Friday, April 30, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want (and other wise old sayings from the Rolling Stones)

I have to admit, I have the perfect life.  After commuting for years to work, making barely enough to pay for a series of "below average" ugly apartments, I now get to work out of my own home.  Well, for the most part, that is.  My husband of 8 years is a mechanic and owns his own auto repair shop.  I do the books for the business, run errands, and generally make a great shop gofer.  And most of the time I am extremely grateful for my new-found freedom from a typical office environment.

Yesterday, however, I was annoyed.  I had a busy day with tons of stuff to get done but I carefully timed things in the afternoon so I could fit in a walk.   I've been trying to walk every day, yes, obviously for the physical activity, but also for the mental benefits too.  I love people, love talking to people, love to be around people (I am, after all, half Italian so this should not come as a surprise!), but I find myself restored by being totally by myself.   Perhaps this is a result of the rest of my genetic make-up which is British, but whatever, I just find that my soul is refreshed and renewed if I can have at least half an hour everyday, by myself, away from telephones, television, computers, cellphones, etc. and out in the fresh air and sunshine, thinking solitary thoughts and dreaming solitary dreams.  So I treasure my walk time and guard it quite jealously.  And then yesterday late in the afternoon, having finished almost everything on my to-do list, right when I was about to go for my lovely sunshiny walk, my husband phoned and needed me to go pick up a part for him.

So, I was annoyed.  I picked up the old part which I would be required to match up at the parts place, drove the half hour to the new Freightliner dealership in our area, couldn't find the gate I was supposed to enter in their ginormous new compound, finally found the correct gate, circled the parking lot trying desperately to find a slot for my SUV as they clearly haven't yet sorted out customer parking, eventually found a spot that was so far out in the lot that it could conceivably be considered part of the next township, hustled into the building in the hopes of getting in and out of there as fast as possible, and then stood there and waited and waited and waited.   Gahh!!   There were at least 100 cars in the parking lot, so clearly they have a ton of staff in this huge new facility, but apparently there was only 1 guy on parts and he was having problems with his computer and trying to help the person ahead of me in line.  Finally, another parts person showed up, got me my part, and I was on my way.

As I stormed huffily out of the building, mid way across the wide expanse of the parking lot, I was struck with an epiphany.  I was angry because I was having to walk so far to get to my vehicle when what I really wanted to be doing was ..... walking!  So here comes the first Rolling Stones tidbit ... "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need" ... yeah, nuff said.

But then as I got into my car, because obviously I still hadn't yet reconciled my bad attitude with my new-found insight, I heaved a big sigh and said, "But God, this isn't what I had in mind for a walk!  I wanted something, you know, inspirational, where I would feel in touch with nature, and even find something lovely and photo-worthy!"  So I pulled out of the huge parking lot, turned on to the busy industrial street, and something caught my eye.   There in the very next parking lot was a family of geese, marching their way from a marshy ditch across the pavement to a grassy lawn in front of one of the neighbouring factories.   The mother goose was leading the little ones in a huddling line, the father goose was honking in circles around them, making sure nothing was going to come too close.  And since I do work for my own husband, I had the freedom to pull over, stop and get out of my SUV, camera-in-hand, and watch the little goose family for a few precious moments.

So I did get what I needed, and what I wanted, it just didn't come in the way in which I was expecting.

And now on to another Rolling Stones tidbit ... totally unrelated, and yet one I can really relate to:

"I always have an unmade bed, don't you?"  (Monkey Man)

But perhaps that's a topic for another day.  :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hatching Day!

Dove Eggs - April 13th

Robin Eggs - April 14th

Baby Robins - April 28th

Baby Doves - April 28th

I've been waiting for what seems like ages, but in fact is only 2 weeks, for these little fledglings to arrive. Can only imagine how their parents feel! :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Mornings should happen in silence. Husbands should remain quiet, not chattering on and on about world politics, the state of the economy, or who Steve Paikin was interviewing last night on The Agenda. Coffee should magically arrive in my hand, steaming hot and robust. And slowly too ... everything should be silent and slow as I gradually emerge from the cocoon of sleep. No blaring alarm clocks, no piercing sun rays troubling my puffy eyes, and certainly no cats staring at me with owl eyes trying to telepathically communicate their urgent need for food! Mornings should be gentle, quiet and slow. In fact, the best way for mornings to arrive would be late, somewhere around 9:00ish, after I've already woken up, turned over, and created a newly-comfortable nest for a second snooze. Then I'd be ready to face the morning with a smile, and even consider a minor debate on world issues as long as it wasn't too heated, and my hand was wrapped around a coffee mug. :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Addictions and Other Afflictions

Okay, I admit it, I am addicted to Bejeweled. I know it is totally lame but I get so much satisfaction out of lining up those silly coloured "jewels" and making my way to the top of the score board. And clearly I do realize that this game has absolutely no value in real life, but still, I find myself drawn to play it over and over again and pat myself on the back when my score increases as if this is some true measure of success. Yet all the time I'm racking up my scores and trying to keep the competition at bay, I really am laughing at myself as I realize just how ridiculous it all is in the grand scheme of life.

