Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I HAVE to make my bed in the morning.

For most of my life, making my bed has been an optional activity. To be honest, it hasn't even been much of an option. I just never cared. That's what bedroom doors are for.

Lately, though, I find myself making my bed daily, with pleasure. It's just so much fun!

This is why. This morning, as I was heading upstairs to get ready for school, I realized that Jean-Luc, my cat, wasn't following me. He usually does, and so I called him a couple times and when he didn't appear, I went on without him.

I knew he'd be along eventually.

The first thing I did when I went into my room was go to my bed to make it. I pulled the top sheet up over the pillows. Then I heard him. From somewhere downstairs, Jean-Luc had heard bed-making noises and was flying up the stairs. He raced down the hall and into my room, leapt from just inside the doorway onto the bed, twisting in midair to land facing me with his front paws shoved under the top sheet.

Panting, eyes wide and dark with excitement, he waited. I straightened the sheet, pulled the blanket and quilt over the bed and the cat and tidied the edges that hung off of the bed. As I did this, an ecstatic cat-shaped lump moved around the bed under the covers, like a mole digging tunnels in the lawn, until he hit the edge of the bed and flopped out onto the floor, grinning.

The rest of my morning preparations were done with Jean-Luc sitting on the freshly made bed, swiping at me each time I walked past him.

Every morning I am reminded of something that children and animals seem to instinctively understand. In fact, my silly grey cat brings so much sugar to the bed-making task, I hate to miss out!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


You know, when I think about it, it seems so unreal that in just a few months after having to leave my home with nothing but our personal stuff and a pile of books, God has provided Grace and I with an apartment that we can afford, all the furniture that we need, a fully stocked kitchen, plus lots of room for all those wonderful books.

In the summer, we had a lawnmower to keep our lawn neat and a lovely, prolific little herb garden. In the winter, Mr.O'Connor, the sweet retired man next door uses his little snowblower to clear most of our combined driveway so we only have to shovel around and behind my car. In fact, he does all sorts of nice things for us, like dragging my Christmas tree to the curb for pick up and even bringing our garbage out for us once in a while. When I thank him, he never admits to helping us. I think he just likes to be a blessing. What a gift he is!

We are able to have a cat, Jean-Luc and the five rats for pets. They are happy and healthy, and give us so much pleasure. Our home is comfortable and cozy, and we love living here. When my mother was sick, our apartment was a safe, warm place to come home to. When she died, it was a peaceful place to mourn.

Then, there are the people in our lives. Our lives are filled with so many people now. Some are new and some are reconnections, but all are welcome additions to our lives.

Between school, church, neighbours and new friends, we are enjoying new relationships and experiences. We have Madison, who lives with us now and is such a sweet blessing. Our pastor, Barbara, is kind and caring, encouraging us in our faith and service to the community. Through the college, just a few minutes from our home, I have met some remarkable young people, reconnected with people from my past, been challenged to think about the world differently, to improve my French, and thanks to a certain, passionate young history teacher, to read The Brothers Karamzov by Fyodor Dostoyevski, and this time, to finish it.

God promised me, years ago, that if I would live my life in His service, He would always take care of Grace and I. He has proven Himself faithful. Most importantly, God's constant attention to our needs has given me the freedom to continue loving those who have wounded me, those who seek to build themselves up by tearing me down. God reassures me daily that as long as I choose love, I cannot be torn down. In fact, if I in love pray for those who seek to harm me and my family, not only will we not be torn down, but they may be truly raised up, to healing and to love rather than hate.

Tonight, I am just feeling grateful. In such a short time, we have been given a home of our own, a wonderful community of friends, direction for our lives and hope for the future. Our cup runneth over. Thank You, Lord.

Friday, January 20, 2012

In My Dreams...

I had a strange dream last night. It's a recurring one, and while the details change, the theme is always the same. In last night's dream, I was walking down a country road on a warm summer afternoon. I was alone, and trying to get somewhere on time. There was something wrong with one of my legs, and I was walking with a painful limp. Every step was a struggle, and I knew I had ten miles to go before I reached my destination. I can't remember where my destination was, only how far away it was, how important it was to get there on time, and how upset the people who were there would be with me if I was late. But I could not, for the life of me, get my pain-filled legs to go faster. So I just kept limping down the road, fighting panic at the hopelessness of ever getting to where I was going, but walking on, regardless.

I think the dream reflects some of the anxiety I feel at times about the constant pain that I live with. The pain is such a normal part of my life, I don't even notice it unless it increases in intensity for a time. The limitations that come with chronic illnesses aren't always understood or appreciated by others, and the people-pleaser in me finds that painful. Still, I have learned to accept it, and to look to God for affirmation and strength, not to people. God is both incredibly graceful to me, while still challenging me to move past my limitations, in the right measure, in the right time, for the right reasons.

