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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday God Thoughts



"He found himself, wrapped in a towel, tired, and sandwhiched between two beautiful, breathing book-ends with his scooter at the ready when it hit him: What am I doing again? Where am I really going?"

......Its exhausting never having answers like those guys in the seminars do. Those messages with the four points beginning with the letter "P" wrap up perfectly, providing the people with points to ponder, and paths to peruse.

Yet I remain puzzled.

If God knows my heart, and His Spirit will pray to the Father for me when I am utterly empty, then why must I pray with these formulas, and perfect intentions?

If mountains can be moved with a simple faith the size of a mustard seed, then why would a mother's pain-wracked prayers not return to her a son, whole in body and mind?

If I know things as fact and they reside as such in my mind, why will my body and my behaviors not act in accordance with that knowledge?

If I pray correctly, fast for forty days, and give my possessions to the poor.... I am here to say that these behaviors will not manipulate God. God is God. Formulas suck. Life is floppy and untidy and uneasy with categorization. And so WHY are we taught that if we do things correctly, God will bless us? That God does not hear prayers spoken with selfish intent? That God wants to bless us so we best get a larger wallet?

WHERE IS THE MYSTERY IN THAT? If God is so containable, why not just get a business degree? A shiney credit card?

My family life can be good but not ideal. My job can be sufficient but not lucrative. My relationships can be rich but imperfect. My empathy for others can be genuine but not life changing. My parents may be wise but dead before I've learned enough.

I accept and need the God of mystery. The One who can see the rhythms of all that, hear the sadness in my heart, and do what He will. The God who is not easily summed up.

An exchange in a Narnia book goes something as follows:

"Is (Aslan) safe?"

"Safe? No. But He's good."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Calendar Girl

She thought that perhaps, if she bought herself a rather Large calendar, that possibly she could make sense of her life; her work schedule, her daycare schedule, her daughter's soccer schedule, her other daughter's soccer schedule, her son's soccer schedule, school admin days, field trips, and hot lunches... church functions, youth group events, weddings, dinner parties, her husband's work-out routine, guitar nights, and marathon events. She would surely find time to: put herself on the list.

There would be time to work on those projects that she'd had great inspiration for, but that in the mean time made an excellent nest for her cat, Mindy.





There would be wide open spaces for sprucing up some decorating around the house. That outdoorsy look in the dining room appears to have gotten somewhat dusty and rat- infested...
*
*
*And perhaps, thanks to that large events coordinator, she will find the time to run again. When the monthly pages flip to "cottage country" time, then perhaps the great reveal of bathing suit clad calendar girl will be an easier pill to swallow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Grass is Brown on the Other Side

At the risk of offending, I must.

Marriage is not for the fickle. Not for the selfish. Nor for those of the generation taught to put themself first on the list.

Are we all getting a little weary of hearing about the man/woman who woke up one morning, realized he/she "just wasn't happy anymore" and went back out there to "get it right" next time? What about those "led by the Lord" to that ultimate partner- the one the Lord surely meant for them to cleave to the first time around?

How canine of us to run about sniffing for the ultimate consummation.

I speak for a weeping child, too young to know such grief. How does one explain the complexity of a woman's physical ability to bear children, choose a life partner, and then regardless of the repurcussions of her actions, decide that "single" is the way to be. Cast-off family. Does Canadian Diabetes do pick-ups for that? Or are the goods too damaged?

When people return to the search for their lown lost identities, clutching little hands, or not... such death is left in their wake. As I study a sad little face, the unthinkable has crossed my mind. What would be worse? Her physical death? Or death by choice- choosing to close down the "mother" in herself, and resusitating her "young and free"? And what else, who else must we bury here?

Now, I concede that its not wise to generalize. I'm not tempted to make any blanket statements, or throw any condemnation around. There are cases where it would be crazy not to decide on divorce.

I'm just weary of the brokenness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This Parenting Thing

I don't write about parenting much, since its really not my crowning achievement. I don't think fast, which makes decisiveness very challenging, especially when four children and one husband are asking five separate and demanding questions all at the same time.
Hence, my parenting style is perceived as quite laid back. Its more accurate to say that it takes me so long to make a decision, that the children happily run amuck while I stand around with my finger up my nose trying to think of the correct response. And, because I think too much, I overthink what that correct response might be.

While visiting my parents on the weekend, my mom made a comment about how she might have done things differently in raising us kids, and dad mused on what mistakes they might have made. It was easy for me to suggest that perhaps they'd not made many mistakes.

I know it now from the other side- that murky and confusing side of being the one who should do and say and know everything right.

There are a few simple things that I practise to keep myself from tripling my meds and running into the endless prairies barefoot and screaming for the Lord's return. One is to say "hmmmm" a great deal, while studying my children's faces. This communicates attentive listening and makes them believe that what they say is valid and worth my time. The other is to be evasive whenever possible. Quickly pronounced yes's and no's would only ensure that I'd have to have all my justifications at quick reference and just doesn't leave enough room for all the information that I've probably not yet assimilated. Another easy tip is to occasionally remind my children that I used to be a person. That radical statement may be a bit of a jolt to many a developing mind, but it might in fact save that same mind from possible future electro convulsive shock therapies.

