feeling prosperous - an exercise

I'm reading Julia Cameron's The Prosperous Heart. The assignment it to fill in the blank: I felt prosperous when _______.

I felt prosperous when I was newly divorced living on Smith Street. Of course, I've never articulated that thought before. Upon moving in, I quickly began the old house's makeover. For wall paint, I chose pink and blue and it was a lovely, tasteful combination. The blue was called Mirage Blue and it was on the window and door trim. The wall paint was a mauvish pink called Ashes of Roses. Such a fitting name since I was recently divorced from a Rose.

It was a character-filled home and I believed with all my heart God provided it. When I knew divorce was imminent, I started praying for specific things. I thought an "upstairs house," as Stephanie called them, would help her adjust to our new life as a family of three. And it did. She was ecstatic with her new house with an upstairs bedroom.

When I made my specific prayer list for a house, it also included a hardwood floor and French doors. The Smith Street house had French doors in the living room and the bathroom had a hardwood floor. I loved that house. I had looked at several houses and this was the one that screamed, "This is it!," when I walked in that first time.

It needed lots of work and I set to painting and beautifying it. I get a bit exhausted thinking about it but at the time it was just what I needed for distraction.

One day I came home from work and found all my friends in my house having a painting bee. Unbeknownst to me, they got the key from my sister and proceded to help out with my huge paint job. It was a beautiful expression of love and support. I was very touched. (Looking back, I hope I adequately expressed my gratitude. I certainly hope I did because I was enormously grateful.)

Eventually the house got all beautified and I was so proud of it. It always smelled good (potpourri) and was clean. It expressed who I was and I think that is why I felt prosperous. It was my haven; a clean, tasteful haven that smelled nice.

While living in that house, I was walking close to God and hadn't yet been overtaken by pride. I was still fairly humble and innocent and living in peace.

The key points of this journey of exploring when I felt prosperous leads me to these highlights:

-- I felt close to God. He answered specific prayers and it demonstrated His loving concern about the details of my life.

-- I had caring friends.

-- The house expressed me. Paint colors and decor that accurately reflected my taste.

-- It was my haven. Clean, fragrant, peaceful. It was a delightful home.


2012 in review

In a nutshell, 2012 was one of the hardest years of my life. Gone are the days of children who adore me. Gone are the days of being on the same wavelength with Gordon regarding parenting. Gone are the days of loving to be home enjoying my haven, my castle.

I write this in a brand new year and I feel great. I think 2013 is going to be an amazing year. But it's far from traditional, and that's an understatement. More of that later . . .

My first response when thinking of the past year is one of heaviness and darkness. But as I really thought about it, as I forced myself to on December 31, I recognized some bright moments and times of growth. That is my focus at this moment. 

Thinking spot
This is my "Time with God" spot.

Started consistently getting up at 5:30 for extended time with God. It's the most glorious part of my day! When I'm tired and tempted to sleep in, I realize how badly I'd miss that sweet communion if I didn't have it and pull myself to the family room to bask in His love. I'm convinced that early morning time with God got me through the year without a clinical depression. It's consistently the best couple hours of my day.

 ~ Got mostly grain free. In July I went to a workshop on eating habits. My eating habits have been a trouble spot, to say the least, for years. Since 2007 I've got better, but still there are many hungry demons in my soul's pantry. At the workshop I heard the grain-free school of thought for the first time. And it made sense. I read a couple books on the subject and decided it was worthy of pursuit. It's been a battle, but I'm getting stronger all the time. When I fall off the wagon and experience the drug-like symptoms that grain products induce, I'm amazed that I'm still tempted by them. Cheers to the new knowledge of grain being practically a poison to my body.

~ Started a Happiness Project Group. I'm a real sucker for personal development. In May during a boring layover I explored a bookstore and found Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. I've read her blog for years and quickly got excited as I pored over my new purchase. Within a few chapters I was chomping to share the project with others. I put a poster at the library inviting anyone interested in a group to contact me. A local newspaper editor phoned for an interview and wrote an article about my desire to start a project. Over 20 women came to the first meeting (which was way too many for a successful Happiness Project group). Many recognized it wasn't for them. 10 or 12 have stayed and we are a fabulous support group as we are all working on changing different areas of my life. Once a month we get together and we are connecting well.

Updated the family room. Spiffied it up a bit and now we love hanging out there. 

Fam room
The updated family hang-out spot

~ Started attending BILY (Because I Love You), a support group, to help me parent my rebellious disrespectful teenagers. It helped. I'm no longer going, but while I attended, it was a good support.

~Read many books, 45, I think. Some of them were of genres I've never read and they stretched me intellectually. I learned a lot.

Joined a home Bible study. Sunday nights will find Gordon and me with four other couples. We appreciate their friendships and their collective wisdom.

Joined a Classical Literature Book Club. One of the things I learned from The Happiness Project is to pursue what makes me happy. I've long said that when I turn 50 I want to start courses in literature. Gretchen made me question why I needed to wait till I turned 50. I found a group and, with a work colleague who shares my love for literature, began attending. It's a fascinating group and I enjoy it immensely. 

Learned the benefits of Melatonin. Being able to easily get up at 5:30 is a by-product of Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural ingredient that balances sleep patterns. It aids my falling to sleep and it aids my waking.

I got a significant raise at work. It makes a huge difference. 

Flossing. Someone said that growing makes one happy. They said it more eloquently, but you get the idea. Flossing is an area I chose to grow. I floss everyday now.

