Monday 31 March 2014

"Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action"

"The Hebrew word shalom not only means "peace"
but refers to a complete reconciliation of all things to God."
- Mae Elise Cannon

This concept of shalmon meaning something beyond peace is new to me, and it has buried itself deep into my heart and remained there these past few weeks. The writer goes on to describe the idea of shalom further: wholeness, completeness, harmony, the total sense of well-being that God initially intended for both individuals and community.

Yes. That. That strikes a chord within, a distant echo of something that once was and that will be again. It speaks to my dearest longing, my most desperate hope. Shalom.

I think about shalom and I think about all that is broken in this world, all that needs to be reconciled, restored, made complete again, and I feel hope, yes. But I also feel anger. I have witnessed evil. I have heard stories of darkness day after day. I have seen the crippling pain that it causes. I have felt disgust with all those that prey on the weak. I know that the world is not as it should be.

I read further, and more words prick my soul with their truth:

"Sanctification requires acknowledging our brokenness and that of humanity and discovering that we are still loved. As one becomes increasingly aware that she is shattered, broken and disconnected, she must pursue justice differently. One can't stay angry all of the time when one encounters injustice, because there is a greater understanding of one's own human frailty and sin. All of us, in some way, shape or form, contribute to injustice at different points in our lives. Regardless of our frailty, justice is pursued by turning everything over to Jesus in a spirit of submission and constant prayer."


The world is in need of shalom, and I am part of that need. Anger arises from my pride when I fail to recognize that need within myself, as though all the injustice is "out there" and not also right here in my own heart and thoughts and actions. I need to be made whole again. I need to be reconciled and restored. All of the injustice and brokenness in the world are a reflection of my own brokenness, a part of myself; I cannot separate myself from it.

The world is in need of shalom, and I am part of that need.

Mae Elise Cannon writes about this shalom in her book Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action. In this book, Cannon outlines seven faith practices which she views as being central to one's personal relationship with God:

* Silence
* Prayer
* Study
* Community
* Worship
* Sabbath
* Submission

For each spiritual practice, Cannon offers a biography of notable Christian leaders, both historic and modern-day, whose practice of that particular practice enabled them to engage in social justice endeavors to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind. Also included in each chapter are practical suggestions for carrying out these faith practices ourselves.

Nicely organized and filled with compelling examples, this book reminds the reader that our social justice efforts cannot be carried out on our own power, but must rather arise from and be fueled by our connection with the Creator. Spiritual connection is important, Cannon writes, in order for justice activists to remain connected with the work that God is already doing in the world.

An inspiring read this Lenten season.


Wednesday 26 March 2014

40 Days of Gratitude: Days 14-19

There are moments when I'm left breathless with gratitude, but the moment passes and I forget too easily that it happened. I need to write it down. I tell myself that often and yet I never seem to get around to opening that notebook of mine, even with fresh paper and new pens and more than enough time in my day for this one small-yet-big thing.

What better time than Lent to return to this practice of recording gratitude?

- 40 Days of Gratitude


I need to write down those moments of gratitude, and I am, but it's usually evening by the time I open that book and uncap my pen. How many little moments have I forgotten by then? They itch at the back of my brain, wanting to be remembered, but I find it impossible to bring them forward again.

No, I need that list of gratitude right here beside me, out in the open, waiting for that swell of gratitude to be written down immediately. Now I know.
300. Long evening shadows.

308. A sound sleep.

314. Moccasins.

317. Chicken soup with rice.

320. Prayer.

321. A morning walk in the spring sunshine.

328. The preschooler's eagerness to learn his letters and numbers.

332. Our big front windows. Bright daylight and beautiful sunsets.

And you? A moment of gratitude, something from your list, a link to your own gratitude journey? I love reading every bit that you share with us.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Together again

There was more peace than I expected while he was away. Worries had started to rise up on all sides, but tears and prayers are both healing in their own way. We said our good-byes at the airport and drove back home; the house feels so much emptier without him there. But evening came and there was peace after all, unexpected peace that filled most of the quiet hours.

