Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Erosion by Fear

Last night, I made a mistake.  I was having trouble sleeping and I have a bad habit of having my phone beside the bed.  I am getting old enough (ugh) that I can't always focus enough to read a book if I wake up in the night but it's easy to scroll through Facebook posts.  Not only did I make the mistake of looking at Facebook, I made the mistake of reading comments.  When will I ever learn?

The post was on Shane Claiborne's feed and he had posted a lament for the loss of the 12 year old shot by police in, I believe it was, Cleveland.  As I read, I was stunned to see that a third of the posts were defending the actions of the police officer.  I quickly put the phone down and tried to get back to sleep but it was too late, my brain was engaged.

At first, I just felt helpless rage, you know, the kind you feel when you are watching a movie and the hero is being treated SO UNFAIRLY and you know that you can do absolutely nothing about it.  I composed angry retorts to the posters in my brain, knowing that were I to write anything, I would probably just get slammed for being a bleeding heart liberal communist constitution hater Canadian who has no understanding of how the world works.  Then, all of a sudden, as sometimes happens so late at night, I heard it - fear.

In the Bible, "Fear Not" or "Do Not Be Afraid" is said over and over and over again.  As I get older, I come to appreciate more and more that God has a depth of understanding of the human character that is deeper than that of any human being and that when God tells us not to do something, it truly is for our own good, not just because He likes to impose rules.  Fear is a natural human emotion and it can be very useful at times to prevent us from putting ourselves in peril.  On the other hand, it also leads us to stupid decisions, panic and reverting to the reptilian parts of the brain that control our fight or flight responses.  As a teacher, I have heard again and again that we can't teach when we are dealing with children who are in that fear mode because the parts of their brains that are capable of higher level thought shut down and everything happens based on instinct.  As I pondered the situation in the U.S., it hit me that so much of this insanity is based on fear:

-fear of anyone different than we are
-fear that if we don't have powerful weapons, we will be victims
-fear that if we don't prove our strength, we will be seen as weak and tormented
-fear of "bad neighbourhoods"
-police fear of the potential for violence and the risk in their jobs (which is somewhat warranted)
-fear by visible minorities that they will be victimized by the police officers who should be there to protect them
-fear of the loss of stuff
-fear that it is impossible to break the cycle of poverty and resorting of various life choices that lead to crime
-fear that if we help to support those living in poverty that we will somehow be "taken" or "used" by those who really don't need
-fear that if we impose restrictions on weapons that we will be overtaken by government (or some other enemy - I'm Canadian so I truly don't get this one)
-fear that if we venture out of our own locked enclaves that we will be hurt or killed or have our stuff taken

Fear.  It's so destructive.  We are going to feel fear, that's part of being human, but if we allow our entire lives and societies to be ruled by fear, we will continue to sink deeper and deeper into violence and despair.  Jesus did not allow fear of anything to stop him from reaching out, from touch the leper, from confronting wrong, from speaking with honesty and He truly had a reason to fear.   We can't allow our fear to turn us into animals, striking first to prevent being hurt ourselves and barricading ourselves from anyone different.  Sadly, many of those who most aggressively battle against peace and compassion are those who claim to NOT be afraid but whose fear is the most corrosive of all. 

It's time to admit to our fear, to face it and to accept that it can't be allowed to make our decisions for us.  We owe that to the dead children whose lives were taken entirely because of the evils of fear.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yarn Along

Each week, Ginny, over at Small Things, hosts the wonderful "Yarn Along."  Each participant is invite to share their knitting and reading from the past week.  I have met some of my favourite authors there and most certainly some of the wonderful patterns that have become favourites!  It's also a wonderful place for inspiration!

I can't say that it has been an especially inspiring week or either knitting or reading - it's been all about stolen moments in between the concerts and rehearsals at church and at school, hosting family and trying desperately to finish the shopping.  So much for a quiet, contemplative Advent season.  Anyway, I did manage to sneak a bit in so I will share!

In terms of reading, I have been keeping up with my pattern of skipping around between books and of buying when I am already inundated with things I would like to read.  This week, I picked up Rebekah's Treasure again, by Sylvia Bambola.  I don't know where I stumbled across this book and I didn't actually think I would enjoy it given that I am not a huge fan of historical fiction but I must say, this book keeps my attention and it's hard to put it down for reasons other than going to sleep!  One of my goals this holiday is to do a lot of reading and I hope this will be one of the first books I finish.

The other interesting new addition to my reading list is Saint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton.  I was buying some things from ChristianBook.com and I started doing some very random browsing and somehow came across this.  Given my love of animals and of some of the prayers accredited to St. Francis, I've always been interested in him and this book seems to be a classic.  I've read the introduction and I'm looking forward to having time when I can focus a bit more when I read over the holidays!

In terms of knitting, I am frantically trying to get a few last minute gifts made.  I has several people for whom I need gifts but who aren't people that I necessarily feel comfortable buying gifts for (e.g., my friend's mother who will be there on our Christmas Eve annual dinner).  I love have a knitted gift at a time like that as I find it seems more personal than, say, a box of chocolate and shows care without being too personal when I just don't feel that I know the person well enough.  I've been making a few of the "Reversatile" cowls, which are a cinch to knit and work up really quickly.  I finished the claret coloured one last week and have the cream coloured on almost done.  I hope to get one or even two more done before Christmas, which may be a bit too ambitious but we will see!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Advent 2, post 3 - Loud and Clear

I was going to start this post off by saying that I really didn't hear anything from God today but then, I realised that would be lying.  I am hearing something loud and clear from God - SLOW DOWN.  I'm exhausted.  Dh was out at school concerts the last two nights and in addition to all of the regular parenting duties, acting as chauffeur to children and walker to dogs, I have also been trying to do Christmas baking in the little gaps in the schedule.  I was on "Teacher Treats" at work this week (several times a year, along with two other staff members, we bring treats for the staff on Friday), I made the treats for Dh's meeting Tuesday night, birthday treats for my dad from tomorrow (we are off to his 70th birthday tomorrow evening) AND treats to take to a Christmas tree cutting we are attending.  Add to that a band practice on Tuesday night for the performances Sunday and the knowledge that we will not have a moment of peace this weekend thanks to concerts, parties and family visits, I am dropping for exhaustion.  There is no way to hear God because I've been too busy running.  Clearly my prayer (and my word for 2016) will have to do with scaling back, quieting and restructuring to create a life that is a little less frenzied.  There is so much helping and reading and loving that I would like to do and at this frantic pace, there isn't room.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


You know those times when you are just so emotionally wrenched and you can't really think straight?  That's me today.  It's not exactly that it was a bad day, just a day that was very powerful, I think that's the best way to describe it.  God definitely got my attention today.

When I came home from work, I was in a really grouchy, tired mood.  It's almost the winter break and the kids at school are nuts and I am tired.  We are up to our ears in prep for Christmas - rehearsals for the Christmas concert/service at church and rehearsals at school for the concerts next week and the fact that Dh is out three evenings for concerts at his school.  All this busyness has gotten to me and when you add in the fact that the weather has been so strangely English (too warm, too cloudy, too foggy, no sun), I am feeling very overwhelmed and TIRED.

