Posted in Rambles

Floods of Gratitude

Early in our marriage, my husband and I invested in an older camper trailer.  Although we thought we had inspected it well before we bought it, inexperience and oversight got the best of us when we forgot to peek beneath the welcome mat that was laid over the vinyl floor at the entrance.  When we got the camper home and happened to move the mat, we saw that the floor underneath it was black.  As it turns out, water had come in through a hole that had been made to attach an awning to the outside of the camper, and caused extensive damage.  Thankfully, my husband is very handy, but what ensued was a fairly involved process of dismantling and replacing the majority of the camper’s floor.

I remember being stressed about finances at that time.  Not only had we borrowed money to buy the camper, but our computer had recently broken down, and we needed to buy a new one.  My twenty-something year old brain swam with numbers, struggling to make sense of whether we could pay for it all.  I didn’t have a good sense of what things cost, or the value of money.  (Was that $1,000 – or, $10,000?)  Sure, I had done well in high school math classes, but real-life numbers were harder to comprehend.

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We lived in a century-old home, that we had purchased for cheap, in a rough neighborhood.  The roof leaked, and so did the basement.  When it rained, we ran for buckets, and towels, and wondered what kind of damage lurked behind the plaster and lath walls.

The bathroom of that home stank of urine, no matter how much I cleaned it.  I think it had permeated the walls, and the floors, somehow.  As I tried to scrub it clean, I wondered what the previous inhabitants had done in there for it to get so bad.  (Although I’m sure I would never actually want to know.)  And Joyce Meyer’s words would ring through my head.  She said to be grateful for the house you had, and clean it with joy – rather than complaining about everything you didn’t have.  To be thankful that you had a toilet to sit on every morning.

I learned to be thankful for that bathroom, but I also prayed for a better one.  A few years later, we would tear it down to the studs and have professionals come in to rebuild it from scratch.  We got right into the guts of that house, and in some ways it got right inside of us too.  I still have dreams about it.  In the end, the bathroom, and the entire home, was beautiful.  And although I don’t live there anymore, I’ve had very nice bathrooms ever since.  When I clean them, I’m always thankful that they smell good afterwards, and that they don’t forever smell of urine.

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This is not my bathroom – just a Pixabay photo.  But the slant in the roof reminds me of the bathroom in what used to be our century-old home.

Besides Joyce Meyer’s teachings, which just resonated with me during that season of life, I practiced a few other mantras to keep myself sane.  When our bicycles were stolen, I tried to think of it as a “community donation.”  When unexpected fees, tickets, and expenses drained our meager bank account, I reminded myself: “It’s all God’s money.”  His resources were unlimited, and our situation could turn on a dime at any moment.  We were where He wanted us.  We were learning.

And sure enough, as the years passed, we eventually moved into a time of plenty.  We bought land in the country.  We built a lovely home.  Generosity came easily, because we had a lot to spare.  I didn’t worry about the grocery budget, either.  Though I’ve never been a frivolous spender, I was able to go out and buy whatever we needed or wanted that month, and the money was there.

Nonetheless, as our monetary accounts grew, our spiritual and relational tanks were running dry.  Unexpectedly, change came again.  It was time to take care of what was most important.  The pendulum had swung from one extreme, almost all the way to the other – and now, was settling somewhere in the middle.

That is precisely where I find myself today.  Although we didn’t expect to leave our country home, after working so hard to get there, I would not go back to that life if I were given the option.

A couple of weeks ago, we bought a camper, for the second time in our lives.  This one is cheaper – a pop-up tent trailer.  I endeavored to be very wise about looking for water damage.  I searched every inch of that floor, felt the wood, opened every cupboard, inspected the plumbing, looked under every mattress, and had my sniffer on full duty to detect the smells of dampness.  But although I try, I’m just not very smart about these things.  Turns out, in pop-ups, it’s common for the roof to become water damaged.  (Why did I not think to check the roof?)  So this evening, as my husband was redoing some of the seals, he noticed that the boards at the front and back are water-logged, soft, and one of them is even growing mushrooms.  How gross is that?!

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Someone else’s water damaged camper roof.  Ours looks similar.  (But with more mushrooms.)

