Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Father's full giving has only begun...

There's an old hymn that says, "When we've reached the end of our hoarded resources, our Father's full giving has only begun." It is December 23, two days before Christmas, and I have officially reached the end of my hoarded, and might I add meager to start off with, resources. A lost CD containing photos for a particular gift, several gifts still to be bought or made, much-needed finances lost somewhere between a company's computer system and our bank account, 4 loads of laundry waiting to be folded on my bed, and a body that seems determined to make every movement achingly painful, and I'm done. Empty. Curled up on the couch, hugging a blankie, weeping and mumbling something about hybernating and rum and the Christmas Stollen with extra icing sugar, empty.

There is something about unrelenting physical pain that can be destructive to our spirits. Most people have experienced this. We all get fatigued at some point, and when we do, one of the results is that our bodies start to hurt, and every movement becomes a chore. We just want to lie down, to rest. Our bodies are quite skilled at loudly announcing what our minds often refuse to acknowledge - that we need to stop and rest. If we ignore these signals, the distress becomes emotional, and even spiritual. Over the past several months I have been experiencing increasingly unrelenting all-over muscle pain. Some of the pain that I have has been around for longer, even up to two years. For an already chronically ill person, I am woefully negligent when it comes to doctor visits. I have been writing my pain off as morning stiffness, a normal part of aging (I know, I am only 43, but denial is a powerful force), just something that if left alone, would go away. It hasn't gone away. So I have begrudgingly made an appointment to see the doctor in January and am now trying to deal with the pain until my doctor places a miracle cure into my hand and all is well. One can hope, right?

I feel like I have a combination of flu-like body aches, a serious gym workout burn, and restless leg syndrome, all at once. Moving hurts, and I can't stop moving because being still hurts, too. Bottom line, I have reached the end. No more resources. I am tired and emotionally fragile because every step hurts. Just looking for the wayward CD of photos left me in tears on the couch.

At the place where the obstacles outweigh the possibilities, things tend to get rough. Hoarded resources. The good news for us, and the joyful message of Christmas, is that when we reach the end our ourselves, our resources, our abilities, strengths, possibilities, goodness, God has only just begun the giving. In fact, it is difficult if not impossible for God to pour his gifts into our lives when we are still huddled protectively over our own resources.

The interesting thing is that God seems to have different priorities than we do, which can lead to a mistaken over-looking of God's giving. Frankly, God is not concerned with our stellar reputations in the annual Christmas church potluck competition. Impressing our relatives with expensive gifts is not a huge priority for Him. His full giving may not be in the "finding the latest cool toy to be oohed and ahhed over for 5 seconds before being thrown on the pile in the corner" department. In fact, God's full giving may include teaching a child to serve others, including mom, by helping to prep the house and wrap presents (Thanks, Gracie!!). It may include a gift of grace for a present not yet prepared in time for the big day (maybe spring clean-up will unearth the CD?). It may mean a family that spends more time visiting with each other over a simple meal rather than swapping recipes and praise for extravagant dishes and expensive treats. The immutable truth is that God's gifts are His choice for us, and are always of the highest quality, always in keeping with His holy nature, and always rooted in His love for us.

Last night I had a dream about a classmate from high school who is now a fellow Christian. I think I am going to send him a quick message to let him know that I am glad to be his sister in Christ. I also just got a call from my husband to let me know that the long-lost finances have appeared, and that I should rest until he comes home. I am going to have a bath and start folding laundry and have a nap and trust that whatever God has for me is infinitely better than anything I could have provided for myself. As it has always been, so it shall continue to be.

After all, isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends and family. When it comes to God's gifts, you guys are on the top of the list!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Recently, I was asked to answer a on-line study question for the Bible study group, Ladies Prayer Share, and since I already know I'm not going to be able to do this in a few lines, I thought it would also make a good blog entry. The question is a wonderful one, thought provoking and one that I know many people ask. I have often wondered about it. It is this: Does God speak to you? If He does, can you share with us how He speaks to you? So many people yearn to hear God, few of us know HOW to listen to Him.

Firstly, I absolutely believe that God talks to me. I am always cautious, though, when I am making a claim that God has told me a certain thing. I believe one of the ways that believers take the Lord's name in vain is when we claim that God told us things that may not have come from Him. It is wrong to use God's name to back up thoughts and decisions that may be our own. Using the authority of God to strengthen our positions or validate our own ideas is a dangerous thing, and I do not think God takes this lightly. It is confusing to others, and it seriously cheapens our witness.