On Wednesdays, I have that funny little prayer group I have mentioned before.  It's a bizarrely eclectic group of people and yet it's been really enriching for me.  As I drove there tonight, after dropping the kids off at Awana, I was kind of hoping for the chance to vent to someone a bit about how I was just worn out.  I was not expecting what happened.  It was supposed to be a casual, pre-Christmas visit.  One of the women asked a question of two of the older women (they aren't old by any stretch but they have children in their 20's and they probably have ten years or more on the rest of us) about the difference between having daughters and sons.  Well, for one of the women, that broke open the floodgates about some horribly upsetting parenting challenges she was having with her young adult children.  It ended up with her in tears, the rest of us crying and we prayed over her for about 15 minutes.  I cannot describe the power of that time.  It was overwhelming to be party to her pain (she really does have some challenging issues to deal with) and not to have the right words to say and yet to feel that there was power in showing her that she is not alone.  I have never cried like that in a prayer situation and now, I just feel absolutely exhausted but also strangely invigorated.  It really felt as if this prayer group was meant for this purpose - moms not being alone in their parenting struggles and being able to help to hold each other up.  I pray for this mother that she finds some peace and I pray that we are able to be there for her.

I don't know that this is an Advent message but I truly do feel that God was reminding me, yet again, that we are not alone, that one of the greatest gifts of being a Christian is that we do not walk alone and that there is such power and blessing in feeling as if you are helping someone else.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Week 2 - What is God Saying to Me Today?

I love Shauna Niequist.  There is something about her writing that connects with me in such a personal way.  The other day, I was looking for something to listen to while I walked the dogs and I decided to search for a podcast that might feature her.  I was in luck.  I came upon an Advent message from Willow Creek last year (I often listen to Willow Creek - I love them). 

The message was about John the Baptist and the fact that he came to prepare the way for the Lord.  He gave people four major directions -

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
Luke 3: 10 - 14 (NIV)

Shauna called us to prepare for the arrival of Jesus by examining our own lives.  I won't say more right now, I don't want to do it an injustice but if you want to listen to it, you can find it here.

At first, after listening, I felt as if some of it really didn't apply to me and that my biggest challenge in relation to John's call was to stuff.  Yes, I have so much and I am often overwhelmed by how much we have packed into this house that we "need".  I know I need to get on to cleaning out and that is definitely on the cards for January.  It didn't really resonate as the more important message for me and while I wanted to focus on John and preparing for Christmas, I wasn't sure what it meant to me.

That's changed over the last two days.  It's funny how God can show me in unexpected ways where my strongholds are.  If you have been around here long, you know that a bit more than two years ago, I had a really challenging relationship in my life explode.  I am not even entirely sure how to describe it.  This was a friendship that had happened with the mother of a friend of PK.  I was always a bit uncomfortable with her (she was VERY forceful that we were going to be best friends and was constantly asking me to do things that would take me away from my family and truly didn't understand that given my work schedule, I don't want to be out all of the time).  I am an introvert and I have issues around needing very clear boundaries with people and I just assumed that this was my being difficult around that but I felt very uncomfortable.  She became friends with several of my friends (when she wasn't saying nasty things about them behind their backs), started to come to our church and wanted our kids to be best friends.  I tried for a long time and then, finally, after several episodes of her really having a go at me about something, I cut the tie.  I have never done anything like that before and I was heartsick about it.  I am such a pleaser and I really struggled with how to deal with it - where is the line between compassion and self-care?  To what degree did I have to put myself in harm's way emotionally to be a good person?  I really struggled and after the blow up, I was devastated.  I didn't know how to act and after a lot of talking with Dh, he convinced me that I just had to do what he uses as his life's mantra - "keep your side of the street clean."  I tried to be polite and kind, to continue to give her clothing for her daughters (which I had been doing for a couple of years), to not discuss it with friends (even though I felt betrayed by a few who had sat by and watched her be horribly nasty to me and while they said they felt that she "had problems", they didn't seem to mind as long as it was directed at me and not them).  I became really depressed about it and worried that it was my fault and that I hadn't tried hard enough to be nice.  Especially given that she became very, very close with the ministers at the church we had eventually left because we had felt excluded and unwelcome, it was a very dark time for me and a time that led me to doubt myself in really upsetting ways.

Fast forward two years.  I am in a new church that is much more healthy for me and for my family.  It's a church that is open, loving and active and in which I am called to do what I believe and to be out in the world, not sheltered in this little church and everything outside of it is undervalued.  We have moved on and several of our friends what were mutual friends with this person have also cut off contact with her because of similar issues.  We have cleared our lives a bit in terms of people who don't really connect with us and have made more room and built new relationships with people whose values align more closely with ours and who enrich our lives in many ways.  I have learned to see her picking up our kids at daycare and to smile and say hello and it doesn't bother me (much) anymore, even when she turns her back on me and refuses to see me.  Our daughters play at school and I'm fine with that.  I thought I had moved on and I try to pray for her at least once a week, that she find happiness and that the church she is at meets her needs and that she finds comfort and love and support in her friendships.  I really thought I had moved on and my self esteem had healed a bit.

Every so often, though, something comes along and it reawakens all of my hurt and worry.  She blocked me on Facebook after she asked for some bricks on a local buy and sell site and I offered her some we had (I don't know why...) and at the time, that was one of the things that really hit my hurt buttons.  I would see that there were four comments on a post that I knew would interest her and I could only see three or people would tag her and yet things would be hidden.  No big deal, right?  Not for me.  Every time I saw that, I felt like a failure and like it must be my fault.  I ended up hiding everyone mutual on my feed because it just opened the wounds each time it happened.  This past weekend, it happened again and all of a sudden, the hurt came back and I thought it had already gone.  I do find it a tiny bit reassuring because she appeared in an attack on someone from church who posted a question on our local buy and sell group along with the group of mutual friends.  It's so stupid and I feel so much like a fourteen year old girl who can't get past a hallway dispute but it really activates all my insecurities and shallow though it may be, it hurts.

God is clearly telling me that I need to do more to move forward.  I think prayer is in order and I have to make some important decisions, too.  To what degree does forgiveness mean having to have some kind of contact?  How do I find a way to deal with this that is healthy for me but also leaves me with no guilt?  If there is something that is keeping me away from full relief in my value in Jesus, this is it so I need to work it through now.  Looking back on the entire situation, I have known that this was something I needed to have happen - I have worked so hard to avoid conflict and to avoid people who made me feel lesser for most of my life.  After 43 years, I need to figure out how to be with people who don't work for me and be both compassionate and kind and safe emotionally myself.  God puts us in situations that break us so that we can heal better than before.  I just keep feeling as though I don't know how...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent 6 - Quiet

I am exhausted tonight.  I am often tired but this is that bone deep, gritty-eyed, unable to listen to one more rendition of Rudolph in the car without totally losing my stick kind of tired.  There's a lot of guilt that goes with this tired - it shortens my fuse, removes my patience, dulls my reason and blunts my compassion.

