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Archive for June, 2019

As our son completed his application for a six month training and global mission experience, far, far from home …

As he prepared for work and service at summer camp …

I was reminded, yet again, that parenting, but especially motherhood, is not a single experience of labor pains, but a lifetime of them …

the pains, not decreasing, but becoming more intense.

It is not that I do not want him to have such experiences, nor do I resent his increasing independence, nor are these pains only for him … for he has two older sisters who also bring me to my knees in the pain of growing up, growing away, into their own lives.

When a couple, a woman, discovers a child is on it’s way, whether by planning or surprise, the pains of growing up are overlooked, ignored. All thoughts, energies and even dreams have to do with what will be experienced together.

Parenting is far more about the many big and small steps to individuality than it ever is about the original family unit. The goal and purpose of childrearing is to raise the next generation, to continue in the care of our earth and everything in it and to worship and share the redeeming nature of God, not to raise a human will meet our needs and desires.

Parenting must always be for the life that is lived apart from me, from us, as parents. It is the supreme exercise in working yourself out of a job. It is what we do not dream or envision to be the end result, yet our job is to lead our children to achieve independence from us.

As I look towards our son’s summer camp experiences, at his across the globe trip, it is a little like the anticipation during pregnancy, during the pains of labor, for I focus not on the temporary pains, but the thrill of what will be birthed through them.

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain 
because her time has come;
but when her baby is born
she forgets the anguish
because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”

John 16:21

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Summer Blessing

As the regular of the year fades into summer break, we look ahead

to sunshine, long days, lazy mornings
to BBQs, campfires, cold ice cream
to airports, ferries and sunny road trips.

May this summer

Bring great times of fun and refreshment
joy with loved ones, laughter late at night
a cleansing breath, rest for the weary.

May each day provide

Fresh food to fill your tummy.
Time for creating and love.
Memories to fill your soul.

But also,

Resolution to whats hard.
Protection for each new day.
And return at summer’s end.

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I have a plan this summer.

It is always good to have a plan, though I know too well the truth in that saying about how the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

This summer my plan is to finish writing a book that I started

s—o l–o–n–g a–g–o

Actually, I even ‘planned’ to complete it two previous summers, but my love of refinishing furniture trumped my desire to get that writing done. This year, there are only two small refinishing projects, as I no longer have storage space for furniture, since moving to a townhouse, so I am determined to complete it.

This book is a story that began to form in my mind many years ago, about a woman, Amara, with Alzheimer’s disease. I needed to get it into words, so I began writing a new part and publishing it here, on itsawonderfilledlife, once a week. If you would like to check it out, click on Unfading.

I am still not sure what propelled me to begin writing this, as I had no close connection to anyone with the disease when I began writing. In the past year, though, my father’s two sisters, one older and one younger, have been moved into full care facilities, as they continue to live with the effects of this disease. Perhaps my inclination to write was birthed out of a need to have my heart prepared, softened, for what was to come in their lives.

Recently, while visiting family on the other side of the country, I got to visit my aunt, while she was still living in the home of her adult years. A last visit that I recounted in the post I Forgot. It was in the writing of that post, recalling what would most certainly be my last earthly visit with her, that created this drive within me to finish this book, to spend this summer with Amara.

So, that is my plan for the summer, a summer of forgetting and remembering, a summer with Amara.

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Mark Twain said many things about politics, but it is his words (above) that have caught my attention these past few days.

One might think that I am referring to a scandal uncovered about a politician, or how dark politics is because there simply could not be an honest man involved in such a power-hungry sector of society.

This time, that quote seems to resonate in the memories of those who knew, knew of, or lived in the constituency which Canadian Member of Parliament, Mark Warawa served. For his fifteen years of federal and fourteen in municipal politics.

Last week it was announced that Mark, with his wife at his side, lost his brief battle with cancer … and gained an eternity with his Savior.

Though I struggle to believe the words of politicians, or believe that their intent is ever anything but political power-seeking or posturing, Mark was a politician who was different, whose integrity was a light in an area that can seem so dark.

As I listened to his colleagues (from all parties) speak their memorials in the House of Commons, there were qualities that kept coming up … kindness, welcoming, generous, strong faith, honest, humble. As I read comments online from his constituents I found them to be the same. These are not normally qualities listed of one who is a politician.

Every time we saw Mark (or Diane) in public, it was as though he was seeing an old friend. That is how he made everyone feel … valuable, worthy, intimate.

Just months ago, as hubby was struggling in illness, Mark invited him out for a coffee, for conversation … an opportunity that again reinforced value, worth and intimate friendship (and blessed the heart of this wife).

In his own farewell speech in the House (just over a month ago), Mark challenged his colleagues and friends to, above all else, love each other.

On his Facebook page, announcing the end to his earthly life, is written:

“Mark’s favourite verse was John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Within that verse is the willing sacrifice of service, performed with the greatest serving of love, which results in life eternal in the constituency of the souls of heaven, lead by a gracious and generous king. This is Mark’s new home.

Well done good and faithful servant.

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June has traditionally been the month of weddings. The weather is warmer, but not hot. The days are longer. Outdoor photographs are more beautiful with gardens at their peek of beauty.

We got to attend a wedding a few weeks ago and I found myself feeling rather broody.

Just days before hubby had received a letter informing him that he is no longer licensed in our home province to officiate weddings. Though that letter’s communication was the equivalent of water off a duck’s back, for hubby, it initiated an unexpected mourning for me.

I could unashamedly brag about the way he conducted weddings over the years.

He would take the position of intermediary, between the bride and groom and … anyone who could make the event stressful, in the most gracious yet firm manner.

The message that he would share would be one that was agonizingly prepared to represent the couple, from what he knew of them and what he had learned through the premarital sessions.

Then there was the ceremony, personalized as the couple chose, for he was committed that it would reflect them.

My personal favorite part of the weddings that he officiated were how he made the pronouncement … “by the power given me by the province of —-, but, more importantly, by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pronounce you husband and wife.” It just always made me smile.

So I sat at the wedding, just a few days ago, missing his ceremony, what he did so well, each part conscientiously planned and executed, always bringing the message back to the original installation of marriage.

As I got home from that wedding I got to thinking about how, in the Bible, marriage is used as a parable for Christ (the bridegroom) and the Church (the bride). As husband and wife become one, so too the Church and Christ become one … this is the “mystery” spoken of in Ephasians 5:32.

When a couple marry, their unifying is actually a re-unifying, since woman came from man’s body. Adam, meaning earth, and Eve, meaning life … woman literally puts life into the man, from whom she came. For woman to have life, she was taken from man, marriage is the redeeming of that physical separation at Creation, and the two, once again, become one.

The work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to the grave and resurrection is also a redeeming of relationship. From the very beginning God intended that we, his church, would be one with him … and then sin happened. Christ, through his sacrifice, brought the church back to him … and the two, once again, become one.

As I pondered this metaphor I realized that though I was feeling sorrowful for this end to hubby being such an amazingly talented part of the union of souls, this story goes on. In the hands of God himself, who officiates the most spectacular of marriages of souls, back to himself.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free, 
there is no male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

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I am not a teacher.

I work in a high school. I work with the same students as teachers. Though I do work alongside of teachers, working to assist students in the learning process, I will never refer to myself as a teacher, for I do not bear the weight of responsibility that a teacher does for the teaching and learning that goes on in their classroom … and it is a great weight.

I am not a teacher …

but here is what I see of high school teachers at the end of the school year (because, unless you work alongside of them, you simply do not know what goes on).

As the school year turns toward the end, teachers begin to feel the fatigue of the school year. It is like the muscle fatigue caused by holding your arms up in the air for a long period of time. Yet, the year, their task, is not completed, so they take a deep breath, move past that bone-tired fatigue and assess their student’s marks, to confirm what they already know … there are one or two students who are at risk of not being ready for the next grade level, or who are at risk of not graduating.

It is the struggle of this small number who will burden a teacher, often night and day, until the final day of school. He or she will connect with home, speak to the student(s), offering opportunities to bolster their slumping grades from handing in uncompleted work, to assignments removed, to time at lunch or after school for the teacher to assist the student(s).

Teachers see our children in a different light than we parents do. There are the students who are more respectful, more amiable, more hardworking in the classroom than at home. There are also those who are not so amiable, or who struggle with the environment of school. I have seen teachers alter and adjust their classroom, their teaching, their person … like a contortionist … to help students who struggle to fit into a classroom.

On top of that enormous burden are the many end of year events that are part of school from sports days, to field trips, to awards nights, to band concerts, to graduation activities and more. Then there are the final projects, tests, exams … marking, marking, marking … followed by report cards.

Then the regular demands of grade-level, department, professional development (cause they don’t always happen when your kids are at home), planning and staff meetings.

