How was your day? A Note from HERE

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So tell me…How was your day?

By the time night closes in on us we will all have spent every second of our days. We will have spent it however we choose. We will have squandered it or invested it. We will have used it for building up or tearing down. We will find ourselves depleted or we will be, in Him, restored.

There is no need to reply ‘I’m busy’ each time someone asks you how you are. Of course you are. We all are. Life is full. If you have kids, some of your minutes are not even your own, in some seasons almost none of them are. But you still didn’t answer my question.

What I really want to know about is, what is the state of your heart in the midst of all this?What happens to you in the whirlwind? Can you remain steadfast? Can your heart continue to be at peace? Did you notice even one shred of beauty? Or did you rush right by? Did you fix your heart in the present moment or did you let the cares of tomorrow bind your chest up tight? It is never how many things you do (or don’t do) that burns you out or saves the day. It is all about the way you walk through the day, what did you make space for?

Do you hear that? Peace singing out over the tops of the pine trees? Don’t get bound up again. Don’t let the rat race put you in a maze, nor the competition make you jump hurdles. Don’t let your fear of man put you in cages or your fear of failure keep you from trying. Don’t start believing your kids are scanning Pinterest for ideas for their birthdays…you are not in a competition with anyone.

Life is not made up of giant yesses or grandiose declarations. Life is mostly spent in the subtleties. God loves to whisper to you and the beauty is corrupted by the slight turns to the left or right. You will not notice either with the way you spin like a top.

So tell me, where it is you feel your soul quiet , the world spin a little slower? Tell me how you will learn to spend a few more minutes there. Tell me how you will be, wherever you are, without plan or agenda. Tell me…how will you hear Him?

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Today, was library books, swimming lessons, soccer game, 300 youth to the beach night, spelling words (while driving home). Today was meetings on meetings and paperwork on paperwork. Today was exercise on the elementary school campus and arriving late for pick up. Today…was good. Being busy is not synonymous with a heart full of RUSH. I promise you, even in your fullest days you get to choose what you notice.What will you call out to good? In the 20 minutes between swimming and soccer I pulled out a picnic blanket, a peanut butter sandwich and a bucket of watermelon and the three of us laughed and joked and smelled the grass and noticed the clouds. I breathed in the smell of the earth on their skin, I thanked God for that moment.

I am called to HERE and NOW and so are you. Be there. HERE. Lets all spin a little slower.

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When We Build Walls

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The mallards are back. The hen is on her nest, the drake there most days too. The two of them slowly paddling, they fly across the road sometimes, I think the eating is better in the marsh. Most days I see them.

On Sunday my little family took a raft on the pond. It is too small for much but a perfect place to search for snails or tadpoles. The kids took their butterfly nets, a bucket. We could not stay though. My dog, who is rather large, would not stop hassling that hen on her nest. And she would not flee. She would dive and squawk and flutter and flap but she would not go more than five feet away. This hen would not leave her eggs, would not cower to any old dog, she was willing to risk her neck for those ducklings. Samwise kept at it, tail wagging with the joy of the chase.

Mothers are like that. The way they throw themselves in harm’s way. The way they will do anything to protect their young. I’m feeling it this week. Feeling so much like they are sheep among wolves.

A few days ago, my daughter asked me if I knew the very worst word in the world. And I said, ‘no, what is it’. Up till now, the very worst word has been stupid so when she looked me straight in the eye and dropped the ‘f bomb’ in the middle of the living room, I was a little taken a back. There is nothing uglier off the tongue of a little person and I was amazed at how it sounded. How it rubbed some of the gloss off. “The boys taught me in the cloak room” she said. She wore two pigtails to school today, a shirt with kittens on it. Oh God let them be little…

On the way home from school last night, my boy told me that his little friend had to go see the judge because he ate too many drugs. “It is like what happens when you drink too much pop”, he says. This boy doesn’t live with his parents now, I guess this is why.  My heart is still up into my throat when we get home and I plan to hold up in the woods for a few days. Let us dig a mote, build impermeable fortresses. Let us imagine that there are dragons to slay and pirates to fight shall we? I don’t want you to know about the real beasts of our world.

Not just yet.

But I won’t stay here long. Safety only exists in fairy tales, the land beyond the sea.

Besides, am I not at least as brave as a duck?

You see every fence I build, every wall I erect throws another child to the wolves, creates one more wildling. Every time I think I am protecting my kids from something, could I actually be putting them at greater risk? The shootings and stabbings, the kids left outside our great fortresses are being ravaged, they can’t do it alone. We see it all the time in youth. The kids left lingering around the outside. The kids, who by no action of their own, have never learned to swim, have never played a soccer game, have never had a family meal, don’t know what homemade gravy tastes like. The kids for whom the world is too dark, too dangerous they get fierce there on the outside. But they don’t have to…

I am throwing open our doors. Putting down the draw bridge. That empty seat in my car? I want to fill it. That empty place at my dinner table? I want to set it. I want to be someone these kids can trust. I want to be a bright spot in their dark days. I want them to know that we believe in them.

