Saturday, 26 January 2013

Weekend Reading

The Writing Process @ Rhythm of the Home
Every writer has her own process, but most involve lousy rough drafts and circuitous routes to something better. It’s true of even the best. It’s hard to imagine why most of us were taught to begin school papers by submitting outlines. We were forced to decide what we’d say before the writing could show us what we really wanted to say. Advice-givers will tell you that to achieve anything, you need goals and resolutions. I’m not convinced. Maybe it’s better to simply start with the work, whether that work be writing, or painting, or planting gardens, or parenting. We learn to write by writing; we learn to live by living. Maybe it’s best to skip making plans and simply dig in, do the work, make a hot mess that scares us and see what we can do with it. Let the process tell us how to proceed.

Having My Twenties to Myself @ A Deeper Family
Myself, the one who has seen and felt first-hand the love a parent lavishes on their child. Myself, who has learned that she must put a vice grip around Grace and never, ever let go. Myself, who learned that she is capable of far more than she ever thought possible. Myself, who sometimes finds it hard to tell where she ends and her family begins.

In a very real sense, I have both lost and found myself in my twenties.

In which I hope she remembers, today at church @ Sarah Bessey
And let her remember how I cried my mascara right off, and how I was such a gigantic mess in my real life but I kept trying anyway because I had stars in my eyes, wild in love, and how I sang too-loud, and clutched my breast with relief at being reminded again how He is faithful. And let her remember that He is enough, because He was enough for her crazy imperfect mama.

Parenting Beyond Me @ A Deeper Family
Everyday and in every area of their lives, I want God to be present and welcomed. In the mundane routine and the dire circumstance, God needs to be. God has no number of priority in our lives. He is not fit into our schedule at bedtime or as a corrective reference point. God is not a priority to appease. My goal is for him to be supremely present in everything.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The older I get, the badder I get

He'd had a rough morning. It started off on the wrong foot and there we were, mother and oldest son, butting heads over and over. He was exerting his independence. I was lacking in patience. He was stuck. I was quick to anger. Neither of us were behaving well, and me all the worse for being the adult.

There was a break, a few minutes of silence, a chance for each of us to collect ourselves. Then he came to me.

"I feel like the older I get, the badder I get."

His face crumpled with those words.
I opened my arms and he climbed onto my lap; it's been too long since I've rocked him like that. He cried as I whispered words of peace, then as quickly as he'd come, he wriggled off my lap and was gone.

We talked about it later, but my words felt hollow, empty platitudes in the face of such sadness and self-awareness. His growing capacity for good as well, the age-old struggle between the two creatures within, choices and forgiveness and I don't know what I'm doing here. He seemed content, though, and it was a good talk. The rest of the day passed smoothly.

But as I lay in bed that night, I couldn't get his words out of my head. The older I get, the badder I get. I realized, slowly, that his words rang true for me as well.

The older I get, the badder I get.

Or perhaps more correctly worded, the older I get, the more aware I am of my badness, my capacity to do wrong even as I desire to do right.

My wrongdoings may be more subtle now, no longer as blatant as those of my earlier years. They may be easier to hide, to ignore, to excuse or brush off as not really that bad. But they are and I am and the awareness only grows as I get older.

I am more aware, too, of the range of my wrongdoings. What I once thought was right now seems horrific to my older self. Did I truly believe that? say that? do that?

The older I get, the badder I get.

There are lessons, too, that I am taught repeatedly and yet never seem to learn. For how long will I continue in my stubbornness? I am increasingly disappointed, for example, in how easily I turn to despair. Forget it, why do I even bother, it's always going to turn out this way. Bitterness and cynicism join in and do I forget so quickly about hope, joy, and that inner peace that passes all understanding? Time and time again and I am running out of excuses.

The older I get, the badder I get.

But that's not my whole story.

Because - to borrow a five-year-old's poor grammar - the older I get, the gooder I get too.

The older I get, the more my eyes are open to the spectrum around me. No longer black and white, I see greys too, and reds and yellows and blues and everything in between. The strident nature of youth is falling away, can't help but fall away, as I grow in understanding and compassion, grace and mercy. There is so much more than I imagined, God is so much bigger than I knew, and there is mystery and beauty and yes, goodness.

