Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yarn Along

I love Ginny's weekly "Yarn Along" but I don't seem to be keeping up much lately.  I have such great plans to get to my blog but it doesn't happen.  Oh, well, I'm here this week.

As you can see, I have quite a lot going on.  One of my resolutions this year was to read more and that I have been doing.  First of all, I am participating in two online book studies - Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehman over at Proverbs 31 and Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster over at encourage: bloom.  Of course, I also have to read for fun and so I have an English mystery, Dead Simple by Peter James (an author suggested by a friend - the jury is out on what I think at this point) and Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle.  L'Engle is probably my favourite author of all time and since I have finished her four volume Crosswick Journals,  I have been starting to read all of her fiction again.  I've never read any of her Wrinkle in Time series (I have no interest in science fiction) but I love everything else she writes.  I just finished  A House Like a Lotus, which was my absolute favourite book as a teenager and happily, it stood the test of time and age for me.  I have been combing and am trying to pick up her books one by one used and now have the entire Austin family chronicles to enjoy.

Of the two studies, I have to say that Prayer has grabbed me much more, which is interesting as it is certainly the more challenging read.  There's nothing wrong with Let. It. Go. - for some reason, though, I just haven't connected with it the same way.  The chapter on mothering was good (once I got past the discipline portion - not Mrs. Ehmen's but that of some of her friends) but otherwise, I just haven't connected to it.  Yes, I have some issues with being controlling but I do think that circumstances in the last few years have taught me, to a large degree, that I can only do so much and the rest I have to just accept.   Sometimes, I think that being Canadian, there are aspects of American Christianity that just passes over me.

Prayer, on the other hand, has grabbed me in so many ways.  To be honest, I didn't think it would be all that interesting.  Prayer is not a strength of mine - being quiet and contemplative is not a natural thing for me, AT ALL.  I have been working with Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and doing twice daily prayer sessions but I was leaning toward thinking that was enough for now.  Reading Prayer has totally change that for me.  I am seeing how many different kinds of prayer that there actually is and that there are so many ways that I can make my prayer more meaningful.  There are too many things that have grabbed me to write about them all here but one thing I thought I would share is that I am focusing more heavily on 1. times of solitude (and all of you mothers of young children realise just was a challenge that is) and having a prayer space.  My desk, which belonged to my grandfather, is most definitely my place of contemplation.  I LOVE this spot and while it may seem like chaos to other people, it is the place where I feel the most that I am me.  I am also trying to focus more on Sacramental and Liturgical prayer and prayers of Adoration.  I am going to work on memorizing and praying through various Psalms that really speak to me.  I'm going to start with Psalm 8, which is the favourite of my father-in-law.

I've also, for a while, been focusing on gratitude.  I just thought I would throw in this photo of my favourite mugs.  My lovely and thoughtful friend got them for me in England and I love them.  I have a "thing" for birds, especially in winter and I love the simple, English robins.

My knitting is very basic at the moment.  We have friends whose 4 year old son just had very serious surgery.  His story is theirs to tell but I fell in love with the idea of making him a blanket to wrap him in love.  It's a simple set of garter stitch scarves made of blocks and sewn together.  I just wish that I had more time to knit because it's working up much more slowly than I would like.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Let. It. Go.Chapter 5 - Christian Parenting

I've been doing this study over at Proverbs 31 Ministries on Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehmen.  I love me any kind of online book study and since I really, really liked their Greater study earlier this year, I decided to keep going on with them.  I have to be honest, I've had trouble connecting with this book.

So frequently, I have this problem.  1.  I am not American.  2.  I am not from a Southern Baptist-type tradition.  3.  I come from a liberal background.  4.  I grew up in a city, not a small town.  5.  My parents are highly educated and brought a very "intelligentsia" take onto things like parenting.  It makes it really hard for me to identify with the approach of so many books, often with anything to do with gender, certainly to do wit politics and most especially to do with parenting.  I don't know anyone who spanks and I know very few people who were spanked as kids.  Our parents may not have been hard core granola crunchers but there are certain things that would just not have happened in our homes and beating children was one of them.  Mrs. Ehman seriously almost lost me at the beginning of the chapter when she said that she felt somehow inadequate with her spirited child when the children of those around her were so well-behaved.  Parents started offering advice like "not letting the child run the family," (the attachment mommy in me started to really squirm at that point) and then, when she said that she was shocked at "friends" who she discovered would hit their children with some kind of cane, I seriously almost left the book.  Not only would I be shocked but I would be calling Children's Aid.  How anyone could call themselves a Christian and beat a child just leaves me cold.  I hesitate to read Christian parenting books because I am always so afraid that scripture will be so horribly twisted to justify acts of violence against helpless children (thank you so much, Dr. Sears, for proving to me that I can be a compassionate parent and a Christian and to Tim Kimmel for the beautiful "Grace-based Parenting")

I am glad that I did persevere because as I read on, I did find some things here that were definitely for me.  Yes, I do worry constantly about what other people are thinking.  You would think that after 40 years on this planet, I would have learned that everyone has an opinion and that I will never be right with everyone and that I should just follow what I know to be right.  Sadly, I have this annoying little battle going on in me all the time - one side gives me this very, very strong sense of what is right and I can't compromise on that and the other is telling me that I should be making everyone happy.  In terms of parenting, so many of my least fine moments come as a result of the conflict between these voices.  There are days when I think that poor Pk must be losing her mind trying to read me as I try to be the understanding, grace filled mama and yet I rail on about the state of her room or whether she handed in her library book at school or whether she listened well enough at piano.  Seriously, I loved Mrs. Ehman's lists of questions to ask ourselves when we find ourselves engaged in one of those situations or struggles with our children.  How important is this, really?  Is this worth the toll on my relationship with my child?  What message am I really giving my child about what matters?  Obviously, there are times that there is no wiggle room, when we are talking about issues that go to our basic values as a family, like treating others with respect, generosity, compassion.  On the other hand, though, do I really need to fight about how she is going to wear her hair, whether the shirt she is determined to wear matches the rest of her outfit or whether someone might think I wasn't being responsible enough in packing "the right' kind of lunch?  

Another insight that has come to me thanks to my pondering this chapter is that for me, so much of my micromanaging and need for control has to do with time.  This isn't surprising that I have identified slowing down as being one of my biggest goals for this year.  Be Still is the phrase I am trying to dwell on and see how I can incorporate into my living of my daily life.  So much of the time when I have conflict with my kids, it's because either I have over-committed and am rushing to get through everything ( an ongoing struggle of mine) or that I am trying to prove that I can manage it all and that I'm up to it (which also probably goes back to some guilty about working full-time and parenting).  I don't have any answers on this but it certainly will make me more aware that I need to be asking myself why I am feeling like something is so important.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gibor Chayil

Not too long ago, I finished reading Rachel Held Evans "A Year of Biblical Womanhood."  I've been wanting to write a post about it here as it was so earth-shifting for me.  As a Christian woman, I have struggled for so long with exactly what that means.  Coming from a mainline denomination, all of the discussions about women seemed to have happened before I came along and as I grew up in the church, we had embraced women in ministry and the discussion of gender roles seemed to have finished.  The older women were the only ones working in the kitchen and they ran the church sales but who did what and what women were supposed to do was never discussed.  The only materials I came across about what the role of women should be in life, in family and in the church only came my way when I discovered the blog world and was primarily very, very conservative.  It was hard to believe that for me to be living out my calling, I needed to be June Cleaver or to follow the teachings of John Piper (who probably has wonderful things to say on other topics but reading this post just cemented for me that he is not a kindred spirit of mine).  I saw a reference to "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" on Sarah Bessey's blog and it sounded interesting.  I was a bit hesitant but Sarah's perspective has always felt a bit like going home so if Sarah liked Rachel, I decided to give her a try.

I've been reluctant to discuss the book here too much because I have worried that I would say something that might misrepresent what Ms. Evans was trying to say.  In this time of constant mom-addled brain, I don't know that I can put into an articulate discussion what I was thinking.  What I can say, though, is that all I kept thinking as I read was, "Where was this book 20 years ago for me?"  I would have left so much guilt behind and I would have felt so much more liberation had I seen this perspective.  I'd like to give this book to every Christian woman I know and I am pleased to say that everyone I have convinced to read it has loved it as much as I have.

Her chapter on Proverbs 31 was one of the most exciting for me.  She had been corresponding with an Orthodox Rabbi's wife in Israel to get the Jewish perspective on some things and Proverbs 31 was one such area.  She learned that for Orthodox Jewish women, this was a way to offer praise to a woman who had done something special, "Eshet Chayil!"  I haven't been brave enough to say this to a friend but I definitely am surrounded by women who deserve it.

On Sarah Bessey's blog the other day, she coined a new term, "Gibor Chayil", man of valour.  I am definitely surrounded by a few of those, too.  I think one in particular would roll his eyes and mutter something about me getting weirder like my mother, but who really deserves it.

Dh.  He's the life of our party, the one who can always make me laugh, no matter how grim life is looking.  He's the one who can remind me of what matters when I get totally off track.  He's the life of the party, the after-the-meal dish do-er (I never had to do a dish after the meal when we entertain).  He's done more uncomplaining late night drives to walk-in clinics, after hours pharmacies and watched endless hours of mindless middle-of-the-night children's t.v. when someone won't sleep.  He shovels, mows, fixes and calls the accountant and bank (jobs that paralyze me with fear).  He teaches Sunday school, is always the first person to help at church and coaches the kids' soccer.  He models love and compassion to everyone and the only people he doesn't have time for are the high and mighty.  He drinks coffee by the jug and now that his gall bladder is gone, he eats more than his fair share of bacon.   His motto is that all he can worry about is whether his yard is tidy and that other people have to worry about their own.  He's the joy in my life, the laugh that I need most and the hero of our home.

Thanks, Love.  Gibor Chayil!  And thank you, Sarah, for reminding me that it needed to be said.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's amazing, it feels like it was just Christmas and yet Lent is here.  Yesterday, we hosted a dinner for friends and celebrated and now, it's time for the change of pace.  Lent is upon us.

Do you mark Lent?  I have done many years of giving things up which, at the time, seemed like a good thing to do.  I'd have to say that my thinking has changed, though.  For me, I have come to the conclusion that giving up chocolate or iced caps or t.v. or Facebook or any of the other things I have attempted to give up hasn't really done anything to bring me closer to God or to lead me to more of an attitude of repentance.  That leaves me with a question - how do I mark the season of Lent?

I've been brooding over it for several days.  Today, driving home, I heard on CBC a promo for someone who was putting forward something to do with "40 Days of Good Deeds."  It seemed like a good idea for about five minutes but the more I pondered it, the more I wondered how it would be connected to Lent (and I have to say, I did not listen to the interview so I have no opinion on what this individual or organization has in mind).  As a Christian, does paying for the car in line behind me at the drive through or dropping off some food to a friend really bring me closer to God?  I don't in any way say that little kindnesses aren't good things but really, shouldn't we, as Christians, be looking to serve others all the time?  Shouldn't we be doing these things 365 days a year and in situations that require more of us?

It's funny, I have had several Christian friends criticize the public school system for the depth to which we explore the beliefs of other faiths.  For me, these encounters seem to bring me closer to my own faith, rather than to draw me away.  Recently, I had been teaching my class about Ramadan and the fact that Muslims aim to:
-read the Koran more often and in greater depth
-pray more
-repent from their sins
-care for those who are in need (not just the fellow middle class driver in line behind me at Tim's or Starbucks)
-endure some discomfort to bring one back to what one's relationship to God means

This actually sounds better to me than what I was planning so this is what I plan to do.  I have been praying more (and loving Richard Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, which is the incourage: Bloom book club selection right now - it's not too late to join) and striving to keep morning and evening prayers based on Common Prayer: A Litury for Ordinary Radicals.  I think that will be my focus for Lent - much prayer, much reflection and confession, looking for opportunities to help those who need and, most of all, not shying away from situations when they are uncomfortable.  It feels right to me and it would be wonderful, I think, to honour Easter with the sense that I have truly tried to be honest with myself and, more importantly, with my God.

As always, our ministers were brilliant.  Last year, at our Ash Wednesday service, we were each given a nail to carry for the duration of Lent.  On Good Friday, we hammered that nail into the cross, which was so symbolic.  This year, we all chose a rock to carry, a symbol of the weight that we carry of our sins and at Easter, the rock being rolled away and our weight being lifted.  What a powerful symbol and one that I hope will remind me of my purpose for these next 40 days.