Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sixteen Years a Mother

Sixteen years ago today, I became a mother. That event changed my life like nothing else has ever done.

Right now, my son is downstairs with his friends celebrating sixteen years on this earth. I love hearing the laughter, the conversation without words, the evident camaraderie. I've been instructed to make myself scarce so I am sitting in my bedroom with my ear stretching to the floor. I can't actually hear any words. I can just hear that they are enjoying each others company. That makes me glad. Motherhood has taught me to take pleasure in another's happiness.

Motherhood has taught me many things. Gretchen Rubin has a saying, “The days are long but the years are short.” That is a true thing. Last night when I couldn't sleep, I went downstairs to look at cds of “old” pictures of when the kids were little; I wanted to collect the best ones of Michael, a kind of retrospective of his life. I know for a fact that not every moment of his childhood was happiness and sunshine, but with a little distance, that is what it sure looks like. Those early years were sometimes challenging, sometimes boring, sometimes lonely, but mostly they were satisfying, fulfilling and joy-filled in a way I can't explain. I am only filled with deep gratitude that those were years I shared with my children, day after day, year after year. Their happiness was my happiness; my happiness was their happiness – and we were - we are – happy together, in each other. And now to see my kids, my son in particular because it's his birthday, turn out so well makes my heart swell. Even just posting his picture to Instagram got me a little choked up and teary-eyed. He's handsome, responsible, smart, kind, eager for life and learning, respectful, grateful. He makes me so proud. And thankful. And optimistic for the future ahead of him.

Having kids is a great way to have some of one's rough edges sanded off. Kids have a way of holding a mirror up to you, for better and for worse. Little kids mimic what they hear and see. Big kids do too. You think you are a patient person until a child you that you have a few lessons to learn yet. I am grateful for the many lessons my kids have taught me; I am a better person because of it.
Having kids is a great way to learn the heart of God. If I, an earthly parent, feel this way about my children, how much more must God love and care for and instruct and guide his children? And if I, an earthly parent, feel such pleasure and joy in the love and friendship of my children, certainly God in heaven feels joy in a loving relationship with his children, with me. And if I, an earthly parent, love to give good gifts to my children, how much more must God delight in giving good gifts to his children, to me. Even now, after these many years of practice, I can hardly comprehend that God would love me the way I love my children, more than I love my children. And to think that God loves my children more than I love them, is beyond my understanding. But I am grateful and I take comfort knowing that God is looking out for their welfare, especially when I cannot, and I know that I will have less and less control over the conditions in their lives as they get older.
I used to think it was cheesy and insincere when famous mother's would say that they felt that their children were their greatest accomplishment in the world. I don't anymore. I can't think of more sincere words to be spoken. My greatest contribution to the greater world is my great kids, no doubt about it!
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:11

Monday, 19 February 2018

Amber Stones Part III

Lent - Day 6

 Today was Louis Riel/Family Day so we all got to be at home.  I got some home chores done that have been waiting awhile as well as some resting and school work (but not too much!).  Derek wasn't feeling well today so he spent a lot of it curled up in a blanket.  Sara did some crafts and made a cake and practiced her piano and read a book.  Mike did some laundry and some homework and some other things.  Jeff got in some work and some rest and some slide guitar playing - he is looking forward to the possibility of getting his finger cast off on Thursday.

What did I learn today?

Bentley and I went for a walk this afternoon;  it wasn't even too cold or too windy.  I came across one of those "marble-like" stones that I love.  I used to collect any amber translucent stone, but I accumulated so many that they started to lose their value.  So in the last number of years, I have only picked up the ones that are smooth all around like a marble.

Later in the day, I was moaning a little about my work and Mike suggested that I needed to do some "soul-seaching."

"I've been trying to do some soul-searching for the last five or seven years," I exclaimed.  And then I wondered about my stones:  I used to be looking carefully for any "amber opportunity" on the road or in life.  Maybe I'm far enough down the road and in life that I need to start just choosing only the special, smooth ones, not pick up every available opportunity that presents itself, to be more discretionary in what I choose to do, more discerning.  I don't know...

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Day of Rest

Lent Day 5 - Sabbath, the day of rest.  I am thankful every week for Sunday, thankful that God instituted a day of rest.  "For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust" (Ps.103:14).  I am the kind of person who has always needed a lot of rest and I am thankful for a day when that is all that is required of me.

The notion of rest also lines up with both Session 3 from my PD (I looked at my paper and remembered!) and the sermon I heard this morning, delivered by my own husband.  Session 3 was about maintaining a margin in one's life:  "A good life, like a good book, should have a good margin."  - F. W. Boreham.  Some white space around the edges.  The equation for margin is RESOURCES - LOAD = MARGIN.  To increase one's margin, one must either increase resources or decrease load.

As both Terry Young said on Friday and my husband said this morning, when Jesus went to a lonely place or up into the mountains to pray to his Father, he was increasing his resources - taking time away from the important work he was doing with the crowds and praying to his Father was building him up, sustaining him to allow his work to be sustainable.  And if even Jesus needed that margin, that rest from work, how much more do I need that same thing?  That time spent with my Creator who knows I need some white space around the edges of my life.  Thank God for the day of rest.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16

Hearing the Voices

I went to my parents' for supper after my PD (professional development) today. Mom had prepared a lovely chicken dinner. As mom was making final meal preparations, she asked how my day had been. I said really good. The speaker was interesting, practical and relevant...and then like a kid coming home after school and being asked what they learned that day and saying “I don't know,” I stumbled and stammered to try to remember what he had said. I knew there were three sessions and could only remember the topic of one of the sessions.