Enrolled in university, Bachelor of Arts, History Major. I'm super excited and start my first course in February: Western Thought and Culture.

Thora mosaic
Thora, Rosalie and me

~ Held a snake. Sounds innocuous enough, if you don't have a GREAT BIG FEAR OF SNAKES. Rosalie, a young girl I work with, has a Boa, Thora the Explora. Thora had occasion to spend several days at my office (in a very big cage). I decided to "grow" and work up to holding her. I watched her through the cage, paying particular attention to her breathing. She seemed to lose some of her "badness" as I watched her breathe. The next day I asked Rosalie if she'd take Thora out and put her on the table. There a watched her creep around without my running, screaming, or fainting. The next day Rosalie took Thora out of her cage and I touched her. The day after that, with Rosalie's help, I held Thora. You cannot imagine how my heart pounded and how hard I shook. But I did it! I wrestled my hugest fear! I'll probably never own a snake {huge understatement}, but I don't think the talons of fear are nearly as deep.

 ~ Went to North Carolina to see Stacie. We had a wonderful time. I was struggling as a wife and mother and needed the respite from it all. Nearly every morning I sat in a rocking chair on Stacie's front porch admiring the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and pouring my heart out to God. It was refreshing to my soul and gave me the will to keep on keeping on.

 ~ Moved out of the family home into an apartment. On December 4th I took this huge step and I didn't take it lightly. I feel like God said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." And I have peace. I feel like I'm seeing in color and not various shades of gray; that I'm in the driver's seat of my life; that I'm truly alive again. My family still means the world to me. We are still a family. Gordon is still the love of my life. He and I spend lots of wonderful time together and I'm madly in love with him. 2012 was a hard year on our marriage and this space is the best thing that's happened for our relationship in at least a year. It's divine and, strangely, I think we are in the middle of God's will. On the way to church this morning, Gordon said, "Surprisingly, this set up is working great."

2012, one of the worst years of my life. Thankfully, it ended well, but in a way that is awkward to explain. God continues to be in control and we continue to be submitted to Him.

Now on to 2013. I think it's going to be my best year yet. 


god's purpose on the job

(I will now break all cardinal rules for the internet by talking about work. I have never done this before.)

I'Gorgeous flowersm having a hard time at work. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. I strive to rise above the annoyances, abuse and negativity. Last week I failed utterly. Failure is tough when you take being an example seriously. I don't know how my work struggles will end. Sometimes I think I should get out while I still have sanity or while I can still get a good reference. On the other hand, when things are going well - which they are more than they aren't - I love my job, really love it. But it's a volatile environment governed by values I abhor.

Last week was horrible. I felt antagonized and abused and a co-worker is driving me absolutely bonkers. I snapped. I said nothing "bad," but I totally abandoned my convictions about letting stuff slide.

Years ago I had an epiphany that almost every struggle I gohad boiled down to pride, my pride. Since that revelation, I have made "let it go" a personal commandment. Last week I let nothing go. I behaved no better than my colleague and am quite ashamed of myself for being as small as she. (Work aside, I had some significant issues going on at home and that made my tolerance level pretty low. That's not an excuse, that's simply a fact. I was running on emotional fumes.)

At work, people are not appreciated or esteemed. I'm in a position of influence and think my purpose in being there is to improve the lives of those I work with. This is counter to the whole environment. It's a mission I take seriously; a mission I think God placed in my heart. I want desperately to make a difference in the lives of those I work with. When the going gets really tough, I try to remember God gave me a mission to improve the lives of my co-workers and that seems to make my resolve stronger.

Yesterday Pastor Serge spoke on God's purpose in our lives. ("David served God's purpose in his own generation." Acts 13:36) I was reminded that I have a purpose and an assigned job. Improving the lives of those I work with is a significant purpose in my life. It's far behind my relationship with God or my family, but nonetheless a God-given purpose.

Points from Pastor Serge's sermon that I will remind myself of regularly:

- When God gives a purpose, He equips us.

- God works in our desires. (My desire to better the lives of those I work with is a God-given desire.)

- He empowers me with certain skills.

- He is always with me, even when I mess up like I did last week.

- He provides development. Part of the development I see working in my life is last week's screw ups. He used that to remind me how badly I want to be better than that; how badly I want to be an example of joy, peace, patience and humility.

- It's not in vain and it will be rewarded. I may never know if I made a difference, but God knows my heart and my desires and He will reward my efforts.

- The reward will be based on my faithfulness. This is more encouragement to carry through with the mission and not succumb to the pride that wants to destroy me and that God-given purpose.

- My work will be tested. And it was. Last week.

- Works are an expression of my faith. My whole life is an expression of my faith. I want the work I do, the way I act, my smile, my concern for others, my casual greetings to my co-workers, I want it all to express my faith; to express that I am different.

- God is with me to fulfill His purpose. I was renewed by this reminder. I can go back to work tomorrow with a clean slate (in my heart) ready to continue the commitment to make a difference.

- David wasn't rejected by God when he sinned. Even having sinned big time, David served God's purpose in his generation. I can too.

(Disclaimer: This post by no means indicates I will be at this job forever. There will come a time when I leave. I don't want to leave prematurely and I want to leave knowing I have served God's purpose in my being there.)


just for fun

Morning backyard
my backyard in the morning, I adore it out here
A few weeks ago I referenced Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project, in which she challenged me to think about what is fun for me. And I did; I thought long and hard about the things I like to do, the things I look forward to, the things I make time for. In the process, I had an epiphany: it's okay to call the things I thoroughly enjoy "fun."