But yes, I do believe that God speaks to me. Have I ever heard an audible voice? No. Have I heard the voice of God in my head. Yes. Sometimes hearing God is a simple knowing or feeling that is coming to me from Him. Many times when I am discouraged or hurting, I have felt an outpouring of His love for me. I don't hear the words I love you, or I am here, but His love and Presence are so tangible that words are not neccesary.

There have been times when I have heard His voice in my head, though. One time, years ago I was deep in the midst of emotional and spiritual healing and was struggling to function within the cesspool of hurt and sorrow that I was slowly moving out of. I was getting ready to go to a Ladies Meeting that I had organized (not a strength in the best of times). I was pressed for time, overwhelmed, fearful and unsure of myself, and I found myself wandering around my bedroom crying and trying to find the clothes I needed. As I was rummaging through a laundry basket, I fell apart and let myself go, literally tumbling into the basket, sobbing. As I lay halfway in the basket, I heard a very emphatic voice inside my head, asking me, "What are you doing?!" It was almost sharp, and caught me so off-guard that I froze, caught my breath and stopped crying. The voice continued, "When you are weak, I am strong. I will be your strength. Get up." And I did.

There was no doubt in my mind at the time, nor is there now, that it was God speaking to me. It matched all of the criteria that I tend to use to judge if something is from God or not. Firstly, it was truth. Always, the first criteria to discern if something is from God is it's verity. In fact, what God had said to me about being strong in my weakness was scripture, and I knew it to be true. God's voice always sounds like God. He was firm, but not harsh. He was being parental, sounding like a father pulling an out-of-control child back into control. He was doing it so that I would be able to serve Him later that night. He was offering Himself as my help in a time of trouble. There was no condemnation, no shame, no "stop being such a baby", but only compassion and strength and patience. The words made me feel calmer immediately. I was empowered, with His power.

I think knowing when God is speaking involves the intentional seeking of a relationship with Him. Sometimes His voice comes in the form of a thought, or a dream, or words spoken from someone else's mouth, or Scripture read that strikes us as just what we needed to hear. But it always sounds like Him. If someone showed up at my daughter's school and told her that I had sent them with a message, and then presented a message to her that instructed her to do something that she knew I wouldn't want her to do, or was written in harsh, unkind, ugly words, I'm fairly sure that Gracie would be able to say, "That doesn't sound like my mom..."

I think the purpose of the words is significant, too. What is the intent? When Gracie was small, she went on daytrip with her grandparents. As I watched them pull out of the driveway with her in the backseat, I heard a voice in my head say, "You will never see Grace again." I was struck with fear and anxiety. Immediately, in prayer, I gave control of her safety over to God. Then I prayed that God would show me if the words were from Him or from the evil one, who is the father of lies. I immediately began to think about the intended result of the words. Perfect love drives out fear. God is perfect love and He relieves fear, not inducing it, unless it is respectful fear of facing Him after rebelling against Him. If it was a warning from God in order to protect Grace, it would have been given before she left, when I could have done something to protect her. But it came as she moved out of my range of protection. There was nothing I could do. It felt taunting, mean-spirited. It in no way felt like God. So I dismissed it as a lie from Satan, told him that she was in God's hands, and if he wanted to mess with her, he'd have to deal with God, and intentionally refused to think about it anymore. Of course she came home safely.

Also, because I view Scripture as the literal word of God, I hear God speak to me through scripture. Many verses apply to us at all times and can be considered His absolute word to us. One of my favorites is Psalm 18:19b "He rescued me because He delighted in me". Having unmistakenably been rescued by God, this verse tells me the glorious and lovely reason why...He delights in me. How sweet is that?! This entire Psalm is one that I have often read and prayed through, and as I speak the words of David to God, they become my own. The God that David trusted is still the same God I run to for help, and so I can be confident that God delights in me as well.

This is such an awesome topic, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to spend some time this morning to think about the wonder of a God who actually communicates such wonderful things to us! Learning to listen can be as simple as sitting quietly in His Presence, believing by faith that He is there, and enjoying Him, or reading the Bible and hearing every word as from the mouth of God. It's simple, but not easy in a world of voices vying for our attention.

Yeah... I knew I couldn't do it in just a few lines...heh heh...

In Christ, Kelly

Friday, October 2, 2009

Of Mice & Men

Yesterday, I was privileged to have my first tutoring lesson with a young friend of mine, Alex, who at 18 is working towards finishing high school after dropping out a few years ago. I had offered to help him with his English, as he felt this would be one of his weakest subjects. His first assignment was to read John Steinbeck's "Of Mice & Men", and to write a paper on it's dominant themes of loneliness and isolation.