I'll go out to my vehicle tomorrow and look at the papers I got at the ACSI conference and remember what the topics were, but it was the second session – the one I remember on my own – that had the biggest impact on me.

It was about voice management – dealing with the various voices in one's head that tend to influence everything we do: the voices from one's family of origin, of critics, of the crowd and peanut gallery, of the enemy and one's own inner voices and of course, the voice of the Father, the Good Shepherd. The main point the speaker, Terry Young, made was that we can't manage the voices in our heads, we can only choose how loud to turn up the volume of the ones we want to pay attention to. It's a matter of attentiveness, not management. Those voices will always be there but which ones will we allow to direct our lives?

I appreciated how he pointed out how Jesus, like us, had all those voices in his life too. His family of origin at one point wanted to take him away because he was “out of his mind”; he had critics who accused him of being mad, blasphemous, deceitful, Beelzebub; he had people who wanted to crown him king by force and others who wanted to stone him; he had the enemy who tried to convince him to take the easier, more comfortable path to power and influence; and then he had the voice of his Father saying, “This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well-pleased (Mark 12:14).” And that was the voice Jesus listened to, that was the voice of the one who directed his every action, that was the relationship that allowed him to fulfill his purpose, to engage fully in the life around him and disengage productively to turn up the volume on that voice. And we have that same option. We too can turn up the volume on the voice that says, “'You are my son (or daughter); today I have become your Father.'” (Psalm 2:7)” and “[the Lord you God] will take great delight in you … [and will] rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).” We too can attune ourselves to the Father's voice to become centered and purposeful, and turn down the competing voices in our heads. It is a great comfort to have that opportunity and the only question remains is if I will avail myself of that option.

“Good Shepherd, what say you?”

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:2 – 4, emphasis mine

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Dracaena fragrans

I've had a little gift in my classroom this week - the beautiful fragrance of spring, a scent reminiscent of honeysuckle but sweeter. 

I noticed it Monday morning when I first walked into my room after having been gone sick last week. At first, I was curious where such a beautiful scent was coming from, what room freshener had been sprayed.  But the fragrance didn't fade;  it persisted and in fact maybe got stronger.  It took me a little while to figure out that it was coming from the corn plant I have growing in a pot. 

My mom gave me the plant about a year ago.  It had lived in her house for many years, but my parents moved and didn't have room for it anymore.  I was happy to take it off her hands and have had it living in my classroom ever since. 

The corn plant, or dracaena fragrans, is a pretty common, boring houseplant.  The blossoms aren't especially showy.  I hadn't actually realized that a corn plant grows blossoms, and certainly not such fragrant blooms. It was especially surprising for me to learn that it is fairly rare for a corn plant to flower, mostly in mature plants.  The boys in my class, of course, felt the need to sample the sap dripping from the blossoms and informed me that it was sweet.  And my room has smelled beautifully all week.  It won't last much longer, I suspect, but I have appreciated this surprising gift for these last several bitter winter days. 

For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.  Isaiah 61:11

You rarely find flowers on indoor plants from the Dracaena genus, D. fragrans though is the exception. Pay attention when we say the flowers are still not frequent enough to call their appearance "common", but they do occur occasionally if the plant is mature and being treated well. Sprays of small numerous white flowers will come shooting out of the crown and they have a highly fragrant almost sickly sweet scent.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ash Wedneday - Valentine's Day

Lent - Day 1

I often find myself longing for the days when I kept a regular blog.  It felt like a time in my life when I paid attention to my own life, memorialized the small but important things.  As my husband said, I seemed more contemplative and intentional about my life "in those days."

Today Lent begins.  Lent, a time for reflection, a time of preparation and tidying up the physical and metaphorical clutter in one's life.  A time to pay attention to life, to sacrifice, to think and contemplate.  And that is why this year, I have chosen to take up the discipline of writing again, to actively listen and reflect on lessons I can learn from my own life daily.

And so the journey begins, with a bouquet of roses from my Valentine to set me on my way.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Delta Beach

The other day, Mike, Sara and I went on a driftwood-hunting expedition to Delta Beach, a 15 minute drive north of Portage la Prairie, along the southern edge of Lake Manitoba. It had been a number of years since we had last been there, long ago enough that Sara couldn't remember having been there at all. Mike remembered being there on a field trip in grade one and on church excursions but what we both remarked on was how different it looked. How beautiful and peaceful and clean it was.

We hadn't been there at all since the floods of 2011 when Lake Manitoba outgrew itself to engulf beach cottages and farmers' fields and roads, and before that, we remembered Delta as a basically untended destination, not well-maintained, overgrown, dirty. Evidently, a lot had happened since then.

The beach was pristine, only full of gorgeous soft, clean sand and stripped, overturned trees turned white from staying under water and sun so long – no garbage to be seen anywhere. Birds of all kinds were in the air: sea gulls, Canada geese, a hawk, a pelican, sand pipers. There were a few people but not many. We strolled down the beach and waded through the warm shallow water for what felt like miles and were only greeted with beauty and the mesmerizing sound of lapping waves. It was the Delta beach it had always been, only better.

We came away with the necessary driftwood, many photos and a collection of feathers and seashells. We weren't there long but we all had a wonderful time and vowed to come again.

That's what I'd like for myself, at the beginning of this “new year” - to be myself, only becoming a better, improved version. Clearly altered by the past but fitter, wiser, more creative, more disciplined, more comfortable in my own skin, more accepting of others in theirs'.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.”
Aldous Huxley

Make the most of yourself....for that is all there is of you.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson