Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joy Dare - February 28

Confession: I fell off the Joy Dare Wagon for a while. A friend said she missed my posts. I realized just how much I missed the mark when I lost my focus. So here I am, amazed yet again at how I am able to rise to the challenge and think of the dared gifts when my first thought was "What? Really?"

Today's Joy Dare: 3 gifts from the past - that help you trust in the future.



A legacy left and a legacy to leave.

A legacy forever changed.

My gifts:

Letters from my grandmother. She'll be 99 years young in just a few weeks and although she's slowing down, she's just as spunky as she ever was. Although her body is starting to give out, her determination is to be admired. Nearly blind and not able to get around like she once did, she lives alone and loves to share her stories. We write back and forth to each other and I have kept every letter she has sent me - and I'm willing to bet she has every letter anyone has ever sent her. What an amazing gift it would be to peruse those one day. 

These letters - my grandmother's legacy - give me hope that one day (ha! ok, some of you might say it's already happened) I'll be just as spunky, steadfast and determined as she is. Maybe it would be better to say that they give me hope that I'll still be like that at her age.

My husband. Together we share many, many dreams for the future. Front porches and rocking chairs, world travel, and changing our family's heritage....
... with this. Leading our children by example, living out our faith in the every day. Praying for increased boldness and pouring over this book like letters from a new love. The best hope for and trust in the future we could ever ask for.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Celebration Sunday

Our church did something new today.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the motivation behind it was. What I am positively certain of is that it was incredibly moving, freeing. I rarely cry in public. I did today. And I wasn't the only one. Sniffles and Kleenex were plentiful throughout the sanctuary. It would have been a good day to have a box at the end of each pew. The presence of the Holy Spirit was overwhelming.

Last Sunday an invitation was made to bring something that you do or something that symbolizes something you do that you want to dedicate to God. Something you want to give to him, something you already do that you want to offer as a form of worship. A symbol to lay at the foot of the cross.

Before the final words crossed the announcer's lips, I knew what I had to bring. 

I anticipated this all week. This morning arrived and I had my offering ready to go. I didn't know how the morning would go, but I was ready. 

Worship began as normal and then the plan was explained. We were invited to worship in a variety of ways. God the ultimate creator and artist inspired and worshiped through painting, singing, dancing, praying, giving. People wrote out offerings and burdens and nailed them to the cross, right where they belong. Two baptisms had been planned, seven took place. People who had been feeling God's gentle nudge took the plunge. Literally. And without having brought a change of clothes. It. was. amazing.
I've thought a lot about time recently. I do a lot of things, most of them intentionally for God's purposes. I am very much a planner, God wired me that way, it's no surprise to him. But if we plan every minute of every day, we leave God no room to lead. I want him to lead me. I need him to lead me. 

After the baptisms were over, we sang more praises. Extravagant, moving, tear-filled praises that at times I could only listen to because I was overcome by emotion. My favorite songs lead by incredibly gifted musicians. It was then that I finally mustered up the courage to walk to the front and not just lay my offering at the foot of the cross, but nail my offering to it.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand." ~ Psalm 37:23, 24

Friday, February 17, 2012

Earnestly Seeking

Earnestly seeking God's will, that's what I've been doing.

There are a couple things I've been praying about for a few weeks now and I still don't feel as though I have clear answers. Though I had a revelation - a light bulb moment, if you will - this morning.

Perhaps you'll be able to relate...

Have you ever asked a child to go get something out of another room for you? Have you ever told them exactly where to find that item, knowing full well it's there? Perhaps said child has "looked three times" and still cannot see it, yet when you go yourself and move one small item that was in front of it, it "magically" appears. The item was there all along, right where you said it would be. But something had to be moved to be able to see it.

Or maybe (like as in my case just a few days ago), you were certain that something was in a certain place. So certain, in fact, that you dared to look in that same place (and a couple other likely choices) no less than FIVE times.

Why did I think that the next (and the next, and the next, and...) time I looked it would suddenly be there? Because I was convinced the item in question (crushed garlic in this instance) was there. I was SURE I bought it and that's where it would be. I didn't. It's not.

Now, since God promises that all we have to do is ask for wisdom (James 1:5) I'm pretty sure that my current personal situation relates more to the first scenario (not looking deep enough) than the second (not there). My pursuit today also lead me to Proverbs 2. Both scripture references imply an active and energetic search for answers. Just like the jar of pickles won't jump off the shelf for my daughter, the answers I seek will not just fall into my lap.

I also gained some perspective from a great gift - a new camera. The kind of camera that (among other features) allows the user to focus manually rather than just automatically. This means that I can blur items in the fore- and background of my pictures. I can focus on only the item I wish to focus on. A picture of an item with its surrounding in focus can be beautiful, but a picture where only the key item is in focus and everything else is blurred a bit can be breathtaking.