I know this is too simple. That when gates are open, the wild sneaks in and sometimes unsuspecting sheep get eaten up. I know that a mind can corrupt even under the very best of care. Still. I think we can do better. I think we can be as innocent as doves even while the wolves are howling. I think we can teach our kids to be wise AND loving. Brave AND gentle.

We were sent. Let us not hide. Let us dance around these eggs, let us trick the wolves; shrewd and pure but NEVER afraid.

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I am all nostalgia, for the moment I am in now. My baby girl only braved the water slide if she was firmly in my lap. I obliged a million times, what if this is the last time she wants me? They are growing fast these kids. I am having the urge to MAKE ALL THE MEMORIES. DO ALL THE THINGS. Last night I shaped rice crispies into bird nests, stuck a peep on top. I bought the basket stuffing, the chocolate rabbits. TIme is slipping on me. I want to look it straight in the face.

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It has not been easy to be Mr. O this week. It has been all trouble and trial; challenge and testing. He has struggled. When my son pulls away hard and we feel him distancing, weakening, we know he is getting discouraged with his very own flesh, the way it fails. I need to learn to be a vessel of hope for him, how do I pour it out all over him when the world has dragged him down? How do I teach him to be his own clay pot? Opening up to the voice of God in his life, the voice of hope over the hopeless? How do I teach him to throw himself back on the potters wheel when the cracks start to show?

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I am a nurse on a campus. My favorite demographic of humans is people in their early twenties, when they are all fun and hope and laughter. When they are certain they are thinking thoughts nobody ever has, when they have all the authority of a boat not yet rocked. When the world is their oyster, an open clam, and they are all mining the pearls. Tragedy strikes them fiercely, the dark is such a contrast to the light in their eyes. I struggle then too. Darkness just seems so encompassing sometimes.

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It is Holy Thursday. Today is about the foot washing, the betrayal just on the horizon, the remembering. Today, I think about what Judas wanted. Did he get frustrated with the way Jesus was going about things? Did the messiah not do things his way? Was the world just still too dark? I feel like that sometimes. Sometimes, the church, the bride, is not what I imagined her to be. Jesus doesn’t show up the way I would like him too. You need to watch yourself then, you teeter on trading it all for a lousy bag of cash.

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There is very little doubt about the Good Friday world we live in. How easy it is to see the giant boulder there and walk away. Today I am asking God to show me all the stones He is rolling. All the new life he is making. All the Freedom He is giving.

Today, I’m asking Him to rise again in my heart, to clear this temple, to make all things new.

Hearts in the Snow

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True love, is cancelling Valentine dinner at your favourite restaurant to sit together and kiss hot child skin, listen to coughs that sound like harbour seals. True love is taking your turn staying home from work, of getting one more cup of juice in the night, of laying close, sitting still, tickling arms. True love is doing the hard work of staying...of letting real life creep on all the edges of our tired thirties and choosing each other anyways.

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True love is after days of being so many things to so many people, we slow the pace. At the grocery store the other night we were hustling a little as the last flakes of snow fell. When I looked down at her, the big flakes had stuck in her huge eye lashes, her eyes closed, her chin tilted to heaven, her tongue out catching flakes. I stopped. I had nowhere I would rather be then RIGHT IN THAT MOMENT. I trace out a heart with my feet in the snow, she opened her eyes, her face lit up, she makes a flower in the snow for me. True love is in the tiny moments…when we slow to the pace of little feet, take the time to let them stomp the cadence of a beating heart.

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Our days are full. I laughed at midnight last night when I was just starting to get somewhere on a paper due today. Working woman, hockey mom, dance mom, taught an evening workshop and THEN sat down to write. So many hats. I don’t mind being busy now and then, I get charged up on things, so excited to be a part of wonderful strands of life that God weaves together to make something beautiful out of our life. True love is never an outcome…it is the steady pace of goodness. 

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He gets delirious the moment his body temperature inches over normal. Always panic and something scary. I pull him off that bunk, down into my arms, his limbs long over me. I rest my hand on his chest, heart is beating fast and hard, so near to me it feels it might burst through thin fleshTrue love is the way of stretching beyond yourself, of inconvenience.

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True love is scattering keys to the captives, the speaking of hope when hope seems lost, the patience to try again. True love is the kindness in the face of all the worlds cruelty. Love is in the humility, the servant life of laying all the plans aside for the sake of another. Love is in the perseverance, the generosity.

Love is in the passion. Sure. But that is the easy part.

Love is the minuscule and marvelously small acts of a life layed down…that is what makes it true.

Wherever you are today…single or in a relationship…what is it you can do to ensure your life is marked by these?

Ornament (Advent #2)

(A repost from the archives)

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There you go running and tossing and breaking and shattering and I gotta tell you, the way I imagined this day to go is just not what it turned out to be. I wait for Christmas Tree day. I imagine us, in the woods with all our friends, sipping hot drinks, eating too many sweets, finding the perfect tree, taking photos in front of it. Instead, and suddenly, chill settles into little fingers, someone has to poop.

