He knows…

I think of my Dad when I hear the news about Ottawa. I call him almost instantly. They could be his friends. In days past it could have been him.

Tucked away in the corner of my bedroom it seems surreal. How could this be happening when life is so peaceful?  Soft breath rises and falls from the tiny one as he sleeps in his corner of the room. Giggles work their way through cracks in the house as my eldest works away at his task. This is ordinary life.

News breaks through the peace. There is violence and fear, terror and dismay. Articles are shared, news spreads and people comment on what’s happening instantly. Theories and ideas, suspicions and details move quickly. Some true, some not so true.  Everyone wants answers. Everyone wants to know the ‘why’?

I think back to my morning reading. I think of the mystics and their belief that if we dig deep, if we push past our sin we will find God. I wonder how deep we have to push to find God in this mess. I do not understand it. I do not understand this intentional wounding of others.

I turn to my prayer book. I open to the chapter on peace and find myself looking for words, looking for help on what to say, what to pray to God. I find a piece of a psalm. I read an intercessory prayer. I read it again.

O Christ of the poor and the yearning
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love for my neighbour,
For my foe, for my friend, for my kindred all.
From the humblest thing that lives
To the Name that is highest of all
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love.

J. Phillip Newell, Celtic Prayers from Iona

I think of this love.
I think of the love that is required of us.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

I am reminded of the need to pray.

Not just for our country and the safety of it’s citizens.
Not just for peace and resolution to the crisis.
Not just for justice that satisfaction be known to those who seek it.
Not just for families of those who have lost and for the protectors which face danger to keep us safe.
We must also pray for those who would wound and destroy.

I pray for them that they might know a new way, a better way.
I pray that God would open their hearts to peace and understanding.
I pray that they would stop, they would think, they would see the people whom they are wounding.

It’s not fun to pray for one’s enemies.
It’s really hard to think about loving them but love is a choice and Jesus tells us to make that choice.
Sometimes I wonder about Jesus.  Does he know how hard this is?

Then I remember that tree.  I remember those moments where he hung dying, stripped bare and exposed to the world.

He knows hard.
He knows.

The margins

Yesterday at church a kind man took me aside after the congregational meeting and told me he thought I would benefit from building margins into my life.  He said he had done it as he needed some down time in which to really live and he thought I could do with some of that time. I laughed and said he was right but walked away without thinking too much about it. The day stretched on and I found myself bouncing from child to child, from the laundry basket to the dishes and trying to squeeze a few moments in to read my book of the week. It was not a Sabbath. It was another work day. I had things to do. I didn’t rest. Looking back I see that this is not good.

He was right, I need to build in margins. You know who else talks about margins, God and I should’ve been listening to him too.  I need margins. I need to build some breaks into my days. It’s in the margins of life that God is found. God can be heard there, embraced there, experienced there. When life gets over scheduled it can be hard to see what is happening, to embrace the miracle of the moment.

I’m going to work on building those margins in. I know that it’s needed. I cannot maintain this pace and expect God to keep up. God has asked me to slow down. God has asked me to take a rest. It’s time I stopped and listened to that. It’s time I stopped and listened to him.

I may be losing it…

I am tired. Really tired. My son is teething. I’m not sleeping. I make it through the day but find myself falling asleep on my poor husband every night while watching TV. It’s not a season for rest in this house. It’s something else altogether and in the midst of it all I’ve found myself thinking that I’d like to write a book. I think I’ve lost it, gone off the deep end. With everything that’s going on I don’t know that I have time but the thought keeps entering my consciousness and I find myself wondering how I could make it all work.

Pray for me will you? I may be losing it or I might just be starting something. Who knows but whatever winds up happening I must ask you to pray because I think that even if I don’t write a book, I’m stepping on a path to somewhere. I don’t know where that is yet but I have a feeling it will be an adventure.

 

IMG_2554

The hair dryer that wasn’t…

 hairdryer

About 6 months ago I bought a new hair dryer. My hair dryer had died and I needed to replace it. It happens from time to time. Usually every 2-3 years around these parts so I wasn’t concerned. This morning my new hairdryer died in a small puff of heat never to be heard from again. It is unsurprising. Things are made to be discarded and thrown away anymore. New things are enticing, exciting and make money for companies and stores. They are pretty and nice to have around. As things get older and worn, when the chips start to show and the fabric begins to pile we look for newer, better versions. Now I’m not opposed to new things. I love a new sweater when fall comes along and I enjoy getting trinkets for around the house. Sometimes new things are nice but it seems to me that we’re told we should always want the newest of things, the shiniest of objects, the most pristine, clean looking items you can find and that’s not necessarily the best way to live.

