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Archive for May, 2019

A wise man (who I happen to live with) has said that the most important question for any of us is the question that Jesus asked (Matthew 16:15) of Simon Peter:

“But what about you?” he asked. 
“Who do you say I am?”

I have been thinking of this question this week after helping a student through Revelation 3.

Revelation 3 contains letters to three (of seven) churches in Asia (modern Turkey): Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

I admit that I often avoid Revelation … more out of it’s complex mysteries, metaphors and multiple interpretations of experts. Quite simply I just struggle to understand this book.

The letters to these three churches make sense to me, both as letters to churches (then and now) as well as letters to followers of Christ.

To Sardis the author (possibly the apostle John) says, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” (v. 1) This church did all the stuff that was expected of an early church and they probably did it bigger and better than everyone else, but there was little substance in who they were in Christ. He referred to their style of Christ-following, to them as “dead”. They were cold to Christ.

To Laodicea he says, ‘you say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’ (v.17). This church didn’t have a care in the world, for every worldly need was met, and more. This church chose just enough religion. You know, prayed before a meal, gave money to good causes, but never really made a life with Christ a priority. They were lukewarm to Christ.

Then to Philadelphia he praises, “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (v. 8). Though this church has little, is under threat (or will be), and has gone through great struggles … they have not denied the name of Christ. They are holding firm to their faith. Their faith in Christ was hot.

In verse 16, to the church at Laodicea, he say, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

We cannot hear what the Spirit says when we our faith in him is lukewarm, our hearing is most clear when our faith is hot, fully given to him … no matter our circumstances. Faith is not about how others see us, but how we answer the question:

“But what about you?” he asked. 
“Who do you say I am?”


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My Story

I write about wonder, and about the greatest theme of all stories … redemption.

Recently I saw a young woman with a visible disability … and something within me whispered that I just had to tell this story …

So … more revisions that for any post before … here I go:

In everything I have shared, I did so with one caveat, one condition …

I only share
from the perspective of
my own experience.

I cannot have words to speak on that which I have not personal understanding, experience or education.

I was born in March of 1969 … fifty long years ago, in a hospital, to a single woman. She was unmarried to the man who contributed his DNA to my creation … the man who skedaddled soon after discovering that (in the words of my kids, when they want something from us) “sex has consequences”.

It wasn’t until the day after she had pushed me from her body that a kind nurse asked if she had seen her baby girl (because, why would a single woman want to see her illegitimate child in 1969?). When my mother tearfully, shook her head … then that nurse made heads spin as she sought and brought me to her arms.

I was brought home to sleep in a bed by my mother’s, in her parent’s home … where her father lived … her recovering alcoholic father, who abused she and her siblings repeatedly throughout their childhoods (who also abused me, as an adolescent).

Just a few weeks later (four or six), I was left in the care of her mum, as she did not live in a time and place of paid maternity leave. She had to work so as to pay rent (to her parents), childcare (to her mother), all the necessities of a child as well as her own needs. She worked in a clerical position.

My life started as a crisis pregnancy, my mother made choices (some her own, some thrust upon her). It was not a smooth start … there were bumps and horrors along the way, but …

My life has purpose … present, future and past … I have, I will have, I did have purpose … from the very beginning.

Flash ahead to October or 1995. Hubby and I had an almost three year old, and a pregnancy success to failure rate of 1:4. I was taken to hospital in excruciating pain. After pokes and prods and a sonogram, an ‘old school’ surgeon told us that I had a perfectly functioning heartbeat in my fallopian tube, that had ruptured and my abdomen was filling with fluid. The tiny heartbeat would not survive and could not be relocated to the uterus. My own life was in grave danger without the removal of the other.

Two days later I was released from hospital … no tube, no heartbeat.

Ouch!

That stings
to write those words.

My choice to live resulted in the end of another … even though I had no other option. Reality, or a ‘good medical rationale’ doesn’t change the sting … consequences are real and they last a lifetime in a heart that feels the loss as well as the gratefulness for every breath.

Recently, in a restaurant, I noticed a young woman, with a visible disability … just after I had read a ‘post’ about these life and death choices.

As I observed her, I found myself considering all of the people I have worked with, or known in my life who have also had disabilities, those conceived from rape, those adopted from orphanages, those born alive after a late term abortion. I wondered how many of them have felt the sting from a society with a pyramid scheme of value … that not all are created equal. That the inconvenience of their existence … to society, to their mother … is reason enough to end their lives, to deny their most basic human rights.

I know that they have, they will have, they did have purpose … from the very beginning.

I have felt the personal sting of the comments … because I am a woman, who bore two woman, born to a woman who could have aborted her crisis pregnancy.

I was that crisis pregnancy …

I will never say that abortion should be a criminal offence … for a pregnant woman, for a doctor. I also will never say that it is just about a woman’s body … for all lives have purpose.