I have to say it was beyond exciting to be able to discuss this book with him. Alex does not see himself as a student, and does not read for pleasure. English Lit. is simply a hurdle on his road to a high school diploma. And yet, as we discussed the book, he began to open up and really think about the characters and the experiences they lived through. Alex understands loneliness as many of us can not. As we began to explore which characters lived lonely lives, and what devices Steinbeck uses to highlight their loneliness, Alex began to come alive. It was as if a light came on in his head and heart. Many of the terms meant little to him - I substituted "aloneness" for loneliness, and that seemed to help him identify the isolation of the characters. It was encouraging for him to see that he already understood the themes of the book, that the impact it had on him was important, that he could tell instinctively that a certain character was lonely or isolated. I think he is beginning to understand that his teacher is simply inviting him to be more thoughtful about what he understands concerning the theme and characters in the story. He is learning how to articulate how he knows what he knows, verbally with me and then in written form. None of this comes easy to him, but it was a wonderful encouragement for him to discover that he already had the essential knowledge and needed to learn how to translate that into something that someone else can share with him.

So often, the advancement of education is seens as a purely economical endeavor. Study after study suggests that more education equals a greater likelyhood of financial stability. Alex understands this, and his sole purpose for finishing his high school is getting a job. I can't help but think, however, that there is more to education than securing our financial futures.

Alex is being invited to enter into the worlds and stories of other people, to search and examine an existence outside of his own. He felt shaken by the conclusion fo the book, and although this was not part of the course work, we had a good discussion on the morality of the behaviour of the key characters. Is it okay to do wrong things with good intentions? If it is, and I give myself that freedom, will I give equal freedom to others, especially those who's decisions may affect me? Does honoring the intentions of an action justify the action itself? The questions became even more significant when directed towards the central themes - why are the characters lonely? Have any of them made choices that led to their own isolation? Are there choices they could have made to change their situations? Who has choices available to them, and who doesn't? Am I ever lonely, and if I am, is it ever by my own choice? Is it possible to feel helpless to change a situation when in reality change is within our grasp?

I want Alex to catch the "reading bug". I admit this shamelessly. I want to see him asking himself these questions, whether or not I agree with the answers he comes to. And I believe that the benefits to him extend far beyond economics. Books offer him the possibility of meeting a myriad of characters, people he may never meet on his own. Books will allow him to enter more deeply into people's hearts, motives, passions and thought processes. Things are much less simple when we take an extra step into someone's life and begin to understand that there is much we don't understand. The ending of "Of Mice & Men", if presented in a news headline, could easily inspire a quick and expedient judgment - judgment that is not so easy to come by when one has entered into the situation and the heart and mind of the people involved.

One of the greatest pleasures in life is being a part of another person's experiences in a positive way. I am feeling very grateful today. I do believe this calls for a celebration! Time to crack out one of my latest thrift store finds - "The Tin Drum" by Gunter Grass!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Caught in the outhouse/chicken coop!

Lori made me think of this with her comment on Facebook about going to the hen house in her red housecoat. Late last winter, we got our first new batch of chickens, the rooster and 3 hens. Our hen house is an old outhouse that Marc fixed up for the chickens. It's small, but holds 6 laying boxes and a perch and since the chickens are free-range, they pretty much only sleep and eat in it. In the winter, the close quarters help them to stay warm.

Early one morning just a few days after the chickens came, Marc was outside working on a fence around the coop. Grace had already headed off to school, and I refilled my coffee cup, pulled my flannel house coat tightly around me and headed out into a blustery early spring air to say good morning to the chickens. We were keeping them in the coop for a few days until they got used to us, so that they would stick around once let loose. When I got to the coop, I headed into it and closed the door behind me. The only latch on the door was on the outside, so I basically just pulled the door closed and hope it would stay. I sat on the perch, took a sip of coffee and watched my new little friends get used to each other, and to me. Outside, I could hear Marc puttering around, putting together the fence. Then I heard him talking to someone.

Just a few days before, a neighbouring farmer named Bert had brought 2 cows and a bull to graze here for the summer, and he had come that morning to check on them. He was a friendly fellow, and liked to chat. I had only briefly met him once, and really didn't know him at all. And he didn't know me. Crouched on a perch in the chicken coop/outhouse in my nightgown and housecoat with my coffee cup, it did occur to me that I made for a strange sight. At the same time, the wind was had gotten fierce, and I was forced to hold the door closed from the inside. I listened to the murmur of male voices and decided to wait until Bert went on his way before I left the coop. It just felt easier.