As I laid in my bath tonight, pondering the situation, the following verses came to my mind:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

Isn’t it funny how quickly, a person can forget such a hard-won realization?  The memories of the early days came flooding back.  (No pun intended.)  The water-logged camper floor, the leaking roof and basement, the urine-soaked walls and floor.  My treasure isn’t here.  My heart isn’t here.  My heart is held by the Savior of my soul, who keeps my real treasures secure.

I didn’t know a leaky, damaged camper roof could become such a precious reminder.  Do I call the previous owners, complain, and ask them to help fund the repair, or do I call and thank them for the timely object lesson?

Realistically, I will not be calling them at all.  But I will be thanking God for the life that I have.  The toilet to sit on.  The leaky camper roof.  And, more importantly: my long-suffering, indelibly handy, husband.

Posted in Poems

Warmth of May

Press pause

Let’s stay

Where we are safe

Warmth of May’s breath surrounds

My children, in their beds.

 

Full bellies, a game, and someone to share with

Small things are large

And large things are small.

Could this be, perhaps,

The better time?

Will I long, some day, to be back here again?

 

Press pause, let’s stay.

I want what I have.

Behind us, a trail:

Idyllic, then torn

By chaos and strife;

I tremble to place

My two feet forward

Fear, incited

By terrors now stilled.

 

In the night, in the warmth,

In the sweetness of May

I smell your Spirit

Hanging here

I’ll shield my eyes

And cling to you

For You, I know,

When I know nothing else.

 

Press pause,

Let’s stay

Where we are safe

The scent of your Spirit

Hanging here

I want what I have

In warmth of May

Posted in Rambles

An Imposed Simplicity

As COVID-19 has reached my home province of Manitoba, there have been some dramatic changes.  Organizations and lifestyles are being whittled down to their most essential parts.  I’ve been hearing the reactions to what is happening, and many are mourning the loss of events and socialization opportunities.  People are worried about mental health – depression and anxiety, for example.

I feel like a bit of an oddball in all of this.  I do worry about the normal things – health risks, the economic toll, poverty, etc.  But as far as things being cancelled?  I feel like my mental health is better than it was before.  I’m sure the feeling of loss will kick in eventually…but, it hasn’t yet.

Before the pandemic, my children and I were committed to a variety of activities through school, preschool, church, and family.  Admittedly, I often involved us in these things out of a sense of duty.  We should participate in community.  We should volunteer and serve.  We should fellowship in groups.  My children should spend lots of time around other kids.  We should be physically active.  We should work hard.  We should always be learning – academically, and otherwise.  We should go on family vacations.  

We should, we should, we should.

I would write it all on my calendar, and then feel like crawling into a hole.  I would wake up in the morning, and want nothing more than to rest, because I am always tired.  I would drag myself from place to place.  These events were not feeding me, they were draining me.

I suppose, I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself, and on my family.

Do we really need so many programs, events, and commitments?

Perhaps this is a stretch, but it’s gotten me thinking about the tower of Babel.  Building, and building, trying to reach Heaven.  Striving for that ideal lifestyle.  Covering the bases.  Doing it all.

Look at this building.  Look at this program.  Look at our creativity!  Our ingenuity!  Our abilities!  Our wealth!  Just watch as we go, go, go!

It doesn’t take much to scramble us all up, does it?  A few days, a few weeks, and we’re ground to a halt, forced to re-examine our priorities.

In my life I’ve felt a great deal of stress about things like: finding the ideal job, having a certain kind of home, or getting my kids involved in the right extra-curricular activities.

I bet people who are recently laid off would be happy for nearly any job – not just the one that ticks all the boxes on their wish list.  People struggling to pay their mortgage or rent would be pleased to have a roof over their head that they can afford, even if it isn’t a dream home.  And as a parent maybe I need to realize that “extra-curricular” means just that – EXTRA, as in, non-essential.  And perhaps, at times, unnecessary.

I’m not saying that fellowship, education, and organized activities are bad things.  To the contrary.  They are privileges, and I am grateful for them.  However, I am noticing – in my life, anyway – there is relief in trimming away some of the excess.

Has your life become simpler lately, or more complicated?  Are you experiencing stress, relief, or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Dead Time – Guest Post on Boondock Ramblings

“Have you ever had that sense of: “You’re done here.” – before you were actually done? A feeling of finality. Like a premonition: the book is going to close. You’re in the last few chapters. Maybe even the final pages. And you know in your bones, it’s going to end, and you will be starting another book. But first, you have to finish this one.”