When my kids grow up, they'll likely come back to me with lists of what I've done wrong to damage and maim their tender little selves. I hope I'll find the presence of mind to take a deep breath, gaze into their eyes, and........
"hmmmmmmm".

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blogger Envy

In my next life, I'll be entirely evolved. I won't ever have thoughts which embarrass and shame me. But for now, I must work with the raw materials I've been given, and sometimes they are just so raw that one has to mock oneself. (Quick, before someone else does!)

Cyber-insecurity. Can anyone relate? When perusing your links, do you notice your blogspot url removed from others' links? How about those finicky, fickle, slippery commenters who used to comment on your posts, but have moved on to preferring your "blog friends"? Do you catch yourself wondering....

"Hey! What did I say?" And being tempted to post a general apology to anyone you may have disappointed, just to get your virtual circle back, unbroken?

Well, I told you these were true life confessions. Now, please .... don't condescend to me and flatter me with "meme" tags, or quickly add me to your blogroll like some framed needlepoint of a deer beside a stream that you quickly hammer to your wall four minutes before my visit to your home....

No, no. Don't you give it a thought. (sniff, sniff). You're probably much too busy reading those good blogs anyway.

*but I dare you, dare you tell me the truth. Are you waaaaaaay over those kind of thought patterns?
Have I just had that one-too-many glass of wine and just asked that inappropriate question OUT LOUD?
And if you are all way more developed in your maturity than I am, then I shall have much to learn from the lot of you!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Little Reminder About May 26

Its good to have something to look forward to.
Just one tip for any of you out there on your eighth day of the slim-fast "lifestyle change" so that you can get into that gown from '81. There are two approaches here. Go to some yard sales or thrift shops (don't be afraid of confrontation here...) and find yourself a bigger size. OR.....

You could do what a certain bride did at her famed wedding at Sarto Hall. Legend has it that the gown did not quite "fit like a glove". Undaunted, she simply pulled the zipper up as high as it would go, and safety-pinned it the rest of the way.

Industrious, really.



* just so I'm clear*

Once you have read about the party, consider yourself invited. If you've not been here before, go to my profile, send me an e-mail, and I'll provide you with directions.

Its good to have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ashes to ashes

My brothers ashes have cascaded over the waterfalls.
And I have my own.

In my mind's eye, I am riding on one of those human conveyer belts one sees in airports.
I'm unclear on my destination.
Pictures and symbols and numbers swirl past me.

Dreamlike.

I feel I should discipher them. Understand their meanings.
But I'm stunted.
self-conscious in my impediments.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

If I were a Thrift Shop, I'd want to be French

Preparation for the upcoming Spring Bridal Show has given me renewed zeal for the perusal of cast-off stuffed shops. Eyes bright and with a spring in my step, I haunt their aisles sleuthing for veils and crinolins, well-meaning centerpieces, and glassware.

My area of the universe is sharply divided into communities based on its original immigrants. All the "St.-towns" signify the arrival of the French people. All the "darps", "felds", and "villes" house those of Germanic descent. The felds and darps each humbly boast about eighty plain stuccoed churches per town and are known for their abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, dancing, gambling, and often smiling and laughing. The Saints have tall steeples, community halls, and weekly bingo nights. Although there is movement between these people groups, its been enlightening to observe these still prevalant distinctions after having lived in a more diverse area, then returning to darpville as an adult and feeling my (bible) belt pinching just a little.

The nursing home that I used to work at is held in an old Roman Catholic convent. On the third floor, empty of residents, some volunteers turned its echoey rooms into a thrift shop to raise money for the people who dwell beneath it. The volunteers are happy, generous people who like to hug visitors, offer discounts, and leave out boxes and boxes of junky toys for the kids to play with while the moms shop to their hearts content. There are rooms overflowing with neckties and stuffies, plastic virgin Marys and light-up Jesuses. The housewares room is stuffed with ten cent glassware and wine glasses that no one pretends are actually candle holders. If a customer is shopping for say..... a tacky bridal party, one of the volunteers might listen to the tale with interest, then insist on carrying heavy boxes of plates and petro Canada wine goblets down the elevater and straight into the limo... AND give me a killer deal for them. While dancing about my twelve dollars fed into their plastic cash box, they might even share a few stories about their own theme parties. We might joke about having a few drinks together sharing the glass that I found with Steven Harper's signiture on it.

Energized by my windfall of disposal dinnerware from St. Elsewhere, I strolled down to my local church-ville-endorsed-mission-statement-burdened love-your-darp-neighbor establishment to see if I could find some pearl drop earrings or pink dyed pumps. The cashiers must have been feeling quite a pinch in their brassieres and a bit of a cramp from their hush puppies based on the welcome we never received. They fed stern glares at the preschoolers gazing at their polished plastic toys locked away from dirty, dirty hands, enshrined behind proudly polished glass. Their faces looked permanently lined in all the wrong places, set in patterns of sheer determination to put in some goodwill missionary volunteer hours, sell some scrubbed trash to dirty people from one of those St towns, and then tidily send a cheque off to some starving people far, far away. I did a quick circuit, noting their tidily stacked corelle plates, $35.00 wedding gowns from 1979, and ice cream pails for 25 cents.