Unfortunately, I had yet to discover that Bert likes to talk. I already knew that Marc does. The murmuring voices continued, and continued, and continued. It was clear to me that the situation was getting weird. For one thing, from the bits and pieces of conversation I could hear, Bert was talking to Marc about some fairly personal things. I was struggling to keep the door closed as the wind seemed determined to rip it out of my hand. My coffee was long gone. I think even the chickens were fed up with me. And still I waited. Finally, the choice was taken from me as a particularily fervent gust of wind tore the door from my grasp and exposed me, red flannel housecoat, coffee cup and all.

Bert was visibly startled as I stepped out of the outhouse/chicken coop. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would be if I had been carrying a newspaper. I smiled at the men, closed the coop door, straightened my robe and headed back into the house. Giggling. I do think Marc enjoyed the incident entirely too much. A warning to poor Bert would have been an act of kindness, but sometimes one just has to allow life to happen, and enjoy the ride.Bert would come to learn that I am oddly attached to my chickens, and the sight of me padding to the coop in my crocks and housecoat would lose it's novelty. Still, on occasion we share a giggle over the day I got caught on my morning trip to the outhouse...uh...chicken coop. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Springsteen in T.O. 2009, part 3

The lights were down, the music was playing and Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band were all but doing cartwheels on the stage. It was easy to forget that Springsteen is close to 60. Their energy was contagious. Grace and I danced and jumped and screamed and sang and fist-pumped our way through two hours of the show. At one point, Springsteen turned his back to the crowd, but as I watched him on the huge viewer screen, I could have sworn that shall I put this...blew his nose, farmer style. Or as we call it at home, he sent a snot rocket across the stage. Even with his back to us, I saw definite arm to nose movement, and there was no question about the spray. I laughed out loud. Somehow, it fit. After all, sweat had been dripping off the end of his guitar since the first 10 minutes of the show. All that...stuff...has to go somewhere. Plus, he had impressive range. Having seen my father blow snot rockets all my life, and having been in the position to do it myself, I understand the importance of technique (which I don't have) and vitality to the endeavour. He did it several more times, with increasing precision and skill. I was impressed.

As the concert progressed, I have to admit that there were several songs I was not familiar with. I kept looking to Grace, and she would mouth the title of the song to me. I had let my fandom lapse. But I thoroughly enjoyed the music, the energy, the fun, and the time with Grace. I had a nitro pump and some pain medication tucked into my pockets with the lipstick and a bit of cash, but I didn't need either one. By an act of pure grace, we were seated right beside an exit with close access to the washrooms, which I only had to use once. After two hours of pure energy and rock, the band left the stage while the audience erupted in fist-pumping cheers and shouts of "Bruce! Bruce!". Following a teasing few moments, the band returned for a close to an hour long encore. More screaming and jumping up and down. During the encore, Springsteen took a few moments to encourage concert goers to reach out to the needy, mentioning a Toronto foodbank that would be available to receive gifts at the end of the show. I appreciated the matter-of-fact way that Springsteen expressed himself. Helping others should be a matter-of-fact thing. Just something we do. Just because we can. And considering how much money it took to get us there just for a night of entertainment, and the $40 I would pay for a t-shirt for Grace at the end of the show, how could I not give out of my wealth?

When the encore was over, and the arena lights came on for good, I found myself feeling satisfied, energized, and ready to go. My voice was hoarse, my ears hummed and I thrilled at the grin on Grace's face. Our exit was as neat and orderly as our entry had been, something that I have since learned is a Toronto thing. We had no problem finding Marc waiting in the foyer, and we met with hugs and a rush of words. I wanted to tell him every thing. I knew he wasn't interested in the concert for himself, but the concert through our eyes and ears was a different thing. Even if Bruce Springsteen is not his thing, Grace and I definitely are!

We found the car, drove to a Burger King, ordered burgers and salad and chatted incessantly. We drove to the hotel, and climbed to our room, still talking. In fact, the talking only ended after Grace fell asleep, and the hushed whispers between Marc and I faded slowly until we had followed her. The rest of the trip was routine. We got up in the morning, ate breakfast, drove home, listening to Springsteen most of the way except for a brief foray into Simon & Garfunkle when we were nearing home. We were tired. And happy.

Of course the glow has faded, and the concert has slipped into fond memory. I enjoyed the music, I was glad to see Springsteen and his band live, and the experience was wonderfully fun and exciting. The best part, though, was going through it with Grace, and receiving it as a gift from Marc. It was a moment in a lifetime of moments that Grace and I have shared, a gift in a long chain of gifts that I will receive from my love's hand and heart. It was really about us, a path that we walked together, that for a brief three hours we shared with Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, but then they moved out and we continue to walk together. The road goes ever on.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Springsteen In T.O. 2009 (part 2)

Springsteen in T.O, part 2…

The morning of the big day started early. We had hoped to leave the house by 8:00am, which meant a guaranteed departure time of at least 9:00am. So at 9:00 am or shortly thereafter, we were on the road, car packed with lunch goodies, personal effects, books, camera, Ipod, medication, GPS and excited travelers. Marc, who is always looking for a teaching opportunity, had been coaching Grace in the frugal planning of the trip. He was insistent that bringing food along would save costs, and of course he was right. Grace and I had a good laugh, then, when at lunch time he started looking around for a Harvey’s, and we had to remind him that we had brought sandwiches.

Road trips do not rank high on my list of favorite things to do, especially in the middle of an IC flare, and we literally had to stop every hour so that I could use the facilities. To be honest, in anticipation of the difficulty of the trip, I had amply medicated myself and was in a mild fog until well past noon. The only time that I experienced any comfort was an hour just before noon when I was able to fall asleep. Other than that, I spent the whole trip struggling with an intense need to go to the bathroom, a maddeningly irritating burning feeling that returned within minutes of actually having gone to the bathroom. Grace had brought her entire collection of Springsteen music and was content to spread out in the back seat and daydream her way to Toronto. Marc drove and chatted and did his best to distract me, and was wonderfully willing to immediately swerve off the highway at my every request for a washroom.

We made it to our hotel by 4:30pm, dropped our things off, did some last minute fluffing and primping, and headed right to the Air Canada centre. Grace and I were both wearing jeans and white t-shirts, with red bandanas around our necks. I’m not sure why, but this struck me as the appropriate Springsteen concert garb, probably because I hit the height of my fandom in the ‘80’s, which, let’s face it, is the new ‘50’s. Grace agreed with me, which is always a good sign where fashion is concerned. We made arrangements with Marc for after the concert. Marc wasn’t going to the concert, not being a fan. His plan was to go out for something to eat and wander around town, people watching. We had originally planned to contact each other via cell phones when the concert was over, but at the last minute we discovered that Grace’s cell phone wasn’t charged and we would just have to plan to meet in the foyer of the Air Canada centre and hope that we would be able to find each other in the crowd. Marc waited with us in the foyer for a bit, and then headed out, leaving us in line waiting for the doors to open.

There were several things that struck me as Grace and I stood within a crowd of Springsteen/E-Street Band fans. The first thing that I noticed was the variation in the ages of the concert-goers. There were children, some as young as six, with their parents. There were also seniors, in the 60’s and 70’s. Business people mingled with teen-agers, middle aged couples and little groups of 20 somethings stood in line together. We were truly a motley crew. Secondly, a local Toronto radio station had set up a booth near-by in the foyer, and was awarding prizes for people who could identify Springsteen songs by a few lines of the song’s lyrics. Grace refrained from pushing her way into the crowd around the booth, but tucked safely in our little corner, she easily answered all but one of the challenges, which not only impressed me but others standing near us. My typical response included a lot of “Oh! Um…yeah…wait,’s on the tip of my” before looking at Grace for the inevitably right answer. It was fun.

When the doors opened, we headed inside and found our seats. As we moved through the hallway to our section, I noticed several food and drink booths, and one in particular that actually had wine on the menu, which struck me as a smashing good idea. Before we headed to our seats, I ordered a “glass” of white wine, which came in a plastic cup the size of a urine sample container and cost almost $7.00. Grace went to another booth and ordered a soda. When we were safely installed in our seats, Grace squirmed with anticipation while I sipped my wine, which was surprisingly not terrible, although I do tend to subscribe to my dad’s philosophy that there is no really bad wine. Grace later joked that the more hyped she got, the more relaxed I became, as the stress of the trip dissipated and the fatigue and wine took hold. Because we were quite early, we ended up waiting for over an hour before the band came onstage, but that gave us time to get to know the people sitting near us. Grace and I had both been too excited to eat before the concert, and we watched in amusement as the couple beside us devoured pizza, popcorn, M&M’s, and several glasses of soda and beer each while the woman talked excitedly about 25 years of Springsteen fandom, concerts and her considerable collection of Springsteen albums and memorabilia.

Finally, as our anticipation was on the verge of taking over against our better judgment, the lights went out, Springsteen and his band came onstage and dove right into a riotous unfolding of Badlands, one of my favorite songs. The crowded arena went wild, with Grace and I doing our best to contribute. Immediately, I felt a great sense of being overwhelmed emotionally, and I began to cry. I had had a moment of feeling emotional while we were waiting in the foyer, and I had decided then not to take my usually route of excruciating self-analysis and instead, to simply feel whatever I felt and not wonder why or try to explain myself away. So, in the dark, with the opening strained of Badlands echoing throughout the stadium to thousands of screaming fans, I cried. Grace, in full scream mode herself, grabbed my arm, and I turned to her, hugged her and we let loose together, jumping up and down with all the joyous abandon that the cramped stadium seats afforded us. This hugging, screaming and jumping was to happen frequently throughout the concert, and it was one of the most enjoyable parts for me. It was just so much FUN, to be thoroughly sharing and enjoying such an experience with my daughter. Since the concert, I have fought the urge to over-examine the experience and corresponding emotions and have simply accepted it as a wonderful thing that Grace and I got to do together, and most likely will never forget, for reasons which may make themselves known at some part of our lives, but which are pleasantly vague for now.

to be cont'd...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Springsteen/E-Street Band Adventure

It has been said that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Our journey to Toronto to see Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band began the night before the concert. We stood on our lane way outside the house. My husband, Marc had just returned home, and he came bearing gifts. My daughter, Gracie and I waited in anticipation as he lifted the first of two cages out of the back of his car, each cage holding two hens. We were adding the four new arrivals to our small flock of three hens and one rooster. Our friend, Karen was with us. Karen was going to be watching our little brood, dog and cat included, while we were away. Another friend, Cathy, was also present for the occasion.

I’m not sure why, in my mind, this scene signifies the beginning of the Springsteen adventure, but it does. We stood and chatted as the evening cooled under the setting sun, admiring the hens while the chickens we already had flocked around the cage curiously, the rooster strutting and crowing and just generally displaying his considerable prowess and confidence that he could easily handle 4 more girlies, if we would be so kind as to let him at them.

I was exhausted. I had struggled all day with a painful flare of a chronic bladder disease (interstitial cystitis). I had tried during the week to take it easy, knowing that too much stress or activity could trigger a flare. But there had been so much to do, and the sheer excitement of going to the concert almost guaranteed that a flare would ensue. I had been a Springsteen fan since the mid ‘80s, and had never been to a concert. My 14 year old daughter bought me a compilation CD for Christmas, and ended up falling in love with Springsteen’s music as well. She quickly surpassed me in the fandom department, and was wildly excited herself. I dreaded the thought of being haunted by the pain of the IC, knowing it would mean frequent stops at rest rooms on the way to Toronto, and possibly missing parts of the concert, as well. I felt as if IC was like a leash attached to a collar around my neck that kept yanking me roughly backwards and onto my bottom every time I started to move forward, to really enjoy myself. In my frustrated efforts tear the IC leash from my neck, I was succeeding only in choking myself and making myself miserable. I had called my husband at work, in tears of discouragement, just needing a strong voice to steady me. A call from a fellow IC sufferer and a chance to talk about what I was going through and how I felt also helped tremendously. By the time I ended up on the lane in front of the house looking at our new chickens, I felt calmer, more comfortable physically and much more relaxed.

Gracie and I fell asleep that night with visions of the E-Street Band in our heads. Marc, not being a fan, was our chauffeur and support. My heart was full – I was excited about the concert, glad to be attending with my daughter (who actually suggested that we dress alike!), and overwhelmingly grateful to my husband for his willingness, even eagerness, to take us to Toronto and give us this wonderful gift. It was not the first time I have drifted off to sleep with a heart attitude of gratitude in prayer to God for my husband, and I know it won’t be the last. It was a good way to end what had been a difficult day. Tomorrow, on to Toronto!!!

To be cont’d….

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Moment

Yesterday I was sitting in a lounge lawn chair in the sun, enjoying the beautiful, warm Spring day. I heard a soft, rhythmic, trilling noise coming from under my chair. When I checked, I saw all three hens sitting side by side with their heads under their wings, asleep. One of them was doing what I assume is the equivalent of chicken snoring; little, fluttery chicken noises with each deep breath. It was precious. Tevye, the rooster, was pacing diligently around the chair, keeping watch over his girlies. He is a wonderful and dedicated protector of his little flock.

As I sat in the sun, listening to the sound of utter relaxation coming from below me, I couldn't help but recognize what a Moment it was. Life is full of moments, but not all of them are Moments. Moments always make me wish that I could take a snapshot of them, capturing not just the visual aspects, but the sounds, smells, textures and emotions. I think that's why I write. That's what story-telling is about, in all it's many forms. People compose music, paint pictures, photo images, write poetry and prose, all in an effort to share the Moments.

