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.

 

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You have a story.

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You have a story. It’s your story and you are the one who’s lived it. It has high moments and low moments, happy moments and bitter moments. You may have lived through terror or peace, through many years or few. You may have moved and seen the world or perhaps just stayed where you were born. Whatever your experience, your story is yours and God can be found within it. Own your story. Share your story. Connect with others and learn their stories for it’s the only way we can truly understand and invest in each other which is what we need to do, are called to do as Christians. This message was the heart of the book I read this week, Speak by Nish Weiseth.

This book was a quick engaging read that I think others would enjoy. We often forget that each person has a story, a history that defines them and brings them to the place where they stand before us. The author reminded me of the importance of personal stories and their impact on how we discuss, debate and engage with one another. She also inspired me to tell more of my story. I’ve been asked through the years what I think about certain things and am for the most part happy to engage in discussion. After reading this book I can see now how those discussions would have benefited from more story telling. We all come to the table with histories and if we don’t address them we can never truly understand one another.

I think I read this book at a time when I really needed to hear this message. On a Facebook page connecting members of the PCC (Presbyterian Church in Canada – my denomination) we’ve been discussing overtures towards the inclusion of LGTB within our church at large. I’ve found the discussions to be heated and at times filled with judgement on all sides. The idea that we all need to sit down and listen to each others stories really resonated with me because of these discussions. I wonder what would happen if instead of taking a side and drawing lines in the sand, we explained our perspective, our story and really discussed why it mattered to us. I think we need to engage each other more instead of just the issue. The issue is important but there are people behind it. Until we understand and communicate with each other at a deeper level I just don’t see a healthy resolution. Stories need to be heard. Stories need to be shared. We need to talk, really talk. Not at one another but with one another. I hope we are able to do that as we move forward towards a resolution.

The book was great.  I really believe we need to share who we are and connect with one another. I was really glad to hear a voice declaring the need for engagement. If you’re looking for a different way to connect with others in faith and are interested in finding new ways to share the story then give this book a try.

Great news, I’m still on track with my 52/52 challenge! Percy Jackson did not derail me.  I am however saddened to announce that The Blood of Olympus is still not completed as Thanksgiving got in the way.  Maybe this week I’ll have a little free time after I’ve read Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett.

Thanksgiving

Footie PJs

“Do you want to see the blood moon?” I ask, uncertain what the answer will be. “Wow.” he whispers in reply to a suggestion for a quest together on this brisk autumn morning. He peers out the window looking for the moon. I tell him to get his shoes and watch him slip his pyjama covered feet into angry bird sneakers. Uncertain of what to expect he announces “it’s dark” to me and I see hesitation in his body before he commits himself to the outdoors which are so much like night. We walk together into the darkness to find the moon. 

We reach the end of the driveway. He looks up and acknowledges the moon. We stand together looking for a few moments. It’s not the usual moon but he tires of it quickly and so begins a dance back to the house as he’s cold. His shoes light up in the darkness and it amazes me to see the red lights hover midair. It would seem his feet rarely touch the ground. Inside he settles down at his desk. He surrounds himself with work books and markers, with pens and paper. He wants to learn, create, colour. He craves knowledge and connection. We work together and apart. I begin to make breakfast. He flits in and out of the room, narrating his steps, happy and content. His chatter fills the halls and my heart. The messy chaos of this morning is perfect.

Just a few short months ago none of this would have been possible. We had little of this. Moments were wonderful of course, just different. I worried more. I carried fear in my heart for what would come for this quiet, shy boy. Now there is peace. Now he knows growth and opportunity and it is wonderful. I’m so proud of him for all he’s accomplished. I’m so grateful we were able to find his team to help us as a family learn how to help him. I find myself looking into the future with joy. As I head into the weekend thinking about thanksgiving I find myself returning repeatedly to moments like these. I am so thankful to God for walking with us here. I’m overwhelmed by the gifts that have led us to this place. I’m full of praise and thanksgiving for the ‘normal’ that I do not take for granted. Thank you God for this time, this place, this life.

With great hesitation…

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With great hesitation I must confess something. This horrible, awful, no good truth that has been eating away at my soul over the last week must come out. The truth is One Thousand Gifts didn’t do it for me. I know, I know. What’s wrong with me, you ask? I honestly don’t know. Everyone else seems to love it. Something must be wrong with me…

Now, where to begin? When I was reading this week I found myself overwhelmed with language. I admit her words read as poetry and speak to the heart of the issue. This was wonderful at first but as the book progressed I found myself longing for a little more focus. I found the swirling images repeating throughout to be beautifully annoying. Sometimes I caught myself thinking ‘get on with it’ and that’s not where my head or heart should be while reading a book about spiritual awakenings. I also found her constant desire to feel joy always a little intense. For me life needs balance, the tug from both sides. If one always feels joy how can they appreciate it, not take it for granted? We were created in God’s image and Jesus had emotions and feelings and they came out in his teachings.  I’ve often found God working in me the most when I’ve been angry or lonely, unsettled or discouraged. Maybe that’s just my way. I know I grow in the wrestling and questioning and I’m grateful to God for allowing me to do just that.

The message of the book is wonderfully simple. It’s something we all need to hear over and over again. Thanksgiving is living. When we begin to thank God for all of the blessings in our life, big and small we start to realize how much we have been gifted. It’s a great way of putting life into perspective and I’m totally on board with that. Trouble is I had a sense while reading that she was sitting a little too close to the theology of ‘God gives you these things to help strengthen you’ for my liking. Full disclosure: I acknowledge that these feelings may be influence by my own experience. I have had far too many people tell me that my son was born with CDH for a reason or that he has Autism for a reason and I have to say that’s ridiculous and very irritating. I usually smile and nod but this is my blog so I can say what I want. I do not believe God didn’t bless my son with a diaphragm so I could become a stronger person. I became a stronger person as God worked with me through a difficult situation but I don’t think he would be so cruel as to torture my son to benefit me. Seems very unlike a loving God.  So while I was reading the book and hearing that all things are grace I was torn.  Yes God works grace in all things but are those things a gift or is God walking with us while those things happen the gift?  Maybe it’s the same thing but there’s a fine line for me and I’m hesitant to walk to close to the line.

I know my experience with the book is rare. Maybe it’s my own personal circumstance. Perhaps her voice didn’t jive with my inner dialogue. Maybe it’s just not my style. I’m not sure why exactly I didn’t get into it.  There were parts I underlined and was challenged by in the reading but it is not one that will stick with me like others do. What I do like about the book is that it’s been such a blessing to others. I’m so glad she’s been able to reach so many people and help them grow in their relationship with God. This is truly wonderful and I will continue to enjoy her blog even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the book.

This week I’m reading The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan!  You claim this doesn’t count?  I agree but I’ve been waiting so long for the finale to his Heroes of Olympus series that when it arrived today I started in on it as soon as I was able.  I’m also reading Speak: How your Story can Change the World by Nish Weiseth.  That should cover my 52/52 project nicely.  

**Another full disclosure moment.  I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher to review.  These are my feelings entirely (obviously) and I am grateful to them for letting me read and reflect on her words even if it wasn’t my style.**

The art of being mindful.

“Thus we are sucked away into the future — and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
– The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Being mindful is an art. It requires practice and patience. It is not something that happens instantly or that one can perfect in a moment.  Trust me, I know. I’ve tried throughout the week to be mindful. Some moments I was fabulous at it, others not so much. I read this week’s book of the week fairly quickly so I had a lot of spare time on my hands in which to practice mindfulness as a result of it and I can honestly say I will endeavour to continue practicing. It’s amazing how much one sees when they are focused on living in the present moment.

I want to be clear that it does not make all moments good. There were in fact many moments this week when I was attempting to practice mindful living that made me question my decision. There are things we just don’t want to do, things we would much rather rush through to get them over with. When I did them with a sense of purpose I perhaps did not enjoy them but found the pace of life to be more liveable and the tasks less overwhelming. As the pace of life slowed my sense of living increased and I truly felt this week that I was able to accomplish more, see more and relax a little into the day. This feeling of relaxation is a miracle unto itself.  I have not really been relaxed since therapy started in our home. The busyness and constant activity has been a little overwhelming. I am grateful to have found some moments of peace in the midst of it all. It wasn’t constant and I do need practice but it’s a start and that’s a good thing.

I realize this way of living is counter to pretty much everything we are told in society today. I see so many people living out of the moment, sitting at tables with friends while texting another or making plans for the future and forgetting to enjoying today. It’s not natural for us. We’re constantly looking for ways to maximize efficiency and get things done. If you find yourself falling into this trap may I recommend this book to you? My hope is that we all find a way to be mindful. The moment in which we are living has been given to us by God. Each breath, each interaction is a gift unto itself. Let us not wish away our lives but instead enjoy the life we are living.

This week I’m going to read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

The hair dryer that wasn’t…

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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.

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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