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.

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.

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.

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

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.

 

Waterproof mascara and carrot cake.

photo (65)

My son is almost 4. He survived surgery on his second day of life, pneumonia the week later and he tolerates his parents as they continue to insist daily that he needs to brush his teeth before bed. He’s a trooper. A child who beat the odds and came out smiling. He is a special little guy and technically this fall could be heading into the JK program at our local Christian school but we just didn’t think he was ready. X. is a little shy and delayed in speech so both his Dad and I were concerned about sending him to school. We thought he would need more support and encouragement than could be offered in a large classroom so we did some research, spoke with his doctor and speech therapist and found him a place in a daycare JK classroom in town.

Why am I telling you all this? Well today was his first day. I’m here alone in the house by myself during the day for the first time in four years. It’s so quiet. I’m a little nervous. Excited for him but scared too. I hope he likes it. I hope it’s stimulating enough. I hope he makes friends and wants to go back tomorrow. Change is hard, so very hard but it’s worth it.  At least I hope it is!

I have cake at the ready for our after school celebration. My waterproof mascara is on just in case there are tears. I’m proud of him, so very proud. To see all he has accomplished and all he’s over come in his short lifetime is wonderful. We are blessed, so very blessed.

 

A Pinterest worthy life.

The muffin

Yesterday in a moment of domesticity I decided to make Lemon Poppy Seed muffins. Seems benign, right? It should have been. It was my own fault really. I didn’t take out my glasses to read the recipe and used 5 tbsp of poppy seeds instead of 5 tsp. It doesn’t sound that bad but it turned a Lemon Poppy Seed muffin into a chewy, sticky mess. They looked pretty but it doesn’t really matter how nice it looks on the outside, what’s inside is what counts.

It really is what’s inside that counts. Think of it. Fresh warm bread has a marvellous texture inside. The soft lining of a favourite sweatshirt may not look appealing but feels delightful. The crisp clean linen sensation as you slide between the sheets could never be accomplished unless there was a between, an in the middle of, an inside.

The inside is what counts but in today’s world we often think that it’s the outside that matters. Who can blame us? Facebook has us posting pictures of ourselves when we look our absolute best. Food blogs look delicious but do the recipes really live up? Does anyone care? After all we spend our time looking at Pinterest instead of making something that we could enjoy in person. In our world it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

Jesus saw things a little differently. He saw through the trappings to the heart of the person. He knew that what was on the inside mattered.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25

Life for Jesus was about more than food and clothing. Life was about the experience. Life was what you made of it. If you’re feeling the pressure to live a Pinterest worthy life, don’t. Jesus didn’t and neither should you. It’s not how things look, it’s who you are that counts.

Life isn’t about looking pretty, it’s about living well and a life well lived is messy and filled with mistakes. You’re hair might get messed up, you might throw too many poppy seeds into the mix and in the end wind up with a disaster but you lived and you’ll learn. Life is about more than what you have, it’s what you do and who you are on the inside.

Here’s to a life that’s messy, mixed up and wonderful; a life that’s well lived.

With wonder and awe…

BIBLE

Every night my son and I gather together in his room to read before bed. He’s usually in his PJs, tucked underneath mounds of blankets. He waits for me to come with books and songs. It’s time together that I cherish. The quiet time. The time when he’s just about but not quite ready to face the end of the day. Lately he’s been very random in his book choices but one seems to be requested everyday, the Bible. It’s not actually the Bible. It’s Bible stories for boys but he’s really loving it so we read it together and he really seems engaged.

The other night while we were reading I got a surprise. When we turned the page and started in on the section surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection he grabbed my face after I read “…he came back to life, so we can be God’s friends.” and said “wow……wow”.  His little brown eyes looked deep into my own and I was astounded by how amazed he was by this. He thought it was incredible and wanted me to know how incredible he found it.

We’ve read it (and other stories) since. He’s his normal everyday happy self who loves Monsters Inc and Thomas the Tank Engine. He bounces with each step and is fully engaged in life.  Nothing about him has changed but something within me has. His reaction, his wonder and thrill at the realization that Jesus is invested in him has really caused me to think about my investment in Jesus and the church.

I’ve found myself battling discouragement the last few months. There are days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and just sit at home knitting. But as is my life, every time I find myself seeking distance and find myself feeling frustrated by the church I am reminded somehow why it is I do what I do. This time the reminder came from my son. His wide open eyes filled with wonder and awe over this great gift remind me of the need for loving environments that share the Good News and hold children close. I am reminded of my responsibility to the next generation and I live in hope that we’ll be able to clean up some of the mess that lays within the church before we hand it off to them.

Prayers for #ga139

Cross

The General Assembly of my denomination is meeting this week. In simple terms it’s the meeting where things are decided for the whole church in Canada. My husband who was raised Roman Catholic says the Presbyterian System operates like the Borg on Star Trek without a Queen. There is no one person directing the ship and that in his opinion is why things take so long to get things done. I think this is a rather simplistic view of things but an entertaining one nevertheless.

Anyways, the meeting began today and I noticed in my Facebook stream that a live feed would be streamed online. I clicked the link to check it out and was met with a statement that indicated the feed was not live and as I was looking at it on an iPad I wouldn’t be able to view it.  My first thought was “Are they running on time delay?  Are they worried about a Janet Jackson moment?” which was followed by “Oh well, I tried.  I wonder if we have pudding…”

While the tweets have not been plentiful and the updates irregular I am interested in what is happening. The future of our church is in the hands of the attendees. It is my prayer that God enters the halls of assembly to help with discernment and understanding. May we as a church be filled with a sense of urgency, renewed in faith and hope and surrounded by God’s presence so that as we move forward we are moving with God, not against him.

As the assembly gathers I find myself thinking of the future, of possibilities. I wonder what will happen over the coming year and I contemplate the church as I know it. I wonder what you are thinking. Do you have hopes for the Church as it moves ahead? What issues do you think the Christian Church needs to address and where do you think God is leading us in this fast changing world in which we live?

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