To read the rest of my guest post, please visit Lisa R. Howeler’s awesome blog “Boondock Ramblings”!  Many thanks to Lisa for hosting me as a guest on her blog.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Making Peace with the Messy

I had all kinds of thoughts about publishing a post this week with pictures of the pretty Christmas things around my home – the tree, the wreath on the door, our little penguin collection, and the advent calendar that our kids love.  Maybe I would get a batch of cookies baked and take a picture of them, too.

But first, I would have to adjust the tree ornaments the kids have moved around.  Pick up the ones that have dropped on the floor.  Smooth out the tree skirt.  Clean up the mish-mash of blankets, pillows, and teddy bears surrounding the tree.  Push aside the dirty dishes to reveal the advent calendar sitting on the counter behind them.  Glue together the decorations that have broken.  And so on, and so on.

Which got me to thinking about something more interesting, to me, than those picture-perfect Christmas displays: the messes.  Not awful kinds of messes, but the big, beautiful ones that come along with lives being lived.  The messes that you see when you enter the home of a family that has young children.  Gravel on the entrance floor.  Dishes on the counter, and maybe the remnants of lunch.  Toys scattered about.  Small people dashing from room to room.  Half-way completed craft projects shoved into corners.  Pieces of laundry to trip over.

I get embarrassed when my house looks like that, if anyone unexpectedly drops by.  However, if I walk into another person’s house, and it looks like that, I breathe a sigh of relief.  Ah…they, too, are normal.  I don’t think about how they should have picked up the mess before I dropped by.  I marvel at the messes – at the stories the messes tell.  The kinds of foods their children like (or don’t like), and the dishes they eat (or don’t eat) out of.  The creativity displayed by their projects on-the-go.  The powdering of flour and icing sugar on the floor, and the smell of cookies hanging in the air.  What they had been doing outside, before their wet mittens and boots were hurriedly deposited at the door.

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My son attends a weekly kids’ club at our church.  I feel a little overwhelmed, when I walk into that room to pick him up.  8 year-old boys hardly ever stop moving, so the entire place seems to shift ceaselessly, like an anthill.  The air is saturated with the smell of laundry soap and fabric softener, because the kids keep so busy that their bodies heat up and release the fragrances of their clothes.  There are, er…other smells too – some not so pleasant.

And in the midst of it all, are the volunteer leaders.  Adults in the mix of children, a couple at each table.  They smile, and chat with the kids, and make sure they’re not causing too much trouble or getting hurt.  They seem relaxed – tired, perhaps – but at home within the big, beautiful mess.

It makes me think of God.  Isn’t that kind of how He is, in-amongst the big, beautiful mess of people He has created?  Read through the Bible, and you will find things in there that would make most Sunday school teachers cringe.  It is messy business, this thing He is doing.  But He’s committed!  So much so, that He made His home within the mess that we all are.

It’s not always pretty, or clean, or orderly.  But it’s real, and amazing.  It’s Christmas!

With the warmest of wishes for a big, messy, beautiful Christmas –

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

I Asked God for a Friend

It came like a jab in the face, as it often does – when God speaks unexpectedly.  Though not as dramatic or life-altering as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus, I was, as he likely was, not looking for a word from God right at that moment.  God does things that way, once in a while.  Perhaps to remind us that our ability to hear Him is not a result of all our straining to listen, but it is of grace: undeserved, and impossible to earn.

Something my husband said, in passing, as I sat at the table with him after dinner one day.  I cannot even remember the topic of discussion, or the words that were spoken.  But in an instant God had seized them, launched them like little pointy arrows, and used them to pierce me with a deep longing.  A yearning, aching one, that had been folded up and tucked away, along with other childish, impossible things.  It rang in my ears, and vibrated in my chest, like the startled feeling you have after the shattering of glass.

I wanted a friend.

Not just any friend.  But the kind that, for someone like me, only comes around once or twice in a lifetime.  If that.  A ‘kindred spirit,’ as Anne would say.

The acknowledgement of this longing came with an invitation – I believe, from God Himself – to pray for its fulfillment.  It had the feel, to me, of a promise.  Like something He already had.  Something that He was eagerly waiting to give to me.

