Thursday, August 23, 2012

What I Said



My 40th Birthday Toast 

Because of a variety of circumstances I began this decade in deeper pain and exhaustion than I ever thought I could survive. And then I went on to experience a sudden near-death for my son and me; a week long coma; a decade of very serious health problems for my daughter; the darkest economic struggles I have ever faced and a variety of situations that were personally very painful.

To say this last decade (12.5 years really) was difficult is a total understatement. I hit rock-bottom. I went through days where I completely and totally lost sight of my self in the fog and fight for survival. There were bright spots: I lost over 60 lbs (something I am only just now realizing was really, very strong ) including the 40 lbs I gained in 10 minutes (crazy!) during the crisis of Luke's birth.

I held onto my marriage. I loved my kids. And I reached out to friends. When over and over and over again my impulse was to hide, feel shame, withdraw, or even lie about the quality of all this pain: I didn't. I didn't give up. I fought for the truth. I believed in healing. I waited for hope. And, also, - finally - I learned what it means to let go. To trust.

To be caught.

And I have learned a lot. I learned to serve other people's dreams, totally and completely, and to make them my own. I learned the meaning of grace and patience - for my self and as a mother. I learned how to de-fang the jaws of comparison. I learned I was a great teacher. I learned the power of touch and nurturing (it's so powerful!) I learned about the healing of just sitting and reading together on a couch. I learned what peace in a home feels like. And I learned the laughter from a puppy's unconditional love in a family. (It's no small thing!)

Most profoundly in my journey I learned about the incredible power of all-out vulnerability with no other motivation than to own my story & be who I really am. To quote a favourite author it really is "the birthplace of courage, connection and creativity."

I also learned how transformative it is to choose joy and to see beauty amidst imperfection. That is vulnerability in action. And for me, nothing applies those two things more than choosing to be in my body and choosing deep friendships. Both of those things delineate my life's journey, and both of those gifts have become my greatest enjoyment throughout my years.

Running, being in water, hiking in mountains, going for a walk - some days even just getting out of bed - and a myriad ways of reaching out to other women - are the acts of vulnerability for me. They are my way of saying: I am still here! I still feel (thank God) and I have not lost my self. I want to live this beautiful life. My physical activity out of doors and my connections with my friends have become the definition, and have drawn the contours, of who I am. And because of that I cannot thank you - each of you - enough for being a part of my journey.

I know this journey of mine is no where near over. But I am beginning to see more and more jewels beneath the rock bottom I'd hit. And, truthfully, I am not finding those gems in looking back. I had a epiphany when I read a line in a Mary Oliver poem at the beginning of this year. She said "...the answer [is] simply to rise in joyfulness all of [our] days." I find the treasures in my journey when I lace on, get up, and reach out each new morning. I find them in being present in the gift of each day and every year.

Every day ten years ago that I found the strength, the nerve even, to run the 1.3 miles around Lake Louise; every time I found the courage to push the double stroller with two babies through the Columbia neighbourhood, every Saturday that I found the companionship in asking girlfriends to join me trailrunning on Northlake; every steep hill I have gasped up on Chandler and on Barkley; every 5am alarm that I've set, every time I walked into a group and said: "I love to run, actually" - I was choosing a joy deeper than I even understood. I was choosing to be myself.

And for every friend that has walked - or run - beside me, and believed in me, I am more me than I would've been without you. I have so been looking forward to turning forty. And as I've been stretching out my limbs in this new decade I have found my self feeling real joy about being here. I like being this age. It feels like a victory - and it feels like anticipation. I'm excited about what is to come. 

One of the reasons I wanted to have this party was to have a chance to thank each of you for the immense gift of your friendships & for your help in authoring my story. Both its details & its outcome. Thank you for being the sweetest of my birthday gifts. Thank you for bearing witness to my victories and for being so full of grace and patience for my weaknesses. I can not do life without my girlfriends, nor do I ever want to. Thank you, each of you, for being my fortieth birthday gifts.

So today, for my fortieth birthday, I want to toast to the absolute joy of friendship, to the power vulnerability and to the anticipation of what is to come. I want to raise my glass to life! Thank you for celebrating all its joys - and surviving all the hard parts - with me!

all of the flowers from my friend's garden

my friend's trike - the basket was full of Izzes

the brunch table getting set up

 colour

one of my favourite parts of a party

a special photo from forty years ago

it was 90 degrees on my party day

my early morning helper

beauty in buckets

Kezi helped with the prettiest details

it was so hot we borrowed tents for shade


some of my favourites

orange and aqua

loveliness


Friday, March 30, 2012

A Family Update

This is what I've been doing lately - lots of hiking, lots of reading, lots of outdoor time with these two people who seem determined to grow up really fast. 