While gazing at the fake pearls safely locked down beside the cashier, I couldn't help but overhear an altercation between a young mother, her daughter, and the volunteer at the cashier post. The child had asked for her things to be packed in her own bag, to which the cashier Hmmmmphed; (with face and body language to match her dour mood)

"I don't know which stuff is yours". Her displeasure was palpable.

I cringed inwardly, and hunkered down to more closely study the pearls.

Mother of child had clearly tired of being treated suspiciously and as a total inconvenience. She interjected on her daughter's behalf and thanked the cashier never so very much for being rude to the girl, a bona fide customer with rights to respectful treatment.

I stole glances at the women manning their precious cash register. One of them noticed me and took the oppurtunity to share her displeasure by rolling her eyes and berating the customer for allowing her daughter to "Run around the store with valuable glass stuff". I hearded my crew a little closer, fearing they too might accidently smash some rare crystal goblet and feel the wrath of the be-church-ed lady with bun-too-tight.

The story goes on, but I grow weary of telling it. I did get involved. (DUH). I did try to tactfully engage the volunteers in a discussion about customer service and the true intent of goodwill efforts. I was told that I "had no right to give them heck,as I didn't know them, that the volunteer was not responsible, as she had a heart condition and wasn't feeling well....". I did go out of my way to seek out the snubbed customer and offer an apology for the crummy representation of our town and our do-gooders. And being somewhat over ananlytical, I did walk home feeling nauseated. I also considered boycotting the store, but we all know what nonsense that is. That would be as crazy as giving up say... Coffee, or gin, or or my bi-weekly game of bingo in the neighboring town...

It reminds me of what Jesus warned us about. Be careful not to go right back to RELIGION, which is what I just set you free from. Be careful not to get so caught up in rules and regulations, rights and wrongs, that you forget to love your neighbor. (Even when that means a customer from one of those towns.) Don't forget Who you represent. Don't forget that you are not above reproach.

The part that really bugs me is that as I was walking home and stewing on these things, I had a little whispery thingy in my head that said;
"Well, Joyce, if its grace that you're talking about, does that mean that you too will have to mentally offer grace to those self-righteous, pew-warning, rule-keeping, under-pleasured girdle girls?"

Maybe I should offer to join them for a cold one on the church steps poured into Francios petro Canada goblets.

Those valuable glass ones.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Who Are We, Really?

The believer-of-Jesus in me cringes a little posting something with a title like that. But only because my less evolved self fears the disappointment I must be to my more godly friends. Ah well, I can only be me with any sense of authenticity. I kind of know the church answers to this question, and I don't think that's really what my core question is anyhow. A favourite blogger of mine is currently dealing with the painful reality of surrendering her mother's mind and personality to that shameless thief: Alzheimers disease. In the post, she raises the question of "who are we without our memories?" I "hmmm-ed" thoughtfully at the question, as I have worked for some years with people harshly changed by dementia and alzheimers. I only ever knew them as ill, since it was their diagnosis which brought them into the care of medical personnal. Still, I often stared into the photographs on their bureaus and walls to try and get a whiff of who they once were. Mother. Father. Professional. Funny, gifted, brilliant, flashy. All was in the past. And it made me wonder who, or what a person is. We describe people by their character, or behaviors, or talents. But is there a core to what a person is? Are we simply bodies with chemicals coursing through us that direct our choices, attributes, and personalities? I mean that question entirely apart from the question of "soul" and "spirit", since they transcend the physical and have everlasting qualities. I'm talking more about the here and now.

This question first exploded in my head some years ago when a close friend experienced her first bipolar induced mania. Her body carried on, but SHE was not directing it. She was gone. My friend had died, but her body walked among us. It held within it some memories of when its rightful owner occupied it, but the memories were polluted and poisoned. Instead of providing a familiar place for loved ones to meet, they twisted and tainted what once was, and perceived old friends as newly identified enemies.

The agony was worse than death. And it begged the question: Who are we really? Chemicals held together by synapse and sinew? A portable lab? A sort of "matrix" existance where we see what we want to see, but can't or don't acknowledge its fragility? If I have more or less of a particular chemical, would I become a person who struggles with rage? artistic excellence? Would I become more, or less likeable? socially acceptable? deceived?

If I were involved in an accident involving serious head injury, my personality could become permanently altered. Is that then the "who" that I am? How do we know that the original "who" is the real one? Is there something entirely untouchable, entirely "core" that can define us regardless of life's cruelties?

And what about something more mundane and innocuous like all the millions of little decisions we make in all the millions of moments that make up the years of our lives? As they develop grooves of familiarity in our grey matter, they shape us into who we are. Are we then the culmination of chemicals, culture, and choices?