The older I get, the gooder I get.

God grows me, stretches me, opens my eyes and my ears and my heart as he guides me along the path. He has begun this work in me, I am truly a new creation, and the old (wo)man is being left behind. Slowly, oh so painfully slowly, I walk towards wholeness in the promise that He will complete this work in the age to come. I see His Goodness and I know His desire for my wholeness, that day when I will no longer wrestle inwardly with the old and the new.

But for now I am both.

The older I get, the badder I get.
The older I get, the gooder I get.
And I know which one wins in the end.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Laid low

The boy woke up with a fever this morning. He laid down on the floor in front of the fireplace and stayed there for the rest of the day, baseball cap on and tissue box nearby. He ate a pear and half a sandwich and sometimes fell asleep for a brief time. I spent much of the day chasing off his little brother, who just wanted to play and wrestle with his much-adored big brother. It was an odd change from my usual duty of getting the older one to back off the younger a bit. That poor boy, he was laid right low.

The younger one wanted a sandwich after dinner, just like his big brother. He nibbled at it a bit before abandoning it at the table in favour of Duplo. It was gone when he went back for it later. Did you eat his sandwich?, I called to the husband. He came into the room, sheepish, to admit that he had. The poor child received the news poorly. Fell straight forward onto the floor and sobbed his broken heart out, drowning out offers of a replacement. Devastation comes swiftly when one is only three years old; he was laid low by the injustice of it all.

Unexpected news yesterday left me sleepless last night, reeling from the blow and wondering what it would all mean in the end. I got out of bed early this morning to prepare for company that never arrived. Emotional and physical exhaustion wrestled for top spot and by the time the husband got home, I was spent. I napped on the couch, laid low by discouragement and never enough sleep.

But tomorrow is a new day, always, always. We'll recover from illness and disappointment and discouragement. We'll count blessings along the way because it's the only thing that keeps us standing tall, giving thanks to God (for He is good, His mercy endures forever).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Singing it again

It was such a little thing but I can't get it out of my mind.

"I liked that song. I liked it a lot. Can we sing it again?" He's five and he loves music and something about this song caught his attention. The pastor/worship leader/guitar player/man of so many hats chuckled at the request.

But I'm a mother and I shushed him because that's what we do when our children speak out of turn, we blush and shush and worry about what everyone around us must think. Our children always seem so much more unruly to us than they do to everyone else, don't they?

The worship continued, next song, words projected onto the walls. I swayed with my baby in my arms. I've been swaying for the past five years, catch myself moving back and forth, back and forth, in line at the grocery store and the bank, just swaying even when I don't have a little one with me. So I swayed and sang and we carried on.

But at the end, someone spoke up, "let's sing that first one again, remember? He wanted to sing it again." Slides flashed by, back to the beginning of the set, and that man of many hats began strumming his guitar again.

They sang that song again just for my boy, my sweet music lover, and it was such a little thing but I can't get it out of my mind. I remember and my eyes well up every time, every single time, it's been two weeks now. Such a small kindness and yet so big when you're five, to be noticed and heard and valued.

And I guess that's how I know we're exactly where we're supposed to be each Sunday.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Asking the right questions

I am the goal-oriented product of a goal-oriented society. I ask questions the focus on achievements, outcomes, accomplishments. I ask how I can get what I want, how I can improve my surroundings, how I can make things happen. Good things. Worthy things.

But on their own, they are the wrong questions.

They all focus on the end, but the end cannot be the foremost consideration. Too often I have witnessed - in the world and in myself - the goal becoming the Good Thing, and anything that aids in achieving that goal must also be a Good Thing. So very many things are justified in the name of attaining that Good Thing.

Parenting for Results

The principle applies universally, but I am a mother and I have a habit of seeing everything through that role. As a mother, I see all the ways in which we, too, focus on the wrong questions.

How can I make her listen to me?
How can I get him to do what I want?
How can I make her stop doing that?
How can I keep them safe?
How can I ensure my children Turn Out Right?