The really pathetic part is that, at least in part, it's my fault.  Our work-week tends to start slow(er) and pick up the pace as the week rushes on.  By Friday, the endless hours spent waiting for children at the barn and the rink, the wonderful but sleep depriving hours spent in fellowship and the lack of time to just be in my skin and listening for God have totally wiped me out.  On Monday, I did my daily walk at lunchtime with the iPod off and then, when I turned it on at the end of the walk, I listened to lectio divina (a post for another day).  It helped me to listen for God and to actually feel a call to do something.  By today, I was listening to mindless stuff and just trying to keep one foot in front of the other.  There was no time or energy for listening, just the desire to dull my mind to coast through the day.

That, in itself, is a lesson.  If I'm too tired to listen for God during this season of listening and preparing, something is horribly wrong.  I don't actually pretend to have an answer but I think it's time to start looking for one.  Is it that I need to say no?  Is it that I need to sleep less and meditate more?  Is it that I need to find a way to carve out a bit more quiet time?

Honestly, I don't know but I need to find the answer because I know this pace is taking years off my life.

Advent 5

I'm late with this post but it was for a great reason!  We have a Thursday night Bible study group with a few women from my church.  It's a really small group (my favourite way of doing things - too many people and my introvert heart starts to quake and I worry I've said something stupid).  We are doing a Beth Moore Study (Breaking Free) and it's time each week that I treasure.  It is so important to me that I have a chance to connect with other moms, especially when it's other moms with kids of similar ages and values that are similar to mine.  It's so important that we have time with other Christian women on our journey.  I am not, in any way, saying that we ONLY have Christian friends - if I'm totally honest, with a couple of exceptions, all of my closest friends are actually not Christians.  That's o.k. with me because funnily enough, my non-Christian friends share many of the same values as I do and are people who are all about loving and fairness and compassion and kindness and justice.  Our reasons for it are just a bit different.

I do have to say, though, that I really feel that God has been reminding me of the importance of having fellowship with other believers sometimes.  I didn't have much of that growing up - we tended to be in mainline churches with few kids and I never had Christian friends at school.  It was rather lonely and while I ended up with incredible friends who were respectful of my faith, we weren't on the same journey.  I always felt a bit of a gap in my life, a need to have support and mentorship from women of faith that I could lean on when I was feeling lost.  Miraculously, God has planted us in a place where I have so much of that and I can't express how much that has changed my life.  I can sit with people and talk about struggles and challenges of parenting as a Christian parent - balancing faith and believe with respect for others, the ongoing fight against the worst of the world (e.g., greed, materialism, the message to our girls that their sole value is as an object of use for men) and how to allow our kids to have freedom to learn and make mistakes while also shielding them from things they are not ready to battle.  I always stay too late on Thursdays and Fridays at school as I teach, I'm relying heavily on caffeine to get me through but it is with a smile on my face!

I feel as though God has been impressing upon me the importance of having fellowship (and of our need to work to ensure that opportunities for fellowship happen).  That's something that I don't want to forget in the busyness of my daily life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yarn Along

I haven't been present in the Yarn Along for a while and I have missed it so much.  I love visiting with Ginny and all of the wonderful knitters/readers who share some much inspiration.  Since blogging has been one of my aims for this Advent season, I thought I might try to add in my Yarn Along post as well and even try to visit other people's posts, too!

This fall, my reading has been all over the place.  I have had six or seven books on the go at once and I have bounced from book to book like a basketball.  It's great for my interests but it's terrible for actually finishing anything. 

First of all, in terms of fiction, I have been reading The Small Rain by Madeleine L'Engle.  She is one of my favourite authors and I have loved her work since I was in my teens.  I have made it my goal to start buying her adult novels and to read through and collect.  So far, this book has not disappointed!  It's definitely a book of a time and place and clearly has several elements of L'Engle's own life. 

In terms of faith, I have been meandering through An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.  I think I can be forgiven for taking this one slowly.  In it, she outlines different spiritual practices that can bring you closer to God.  Rather than read it through all at once, I read a chapter or two a week and see what it has that I can bring to my daily life.  I find her so readable and this book has been really inspiring.

My latest non-fiction read is not exactly a light read and has been pretty challenging to me at times, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  I am not altogether sure how to understand some of the long term issues of crime and poverty and the relationship to the justice system for certain groups.  This exploration of race and the American justice system has been challenging but has also laid out the number of challenges faced by certain minorities in the U.S.  I don't know how families cope or how, as a mother, you could stay sane sending your child out into that world.

Finally, a friend lent me Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  I have been hearing so much about her from other people with similar tastes to mine.  While I am not really a writer, there is something about her style that is really speaking to me.

My knitting has been fairly boring of late because I am in hard-core Christmas mode.  The orange hat came after I had to make my son several hats - he had lost all of his and I needed several to have ready as we ran out to the school bus each morning.  After I finished his, I read about the 25 000 toques project in which someone is organizing to ask knitters to knit a hat for each of the 25 000 Syrian refugees who will be coming to Canada in the next several months.   Each volunteer knitter is asked to write a letter of welcome to Canada to be given with the hat.  I LOVED the idea and couldn't wait to get started.  Now, I just have to get myself motivated to actually mail it.  My dad saw my son's hat and wanted one, too and he wanted one in "that aran wool you use" so cross your fingers for me that I can be disciplined and get it done for his birthday next week.  It's a quick pattern but my knitting happens in such fits and starts these days.

Advent Day 4 - A Great Gift

Today was one of those days that I started the day feeling frustrated.  We had a very stressful day at work yesterday and today wasn't much better.  As I drove home, I was feeling like all I wanted to do was to go home and crawl into bed until tomorrow.  I didn't know how I was going to make it through all of the rest of the day.

My first job was to walk the dogs.  Often, I take them for a run in the forest (at least, that's been my practice this fall).  Unfortunately, with the dark coming so early these days, it has gotten to be dark so early that the dogs and I have had a couple of very stressful walks in a "just shy of dark" stage of dusk.  Luckily, the dogs are white but I spend time praying that we won't meet any curious night creatures who may not be overly friendly.  I decide that I would message my friend who has a farm and ask whether the dogs and I could walk there.  She was thrilled.  As I drove into the farm, I was dying to vent to someone about the frustrations of my day.  By the time I drove out of the farm, I was smiling, making some Christmas plans and excited about life again.  It had been one of those times when I really connected with a good friend and it took me outside of myself and my own problems.

This evening, after supper, I ran to drop the kids off at Awana.  K, a friend of mine, is the greeter in the lobby.  We ended up chatting about some frustrations she is having at work and as I drove away from the church, I found myself excited about the idea of getting her a little treat to pop into the courier at work to give her a little surprise.  I was smiling even more.

I drove from there to my Wednesday night prayer and book study group.  I LOVE these women and yet again, I had reminders over and over again that there are other members of my faith tribe, even if we don't go to the same churches.  I left feeling refreshed, excited about my faith and most of all, connected. 

That's the message today - to get outside of myself, especially when I am brooding, and enjoy the company of the many amazing people that I have been blessed to have in my life.  When I count my riches, the people around me and the good friends that I may not have in my immediate vicinity but who I know are out there are definitely my greatest asset.  God has blessed me with these riches and I need to be sure that I don't forget that.  Advent can be a time for me that I remember - I remember to take time for these people, to listen, to help and to savour the time I have with them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent 3 - A Bit of Tough Love

I woke up this morning on the wrong side of the bed.  I don't really know why but very quickly, I was finding everything annoying and I was grouchy.  Then, I made the mistake of turning on the news.  I'm a CBC-ophile and the news this morning featured a very upsetting story that the news division was having to close comments on any story about aboriginal issues because there were so many and such severe racist comments being posted.  I rapidly shifted from grouchy to righteously indignant and more than a bit sad.

I wrote a scathing Facebook post and then, brooded my way to work, thinking of a couple of people I know on Facebook who have said some things that I find HIGHLY offensive.   During our election and during discussions of whether we should take in Syrian refugees, I was shocked at the rhetoric coming from these people and I was most horrified of all at the fact that they were people who wore their Christianity loudly.

Then, the moment of conviction came.  At the moment, I have been reading take this bread (her lower-case, not mine) by Sara Miles.  It has been very gripping and has brought back many memories for me of the days when I did some work with street people.  I have had some struggles with aspects of the book - a bi-sexual from San Francisco who worships at a church that features dancing around the communion table and a lot of stuff that my Presbyterian heart would find "too much" isn't exactly someone I necessarily am going to form a deep connection to.  That being said, this book still managed to get me right between the eyes.  In the reading yesterday, in the chapter about when she wanted to expand her food pantry ministry to take over part of Sunday at the church, she met fierce opposition from some and she felt righteously indignant and then, finally, came to the realisation that church needs to fit everyone, even those whose ideas we find offensive.  It doesn't mean that their ideas are right or that we need to accept racism or bigotry or other forms of cruelty but we do have to accept that they are God's children, too, and that we can't force them out of the church because they don't hold our views.  I was so wrapped up in being self-righteous that I began to dehumanize those  people behind their keyboards.  Yes, they are wrong and yes, they are offensive but at times, I am wrong and offensive, too.  I even have had times, in the not too distant past, when I didn't want to go to church because I knew that I would be sitting with people who, I believe, are directly ignoring Jesus's message in order to justify their greed or their fear.  If I am being honest, it's a mix of feeling angry at them and also feeling a fear of being rejected (and rejection at church falls just short of being rejected by your parents - they are supposed to accept everyone there).

I am not going to be happy about the kind of comments being posted on CBC and I am not going to stand idly by and allow that kind of stuff to be said without commenting on it.  I am, however, being called to try and drop the self-righteousness and to love those who I don't find very loveable.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent Day 2 - What was God saying to me today?

Sometimes, when I am listening for what God is saying to me, the message is so direct, it can't be missed.  Those are the times when I am forced into a situation I have been avoiding or those times when I just keep encountering the message over and over again.  Usually, in those instances, I am hearing the message loud and clear, I am just avoiding really hearing it.

At other times, I feel like there is something I am hearing but it's like a sound that I can't quite distinguish - it's familiar or it hints at something but I can't tell what it means.  All of my ponderings today are of the second variety.

The last two days have been really rich with simple and yet wonderful things that speak to me of what Christmas is supposed to be and that evoke such warm memories for me.  I keep feeling this sense of comfort and safety and warmth.  I feel this intense sense of belonging and quiet and peace.  It's bliss and it's what I love most about Christmas.  It's evenings that are sweet rather than exciting and tastes that are comforting and smells that smell like home.  It's such a comfort.

I had begun to wonder whether my Christmas memories have more to do with where I live, in a reasonably affluent area (compared to the rest of the world) and in which there is no war and pretty much everyone celebrates, despite the fact that our celebrations may take different forms.  I got pondering whether there are people around me who truly don't have those warm and safe memories that carry us through the hard times.  While my family was pretty close to poor when I was growing up and there was a Christmas where there hadn't been gifts and an anonymous benefactor supplied my parents with gifts and a turkey, I had no knowledge of the struggles, I just knew that were had a family and we would be together and all of the familiar ornaments were around us and we would feel blessed.  A friend came over the other day, though, and started to cry.  She said that she hates Christmas because she has no warm Christmas memories - it was always awful, with her parents fighting, her alcoholic father angry and her being afraid of what might be to come.  It really hit me - there truly are people, and people I love, who don't have that warmth to carry with them.  I know I sound hopelessly naive, but in my world, despite the fact that people have horrible experiences, they do have those blessed times to remember and warm them.

It came to me that truly, while it's easy to dismiss those cloyingly trite Christmas memories as being shallow and unimportant but that would be wrong.  Christmas is a time that we can truly bless the people around us and help them to build those feelings of love and comfort.  While much of what Jesus had to say was challenging and compelling and, frankly, downright scary, there is still always that message of love, of the fact that we will be fed and we will have fellowship and we will have someone counting the hairs on our heads.  It made me want to bless everyone I encounter - a homemade knitted gift for my friend's mother who is sinking in alzheimers, a warm and welcoming Christmas Day breakfast for my friend the widow who misses her husband so much at Christmas, a welcoming Christmas party for my daughter and several of her friends, a hand-knitted hat with a letter to welcome a refugee, a small gift for everyone who cares for my kids.  It made me change my perspective from one of trying to get everything done to one of trying to make each experience a blessing.  I want to treasure each chance to help someone to build a memory, to feel a sense of love from someone and to know that he or she IS NOT ALONE. 

That is the gift I want to be able to give this Christmas and it is a gift that gives to me as much as to the person to whom I am giving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 1 -What is God Saying to You This Advent?

I go to this women's study group/prayer group on Wednesday nights that has been such a sanity-establishing place this year.  It's the MOST eclectic group of women (that's another post) and we meet, talk about parenting and struggles as mothers, discuss a book and pray together.  I think, terrifyingly, that I may even have found my "tribe".  Anyway, each week, J, one of the women opens by asking us the question, "What do you think God is saying to you this week?" 

The first time she asked, I was really stumped.  I read the Bible, I pray, I listen to faith podcasts and I read voraciously.  Despite all that, I have never simplified it down like that.  I had really changed my thinking.  It has made me much more conscious of my need to listen.  It's been life-changing to me in terms of what I actually hear.

I have also been feeling very much called to honour Advent this year.  I love Christmas but so often, it becomes a crazed rush and belief and quiet and preparation don't come into it.  I wanted this year to be different (and if you ever read here, you have heard me say THAT before).  I thought I might combine the two and ask myself, "What is God saying to me today?  How can I get ready for the arrival of Jesus?"  While Advent begins today, I have already been hearing God's call to me., which makes want to write so that I don't forget.  So, a blog series is born.  I don't know whether I will be able to write every day but that is my challenge.

Post 1 -
Over the last few days, we have been getting out our decorations.  In our family, we like to decorate first Advent (I find that if we jump into Christmas too early, it's tired by the time it actually arrives.  I grew up in a family that put the tree up Christmas Eve and it adds so much to the excitement that the time is actually here!)