My eyes stung with tears, as my husband continued to talk.  I blinked them back, swallowed the lump in my throat, and discretely put the rush of emotion aside to be dealt with later on.  (I’m getting better at that sort of thing.  Though I’m not sure if I am fooling anyone.)

How long has it been, since I have had a friend like that?  Someone who gets me.  Who truly loves me and doesn’t hang out with me because she feels like she has to, or out of pity, or even Christian servanthood.  Somebody I can waste hours with, and it feels like no time at all.  A person with whom conversation and laughter flow, like water.

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I’ve been blessed to have at least two friendships like that, in my lifetime.  The one ended as swiftly and unexpectedly as it began.  I still don’t know why she dropped me.  It was a bit like a summer fling, but without the element of romance.

The other has been longer lasting, but geography and circumstances have kept us apart for several years.  She lives on another continent.  And although people can, to a degree, keep in touch electronically, it’s just not the same as sharing life together.

Although I’m sad when friendships end or grow apart, I treasure the memories that I have from them.  I’m thankful for the joy I was able to share with these people.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve become a little hardened.  Not wanting to feel the pain of loss or rejection again, I close myself off.  I’m friendly, but I hold others at an arm’s length.

And at my age, is anyone even still looking for friends?  It seems to me that the women I meet are already quite well-connected, and not looking for more friendships than what they already have.

I’ve also noticed that other people are quicker and more adept at forming true and lasting bonds than I am.  I can know women for just as long as they know each other, and watch them grow into very close friends, while I remain on the outside.

I’m not sure why this is.  My introverted nature probably has something to do with it.  I ask myself on a regular basis: am I being nice enough?  Do others see me as grouchy or down in the dumps?  Do they not know what to do with me, because of my intense emotional reactions to things?  If my personality were funnier, or bubblier, or happier…would they like me then?

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Whatever the case, I think that becoming aware that I actually do want and need a close friend, is progress in and of itself.  And now, I have a word.  A promise.  An acknowledgement: God sees my pain.  I don’t think He wants me to shelve my desire for true friendship or bury it in some kind of broken-dream-graveyard.  He wants this for me.  He has it for me.  And I just need to wait, and watch.

How about you?  Is it easy for you to make friends, or difficult?  Have you ever had a best friend?  I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Because it Hurts

The reason it’s hard to take pictures and videos of my kids, knowing the fullness of the moment could never be captured and I will miss something of it by hiding behind my camera or phone.  And, the reason it’s even harder to view them later, feeling an acute sense of loss over the passing of time.

It’s the reason that, though I want to write down every moment and record it just as it happens, I can’t bring myself to do it, knowing I will inevitably miss things or record them wrong.  And the reason that later, I avoid reading what I’ve written.

Because it hurts.  We cannot hang on to the way things were, or even the way they are right now.  I’ve heard it said that the only constant in life is change.  Perhaps I have become more aware of this since having children, because they (and thus the family’s experience) change so rapidly.  There’s no going back; every moment is a fleeting one.

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It’s also the reason, that we keep busy enough to distract ourselves from the passing of time.  A decade may be over in a blink, without much thought or reflection.  From a short-term perspective, it’s easier this way.  Eventually, though, the feelings we have ignored may catch up with us.  When the kids move out, perhaps.  When we sell the house.  Or retire.  Or when death approaches.  A large, jarring change yanks us from the steady rhythm of our lives, and suddenly, we become aware of 1000+ minor adjustments that have led to this point.  Maybe this is partly why we cry at momentous occasions, when we are forced to stop and take notice: graduations, weddings.  Births.  Funerals.

I used to work with elderly people in personal care homes.  Depression there was rampant, because time had caught up.  Things were not the way they were.

And, no, they’re not.  They never are.  They never will be again.  They are, in a way, lost.

And that, I believe, is what hurts so badly.

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But according to what the Bible teaches, God is outside of time.  He created it, and is therefore not bound by it.  He counts our hairs, and saves our tears, and writes down the times of our lives in His book – just like I try to do with my kids.

This softens the blow, when I view a photo or read something from years ago, and feel that sharp pang of loss.  It gives me the courage to continue recording, in my meager way, the history of my family.

Although the joy of our earthly moments may diminish, change, or dissipate the moment we glance away, these moments are also important to God.  And He remembers them all.

They are not lost.  They are entrusted, to the One who gave them, in the first place.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

“Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16b

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Do you find it painful to reminisce?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa