Your Fear Makes Me Wonder…

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On Tuesday morning I prayed, “God, make me light in dark places. Make me a vessel of hope. Help me understand what love is”. Turns out, God doesn’t waste an opportunity like that. Perhaps that is his very favourite prayer.

This weekend was strange. On Saturday, Joel spent the morning  as a pall bearer at a funeral. In the evening, I spoke at candle light vigil I organized for a student of mine that died this week. We were deep in the hearts of broken people. People praying freedom prayers, people grieving, people standing up to injustice, people watching sadness and joy kiss.

Saturday afternoon, our family went sledding, had a tea party with fresh muffins and took our Christmas card photos. Life is such a striking contrast sometimes, the mundane and ordinary going in and out, mixed up with all the soul stretching horror that sometimes defines life on earth. I wanted to wrap my kids in bubble wrap, hide them away from all of it, cozy down in our cabin in the woods. I am never so tempted to give into fear as when I stare darkness in the eye, when my life stands in opposition.

I wrote this letter to myself in my journal, it is a declaration of hope. I am sharing it, because every conversation I have is leading me back here, the choice of hope over fear. Maybe it is for you too?

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Oh Melissa.

You have me wondering. You who is afraid of this world.

Your insecurity, don’t you see it? The way it looks like a lack of faith.

Don’t you believe the faith you profess? Do you not believe He that is in you is greater?

Don’t you see that protecting your kids automatically alienates the others?

Don’t you see the way exclusivity and protection is the opposite of a Christ-Chasing life?

Don’t you see how your feigned righteousness makes everyone run from you?

Don’t you see how life shrinks? How your fear grows?

Don’t you see?

I’m not saying close your eyes, I’m saying see the dark, look it in the eyes and be hopeful anyways.

Cause my God? He didn’t give you a spirit of timidity

My God is not afraid of the dark. Or the day. Or the Grave.

My God is big enough to redeem every evil this world can throw.

And IN HIM:

There is no intellectual who could trip you.

No freedom song sweeter then the one you sing.

No thing that you are missing.

No knowledge you need to fear that will strip your children of their faith.

No sin that cannot be redeemed.

No person that we cannot love.

No condemnation for you in Christ.

No ideology that cannot be moved.

No kingdom that cannot be upended by the counter cultural ways of Christ.

There, is no power greater than the Spirit living in me.

No wound He cannot heal.

Nothing that could separate us from the love of Christ.

There is NO guilt in this life and there is NO fear in even death.

I am not saying close your eyes. I am saying OPEN THEM WIDE and choose HOPE anyways.

Don’t you see?

The whole of humanity begging for the light you have?

     The hope you should possess?

          The LIFE you should be LIVING….

You are the light of the world. The salt that keeps away decay.

How can you hold back the dark, the death, if you are hiding in your ivory tower?

We claim hope. Despite all else. We claim it and we walk in it.

Let us be known as a people of HOPE.

(And just because…I have tickets to opening night…thanks YAYA!)

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Linking with Emily,and Heather the Tell His Story Community

First Days: E goes to KINDERGARTEN

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An interview with Em on her first day of kindergarten:

My favorite food is: Cream Cheese

My favorite colour: Pink and Purple

My favorite toy: My new horseys that mamma bought me and it came with a trophy and a brush

My favorite TV Show: Sophia the First

My favorite movie: Rio

My favorite thing to do outside: Slide down slide into the pool

My best friend: Jaida is my best friend in school

The coolest person in the world is: Teacher Grace

My favorite sport is: Golf

My favorite animal: Dogs and Cats

My favorite thing to do with daddy: Get Candy

My favorite thing to do with mommy: Get Candy

Favorite place to go: Candy Store

When I grow up I want to be: Ballerina Teacher

My favorite snack is: Pizza fishy crackers

What was your favorite thing about his summer? “I had fun on the train”

 



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First Days: Grade 2

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An interview with Owen on the first day of school:

My favorite food is: Bubble gum ice cream

My favorite colour: Blue and orange

My favorite toy: Monster trucks, angry birds and stuffed monkey.

My favorite TV Show: Jake and the Neverland Pirates

My favorite movie: Robin Hood

My favorite thing to do outside: Play with monster truck in sandbox

My best friend: Lane and Leah

The coolest person in the world is: Daddy & Mommy

My favorite sport is: Baseball

My favorite animal: Monkey

My favorite thing to do with daddy: Go to Disneyland

My favorite thing to do with mommy: Get candy

Favorite place to go: Disneyland

When I grow up I want to be: Fireman or a Police

My favorite snack is: White noodles

Best thing about summer was:  All of it</

Dear E: On the Occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’

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Dearest E (on the occasion you complete preschool and I celebrate your ‘muchness’),

Just now, we were out in the rain. Our hair, blowing wild as daddy drove us up into the woods. You tipped your face into the rain, let the drops fall into your magnificent eye-lashes, onto your porcelain skinned face. We hit a bump going a bit too fast and I gasped and clung to you, I nearly let you launch out the back. But you? You laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe and asked daddy to go back over it. He of course obliged you. You broke into song. And I marvelled at your ‘muchness’.

You who is the first in the water, the last one out.

You who laughs the loudest and the longest.

You who shouts with passion and bosses your brother with extravagant ferocity (ok…this isn’t my favourite part of your muchness).

You who knows exactly what you want.

You with the dynamic mind that learns things before we teach you. You with the imagination of a magnificient story teller.

You do everything in extreme and excess. And I hope you never try to shrink yourself to fit into someone elses mold of feminine. You are so much more.

This week I went to a conference and a Nigerian woman took the stage and then she took my breath. She spoke with so much grace and authority. And I must tell you, there is something intoxicating about a woman who wears every inch of her flesh, isn’t trying to perpetually shrink. Someone who knows she is more then sex or magazine cliches. 

There was a time not so long ago that I watched a mother parent a little girl that was more like a paper doll than a child. She was wholly pliable; bending to her mothers every whim. There was a split second of envy until you barrelled in with mud on your face and a crooked tiara on your messed up hair. You shouted “Want to  play with me?”. The little girl shook her head, curled into her moms thigh. “Ok. But if you want to we can play princess fairy kitty soft paws”.  I was enthralled by your muchness.

Miss E…I will stand beside you when the world tries to crush you down, tells you your entirely too much and not nearly enough. I love your muchness and I will fight for it. I will point you in the direction you should go and I will watch you run there with reckless courage.  When you are tempted to bend to someone elses version of you, I will make you read this letter again. Remind you, who you are at your core, in your God designed heart.

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Dear O: On the Occasion you Complete Grade 1 and Learn you are not a Super Hero

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Dearest O (on the occasion of finishing grade 1),

 

I had a bath while you watched t.v. I traced the paths you stretched into me with my finger. The thin red lines that forever changed the way my body appears. I thought about the ways you stretch me now, how it was easier when I forever said goodbye to bikinis. Now? I watch you stretch my heart, how far it can expand without breaking completely. You stretch my ability to trust and not worry (as you learn doughnuts on a quad…I’m pretty sure I said no dirt bikes…but anyways…here we are).

You stretch me. First flesh and now spirit.

 

 

I know you feel it too. The first taste of mortality, of flesh. I’ve watched you this year, watched as you learn about your weakness, and perceived failure. It causes my whole body and spirit to heave in the ache with you. About a month ago you got the stomach flu and we both got scared, remembering all those nights in hospital with the unending virus. And you looked at me, your big brown eyes creased with a fear and said “Oh mom, how will I ever be a super hero if so many things trip me up?”. This was, it would seem, the first thought you had that maybe this particular dream might not come true.

 

 

Life was easier, wasn’t it? When I made sure that the kids we played with were nice to you, when I choose activities I thought you would succeed at. You have to fail at things now, face conflict and I must confess, it is so hard to watch. In fact it is nearly impossible, because the truth of the mater is  I have more faith in you than is logical too…you are a super hero in my universe and my eyes don’t seem to see you with much realism. My pride in you is something like intoxication, all I see is the miraculous wearing flesh, shock and awe that you came to be in our home after all, after I nearly gave up that dream.

 

 

I have to tell you the secret though my friend. We are not called to succeed the way the world sees it. I will never hope that for you. You are a part of the upside down kingdom where the last are first and the weak are the strongest. You are called to seek placement with the broken-hearted and the system weary and the unloved ones. You are one of the joy dwellers, the hope bringers, the peace keepers, the light holders. Most of all we are grace chasers, picking the crumbs we need, leaving a trail behind us. 

That is a lot of words isn’t it? It boils down to this: Our legacy is love…of God and man. That is all.

 

 

 

 

So forgive me, when the fear of man looms large and I care more about how you behave than where you heart really is, causes me to compel your facade. Sometimes I want you to be the best athlete, the best student because it is fun to win and because it matters that you work hard in whatever is set before you. Always remember though, your success or failure in any of it doesn’t define your worth, will not change your true status, cannot make your dad and I more or less proud of you. That issue is settled…remember? I have no capacity to see you rightly. I think mamma eyes are glory laden and perhaps we can only see the heaven in our kids…an extraordinary capacity to ignore the hell.

 

You will stretch me again. You will make me transition again, release you, let you go, trust God with and for you. I will watch you stretch your wings and I will chase behind you with my butterfly net, thinking I can catch you if you fall. Knowing I cannot, but still, I will be there…watching you take off for your very first flight.

Wherever you crash, you will find me there beside you, seeking the hidden treasures and finding ourselves walking on water. We will find beside us those who fall through our societies cracks, the perfectly shaped holes for the meek and mild and we will walk beside them.

 

 

 

 


With all my love,

The Least Super Mom of All who loves you MOST.

 

Linking with Emily and friends! I’ve missed you all and look forward to reading!!!

These Days…

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These days are dishes and cooking and laundry. These days are dusting and toy sorting and clothes with holes and clothes too short. These days are sibling conflict and home reading and barf buckets. These days are permission slips and parent advisory council fundraisers, soccer practice and birthday parties. These days are full. Full of limbs growing too long, not fitting in my lap like they should.

These days are flower beds planted and lawns mowed and decks swept. These days are repairs made, walls washed (no really I did), and ovens scrubbed.

These days are events planned and articles written and research to do.

Oh. These days.

These days feel like failure and triumph all in the very same moment. These days I am praying the psalms with the passion of the afflicted and the joy of the overcomer…because aren’t we, in Christ, always both?

These days are the longest I have ever gone without contributing to this blog. I don’t know why exactly. At first I was writing furiously in my journal, processing some things. And then I stopped.

These days, sometimes you just keep your head above water.

These days are going fast; a spectacle across the sky, meteoric speed. That is the thing about these days you know, you can completely ignore the extraordinary splendor in them. you can spin so fast you can’t notice the rainbow in the blur of it.

Because you know what? These days are also campfire smoke and sunsets dripping glory. These days are lives turned upside down and right side up for the Kingdom come. These days are lives merged into one and babies touching down on planet earth. These days are relationships restored and relationships built and mercy and goodness and Oh…So much love.

He makes all things new you know. Even when you you feel like you have broken up, broken down, deconstructed to the point you are not sure all the Kings men could patch you up? He can. Even when you are not at all who you hoped to be? He reminds us that the journey is the destination if we face it with the Grace He gives. Face it with humility. Cling to Good with all you’ve still got.

So these days? I miss you blog-o-world. I hope to be back soon.

How to be a Clanging Symbol: In 3 Acts

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I hung up the rain coats, straightened the gum boots on the rug. The 100th time today…but this time I wept. How is it that the smallest size listed on those coats is a 5? How did these years fly so fast? Today I have huffed and puffed as I picked up her markers ‘again’, the 700 strings he cut in zip line maintenance, the socks in the middle of the floor from the rush to the hot tub. I missed out on the trip outside. Cleaning up the things that will be back on the ground in ten minutes. I lectured, I stormed, I ranted. I crashed the symbols in their little ears, drowned the sound of all the whispered “I love yous”.