This desire for the newest and best of everything has leached into our lived far more than we realize. We’re always looking for something better it seems. We want a better job, better friends, better family, better circumstances. We think things should always look pretty and when things get tough it seems easier to cut and run. This leads to chronic dissatisfaction. No one is happy. It seems as though people are always looking for something else, something better and can I let you in on a little secret? Life while you are living it is almost never pristine. It’s not clean and shiny. Life is a messy, dirty, wonderful kind of chaos that happens while you are living it. If you’re always looking for something more, your not living something now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately particularly regarding faith. As I’ve been searching for new books to read and challenges to discover. I’ve come across a lot of books about God which promise happy days and sunshine if you just believe. They say if you follow God everything will be new and lovely and all kinds of wonderful. I have never met this God. The God I know is a worn in sweater kind of God. The wrap you up in memories and moments kind of God. The stick with you till the end and even further kind of God. I don’t need a flashy faith filled with empty promises. I need something more. Something that carries me beyond sunshine and roses into the strange places I sometimes wander into. I’ll grant you this God is more challenging. Instead of giving me stuff, he’s giving me himself. Instead of promising me a life of ease and prosperity, he’s offering relationships and growth. This God is hard work, good work and it’s a God worth working for.

You matter

fruit fly

You matter.

You may not think you do, but you do. You are important in this world. What you do impacts others and makes a difference in their lives. Don’t believe me? Think of the noble fruit fly. The tiny, insignificant bug that wreaks havoc on the average home. A bug so small you’d think you wouldn’t notice it but you do and in noticing you realize that there are overripe tomatoes on the counter that need to be dealt with.

You matter. You count. You do make a difference.

Go out today and be like the fruit fly. When people aren’t listening get in their face and make them hear what you have to say. Be a nuisance. Be persistent. Take that dream God has planted on your heart and make it a reality.

You matter. You were created for a purpose. Go live out that purpose and see what happens.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Envy rots the bones.

Like a tiny parasite, envy grows within you at first without you even noticing.  It buries itself deep within your heart and feeds on all those things that you admire and like about those around you.  As you feed it, it grows bigger and bigger.  Then it is everywhere and it’s true nature becomes known to you.  Envy has made it’s way into your life to bring you down.

Envy has struck my heart lately.

It’s not something I’m proud of.  It’s not as though I sit and make lists of things I want or places I need to go.  Envy hits when I least expect it.  When I’m on Facebook and I see something neat that a friend is trying in their church.  It hits when I hear of another friend’s child hitting a milestone for communication. I’m happy for these people.  I truly am.  But sometimes on the tough days a little envy sneaks in and I find myself asking the dreaded question of the ages, ‘why?’.

Why did I study for so long to not work?  Why does my son have to struggle?

Why?

Three letters.  Three small letters that grow and chain themselves around my heart leaving envy behind.

Comparison is not good for the soul.  No ones life is easy.  I’m sure there are some who look at mine and think that it is.  We all face burdens and circumstances that are challenging to us.  Avoiding comparison can help keep envy at bay.  I need to break free from comparison. I need to find peace where I am.

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
    but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30 NIV)

Today’s world is not one that really encourages deep satisfied peace.  Our Facebook feeds feed us the good news of each others lives and rarely if ever showcase the bad.  Media tells us we will be happy if we only have the right underwear, television or car.  Self help books tell us how to change ourselves into something better.  It’s all great but it doesn’t bring peace.  Peace comes from somewhere else.  Peace comes from someone else.

In my battle to beat the demon that is envy I find myself praying daily for a change in attitude, not circumstance.  While I cannot change what is, I can accept it and move forward from this point with a new perspective and hope.  After all I am not alone in this and there is one who knows what will be.  I must lean on him, let go of envy and fear and work my way into whatever plan he has for me from this point on.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

The bag that was not functional.

I’ve been working hard at perfecting my sewing technique.  As my son’s therapy begins and our time attached to the house increases I find myself looking for things to do during nap time and sewing was one thing I’ve always wanted to get better at.  Yesterday during nap time I made this bag.