Their focus is on the end, achieving a goal, making something happen, and on their own they are insufficient.

Sometimes it is our own human weaknesses that most clearly illustrate the insufficiency of these questions. We want them to obey! now! and so we yell because it is effective and we don't have the time, energy, or patience to do the harder work of teaching and guiding. We focus on our desires and lose sight of what we believe to be true. These days do not define us, but they happen and we apologize and we try again tomorrow.

Other times, however, the insufficiency of these questions is demonstrated through deliberation rather than a slip-up in a moment of weakness. Entire parenting paradigms are built around the idea of goal attainment, promising children that grow up to be productive citizens or God-fearing adults or responsible or hard-working or whatever it is that we want to hear.

Perhaps even worse, these promises are often cloaked in religion, and there is always the looming threat that failure means the loss of our children's very souls. With that end, what means could possibly be worse? It is upon that question that many of those who call themselves Christian parenting experts build their kingdoms. Follow these biblical instructions and you too can be guaranteed to raise a godly child. We are assured we can raise them to righteous through these instructions, usually centered on a "biblical model" of corporal punishment, yet ultimately amounting to nothing more than moralistic behaviour modification.

There are no promises in parenting. If we could parent our children into God's good graces, they would have no need of Christ in their lives. We cannot presume to be able to do the work of the Holy Spirit; our children are as human as we are and will need God's beautiful redemptive grace as much as we ourselves do. Nothing is gained by making obedience the goal of our parenting.

If we parent with the belief that things will add up as we expect, we will be disappointed. There is no guarantee that good parenting will produce the desired results, religious or not. We must parent not for their obedience, but rather out of our own obedience.

And therein lies the question.

Asking the Right Questions

Whatever our goals, whatever our desires, however noble our purposes, there is one question that must accompany them all: Are my actions the right actions?

Not the goal. My actions. Are they good? Not will it work, but is it right?

In so many other words,
Is this the right choice in this moment?
Does this decision line up with my values?
Am I faithfully doing what I should be doing?
Am I, right now, bringing glory to my Creator?

Many things will achieve my goals, but far fewer things are Good and Right.

Goals are good. They give us direction for the journey. But when the question of how to achieve them becomes the ultimate question, we too easily lose perspective. Those questions must always be balanced by that one question, is this right?

My ultimate desire is to bring glory to God, as a person, as a parent, in whatever role I find myself at any particular time. Is this action going to please and glorify my Creator? Maybe your question will be different, not God but peace or love or freedom or kindness or non-violence or whatever your ultimate value is. But underneath it all, however we word it, whatever the ultimate motive is, the question must always focus on our own actions.

I cannot control others. I cannot guarantee outcomes. But I can always control myself, can consider my own actions, my own reactions, my choices along the way.

Likewise, I cannot control my children. I cannot guarantee that they will Turn Out Right. But I can control my actions and reactions, letting those be lessons that teach them about life.

This is the principle that ultimately guides my parenting. It is why we respond to our children's cries, speak to them with kindness, respect their individual needs, extend them grace, seek solutions rather than punishments, and apologize when we mess up. It is why we ultimately seek to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit to them rather than demand it from them. We ask not will it work, but is it right?

Beyond Parenthood

The same principle applies throughout our lives: our marriages, our relationships, our workplaces, our churches, everything. Regardless of roles or desired outcomes or anything else, the question of how to accomplish our goals must always be coupled with the question of is this action, right now, the right action in these circumstances?

The question is not how can I make my spouse do what I want, but how can I act and react in a way that lines up with my values? Not how can we grow our church, but how can we live faithful lives today? Not how can we get promoted, but how can we love and serve where we are? Not how can we make things easier, but how can we behave honourably in these circumstances?

With that question foremost in our minds, the rest often falls into place behind it. But even if it does not - there are no guarantees - at least we have lived well and without regret, having considered the rightness of our actions ahead of the achievement of our goals.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Mom Spa

Turns out my kids are entrepreneurs. They offer a variety of spa and fitness services in exchange for room and board. They came up with the services all on their own; in fact, they seem to have a knack for it from birth.