I want things to run on rails. This family, I want it to run like a well oiled machine. Pumping out symmetry, clean edges, pictures perfect. I want this night, gathered round the tree, decorations to hang, carols on, me in plaid, in scarf. I want you smiling demurely, hanging the ornaments gentle. I want mistletoe and candle light, but you keep blowing them out.

All my talk about otherwise? I still want our family to look like an ornament. Sparkled and spackled and flawless. And instead, God keeps whispering something about being an instrument: of peace, of reconciliation. He keeps on whispering about how very broken we all are, how he has plans for us this season it is true, but none of those plans involve our perfection. Just His. Made flesh. Because of our brokenness, like the nutcracker I glue back together (sorry Michelle…). He says “That is the point of this thing child. Relax”. Look for the cracks, the fissures, lean into them. Bring that peace on earth, be it.

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I sigh, pull you into my lap and we read quiet and slow and we start our advent readings and you seem to get it. And I do too. The beauty is right here. In your soft skin (because you took off the coordinated outfits I put you in), in the soft glint of Christmas lights I hung (though they are clumped, and cluttered), in the pine boughs on my mantle (that snapped off as we dragged the tree in the door).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.-St. Francis of Assisi 

Rose coloured glasses: Five Minutes on the prompt ‘Ordinary’

The crows had gathered this morning. Encircling that white tailed corpse on the road. Its throat ripped out by the speeding car. A murder of crows there, squawking from a sign, from the sky, from the belly of the doe. All I could think was, are they an omen for me?

Of course not. I don’t believe in such things.

And Yet.

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Do you see that? The way her hair is glinting in the setting sun? They way their games almost glow in the purple? His face nearly sparkling?  There despite the filthy window, did you notice the sun setting down in pinks and purple splendor? Despite your exhaustion and your frustration, can’t you see the holiness of this moment? The way we are all holding onto life and death with the same weak hands. The way our control of it all is so illusionary. The way, those old crows could be waiting for me just outside?

These ordinary moments are all we got friend. There is no purpose greater than the one you are walking now. No theology preached from any pulpit that doesn’t apply in this absolutely ordinary moment.

So you can call me an idealist if you want to. The way I always see the world as a great romance, but I don’t mind. Even if the pink in my eyes is really from this bone weary mamma season, I’ll pretend it is the reflection of this extraordinary sunset, lighting up their faces with all the splendor of creation. I will keep these rose-coloured glasses on all day long, recognizing that there is no such thing as ordinary. That this moment right now may be the Holiest thing I every touch.

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A Mother Letter: On the Peace

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Dear O,

When you asked for a pistol for you birthday it got me thinking.  Being your mamma always makes me ask the hard questions. This time I wondered about THE PEACE and how we are living it.

You said you  “want to shoot down a tree and to shoot down the power lines”, and there isn’t anything wrong with this, hear that clear. It just made me stop and think for a moment. Little boys love guns and wars and battles of all kinds. My daddy said no guns at our house but we found ways to make our own, turn the garden implements to battle staffs for our ninja club. Children find ways to fight. I just want you to know that you are part of a better way.

You need to know that your daddy and I? We believe the Peace.

You can watch us. The way we do the hard work of getting along, of asking the questions. Peace making isn’t about hiding my boy. It has taken your daddy and I a long time to learn this. To believe that making the peace isn’t about pretending we don’t hear when a word is spoken against us. No boy. That is for cowards. We walk into James 3, believing that the wise are the peacemakers, the humble. You can watch us do our best to bow our knees, to admit our mistakes, but not to cower under it. We want you to learn to use your words, the power of them to disarm or to wage war. The ways that we can use our social capital to build another up or to tear them down. We are still learning this, I will always be the last to call myself wise.

I want you to watch the  counter cultural ways of your daddy. The ways he dampens the power of the empire of pop culture by pointing out its absurdity. The way he points to our humble King every chance he gets. The way he believes, that even while he is turning a kingdom upside down he can do it in peaceful ways. That being a cultural subversive doesn’t mean you throw rocks, but that you take those rocks and build something beautiful instead. The way he does the hardest work of discussions he hates…because being brave enough to make peace doesn’t mean he likes it. No your daddy would much rather live the Peace than make it. You can watch him please…the way his rage doesn’t exist. The way the Spirit flourishes there.

You can watch me too I guess. Watch the way I learn to tame the flesh in me. You know this temper can flare up hot, the way the fuse can just be too short. I want you to watch the ways the Spirit can dampen even a wick like that. I’m learning my boy, I’m learning.

We are going to help you fan this spirit in your own heart. What you need to do to care for your soul to reveal this Spirit in you. The ways you will need space and time like your mamma, the way you aren’t going to be able to rush. You need to know that it takes more bravery to stand up and do the hard work of making the peace than it does to submit to the rage. It takes more strength to bend the weapons into implements of peace. You have these in abundance…I just watched you face the wrath of baby sister with dignity, turning her fists away and never once raising yours. I am achingly proud of you.

Grace and Peace,

Mamma

PS: Peace chasers watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWH4R0_-4hg

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving,considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17