In the spring and summer I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings when I'll sit in the backyard, have breakfast and drink as much tea as I want. All week long I look forward to that. And when the weekend finally arrive, I bask in the experience.

After work, I like putzing in the yard, watering plants, dead heading flowers and generally admiring my "container gardens."

The very best hour of my day is my walk in the ravine. It's a lovely semi-secluded area where I pray, work on Scripture memory and worship the Creator of the beauty surrounding me. And my little side kick Peewee is by my side enjoying every second of it with me. 

Ravine
along my ravine walk

I love to read and usually have three or four books on the go. Right now I'm reading The Happiness Project,  Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager, and Wild Child, Waiting Mom. By the last two titles, it's easy to ascertain my season in life. The first book is indicative of my effort to take care of myself and squeeze as much joy out of life as I can. I love personal development and am always challenging myself to improve. As time allows, there are a number of blogs I read on the subject.

I love to write, capture stories, blog, be the family historian. That's where this blog comes in. I've been blogging since 2005 and have tomes of family stories. The kids love them and it's not a bit unusual to see Deborah curled up with one of my books.

I love beautiful pictures of kids (any kids), nature and animals. I get regular doses of that beauty through Tumblr. I look at my Tumblr pictures probably every two weeks. My Tumblr motto is "Because It Makes Me Smile." My Tumblr photos do just that. I'm smiling as I think about them.

I like to look at pictures that spark my creativity; do-it-yourself projects, lawn and garden, organization, home decor, etc. I get this "fix" from Pinterest. I peruse Pinterest nearly every weekday for 20-30 minutes. I find lots of clever ideas that inspire me and spark creative thoughts.

It's almost kind of sick how much I love to laugh. Most days when I'm on Pinterest I will journey through the humor section to garner a few chuckles.

As I read about fun, I was glad to figure out that I've already built it into my life. There are some things I love that I cannot do regularly like hike, travel and visit my southern family, but I think I've got a balanced, enjoyable life. Reading The Happiness Project got me thinking about it and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had this area of life in order. There's always room for improvement, but I'm confident I'm on the right path.


fun with blogging

Galilee

(This picture is of Galilee.)

I'm reading Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project. Several days ago I read her chapter, "Be Serious about Play." She raised several questions that got me thinking about the fun in my life, challenging me to think about what I consider "fun."

Early in the book she talked about, "Be Gretchen," admonishing her readers to be themselves. Relating to the chapter on fun, that translates to being myself and not claiming things as fun just because they're supposed to be fun. Likewise, we shouldn't not claim the things we enjoy simply because they aren't "supposed" to be fun. Just because something is fun for others doesn't mean it is fun for me - and vice versa. 

What do I do in my free time just because I enjoy it? What do I enjoy doing when nothing else is pulling on my time or needs my attention? I have quite a large list of things I love to do. Prior to reading the book I would have said I enjoyed them. Since reading the book I realize they are "fun" for me.

Among the things I love to do is journal and capture family and personal stories. I'm not in my grandest season of life with teenagers' eye-rolling, snarling, unseemly behaviour and the like. I've not blogged recently because my life is so far from fetchingly pretty. It's actually kind of ugly. But The Happiness Project challenged me to embrace blogging again. 

With fun in mind, I'm back to blogging. Good, bad, pretty or ugly.


invisible beauty

My children are back in school and I am happy and gleeful. They are in new schools this year and so far it's been a wonderful experience. I drive them. I was spoiled as they have walked to school for the past three years. No more. I leave with them every morning at 8:15. But it's good for me. It jump starts my day and I've been very productive.

This morning I read a quote from Helen Keller. "The best, most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." It got me to thinking about the invisible great things in my life. Here's a list of invisible beautiful things in my life (in no particular order).

1. prayer; talking to God
2. sensing God's presence
3. love
4. commitment
5. discipline; self-control
6. knowing God is in control
7. joy
8. acceptance
9. peace
10.grace
11.forgiveness
12.thankfulness; gratitude
13.thinking

 


randomness

Things I love about winter.

1) The snow illuminates the outdoors at night. I can see outside my window almost like a yard lamp is on. In the wee hours of the morning, I always notice how the light is reflected off the snow creating light for the middle-of-the-night bathroom visits .
2) I cook lots of soups, chilies, and homemade bread. They are easy, very hearty and so very soothing on a cold cold day.
3) Warm evening drinks
4) Christmas festivities
5) Reading on the sofa in the evening with a throw draped over me
6) Spending more time in the family room. In the winter I always spend more time in the cozy family room. I'm not drawn to it in the same way other times of the year.
7) My girls are Canadian indeed. My soul smiles as they build snow forts, ice skate, and whatever else they do outside. I'm a watch-from-the-window kind of mom.
8) I love the clean unpolluted untouched snow. Parks and yards (the ones without children and dogs) look so beautiful.
9) Spruce trees laden with snow
10) I sweat less.
11) Cleaning windows is so easy. Soups cooking produces a condensation on the windows and I wipe it off with a towel, and presto, the window is clean. So so easy. No excuse for a dirty window. 
12) Lucy loves to play in the snow.
13) Sweat suits! I love sweat suits.
14) I've only been privileged to see the Northern Lights a few times, but it's always been on winter nights. A beautiful experience.

2007 goals

It's the time of year when anal retentive people like myself make lists and look at last year's list to affirm successes and justify failures. Quite a fun time of year; a time that requires thought processes that have been slumbering peacefully for roughly 365 days.