We texted and I was reminded of how lacking that particular form of communication is. How can what needs to be said be said properly without warmth in one's tone, without a gentle touch or a certain look in the eye, all those little things that say so very much more than the flat words themselves?

Each night went by uneventfully. We ate simple dinners and I chased away invisible burglars after the kids were in bed, then stayed up too late catching up on Once Upon a Time and Call the Midwife while eating licorice and cookie dough. Oh dear.

The days went by quickly and then he was on his way back home. We picked him up at the airport and there's that moment you nearly hold your breath for, those arms around you and yes, all is well in your world again. Breathe. You fall asleep on your own side of the bed that night - early, because late nights of television and junk food only happen when you feel too alone to turn off the lights - and it too feels right again.

He leaves again soon. Not for a funeral and not for a mere handful of days, but for two weeks this time, and then another two weeks soon after. That dreaded phrase - business trips - is becoming part of our family's vocabulary now. What is normal for others is brand new to us. We'll adjust, I know, but I'm easing into that acceptance slowly. It's such a tiny thing compared to the weeks, months, even years that others spend apart; those are sacrifices far more noteworthy. And yet this is our story and it feels significant to us, minor though it may be in comparison.

Tonight, though, he's here and I'm here and that's just as it should be.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Happy Spring!

Wednesday 19 March 2014

40 Days of Gratitude: Days 8-13

There are moments when I'm left breathless with gratitude, but the moment passes and I forget too easily that it happened. I need to write it down. I tell myself that often and yet I never seem to get around to opening that notebook of mine, even with fresh paper and new pens and more than enough time in my day for this one small-yet-big thing.

What better time than Lent to return to this practice of recording gratitude?

- 40 Days of Gratitude


This was one of those weeks where gratitude was abundant some days and very difficult to find other days. It started beautifully, filled with sunshine and all the joyous flexibility that homeschooling has to offer. The weekend, however, brought news that the husband's grandmother had passed away, and the next days were both busy and quiet as he prepares to leave for her funeral. I, selfishly, feel the weight of being here alone for the next few days. We're both a little emotionally raw right now.

Even so, my list has not failed to increase in the midst of mourning. New life continues to grow. Joys both small and great continue to arise throughout our days. And always, always, there is hope.
283. Good chili.

284. Watching the boy help the preschooler climb a tree.

286. An unplanned picnic and afternoon at the park.

287. A sun-warmed bench.

291. A fresh stack of library books.

293. Receiving the Eucharist.

299. Feeling the growing baby's kicks.

And you? A moment of gratitude, something from your list, a link to your own gratitude journey? I love reading every bit that you share with us.

Monday 17 March 2014

What I learned from 80 days with my laptop closed

I wrote this reflection 40 days after the end of Lent last year, but I never did share it. I recently found myself thinking back to that Lent and to the freedom I had felt in this habit. It was interesting to re-read this from the perspective of nearly a year later.


I knew I needed to set aside the one thing that was consuming too much of my time. Sitting open, always there, that tantalizing laptop was distracting me from living intentionally, the continual desire of this journey I am walking. Just a few minutes...and a few more.

So I closed it for Lent. By the time Lent was over, I'd formed some better habits. Why mess with that? And so I find myself, an additional forty days later, still enjoying the freedom of days without a laptop.

When I say 80 days, it really was only the "day" portion. I allowed myself evenings in order to get caught up on emails, work, and various online activities. But during the day, when it mattered most, I slipped that shiny silver distraction under the couch and left it there.

80 days later, I've been able to see my daytime computer use from a new perspective.

1. On the days I cheated, I was grumpier and more impatient. "Just let me finish this one thing" can stretch on for quite a while in the fast-paced online world.

2. I was more productive. I mean, of course I was. Sometimes I'd do a bit of housework simply because I was bored and didn't know what else to do.

3. I read more. Again, naturally. Less time online means more time for other pursuits. Still, it was good to see that actually playing out.

4. I was more in tune with my body. Hunger, thirst, and tiredness are easy for me to ignore when I'm staring at a screen and clicking from one place to another.

5. I didn't miss a whole lot. At the end of the day, there just wasn't as much to "catch up" on as I expected there to be.