Of course, the kids want to help and they have been frenzied with revisiting familiar ornaments.  Me, in my slightly OCD way, feels that there is a "right" way to do it and I found myself feeling very frustrated (to the point of getting a bit chippy) with the fact that every time I turned around, another display had been rearranged or "messed up."  Then, the question popped into my mind, "What might God be saying to me here?"

Then, I suddenly saw it.  The kids were playing with Jesus and the Wise Men and the shepherds.  They had Rudolph and Hermie and the scary white thing from Rudolph (forgive me, I was traumatized by Rudolph as a child, I don't get the appeal) coming to worship the King.  Wow.  My kids were seeing something that I wasn't.  They wanted to be right in there, worshiping, getting to know the story, acting it out right in our living room.  They knew that everyone needed to come and worship and I am quite sure that shepherds and sheep and camels and poor urchins certainly would not have stood in a properly choreographed line.  The chaos they were creating in getting into the story was exactly what we should be doing.  I was acting like the apostles when they tried to keep the children away from Jesus. 

Have faith like these little ones... My first challenge for this Advent season.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Feeling Thankful

So often, I use my blog when I feel a need to vent and I don't have anyone to listen (or I don't want to subject anyone to my frustration).  I thought it was time to share that I am not always a grumpy, frustrated and judgement person (my mom says that when she dies, I am to burn her journals since she only writes when she is angry or upset and we will get a skewed picture of who she really was - it appears that runs in the family!

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here and it has this funny tradition of often being the nicest weekend of the year (in my opinion).  This year did not disappoint.  The weather was warm, breezy and the sky was that stunning shade of blue that one only sees in the fall.  

Thanks to having to walk my dogs (one of the best things about having hunting dogs - they NEED to run and when you are going to walk anyway, you might as well go somewhere nice), I had a chance to see autumn in all of its glory.

I've been slowly reading An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and both the chapter on Attentiveness and Groundedness reminded me of the importance of truly seeing the beauty in creation.  For me, at least, it's so true - being outside in the lovely places serves to remind me almost better than anything else, how truly blessed I am.  If anything, it's humbling - I kept feeling overwhelmed that I am allowed to live in this area with horses and farms within walking distance of my house and a huge maze of forests around us that are all within about a 7 - 10 minute drive from home.  Best of all, it's safe here to walk alone and I am very aware that for many people, they can't venture away from home without needing to be hyper-vigilant and to feel unsafe.  I walked an hour in the forest with just my dogs (who would be useless against trouble, I think, unless it was a squirrel or a raccoon) and when I did encounter people, they were just fellow walkers like me, who had a smile, a "Happy Thanksgiving" and then just continued on their way.

We also had so much time this weekend to enjoy each other.  We saw friends, we visited family and, most of all, Dh and I and the kidlets were able to just "be" together.  I can't say how lucky I am and how much I enjoy my family most of the time.  I feel so lucky to have two healthy, happy children and to have the privilege to try to craft a childhood for them.  Having little people truly does allow one to see the world through different ideas, with a lense of awe and excitement and to appreciate the little blessings, such as a rope hanging from the tree or a pile of leaves or a magical tree.

This weekend served as such a reminder to me that I need these slower times to remind myself that no matter how awful things may be that are happening in the greater world, there are so many blessings for which to say thank you.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Crushed Under the Weight

It’s really unsettling and depressing to discover that the world I thought was my home is not at all like I had understood it to be.  Yes, I am naive and I do tend to give people the benefit of the doubt (Dh has accused me, for years, of putting up with garbage from people and making excuses because they have had issues and he is probably right).  I generally assume that, unless someone has been really damaged by something in life, that he or she is capable of compassion, empathy and understands that others have needs and rights as well.  I’ve learned that I am wrong.

I’m a Canadian.  I grew up believing the myth that we are the kinder, gentler version of our American neighbours.  I thought of us as the world’s peacekeepers – trying to help third world countries, having national health care and having a welfare system that, while not perfect, at least attempted to be sure that everyone’s basic needs were met.

In the last several years, I have seen glimpses that all is not what I had believed.  First Nations people were homeless on their reserves, living in desperate poverty, driven out of their homes by toxic mold, if they had homes, and dealing with a lack of just about everything (while also coping with the legacy of the unbelieveable cruelty enacted upon them in our residential school system).  I listened to stories being told at the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that made me nauseas and that made me ache to reach out to these victimized native children.  Then, I heard that the government had “saved” millions and was balancing the budget, in part by not spending the money allocated to our native peoples.

I stopped hearing about Canadian outreach in struggling nations and began to hear grumblings against refugees.  I was stunned when, earlier this fall, I began to hear talk that we were refusing to take Syrian refugees because they “might” be terrorists.  What happened to the Canada that stepped to the front of the line in helping the Vietnamese Boat people?  Other than the First Nations peoples in Canada, we are a country of immigrants – how could people forget that most of our ancestors arrived here as a result of some kind of crisis?  This was a refuge for them, why weren’t we willing to act as a refuge for others?  I saw the images of Syrian families stranded in various places in Europe, mothers with young children with no shelter, little food, no belongings after a harrowing journey across dangerous waters in unstable rafts.  I couldn’t imagine what circumstances would make me put my children at such risk and I couldn’t understand where our compassion had gone.

Then, finally, the rhetoric began to spew out in our election campaign.  I began to see online the truly offensive Islamophobia spilling out.  I heard stories of pregnant women being assaulted for wearing a hijab, of Muslim women being verbally abused and told to “go home.”  I began to see posts on Facebook from people I thought were much more compassionate arguing that these Muslims were trying to “take” “our” country and that there is no room for them here.  I couldn’t see how people were unable to see that if Muslim acts of piety and worship were unwelcome here, it would only be a matter of time before my Christian faith would become unwelcome, as well.

I have felt almost crushed by this.  I see that the party that is pushing this agenda is now leading in the polls and I am terrified for what this means for our country.  I am so tired of fighting and calling racism where it is rearing its ugly head.  I hate the conflict and I am struggling to find a way to “love my neighbor” even when he or she is spewing hate towards people who are already victims.  I don’t know anymore whether it is time to be quiet and stop the conflict or whether that is just continuing the pattern that was so evident in Nazi Germany – “it’s not me and it’s not my problem”.  I am seeing so many parallels and yet, there are so many people caught in this mass hysteria that I am becoming afraid to speak.  I don’t want to go to church because I know that some of the people in that church on Sunday morning hold these views and I am waiting for them to turn on me, too.  I debate leaving Facebook entirely because I find this all so upsetting but I also worry that if we stop calling this what it is, that it will only become more socially acceptable to hold and express these views.  I am confused and tired and mostly, just SAD.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Following Party Lines?

One of my favourite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, invited readers to share some questions with her and answering the questions would be the focus for her blog in August.  It's funny, I feel so isolated sometimes in terms of what I believe but I have so many questions, too.  I yearn for the chance to sit down and talk to people who will understand and since there seem to be so few people in the territory in which I have planted myself, evangelical and liberal at the same time, I often wish I could ask a few of my favourite bloggers to help me out.  Politics has been a BIG one for me of late, especially since the election announcement yesterday.  I was so excited to be able to ask Sarah about what she thinks and it made me think that it's only fair that I share my musings (I'm still forming my thoughts).