The glass-half-empty people scoff at those of us who make lists. I will not be deterred. Lists are good! God makes list -- The Ten Commandments. I want to be like God. (That was cute. I have to remember that.)

So after much thought and deliberations, I will share my 2007 resolves.

1) Read the New Testament through.
2) Walk Lucy more. My Lucy is a delightful furry friend and she loves walking the neighborhood. Hannah walks her every day, but I want to walk her too. Good for me, good for Lucy.
3) Eat 6-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. That's the daily recommended allowance and what my dietitian advises.
4) Lose a bajillion pounds. If I succeed you'll know because I'll be plastering pictures of myself all over the world wide web. Move over Babes, hear I come.
5) Do 10 more quilt squares. That's depressing to write. Will I ever finish it? Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady wins the race.
6) Send out 24 manuscripts.
7) Get Christmas cards out by December 1. So it's January 8 and some of my southern relative haven't received my Christmas card. I mailed them on the 15th of December.
8) Give blood four times in 2007.
9) Get my hair one length again. I admit it's not my best look, but it's the easiest. Once I've lost a bajillion pounds, nobody's gonna be looking at the hair.
10) Find or create a yard manger scene.
11) Have my mother-in-law to dinner at least twice a month.
12) Give up Sudoku for Lent.
13) Start buying 1% milk. (That's exciting, eh?)

I may add more, but for now, that's what I've resolved. Writing them down was the easy part.

100 things i love

summer rain
songbirds
cotton dresses
comfortable shoes
living simple
country kitchens
hardwood floors
willow furniture
recycling junk into treasures
knowing God is in control
old stuff
fresh flowers
flea markets
puppy breath
a clean house
a place for everything and everything in its place
soft instrumental music
Americana decor
reading on cold evenings
God's grace
first big snowfall
white chocolate brownie from Moxies
quality bed sheets
scented candles
animals
second-hand stores
flannel pajamas
quiet time with Bible and prayer
the feel of Lucy's forehead
fat babies
a full pantry
writing
visiting in my mom's living room
baby yawns
quilts
manicured lawns
fall and winter cooking
braided and rag rugs
a good joke
ocean, river, and waterfall sounds
my siblings
Hannah's sense of humor
Rachael's responsible ways
Deborah's notes
transparency of others
walking Lucy
fall smells
Gordon's affection
Mama's comfort
Gordon's wisdom
Stacie's comfortability
reading a good book
blog comments
Christopher's gentle kindness
Stephanie's purity of heart
conversations with Jill
daffodils
good food
having friends over for dinner
my soup tureen
white, sparkling clean bathrooms
a clean car
affirmation
morning coffee
sudoku
crossword puzzles
the way Gordon can fix anything
line dried clothes
Chanel Coco
No Bake Cookies
Rachael's way with children
Hannah's love for pretty things
Deborah's affection
the gift of prayer
hugs from Christopher
decorating frugally
lawn water fountains
family traditions
going to the library
watching Deborah and her best friend Kalyna play
seeing the girls laughing
learning how to do something new
spring melt
a bargain
days at home alone
calves
knowing I've done the right thing
no debt
being good at something
nice old people who smile
anyone who loves me
decorating pictures
BACK TO SCHOOL

teachers

School teachers are regularly coming in my stores buying things for their classrooms. I've marveled at their artistic creations, more specifically the artistic creations they take to their classroom.

Yesterday while a lady was checking out, she was telling me in detail what she was going to do with her students with the purchase she was making.

As she spoke my mind wandered back to many years ago when no one brought my creativity out of hiding. I always got a C in creativity, and have since carried hostility in my heart that they gave me a C without ever trying to tap into what was hiding, or coaching me how to be more creative.

Like a basket case, I mentioned this to her and she listened sympathetically. I stared into space and in my mind went one by one through my teachers recognizing afresh how they failed me.

I was snapped back to the present when she kindly said, "Don't you want to take this money?"

Startled, I replied, "I am so sorry. I got caught up in my own pain."

She smiled.

thoughts from mother's day

003_3 (2)(Mama and my cousin Kenneth, early 50's)
Since Mother's Day, I've been meditating on mothers who influenced the way I approach mothering. It's been eye-opening. Have I never thought about this before?

Of course my own mom influenced me the most. She had a no-nonsense approach to mothering. On Saturday mornings, she donned Daddy's brown leather belt around her neck and when she wore that particular accessory, we knew to walk the line. Mama intended the house to get clean and her neck adornment kept us acutely aware of the task at hand.

Now on Saturday mornings, I hear myself barking orders like my mom did. And often enough, I see my girls roll their eyes like I did 30 years ago. Occasionally, I'll even hear myself ask that horribly insane question, "Do you want me to spank you?" (That question surely tops the pile on stupid questions. Do we imagine our kids saying, "Yes, I think that a spanking is in order. I haven't been listening like I should Mom. You sit down and rest while I go find a good strong paddle.")?

Regularly I hear myself say all those strange cliches and expressions I grew up with and I say them just like my mom did. "What in the cotton-pickin' Sam Hill is goin' on in here?" "Well, forever more." Yes, my mom heavily influenced my mothering style.
(Mama, me and the girls, 1999)
Scan20040 Gay Heath was the pastor's wife in the church I grew up. From six-years-old, I observed her style of mothering. She had a more no-nonsense approach to mothering than my own mom. She was a big-time disciplinarian. It wasn't a bit unusual for her to shake, spank, rebuke whatever child (her child or grandchild usually) was near her. Toddlers were expected to sit quietly in church and when she was in charge, they did, or else they left the sanctuary for toddler reckoning. From her I saw that spankings work very well to accomplish needed adjustments in one's behavior. Back then, it wasn't even on the radar that "kids will be kids" or that spankings were wrong. I grew up with a fine repertoire of Bible verses that taught physical discipline.