That being said, I do take the game a little bit too seriously at times. For example, I really, really get annoyed with myself when I play the game too quickly. See, the thing is, for those readers who might not be initiated in the magic of Bejeweled, if you play too slowly, you really can't get a high score. But, if you play too quickly, you end up matching up jewels that in retrospect, would have been better left alone. And there's nothing more frustrating than realizing two seconds too late, that you just missed out on an awesome line up of matching jewels that would have totally rocked your score right off the charts!

Unfortunately, this tendency in my life towards self-criticism and regret goes way beyond a mere facebook application. There are times when I find myself almost overwhelmed by feelings of regret over words I have spoken and foolish choices I have made in the past. I know that the Lord has forgiven me but I just can't seem to get it into my head that I should forgive myself. It's like a scab that I can't resist picking at, returning to it again and again even when I know it would be better left alone to heal. I look back at my life and wonder how I could have been so stupid! And inevitably, I am filled with a sense of deep self-loathing as I consider how I could have done things differently.

This morning when I went for my walk, I started to think about how I handle these negative feelings. Obviously, the way I'm handling them is not working because they are not going away, so I thought I better examine what I'm doing so I can find a better way! And I realized that what I do when I'm flooded with these feelings of regret, shame, and self-disgust is the same almost every time -- I push those feelings down into a box, deep in my heart, hiding them so I won't think about them anymore. The problem with this is that they never go away! The box just gets more and more full and spills out more and more frequently!

I thought about Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 10:5 - I know we are supposed to take "captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" so I've always thought by turning off those negative thoughts, I was actually doing the right thing. By not letting my mind dwell on them, I thought I was taking them captive. However, I had a new thought this morning. If we're going to use military imagery, then what I've actually been doing is retreating in battle --- running away from the fight by shoving my feelings down and not dealing with them.

I think that I need to stop pushing the thoughts away and instead, let Jesus go to battle with them for me. A funny image pops into my head when I think about that, of Jesus dressed as a medieval knight, fencing with all of my foolish thoughts. It makes me smile inside to think that He would go to battle on my behalf. Really, when you think about it, that is what He did when He went to the cross. He went to battle for your soul and for mine, and He won the victory! The next time I'm flooded with feelings of regret and shame, instead of retreating from the battle ground, I'm going to try to bring those negative feelings to the foot of the cross, and let Jesus conquer them for me.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Cleaning

We have some beautiful Saskatoon Berry bushes on our farm. They were planted by my father-in-law quite a few years ago and right now they are in full bloom. In the Spring, their tiny white blooms are so pretty against the soft grey bark of the branches. For a few short days in the early Summer, we pick their fruit and make pies, jams, and juice. But most of the fruit goes to the birds, especially Cedar Wax Wings that come in large numbers, perching on the bushes, pecking away, until each bush is literally quivering with their movements.

I've often wondered why the bush that is known as a Saskatoon Berry in the Prairie Provinces, is called a Service Berry on the East Coast. Recently I read that the reason they are called Service Berries actually has to do with funeral services! Apparently before the invention of back-hoes when graves had to be dug by hand, if someone died during the winter their body would be temporarily interred in a crypt. Then, when the ground was thawed, there would be a second memorial service and their coffin would be buried in the earth. When the Service Berry bushes came into bloom, their delicate white flowers were a sign that the ground would be soft enough for burial services to be held, and so that is how they got their name.

It's an interesting juxtaposition of themes - death and Spring don't usually go hand-in-hand. Yet my thoughts are drawn to this idea right now because as much as Spring is a time of renewal, perhaps the renewal can only happen after a burial of sorts. After all, we do bury seeds in the ground in order for plants to spring up. And it seems like there are times when we have to purge ourselves of things that are weighing us down, holding us back, in order for space to be made in our hearts for new things. Right now it seems that there are things in my heart that need to be purged: old attitudes to be exchanged for new ones, hurts that have been festering that need to be released, dusty areas in the corners of my soul that need some Spring cleaning! Just as my body is craving spring salads, the kinds of greens that are known to clean sluggish blood, so my soul is craving fresh nourishment that will clear my heart and mind of sluggish thoughts and negative attitudes.