Obviously, there's a large part of the world whose politics are supposedly shaped by their faith, or so they would claim.  To those of us who don't share those beliefs, it's hard not to think that the faith is shaped to meet their politics, not vice-versa.  I don't understand how we can be reading the same Bible and come away with the same message.  Hatred, judgement, oppression, violence and greed are so inconsistent with the Jesus whose teachings I'm reading in my NRSV but there are so many people who seem to read the Bible and come away with the idea that judgement, oppression and dog-eat-dog capitalism are the way Jesus wants us to go.  I find that perplexing and, frankly, alarming.  I can't help but think that Jesus is weeping at our stupidity.

On the other hand, I also worry that maybe I am guilty of the same thing.  Am I so worried about loving and inclusion that I do push for a political system that 1. breeds dependence?  2.  accepts anything, even when it's morally wrong, in the name of being inclusive?  3.  is not economically sustainable, which ultimately is as oppressive (such as the collapsed system in the former Soviet Union or China's lack of freedom)?  Where does Jesus direct us in terms of politics?

In considering where my vote will go, I am finding it increasingly hard to find a place (ah, such the story of my life).  Clearly the Conservative platform in Canada is of no interest to me.  The lack of funding for any programmes to support the poor, the horrific negligence of Canada's First Nations communities and the abysmal track record on the environment are so in opposition to everything I believe that I could never go that route.

On the other hand, I don't really feel at home in the left, either.  It's interesting.  On paper, the more left wing parties would certainly seem to be where most of my beliefs would fall.  At the same time, there's something missing for me.  I've been pondering it over the last few days.  DH and I went as delegates to the provincial teacher's union meeting last summer (and are going again) and while I agreed with so much, there was still this tiny voice saying in my head, "I don't fit here."  I couldn't place it and I've really struggled with what the gap is.  I heard talk about social justice and support for initiatives that build up the poor.  I heard talk about fair wages for low income workers (including a call to make sure that we didn't use the hotel cards saying we didn't need our rooms cleaned so that the hotel workers, who are not unionized and make minimum wage, would get more hours).   There was tremendous respect shown to First Nations peoples and peoples of every minority group and a clear agenda to support all who are marginalized.  Still, I didn't quite feel a fit.  Why?

It finally came to me today.  It's not what we believe but it's from what our belief is based.  I don't just believe in justice for the sake of it being "right" but rather, that it's a call from God
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
This is not about being entitled to these rights but about being obedient to God's call.  There is a struggle, too, between rights and the fact that we can't read the Bible without coming away with the idea that there are some moral absolutes which is sometimes at odds with the rights of others (e.g., such as that as Christians, the Bible clearly tells us that we are not to kill, which makes war, even in cases that some would qualify as "just war" questionable at best).  We need to uphold the role of the family and the role of the community to support each other and for some, this is an old-fashioned ideal that is out of date.  Most of all, we are to be ruled by love, not by anger, despite the horror of the situation or the frustration and we are to show respect, even to those with whom we entirely disagree.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37 - 40
When the person with whom I agree politically is not guided by this command, there will always be a gap.

Anyone know of a Christian social justice party getting started?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just the right post...

Today, I had two posts that I read that reasonated with me so much.  It's funny how things sometimes come to you just as you need them - I could have read either of these posts on a different day and skimmed them with no real connection.  I just thought I'd share.

After my rant about church yesterday, I should say that Dh and I have landed in a church that we love.  We feel a strong sense of belonging and as the church is in our local community, we have church connections in daily life, something that we haven't really had before.  It's lovely!  We are really enjoying it and also, we are finding that the interpretation of what it is to be a Christian is fairly close to our own - Evangelical but also loving, with a definite challenge to go into the world to be Christ's hands and feet.  I am sure there are people whose views are not ours but it's been unexpectedly wonderful for us.  Today was a church day and I was happy to read Sarah Bessey's post this morning, basically explaining why she loves her church.  It made me eager to go to church and to look at our worship and the community through new eyes. 

I spent a good portion of today out in the garden, trying to get stuff done with my kidlets.  Needless to say, it slowed me down.  A LOT.  Pk was constantly saying, "Isn't it great that we are helping you?  I need ________ to be just like you mom!" while with LB, I was just struggling to keep from getting hit in the head with the shovel (yesterday, he clocked me upside the head with one while trying to "help" - nothing like feeling as if you need to comfort a child who is afraid he has accidently just killed his mother when you are afraid that if you remove your hand from your skull, a chunk might just fall out).  I am a very random gardener - I have no idea what I am doing and at different times, I go in different directions and create all kinds of chaos.  Today, it was trying to clean up some beds in the "dog" area of the garden (think bomb testing range) and to plant a few veggies to get that bed going.  I waffled between gratitude for the presence of my children and then wanting them to be anywhere but in my way!  Then, I read this post this evening and realized how awesomely lucky I am to have to two kids in the way.  Please pray for Michaela as she learns to live without her precious daughter, Florence.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just a Little Rant since it doesn't belong on Facebook...

Sorry, I disappeared again.  Life has been insane with school concerts (I'm a teacher) and Welcome to Kindergarten and family visiting from England and just general "my life is too busy" kind of stuff.  I'm finally coming out the other side of this season of crazy and it feels really good to be back here.  I doubt I was missed but I missed writing so that's all that really matters to me.

I don't know whether other people do this but I have this little Facebook problem.  The problem is that I check Facebook way too often.  I'm not addicted, really, and I am not interested so much in the little fluffy stuff that people post about how popular they are or links to Huffington Post articles or various quizes or top 80's trivia.  I just get bored REALLY easily and if I'm in the car and unfocused, I scan my feed, looking for anything that will hold my interest.  That's when I get in trouble.  I have a bad habit of clicking on articles that people have posted and then, I get enraged at whatever I find offends me.  I am usually pretty good about not saying anything or even commenting (I tend not to comment unless I agree) but sometimes, it's all I can do to keep from either writing an inflammatory rebuttal or posting a link to something that directly attacks whatever the person has said.  I feel as if it would be truly satisfying but deep down, I know that it's not worth it and I would end up feeling like a nasty person.

Today, it was a link to this article, criticizing all of the op/ed pieces about what is wrong with church.  Facebook suggested this article below it and I am guessing that the first article is a response to the second I am linking but it's possible not. 

Why did it bug me so much?  Because the first article, which is attacking all of the writing that is against church these days, expresses so clearly what is wrong with so many churches these days and why so many people ARE leaving.  More personally, it expresses some of what I was feeling at our last church that led us to finally and very painfully, leaving after being there a long time.  What is it about church that makes people so blind?  They feel as if they are getting their needs met (whatever those needs might be), anyone who is not or, worse, anyone who dares to name what isn't working, is just being selfish and greedy and wanting to change what isn't broken.  Given how the church is declining, let me say it - IT'S BROKEN, FOLKS (at least in affluent North America - interestingly, in more impoverished parts of the world, and even in some struggling spots in urban North America, it's thriving and alive and gospel fulfilling).