And why does this feel like such a scarey thing to question?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Choose Your Identity (Scroll down for more posts. This will remain at the top until May 26)



Ladies, ladies, ladies.....
You are cordially invited to the Spring Bridal Show.
May 26, 2007
Please choose your identity: Bride? Mother of the bride? Flowergirl? Ringbearer? The wedding singer? Bridesmaid? Father of the bride? The wedding planner?
the wedding cake?
You decide. Its your special day.
*details to follow

Friday, April 13, 2007

"Before School"

Maybe it was the sound of a doll's head being bashed against the basement floor. Maybe it was the dollar store guns getting hucked at peoples eyeballs. Maybe it was the kid who said that the morning's pancakes tasted "disgusting". Somewhere in the past one hour and fifteen minutes, some decisions became cemented in my head. I don't have to take a course on "spiritual giftings" to know that its preschoolers who I love, adore, and know what to do with. The big kids with the big appetites (for non-disgusting food) and the big bodies that do big damage to my little toys..... not so much. I like little people who I can scoop up, kiss their softness, strap into a stroller and go explore puddles with. I like little princesses in taffeta and polyester and butterfly heels. I like soft curls, emerging personalities, and the brave defiance of an eighteen month old bruiser. I like goofy words like: "frazy krog" (crazy frog) and"rockanuti" (macaroni).

I recognize the irony. I have three "school-age" children myself. But they are mine. I see my blood coursing through them. I find them charming, excusable, teachable. Even though I'm not exactly sure how to teach them, I feel less of a "fish out of water" because I'm so entirely invested in them. They too tire of big kids coming into their space, filling their home with their sounds, and leaving their marks everywhere.

Of course I feel guilty admitting this all to you. I'd really prefer to see myself as the longsuffering lady down the street who doesn't have the heart to turn any child away. I'll let you in on a little secret. I am actually heartless. Well, perhaps I exaggerate just a little. Still, when considering our short and glorious summer ahead, I think I've made my decision. I shall concentrate on the little people. We'll have picnics and walks and splash in the wading pool. I'll talk in baby-talk and kiss away boo-boos.

So, this lady will have to develop some ability to make decisions, tactfully advise people of the available summer programs, and all of this without offering downcast apologies. I'll never be a business person, I don't really want to be that. But being sane seems like a fair compromise.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Church, take two

Ahhhh, Church .
The reverberations of the post reached as far as the land-down-unda....

I received a comment this afternoon from a friend I first met twenty years ago... (Whaaaaaaat?!) during a particularily churchy experience. After attending Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre on Thetis Island, B.C., a group of tra-la-laa-ing young, fresh-faced students spent a few weeks one summer doing a bit of a stint across Canada, visiting our churches of origin and wow-ing them with our music and drama. In a dusty van, part way past Silberfeld church (our first stop) and somewhere before Vancouver, I met an irreverent, reverent, fiesty woman. Our sarcasm and love for laughter made us an instant value combo pack. What began as a shared experience on the "Whole Heart Tour", evolved into a friendship that found us sharing home, car, job,clothes, family, tears, laughs, and sometimes trading identities, just to see if we could convince people that it was actually I who was visiting from Australia, and Donna who was born and bred Manitoban. (the guys always found the Australian more fascinating. That was my incentive, I'll never know what Donna's was...)

There is likely enough to say for a few more posts, but it may entertain only me, and Donna (to honnah) and I'll spare you the agony. Suffice to say, that Donna's comment from far away in geography, and in lifetimes (we've not communicated for about 15 years....) is the impetus I needed to revisit the church theme.

There was something about the responses to that post which revived my nemesis: Fear of success, and Fear of failure. I suddenly felt as though I was wearing a lapel mic and had my car parked in the "guest speaker" spot in the parking lot. I felt self-conscious. It wasn't in a bad way, but awkward like the first time you sing into a microphone and recognize that you've shamelessly amplified your voice into an audience.

But the audience in this case sang back. And I've not re-joined the harmony until now.

And so, for all of you in the choir loft, here's what I mean to say. We are the church. We all have our parts, and they may or may not fit into an existing program. If we've been wounded by the very place that should offer healing, then let these be the gashes which God bleeds through. Let's not be cynical, nor naive. Let's not presume to have the answers. Let us always entertain the notion that we too, may be wrong, may be hurtful. Be gentle with those filled to capacity with idealisms, perfectly constructed boxes, impatient with shades of grey.

We've much to learn, as always. And the teacher, the Holy Spirit, has ways of teaching that are refreshingly unusual and unconventional. He doesn't run on standard time, but that doesn't equate unreliability. He can redeem time anyway, so all you've really got to do is be honest about your disappointments and questions.

And now, in closing...(shuffle, shuffle,) because I can't resist yanking your girdle just a little.... I can't believe its God's idea to put giant lighted billboards outside of church establishments and embellish them with cheesey quips. Bring back the "seeker service" if you must, but please, PLEASE, rearrange the letters that spell out disastrous nonsense like what I had to drive past all last summer on the way to my brother's hospital room:

So, you think this is HOT?
signed, GOD

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'M GOING ON STRIKE!