Bag

Looks good, right? The stitches are straight. The elastic is firmly connected at the seem. The interfacing is flat and functional.  Everything looks good in the picture. It looks like a clutch you could take out on a nice summer evening. It would be great on a nice summer evening if it wasn’t so large. I was going for a larger style but somehow managed to create the worlds largest clutch and it’s really not functional. I now have a lovely bag which is absolutely useless.

This got me to thinking. How often in our lives do we work away and toil at things which are going nowhere? How long do we continue to push ahead on projects that really should be left behind? I can see that there was a benefit to me in finishing this project. I worked on seams and linings. I was able to line up the button and make sure everything was the way I wanted it to be. There were things I learned and I’ll be able to take that into the next project. It wasn’t a total failure on that front but the outcome was not what I would have hoped.

This effort was a good reminder of was the importance to constantly check what it is I am working on and make sure it is going well and is headed in the right direction. This is true for sewing projects, parenting and my relationship with God. From time to time it’s good to evaluate and really see if I’m where I want to be.

How do you do make sure you’re headed where you want to go?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

What a week this has been {and a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Loaves}

It’s Thursday and I’m already wondering how we’ve crammed so much into this week in this house. On Monday I had an appointment with my OB who informed me that we should be ready anytime for the impending arrival of our child. I have to think this was a bit of an overreaction on his part as it’s now Thursday and he’s still cozy and settled with no moves to enter this world. Tuesday was filled with an assessment and analysis of our son where we had our suspicions confirmed that he has autism. This assessment was followed by lunch with my Sister and her husband and shopping and Costco. It was a busy day, a full, busy crazy day! Yesterday my son and I spent the day at home baking, playing with his monkey and pretend food, enjoying a visit from Grandma and reading some Harry Potter. It was lovely and full. We both went to bed tired and happy. Today is a quieter day yet I’m sitting on the couch after the delivery of our new stove contemplating contacting the insurance company yet again to ask if they’re ever going to come and fix our tiles and cupboards so we can put our dishwasher in. A lot is happening around here and there is much to think about.

There are many things to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.  With a new baby, watching our older son continue to learn and explore this wonderful world in which we live, a house that is complete once more and sunshine returning to our neighbourhood to look forward to I’m sure it will be wonderful. I know that as we live it there will be moments of exhaustion and pain. I know that some days will be better than others. But none of that matters, really. Life is filled with good things and bad. Life is busy days, quiet ones and all kinds of middle ground mixed in. It really is what you make of it and I am currently enjoying my last moments of relative ease with our number two son locked inside trying to make moments matter out here. One moment that mattered recently was baking banana bread yesterday afternoon. My son found the mashing of bananas fascinating and he eagerly awaited the first piece of luscious goodness. He was mildly confused when I referred to it as banana bread (as he sees bread as ‘bread’) but upon tasting it his confusion was cleared as he informed me it was actually a muffin and his world was ok again. This was a beautifully sweet, silly moment that helped me to realize that I may in fact need to haul out the loaf pans more often so he has more exposure to sweet breads!

I share this recipe with you today as it is one of the most versatile, delicious banana loaf recipes we’ve ever used. It’s healthier than most but not too healthy. The sweet crumbly texture is perfect if you’re looking for an afternoon treat. I made four mini loaves so we could freeze some for later and they were the perfect size for us as they prevent us from  over indulging at any one time.

I am hopeful that over the coming weeks and months my voice will return once more and I can speak on things beyond food. Now that the assessments are over and everything ready for the little one to arrive I anticipate my focus will return at some point. Until then I will bake and nap and enjoy some time in the sun.

Chocolate Chip Banana Mini Loaves
makes 4 mini loaves

chocolate chip banana loaves

Ingredients: 

  • 2 c mashed ripe bananas (5-6 large bananas)
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 c soy milk
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Mix the soy milk and apple cider vinegar together and wait until it’s curdled before continuing.
  • In a large bowl combine the bananas, white sugar, brown sugar, oil, soy milk mixture, and vanilla.
  • Add in the flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Mix until combined.
  • Add in the chocolate chips.
  • Pour into prepared pans.
  • Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until done.

Extra Information: 

  • You could make these into muffins or two giant loaves. It’s really up to you how you do it. If you make them into muffins they will take much less time to cook so I’d begin with 20 minutes and then see how much longer you think they’ll need.
  • If you don’t like chocolate chips you can throw in some walnuts, flaked coconut or just leave them plain.
  • In my oven these loaves take 55 minutes exactly. It may take slightly less or more time in yours. They are very moist and remain moist over a few days but this is dependent on not overcooking them. Don’t forget about them!
  • The riper the bananas the better the flavour. Use up those very dark spotted bananas no one will eat in this recipe. They are perfect for banana bread!