When the bell rings, at the school where I work, I (who work an hourly job) walk out, alongside the students. The teachers are still there … often for hours yet … planning, marking, organizing and attending all those meetings.

I do not know a teacher who does not work a full day along with work time in the evenings, as well as weekends.

They are heros without capes, who keep thinking of and even praying for their students.

They keep tweaking their curriculum, trying to make it better, trying to ensure that every student has opportunity to learn successfully in their classroom (band room, woodworking shop, library, gymnasium, kitchen). All the while, government agencies make changes to curriculum that require changes in the what and how they teach and assess learning.

The tasks of a teacher are doable, if we are talking about teaching one student, but they have twenty to over seventy-five on their plate at any one time.

I am not a teacher, but I get to work with them and they are a most amazing, hard-working group of humans … who just want to do their job of teaching this generation well.

So, please, write them a note of thanks … or, even better, get your child to write them a note of thanks, for these are the fuel to return next year and do it all again!

*a gift card or bottle of wine aren’t a bad addition to the note 😉

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I am not a father. I do not know what it is like to be a father. That said, I think it must be tough to be a dad.

The biological part is, of course, the easiest.

The role of father has many expectations … spoken and presumed of, wordlessly.

Dads are expected to do everything a mom does, from earning a living, to changing diapers, to snuggles at bedtime, to helping with homework, to fixing the car, the meals and the owies. In all of that (and more), dads and moms are expected to do all that is needed to raise a little human into an independent and contributing member of society. This is good, as it is only right that both parties should invest equal effort to do such an important task as raising a real live human.

But, equality is not often reality. Sure there are some tasks (feeding, helping with homework, bandaging cuts and making a nut-free lactose-free gluten-free sandwich that either parent can manage, but not all parenting tasks are for both parents.

Our kids know that I am most definitely NOT the one to call if they have questions about phone plans, car insurance or their tire pressure. Sure I could Google it, but I just do not know, and do not care to know … because their dad has more interest, more knowledge and more experience in those areas of parenting.

They also know that their dad is the one who is most likely to order pizza, take them for Chinese or buy them a burger.

Both of us can offer a hug or sit and chat for hours, but I am more likely to initiate these … because that is how I am inclined to speak love to our kids. Whereas their dad is more likely to drop whatever he is doing to help them with whatever they request … because that is how he is inclined to speak love.

It is tough for dads, because, often, their love language is often not one of nurture (though it can be for some, as there are always exceptions). We, humanly, see love in a very narrow way … as affection … but love can be expressed in so many other ways, in so many other languages … we just need to tune our ears to the language that is being spoken.

In our world today there is so much negativity spoken about men, about the failures and weaknesses of men. Yet, there are also the good men, who have lived their lives as a service to others, to their kids.

The ones who take the place of one who only contributed biologically.

The ones who toss their kids in the air for the joyful giggles that follow.

The ones who race into the packed auditorium just to catch their child’s school performance.

The ones who tell dad jokes or the when I was a child stories.

The ones who take their kids to swimming, to football, to their friends houses, or pick them up late at night.

The ones who drop whatever they are doing to help their kids figure out their phone plan, their car insurance, to sell their vehicle, to figure out their bank account,

to order pizza …

To all those dads who do so much more for us than we often acknowledge … simply because we see love through a definition that does not include your unique expressions of love and commitment …

Thank-you … don’t give up!

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I sat across a table listened to her share her horrific, childhood-stealing moments of her life. Her words, spoken clearly, as though recounting every detail in her mind’s eye … as though walking through each and every event, as though a part of her was that awkward adolescent, hurting all over again.

After she recounted her story, for over two of the fastest moving hours of my life, she looked into my eyes and said, “thank-you for listening to my story. Next time, I want to hear yours, because I think you have a story to tell too.

I smiled, for she was right and because she knew what I know …

the pain in our own lives awakens our subconscious to the pain that others try to hide.

Recently I was watching a clip from the BBC’s A Royal Team Talk, and a statement by Prince William caught my full attention:

“It (bereavement) also brings you so close to all those other people out there who have been bereaved. So instantly, when you talk to someone else … You can almost see it in their eyes sometimes.”

As I digested his words, I realized that ‘bereavement’ could be replaced by the word ‘pain’ or ‘trauma’ … words that signify an injury, a mental or emotional bruising that can only be seen by eyes, by souls who recognize it … mirrored through their own lives and experiences.

Psalm 56:8 gives us insight into the understanding God has of our pain, trauma and grief:

“You number my wanderings.
You put my tears into your bottle.
Aren’t they in your book?”