My husband recently posted a little family update here. Lots of wishes for a beautiful and happy Easter this next week to you!


And P.S. 
I looooooooove this post.  She always says it best. 
That is what my Lenten practice has been this year - putting joy first. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Longing


The ache between sorrow and longing is a razor's edge of sameness. We grieve what is not and in the same breath long for what could be.

What is it that you enjoy and long for? I am coming to a solid place in my own personal theology that that is where God meets with me. Yes, we've all heard of Eric Liddell's famous and beautiful quote: "When I run I feel His pleasure." We've heard the succinct beauty of the Westminster catechism: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." We've heard modern day theologians explain that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him - and yes, yes, yes - I believe and love each of these truths. I have been rescued and built up by Manning's books like the Ragamuffin Gospel and Nouwen's teachings on the love of the waiting Father. I have stood naked before grace and I have - and am - learning to let it be the only thing that clothes me.

But what does that look like in our lives? In our bodies? In our hearts and in our longings?

I am starting to believe it's our bodies and senses that the Holy Spirit often uses to show us the way. What brings you alive? What makes your heart beat faster and gives you that ache that makes you wish you were doing it, not reading about others doing it? What are you willing to endure pain and pressure for?

What reeks of enjoyment for you? What makes you sparkle and suffer all at the same time and makes others want to come do it with you?

Wheelchair bound, sick-bed bound, bound by the constraints of little kids and their needs-induced sleep deprivation - I know what I dreamed of year after year. I read book after book after book about hiking steep mountains and running mountain trails. I devoured and treasured book after book and touched the type written words and played with them in my head. I loved the words as much as the beauty they sang about and captivated me with.

What does your body dream of? Not what is it capable of now, but what speaks to its core?

That may be your place of worship - and when consecrated to the Great Enjoyer - maybe that is what you were born to do.

We were asked on Sunday at church: What does it mean to you to be a follower of Jesus? We sit around tables for our gatherings and we turned to our table-mates to share and discuss. I could only think of the words someone told me a long time ago: Your faith is as deep and real as the last time you let Jesus love you.

Yes, there are seasons of dying to this fulfillment. Yes, there are seasons of it dying altogether for the sacrifice and sake of loving others. But our bodies were made to crave and move and hunger and enjoy - and what if that is all a patterning to teach us the longing and fulfillment of worship as an activity?

I have a friend who once sat at our dining room table and described skin diving (no air tank) deep under the waters around our Pacific Northwest islands. He spoke reverently of the ocean life and beauty he saw at 180 feet below water. As he talked his eyes spontaneously filled with tears. "That is my church," he said. "It is impossible not to have worship yanked out of you surrounded by that type of wonder."

Our dining room table hummed with a sacred silence as we all stopped and felt his words. My eyes filled with tears, too, as my heart ached. The inevitable question in the room was what activity breathes with that level of worship for you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Being Broken By The List - Part Two


Continued from Part One

A few years ago a friend gave me a beautiful framed picture of an empty bench in front of a wall of peeling paint colours that I love. With it they gave me a scripture about rest and stillness. 

Somewhere deep inside me I felt rebuked? exposed? annoyed? known? mad? I packed the photo away later knowing, regardless, that at the very least it made me frustrated. Who could be that still, I genuinely wondered as my toddlers ran around me in circles, with so much to do? Sleep was elusive. Let alone rest.

The strangest thing happened as I was reflecting forward on this new year, last year, and going over the list I felt was still very crucial and important to emphasize. I felt God whisper to me: "What if you date me every morning - meet first with me and let me love you and I will take care of the list. I will carry it."

I was pretty much flabbergasted. It sounded too good to be true. After all this time?! It sounded so weightless and refreshing and all sorts of wonderful to begin my days that way. I couldn't say yes fast enough! So for awhile now I have been doing just that. I have a stack of outdoor clothes next to my bed and my first steps on many recent mornings have been outdoors with Jesus having a date. On the tired mornings I turn to Him even in my jammies but with my whole heart. I've listened, I've whispered and I've been embraced by the peace of silence and beauty and quiet time.

Being with Him is not new for me. Being able to let go of everything else as I do, is. 

And I've been loved. And the heaviness of the list is lightening. It hasn't been altogether abandoned - far from it. If anything it's felt more important than ever. But it hasn't been like gritting my teeth and setting my jaw and choosing to do the right thing from steely determination. It has felt different. 

During this time I have been thinking a lot about motivation and obedience in how we care for ourselves, our families, and our bodies especially, and this morning the thought came to me:

The best caretakers are not stewards and obeyers. They are lovers and worshippers. 

My recent obedience has been coming from an entirely different nexus. A place where I feel beautified and where I can love back and adore. 

So what happened? I absolutely love goals and plans and checklists. I love resolutions and new beginnings. But I think God has been using this list to expose me - finally - to my inability, really, to do anything a part from Him. I've never known fully what that meant until now. 

I think He's wanted, so kindly, to give me rest. To show me His capacity, not mine. I've been wondering what if all of our new years' resolutions and goals all helped us realize what Paul's conclusion was?:
"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life."
This New Year's  I am asking myself a new question - how is God wanting to use my list to show off His commitment to me and love for me? To expose His power at work in me, that really is what gets any job done. To reveal how He is leading me into a spacious, free life - a wide open field? How is He using my very own longings to show me He can fulfill them? Because, finally, I have come to the end of my efforts. I really have. And I believe with all my heart that somewhere in here is rest. 

I am celebrating that. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Being Broken By The List - Part One


I have to couch this post by saying there is some amount of grieving happening in my home right now. It's okay, it's even a good and beautiful thing to be able to do that - but it is what it is: a lot of sorrow and sadness. It's within that context that I am trying to bring words to what I am expressing below.

Also, a lot of the sorrow that we are facing I have carried for a long time. I have fought for and rallied and crusaded for certain things to happen and they finally are. I'm not saying that was right to do or wrong to do. But I have done it and it has had - there is no doubt - a great impact on my body and my health. For example one thing that has suffered tremendously has been my sleep.

So, again, in that context for the last number years I have felt an emphasis inside me to prioritize about eight to ten things in my life. Simple things that I kept sensing I should make top priority in my life. Things to do with caring for my body, caring for my family and how I use my time.

But after trying to keep this relatively simple list now for quite a few years (and writing it in new and pretty ways every new year in my journals) I had come to refer to it as my screwed-up-insanely-frustrating-list-of-personal-awful-failures.

I have come to really, really not like this list.

I have chosen every choice I could. Abdicated, let go, wrestled and it's taken me all these years, but I had started to see this list as a mirror. Not of who I am (I'd like that) but of all the things I am not but long to be. The list has been a call to obedience, I know that deeply. And as I've tried and tried to do just that, it's really become much more of an exposure.

I've asked as I've prayed - almost daily - to be let off the hook. But time and again I look up from pleading my case and there is that list, right there in front of me, and a whisper, again, to pursue it.

Why?

Besides the fact that everything on this list is healthy, good for me and a gift to myself and those I love - it's also become a measuring stick by bullet points. It displays pretty finely all the important ways I don't meet up. And the fact that I value these things so deeply, only serves to do so more. It's a combination of expectations having me by the jugular, and Jesus having me by the hand. I'm forced to admit I can't and He keeps saying I can.

That, I promise you, does not feel great.

It's confusing, too! I am a pretty dedicated person. I lost over 65 post-pregnancies pounds when I set my mind to it. I know how to run double digits through pain. I have been sick for seven years unable to walk unassisted and looking at a grim future when I was in my twenties. I've survived a coma, post-partum depression and trauma - but why, really, were these ten simple things continually bringing me to my knees?

I take a lot of comfort in these words:
"What I don't understand about myself ," Paul writes, "is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. [I wonder what his list was?] So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable." (from Romans chapter seven)
It seems relevant right now as everyone has been making lists and coming up with words for the new year. (Both of which are practices I actually really love.) Because I think we all have lists inside of us. Some are part longing, part obedience. Some are one or the other. But my question becomes are we just destined to wrestle with them? Why do we sometimes conquer and sometimes break? Are we simply human and that's part of the deal? Do some things just stay insurmountable? And if so, how on earth do we keep going? It's exhausting.

One of my greatest epiphanies about my list came when I heard God whisper something truly shocking to me about it. "You know," He mentioned, "this list is actually all things you want. It's your heart."

That hit home.

I have fought hard for these things. Reorganized and changed my whole life to be committed to this. But this list - more than anything else in my life - has made me feel empty and broken. It has exposed me as incapable. It reminds me I am - at my deepest level and will -  personally powerless. My list, my new year's word, my goals, my plans - my very own longings - have proven over and over again, day after day, that I am weak.

 - To Be Continued -

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Forty Things

I have been working for weeks on a New Year's post about the resolutions I have been making - the same ones for the past 3 - 4 years. It has been a pretty raw and current process and I'm sitting with it for it a bit until it's ready. In the meantime I needed some happy thoughts, so I have been making a list of my forty favourite (some very frivolous) things.

And I counted and realized I turn forty in 210 days. Do you think there is any way to incorporate all of these things into celebrating my birthday? : ) I love milestones and I love celebrations...

My Forty Favourite Things
  1. running on pretty trails 
  2. hiking in beautiful and breathtaking places
  3. running goals (and meeting them!)
  4. water - swimming in lakes when it's hot and going to the lake with my kids with picnics and swimming suits
  5. reading great books and having a stack of them waiting (that to me is decadence!)
  6. having meaningful time alone
  7. pretty journals and collaging in them
  8. creating art with mixed media
  9. shopping in pretty places and finding great deals 
  10. researching and making plans for the future; ideas, dreaming of possibilities (in a pretty window-ish seat)
  11. beautifying my home spaces (especially with fabrics, art and colour)
  12. encouraging and inspiring people
  13. writing and crafting with words (and quotes - I love quotes!)
  14. gratitude
  15. colourful, sparkly and elegant jewelry
  16. red shoes. fun dresses. dark jeans.
  17. deep, restorative sleep (and cozy blankets)
  18. delicious food
  19. fabulous dates away with my husband (and getting dressed up fancy for them)
  20. reading great books to my kids
  21. pretty water bottles
  22. great conversations with small groups of friends - dinner parties!
  23. getting my hair done
  24. free makeovers at the MAC counter and getting new pretty makeup
  25. cooking with my husband
  26. sushi
  27. massages and whole days of quiet
  28. active vacations (and roadtrips) with my husband and kids in beautiful places (that to me is rest)
  29. not traveling, not talking on the phone, not big parties, not driving - and being home (I love home)
  30. sunshine (and icy drinks, cute sunglasses, big floppy sunhats and a new sundress... for the record when I read this list to my kids and read this one, my son said: "That is awesomeness.")
  31. writing cards that bless people
  32. old movies from the 40's, 50's and 60's and watching them with my Clark
  33. big, fun, patterned mugs full of a hot drink in the morning (but not coffee)
  34. making lists (and checking them off!)
  35. happy music
  36. photographs & taking them
  37. vintage art posters
  38. flowers: gerbers, tulips, hyacinths, hydrangeas, sunflowers, daisies (no greens)
  39. dutch licorice 
  40. dates with God and hearing from Him

And honourable favourite mentions going into the next ten:
  1. my puppy Emma 
  2. running past Christmas lights on icy evenings
  3. learning to knit more than a scarf with delicious yarns
  4. reading more Mary Oliver, Madeleine L'Engle and Kristin Armstrong (she'd have to write more)
  5. hiking the Appalachian trail, in all the big national parks and the Milford Sound on the south island (New Zealand) with my kids and husband
  6. kayaking a lot with my husband & learning to SUP (stand up paddle board)
  7. being debt free and creating good savings
  8. writing a book or ten
  9. staying a runner all my life
  10. and the big dream for this year: finding a way to spend the summer with my kids and husband in a cabin on the water on the San Juan Islands just us four  (I know - it's a dream! But so is the whole list.)


"Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."  
~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Canvas And A Love Letter

I am reading a book I have waited for for many years. It's the book I'd like to write, actually, and I may still someday. But for now I am reading another person's take on it, and, to put it mildly, I am cheering and challenged as I read. (And I'm only about half way in.)

Nothing (besides my loved ones) captures what I am passionate about more then our relationships to and with our bodies. My journey proves, though, that this is an interest that comes from longing to be whole myself, not necessarily from victory or strength.

Under great stress, my relationship with my body is still the greatest tattle-tale on how I am doing spiritually. Cold sores, sugar addiction, insomnia... they all speak loudly when my heart is struggling, my questions are big and I am keeping quiet.

Part of this road is also what I am learning about grace and God's lavish and unearned kindness. As someone who grapples for any control in a world that breaks my heart daily, my journey in all this is a mix of choice and redemption, obedience and undeserved gifts.