Absolute garbage…

Fan

I spent the last two days writing 1000 words on Lent, grace and Jesus. It doesn’t usually take me two days to write that many words and the awful truth is they were absolute garbage. I kept trying to edit and adjust but I knew there was no hope when my husband got lost reading it after he got home from work today. He very kindly tried to find something constructive to say but I knew it was bad and I told him so. He would not admit it but did not discourage my moving it to the trash.

Why was it garbage? Well I suspect it has something to do with the fact that industrial strength fans have been blowing in my house since Friday. The noise is deafening. I cannot think with the fans on. The carpet men told me today they could hear the noise as they were coming up the drive. I would leave and go write at Starbucks if not for the fact that I must be in attendance all day for the various insurance people who come in and out to check, fix and make arrangements.

Noise really prevents one from finding their centre. As I sit here in the basement with a little peace (as I negotiated some quiet time with the kind insurance man today) I can say I have found out why quiet time is so important. When we don’t set time aside to be still we can never truly find peace. Stillness is not just about being still physically, it is also about finding stillness in spirit. Finding a moment in the day when you can truly disconnect from the world and exist as you are. In those moments we find God. In those moments we connect with something greater than ourselves.

My noise right now comes from industrial fans but each one of us has noise, don’t we? There are obligations for work, family and friends. We have bills to pay, chores to accomplish and other things to do. The stress piles on, overwhelming us and we collapse into bed at the end of the day never having truly taken a moment to ourselves to connect with God and find peace. Quiet time is important. It’s essential. It’s life giving.

This time is absolutely essential to one’s spiritual and emotional wellness. Take it from me, you need it! Grab a moment today and spend time in prayer, meditate on a quote if you’d rather or crack open your Bible. Do one thing, anything that helps you find calm and peace. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it makes to take a moment to yourself and connect with something beyond your present worries. It’s very nice to find space in your day for God.

Take it from me as one who has had peace ripped from them, you want to do this for yourself. Lent is a season of preparation and transformation. Help this process along by making moments of peace and connection part of your day.  You won’t regret it!

When dishwashers attack.

Dishwasher

This morning started out like any other day. I got up and brewed myself a decaf Keurig coffee. I drank it pretending it was fully caffeinated and then set about making breakfast. The boys then went their way while I went mine and as I was making the bed before my shower I walked into a large puddle of water. I wondered if I had walked through the room with water and spilled it. Then realizing that I had not in fact done this I started searching for the source. It was water from the dishwasher seeping into the bedroom.

We live in a bungalow which is great except in cases of emergency. This will be the second time in 8 years that my bedroom has been completely ripped apart due to water damage. This time I’m quite pregnant and not at all looking forward to sleeping on the couch. At least I won’t have to move out. They can contain the dust and mess by shutting the door and opening windows. There won’t be cutting and stripping and fumes which would run me out of the house. I’m pleased with that but I am not really looking forward to putting everything back together.

Just when you start to feel sorry for yourself, life has a way of putting everything into perspective as it did this afternoon. The insurance adjuster showed up and told me his next call after ours was a fatality due to fire. I realized in that moment that our problem isn’t that big a deal.  So our life is a little messy for a little while, who cares? We are lucky to have one another. We have not lost a loved one. We are blessed to have a God who cares and is invested in us. We are fortunate to be covered by insurance. We are able to replace the appliance that caused us trouble in the first place. Things could be a lot worse.

I’ve never been one who believes that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I find that poor theology. It takes away from the choices that we make in life and doesn’t account for the truly horrible things that happen seemingly just because. What I have always believed is that things happen and we can deal with them through strength we find in God, in one another and in ourselves. God goes with us in our lives and supports us as we live them but things happen and not always for a reason. How we deal with those things makes us who we are.

While the cleanup is happening and we are moderately inconvenienced I shall endeavour to remain positive.  I will remind myself it could be worse and I will not waste time wallowing in self pity or despair. After all Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians,“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

If everything we do is to be done for the glory of God than people should see the light and glory in everything we do. Our actions and reactions should reflect the grace and peace that we are offered. Over the coming week I will try to shine light in this world and with as messy as our house is going to be I anticipate being in the world a lot more than usual for the next little while.