When I was in grade 8, I left Hatfield School and joined the ranks at Noonday Christian Academy. There I came into relationship with women who mothered in ways that were foreign to me. So as not to slander anyone, I will call this woman, let's say, Doris. For the most part, I didn't like nor respect Doris. Matter of fact, my face is contorting in anguish as I think about her right at this moment.

If there was anything fun going on, you could bet she would be against it. She was so dreadfully serious about everything, that I equated her with about the same esteem as hemorrhoids. I was quite adept at laughing, but in her presence laughing seemed about as appropriate as premarital sex. I could write volumes about her being a wet blanket. (Several years ago I had a writing assignment where I had to write a letter - unmailed of course - to an antagonist in my life. I chose Doris. I'm getting terribly distracted here. This is supposed to be about mothers, not prudes. However there's a prude article dying to leave my fingertips as I type this.)

Back to mothers: From Doris, I learned how to create mountains out of mole hills. As much as I disliked her, she taught me that everything was an opportunity to lecture on something. Lord, how I abhorred those lectures and so badly wanted to encourage her to go poop out the broom stick lodged up her derriere. (Oh my, did I say that? Man, I think I have unresolved issues coming to the fore.) Back to mothering: If there was a child looking at a flower, Doris would join the poor child and begin to teach a lesson. She would pick the flower and dissect it, lecturing all the time about how God created the flower with such intelligent design. "See this is the pistil, where the seeds are born. Not unlike the human ovaries."

Well, guess what. As much as I hated the lectures, I admired that she knew all that stuff and could recall it at will. Now I find myself making learning opportunities out of daily experiences. I sure hope I don't turn kids off like Doris did me. Clearly she was an influence in mothering too.

In this new school environment, I also encountered Phyllis Murphy, Gwen Wright, and Ann Hatley. They were committed, nurturing mothers that I greatly admired. I wanted to be like them. Back then I didn't call any of them by their first names, but for simplicity I will now. Gwen had a belly laugh that I loved and she was so nurturing and gentle with her girls. Phyllis and Ann approached mothering with intelligence, seriousness, nurture, gentleness, and smiles. All these women stressed healthful lifestyles. They were my first exposure to health food, balanced diets, millet and lentils. They more than influenced me in mothering, they modeled the marriage of mothering and spirituality. In ways, I was awed by them. I am thankful for all their influences.

Lastly, my sisters Diane and Stacie mentored me too. They modeled "reading the experts." From them I learned about James Dobson, Gary Smalley, and other writers that taught on parenting. Those books I read were priceless in teaching me parenting principles and child rearing skills. I'm very thankful Diane and Stacie imparted that to me.

All these women played a role in who I am today, particularly as a mother.

my day in court

I had to go to court as a witness yesterday. It was a cultural experience. Never mind that the accused was pitiful and I didn't want to see her thrown in jail, (she got a $2800 fine and 36 months suspended license), the remarkable thing to me was the leftover old English tradition.

To be quite honest, I wasn't just appalled, I was mildly offended. Maybe I should back up a little. Bear with me as I bring these stories together. A couple years ago, I began to admire some of the Catholic traditions and the respect expected in their chapels. I went to mass on several occasions and I also went to pray in a few Catholic chapels when they were empty. Others, good Catholics I presume, would sometimes enter the sanctuary and bow before the crucifix before they took a seat. They sat and prayed a while and then when the would exit, they would bow again before the crucifix.

I was truly impressed with the reverence expressed. Several times, all alone in those chapels, I wanted to bow before the crucifix as an expression of worship.
 
Once at my church, we had a wonderful service about the cross. When we went up to take communion, once again I wanted to bow before the cross as a symbol of thanksgiving. A fairly new Christian who grew up Catholic bowed before the cross as she approached it. I wanted so badly to do the same. Her Catholic upbringing, allowed her that freedom, where my Baptist upbringing made it unnatural to me. I wanted to offer my bow of worship, but fear of what others thought of me prevailed. I didn't bow. Nor did I ever bow in those chapels when I felt a powerful desire to.

Yesterday at court, I was startled as the lawyers entered. They bowed before the judge. Before they left the courtroom, they bowed again. It was just like the Catholic tradition of bowing before the crucifix, but it was the judge they bowed before. I realize they were performing a ritual to show respect to justice and it wasn't really bowing to the judge. It was a symbol of submission and respect to the justice system that the judge represents. But given my experience with desiring to bow before the cross and being unable to, I was offended.

And THEN this happened: As lawyers approached the bench or began to present their case, they began with, "Your Worship."

As we left, (I was with my neighbor), he turned and bowed. He waited a split second for me to bow. I was appalled that I was expected to bow. I did not. I sped my gait afraid the judge would rebuke me. Of course he did not. Addressing the judge as "Your Worship" and bowing before him was way more than I was willing to do. Stacie said I should have said, "This is the wrooooong denomination."

pictures

Anniversary 052 I'm in my living room as I write this. It's peaceful and quiet, very welcoming. This room, along with the kitchen, is the hub of the house. Many a pleasant memory was made here. Laughter, hugs, tears, nursing babies, bedtime stories, reading, and many prayers.