I think our bodies are meant to be a canvas. Whether in brokenness or valour they will one way or another tell a story about who God is. From the intricacies of our cells and double helix, to the rosy hue our cheeks take on when in fresh air, to the delicacy and fineness so easily hurt - we are made in the image of magnificence and we worship Him when we enjoy that.

How we treat our bodies, our canvas, I think then could be described as our love letter back to Him. Our responses born from understanding His character and goodness, His sovereignty and care. Whether we are suffering or celebrating -  how we relate to food, sleep, water, sex, affection and enjoyment all sing out what we believe about Him. And what we believe He feels about us.

It's a palette of dark and light colours - and I still don't understand it all, nor do I live the parts I do believe consistently. But it's something I spend a lot of time thinking and asking questions about.

As someone with a history of an eating disorder I also am immediately disqualified as any sort of expert on this subject. As someone who has spent years struggling with depression and health issues, I approach this from a place of needing compassion and zero dogma. As someone who loves to run but will never be "naturally gifted" at running, I am immediately eliminated as fitness savvy in any way. As someone who still eats for comfort and control, as someone who still has habits I'd much rather hide than analyze, I have no desire to write about any of this from a place of preaching. But I do want to explore more about it from a position of hope, curiosity and enjoyment.

I honestly believe with all my heart that our bodies are meant to give us revelation. And I'm fascinated by that. I believe there are keys in how we relate to our bodies that are keys to things on a far grander scale. I have a hunch that the way we view our bodies, and how we care for them, are opportunities to walk into a love story and relationship, a way of living and connection, that we are made to hunger for and crave - and ultimately be fulfilled in.

I like how Gary Thomas said it in his book Every Body Matters: "In the end, I found that physical fitness offered to God, surrendered to God, pursued in cooperation with God, has enormous spiritual, emotional and physical benefits. It is not an easy battle, but I have found it to be one well worth fighting - even though I know it is a battle I will fight, with varying degrees of success, for the rest of my life."

For many years I have wanted to write more about this. This is the year I think I will.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anticipating


an·tic·i·pate   [an-tis-uh-peyt]

1. to realize beforehand; foretaste or foresee: to anticipate pleasure.
2. to expect; look forward to; be sure of: to anticipate a favorable decision.
3. to perform (an action) before another has had time to act.
4. to answer (a question), obey (a command), or satisfy (a request) before it is made: He anticipated each of my orders.


I've been processing with a couple close friends what I have written about in the last couple posts. As I drove away from a time with one of them, I felt God whisper something new to me. I heard Him say: "Misha, you have learned how to choose joy - and that is good. You look for beauty, you focus on it and that has been right. But now I want you to anticipate goodness. My goodness. I want you to live life anticipating My goodness."

As I tried to articulate the difference of what this means to me, to my husband, I found myself explaining: anticipation is the opposite of protecting my heart. Choosing joy can happen even in the midst of a lot of pain. It's an emphasis of focus not feeling. But anticipation doesn't allow for focus - because you can't see what's coming yet. It's hope, it's excited feelings - but it's sightless. It doesn't allow me to live visually into the future.


Instead it forces me to live from my heart.
And not to protect it.  

Another friend emailed me and said something that I think is profound, too. She wrote about how she has been struggling to define hope and realized (amidst some unimaginable heart-ache) that hope is gratitude. I am learning this, too. Gratitude, I think, puts legs under a certain way of seeing things. It's the means to applying anticipation. To living it and walking it out.


I've also been thinking about how anticipation is a lot like the role of an orchestra conductor. He, or she, is always listening for beauty. She can't see it until it is already happening, and even then she goes by ear. She hears the perfect pitch, she recognizes the familiar tune or instrument and points to it. She acknowledges and pulls it forward so that it is amplified and suddenly the whole audience can hear and appreciate it.


That is the definition, I think, of our call, our invitation: To anticipate the beauty of God and acknowledge it when we recognize it. And then to experience it, enjoy it and appreciate it with others. 

Another friend send me a scripture last week that I have been pondering. I taped it up on my kitchen cupboard, stuck it next to my bathroom mirror and I have written it on a post-it to put on my fridge door. It's from Isaiah chapter 46:

"The Lord says...  listen to me.
I have taken good care of you since your life began.
I have carried you since you were born as a nation.
I will continue to carry you even when you are old.
I will take good care of you even when your hair is gray.
I have made you. And I will carry you.
I will take care of you. And I will save you.
I am the Lord.
Who will you compare me to?
Who is equal to me?
What am I like?
Who can you compare me to?"


I think God often addresses anticipation by means of remembrance. He gives us a visual when there isn't one of the future yet: Himself. He's saying if you can't see forward, look back, look at me - I have carried you! Through death, sickness, fear and heartbreak; through what you never expected and what you never saw coming, through everything, I am good.


***


I appreciate your patience with my writing on this site. I have wriggled around a lot this year trying to find a voice and a balance that has been difficult for me. But as I look forward, and like all the rest of us I can't see anything but days on a calendar page, I am choosing anticipation.


I will be venturing out in some uncharted territory of writing for me - I am going to write about the thing closest to my heart and passion: the connection between our bodies, hearts and spirits.


I hope you'll join me.






















Friday, December 9, 2011

A New Way of Living Life


I always forget - every year - that advent wrecks me. 

When the kids were little I would sit and stare at the candlelight year after year, with no words left at the end of my days except: I am so, so tired. Those syllables would trickle down my cheeks and I would confess my failures - real or imagined - one after another. And I would love Mary's story. I would find comfort, time and again, in her trembling acquiescence: I don't know why me and I know that I can't, but I will do this magnificent job of raising such precious people. 

Three years ago, the seasons shifted. I sat and my belly hurt and I was terrified and all I could offer was another frightened and not-at-all-brave yes. I had - after all - fought over it long and hard - but there it was. I gave it back. It meant everything to me. It was my heart. Knowing it was going to be broken once more. And it has been. 

Last year I walked the forest trails and I let go. I knelt in frozen dirt and wept and opened my hands and relinquished. I picked up trust. And she was true.

This December, here I am again. The season is about preparation and anticipation. It is a nightly turning to listen and grow still. It is a choice for light to overcome darkness and to do that it must burn through. Again and again I anticipate coziness and, instead, I am handed heat.

My recovery is going well. Thank God. I've even been able to go for walks and that is such a gift of perspective to me. In other ways, though, we are hard pressed - we will either break or be broken (in the right ways.) In ways financial, healing, provision, government changes - all are things we are waiting for - it's hard to summarize - but we know God is present, we know He's involved.

But I am also battle weary in the midst of all that. And I hear an invitation to rest. To rest from a place of thirst. To wait from a place of longing. To be at peace in a barrel of confusion. And, really, again, to trust.   

I think about how every single one who found the stable had come a great distance. Even the baby. We follow vague signs, we listen to incomprehensible choruses, we obey untimely laws, we hobble in broken and disbelieving and there we find our hope.

And we find fellow wanderers. We aren't the only ones.  And all we can do together is kneel. We can take in the sight and beauty and quiet and long for a day when there is no more darkness, no more grieving, no more pain and no more hurt. 

In the meantime we worship a baby, who became a man, who unleashed our thirst for a world He foretold. And in the glimpses of it we are called to rest. To be at peace. 

Even when we break because of that hope.


Thirst; 
by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst 
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a 
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning. 



Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ache of Wait


My friend Shelly wrote an amazing blog post recently and made the statement:

"Waiting is a verb. God wants us to be active in our waiting, not passive."


It struck a deep chord in me.


We, like many others, are observing Advent right now. We have been doing a series of readings as a family on Jesus. Twenty four readings of stories about things he did and said in the Gospels. Each evening one child reads (or I did last night) and then we discuss what it is in each of them that he has given to us. Our talks have been rich - meaningful and moving. But they also seem to create a deep ache.

My daughter voiced it so well last night. "That kind of hurts my feelings," she said about something Jesus had said. "He really confuses me. Sometimes he seems so kind and then sometimes he seems so... not." 

I have to be honest. There was a definite pause and quiet as we each inwardly nodded and tried to figure out what to say next.


I'm aching right now. In fact more than aching, I feel pretty close to breaking. I'm not reading a lot of blogs right now, but a couple of my friend's words on waiting caught my attention today because in some ways that feels like all I am doing. I feel like I am caught in a never-ending season of waiting. For rescue. For relief. For answers and breakthroughs, and help , and rest. Can you relate?

And in the waiting I feel like I am dying. Whole parts of my heart and hope are diminishing just in the fight to hold on. At times I say to God: "You know, by the time you come through my heart is going to be so broken it may almost be too shattered to celebrate the breakthroughs."

I hear Jesus say to his disciples: Friends, with trust you can rest in a storm. To Martha: Sit still and be with me. To a grieving father: Young man if you believe, I can heal your child with just my words. To a despondent woman: I see your tears and felt you reach out. To a little girl: Rise, breathe and eat.


Each of them was waiting. Each of them was in a tension that caused more pain than we can read in the succinct words of the Gospel writers. They were human just like us and they were caught in a horrible tension between promises foretold and the fulfillment being waited for.

I ache for one friend whose baby is having constant seizures while her other girls need her, too. For another friend whose health has continued to break her heart and for who just breathing is an effort. For another friend who is about to end a chapter that was never supposed to close. For another who is hoping for good news at work. For my family fighting and fighting to hold on while doing what we feel so grateful to do, but it's come at a cost higher than I know if I can pay.

There is no time like Advent (looking towards our ideals of Christmas and then back to the reality of our homes) to surface our awkward, aching longings and forcing them up to gasp and breathe in the presence of someone who promises hope, who promises Emmanuel, to be with us... as we still strain and struggle to see through the haze of everyday hurts and life.


My friend Shelly wrote on:

So how do we wait?


Prepare – Respond to God and His promises, engage in conversation and excavate the purpose in waiting.
Repent – If Christ returned today, what would I do to make things right?
Live like it Matters – If the Gospel is true then nothing else matters. Be a full participant in redemption knowing we have a unique call to live differently.


My other friend Shannon said it this way:

"Thus far, Advent has not gone exactly as I imagined. ... If Advent is about waiting and listening, then I think it's important to listen to what's going on...  I can insist we push through and take advantage of all this season has to offer. Or I can let my own grand plans slip through my fingers like sand from the beach. That sounds a lot more like a grace-filled Advent to me."


And there is that tension again. Waiting with grace. Waiting with hands splayed, while dreams and hopes and tears are slipping through. And waiting with expectation. With preparation. Like it matters.

I've been making a lot of choices to live from my heart and not my head recently. And, quite frankly, it hurts. I admit that there is a temptation to wait passively. To let go of promises. To conceptualize and analyze it and distance myself from the feelings in it. Or to let my eyes flitter too long on the stable and manure, and not on the wonder in the shepherds' eyes.

But I heard Shelley's call. To ask again: What is Your purpose in my waiting? To ask: Please, help me see the treasures of holding on? To say: Yes, stir expectation where I don't even want any more.

I am asking for help to see.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Options







At almost 40 years old I’ve been learning a big lesson: Say no to what doesn’t feel right (even if you can’t explain why yet) and fight for what does (even when it scares you to death.)It's freedom. And also trust. It’s living in a wide open field where anything can be built and new things, never before discovered, will be seen.

Choosing not to live that way? Makes you miserable. And everyone else around you frustrated, too. That kind of living quickly disintegrates into a messy confusion of manipulation, control and blame.

That is not freedom. And it fosters mistrust.

I’ve decided my forties are going to be about shamelessly saying no, so I can say yes. This decade is going to be about freedom.

This last four weeks I’ve practiced. I’ve said no to a body part, to facebook, to uncomfortable obligations, to expectations and to living off a script that wasn’t mine. Next month? Who can say?

When I talk to God about this I keep hearing Him whisper to me: I died for your freedom. Go enjoy it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Week of November

"The unthankful heart...discovers no mercies; 
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,
as the magnet finds the iron,
so it will find, 
in every hour,
some heavenly blessings." 

~ Henry Ward Beecher


For her attitude & sweetness to help me out right now. 


For our Thanksgiving family project. 


For watching my kids' hearts genuinely get touched by history - we've cried a couple times together this week reading some really beautiful books, that introduce some very awful realities.  


For the leaf bouquets my son keeps bringing me since he knows how sad I am not to be out walking in the forest right now. 


And for the way he keeps putting them all over our house for me to see. 

For friends who went shopping for clothes that fit my kids (who both seemed to have a growth spurt right after my surgery.) 
For the fun my kids had on Halloween.  It was contagious.  
For good books to read these days.  
For new jammies for the kids.  
For birthday secrets and surprises... and help pulling them off.   
For nighttime dreams that bring wisdom. 










I'm joining Rebekah at 'a bit of sunshine' this month capturing my blessings I am thankful for. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Six Weeks


I just found out today that I have six more weeks of laying really low to go.