I did, however, have a hard time keeping up with my work. Whether volunteering with Natural Parents Network, marking my students' assignments for the online course I teach, or simply responding to emails, it was even more difficult than usual to juggle everything and get things done in a timely manner. Breaking out the laptop only in the evenings meant I usually had to choose between getting something done and spending time with my husband. Previously, I was able to get most of that stuff done during brief quiet moments throughout the day, leaving evenings free for watching a show or playing a game with the husband. This was a point of frustration for me. It made it even harder for me to get time alone, whether to relax, to write, or to work.

I don't have a good solution for this increased difficulty in juggling things when the laptop remains closed during the day. Cut down on my responsibilities? Set aside one day to have it open and catch up on things that have built up during the rest of the week? I'm not sure, but the list of benefits indicates that it would be worth it to brainstorm some more and see what I can come up with.

And now onward I go to day 81!


Postscript: Unfortunately, I've since let go of this habit of leaving the laptop closed during the day. I am better, however, at closing it and walking away for large chunks of time, and I feel its distracting pull less than I used to. Now that the sunshine is emerging more, however, I'm feeling the desire to reinstate the laptop-closed-during-the-day rule completely.

If you avoid computer use during the day, do you find it difficult to balance online responsibilities, social media, alone time, and time with your spouse during the evenings? What works for you?

Saturday 15 March 2014

Weekend Reading {vol. 109}

Why You Need the Unlikely Principle of Ruby Worship @ A Holy Experience
The day I sigh and sag hard over the tarnished things I have chalked up to having some flimsy value, sitting there with Keller’s words, I think of Daddy’s ruby ring again:

“If you are a Christian and you are dealing with enslaving habits, it’s not enough to say, ‘Bad Christian, stop it.’ And it is not enough to beat yourself up or merely try harder and harder and harder.

The real reason that you’re having a problem with an enslaving habit is because you are not tasting God. I’m not talking about believing God or even obeying God, I’m saying tasting — tasting God.

The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship.

You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you. And this needs to be happening all the time.” (Tim Keller)

How is your other half? @ The Art of Simple
We all have a heavy half. The half that needs to get things done, that’s responsible, accountable. It’s the half that makes sure the kids get to school on time, won’t forget to pack snacks for the doctors appointment, pays the bills, turns up to work every day, sweeps the floor, mows the lawn and cooks dinner.

But what about your other half?

The half that is passionate, creative, spontaneous? The half that makes out with your husband, wears red lipstick, writes poetry, dances in the kitchen, dreams of great big trips, and reads for fun?

The half that fills you out and makes you balanced, well-rounded, whole. How’s that half going?

Surrender to the Kingdom of Community @ SortaCrunchy
And so when my pastor says that The Beatitudes were meant to crush individuals, I hear it how it is meant to be - an affront to those of us discipled in the rugged individualism of our culture.

A loving devotion to individualism runs rampant in the Western Church. "My Jesus, My Savior," "my relationship with Christ," "Jesus Loves Me." I, me, my, mine. We speak of the life in Christ in the first person because that is our first language, our native tongue.

And you know what? There's nothing theologically inerrant about applying Christ's words in that way, I suppose. But i have to think it's woefully lacking the fullness of what Christ imagined for his followers. Yes, we have the indwelling Spirit of God to minister to us along the way, but as we have discussed, it is in the serving of others - and the allowing ourselves to be served by others - that mysterious Kingdom of God moves from hopeful idealism to 3D reality.

I'm Not a Revolutionary. I Just Play One on the Internet. @ A Deeper Story
It is even more disconcerting to know that my trail of words is still there, leading to Joys who mostly exist in my rear view mirror.

Yes, I used to think I could argue you to my point of view. Today, I try to remind myself how long change takes, because I know how long it took me. Past Joys wanted you to change. Today’s Joy wants to understand and hopes that you will take the time to understand me, so that we can both acknowledge and honor the journeys that brought us where we are.

I remember not to judge you by your words alone because they may have been written by a different you. Neither of us have arrived, by any stretch.