What services, you ask?

Face texturizing: Smooth skin is so last decade. Using intermittent wailing throughout the night, this 100% natural treatment is guaranteed to add beautiful dark bags below your eyes, giving you the varied skin depth and high interest you've always dreamed of.

Skin treatment: The periodic application of drool, spit up, and bodily waste will leave your skin smelling a baby. Mechanics of delivery are varied and include slobbery kisses, chewing, leaky diapers, and direct application.

Personal trainer: With steady refrains of "I'm hungry!", "I need to be wiped!", and "Oops, it was an accident!", your personal trainer will keep you on your feet and motivated all the blessed day long.

Full-body massage: After an active day on your feet, a two-on-one wrestling match with your high-energy trainers will loosen those stiff muscles. Hugs, snuggles, and nursing-massages will aid in the relaxation process.

Nutrition specialist: Specializing in portion control, your nutrition specialist will help himself to a share of the food on your plate. In the event that nothing on your plate appeals to your nutrition specialist, he will request your frequent assistance during mealtime in order to prevent you from consuming too much food in one sitting.

There you have it, my own in-home spa and fitness club, open 24/7. My life is grand.

If you don't have children, come on by for your own spa treatments. If you do have children, do they offer any additional services that I should let mine know about?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Weekend Reading

A Lullaby for His Babies @ A Deeper Story
Christians talk a lot about being born again. Sometimes, I think an important truth is overlooked in that. We are born again as His babies. In all the times when we feel helpless to even communicate, He hears the deepest cries of our hearts. He sings for joy over us. Not resignation, or impatience or disappointment, but a lullaby of tender, heart-bursting delight. He holds us in His arms, rocks us and comforts us. He wipes away our tears, draws us close and whispers to us who we really are. He names us.

Sometimes we make obedience too hard. We listen to the hissing of the Accuser instead of the Song, and confuse obeying God with a checklist, or unspoken threats of punishment. Yes, there is that daily taking up of the Cross. But more than anything, the heart of obedience is listening to His love songs, to the Truth that He speaks over us. Letting the everlasting arms hold us close to Him. We are His babies. When we hear and understand that, the obedience grows from there. It is the harmony to His song over us. He isn’t sighing in disapproval. All of the love, delight and tenderness we have for our own kidlets is just an echo of His lullaby for His babies.

When Children Get Stuck @ Real Child Development
I thought for a second and then just stated what I was perceiving.

“It’s like your stuck, Jude. You’re just stuck on this shirt. And if you can get past it, if you can get past this shirt, a whole world of opportunities will open for you. Opportunities for play, for fun, for joy.”

Advocate or Adversary: Your view of God Determines your Parenting Philosophy @ I Take Joy
However, I believe that the more a person truly understands the character of God and His mercy and love and patience and servant’s heart as a parent toward his children, then one must adopt the role of an advocate towards their children as God is our advocate.

How very grateful I am for the grace and patience of God as He leads me, his child. He is so committed to my own holiness and sanctification, but so wise and patient with me as I make progress. I am grateful He sees my heart. I try so hard, I fail so miserably and so often. Yet, He does not embarrass me or demean me, He simply walks this road with me, by my side, drawing me to His ways, coaching me to walk in His truth, teaching me to obey one day at a time.

Dear Pastor Mark: Pontificate This @ Rage Against the Minivan
Not all of us have the daddy issues or broken background that makes your brand of leadership attractive. Some of us don’t find shame to be a spiritual motivator. A whole bunch of us think that you are misrepresenting Christ. And we’re talking about it, because we think it’s damaging. We think it’s spiritual abuse.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Watching her sleep

This child, she spoils me. She sleeps very much not like a baby, or at least not like my other babies, which is to say that she sleeps Very Well Indeed.

When she's tired, she cries her tired cry. I change her, nurse her, lay her down, leave the room.

And then she goes to sleep.

Mind. Blown.