Here is what I will say …

There need to be more services, more opportunities for women who are in the midst of a crisis pregnancy. Not every country has the opportunities for women that Canada does, with a year of paid leave and coverage of medical costs. In some areas free daycare is even available. There needs to be more access to understanding the option of adoption. There needs to be counselling that considers, holistically, the needs of the woman and of the child, short and long term, including group support.

Crisis pregnancies are about two lives, and they both matter.

I only share
from the perspective of
my own experience.

I know that I have, I will have and I did have purpose … from the very beginning.

This is my story … of wonder and redemption.

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Grateful

When the week began so did the stalking.

Phrases, quotes, devotionals, things said that I overheard … all to do with being thankful. I heard … but didn’t really listen.

Then I happened to click play on a video that a friend posted, and my ears were attuned to the message that had been stalking me all week.

Thankful, grateful … those words and their meaning. Their capacity to alter our hearts, our minds and mood. Their power, through the simple (?) act of choosing them. Choosing them over fear, loneliness, sadness, anxiety, despair.

So, today, let me share a prayer for you, and five minutes of a video that I hope helps you hear of how much there is to be grateful for … in spite of the dark and twisties of life.

Lord,
As the sun rises, as we rise this day …
Remind us to not just lift the bedcovers off our bodies,
but also that we lift our eyes …
to the flowers,
to the trees,
to the bee buzzing in the garden,
to those around us,
to the sky,
to you.
With each rise of our eyes,
may we …
be thankful for what we can
see,
smell,
hear,
touch,
taste.
Lord, this day of Sabbath,
may our choosing gratitude,
turn what we have into enough.
Amen

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The countdown is on … nineteen class days until the end of the school year (plus exams)!

More than any school year before … I don’t just want, but I know that I need a break.

It has been a great school year, with fantastic colleagues and amazing students who allow us to come alongside and shore up their weaknesses, their struggles … so that they can successfully thrive in the academic hoop-jumping that is high school.

So it is not so much that I desire an end as I need to be shored up in my own weaknesses and struggles … so that I can thrive.

A year ago I was completing my first year at a new school, preparing to move (physically and emotionally) and walking the unfamiliar, precarious road of life with loved ones with debilitating illness.

This year, my body, mind and soul need a rest, renewal!

How about you? Are you in need of a break? a change of pace? renewal?

Though the Song of Solomon is written as an erotic love (hear it as though Barry White said the word love) manual, I read the following verses recently and they sounded less erotic and more of a love that will go the distance for you, a love that protects, renews … a love that gives a complete rest that is beyond comprehension.

“My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come …”

Song of Solomon 2:10-12

Ah! The winter is past … bring on the flowers and the singing!

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I read a blog the other day about mothering in the middle, when one feels a bit like a taxi driver, fast food cook supply manager, academic assistant, nutritionist, administrative assistant and cheerleader. I found myself reminiscing through that non-stop stage.

It happened to be on a day I was utterly bored.

You see, I am at the mothering young adults stage, the hands-off mothering stage.

The movement from mom in the middle to mom of young adults is similar to a hairpin turn driving down a steep mountainside … you’re moving at speeds you didn’t know possible, then, all of a sudden, you make a sharp turn facing the opposite direction … and the sun is obscuring your view, making it hard to see where you are going.

Our kids are all finished with high school and in varying levels of study and work. Two of our three are still living at home, one in another community. To be honest, I vacillate between wanting them to all be out and independent and wanting them all under one roof (mine).

This is the stage of hands-off mothering … unless they need me … RIGHT NOW! I am talking drop everything and help them right now.

This is where, I guess, boundaries should be developing … but I so need to be needed, and really, no one needs me as much as I desire to be needed anymore. So, I am struggling to draw those boundaries … wanting to be available if someone might have need of me (the struggle is real).

Then there is the I am gonna sever my tongue, from biting it so frequently part of this hands-off mothering stage. They need to be making their own decisions about their faith, their schooling, their work, their income and relationships … I just SO want to offer my opinions … all of the time.

As I was writing this post, hubby let me know what time one of our kids got in last ‘night’ (aka this morning) … gotta say, I really didn’t want to know … that ostrich with it’s head in the sand? I am getting to know him (or is it her) quite well.

I am learning that they need to make mistakes … their own. Live with their own consequences. It was a freedom I was graciously offered by own parents and I believe that I need to regift this freedom to them.

Then there are the heartbreaks … they are so real, so lasting at this young adult stage (though many can come to them earlier). Their relationship struggles, loneliness, uncertainty in their abilities, in their future, their jobs. Life for a young adult is not what it was thirty years ago, when I was twenty. There is little in society today, for a twenty-something that is typical … other than nightlife. And if they are not heartbroken for what is (or is not) going on in their own lives, they live vicariously through the hurts of their friends.