Sometimes I just want to throw myself on the floor, have a good old fashioned temper tantrum, yell at my union rep, and just stop being so darn NICE! I want to be able to follow my day planner, hour by hour, take my lunch break, smoke break, and coffee break. I want to renegotiate my contract. I want amendments!

And how about a raise? This is not what I went to school for! (hee, hee, I always think its funny when people strike on that premise. Didn't you go to school so that you could be gainfully employed? Quit your whining!)

And where's my support staff? Where's my janitor? my secretary? my events coordinator? Pierre, the massage guy? Where's the cook? the baker? the candlestick maker? Where's the compensation board? Health and Safety? Where's my company car? My airmiles? Where's my paid holiday time?

Now, I know I'm being ridiculous. I know all the cute stuff about being paid in sloppy kisses and eternal gratitude and warm memories. I know the shtick about choices and the stuff that comes with self-employment. I know the horrer of office politics, whiney people you have to share your coffee breaks with, demanding bosses with sweaty armpits and nasty sweaters. I know the tedium of filing, being the "new girl" for years on end, having a sadistic witch for a supervisor. I know hurriedly packed brown bag lunches consumed in underventilated walk-in closet excuses for staff rooms. I know clock-watching, card-punching, and work evasion tactics.

There's just no clever way to wrap up this little rant about employment. I know I've got it good. I like being my own boss. (well, let's face it, the toddlers are the bosses.....) I really like little people sitting on my lap. I actually like being the flexible daycare lady who rarely says no. I like reading rhymey, silly books for years on end. I love animal crackers and little clothes.

So, my virtual support staff? What say ye? Throw me a bone, would ya?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Today, I Marry My Best Friend...... NOT!

Ladies, it is time to shake the dust off your pink pumps, don your sexiest Wedding attire, and engage in some good old-fashioned pageantry. Enough with hiding under bulky sweaters, shivering and cowering from winter's cruel assaults. It is time to kick off its entanglements and be freed from the inherent itch of cabled polyester and wool. Yes, the prickliness of a mightier force is upon us: the frill of tuxedo. The strain of the bustier. The constriction of paisley printed panty hose in mid-July.....

The time has come to indulge yourself in any conceivable, perceivable wedding oppurtunity. Always wanted to be the flowergirl? I CHOOSE YOU! Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? PLEASE BE MINE FOREVER! Been the bride once too often? BABY, LIGHT MY CANDLES!

And now, before my readers from afar tuck their ruffles into their panties and run crying to the choir loft, don't you fret, beloved ones. May I present the oppurtunity for a virtual wedding party? ME has graciously offered to be our photographer. I fully expect that all of you will submit photos of your chosen identities as well. There may be a corsage in it for you. Or perhaps some old fruitcake wrapped in aluminum foil and a paper doily, then tied with curly string.

Here are the rules:

there are no rules! Oh, except... be at my house on May 26. Bring something consumable. Come in character. Bring an escort.... HAH! Well, you can if you want to. (she just better be of the female persuasion....)
I want to see some new faces. I want new memories. I want new traditions.
And I want to see some BAD-ASS outfits.

Bitte, RSVP. (or not, and surprise me)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Jane Margaret









Jane Margaret is eleven years old today.

Sweet baby Jane.

Maggie Mae.

Jane-Jane.
Jane is highly sensitive. When she was a breast-fed baby, she could tolerate precious little. Anything I consumed that originated from a cow would make her scrunch up and scream with stomach cramps. Most fruits and vegetables had the same un-glorious effect.

We survived, her and I, on mostly toast, saltines, and coffee.
That didn't last long, only a very long year or so.
She was also born with sensitive skin. She is prone to eczema, molloscum, (which we've been fighting for over a year now...), and has always had ichthyosis- a condition which makes her skin unusually dry and scaley. Its largely limited to her arms and legs, but recently, Jane has grown weary of kids commenting on her need for lotion. Its just another area where our little girl is extra sensitive.

When Jane became a toddler, our little artist emerged.
She drew and painted and created masterpieces out of the recycling box. Jane draws extraordinarily well, especially if no one is expecting her to. If she just lets herself go, its quite a pleasure to behold. This Christmas, she got a lot of supplies to help her along in her giftedness. Her daddy also set up an art blog for her to display her talents.
Due to her senstive nature, I suspect that she felt the pressure to succeed. Buried under stuffies in her bedroom, are the unopened, unused art kits...
When we had to move, Jane was just finishing grade one. She cried. She knew she would miss her friends.
Jane still misses her friends, and feels very sad about it. She has many new friends, and likes to look out for the ones who the other kids suspect are "mentally challenged". The super popular kid in class annoys Jane, because Jane can't see how her fancy clothes and loud personality make her more important than anyone else.
Jane loves her mama a great deal. She is also very, very attached to anything soft and stuffed. Her room is a stuffy sanctuary. Jane is all about friends right now, and loves to play. Jane has the most beautiful laugh.
I have many hopes for my Maggie. I wish for her God-given sensitivity to not overwhelm her, but to make her life rich and full. I wish for her to allow her talents to flow out of her from the joy of being alive. I wish for her full and healthy relationships.
Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I'm so glad you're mine.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Thinking



I've been double-tagged. (is that a word? Is that allowed? The Queen, and Roofus (the woman, not the dog) apparently think that my grey matter is an organ which regularily gets out for its run. Too bad for the legs and torso that hold it all up, but one must begin somewhere.