Oh, I know it might all change in a couple of months. I remember that shift with my second baby, when Mommy became a more needed presence and sleep came with more difficulty for a while. It happens, I'm okay with that. But so far I've just been marveling at how very simple sleep is with her.

It sounds lovely, but goodness. Would you believe a part of me feels like I'm missing out?

She fell asleep in my arms yesterday. She hasn't done that in weeks, weeks that somehow feel like months. She fell asleep and I just stared at her, right there, a drop of milk sliding down her cheek. Her beautiful ribbon lips, her perfect little nose, her sweet baby hands, thumb red and dry because she's a thumb sucker, my very first, it feels like an odd little milestone for me.

And I just held her. The weight of her in my arms and the warmth of her against my chest felt so unbelievably perfect. How many naps had she contentedly slept through on her own? How many naps had I missed holding her through?

Tonight I couldn't bring myself to leave. I settled in next to her, our old evening routine, and I stayed as she fell asleep. She's here now and I keep looking at her, watching her, the steady rise and fall of her chest as she breaths. She looks so peaceful. So perfect.

I know to be grateful for her ease of sleep. I know to cherish those times when I can focus on my boys, so full of energy and imagination. I know I'll still be standing beside her bed listening to her breathe for years to come, just as I do with her brothers, and I'm not really running out of time as quickly as it feels.

But right now, tonight, I just want to watch her sleep.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Finding a new (old) groove

New year, new possibilities, new groove.

We're loving our wide-open days. The boys are signed up for swim lessons. They're in the same class together, it's just too precious for words. The older one spent an afternoon at a Lego robotics class and another afternoon tubing with his grandparents; the younger one and I have been loving the time spent together, just us, and did you know he talks a mile a minute when his big brother's not around?

Too precious for words.

This little girl of mine, she's cooing and rolling and giggling like mad. I am so over-the-moon in love with her magical self. She's - you guessed it - simply too precious for words.

Words. The idea of them has been on my mind for a while now. I love words. I love the feel of them, the shape of them, their sound, stringing them together, arranging and rearranging, getting them just right, the whole process. It's grand.

I don't know if you can tell, though.

I've been trying too hard these past few months. Sometimes I'll close my eyes and let my fingers fly, but too often I'm cautious, deliberate. It's not enough to just write anymore. No, now you have to have a perfect picture to go along with each post. Bonus points if it has text on it - makes for a better pin, you know? Add share buttons to the bottom of each post, and then share that post like mad yourself (don't forget to consider optimal share time on the various social media sites - and you are on all of them, right?). Find out what your readers want and then give it to them! Don't write about too many different subjects, just carve out your one specific niche and stick to that. Lists are best, people like lists. Update your layout, get a blogging calendar going, and don't forget that engaging with your Facebook page is nearly a full-time job in itself. You really ought to try vlogging once in a while. And it's been nearly six years, when are you going to get that About page published, don't you know how integral those are?

Then I read similar thoughts from Megan and Heather and I know I'm not alone in feeling this way, and wasn't that really why we all started blogging in the first place? To know we weren't alone, to let others know they weren't alone? We're all figuring out this life as we go along, and it's comforting to hear that we're not the only ones who don't have our crap together. You mean it's not just me who still feels like I'm pretending at this whole "adult" thing? Awesome.

But lately it feels like blogging is less about writing and more about marketing. I don't want that. Not for me, not for you.

Yes, there's you. And that's the other half of it, isn't it? I'm honoured by your presence here. I value your time. It's precisely because of that that I've been fighting with myself for a while. There's a little voice in my head telling me that if I'm not going to write a "worthy" post, then I shouldn't bother to write at all. With all this stuff that goes along with blogging now, part of me feels like if I want to be a serious writer, this is the cost, just go along with it. But another part of me is shouting forget it! I don't have time for all that, I'm busy living and loving and all I want to do is bang out a few words in my few spare moments for the pure joy of it.

Always the frustrating cycle: I want to write, I love to write, but there are all these blogging "extras" now and I just don't have the time or inclination to get sucked into all of that, but then why bother blogging at all if I'm not going to keep up with the whole blogging "culture", but I want to write, I love to write...