I'm probably not at the most reasonable point for discussing this right now because I am just finishing reading Jesus for President by Shane Claibourne and Chris Haw.  It's a brilliant book but I am certain that it offends most of the world.  While I would call these guys extreme expressors (which I think is a dog breeding term I picked up but I digress), they hit the nail on the head.  If you actually read and take seriously what Jesus says, so much of what "church" is now is not based on anything Jesus said.  Jesus was certainly not an advocate of big, flashy buildings, of constant fundraising drives to make our spaces more luxurious or of hugely expensive lighting and sound systems that make us feel like we are at a concert at a major venue.  The message of the early church was not mega-churches in which people would come week after week without making any meaningful connections to others.  Church was about relationships and relationships not only within the church walls but outside of them.  Jesus did not endorse only helping those who are "one of us" or that charity only counts if it is done within the walls of the individual congregation.  The church is not a denomination or a building or an exclusive club - it's a group of people who follow Jesus and his teachings and who look for the needy and the suffering and the marginalized and try to meet their needs.  It's people who forgive, who love, who ignore nationality and language and class structure and who use their resources to live out their faith, caring for others, including those with whom we strenuously disagree.  It isn't comfortable or easy or in keeping with the culture around us but it is rewarding, loving, meaningful and powerful.

I need to point out, as well, that I am not anti-church.  Given the number of hours of my life spent at church and involved in church activities and the fact that Dh and I spent so much time talking about how we love our church community, we are "church" people.  I think, though, that years of being in and around churches has taught us that the institutional church IS killing itself slowly (maybe not so slowly these days) with its focus on the superficial (e.g., the setting and the light show), its being a self-rewarding institution (e.g., the church we attended whose Advent focus was "random acts of kindness" and most of them happened within the walls of the church to other people who were equally blessed and it required no sacrifice) and its lack of credibility outside its own walls (with its lack of effort to improve the lives of others or to stand up against injustice). 

I guess I should just let these self-absorbed people continue to be "the church" (or, should we say, "their church").  They will gradually eliminate themselves while, I hope, those who are listening hard for the words of Jesus and trying to put them into action can transform "church" into something more meaningful and relevant and world changing.  It still makes me angry through, the hypocrisy of it all - how can you claim to be listening to Christ when you are so against listening to the cries of those around you?  The cries are deafening and those with earplugs in are making it harder for the rest of us.

There, my rant is over and I haven't offended anyone on Facebook and I don't have to feel guilty.  That was satisfying!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


I'm an INFJ.  If you know about Myers-Briggs personality typing, that will mean something to you but if not, it's just a set of random letters.  For me, it's been such a useful tool in understanding myself, particularly some of my quirkier stuff that I haven't ever really understood.

We INFJ's are a rare bunch and we can be pretty contradictory.  The one trait of being an INFJ that I haven't really owned until recently is the privacy one.  Supposedly, we are very people centred and tend of focus a lot of emotions and trying to help others.  Yup, that's me.  On the other hand, we are supposedly very private and I didn't really think that described me.  Certainly, if you hang around here,  you would think that I am VERY forthcoming but I have come to understand that my blog is really the only place that I feel like I can really tell the truth.  That makes life hard sometimes.

I do share my feelings and hash things out with people at times.  I vent about small frustrations and I talk through ideas a lot.  I've found, over the last year or so, though, that I am so lonely.  It's funny, I am surrounded by the most wonderful people and I am frequently told by people that I cope so well and that they don't know how I do it.  As an example, not too long ago, my sister-in-law was venting to me about something and then apologized for it, because I never vent to her.  It's such a strange combination - I am DYING to spill how I am feeling but I can't seem to find the words or, when I do, I don't think that people are really interested so I don't want to bother them.  I can vent about being concerned about the strike that's looming in my work or the fact that my car won't start but the things that are weighing the most heavily, I can't seem to express.  It really is lonely.

So, here I go, since I can't vent anywhere else,  it needs to spill out here.  I know, first world problems and all that and I feel guilty complaining but today, it needs to come out and here is the only place I feel safe doing it.

1.  I am so angry at Dh.  Pk has had a HARD  year at school.  She's been complaining a lot about feeling sad at school and not knowing why and that the other girls are mean to her.  Me being me, I've worried.  Is she doing something to turn the other kids off?  Is she just looking for attention? (my niece has been battling a lot of serious depression this year and has been getting a lot of attention for it and I wondered whether Pk might think this would get her attention too).  I've never felt especially like I belonged socially - is it that I am rubbing off on Pk?  Are these just the normal things that girls have to go through or is it more serious?
Anyway, when I picked Pk up at daycare yesterday, the daycare teacher said that her classroom teacher wanted to see me.  I went up alone and she filled me in on seeing that Pk is feeling uncomfortable in class at times and won't talk about what's wrong, her "friends" can be downright malicious to her sometimes and she won't tell on them or stand up to them, she won't take any risks in class at all in terms of possibly making a mistake and her teacher says she is the sweetest kid ever but she isn't being especially well served by being so sweet.  When I came home, I was bursting to discuss it with Dh and when I came in, he asked why I was so late.  I said that Pk's teacher had wanted to see me and he changed the subject.  It took three hours for him to actually ask me what it was about and then, she was present so I couldn't discuss it.  He totally forgot about it and I had to pull him aside this morning and even then, he didn't seem especially interested.  I don't want anyone to think he's a bad guy and he loves us but he can be so selfish sometimes and when it comes to parenting, it all falls to me.  I'm tired of doing this on my own.

2.  The puppy.  I love her but I said when the subject was raised that I was already on the edge in terms of being able to manage the pace of my life.  I was assured, again and again, that the work would be shared and it wouldn't all fall to me.  As I am trying to get the kids ready for school in the morning (single-handedly), having a puppy hanging off my bathrobe and pooping in the house is not making me feel especially cherished.  I do so much of the work around here and it doesn't matter what is going on, when I say that I can't do something because I am already overwhelmed, nobody listens to me, more just gets added to my plate.  IT"S NOT FAIR!

3.  Sunday school.  I want to help at church, I really do.  I want to do my part.  That being said, being down to teach Sunday school on Mother's Day when I had a school concert and had to do double duty here because Dh had his big school concerts on Wednesday and Thursday, I really, really, really could use the break.  Will Mother's Day ever be a day I get a break?  I'd love, more than anything else, just to go somewhere alone for the day and read and drink tea.  I can't even imagine what they would feel like.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg but I needed to say them.  If you have actually stuck around to read this, you probably think I am either the biggest whiner in the world or the biggest wimp.  I just wish I knew that other moms felt the same way.  I honestly find that by the time I go to bed, I am dying of exhaustion and then I wake up the next day to feeling guilty about the people whose emails I didn't anwer or whose texts got ignored and often, I can guilt from those people.  If you aren't thinking I'm a baby, you are probably thinking that I should just grow some balls and do something about it all.  You are probably right, I just don't know how...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yarn Along

Here am I again and I'm trying to figure out how a whole week has passed since my last post.  I've still been battling this stupid virus but I think that today, I finally started to improve.  I've been back at work but it's been a real struggle to find the energy since life seems to be exceptionally busy right now!