And how timely. I've been thinking about Easter. Thinking and cringeing that I'm not the mom I wish I were when it comes to intentionally teaching my children. Its not as if I don't have my good intentions. I have the recipes for resurrection buns, and we've done the exercise in the past. Mostly it was experienced as licking a lot of nummy marshmallow off our fingers and eating a lot of buns.... Every year I remember what my friend Rosa did when her children were little, and how I've always meant to do it too. They made an easter tree out of a stick and hung plastic eggs on it. Each day an egg would be opened and inside was a symbol of Easter, and the name of someone to pray for that day. (Forgive me if I've got that wrong, Rose) Lovely, I always think. Then I freeze.

Easter is such a significant event for fans of Jesus. Significant as in: MOVE OVER CHRISTMAS! I remember what Easter felt like when we were kids. Church on Good Friday was a solemn event, as though every year we had to grieve his death, seemingly unaware of his imminent resurrection. But our bright, new, homemade dresses and freshly bathed skin whispered of the hope we would celebrate on Sunday, and Monday. (which we knew as "pinkste".... still don't really get that, always wondered if it had something to do with wearing pastels in the spring time...)

My mom and dad always seemed to have a pretty sensible approach to the question of the "secular" interpretation of the holiday. We always got a big solid chocolate bunny. We decorated eggs, made baskets out of paper strips, had hunts around the house if mom was having an energetic year. But the heavily spiritual componant was undeniable. We knew what Easter was all about.

But now I'm the mama and because I think too darn much, I often become paralyzed.

Its Good Friday morning, and Sam is watching cartoons with ketchup chip stains on his face from falling asleep on the couch last night. I'm contemplating doing my lap around town before heading off to the first family event. (Not the thrift shop lap, silly. The exercise one which I theoretically do.) I fear the holiday will be a victem of my laziness once again. Grandma in her usual generous style will spoil us with her grand spread, press bags of chocolate into our barely resistent hands, and pull out plates and plates of those to-die-for Easter buns with the cream cheese icing. We'll eat and talk and wish for spring. For new life.

So I was thinking that I needed to stop fretting about this. I was thinking how when I talk to God consistently about things that are beyond me, and I am patient, God works it out in a big, mysterious, fabulous way. And so I told God that I stink at teaching my children, and that I wasn't capable of doing it because I was just thinking too darn much.

So, thanks for the award.

And I feel like bending the rules a little. I present the thinking award to some non-bloggers.

1. Commenter Joanne. A thinker. And one day she will begin her own blog, which we will all enjoy.

2. My friend Ruth, even though she's already been nominated.

3. My husband Brian. who is growing in beautiful ways because he's not afraid to think out loud.

And because I am thinking about Easter, and how I should get out for a walk before all that begins, that's all I can think of for now.

May we all enjoy an Easter that teaches us hope and redemption.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Micah Brian

Today, April 4, is my son's birthday. Nine years ago today he joined our family.
When I was pregnant with him, I didn't care if he came out a boy or a girl. I had two requests for God, beyond the obvious ones, of course. I said if it was all the same to Him, could I get a baby with red hair? or curls?

I got the most beautiful baby boy with curly red hair.

He was doted on by his sisters who were four and two at the time.

But now he is nine. Somehow that happens when nine years slip by. He is still red-haired, although he insists that he is blonde. He is charming and funny. Much to our surprise, he likes people now. He mostly likes video and computer games, (much to my horrer), but he also enjoys reading Calvin and Hobbes,drawing amazingly detailed creatures on any slip of paper, coming up with his own jokes, making up armoured creatures out of lego parts, riding his bike, and playing with his little brother.
He is still a perfectionist, and doesn't like to participate in sports because he can't get it perfect the first time. He is awesome at reading and has impeccable handwriting, but math is a hardship for him. Sometimes he doesn't want to go to school because he gets stressed out when his teacher gets frustrated with the other students.
Micah shares a room with his brother Sam, but they often have "sleepovers" which means that Sammy moves from his single bed over to snuggle in with Micah in his double bed. They fall asleep, Sammy watching Micah play his gameboy.
I love my boy to the ends of the earth. This is his last year ever in the single digets, and I pray that I'm never too distracted to miss all the moments that make him who he is and who he shall become.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Church


Its with some fear and trepidation that I begin this post. Sybil is upstairs screaming that people may misunderstand my heart on this one, but its something that's been brewing in me for some years now. Soooooooo, here goes.


