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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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.

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.

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.

Poke the bear

Panda

For some unknown reason my son has started getting up between the hours of 2 and 3 every morning. He sneaks into our room quietly and then stares at me until I wake up. It’s kind of freaky. He doesn’t want to wake me as he knows he’s supposed to be asleep but he wants me to wake up so I can give him a hug and get him settled again. Waking up to someone staring at you is unsettling and I suspect my mother would say it’s payback as I remember doing this to her.

In some ways I think he’s afraid to ‘poke the bear’. He wants to engage but doesn’t want to wake me because he knows that when I’m awake actions will follow. He will have to go to bed but he wants that hug, that assurance in the dark night. He’s not sure what to do. It’s a difficult dilemma for a little boy so he does what we’ve all done at one time or another and just waits for me to make the decision for him.

As I lay in bed last night waiting to be certain he was asleep and not sneaking back down the hall to get my attention again, I realized that this is often how we engage God. We stand at the sidelines, watching and waiting to see if he will engage. We’re uncertain of whether we should move in and poke. Do we really want a response? If we get one we know there will be consequences and do we want to live with them? We know that engagement with God means being present and when we are present we need to notice, listen and respond. We cannot just stand still once we’ve engaged.

Do you find yourself on the sidelines of faith? Do you find yourself unsure of engagement and what it means?

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7 that there are no easy roads in faith and connection with God. That connecting means commitment and commitment means action and attention.  Are you ready to poke the bear or will you just stand and stare?

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.  
- Matthew 7:13-14 The Message

We rise again

sign
Ash Wednesday brought with it a lot of statements on my Facebook and Twitter feed reminding me that I was going to die. I know this. I also know that meditating on the fact that from dust we came and to dust we shall return can be a good exercise. None of us should believe we are immortal. Being aware that life is finite forces us to live. Regardless I found some of the comments to be a bit lacking. The grace that is offered, the fresh starts that are given, the resurrection that we hear of and experience time and again are important images in our faith. We cannot forget these things in the midst of contemplation.

As I’ve lived lately I’ve witnessed signs of new life all around. It’s not yet spring, but there is about an inch of grass peeking through at the front of my lawn underneath all the snow. Our doves have returned to their roost and are planning a nest I’m sure. The time has changed and everyday I see the light linger in the sky a little longer. I feel my son within me twisting and turning, yearning to burst forth when the time comes. The dormant period has come to an end. The season of quiet hibernation will soon give way to growth and opportunity. Life happens when we push forth. Life happens when we embrace this beginning.

I was surprised this week when I saw the message on our neighbourhood Roman Catholic Parish’s sign,We rise again from the ashes to create ourselves anew“. Usually it just lets us know when Mass is but it would seem the Priest wanted to remind us that from death comes new life. When things burn it looks terrible but soil can be rejuvenated and life can burst forth in a fresh, unique way. Destruction and devastation can bring forth great things. Life’s challenges are not pleasant but sometimes when we look back we can see when we felt most burnt out and hollow how our life changed, how we sought renewal and rebirth in that moment. I’m not suggesting these trials are part of a greater plan, more reflecting on how we react to the things that happen to us and around us.   

Renewal comes at unexpected times. It is something we all need, crave even. After a long winter we pine for spring. After the time change we long for sleep. Today as we step into the unofficial first day of the week we find ourselves contemplating the hours and longing for the weekend. As we live this, let us not forget the possibilities that lie within this period. In the burned out, broken down moments of our lives we can find hope for tomorrow and a promise for the future. After all winter will not last forever. Sleep will return once more. Our struggles may continue but we will persevere and if we look there will be others to help us carry the load and push us past this moment in time.

Today we possess the power within to create, to rebuild, to renew. Today we can choose how we will live this moment. Will we remain as we are or burst forth into something new? With God’s help this is possible. Will we allow ourselves this opportunity? Will we break free from the past, burst forth into newness and find hope in what is to come?

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

                                                       Psalm 51:7-15 the Message

I’m lucky enough to have a fridge…

Red cup

I woke up in the best of moods this morning. Our morning was wonderful. After a lovely breakfast and enjoyable lounge about, I dropped my son off at school, headed to Superstore to grab a few essentials and on my way home stopped at my local Starbucks for a hot chocolate. It was rather indulgent but I felt like it was time for my first red cup of the season. I arrived home, cup in hand to the rather shocking revelation that my fridge had died.  It seems the freezer went first. Everything on the bottom was completely thawed but the fridge sometime in the not so distant past had joined in and stopped working as well. It is trying. I’ll give it that. There are some strange sounds coming out of it but nothing was particularly cold and I was starting to understand why my morning cereal wasn’t appetizing. Lukewarm milk is never a good thing with ancient grain O’s.

After spending the morning cleaning out my freezer, moving things downstairs to the pantry fridge and cleaning up the water that was everywhere I have realized a few things about life.

1: I am incredibly blessed. I had a full fridge that I needed to save. There was food and fuel for my family that many others do not have access to.
2: I have a fridge in the basement and the ability to save the upstairs contents. Very little waste and a fairly easy solution.
3: I was able to get that food where it needed to go.  I am mobile and healthy and perfectly capable of handling a crisis. It’s a nice thing to be able to manage and a blessing to have a body which allows me to do so.
4: I will get another fridge. It’s not something we had planned for but we will do it.

A dead fridge isn’t fun. There’s all the running about and cleaning up but it’s done now and that’s a good thing. While the day may not have been what I expected it was filled with truth and realizations. We are blessed and for that I am truly grateful.

Eventually I’ll get there I suppose.

Last week a sigh slipped through my lips as I left my son at school after yet another easy drop off. He had finally settled in. He was content. There was a teacher he loved, friends he had fun with and activities he enjoyed. His speech was improving. His confidence was soaring. I was happy. This morning another sigh slipped through my lips, an angry, disgruntled sigh. Today we were told my son was moving to a different class, with only one of his friends. He burst into tears and was devastated. He was finally comfortable and then it was gone. His comfort vanished and I found myself frustrated and helpless.

They are shuffling the deck so to speak and I am not really sure why nor can they tell me. This is probably the hardest part of being a Mom for me. I can’t make everything perfect for my little guy and it wouldn’t do him any good if I could. He needs to learn that there are some things in life you cannot control. That sometimes you just have to roll with whatever comes your way. I’m just so tired of constantly being the family who’s nice and flexible.

We are told this all the time and it’s starting to wear on me. Jesus never said “blessed are the flexible”, did he? He doesn’t seem to focus on being likeable, or agreeable at all. He focusses on what we should be doing. How we should be living and as I sit here in my frustration I know I should be loving. I should be practicing love and giving love. I should be finding the reasons this is good. He can learn from change. He can meet new friends. He can adapt and grow and discover new parts of himself.

And even after writing it all down I’m still just sitting here feeling sunk. I have no control over their decisions or actions. I can only respond and I guess I that means that I should follow Christ and act in love while letting go. This is the hard part of following Christ, the letting go. I’m working on it. Every day it’s something I work on. Eventually I’ll get there I suppose.