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.

Eager to Love

It was a tough day today. I’m happy to be sitting here at the end of it with my pyjamas on ready to launch into an episode of Castle.  It’s mindless entertainment and I know I should be doing other things but today I embrace that which is easy.  Still it is Wednesday and I was to have finished a book by this day. Did I? I did. I’m rather pleased that it’s going so well but it helps to have picked books that I’m really enjoying. This week I read Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr and I found it an absolutely wonderful read.

“Seek grace not instruction, desire not understanding, Seek the groaning of prayer over diligent reading, Seek the spouse more than the teacher, Seek God not man, darkness not clarity, Not light but the fire itself.” – Richard Rohr, Eager to Love

This is one of my favourite statements from the book. I really find nothing wrong with the intellectual pursuits of faith but sometimes I wonder if we get lost in them. What really matters in life is how we live it. It is good to know, to study and challenge but it is only good if it impacts us as we live our lives. What good is it to know about God if we aren’t seeking to know God.

photo-4 copy 6

This afternoon I ran across these figurines that I haven’t noticed in a while. One looking up, the other down and they both seem happy but the one looking down is connected to this world through the bird she is holding. I wonder if at times we get so hung up on how we’re going to get to heaven that we forget what a gift this life is. I think at times we miss connecting with God and each other here because we’re so busy trying to get to the next level, next phase, next whatever. When we live for the future we can forget about the present and the gifts that are contained here and now.

It really was a lovely read but it did call me to account and I realized that I really do need to live here and love now. I cannot always be thinking about what will happen after my son’s therapy or when I go back to work or when my husband and I can get away. I need to be thinking about this moment, this time and the gifts of God within it. I need to be connecting to God now not on Sundays or someday but here in the present. I used to do this rather naturally. I suspect with the busyness of life right now it’s harder for me. This realization has assisted me in the choosing of my next book, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the practice of Mediatation by Thih Nhat Hanh.  I suspect it will aid me in my quest to find the blessing in each moment.

Does thou shalt not kill apply to spiders?

Eeek

One of my favourite sensations is the feeling of a hot shower on a crisp fall morning. The frosty air melts away into a pool of delicious warmth. I enjoyed one this morning and it was heavenly. Too short but heavenly nonetheless. As I exited my shower and wrapped a towel around me I was greeted by the most unfriendly sight of the world’s most horrid spider. It was monstrous. The length of a quarter and legs that stretched beyond. I haven’t seen a spider that large in ages. Instinct kicked in and I picked up the lotion box beside me and smacked it without thinking. The spider is now gone and I am left reflecting upon the age old question, does thou shalt not kill apply to spiders and why was I so afraid of it?

Our instincts get the best of us at times. We instinctively try to make things easier, less scary and seek to protect ourselves and those we love from the world around us. The can both help and hurt us at different times depending on the situation. How we react and live in this world can really make a difference in the lives of those around us. As Christians do our instincts reflect our beliefs? If we react instinctively are we living by the standard to which we aspire? How do we ensure we are living out our Christ given mission here on earth? So many things to ponder all because of a stupid spider.

Where it takes me

I have turned the last page on The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton.  It was wonderful.  I was absorbed in the concepts and thoughts, the suggestions and ideas.  I found myself really contemplating (haha) the text and ideas at hand and it was good for me.  I’ve always been drawn to more of an inner spiritual journey and this just kind of affirmed and pushed and pulled me in all kinds of ways.

Many who follow the Christian Mystic path seem to write about God in terms of darkness instead of light. It’s the perfect imagery for me. Light is everywhere. It lights our days, our nights and affects us in ways we cannot fully comprehend. It doesn’t even need to be close. The sun is millions of miles from earth, warming and brightening our days. Light allows you to exist in the presence of something at a distance. One doesn’t need to draw close to see.

Darkness is another story.  With no light shining for you, the path is forged through feeling and persistence. Careful steps are required and one must really be dedicated to getting where they need to go if they cannot see where it is they are going.  Travelling in the dark requires preparation, commitment and guts. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I have found in my own journey that the more I study and seek, the dimmer the light gets. I find myself having to work harder, reflect longer and really sink into my faith and wrestle with what I believe.  The more I study, the more I want to know. The more I know, the more I realize I really know nothing.  I think when we begin the light is strong and full to guide us towards God but the closer we get, the more focused the light seems to become.

I’m quite happy to acknowledge that I myself am no guru or mystical genius. I’m but one woman questioning, wrestling with and fighting for her faith. I never want to accept blindly. Instead I wish to walk ahead into the murky darkness with a determination to find God on the other side. As I journey I find myself drawn into the teaching of these mystics who remind us that the journey is not easy, the destination is not self-fulfillment and happiness, but the effort is oh so worth it.

As of late I find myself wondering if the loss of our mystical side in the community as a whole is perhaps one of the reasons we find ourselves struggling in the church these days. Does our need to keep things light and bright rob us of our chance to really meet with God and hear where it is we should go. There are no easy answers, only questions it seems. For now I will continue on my own journey and see where it takes me.

This week I am reading Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assissi by Richard Rohr

Are you afraid of the dark?

I walked out into the hall carefully shutting the door behind me. Only 10 minutes since I’d gone to bed but there was something (or rather someone) nudging me to go try and be alone in the dark for a while. “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that saved my life over and over again, so there really is only one logical conclusion.  I need darkness as much as I need light.” She said. That she being Barbara Brown Taylor who wrote the book I was reading Learning to walk in the dark.

Go out and experience it, she urges. Meet yourself in the dark and discover what you find.