I’m just another version of Joy, wondering when the next one will begin to emerge.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Every bit as important

When they're little, it's easy for me to understand that my babies need me at bedtime. Sometimes they need help falling asleep, and so I rock and sing and whisper assurances and prayers. Sometimes they wake up and need some reassurance before they close their eyes again. Their cries tell me, in the only way they are able, that they need something from me. And so I go to them.

My first baby needed a lot when it came to sleep. Those were long hours of nursing, rocking, swaying, and patting. My second needed less, just a comforting hand on his back as he drifted off. My third, she scarcely even needs that much, but when she needs me, I'm there.

She woke up crying last night before I'd gone to bed myself. I went to her and sat with her, rocking slowly until she was ready to lie down again. She needs me and I go; such is life with a baby.

That first baby, though, he doesn't cry when he needs me anymore. He's coming up seven years old next month. He's long and lanky and his face looks older every morning, honestly. In many ways, his growing independence requires less of me now; I have recently seen it referred to as "the breathing years" and that describes it perfectly. No, he doesn't cry to have his needs met. He just asks. He lets his needs be known in the clearest way...and somehow, to my discredit, that makes them seem less urgent to me.

Never is this more apparent than after bedtime. Just as he did when his younger brother was a baby, he now waits for me to finish putting his baby sister to bed. He sees me coming down the hallway or hears me talking in the living and he calls out quietly: "Will you come have a snuggle with me?"

Unfortunately, it's easy for me at the end of these long days to fall into the habit of putting him off. The baby is asleep and I'm ready for my exhale; must I put forth this one last effort? Sometimes I tell him I'll be a few minutes - and by the time I finally go, he's fallen asleep. Or I beg off, telling him I'm just too tired or I'm busy with something else. After all, I've already hugged him good night. He doesn't really need me to go sit with him.

Oh, but he does. And those nights when I go are the nights I get to see more of what's on his mind and in his heart. We still talk about the best and worst parts of our days. He still loves for me to tell him a bad day story. He asks questions that I don't hear during the day. He shares his thoughts and his hopes and his ideas. These are the moments when I feel like I'm seeing more of who he is - not the boy who, during the day, sometimes antagonizes his brother or occasionally balks at doing what I've asked of him or frequently tells me he's hungry every five minutes, but rather the clever dreamer whose plans are filled with the most delightful optimism and joy.

I remember being a child. I remember the way the stillness of the night, when my siblings were asleep, somehow opened something inside me and made those deeper words flow more freely. I remember times when I was able to have those late-night conversations, and other times when I had to swallow the words back down or whisper them to myself in the dark.

I don't want to miss those opportunities to hear my growing baby reveal his inner thoughts.

I've been making it a priority these past weeks, even on those nights when he doesn't come out to ask. I slip in, return his inevitable grin, and scootch his legs over to make room for me. And we talk.

And it's every bit as important and necessary as the time I spend putting his baby sister to sleep.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

40 Days of Gratitude: Days 1-7

There are moments when I'm left breathless with gratitude, but the moment passes and I forget too easily that it happened. I need to write it down. I tell myself that often and yet I never seem to get around to opening that notebook of mine, even with fresh paper and new pens and more than enough time in my day for this one small-yet-big thing.

What better time than Lent to return to this practice of recording gratitude?

- 40 Days of Gratitude


At last I have opened that notebook, picked up that pen, written down those bits of beauty that are there in even the most trying of days. Some days I have struggled to think of more than one or two, but most days it's a matter of where do I stop?

The more I search for gratitude, the more it reveals itself.

Here we are at Day 7 and I feel like I'm seeing the world through different eyes. Instead of interruptions, I see opportunities for unexpected beauty. Instead of demands, I see opportunities to love and serve. Instead of dreariness, I see bright colours - of course, the lovely change in weather hasn't hurt, either. Blue skies and bright warm sunshine are always good for the soul.

This first week's list has been a jumble of mundane and lovely, simple and complicated. That feels about right to me.
263. Do-overs. Grace.