Perhaps I've been a bit more like that pickle-searching child than I've realized. There is something in the foreground blocking my view and other things that seem pretty are taking away my focus.

So, I'm taking time to focus more specifically and earnestly seek. I'm changing up my MO a bit - I'm moving the junk that's blocking my view. I'm switching to manual focus, not auto, so that I can focus on the item I want to see rather than the item that is nearest me. And I'm waiting expectantly for answers.

I'm waiting on the breathtaking beauty that God has in store for me to be revealed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Ways I Feel the Love of God

Today's Joy Dare is to name three ways I feel the love of God.

Friends. Friends who love me just the way I am (imperfections and all!), friends who pray for me, who support me, who make me laugh.

The outdoors.  Sunrises, sunsets, trees, water, sky, insects (maybe just the pretty ones), animals - all of creation, in a nutshell.

My family. A husband who supports even when he doesn't understand, and children who are amazing and vibrant and life-filled... all of whom practice the art of forgiveness even when I don't deserve it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Blinkets and Love," Part Two

We burned her blanket. We thought we were doing the right thing. Now we're undecided. This business of parenting, it's heart-wrenchingly difficult.

The hard stuff came. Regret. Sadness. Tears.

We cried together, she and I.

Watching a sad movie right before bed couldn't have helped, but my heart was grieving already anyway.

And then I remembered...

As she and I cry together... Made of the softest fabric possible, a small quilt I made for her years ago. It had been sitting, rarely used, in the cupboard.

And I could take it no longer.

She sleeps. Still I weep, thanking God for his goodness and grace - even in the hard and uncertain moments of loving our children.

"Blinkets and Love" - Another Step in Learning to Let Go

It happened yesterday and I still feel sad about it.

How long does it take a mother's heart to heal?

Perhaps I was just as attached to it as she was, maybe more. Or maybe my attachment is to my baby girl more than to the red Scottie-dog printed piece of flannel she has hauled around for the last nine years.

The idea came up a week ago. To be completely honest, I don't even remember how. A trade: Blankie gets thrown in the fire in exchange for early ear piercing. (The rule in our house has always been that you can get your ears pierced when you're 10.) We didn't think she would go for it. She did. Eagerly. Excitedly. Immediately. She really wanted earrings. Completely undeterred by the thought of pain, she was ready to throw her beloved Blankie in the fire.

Suddenly - and unexpectedly - I was hesitant, apprehensive. The thought of actually throwing Blankie in the fire, of following through, filled me with panic, with fear, with anxiety. What if she couldn't sleep? Better wait until a three-day weekend to make sure she has time to adjust. What if she cried? What if...? What if....? What if...?

All week, she asked to do it right then. All week I replied, "We need to wait until Daddy gets back from his work trip." "We need to wait until the weekend." "Are you SURE you want to do this?" I think I didn't want it to happen. I was not - am not - ready to let go.

Friday night arrived, Daddy caught an earlier flight home. Not five minutes after he walked in the door she appeared with Blankie in her hands, hope and excitement filling her eyes. My heart sank. I struggled to maintain my composure when all I wanted to do was go hide in my room and cry. But I was not going to miss this.

"Go get the scissors." We cut a couple pieces to keep, to scrapbook. She cut her piece carefully and purposefully. Sister decided she wanted a piece too. My soul anguished as Sister hacked in, straight for the middle. I was sure that would be "it." She smiled the whole time. My turn - Sweet Man said my piece was too large, I had to cut it down so there could be no turning back. Grudgingly, I obliged, all the while thinking Is this really for the best? Does it REALLY matter? So what if she really does take Blankie to college?

This blanket, this ragged, patched up, ratty old piece of flannel that caused us grief and sleepless nights in its absence more than once; this inconvenience that was impossible to keep clean, this false sense of security that traveled the world with us would finally be gone. Never again would I chuckle, shrug and say, "We waited too long, she's gonna take that thing to college now!"

I used to dream of getting rid of that thing. Especially when we didn't have it and it was getting late and she refused to sleep without it. Now I was a complete softie, wondering what I ever thought the harm was. Except, did I mention she always had it in her mouth? In spite of washing it regularly, I'm convinced that's a big part of the reason she has had so many more colds than the rest of us.

How could I follow through? Just last weekend I found a "story" she wrote that had been tucked away in her drawer full of paper for who-knows-how-long?

Blinkets and Love (typed as she wrote it)

1. One day I made a cwilt of love and gave it to my children they loved it so I made them cwilts every day.
2.  When my children grow up I had to stop making them baby cwilts and had to make them big girl blankets they loved them more so I made them big girl blankets every day.
3. When my children wher (were) prents (parents) I made they children cwilts they loved them so I made them blankets every day untell they were prents. 
The End

She obviously equates blankets and love. What if this breaks her heart?

What if it breaks mine?

Daddy stoked the fire, we followed through.

And while my heart grieved the end of an era, we celebrated the beginning of the next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Friend Who Makes You Cry

I have this friend who likes to make me cry.

You know the type. 

Or do you?

My Sweet Man is away for work this week so I've been missing adult company and in a nutshell, doing life alone, and I've had a few things on my mind this week. So this morning when I texted my friend and she picked up on my hint and invited me over (in spite of the fact that she home schools - she probably would have gladly traded my empty house for her bustling one!) you can bet it didn't take me long to round up something to do (sewing machine and a project) and head out the door.

We have one of those "you're one of the friends who can come over no matter how dirty the bathroom is or what I'm doing 'cuz I'll just do it while you're here" relationships. Actually, I'm blessed to be part of a circle of women who all have relationships like that with each other. 

I didn't get as much sewing done as I could have. Instead I joined in on the home schooling and learned that I am, in fact, smarter than a fifth grader. Though having the math answer guide in hand sure helped. I (with only a moderate degree of success) stifled my giggles as she read to her children about Bladderwort. She was so immersed in teaching that she didn't understand immediately. Then it was nearing noon so while teacher and students worked on their science experiments, I snuck upstairs to make lunch.

It turns out that a morning in a bustling unconventional school room what just what I needed. My spirits had been lifted - but maybe I needed the afternoon just a little bit more. 

We went for a long walk where we enjoyed encouraging conversation where a couple of times the words that were spoken were just as meaningful for the speaker as for the listener, and froze our noses. We continued our chat as we thawed over tea. I was doing fine until just before it was time for me to leave. That's when she made me cry. 

You see, she has this way of asking all the wrong right questions. She has this intuition and soul-piercing eyes that scream at her when something is amiss with her friends. A quality most good friends possess - they know how you're doing without even asking.

Yes, my friend "likes" to make me cry. It's not because she's vengeful, but because it's exciting to be part of someone working through something, because she cares and wants to encourage me. She wants to know the true me, my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams, my challenges. It's not that she wants me to be sad - not at all, in fact I've never seen her let anyone cry alone. It's that we love to help each other and we love to celebrate life's victories together. It's what I want for her, too. It's the way good friendships work.

It's not something every little girl dreams of, to have a friend who makes her cry, but it should be. 

It's my wish for each of you, because we were not created to do life alone.

Today's Joy Dare

A Gift Thrifted: The Hillbilly Wagon

A Gift Broken: The fence of our corral. While broken, it still feels like a gift because it holds a large key to the dream of one day owning horses and maybe a couple cows.

A Gift Fixed. December 2010 I slipped on ice while out for a run and fell, breaking my right arm. I waited weeks for surgery and then weeks more to be healed enough to remove the cast (that went 3/4 of the way up my arm). Today I celebrated full recovery by heading out for a walk... the first time I've done this outside on winter roads since I broke it. (Although I have had full mobility and strength back for quite some time now.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Three Gifts Red

Today's Joy Dare (scroll down to the end of the 02.06.12 post to see the February Challenge): 3 Gifts Red.

When I saw that last night, I admit I wondered if I could complete the task sincerely. Sure, I could say my hair. It truly is a gift - the only physical feature I have that I can honestly say I've always liked in spite of all the teasing it earned me. But that seems superficial and lame. Really - three RED gifts? Can it be done?

I set out this morning, camera in hand, determined to find three new gifts to give thanks for - new meaning something I hadn't already counted. I prayed for God to open my eyes and this is what I found:

A Canadian flag. Yes, I'm proud to be Canadian, but more than that I'm thankful to live in such a beautiful country where I have so many privileges and so few worries.

Our quad. A red Polaris. It serves us functionally - add a blade to the front for faster and easier snow removal or strap heavy items to the back to move them, and FUNctionally - add the "Hillbilly wagon" behind for family trips to the river or hook the sled on the back for fun in the snow. It's also a great vehicle for a romantic and adventurous date for two!

*Curious about how the Hillbilly Wagon got its name? Think dilapidated old converted and patched up tent trailer + Beverley Hillbillies. The wagon earned its name the day we hooked it up behind the quad and perched Grandma - with a broken foot - in it on a lawn chair to go to the river.

My sweet man's Sears Craftsman toolbox. Yep, I'm thankful for this dirty old thing and the large wooden bench beside it. Why? Because it holds many of the tools he has used to make my visions for our home come true.

I was skeptical that I could do it, find three red gifts. To be honest I feel the same way about tomorrow, but I love a good challenge. And really, any challenge that has me on the lookout for blessings is one worth taking on - whether I find the three items the challenge asks for or three of my own.

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Joy Dare

In light of how she's inspired me, I've decided to join in (albeit a little late - hey, I can catch up) on Ann Voskamp's 2012 Joy Dare. The mission? To list 1000 gifts in a year (3/day). I also have a goal to take more pictures and have been contemplating the 365 photo challenge (taking a picture a day) for a couple years now. Since I LOVE efficiency, what better than to combine the two?

Today's Dare
 was to find three gifts, all outside. Here are mine:

Morning visitors (a herd of deer.), not to mention another beautiful sunrise.

Plenty of wood to keep our house warm. The mercury is going to dip tonight.

Squeals of delight.
 And an extra to help me catch up:

A flock of Common Redpolls (?) that passed through  Jan. 20, 2012.

Tomorrow's Dare: 3 gifts red. Join me, won't you?

Friday, February 3, 2012

God's Chisel

This video about says it all, doesn't it?

My desire to become the person God wants me to be is a bold one. It's scary at times. It's hard to let go of those pieces of me that I am so attached to. Even posting something like this requires me to overstep the boundaries of my comfort zone - because there are few people with whom I openly discuss my faith. I worry about offending friends and family I know are not believers or whose beliefs I know differ from mine.

Which is crazy because pretty much everyone who knows me knows I am Christian.

My goal is and always has been to love everyone like Jesus loves them, like he loves me. To live my faith, not preach it, using action consistently and words only to answer questions. Just like the guy in the video, I am - and always will be - under construction. I strive for perfection in my tasks, but I am by no means under any illusion that I am perfect. 

I am guilty of caring too deeply what other people think of me. I look around more than I look up, and there's plenty of chiseling for God to do in me. But I know that I am not junk. Even though I am still a work in progress, I am an original masterpiece. I am wonderfully complex. I wonder, though, if you would ever know this if I were never bold enough to just say it:

So are you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can You Do Yoga With Rigor Mortis?

Rigor Mortis - Latin meaning "stiffness of death," according to Wikipedia. "One of the recognizable signs of death ... causing the limbs to become stiff and difficult to move or manipulate."

Yoga - for the purposes of this post, I am focusing solely on the physical strength and flexibility required.

Sometimes life feels like trying to do yoga with rigor mortis.

There's just one small catch. I'm not dead.

I can think of two specific life events that have been instrumental in my process of learning to accept change, but really, change is inevitable and dealing with it is a life-long process for all of us. Often one change sparks another - and it can snowball from there.

There are times when I eagerly anticipate change, when I am excited and ready to move in a new direction; there are times when I take an apathetic approach; and there are times when all I want to do is dig my heels in like a rebellious two-year-old and scream, "NO!"

Unfortunately, the latter is not conducive to living a happy, fulfilled life in which I grow. Unfortunately, I have felt that way a couple times recently.

I desperately want to grow. Because to stop growing, learning, changing, is to die. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And I don't want to just live, I want to live FULLY.

Therefore, no matter how stiff I feel, I must bend... because there are some changes that will happen no matter what I think - and I refuse to let them be my breaking point.

But that also does not mean that I need to sprint toward every change heading my direction with open arms and a huge grin. It's ok for me to feel disappointed or frustrated or sad... for a little while. Change can feel a lot like loss that we need to grieve and that takes time - and that's ok, and depending on the severity of the change, the amount of time needed to accept it varies.

I did some research on flexibility today. One article said this:

"The most practical way to increase flexibility is to get stronger. It sounds strange but according to Pavel Tsatsouline, author of Relax Into Stretch, 'Typically a stronger muscle does not have to contract as hard as a weaker one to exert the same amount of force and it more willingly relaxes into a stretch.'"

Wow. Funny how something so literal can be taken to a deeper level of thought and still hold true.

The article goes on to say (basically) that the more you stretch, the easier it becomes to stretch further. Obviously. But there's a catch most of us are familiar with - stop doing it for a while and you seize up again. So since we can't always control the frequency with which we are presented with change, how do we remain limber so it won't be so difficult next time?

Strengthen ourselves. To relax more willingly.

For me, that means spending time reading my Bible, hanging out with people who know me and will challenge me when I start talking crazy, and ignoring the "stinkin' thinkin'" that (let's be honest) I'm often challenged by. I can be on the lookout for changes that are sneaking up on me and start assessing them and planning my attack when I see them approaching. I can talk it out with other people who are involved or whom I trust. I can look for the positive aspects of the new, rather than focusing on the things I'll miss of the old. If it affects other people, I can tell them as soon as I know so we can discuss our plan of attack together and they too can have time to prepare.

And then I can take action... which means choosing a direction and bending in it. This may even involve moving out of this tiny little box I like to call my comfort zone.

Can you do yoga with rigor mortis? Not literally. But fortunately even the most rigid of us can bend at least a little before we break.