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Once upon a time I saw a family at church. The husband and wife were desperate to praise. We don’t offer a kids program yet at this service and so the little girl was beside them with a Barbie doll. The two grown ups would throw their hands in the air reaching for heaven with all their strength, their faces desperate in the act of worship. Or perhaps they were trying to get God down? Kingdom come, NOW. But then. The little girl would make too much noise, kick the seat, jump around and their eyes would fly open they would aggressively tell her to tone it down, march her out of the sanctuary.

The passion of the worship was eclipsed and I thought about that little girl and the symbols going off in her head right now. God is a God of what?

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Once upon a time I had a friend. I was envious of her dynamic relationship with God. She was always deep into scripture, going through SOMETHING. God was always teaching her. It was beautiful. Sometimes though, she was so deep in the ‘furnace’ that she could not see out, could not even see those of us in the room with her. Sometimes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego we were, together in the blazing coals, but she could not see me. She had the capacity to look through me, around me, not even notice I was there.

We watched the figure of God in the furnace there with us but we could not hear the clanging on the metal furnace door, the people left on the outside, asking to join us, despite the risk of burns.

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The other night my son crept up the stairs to the pulpit as my husband prayed for someone on stage. He crept up in sweat pants 4 inches too short and my husband wrapped his arm around him as the boy arrived at his leg. There are times in my life when I would have panicked, run, grabbed him. But we’ve made the conscious choice to invite our children into ministry with us. It will not ever be something that takes daddy away from them, it will be what our family does together. We will enjoy it, together. It will be messy. But it will be real.

Our God, He hasn’t called us to a cloistered life, hold up in that cabin all alone. He hasn’t called us to worship Him ONLY when the music is playing. He has not called us to worship at the expense of others. Your life of worship and devotion needs to exist even when the days are busy…more so. Your life of Loving God and man needs to be active ESPECIALLY when we are overwhelmed .

Are there times when you will need to carve out spaces for intimacy with Him alone…YES. But.

Often there are others here too. These kids. This man. These are my primary ministries and the circles of influence as they expand around us. And I cannot honour HIM if I do not honour THEM.

I am a bit of a mystic if I may be so bold. I expect relationship with God, a back and forth. I am prone to the passions, the highest heights the deepest depths…I feel them. And I love to worship too, eyes closed, furnace blazing. But. The clanging symbols in my life can completely eclipse my devotion.

Oh God. Don’t let me add to the noise.

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.Love cares more for others than for self.Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.Love doesn’t strut,Doesn’t have a swelled head,Doesn’t force itself on others,Isn’t always “me first,”Doesn’t fly off the handle,Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,Doesn’t revel when others grovel,Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,Puts up with anything,Trusts God always,Always looks for the best,Never looks back,But keeps going to the end.

-1 Corinthians 13:

Linking with:

Emily, JenLaura, & Jennifer

Moments

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The lights are low and I sling my four-year old around my hip like an infant. It might be the last time you know, that she nestles that softest cheek into mine, that I can rock her to the drum beat. She closes her eyes when I do, peeks about when she gets bored.

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They watch the sun turn pink on the horizon. My four-year old calls me, she knows when the sun is slipping, when we lose it completely. We all come. There is a space between heaven and earth just there on the horizon. It is the shape of an eye. We see God in it.

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I pop my head back, all I see are pine trees high, star streaked sky.

I breathe deep. Could it be that it is the first time I breathed all day? Of course not. You couldn’t live like that and yet….

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I smell the gasoline, feel the speed, the tress whip past, I trust you more than I trust myself, and I hold on.

We set a fire, the dog attacks the flame, the flying spark. We sit.

We tuck the kids in. I think about what parts of this will feel like home for them. The stellar jays? The woodpecker? The way camp fires smell a day later?

~

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They are fighting again.

It is snowing today. You heard me. Spring break, the man is away and it is snowing… again. The kids have gone rabid and are about one more house day away from someone loosing a hand. And yet, there is beauty here too, when I ignore them long enough, once in a while they compromise, practice empathy, create fantastic adventures. It sounds like Love is growing in their hearts. I see the silhouettes of heroes peeking over their horizons, even when they act more like villans.

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The kitchen tap drips into the unwashed pot. I scrub the toilets. Match the socks. Revel in these ordinaries.

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The man is on a service trip with 137 young people this week. My niece is among them, she is gentle and quiet and so sensitive. I am so proud of her bravery, stepping beyond her usual fences, trying new things. When I see her, love glints in her eyes. Courage is rising. I see it, I get it. We are the same in some ways, I want to shout “There are worse things than failing, trust me, and you are making progress in all the right directions. Keep stepping out…that is where LIFE is. Perfectionism is a vice that keeps you from it”.

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I have been writing. A lot. Not here but elsewhere and I feel flesh on dry bones. I am making sense of senseless things. It might never do anything but fill up a journal with understanding. That is enough.

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I have a new nephew, born yesterday. Pearl Jam ‘Free’ played on the radio the moment scalpel finished, child emerged. There are some things you just cannot plan.

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There is no new thing we are living my friends. Just the old with a new bow on it. Just us, swiftly spinning, holding onto life, to faith, hearing birds sing like it is for the first time. Just life, all its mundane and profound wound tightly into one package, longing to be lived to the FULL.

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Tell me then, what ordinary moment turned Holy on you today?

Linking with Emily and friends…

What Mamma Did: The Making and the Doing

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She keeps those hands busy this mamma of mine. She loves in action and says more with yeast and flour than others can, even with all of their flowery words. Her love smells like gingerbread, tastes like huckleberry pie.

She clothed me in jumpers, the worlds most extraordinary Halloween costumes and hand stitched quilts.

It was the sick beds and the home remedies and the makeshift oxygen tents.

It was murals on our walls and wooden mouldings carved.

It was every shirt ironed, every field trip attended, every sports event observed.

It was intricately decorated birthday cakes and handmade cards.

The garden was grown, the dough was made, the Christmas bread always baked. It was family meals twice a day at least.

It was the way we watched her love her daddy in his last days, not with poetry and sappy cards but with daily lunch fed, walls decorated, toenails trimmed. I think it was then I understood for the first time, the depths of this expression of love.

It is the language she speaks the dialect we all understand.

It isn’t really a surprise then is it? That if I like working with you I will buy your coffee, bring you baked goods. If you show up at my house and say “I just ate” I really have no idea how to show concern for you. If you have recently birthed a 15 pound baby, I don’t know how to help but to show up with a casserole. It is possible that I only understand your acts of service, your reckless hospitality.

And so. Though I can’t always (read as never) proclaim my love from the roof tops? Thankful that my man understands the sentiment behind a well marinated steak, a breathing bottle of red.

And mamma of mine? I love you so much and I understood every word you ever baked.

Linking with Emily and5-minute-friday-1

What was it your mamma did that made you know you were loved? Something other than the words? Share in the comments?

Putting it all in the ‘be a better mamma vault!

Lego Bombs and Other Domestic Catastrophes

A five-minute free write on the prompt “Opportunity” with Lisa Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday crew
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I almost missed it. Opportunities for wonder and beauty can be sneaky like that…

 

 

Christmas exploded in our house with all the intensity of an atomic bomb made entirely of lego and playmobile miniatures. There was also the Pumpkin Soup Catastrophe of New Years day in which the entire pot erupted over my stove, floor and up to my microwave. There was a need for some pretty serious mop up. I thought about calling in the national guard, a not for profit rehabilitation team…something. Instead I spent the last two days on the offensive, stealth attacks on the toy room, chemical weaponry on the kitchen. I was nearly complete yesterday afternoon, just needed to vacuum and mop but somehow mini lego bombs kept exploding under my feet (literally) and I was getting frustrated.

 

 

The man said he would take the kids outside so I could finish and so I was helping get the gear on when I remembered what year it is. This year, for me, is the year of NOW. A year to embrace the moment I am in, of trying to live them fully and attentively, of noticing beauty and not trying to rush to the next thing.

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I could have missed it. The trees laden with liquid diamonds, frozen onto their limbs. The sky so blue in made my eyes sting with all the beauty. The cold of the day intense enough for our uncovered faces to remember we are alive.  The forest herself quiet in reverence of the Beauty Maker. My daughter squealing, my son playing tricks, my husband tossing his head back with a deep belly laugh.

 

DSC_0034This year? I’m not going to miss it…

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