Or in my least favourite, most ambiguous way of them saying it to me: I'm supposed to take it very easy.

But I did get some more concrete directives and it involves no more walking for the next week. Then a teeny bit of only walking as far as up my block for awhile. And then around week six or eight I can begin to think about my runs. It would be so easy for me to fight this and feel frustrated with what I can't do (if only just internally) but I decided I'm not going to - I'm going to embrace it.

So what would you do with six weeks in your PJs and slippers?

I clearly have been handed an opportunity to take good care of my health and pour into my kids without any heavy lifting - literally and figuratively. I want to take full advantage of this opportunity.

One of the things I have learned about myself, however, is I need routine - a system to create in and a process for enjoyment (as my friend calls it.)  I had been feeling really overwhelmed, though, about how to structure this in a beautiful (non-guilt inducing) way. I like goals and I need touch points. (Besides just my slippers that are, admittedly, soft to the touch.) But how to do that when I'm really not allowed to do?

Through a beautiful surprise this week I feel like I got some help. Have you seen this book? The kids and I have already begun saying nightly compline together and it has been exactly what we needed to bring a new sort of order and peace to our day. I am slowly adopting the readings through out my own hours and it is creating just the rhythm I needed.

Here is what I am doing:

Thirty Things I Am Loving Right Now


  1. big thick caramel apples
  2. pretty paint-dipped-looking gourds
  3. all the bright, wet, yellow leaves on really tall trees
  4. flaming red bushes
  5. miniature cute pumpkins
  6. star wars movie nights
  7. hot apple cider
  8. honey crisp apples
  9. my new red scarf and my fuzzy pink fleece blanket
  10. my new pjs
  11. butternut squash curry & jasmine rice
  12. my soft cream slippers
  13. lime-cilantro salad dressing
  14. hard rain storms in the middle of the night
  15. coyotes waking us up howling in the back field
  16. my puppy (who is going through adolescence and acting like a punk) 
  17. bubbling cinnamon, cloves and oranges on my stove & cinnamon scented pine-cones by the front door
  18. my friend Erinn's spicy sausage soup - oh my word, Erinn! Love. I need a recipe on that one! 
  19. books
  20. my daughter's knitting
  21. the orange & red bush I can see out the window from my elliptical
  22. the hot pink sunset last week that lit up the sky
  23. my son's sense of humour
  24. coziness & warm beds
  25. our fireplace (even if it is fake)
  26. decaf earl grey tea and rice milk
  27. instagram (it's like a smaller, less overwhelming facebook)
  28. my kids - they're really fun
  29. that my husband shaved his beard : ) 
  30. sunny October days


Oh and this article. Both my daughter and I are introverts and no one ever thinks we are. It made me laugh!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Only Begun

The morning before my recent surgery my mom sent me this poem (below.) That surgery was the first time I spent any (planned) length of time in the hospital since my son's birth so it stirred up some things in our home. I was trying to help walk one of my kids through their anxiety about it and also sort through my own emotions about it all... let alone just face the logistics of all the details of having surgery. Besides that there are also some unrelated situations my family is facing that are difficult. It's a lot going on right now. 

As I've been sorting through all of this I also recently read this by my friend Miranda. She said a lot of things I've been ruminating on really well: 
"One of the hardest things for me to be faced with, over the past couple of years of our journey, has been how transactional is my view of blessing. Without stopping to think about it, I somehow adopted the idea that If I do *this*, God will do *this*. I don't think I would ever have formulated it in those words, but circumstances - great revealer of character that they are - showed this to be true." 
I've been wondering what would be different in my life if I wholeheartedly lived what I believed - that love & beauty & grace & good gifts are not earned or lost based on anything I do or don't do; anything I am or am not. Not based on my emotions, my failures, my lack. Not based on my good choices, my bad choices, my anything. 

This Autumn has been so hard & so beautiful - and I keep coming back to these lines from the poem below:

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun. 

It's impossible to read those words for me without feeling so much hope. And I keep wondering how I can live with more of my life more saturated with that reality.


He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

He Giveth More Grace 
by Annie J. Flint

Annie Johnson Flint suffered with arthritis for 40 years - her story is quite something.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Healing Season

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.
Under the shadow of thy throne,
still may we dwell secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting, thou art God,
to endless years the same.
A thousand ages, in thy sight,
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night,
before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
bears all who breathe away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come;
be thou our guide while life shall last,
and our eternal home.
Hymn by  Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Extravagant beauty by God