On the piano are pictures of the most important people in the world to me. Gordon and I share a frame and then the children stretch out in framed splendor. The pictures of the kids are not in any particular order, at least not to an onlooker. But there is an order to me.

Presently, Hannah's picture is closest to mine. Hannah is getting an extra dose of prayers these days. She's closest to my heart at this time, so I moved her picture next to mine. Several weeks ago, Christopher had the #1 spot and leading up to her wedding, Stephanie did. The order of the pictures is constantly revolving.

I read a poem once about a mother being asked if she had a favorite child. She replied, "of course I do." She went on to say something to the affect that her favorite child is the one who is sick, until he was well; the one who is away, until he returns home safely; the one who is hurting, until the hurt subsides. Although I can't recall the exact words, the idea has stayed with me.

Every morning when I sit down in this dim living room, I look to the pictures on the piano and I pray. I have many good reasons for praying, but those six pictures represent my greatest.

the sea

"Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choice-less as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I read that a few days ago and I've been thinking about it. Just as I can't tell the sea what sea shell to bring me, I can't tell the day what to give me. I can't dictate sunshine and a warm breeze. I can't demand only good things come in the mail. I can't legislate that only pleasant things come my way today. But I can be receptive and open to whatever washes up on my beach of life. I can even view whatever washes up as a gift. I can greet each day with the attitude of expectation.

I want to become more open to the gifts from the sea of life.

resolves kept

I get irked by the pessimists who say there isn't any use in New Year's resolutions because no one keeps them anyway. It's true, truer than I like to admit, that many of my beginning-of-the-year goals don't get kept. I've never lost those last pesky 100 pounds, nor do I work out everyday. So yes, I don't keep them all, but I do keep some.

1986 -  Before legislation dictated it, I began wearing a seat-belt. Stephanie was nine months old and I wanted to set a good example. For 20 years I have kept that resolution.

2001 - I don't usually wear my contacts or glasses in the house. Therefore I use to not notice how dirty my floors got. I would often be shocked when I donned my glasses to see the dirty floors. Five years ago I committed to putting on my glasses at least three times a week to vacuum. I still vacuum more frequently than I use to.

2004 - I gave up cream and sugar in my coffee on January 1, 2004. A lady at church was my inspiration. She said that she lost 25 pounds when she gave up cream and sugar. Well, I never lost any weight, but must admit I love my coffee black and have never looked back.

2004 - I began to live "greener." Reducing, reusing, and recycling. I buy fewer things, recycle and compost everything that can be recycled or composted. (Did you know that 70-80% of North American waste could be recycled or composted?) I mulch cut grass instead of bagging it, walk more when I use to drive, use my clothesline in the spring and summer, don't water my grass anymore, take transit some, and generally try to live more considerately of the planet.

2004 - I learned to take the bus. I'm a small-town girl in the city, so this was a big one for me. Now I'm relatively comfortable taking transit when I need to or want to.

2005 - Memorized the Apostles' Creed and two Bible passages.

It's encouraging to see some of these successes. They encourage me to keep aiming for something.

2005's blessings

January!, the time of year where we look back and think, "Wow, where did all the time go?" It's a reflective time and, hopefully, a time where we can see the hand of God in some of the circumstances and events of the previous year. Yesterday during community prayer at church, a lady prayed something like "Our God in heaven who dances and laughs over the good things in our lives." I don't remember her exact words, but it was a beautiful picture in my mind.

I like to imagine that God laughed and danced many times in 2005 because of good things in my family. My 2005 highlights are these:

- Stephanie's wedding. Stephanie married a kind man who, along with her, is striving to be a follower of Jesus. John Mark comes from a good family and has watched his mom and dad interact lovingly all his life. I believe God prepared them for each other their whole lives and I know God has good things in mind for them. Their wedding and reception were beautiful and I think they'll have great memories for years to come.

- Trip to Arkansas. Gordon and I got away without children for the first time ever. I would have loved to take the girls to Arkansas for the wedding, but as some observant person once said, "Money doesn't grow on trees." Anyway, Gordon and I had a wonderful time, just the two of us. I buy a new Christmas ornament every year that captures something special regarding our year. 2005's special ornament is two moose in bed together. It's symbolic of our trip away together without any little moose tagging along.

- I don't actually recall if it happened in 2004 or 2005, but I've reconnected with my dear aunt (Jill) via Instant Messenger. She gives me lots to think about, is a wonderful sounding board, and makes me laugh hysterically.

0005 (Frodo and me working a Sudoku, 2005)
- Frodo. Frodo, Hannah's new puppy, brings a new element of joy to us. I have shown the girls several times Revelation 3:11, "For His pleasure all things were created." Our dogs make me smile often and it's special for me to think that God smiles (laughs and dances?) with us at the dogs' antics. After all, He created them for His pleasure.

- Pier 1. In October, I celebrated ("celebrated" is WAY too strong) my first year anniversary at Pier 1. I haven't worked in years, but when Deborah started school, I took this part-time job. My job doesn't pay much, but the hours are amazingly tailored to me. I'm thankful for that.

- Christopher's visit in the summer. Christopher gave me loads of laughter in the summer. I enjoyed him immensely. He was wonderful company and an awesome addition to the family while he was here.- My Hysterectomy. Suffice it to say, I am happy to have it all behind me. I'm thankful for modern medicine.

