"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Miscellaneous thoughts on Oklahoma

Sunrise on the northern horizon (from my parent's kitchen table)
  • After six and a half years in Canada, I am now a resident of the United States again. Even though I haven't been an Oklahoma resident for 20 years, it still feels familiar and comfortable. As though I have been walking uphill or swimming upstream for a very long time and have finally turned around.  I feel stronger for the effort of living outside my home country and culture of origin, but I also feel tired. It is a relief to my weary muscles to be back home.
  • It is so lovely and warm here when the sun shows her face. 70 degrees Fahrenheit in March? I'll take it.  I'm painfully aware that there is still snow in Calgary. Don't miss it one bit.
  • That being said, I appear to be allergic to whatever the wind blows swiftly down the plains. Can't. Stop. Sneezing. Eating copious amounts of local honey seems to be helping.
  • I can't express how blessed I feel to know I am still welcome here in my parents home, so late in the game of life, with the chaos and mess of a young family of four.
  • After a month on moving-hiatus, I sat down to write again a few weeks ago. Spent some time reading a bit of the newest draft to my mom, who loved it and said "just finish the thing! I want to hear the rest!" Glad for cheerleaders.
  • A friend recently hooked us up with some raw cow's milk. Because of my corn allergy, I  haven't had milk since before Julianne was born... almost a year ago. I had almost forgotten how it tasted. And this milk was so worth the wait anyway. Mmmm.
  • The organic whole wheat bread my mom buys from a food coop... tastes like cake. What is up with that?! I miss my honey whole wheat Prairie Mill bread from Calgary. :(
  • Quartz Mountain (about 30 mins from my parent's home)
  • We just found a spot for Lucy in the local Christian pre-school for a few months! The sweet girl is so excited she talks about it all the time. Can't believe she'll be four in July! And Julianne will be one THIS WEEK.  Impossible.

Currently reading: 

  • The Skin Map, by Steven Lawhead.  Loving this book for its imagination and fun fast moving plot.

Recently Read:

  • The Fields of Bannockburn by Donna Fletcher Crow. A fun historical novel that spans the history of the Kings of Scotland.  However, it was SO LONG and I have so little reading time these days, it took me five months to read (and I still didn't quite finish).  
  • I had better luck with knocking out the memoir Found by Micha Boyett. I read it on our Kindle in a couple of nights when Julianne was sick and needed to be held long hours.  Loved this book so much! So similar to my own story of struggle to find a new rhythm of prayer amidst the chaos of motherhood. Poetic, funny and a very wise book, its one of my very favorites in the Christian memoir category.
  • Also: with my friend Mike Yankoski's book The Sacred Year, which I have been reading very, very slowly because it is a) so good and b) so personally challenging you can't read a chapter without feeling inspired to let your life catch up before you read another.  I cannot wait until I can order a whole stack and lead a book group/discipleship group through it.  And I'm not even finished yet.  I'll write more when I finish it, because it is epic!

Recently watched:

  • It's been about a month now since Grantchester and Downton Abbey finished their runs, but I had so much fun watching them.  I'm putting the Sidney Chambers books (that Grantchester is based on) on my summer reading list because I just can't get enough.
  • More recently I've binged on Hallmark channel movies that my dad picked out to watch with me.  The Ron Clark Story we saw tonight was the first to make me bawl... it's an inner-city teaching story.  Reminded me of my own students so many years ago in NYC and their broken and beautiful lives.
  • Oh! And I saw and adored Cinderella. It really captured the beauty, wit and wisdom of the story well.  I could write a book on that one too re: feminism and fairy tales. But since I have another book to finish up... I'll save it for another day.

Picnic and playground sunny day
Have a blessed Holy Week! We've been low-churching it lately, so much so that I teared up when we said the Apostle's creed on Sunday visiting my brother's church in Oklahoma City. Like couldn't even finish.  Who does that?  I always remind myself in moments like that that the Medieval church considered tears a gift.  Those Medievals were smarter than we often think.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What life (and love) look like for us right now

"Dawn, Calgary". Photo Credit, Clinton Werezak.

Last night, for at least the third night in a row, the baby woke up screaming and restless at about 12:30 am and refused to settle back into bed until about 3am.  Teething.  Ugh.  She would doze in our arms, but as soon as she hit the crib sheet, she protested her unfair abandonment.

She has recently discovered her lungs and makes each scream as ear-splitting, and attention-getting as possible.  I remember our firstborn doing this, but I also see how the stakes are higher for this sweet second-born.  My attention is just that much harder to compete for.  And a fierce competitor she is!

Exhausted and disoriented by sleep-loss, we were not amused.

Neither Clint, nor I are exceptionally good at being gentle and kind when our sleep is interrupted. We have our moments, but awoken at 3am, three nights in a row we are not our best selves.

As the baby screamed, we took turns last night.  Holding her, rocking her with the creak of the wooden chair, swaying on our feet, her small body curled like a comma in our arms, bending over her crib, cursing the soother that she throws out of the crib (usually not with actual bad words).  The other of us would lie down just feet from the crib still in our room, attempting to rest and pray, generally unable to sleep.

We are dreaming for our futures again.  Tickets in hand to head to Oklahoma March 9th, to spend some much needed time with my parents and siblings, to wrestle with God in more prayer and hold out hope for the future.

Do you know what an utter failure I feel like as a person in my thirties with two kids, living with our parents?  We're not saving up for a down payment.  We're not yet actively raising support for full-time Christian work.  We're just completely and totally burnt out.  Sensitive people worn down by physical pain and mental and spiritual battles in the past few years.  We'd forgotten how to imagine.  We'd forgotten how to dream for our futures.  We'd lost confidence in ourselves, and in our weakest moments, in each other.  There were no jobs in the places we thought they'd be.  We felt frozen in place.

But God has his vice-grip on us.

There is no better place to be, than held by God.

That doesn't make it any easier.

Mercy was new this morning.  Tylenol soothed the baby into a long(er) sleep.  A cheerful preschooler knocked quietly on the door, rubbing sleepies out of her eyes at 7:23am and found me back in the rocker nursing.  The baby turned her head toward the light of the door and smiled.  We went upstairs, quietly to leave Daddy breathing quietly in his much-needed sleep.  She wanted her toast, baby wanted her Cheerios.  After the incense of my cinnamon bread toasting rose up, I cut myself a big slice of Guinness Chocolate birthday cake and watched the sun rise out the kitchen window in grey and purple, blue and green, pink and orange.

Knowing that I am fragile, prone to failure, and in need of grace is the best kind of lesson.  Hard but good.  Because most of the really good things are veins of ore mined out of the hardness of life.  Precious because they were hard-won.  What I've learned, more than anything, is that I am not alone.  It's okay to need help.  It is good, even, to be weak, to give up self-sufficiency, independence, and pride and choose love.

Thirty-two is going to be a good year.  Because grip or no, I'm in God's hands.  Hands I know, love, and trust from years of hard-won experience.  I'd much rather be gripped tightly than left to slip away.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The ache: a litany of gratefulness.

I've finally put my finger on one of the better reasons for the ache in my belly about leaving Vancouver.  I've written in the past months about the vertigo of packing up and leaving our lives in Vancouver behind for a new adventure and about the anxiety I feel in doing this.  But this week I've come across an amazing quote that shed new light on this ache.

(I feel the tears welling up.  If I were reading this post aloud to you, you would hear my voice shaking a little bit here, see my chin wrinkle)
The first and most famous of the desert fathers, Saint Anthony, was once asked, “What must one do in order to please God?” His answer had three parts:“Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes: whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.” (quoted from Amy Peterson's article Wanderlust: A Personal History)
Did you catch that, there at the end?   In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.

In the past few months, on a subconscious level I have believed that the sad, tight feeling I've carried around in my stomach is mostly bad.  It sure doesn't feel that great.  It feels like loss and grief and uncertainty and anxiety and lack of faith.  But according to St. Anthony's words it's not bad at all.  If I'm having a hard time leaving one place and heading out toward another, if I cannot easily leave, it's a sign of healthy spirituality.  It's a sign that I am pleasing to God.

I don't say this to toot my own horn.  This surprises me.  I don't feel pleasing to God.  Most days I feel like a colossal failure as a human being because I can't even do simple things like respond to my preschooler with patience or keep my time online under control or keep my house relatively clean.  Let alone huge feats of faith like packing up to take my family whithersoever the Spirit leads.

It also surprises me in some ways that I cannot easily leave Vancouver.  I have not particularly felt at home here.  It has often felt like a stopping place, a passing through place.  For the past three years, we've thought, "just a little bit longer and we'll leave."  In our minds, it felt like we already had one foot out the door, like we shouldn't settle in and get comfortable.  But even as an exile and a foreigner just passing through, I have so much to be grateful for about my life here.

God has been with me here.

He has been with me in walks along the windswept shore of Spanish Banks and the wooded trails of  Galiano Island.

He has been with me in the flash of red and yellow autumn leaves that set every common tree aflame.

He has been with me as I knelt to glean hazelnuts from a farmer's orchard, a tiny life pressing against my belt.  And as that life grew.

He has been with me helping me to find (and even grow) healthy, scrumptious local food to eat in the face of corn-allergy.

He has been with me through my courses at Regent College that have helped me to see his Word clearly again after years of dissonance and confusion.

He has been with me as I sat around so many tables with so many friends sharing bread and wine and excellent conversation.

He has been with me as I've knelt at the altar rail month after month with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, righteousness that I could never earn or deserve.  As I committed to teach my girls that hunger.

He has been with me through the struggles and through the accomplishments.  Where I am apt to look at even my biggest accomplishments here with a gnawing sense of failure and despair--he has enfolded me with love and spoken to me--oh so clearly!--that he doesn't see failure, he sees faithfulness.

For this and so much more I am truly grateful.

all pics my own.  all rights reserved. :)