While our little family is feeling our way into a new groove this year, I'm feeling my way backwards. I'm reaching for my old groove, where I wrote for the sheer love of it. Perfect pictures be damned, forget fancy titles, I don't have any lessons to share because I'm just as lost and imperfect as you are, you beautiful soul.

I'm not sure which to apologize for - sorry for getting sucked into it or sorry for tossing it all away again - but I'm just happy to be settling back into the good ol' blogging days. Maybe it was useful to try out a few new things, consider some different possibilities. This is my year of being open, after all. But now I think I'll be open to simplicity again, open to old ways, open to doubling back when the path beneath my feet no longer feels right.

I'm rediscovering my old groove, and it feels unbelievably free.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Sometimes, as the holidays are ending, I feel like I'm returning to the "real world". I'm emerging from the days of family, feasting, laughter, gift-giving, all the excitement and magic of this time of year, and returning to the realities of responsibility and mundane.

But you know what? The holidays were all just as real as the plain everyday of the week to come. I need the ebb and flow of both, excitement and quiet, together and apart, frivolity and responsibility, magical and ordinary.

Right now, I'm ready to put some things away and enjoy the quiet ordinary again.

* * *

It's a new year. That in itself feels a bit magical, a clean slate, a new start. I'm not so good with resolutions, but this journey towards intentional living demands something of me.

For the past three years, I have responded to that demand with a yearly theme.

It began with grace and intention. It was a quiet year, that one, settling into our new home with our new baby, the sweet boy who is now three years old. It was the perfect year to allow those two themes to flourish in our lives. I learned better how to extend grace to my children, extend grace to others, extend grace to myself, and receive grace myself. I practiced intentional living, making our choices with purpose and deliberation. It was a good year. I left it feeling satisfied.

Grace and intention became joy and rhythm in the following year. Building on grace, I wanted it to be a year of enjoying and rejoicing in that grace. Building on intention, I wanted it to be a year of building a comforting rhythm into our lives. A new year building on the work of the last.

Joy and rhythm led to presence and habit in this past year. I sought presence, both mine and God's, through steady communion and immersing myself in the moment. I sought to develop positive habits in order to bring about sustainable change in my life. Habit leading to presence, presence leading to habit, a satisfying cycle on this journey towards a more intentional life.

I feel content with this past year. While the challenges of pregnancy and a new baby were not particularly conducive to developing sustainable habits, it was helpful to have those ideas in mind throughout the year. I soaked up every moment of baby girl's first few months. We strengthened some daily rhythms and found some new routines to shape our days and weeks.

It was a good year.

* * *

A new year needs a new theme.

For weeks I have been considering, discarding word after word. I came close last week: what better word for this year of mystery than "faith"? It was almost perfect, but somehow it didn't quite encompass all of my hopes for these next twelve months.

Then, yesterday, there it was.

My word for 2013 is simply this:


I want to be open to all the possibilities this year holds. I want to be open to new adventures, new connections, unexpected changes. I want to be open to my children's leading, so full of fun and playfulness and curiosity. I want to be open to God's love, His streams of endless mercies and grace, His promptings and desires for my life.

Eyes open to beauty. Hands open to serve. Heart open to both give and receive love. Whole self open to the moment, ever more present and joyful.

Intentional is good, but sometimes I can get bogged down in the details and decisions. This year I want to balance that with openness, the sort of hopeful faith that says I don't know what's going to happen, but I trust that it will be good.

Our family is starting this year with a whole slew of changes, truly a clean slate. The daycare child, after two and a half years, is beginning his own new year back at home with his mom and his new baby brother. Our other weekly get-togethers are changing as well, if they will continue at all, and suddenly our days are wide open and I want to be too.

Whatever I do, this year is going to be filled the unexpected. I can fight that, holding firm to what I know, grasping for old rhythms and the safety of the familiar. Or I can embrace it. That is what I choose for this year: embracing the unknown, the mystery, the adventure of it all. I want to be open to this life, to faith, to newness, and perhaps to another step closer to wholeness.

Open. My word for 2013.

Happy New Year.

Photo credit: Mattox