These heartbreaks ripple into my own heart … stories that include suicide, health struggles, drug addiction, sexual assault, homelessness and single parenting get processed with mom on SOS … and I have no answers when I am invited into these conversations … but I pray … how I pray.

At this stage, their friends are not necessarily ones that I know, have met, have made cookies with and carpooled to various events. Their friends are often faceless names that remind me that their life is their own.

Then there is the attempt to get everyone together for one meal … Oh my lanta! I think world peace might be easier to attain!

But …

They are learning, they are seeking, they are even thriving. They do good work, love deeply, seek justice, care for each other …

and they ask me to pray.

When they or their friend is in a tough place, they still ask me to pray.

And if that is the common thread of their need of me, at this hands-off mothering stage … then I will pray.

There is a video that I would return to (over and over) in those mom in the middle years, called The Invisible Woman (below). I realized, the other day, that it still has something to offer me at this hands-off stage of mothering:

“At times my invisibility has felt like an infliction to me,
but it is not a disease that is erasing my life.
It is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness.
It is the antidote to my own pride.
It’s okay that they don’t see,
we don’t work for them,
we work for Him.
We sacrifice for Him.
They will never see,
not if we do it right,
if we do it well.
Lets pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God.”
Nicole Johnson

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As I was watching a trailer for a movie, a conversation onscreen caught my attention.

A young man, new to Nunavut, asked of an elder, “you lived up here a long time?” The elder replied, “six thousand years.”

Like an oak tree that began with an acorn from another oak tree, or a salmon from the fertilization process of two salmon, we humans carry not just the DNA and physical characteristics, but the history of our family of origin.

A number of months ago, while collecting and organizing photos for a framed family history, I was intrigued by the photos collected on my maternal side of the family.

The same squinty eyes, over and over, in each image. As though the gene has just taken over generations of women (my own daughters included).

The quote from the movie made me wonder about those whose DNA I share … what else has been handed down? Not the seen, through our squinty eyes, but the unseen?

Are there strengths within their physical bodies that I have benefitted from? Weaknesses? Were my struggles with self control and downtime shared by these previous generations of women? Did my great, great, great grandmother stand at her clothesline in the Scottish countryside and see wonder in the mundane of daily life, too? Did it connect them to their Creator, as well?

Like trees, those who came before us have seeded within us the first fruits of our lives … not something that we have any control.

I look at my mother, a woman who persevered through a childhood of abuse and terror. She is my squinty-eyed model of an overcomer … one who took the generational curses of her paternal side and slammed the door on them … choosing to end that chapter of inheritance of abuse and alcoholism. She chose to be grafted into a new tree, one that grows better roots, sweeter fruit.

What did I inherit from these women who I knew not at all, or knew so little about?

Their images contain frowns … furrowed brows. I know my family tree was not seeded in the cultivated gardens of palaces, but in the countryside where work was hard and never-ending. I know that there were families full of love and closeness, as well as struggle and heartache.

Yet, in their furrowed brows and squinty eyes there is also a ready smile … strength in the midst of struggle, joy during the trial, hearts full … even when they were broken.

You ask: “Have I lived here long?”

To which I reply: “Thousands of years.”

“Family faces are magic mirrors.
Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past,
present and future.
We make discoveries about ourselves.”

Gail Lumet Buckley

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Last spring, as we were packing up our belongings, our lives, in preparation for our move from a larger property to a townhome, I would wander our garden, drinking in the changes we had made, the flowers, shrubs and trees I had planted.

There was one tree that I remember standing in front of for quite awhile. It was a magnolia tree, planted a number of years ago, after receiving it as a gift one Mother’s Day. Once just three to four feet tall, it reached well above my height to over twelve feet in height.

Magnolias are my favorite tree (along with Japanese maples, Forsythia, Dogwoods … okay, I love trees that flower, have colors beyond just green). They are an ancient tree, believed to pre-date bees (pollination was done by beetles). Their flowers can be white, pink, coral or the creamiest white. Mine was pink, with large, sturdy ‘teacup’ flowers. They smell of spring and bloom early in the season. As they lose their petals the ground underneath appears to have experienced isolated snowfall.

It was as though that tree represented the very growth and changes of our family, and I remember standing in front of it, mourning my loss of this history holder, this memory of a gift from the ones I love the most.

I probably mourned this loss over all others when we moved.

Then, this spring, while driving home one day, my eyes were opened wide to see that there was a magnolia just in front of our townhouse. Actually, the street is lined with them … dozens of pink flowered magnolia trees right in front of our new home.

I smiled every day as they decorated our street with visual beauty.

Coincidence? I think not.

“He delights in every detail of their lives.”
Psalm 37:23

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