I crept into the hall quietly, determined not to wake my husband or the baby. Closing the door I found myself looking at nothing. Not a haze of outlines or even shadows of grey. There was nothing in the darkness. Nothing ahead or behind. It’s a cavernous hallway of nothing.

Nothingness as most of us know it is not so bad. I’ve never been afraid to be alone with myself. I love to read and have spent many an afternoon tucked away with a good book. I have often slept in the sun like a cat on the love seat in my living room on Sunday afternoons away from the world and it’s distractions. There can be nothing happening in the house and I am happy to putter and move around completely content to be alone and quiet. This nothingness as we know it in our culture is different from the nothingness that comes from being in the dark. This nothingness is chosen. Darkness just comes, each night to meet you if you let it.

When vision is no longer an option you’re left relying on other senses, other ways of experiencing the world and that can be challenging when one is used to seeing. Those of us who have vision rely heavily on sight. I hadn’t really thought about how heavily until I started reading Rev. Taylor’s book. What we see often pulls us away. We see dinky cars and lego scattered on the floor that needs to be dealt with. We see piles of dishes and stacks of paper that need to be put away. We notice things that must be done and find ways to entertain and distract ourselves. In the dark I see none of those things. I just exist in this moment and space. Any distractions are of my own making. I have to control my thoughts and surrender to the nothingness. I started to get a sense for why she encouraged this exploration. The darkness offers something completely different to the light. Did I want to accept what it offered? Was I ready for what it could give me?

I come face to face with myself in the dark. In the quiet stillness I can hear more of what is being whispered to me. With no distractions I am able to commune with God on a different level if I allow it. The question remains, do I want to hear it? The darkness brings with it a forced time of reflection and contemplation. If I turn off the lights and embrace what darkness offers I have chosen to exist in a way that was long ago forgotten. This is the age of street lights and night lights, of monitors and digital alarm clocks. Darkness in this age is hard to find. I wonder if the extension of day into night in our age of progress and productivity is merely a reflection of our fear of being alone with our thoughts and our God. I wonder what would happen if we consciously embraced the darkness and all it offers.

52 weeks – 52 books

Since the process of assessment and therapy for X began I’ve found myself floating further and further away from myself as my thoughts were consumed with the ‘A’ word and all that goes with it.  Autism can be all encompassing.  Pair it with breastfeeding and a mother is sure to lose herself entirely to obligations, charting, therapeutic methods and growth spurts.  Part of this is normal when you have a new baby. Everything is upside down while you struggle with the new normal.  The rhythm of life changes and you need to learn new dance steps to stay in time.

Lately I haven’t been dancing much at all. I’ve been running full tilt and that has to stop. My mind has not been clear.  Fatigue hit my body hard. I knew that something had to give and I needed to take a little time for myself so I bought a book, sat down with my Kindle and began to read. I read all the time so this wasn’t an unusual action for those around me but lately the books I’ve chosen have been soft, fluffy things to keep my spirits up. Last week though I went another way and purchased Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor. Something happened in the reading of this book. It was as if a light switched on inside me which had been off for months. Suddenly I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas of my own. I was reflecting and probing areas I’d long since neglected. It was wonderful. When I turned the last page yesterday I found myself a little sad that it was over.  Over the span of the evening I found myself flirting with an idea. I thought it might be fun to challenge myself to read 52 books this year. Not 52 books in general. I could definitely read that over the course of a year but 52 books to challenge the heart and mind. Books that would encourage me to think and discern.  Books that require me to actively engage instead of be passively entertained.

I think one book a week is doable.  I have no desire to entirely abandon entertainment reading or the latest episode of Castle and I think this will allow me to incorporate it all.  Some grace will be allowed.  If a book is particularly gruelling or ridiculously long I may evaluate the length of time in which I must have it finished but for the most part I expect a book a week is possible.  If you have any suggestions for books you think I simply must read please leave them in the comment section.  I have 50 more books to choose and would love to discover what has impacted you in your spiritual journey.

This week I am reading The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton.  

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)

When therapists attack…

Okay, they don’t actually attack.  Maybe ‘take over’ is a better description.  My son’s therapists have moved in and essentially claimed every area that is not our (my husband and I) bedroom as an acceptable place to do therapy.  The type of IBI that X. is currently engaged in is all about learning within the real world so that the skills he learns are transferable to many different situations.  I am behind this 100% but it has left me with almost nowhere to retreat to.  They’ve even claimed my office as it seems to be the most comfortable place to do puzzles and play games.

I don’t want you thinking I can’t live in my own home. I can. I am allowed to play with the baby anywhere and we can co-exist with the therapy but I need some quiet time. I crave quiet time in the day.  So does my little guy.  He cannot nap in chaos.  I don’t think many of us can.  After a month of hanging out in the relative quiet of my bedroom while my son napped in his bassinet mid-afternoon I found myself dreaming of a place where I could leave my computer out and have a few books in a stack.  You know, an office of sorts kind of like the one that was stolen from me.  This dream has become a reality.  While I was walking through Costco last week I found a cheap folding table that was skinny enough to fit in front of my bedroom window.  I’m writing on it right now!  It’s fantastic.  There’s room for a few books, a cup of coffee, my elbows and my laptop.  Have I mentioned it can be easily converted into a sewing station?

window

I feel like a new woman.  Like this week I may write an epic love story or the next great theological text.  While in reality I may just send a few emails and post a blog or two this has folding table has given me the opportunity for a little quiet in quite a loud season and I am thrilled to have found it.  Here’s to the little things in life!  They sometimes make all the difference.

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.