometimes the boost is one to say, ‘move on, from where you are’.

My beautiful magnolia tree, that gift from those who call me mom, mum, momma, has grown strong and tall, like my once littles. It has grown alongside my creations. And like it, they will continue to grow … their roots reaching into new soil. My prayer is that they would grow toward the light of life.

 

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