Ellicott’s Commentary speaks of this verse:

wandering, which, from the parallelism with “tears,” must mean “mental restlessness,” the “tossings to and fro of the mind,” “my inmost things.”

The pain a person carries is a most mentally restless scar … one that is worn, quite often, under a broad smile. It takes an understanding, a knowledge that such pain can, that it does exist for it to be seen beneath the bandage of a cosmetic smile.

It is quite amazing when another crosses our path, who really sees, who clearly sees what lies beneath the joy on our faces.

God sees … he sees the pain and grief because he knows pain and grief, because he has collected our tears, even the ones that never left our eyes.

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It is said that if you want to know what you value, look at how you spend your money. I think that is probably a good indicator, but I also think that what (if) we pray indicates what we value.

I was motivated recently to pray about something I had not prayed about before.

Before this motivation, I had thought it was a good idea, but somehow I had never gotten my act together to find a way to remind me, daily, to pray in this direction.

In the image, above, you will see two bowties and a necklace contained in a framed shadowbox. It is and onto a wall inside our bedroom door, as a reminder to pray … for the future spouses, future marriages or future as a single (because marriage isn’t for everyone) for each of our (adult) children.

Marriage, the representation of how God loves his church (his people), is not for the faint of heart. It can make or break a person, it can make us better, or bitter. It is as much about how we respond to what another does to us (good and bad) as what they do. It is an exercise in working to achieve 100:100 (50:50 is only just surviving).

It is the story of God (the bridegroom) loving his own, and of us (the bride) choosing to receive the love and redemption that he offers.

Within the image (above) you will see the words of Ruth (1:16):

where you go,
I will go

Interestingly enough those are not Ruth’s words to a lover, but to the mother of her deceased husband (Naomi). She was vowing that she would entrust her future alongside this mother in law. She chose to stay with this woman, despite how bleak a future it might be for two widows of that time.

The story enfolds that they find a kin, a relative who could be their redeemer, their saviour. He chooses to take Ruth as his wife. Then, as culture would expect, their first born is given to Naomi, to raise as her son, her redeemer.

Those words of Ruth, where you go I will go, were her chosen commitment to be Naomi’s redeemer … at whatever cost to her.

This is marriage, sans rose-colored glasses. We are to love that much, love that selflessly.

That is why choosing who to marry is of such importance. The choosing of who to marry is the threshing floor practise of separating the wheat (the edible, nutrient-rich part) from the chaff (the inedible hulls of the wheat). It is this choosing, left to our adult children, that I now vow to lift up to God, each day.

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God. 
Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
Ruth 1:16-17

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irish blessing

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day that we celebrate the arrival of the promised advocate, the Spirit of God.

While the resurrected Jesus was walking and talking with his disciples for the forty days, he told them that they had a job to do … to go and make disciples of everyone (all nations) (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8). He said that once he was gone, he would send the Spirit to them and then they would need to go throughout the world and share what he had taught them.

So, Pentecost arrived, the Holy Spirit entered them and an odd thing happened … they (mostly Jews) started to speak something other than their own languages. As a matter of fact, they were speaking languages that they had no previous knowledge or training.

Why would they have the ability to speak a new language once the spirit had come to ‘lite’ on them?

Recently, I saw a young man who is the son of a someone I know. I introduced myself, and he remembered my hubby and I. We chatted a bit, then went our separate ways.

A few minutes later he returned and told me a story of his experience with an individual from a Christian organization I was once a part of. It was a sad, shameful story of how this mutual acquaintance reduced the work of God to a very small group of believers (of which he was a part, but this young man was not). I, guiltily, apologized for this other believer’s attitude and words.

I spent the rest of the day vacillating between sorrow for how this young man had been hurt by the arrogance of a follower of God, and anger that one, who knows of the love of God for all people, could be so wrong in his assertions that his (any) particular group of Christians were superior.

This recent story actually relates to Pentecost. You see, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations. To ensure that they could fulfill this calling, the holy spirit enabled them to speak the languages, or tongues, of other people … not just the Jews, but the Gentiles.

This was day one of the Christian church.

We, as Christians, have never been called to stay in our churches, our cultural communities. We have received the Great Commission to go and share this love that has been shared with us … with all people.

” … as high priest (Caiaphas) prophesied
that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 
and not only for that nation
but also for the scattered children of God,
to bring them together and make them one.”

John 11:51-52

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