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.

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.

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.

 

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