One thing I am very grateful for is having someone in my life who understands the Moments that turn me on. To be able to share these things with my husband, Marc, in breathless amazement and barely suppressed laughter, and to know that his face will light up, that he will laugh with me, that he will sincerely and achingly wish he had "been there" ~ this is a great and holy gift.

No matter how many times Frodo, my cat, falls asleep in my arms and I say "Look, Marc, doesn't he look just like a baby it his Momma's arms?", Marc always looks, his face always softens, and he always smiles and says, "Yes, he does. He's so cute." Shared Moments. I love them!

Friday, April 24, 2009


This morning I woke up in excruciating pain from my lower back, a problem that has been plaguing me for the past two weeks. It hurt to walk, to stand, to sit, to move. The pain radiated down my left leg and, frankly, I felt really discouraged. I went to the gym anyway, and with a combination of gentle exercise, stretching, and pain meds, I am now virtually pain free. I just walked across the lawn to find the chickens because I had a handful of bird seed that needed a place to go, and it occurred to me that it is a wonderful thing to be free of pain. And I wonder if I would know what a miracle, what a tremendous gift freedom from pain is, if I did not struggle with pain so much. If I always walked around pain free, would I be as grateful as I am today? Would my heart be so filled with joy at the freedom? Would I even recognize it as freedom? My heart is literally full of happiness, and yes, the weather is awesome and my husband came home from work early and the birds are chirping merrily in the trees, but I can enjoy these things freely because I am not in pain, and I know it.

Sometimes I think the greatest gifts are hidden in dark places.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Gym

You know, I really love going to the gym. No, I mean really. I'm not just saying that to give the impression that I am a gung-ho, psycho gym addict. I do a 30 minute, Curves type cardio/strength training work-out 4 times a week and I enjoy it. I feel better afterwards, and have noticed serious improvements in my energy levels, muscle strength, sleep patterns and over-all health. I'm glad to go, and I am glad to go home afterwards. Rarely am I tempted to do more than the basic 30 work-out, unless it's a few minutes on the treadmill, but even then I'd rather meander down my km long lane at home with the cat, dog and a chicken or two.

But there is a problem. Guilt. Is there something about signing up for a gym membership that automatically triggers some kind of guilt receptor in one's brain? Is there a guilt hormone that is spontaneously released into our systems at the first arm curl? The only reason I have missed a day at the gym in the past two months has been for illness. I had the flu in March and missed a week. I've had two serious IC (interstitial cystitis) flares. When I have moderate bladder pain related the IC, I go to the gym anyway. While working out doesn't do anything for my illness, it helps me handle the pain. When the pain is on the high end however, I stay home because physical activity will worsen the flare.

Inevitably, though, when I choose not to go to the gym, I feel guilty. No one makes me feel this way. Even if someone was trying to make me feel guilty, it is up to me to decide what is right for me in these situations, and if I am making good choices, I can also choose not to accept anyone else's efforts to instill guilt in me. I get that. What I don't get is why I feel guilty.

Is it because I've paid money for the gym membership? Do I feel like I am wasting money by not going? I don't think so, because I see the money spent as an investment into my health, and it isn't healthy to do anything that makes me sicker. To work out while in high-end pain means more pain, which means more pain meds, which is ridiculous. Is it because I feel lazy? That could be. That, unfortunately, is the curse of almost all chronically ill people. Especially with hidden illnesses. A cast on a leg removes all expectations of certain activities. When the pain is hidden, expectations can remain high. For many chronically ill people, normal expectations are just too high. It's just a fact of life. So that may be part of it.

I also think that a part of the problem is the mind-set that I have that if going to the gym is a healthy thing to do, then not going has to be not healthy. I think it is really important that we pay attention to our thought lives, because I have noticed that often when I am struggling with some negative emotion that seems unshakable, the root is in faulty thinking on my part. Either I am believing a lie, or my logic is off.

Sometimes, I am just being too simplistic. In a "Twitter/Facebook" world where ideas and thoughts often get pared down to just a few words, I sometimes forget to flesh my thoughts out until they actually make sense rather than just sounding good. I don't want to live my life out in sound bites. I know that I can be wordy, to say the least, but I am beginning to think one of the worst kind of laziness is intellectual laziness, where we grab quotes and little bits of info and throw them out into the world (or clutch them to our hearts) without thinking about them, without muddling through to a logical, thoughtful conclusion.