2005 was a good year and I say thank you to God for that.

back after a break

On August 28 I had a hysterectomy. Seems the ole uterus had just played out. I've recuperated well and quite like life without a uterus. It served me well and gave my five babies nine months of cozy abode, but alas, the poor thing tuckered right out.

Gordon and I make our way to Arkansas in a few short days to see my delightful Stephanie marry the love of her life, John Mark. I can hardly wait to see Steph and Christopher and my other family members. Unfortunately, we can't take the kids with us. But I am looking forward to the time away with Gordon. We are going to have a blast.

Gordon's mother kindly agreed to tend the children and pets. We've added a Chihuahua to our menagerie. I sure love our little Frodo. Chihuahuas remind me of Stephanie. I think it's the shaking they do when they're nervous or excited, she used to do that. It's a curious thing, I admit.

My Canine Babies Last week Frodo entered adolescence. I know because he mounted Lucy twice. Frodo weighs about 3 pounds and Lucy is about 70 pounds. Frodo is about 1/2 the size of Lucy's head. We about split our guts laughing at the sight. Frodo was putting everything he had into the experience and Lucy continued gnawing on a bone, seemingly unaware of Frodo. 

I quit my subscription to the Edmonton Journal last week and I'm going through withdrawals. I LOVE the paper and am like a retired old man with his paper. As soon as I get up in the morning, I retrieve my paper and get my coffee and read every detail, (except the sports and business section), enjoying my coffee at the same time. I have to do a fast several times a year from the paper just to prove I can live without it. Not only am I fasting from the paper, but now I don't get my daily fix of Sudoku either because my daily Sudoku puzzle came in the paper. I admit my addictions.


age

I'm feeling older. I'm not complaining of aches, pains and memory loss, but I'm observing things about myself and my environment and what I notice clearly indicates that I'm aging. First I'm recognizing that I'm not as strong, I'm not as sharp, and I'm not as "on the ball" as I once was. There was a time when I was, quite possibly, the smartest person I knew. Those days are long gone. Now life is characterized more by what I don't know than what I do know. My idealism has be shattered over and over, and I see that nearly every dilemma has two sides and both sides can present a good argument. I have strong feelings on lots of things, but the opposing argument may make perfect sense to me. I remember the days when I knew every solution to every problem; even if my mentality was skewed, there was a great deal of security in knowing exactly where I stood.

I find repeatedly that I don't fit. I don't fit any political party, I don't fit any denomination. I just kind of vacillate from issue to issue. I'm as fickle as anyone I know. Last year I started taking the city bus more (embracing ecological conservation). On my way to work today (1/2 way by bus, 1/2 way walking) I experienced feelings and thoughts that were on each end of the spectrum. While on the bus, we passed a homeless man with his grocery cart picking up bottles. I've seen him a number of times, but this time was different. He only had on one shoe. My heart was filled with sympathy. "Oh God, help me be content with less so we can help others more," I prayed.

Less than 15 minutes later I walked past a 5th wheel trailer. "I wish we could buy a trailer," I thought. Moments later I realized the dichotomy in my own thinking. Day in and day out I find myself wanting opposites. One day I may look at show homes because we "need" a fourth bedroom. Another day I may be suggesting we sell our house to get something smaller. Back and forth I go -- always thinking and consistently fickle. (This is where Gordon comes in. He's as steady as they come.)

I wish I knew more. I wish I had answers to all my questions. I wish I knew how to be Christian in 21st century North America. But, I don't. I stumble from one issue to the next.

Sunday my pastor said a few things about aging gracefully. To grow old gracefully, I need to recognize life isn't about me and not be ruled by my ego. Wrinkles, sagging, gray hair, extra weight all testify that life has banged us up a bit.

That banged up effect has an element of splendor to it. "The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old." Proverbs 20:20

spring has sprung

Ikea, spring break(left to right, Hannah, Deborah, Rachael)
It's been another fun "spring break" day. We started at IKEA, a huge store that makes WalMart look puny. We had lunch, the kids painted some clay pots, and then we enjoyed browsing through all the stuff we don't need.

GopherAfter IKEA we ended up in Edmonton's River Valley. It was soggy from the spring melt, yet fresh and outdoors, therefore a good place to be. We watched a fat gopher and, had we had treats for him, I do believe he would have eaten out of Hannah's hand. He was so close and oh so cute and curious.

Spring has arrived again in Edmonton. The snow, for the most part, has melted. Yesterday morning my tulips were up about two inches and still red, as tulip shoots are. Yesterday evening, the shoots were green and three inches tall. I'm not lying. Growth happens fast once the snow is gone. It's exciting to see all the shoots breaking forth; lilies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths.

I hung my linens on the line for the first time this week too. I LOVE seeing the clothes on the line blowing in the wind. When I brought them in they were stiff and smelled so fresh. I know soft towels are the rage, but I love the stiffness of a line dried towel. Even using a clothes line is one of those simple things in life that I get a kick out of.

Deborah was cleaning her room last night, and making quite a production about it. She hates to clean her room. I told her to put a certain piece of plastic in a certain spot and she stopped dead in her tracks and her tears and said, "But we have to save the planet". My girls think it's up to us to single-handedly save the planet. They are totally on board the recycling and frugal lifestyle. It's cute and satisfying to see them getting imprinted with an appreciation for our world and protecting it from needless harm.

a delightful morning alone

(Rachael and Lucy, 2004, Pembina River)
Lucy and Rachael, thick as thieves
My morning has been nothing short of delightful. I have basked in the quiet solitude. I just refilled my coffee mug (for the fourth time) and have enjoyed reading my Bible, praying, and writing a few letters. I wish I had more mornings just like this one. I cannot remember the last time I had the house to myself for this length of time. I lit a candle to remind me of God's peace and presence in my life (and, of course, I enjoy the scent too).