I buried my face in a bouquet of Service Berry blossoms today and had a brief service of my own. It was a private service between me and God, laying to rest things that need to be left behind. Now I look forward to embracing the new - filling my heart with the fresh greens of Spring. It will be interesting to see what new things come in to occupy the newly-made spaces in my heart.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Carrying Jesus - He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother.

This afternoon we went to visit my sister-in-law in Toronto. This is always something of an adventure and something both of us approach with some dread because E. suffers with schizophrenia and we really never know what will happen. The last few years E. has been in a nursing home and things have dramatically improved. She is getting regular meals, regular medication, and has a clean, safe room to live in. That being said, medicating someone who has suffered from mental illness for many, many years, on top of her current physical complications of diabetes, high blood pressure, and increasing vision loss, is not an easy task. So we're never sure if she will be having a "good" day where she will be almost lucid and only moderately insulting, or a "bad" day when she will spend the vast majority of the visit vacillating between bizarre laughter and her "woodpecker speech," a term my husband has coined for the "rat-a-tat-tat" rapid, never-ceasing, verbal diatribe that characterizes many of her conversations.

Needless to say, I usually try to find something of interest in Toronto, or along the route, to inspire me into feeling like the trip has been worth the effort. Sometimes we stop for a nice meal at a new restaurant that looks interesting, or at an old stand-by (like the Pickle Barrel at Sherway Gardens, or the Firehall in Bronte). If the weather is nice, we might stroll along the waterfront at Queens Quay, or take a drive along Bridal Path to gawk at the beautiful homes. I always hope that something nice will happen along the way to make up for the exasperation that generally accompanies our visits.

Today we actually had a rather good visit! E. was almost 100% lucid. The only time she got insulting was when my husband asked her if the large rock in the gardens at the nursing home had fallen from the moon, to which she replied, "No, it fell from your ass, stupid!" Even my husband had to admit his question had been silly, and we both laughed at her response. But E.'s medication was starting to wear off and before things could take a rapid decline into woodpecker territory, we decided to end our visit and head out.

That's when it happened. The neat thing I was hoping for came along. We were sitting at the intersection of Dunn & King St. W., waiting for the light to change and there she came - a petite, frail-looking elderly Filipino lady carrying an immense and cumbersome statue of Jesus! She struggled across the intersection with the statue hugged close to her body, and may I clarify here that the statue was easily 3/4 as long as her entire body. I have no idea how heavy he was (cue music: He ain't heavy, He's my brother), but obviously she was having some difficulty and kept glancing up at the walk signal with a certain amount of desperation in her eyes as she wondered if she could get herself and the statue across the intersection safely before traffic started up again with the light change.

And yes, before you ask, my mind did immediately go to the lyrics of "Plastic Jesus" - but only for a split second before in the next instance, I began to wonder who this woman was, and why she was carrying this statue, and where she was going with it? And naturally (being an English major) my mind began to ponder the symbolism of the moment - shouldn't we all be carrying Jesus, moment by moment, everyday? And what does it mean to carry Jesus everywhere we go? Is that a difficult task? Do we struggle under the load, anxiously rushing to cross intersections safely with our cumbersome load?

Two different scriptures came to mind. I looked them up and meditated upon them when I got home. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus does invite us to "carry" Him with us. He says:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

As I pondered those words, I thought about how they make me feel inside -- not overwhelmed, not frustrated, not anxious, but the complete opposite. Christ's words fill me with peace and contentment. They are a reminder that "carrying Jesus" is not an impossible, overbearing task, something done out of duty whilst gritting my teeth, but rather an easy task that will replenish my weary soul, not deplete it. He's not an inanimate statue, after all, but the Son of God, who loves us with an everlasting love, and carries us from the very brink of death into eternal life!

The other scripture that came to mind is one that our pastor referred to this morning in his sermon. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, the apostle Paul encourages us with these words:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."

This week I have been amazed by the fragrance of blossoms in our orchard - apricot, plum and cherry trees have burst into the most beautiful blooms and to take a stroll through the orchard is the most amazingly decadent experience! Imagine that God chooses to use us, in all of our human imperfections, with all of our human failings, to spread everywhere the fragrance of Jesus! Not only am I carrying Jesus with me, but I'm carrying His fragrance! Astounding! How can this be? What an amazing responsibility!

So today was a reminder to me that I am carrying Jesus wherever I go, and I shouldn't be doing that out of a sense of duty that weighs me down, but out of love for the amazing Saviour whom I serve. Even when it means spending a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon visiting with a mentally ill relative when I'd rather be outside enjoying the nice weather, or a Monday morning sitting behind my desk working on accounts receivables when I'd rather be enjoying a good book, or scrubbing pots and pans in my kitchen when I'd rather be cooking up a creative meal. I'm carrying Jesus wherever I go, and I want others to recognize His fragrance in my life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yada Yada Yada ....

Ever read any of the Yada Yada Prayer Sisters books? They're kind of fun ... and inspiring ... and make you long to be part of a little circle of girlfriends who will be there for you through thick and thin. Kind of like the Christian non-sexy version of SITC. (But without the Manolo Blahnik references!) Anyway, I often think about groups like that and on paper, they seem so awesome, but in real life -- meh, maybe not so much.

But last night, I had a sudden inspiration. Sure, maybe real-life "sister groups" are not as 365 day-a-year, 24/7 supportive or as mystically connected as their fictional counterparts, but maybe they are actually even better! Because somehow by challenging myself to connect with people who aren't exactly like me, who don't think exactly the way I do, and don't feel things the way I feel them, I've found a number of unique "sister groups" of my own. And I'm drawing strength from them in ways I didn't expect.

From Mary, I'm learning to stop and think more - no, I mean REALLY think - to ponder deeply about things I have taken for granted in the past. She is definitely not exactly me, has had very different life experiences, is in uniquely different spot in her life right now compared to my own, and yet all of those differences are perhaps why I benefit so much from her being in my life.

From Amy, I'm learning to suck-it-up and keep going! No really, she just keeps on no matter what. Maybe that is the real meaning of "Dutch courage." But regardless of whether or not it is Amy's Dutch heritage or just an aspect of her own special personality, the ability to keep going in the face of adversity and trials and frustrations is something I deeply admire in her, and I hope some of it rubs off on me.

From Petronie, I'm learning to be truly thankful. Not just for the big things in life, but for everyday life itself. To be thankful that I woke up this morning and had the ability to jump out of bed. To be thankful that I live in a free country and get to make choices of my own volition. From my sweet Congolese friend, I am learning that life comes down to simply this: "With Jesus, life. No Jesus, no life."

And there are so many other friends I could share about, each of whom brings their own special gifts to my life along with the gift of their friendship. So I'm thankful for my own networks of life-sisters. We may not look as glamourous as Carrie et al, but what we have is real and meaningful and makes my life that much more wonderful. Yada, yada, yada .....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bird Song

Is it just me, or do the birds seem to be singing a great deal more this Spring? Lately, I've been waking up with heaviness in my soul. I can't really explain it, just in those moments between deep slumber and total awakening, there's something dragging my soul down. Like gravity is suddenly a much greater force than it used to be, only it's not a physical gravity, but an emotional one.

Once I jump out of bed and get going for the day, I can push it all away and I seem to be okay. But occasionally, I stop during the day and wonder what is causing this. Is it the dreams I've been having? Is it something I'm lacking in my nutrition? Is it hormonal changes now that I'm almost 43 and heading down the inevitable perimenopausal path I would so love to avoid? Don't know the cause ... but I do know that somehow the joyful notes of a songbird will suddenly stop me in my tracks ... filling my heart with a sad delight, like never before. And being outside seems to open up a space in my soul as if the fresh air is able to reach deep inside me in cleansing waves.

Soft winds at work. Perhaps by the time the roses are in bloom, the heaviness will be swept away.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Resisting the Urge to Babble

So here I am, standing at a crossroads, wondering should I or shouldn't I give in to the clearly narcissistic urge to sign up for a blog? Does anyone really want or need to hear me babble? Do I think my words will be so profound or perhaps so very humourous that they will add some unique splash of colour to the global internet mosaic? Somehow I doubt they will make much difference to anyone but myself. I could just write for myself privately, as I usually do, but perhaps the idea of scattering my words like seeds, hoping that one might find a cozy warm spot of soil on which to land, fills me with a little gladness. So I have passed the crossroads and made a decision, started down the blogging path ... and hopefully will resist the urge to randomly babble about nothing. But no guarantees, understood?


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