I love the Yarn Along hosted by Ginny over at Small Things.  I love browsing to see what other people are reading and stitching and I love putting my post together.  What I love most?  Having a timeline that gives me a kind of mini-goal each week.  It motivates me to try and have a least one book finished and some visible progress on my knitting.  This week, I managed fairly well.

Knitting - still working on my baby blanket.  I'm a bit bummed.  The friend having this baby wasn't going to find out gender and so I was banking on this blue/gray I found.  My LYS didn't have enough of any one thing when I was there last and so I decided this was the best colour that had enough.  I tried to convince myself that it's grey enough that it could pass for a girl but I had a feeling this friend was having a boy.  Grr.... she posted on Facebook this week that they caved and found out gender and, you guessed it, it's a girl!  It's too late to do anything about it now and I have 22 of the 39 inches done so while it isn't the right colour, at least there's hope it will be done in time!

Reading - three books I want to mention this week.  First of all, I love reading good novels with my kids.  Pk is reading endless Scholastic series (e.g., Geronimo Stilton, Rainbow Magic, Bad Kitty, Animal Ark) and while I am thrilled she enjoys them, I can't bring myself to read them aloud.  I have been trying to find author's that would work for me to read to both kids that they would enjoy and that are light enough for LB but not boring for Pk.  We have discovered Dick King-Smith and we adore him!  I'm not sure Pk would entirely get him if she were reading him on her own but read aloud, they are WONDERFUL.  Dh and I both LOVE Sophie - she's such a tough little nut and the kids love these stories, especially since Sophie dreams of being a "lady farmer" when she grows up and so pets figure largely in her stories.  Such fun!  I also love buying second hand books and seeing where they have come from and we keep ordering VERY cheap Dick King-Smith books from England through Abebooks.com  I can't recommend it highly enough!  Anyway, now for my reading.  First, I am reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne.  I know he isn't for everyone and he is a bit extreme.  I have no intention of running off to join a commune.  On the other hand, I think that he has really found the heart of the gospel message and I love seeing his interpretations of Biblical stories and the call that they have on our lives.  I'm meandering through it but it's a great read.  The other book I'm reading at the moment is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid.  I struggle with her a bit - I love her style and I fight my way through the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novels despite the gruesomeness because I love her characters and her writing.  This book is a bit weird.  I'm 70 pages in and interested but I can't really tell you what it's about yet.  I'll let you know.  I saw it on the shelf at the library and the title jumped out at me.  I couldn't resist.

I can't wait to see what everyone else has been up to this week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yarn Along

Thanks to the arrival of our new puppy, an online course for work I have been taking and this week, a horrible cold (which is why I am home today and can do this, so I guess it isn't all bad), I haven't had any time to be around here on the blog.  I've missed it and you and it's lovely to get a chance to come back with some knitting and reading.  I'm always so grateful to Ginny for hosting the Yarn Along at Small things.  I've followed so many blogs in the last five years or so and my interests shift and change but Ginny's blog has been one that I still keep coming back to.  It's so nice to feel connected!

In terms of knitting, my needles need to be on fire with baby blankets - I have a friend due in May, a friend in June and two in September.  I don't know whether I will manage to have blankets done for everyone but it's my goal to try.  Unfortunately (at least for me), everyone seems to be opposed to finding out the gender so I'm working away using colours that I hope are sufficiently neutral and sadly, my LYS has not had much selection at the moment.  I ended up buying two different lots of grey.  The one above, which is for the first blanket, is a lovely dk in a grey with a blue hint and I'm being a bit lazy in the name of time and just doing a simple feather and fan.  I wanted something that would look pretty and like I had done something amazing but that didn't require hours of counting.  This one is fairly easy and I can take it along with me.  My only worry is that the dk means it won't work up all that quickly.  When I finish here, I plan to spend a good chunk of my sick day in front of the t.v. with my needles going.

In terms of reading, I am reading two TERRIFIC books at the moment.  I started Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson as part of the SheLoves book club a few weeks ago. I don't know why, I fell away from it for a bit but now, I'm back and reading it with a vengence.  If you are interested in the complex issues around justice in the U.S., especially the inequalities related to race and poverty (and the fact that the death penalty is just plain wrong), this is a very powerful read.  On the fiction side, I'm still trying to catch up with Anne Perry, one of my favourite mystery writers who is incredibly prolific and I somehow fell behind.  Blood on the Water is a Monk mystery with an interesting spin that I am really enjoying.

I can't wait to see what others are reading and knitting this week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yarn Along

I missed last week's Yarn Along post in the frenzy of Easter and a family night at school and honestly, not much knitting was done last week.  I'm trying to catch up on it this week.  As you can see, my Nimue wrap is coming nicely!  There are 25 repetitions of the pattern and I have done 18 so I am not far away now.

Unfortunately, I also realised that I have FOUR babies being born in our circle of friends in the next few months, May, June, August and September.  I know it's a tall order and I probably won't get a blanket done for everyone but I am going to try my best!  I spent some time of Ravelry searching out patterns and tried to find some that would do.  I'm going to start with the most basic - a version of a feather and fan.  I had trouble finding a good yarn but I ended up with this lovely grey-blue shade of DK.  I don't know whether this baby is a boy or a girl but given that my LYS didn't seem to have all that much of anything, I thought this combo was safer than anything else.  I started last night and it's beginning to show some progress but I wasn't paying enough attention earlier today when I tried to sneak in a few rows and I had to tear out - UGH!

In terms of reading, I finished Found by Micha Boyett (LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book and will try to write a post on it later on this week) and I also finished The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe, finally (I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Now, I'm reading Blind Justice by Anne Perry (which I hope to finish tonight) and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  Blind Justice started out slowly and I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy it but, as so often happens with the Monk series, we are now embroiled in a tense court case and I'm hooked - I MUST find out how it gets resolved.  Just Mercy is a huge shift.  It's this month's featured book for the Red Couch book club at She Loves and it's the autobiographical exploration of the career of Bryan Stevenson, who works as a lawyer supporting death row inmates in Alabama.  I started the book during Easter and ended up sneaking off to read over and over again.  I have pretty strong feelings against the death penalty and this book is grabbing me, much the same way that Dead Man Walking grabbed me many years ago.  This is a thoughtful exploration of the humanity of even killers on death row and the fact that there are many factors that go into creating a killer and that it is wrong for the state to murder its citizens, no matter what they have done.  I can't recommend this highly enough!

I can't wait to see what everyone else is working on, bookwise and on the needles!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week - Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday and of course, at church, we had a parade with the palm branches in the church for the kids.  It was wonderful (this is one of my favourite church days of the year) other than that LB and his friend, J, decided, right at the front of the church in front of everyone, to start a light sabre battle with their palm fronds.  LB is good at giving everyone a laugh and with eyes on him, he plays it all up.

We also made pretzels today, which ended up being a lot of fun.  We talked about the reason we were making them and we worked together to shape them (it ended up being a whole family affair).  They ended up looking like dog poop but they tasted good and the kids had never made anything with yeast before so they were pretty excited.  It will give them some background understanding that we can use when we make matzoh later in the week.