Since Tuesday I've been bemoaning my recent 10-cent raise. My performance review was "very good" yet I only got a 10-cent raise. I take comfort in Psalm 37. In His grace, God gave me direction and peace this morning. I'm so thankful to have a God that delights in every detail of my life. (Psalm 37:23)

My trusty sidekick Lucy, a Bassett Hound cross, is sleeping on the living room floor in the sunshine. I love her. I don't understand people who don't love dogs. Who couldn't love something so faithful and loving?

I'm loving watching Mindi's journey through her blog. It's exciting and interesting. She is enjoying living vicariously through her children, enjoying the kids' activities and enjoying learning with them. She is also exploring and nurturing her underdeveloped artist. Our journeys are similar in that respect. I'm glad she got on this track much earlier in life than I did.

field trip and such

(Deborah in kindergarten)
095_95Today is usually a work day for me, but I took the day off to attend Deborah's Easter party at school. She is so excited. For the first several months of school I didn't go on her field trips or attend her school parties because I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays which are Deborah's school days. Several weeks ago she expressed that she wanted me along for these things. Since then I've taken off work for them. I'm so glad I heard her desire. She was giddy with excitement when we went to Bee Maid Honey factory. I'm glad I had that time with her. Yesterday she wanted to lay out my clothes for today's party. She chose a black skirt and light blue sweater. I'm not excited about wearing a skirt, but I will wear for her. When she brought them into the living room to show me what she'd chosen, she excitedly said, "I haven't picked out your panties yet." Yep, she's covering all the bases. What a sweetie!

I'm so proud of Hannah and Rachael for the way they defend Stephen (from next door) at school. He is literally a near-genius child and kind of different. Furthermore he is incredibly tiny. Both the girls look after him. And they admire his creativity, imagination and intelligence. I respect that. They are such good kids. I'm thankful beyond words.

Today my cousin Cindy gets her latest test results back. She has been experiencing a bloated feeling and some stomach pain. I think they may be preparing for the worst news. She has fought and fought this battle with breast cancer. I am continually amazed at her fighting spirit. I feel confident that I wouldn't be as much of a fighter. May God give them His peace and comfort today.

The new brown leather albatross (new chair) is sitting beside me screaming repeatedly "you screwed up". I told Gordon about my regret about my purchase yesterday. He encouraged me to give it a week before I do anything like give it away or try to sale it. What a lunatic I can be. When we brought it inside yesterday, it looked incredibly out of place and I reworked the furniture repeatedly trying to find an acceptable place for it. I have settled on the spot beside my desk. It doesn't look great, nor does it look terrible. It is growing on me though. Yesterday I sat in it and stared out the window. I was discouraged about my own folly and was just staring into space. Then I noticed some birds in the elm in the front yard foraging for hidden treasures in the bark. It brought a smile to my face. There is still a backdrop of white snow outside, but this was clearly a "harbinger of spring" moment. That moment changed my attitude. I realized that just because I screwed up doesn't mean I have to be perpetually discouraged with myself. I am still surrounded with good.

the simple life compromised

It's a beautiful sunny day here in Alberta. The bright sunshine magnifies the ice crystals in the air. We have about 18 inches of snow. It's clean and bright. Until this week, it seemed like spring was here. All the snow had melted and we were going outside without jackets. The birds were singing and every time I went walking I heard melt rushing into the grates in the streets. Oh the sounds of spring melt in the city. Having lived here 12 years, it's a sound I've come to love.

My niece is my inspiration for this diary. She is a delightful young mom enjoying her new life in Mexico. Her blog is so sweet and inspirational to me. The Simple Life is the name of her blog. It is precisely the title I wanted. I've been embracing the simple life more and more over the past several years. Matter of fact I'm reading Henry David Thoreau's Walden right now. Several weeks ago I was reading whatever I could find on the Franciscans. Finally it seems like the simple life is what I'm living, not just what I'm aspiring to live.
 
(Me and my kids, 2004)
 
 
Me and my kidsI love my life. I have a wonderful family. A husband who is good to me, five great kids. Stephanie is 20, a nursing student, who refreshes my spirit. Christopher is 16. He is driving now, a "hippy van" that he bought himself. Rachael, Hannah and Deborah are 9, 8, and 5. The last three are my Canadian kids. The first two are my American kids. They bring their mother delight. Yes, God has dealt bountifully with me.

Yesterday I slipped up on "the simple life." I work at Pier 1 Imports. I've been amazed that my simple life commitment hasn't been terribly disrupted by this. It hasn't been that tough continuing to live simply while being immersed in a materialistic environment. Until yesterday I stayed true to my convictions. Yesterday my manager marked down a chocolate-brown leather chair. As soon as I saw the price, I thought it was too good a deal to pass up. I bought it. Last night I laid in bed regretting it. The chair is still in my van. I have no joy in it and am not overly anxious to bring it in. The reality is, I don't even know where I will put it. My pastor could use a nice chair so I'm toying with giving it away. I'm disappointed with myself. A couple months ago I was ready to take the Franciscan vows for the Third Order -- that's the vows someone already married would take. Yesterday I spent money on something contradictory to the life I say I want to lead. May God help my double mindedness.