268. "Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song, the joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue. Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last, hath won my affection and bound my soul fast." - John Stocker

271. London Fog, chai tea, chocolate chip cookies.

272. Kindness and compassion. Those who listen and offer love.

279. A freshly made bed.

And you? A moment of gratitude, something from your list, a link to your own gratitude journey? I love reading every bit that you share with us.

Monday 10 March 2014

Mondays are made of these {and an Everyday Granola recipe}

Monday afternoons are a familiar dance through the kitchen, restocking the breakfast granola and the freezer stash of granola bars for another week.

The kitchen is a busy place and first there must be full bellies if I'm to have any hope of getting the afternoon's work done. Baby girl eats a fried egg; the boy prefers his eggs in an english muffin with a slice of cheese and a ketchup smiley face. The preschooler likes pita and hummus best. Once finished, the baby lays down for her nap, the boys attempt a bit of quieter play, and I begin the steps.

I start with the granola. Check the fridge to see what nuts and seeds I have on hand this week. Mix the dry ingredients, boil the wet, combine the two, spread on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and slide into the oven to bake. I sit down to rest my feet for a time, aside from stirring it every so often. Once it has turned that lovely shade of brown, I set it on the counter to cool and turn my attention to the granola bars.

(I always use this granola bar recipe, with half the amount of brown sugar; it has been a constant success around here.)

Dry, wet, boil, mix. The bowl joins the cooling granola on the counter, both of them resting while I take a break myself. Once the granola has cooled, I pour it into its container, ready to begin our mornings.

The granola bar mixture, too, has cooled enough to add the miniature chocolate chips, and somehow two boys always hear this part and come begging for some chocolate chips of their own. The granola bars get spread right there on the same parchment paper, so recently vacated by the granola. I press the mixture down hard with a second cookie sheet, putting my weight into it and wondering if I'll be able to get enough leverage as my pregnant belly grows larger.

Another break as the granola bars set in the fridge, then the process of cutting and wrapping begins. The kids hear this part, too, and come hoping for a pre-dinner snack before I get the chance to wrap them all.

Then dinner prep begins and this kitchen is my Monday home, it's true.

Everyday Granola

The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility. Add whatever nuts and seeds you have and enjoy, and simply omit what you don't. Include other add-ins in the dry mix, such as wheat germ or ground flax. Replace the olive oil with an oil of your preference. Try it a few times and make it your own.

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon.
3. In a saucepan, combine the water, olive oil, honey, and vanilla. Stirring constantly over medium heat, bring just to a boil.
4. Pour the boiled mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake in oven for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut approximately 10 minutes before baking is done.
6. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in airtight container.
7. Top with raisins, dried cranberries, or other fruit (optional). Serve with yogurt or milk.

{Recipe adapted from Honey Granola}

Saturday 8 March 2014

Weekend Reading {vol. 108}

In a Year Where Things Just Fall Apart @ Kendra Fletcher
What's a family to do?

These are stories of the fall, but they began with creation, took a nosedive into what seems like depression, and now we wait and watch for redemption and reconciliation. Those last two will come. That's the meta-narrative -- the grand story -- of Scripture, and we can see it in our own small stories as well. Creation, fall, redemption, reconciliation.

Won't you wait and watch with us? We're looking for Jesus in the midst of the rubble. He's shown up at every turn, or rather I should say that we've shown up where He is already dwelling. Redemption. Reconciliation. That's my Jesus, and He will redeem the year that fell apart.

The HSLDA And The Cost Of Fear @ The Incorrigible Gingers
This is a lie, and a harmful one designed to cause fear to conservative Christians. The Romeikes have never been persecuted for their faith. They--understandably--do not like the education laws of their home nation, but they have never been persecuted. US immigration law would have to be massively reformed if any family that disliked the education legislation in their own country were granted asylum. The Romeikes chose to move to the United States knowing that they may not be able to stay long-term, when they could have legally moved to many other countries in the European Union that allow homeschooling.

It always saddens me to see organizations run by outspoken Christians caught in untruths. It casts a bad light on prominent Christian organizations, and on Christ-followers in general. I believe, due to this case and others, that the HSLDA wants to make Christians, homeschoolers, and primarily Christian homeschoolers fearful. Why? Because the HSLDA profits from fear.

Our biggest dreams as women...are to be smaller @ Hobo Mama
As the ad continues: "Remember when you thought anything was possible? It still is."

Yes, as the smiling grown-up ladies swinging on rope swings, tootling on basketed bikes, and bouncing on trampolines assure us...anything is possible to us now as adults.

Assuming that the only thing we want now is to lose weight.

Bill Gothard: His Umbrella of Protection Teaching Provides an Umbrage for Perverted Behavior @ Istoria Ministries
I would propose to you that any Christian who constantly vocalizes his "authority" over you and demands your submission to him for "your umbrella of protection," is actually a man who casts a large shadow in terms of his own perverted and immoral behavior. In other words, he who is most concerned that another person "obey" and "submit" to his authority is actually showing indicators of personal moral failure.

Jesus said that the Gentiles give people 'positions of power and authority,' titles of honor and respect, and demand that people obey them. Then Jesus says something quite stunning - "It shall not be this way among My disciples" (Matthew 20:26). The conclusion one can make from this direct statement of Jesus is that any professing Christian who demands submission to his authority is actually acting contrary to the nature of a true follower of Jesus Christ and is actually casting an umbrage (shadow or covering) for his own perverted behavior.

Emphasizing beauty in your homeschool @ Simple Homeschool
I continue to fill my home with beauty as much as I can and to remind my kids to really hunt for it themselves, so that they can be encouraged.

I focus on the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) when “beautifying” our home and educational environment. Each is important and offers its own gifts.

Choosing to focus on beauty in the home need not be expensive or one-size-fits-all. Even emphasizing beauty through one sense per week can be beneficial.

Thursday 6 March 2014

When transitions are easy

I love my baby girl. (It goes without saying, I know, all us parents loving on our kids.) I love her crazy giggles and her new words and the way she throws herself into the madhouse that is her brothers wrestling. She's a little puppy climbing right into the midst of everything.

She's the same way in the dead of the night.

I love my baby girl, but I do not love sharing our bed with her. That second boy of mine, oh, he was a treasure to sleep with at night. He was cuddly and warm and most of all still.

Baby girl? She likes to sleep on top of my head. Or wind her fingers through my hair as she sleeps. Or shove her entire self as far underneath me as she can. But mostly she likes to sleep on my head.

This means I've been spending the greater part of most nights not sleeping, as I wish to be, but rather fighting off a koala bear who is trying to smother me in my sleep. Something had to change. Bed-sharing had worked for a time, but mama's needs are important too.

"Look! It's baby girl's bed! Do you want to sleep there tonight?" She nodded, but then she was going through a phase of nodding in response to everything, so we didn't tend to place a whole lot of stock in her answers. (Fortunately, she's since returned to shaking her head when she means no and nodding when she says yes, except for those times when she gets confused and just sort of bobbles her head around in a circle. It happens to the best of us.)

I began our usual bedtime routine: diaper, pajamas, lights out, settling in for a few minutes of nursing. When she was done, I laid her in her new bed right next to ours. I pulled her blanket over her. I said good-night.

And she went to sleep.

And all the angels sang Hallelujah.

Our first baby? We tried to introduce him to his own bed when he was not much older than she is now. To say it Didn't Work would be an understatement. We managed to transition him a year later, just before the next baby arrived, but even then there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Our second baby, well, I was the one who had a hard time with that transition. He was such a lovely toddler to sleep with, but he too made the transition (with far less reluctance than his older brother) just in time for the birth of his little sister.

So here we are, expecting our fourth sweet baby, and me feeling anxious about how in the world I was going to transition baby girl to her own bed when she'll be so much younger than the other two.

And then she goes and does it even earlier than necessary without the slightest bit of fuss. I'm still in shock. She's been sleeping in her own bed for nearly a month now and I'm still in shock.

So in the spirit of a Lent of gratitude, I'll simply be thankful for this one mercy, this one easy transition. Lord knows they won't always be this way - there will be other changes that baby girl struggles through, and us along with her. There will be changes that I struggle with as I watch her grow into her own beautiful person.

But this? This one was easy. Thank you, baby girl. I'll take it.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

40 Days of Gratitude

Some years I have done well, writing down lists of thankfulness, the big and the small and the everyday things. There have been seasons, too, where my gratitude is offered in small prayers throughout the day, but I don't write it down and it doesn't feel, somehow, the same as when I can see those words on paper.

It's been the latter sort of season for me. There are moments when I'm left breathless with gratitude, but the moment passes and I forget too easily that it happened. I need to write it down. I tell myself that often and yet I never seem to get around to opening that notebook of mine, even with fresh paper and new pens and more than enough time in my day for this one small-yet-big thing.

What better time than Lent to return to this practice of recording gratitude?

Bring my heart ever closer to you, Lord. Some people draw away from God during times of pain and struggle, angry and bitter and accusing. I am one of the other group, the ones who forget during times of ease. I forget that He is my rock and my comforter, the source of all, Alpha and Omega, as near as my very breath. Gratitude reminds me.

I looked this past weekend at the last entry in my list of gratitude. During the very depths of my pain, it read simply this:

God, the one Who takes brokenness and turns it into joy, Who brings life from our death and beauty from our ashes, Who turns our mourning into dancing and binds up the hearts of the brokenhearted.

That is where I am during times of trial. Clinging to the rock and grateful for my very life, for the strength to simply take the next step forward. But now, when I feel my breath has returned to my body and my days are no longer awash in pain? I forget. I laugh more and smile more but I give thanks less fervently and this is my weakness.

It may not seem like much, but gratitude will be my Lent. Write it down, watch the list grow and grow and grow because gratitude is endless. 40 days and then beyond, why stop, let the habit carry me forward through Easter and past Pentecost and into Ordinary Time (which is anything but ordinary).

And if you'd like to join me? I'd love the companionship as we journal our gratitude through the next 40 days. Feel free to share the graphic to the left if you want to invite others as well. Leave your links, share parts of your list, whatever you feel comfortable doing as we encourage each other towards deeper gratitude in our daily lives. I'll share a few notes from my list each week as a jumping off point for those of you joining in.

Maybe Lent has snuck up on you this year and you're feeling unprepared, or maybe you're not sure what Lent is all about. Last year I shared some ideas on observing Lent. This year, I'm looking forward to the servanthood-focused series Waiting Tables over at SortaCrunchy; Megan has also shared some Lenten resources in preparation.

Interested in joining in? Already have something else planned for Lent that you're comfortable sharing with us? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday 3 March 2014

Setting down a few spinning plates

Too much. That's how we've been feeling about our time spent at various activities. They are all good things, absolutely, and worthwhile, but it has been too much time in the car and too much overlap and too much rushing to get ready and really just too much.

The boy has soccer twice a week back in our pre-move location, which makes for quite the drive. He has also been taking part in an excellent basic economics class where the group runs their own pseudo-town for a few weeks. As that was winding down, the preschooler began some much-coveted skating lessons twice a week, the beginning of the path to his dream of becoming a hockey player. He loves it and I, personally, love watching his older brother be bored out of his mind during each half-hour lesson. It's good character building, I figure, for him to be there in support of his little brother, who has spent his entire life being shuttled around to all of his older brother's activities.

But now the economics class has ended and the soccer season is winding down and skating only lasts a couple more weeks, and then we all just need a break. We'll be setting down a few spinning plates, worthy as they were for a time. Much like our days and our weeks, our years go through the familiar and comforting cycle of in and out, expand and contract, outward and inward. Right now is time for that drawing in portion of the cycle, and we're all looking forward to it.

I'm already breathing easier at the idea of being home more, unabashed homebody that I am. The boys are excited about having more opportunities to explore the park and the nature center near our new home. And baby girl, I expect, will appreciate spending less time strapped in her car seat and more time wandering around outdoors. The promise of spring ahead has all of us itchy for some renewed freedom and flexibility in our days, and I'm grateful that we can make that happen.

What sort of season do you find yourself in right now?