About six years ago, it became my steadfast prayer that God would lead me into the truth. Of all the prayers that have gone unanswered, this one could not be counted as one of them. It's not been answered simply, or without pain that I never heard anyone at a conference warn me about. Do I have a handle on truth now? Do I have my mantra and theological statement neatly printed, bound, and tucked under my arm for easy reference? This is the greatest mystery of all. As mentioned several trillion times before, the more I learn, the less I know for sure. And what I know for sure is that He is good, likely bigger than I'd imagined, and probably controversial. I know its not my place to decide if I'm right, or you're right, or if they're right. Even if I had the whole theology thing tidy, and I'd take out my pointer for you, it would be entirely a waste of time unless that pointer would be held in a trembling and sweaty hand, knowing that the words coming forth were done so simply because I'd offered myself up as an intrument.


One of the themes along the way these past years has been hearing of people's sense of disillusionment with the organized church. Too showy. Too churchy. Too fake. Too hypocritical. Too happy. Too morbid. Too boring. Too isolating. Too pushy.


Then there was the church's frightened comebacks: the floats in the Saturday morning parades filled with ridiculously happy people dancing to loud Christian music and waving plastic palm branches and placards about determinedly. "So, you think church is boring?" they screamed, hoping to convince the dirty commoners below that they did indeed know how to have a good time. One or two of them might have worn a "Coors Lite" t-shirt, just to prove how easy they were to relate to. I wanted to squirm and duck. I felt embarrassed that our insecurity was that obvious.


If the peppy music didn't bring them in, how about small groups? This one made a bit of sense. People could meet, be relational, help meet one another's needs, bring others into community by living out the concept of loving your neighbor. I'd always wanted to have the nerve to use my former life as an eating disordered shattered person who learned how to put the pieces back together, so I optimistically packed up and headed out to Calgary for a huge "Small Group Conference". (Woo Hoo!!)


Once there, I waded through rooms and rooms full of literature that decoded every little thing God had ever said or even thought about saying or thinking. I ran into a woman I recognized from life-before-kids. She had hated me then, but now she was all grown up and leading small groups in her church with her husband. I signed up for some seminars. I'd come here for direction and chose my discussion groups accordingly. I had to run to the bathroom a great deal since I was pregnant with our third child. From within the stall, I overheard grown-up small-group leader tell her pretty friend something nasty about me. My first sigh of many.


We filed into the sanctuary to begin the day with worship and singing. I immediately recognized the leader as a man who had been busted for cheating on his wife, so he'd vacated town and church quickly and quietly, shaking our dust off his sandals as he went. I didn't remember any resolution to that minor lapse in morality, but it seemed that he'd found his way back to pointing us all to God. *sigh*


Off to my first seminar. An hour in, I wondered if I should go and recheck the label on the door. This was all about projections, visualizing, and then making things happen. We saw impressive mathematic formulas of how many times we'd have to do fund-raisers in order to build wings onto our church buildings. Growth, growth, growth, is what this thing was all about. And personal growth was not a prerequisate for this kind of gardening. It didn't sound as if we'd need a big, controversial God in any of this either. It was a lot tidier than that, all laid out in formulas on the whiteboard. I excused myself to go have a nap on the empty nursery floor. The smell of baby wipes and dirty carpet had a more honest scent about them.


I never was much of a small group leader.


The deeper I dig into this church post, fearing that I may begin to choke on my foot, fearing that I may be buried alive.... the more I recognize that unless you've come here to read a novel, there is no way that I can write this and call it a "post". We'll have to call it a mini-series. Maybe we could have a cell group about it or something.....


I actually LOVE church. For the first eighteen years of my life, I went to the dullest, most legalistic, drab, uninteresting church in the history of homo escapeons. And I loved it. I loved the familiar, the richness of tradition, roles, consistency. I loved the sincerity that I caught glimpses of there. I loved the swish of ladies in their girdles, squirming, sweating, staring at the wall clock and worrying about the chicken dinner over-cooking. I loved the tidy pews, the unused choir "loft", the tone whistle that the farsinger used to start us off on an endless hymn with no notes. The sermons were dreadful and dull, but I loved watching the man, farmer by week, preacher on Sunday morning. I enjoyed hearing his wife's loud snoring as well...


I went some years without really going to church that much at all. It was all so complicated. The preachers were having affairs, and lying about it; the people were all very pretty and talked about Jesus a lot but they were terribly hostile and intimidating. Then if you got involved at all, you became subject to long speeches about "commitment" and how to "just DO it" and developing "leadership skills". Sometimes you'd get sent home to change for coming to worship team practise wearing the wrong colours. Tiresome really.


That's all behind me now. Now I'm to the point where I also tire of hearing people fight about God's love. I just don't get it.


I go to church now, and I cry whenever possible. The cheaters and the fat people link arms with the pretty people and the faithful ones. We laugh and cry and eat together. Sometimes we'll bring a pizza to someone who looks hungry. Or maybe we'll throw some money into a dish to pay for a funeral. When we sing, I let my arms do what they want to. I sing with my whole body: the sound of the mysteries fills me up and overwhelms me. I wish this honesty for the cheating preacher, the horny music pastor, the self-righteous small group leader, the business men from the seminar.