I also recognize the danger of useless guilt in desensitizing my heart against useful guilt. If I allow myself to feel guilty over things that are not worth it, I may not be fully aware of the value of guilt in letting me know when I am failing God, my family and friends, my world and myself, morally. I believe true guilt is a gift from God, to help me be the person He created me to be, the person I long to be. True guilt is easily relieved by reaching for the forgiveness and restoring love of Jesus, and by choosing to turn in a different direction. False guilt lingers and poisons my soul, with little or no relief, because it is not connected to anything that can or need be turned from. Going to the gym when I am in pain will not relieve the guilt for any significant amount of time because the next day, the battle begins all over again. Talk about a hamster on a wheel!

In any case, I know I need to keep reinterating the truth in my mind, and do what I need to do. Because I do really enjoy the gym, and I don't want to let empty, useless guilt steal that enjoyment from me. So I probably won't be going to the gym today. I am in pain, I am tired, and I have several loads of laundry to do, a chicken house to clean, and a full and satisfying life to lead that doesn't involve useless guilt. Or, at least that's the direction I am heading towards....

Birds of Prey

Yesterday I was at the computer desk, and I looked out the window and saw 3 huge birds of prey (I'm not sure if they were hawks or falcons...) circling over the field and the house. My first thought was that the chickens were out, and easy targets. Frankly, even Frodo the cat could get snatched by these guys. I ran downstairs and outside, but I didn't see the chickens anywhere. Then I heard them, that soft, moaning noise they make when they aren't scolding, squawking or crowing. They were hiding under the lilac bush. Apparently they saw the birds of prey, too. I ushered them into the chicken house, which wasn't hard because as long as I have a bag full of stale bread in my pocket (which is always these days) I am the pied piper of chickens. But the banty, Yente, was missing. She is so small, I was sure that she was hawk bait. I did eventually find her behind the chicken house doing her own thing, which isn't wise when one is itty bitty and being stalked by a fell beast of the sky (oops, a little Lord of the Rings slipped in there).

I got her inside, then the rooster escaped and I got him inside while Golde the hen slipped past me and then I got HER inside and closed the door, scooped up the cat and called the dog (one never knows - these birds were HUGE) and headed inside. Of course, just seeing me outside deterred the birds, and I was greatly relieved.

Usually I love seeing the birds of prey. I would stand on the lawn and look up at them in awe. Now, I plant myself in the yard after herding all my vulnerable feathered friends to safety, wave my broom at the air and holler "Bring it on, flyboy!!! Just bring it on!!"

My, how things change.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Of country lanes, wild geese and long walks...

That time of year has come again. After a long winter of navigating my van down the obstacle course/snow drifted, mud pit that was my lane, it has now dried up from it's Spring time sludge persona and is again welcoming me for long, lingering twilight walks. I love it!

In the Spring, Summer and Autumn, I take a walk down the lane at least once a day, usually early evening. I am always accompanied by Mini, the dog, and Frodo, my cat. Mini views these forays down the lane as the ultimate highlight of her day, if not her LIFE! She becomes unspeakably exuberant at the very mention of the word, walk. She is also catching on to "stroll", "trip", "promenade", "saunter" and "marche". Mini doesn't actually walk down the lane. She throws herself down the lane in a series of sprints, leaps and bounds, slowing to a mere trot if she gets too far ahead.

Frodo, on the other hand, walks leisurely beside me, with only the odd burst of energy, usually inspired by noises coming from the ditches that only he can hear. Frodo has been coming on the walks since he first came to us at six weeks old, last summer. Even at six weeks, he insisted on following and would not allow himself to be carried. Now that he is a big, strong young tom, he only allows himself to be carried if the lane is exceptionally muddy and even then, only long enough to wipe his muddy paws on my jacket.

I know that I talk a lot about walks down the lane, but that is because it is such a magical time. Last night, when we were about half way down the lane, hundreds of wild geese rose up with a deafening roar from the field in front of our place and moved to another field nearby. For a moment I thought that they were going to fly over our heads, which would have been a wonderful experience as they were flying low, but they moved off to my left. Frodo, Mini and I stood on the lane, looking up, watching these amazing birds. At this time of the year, the laneway seems so alive. Aside from the animals I bring with me, the ditches, bushes and trees that line the lane are vibrant with birds and other creatures that only my pets can hear and smell. I do a lot of thinking on the lane, a lot of day dreaming, praying, hoping.

Walking the lane is one of my favorite experiences, and it makes me happy to see that Grace also enjoys the solitude and refuge of the lane. 'Tis the season!
My Zimbio