I volunteer for nothing organized. I listen to that still small voice and shut my ears to propoganda of being so godly that more people will want to come into church and we could build a wing in red brick or something.


And my heart aches for all the misunderstood, broken, passed over whom the church has trampled over to reach those almighty projected numbers.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Who's In Your Audience? (a sort of MEME)

Judy says: "....many people are DRIVEN by people in their imaginary audience, who in actuality pay no attention whatsoever to them".

I don't think of myself as someone overly controlled by "what-must-they-think" mentality, but I'd have to be honest to say that there are many voices perched on the peripheries of my brain that should be identified, evaluated, and possibly evicted. Its kind of like the 16 personalities of Sybil; it can get a bit loud and chaotic at times.

Fear is a big-time resident. She lobbies for the twins: fear of success and fear of failure. Recently she has been tapping her foot with an irritating rhythm. "You're about half through your life, you know..." she whines. "You're never going to make anything significant of yourself, you know that, don't you? Isn't it kind of a waste to be down here, know what you know, and be too dense to go anywhere with it?"
She exhausts me. I usually shut her down by sabatage.

Then there's the Angry Accountant. He sits there with his dark eyes and dark hair shaking his disappointed head back and forth, eyebrows dark and furrowed. He chastises us for never learning. For not being more more careful. Should plan better. Should say no to many things. Should have a plan, stick to it, eat simple meals.
I don't like him. He makes me feel bad, and gives me the impression that I can never do right.

The Thin Woman with room in the seat of her jeans is omnipresent. She's naturally willowy, and very, very sensible. She's almost condescending when she asks me; "Well, what is it that you want? If you want less fat on your body, why not just be proactive? Get out there, move your body around, eat less food. Its not rocket science, and you know how you gained twenty, so just reverse the formula, and voila, you should be able to drop it".
I'm intimidated by her. I know she's right, but scaredy pants always enters stage left right about that time.

Scaredy-pants isn't fat, and she isn't thin. She's obviously uncomfortable in her skin. You half expect her face to erupt into scarring acne just from the anxiety of you studying her. She drapes her arms across the front of her as though to protect herself from your eyes. She knows that you can read the padding on her body. Her failures and weaknesses hang off her in dimples and folding bulges. If her body size changed to that of a thin person, she'd have nothing to protect her. You'd see straight into her soul, and you may dislike what you find hiding there. Without that protective layer to be ashamed of, the shame would go deeper, much deeper and may even strip the skin right off her bones. She's just not capable of dealing with that kind of stress.
I feel compassion towards Scaredy, and I'd like to offer her a hand up. But she embarrasses me. I'm ashamed to be seen with her. I'm afraid that people wouldn't understand.

Then there's the "Neighbor" who hates living beside us. He hates: the soggy snowman parts littering the front yard. The three chairs that had ugly sweaters on them for my party last fall. The children's sled frozen solidly to the brown grass. He hates coming to the back door, balancing on boards sunk into frozen mud, up the stairs to a rotting deck, poorly designed by some tightwad before us. He looks down his nose at the cracks in the vinyl siding, and the tacky vinyl lattice halfway ripped off the edges of the deck. I think he and the Accountant are brothers, actually.
I hate them both, and I want to tell them that if that's how they define success in their lives, they must be very poor indeed. I want to introduce them to all my friends, and wow them with those investments. Still, they annoy me like an opinionated relative at an annual gathering. For some unknown reason, I just have to put up with them.

Then there's the Class Brain. He openly mocks me for my slow moving grey matter. How I can't remember any geography, history, or politics, no matter how I try. How I take such a long, belaboured time to evaluate information, to come to conclusions, to integrate new information. He makes a point of telling me that most people can keep up with their lives. How they can integrate news about people dying, people birthing, people killing themselves, marriages crumbling, natural disasters, babies starving, parents aging, brothers isolating themselves, driving themselves further into the loneliness of untreated addictions and mental illness....

I fear that the Brian is right, but there doesn't seem to be much value in defending myself. He's smarter than me, and it'll be hard for him to relate to a slower moving train. The best I can aim for here is to try and avoid eye contact.

Annoyingly Perfect Parent comes and goes at will. She criticizes me for what my children eat and don't eat, their lack of consistent manners, the lessons we never stuck with. She tut-tuts about our not having devotions with the children. Not reading the Bible as a family. She points out my inconsistencies, my difficulty with saying "no", and setting boundaries.
Mostly I slam the door in her face because I don't see the point in her. But there are times when her foot is in, and its just impossible to keep her out.

Wing-Nut and I share a love/hate relationship. She's funny and easy to hang out with but she can be incredibly spinny to the point of irresponsibility. She drops and breaks a great deal of things. She is plagued with nightmares about forgetting three or four babies in the basement, lying in pools of water. She starts things, then completely forgets about them. She's indecisive and entirely too honest. She can be a little embarrassing, since her brain is splintered and multi-coloured. I'm not sure what to do with her, to be honest.

That's a cross-section of my audience. Who's in yours?