I have to admit, there is a small cloud hanging over my head today, the vague, shadowy memory of that walk down a country road, trying and trying to get somewhere, be something that the pain just wouldn't allow. If I am to be truly honest, those nameless, faceless people waiting for me to arrive may be another part of myself, the part that gets so frustrated, that wants so badly to be normal.

If I meet myself on that road again tonight, I'm bringing me a glass of iced tea. And maybe a lawn chair. :D

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Love hurts - and cat love hurts a lot.

Jean-Luc is a pain. Seriously. He is beautiful, glossy grey and silky soft. He is also intelligent, affectionate, funny, curious, and active. And he is a pain.

At just under a year old, he has energy to spare. Because he is an indoor cat, he spends an inordinate amount of time racing up stairs and leaping off of furniture. He has impressive tooth/claw skills. I have the scars to prove it. He is the very definition of an ankle biter. When I walk up stairs, he follows behind me, throwing his arms around my legs as I take each step. Then he darts ahead of me on the stairs and flies into which ever room he thinks I am heading for. He torments our other cat, Min-min, and is just biding his time as far as the rats are concerned.

The thing about Jean-Luc is that he doesn't do the usual irritating cat things. He has meticulous litter habits, never climbs curtains or destroys things. He only scratches the furniture when someone is watching and he wants to play. He didn't look twice at our Christmas tree, which I thought was really odd. In my room, he only ever flips my wooden incense holder off of my bedside table, ignoring the lip balm, pens and earrings. I think he just doesn't like the incense smell. Maybe he thinks I can't possibly like it, either.

The truth is, most of the fist-shaking, irritating stuff that Jean-Luc does has to do with wanting to play with us. He loves his people. He is especially attached to me, but he wants to play with everyone. And therein lies the problem. Have you ever seen a young cat play? To a cat, "play" is code for "I'll hunt you down and kill you with my teeth and claws, and then you can do it to me, okay?" Every night, he follows me upstairs (hanging off my legs) and curls up at the foot of my bed. He used to sleep at the head, on the pillow beside mine, but the Vicks and Tiger Balm have pushed him downward. Whatever adventures he has during the night, he haunts my room in the morning, waiting for me to wake up and snuggle with him. When I am in an IC flare, and have to head to the bathroom multiple times a night, he accompanies me on every trip, waits outside the door and leads me back to bed. Even if it means getting up 7 or 8 times a night. When he is not in my room, he is in Grace's. We are his people.

He doesn't want to be a pain. He just wants to play. It's his way of loving us, of making us a part of his life. And because I understand this, I don't mind that he is a pain. He is not mean, or aggressive, or vicious. He is a cat.

He kind of reminds me of my relationship with God. I am a human being,
and I am in love with the God of the Universe. I am compelled to express my love for Him in the only ways I know how. I have no doubt, sometimes my sheer humanness makes me a pain, too. But I also have no doubt that God over-looks any foolishness or messiness that accompanies my efforts to show Him my love, to interact with Him. He understands. He loves me. He proved this when He came down and literally became a human, like me, to show me that He "gets" me. To show the world that He "gets" us all.

Unfortunately, while God understands, too often we Christians don't understand each other. We have a tendency to frown at each other's paltry efforts to show God love, maybe because each one of us is sure that we know how to do it better. We lose track of our own humble humanness. We think that we've got it down, that we're doing it right. We don't understand God's love. We don't get the truth that He sees our hearts, and thrills at the very fact that we love Him. If we're making mistakes, He'll deal with it. Sometimes He uses other Christians to help us, but He chooses the humble ones who know that ultimately, our love for God is what matters most.

I love Jean-Luc very much. He is my little man, and a dear, dear fur friend. It's my job to try to keep him amused and busy in a way that keeps the scars on our ankles to a minimum. I'm not quite sure how to do that, but I'm working on it. In the meantime, I love that he loves me, that he chooses me to play with, that the purring coming from the end of the bed is for me. I am choosing to believe that God loves that I love Him, too. He's is helping me, every day, to know how to express my love to Him, as well as helping me to see the areas where I am putting myself before Him, before others. I am grateful when He uses my fellow Christians to help me.

Just remember, if it looks like I or anyone else is making a mess of things, keep in mind that in the middle of this mess of clumsy human effort may be a heart that is simply trying to love a huge, powerful, awesome God. Only God can know for sure. It never hurts to ask.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Gratitude of the Beloved

Jean-Luc got out this morning. That's not so unusual. Jean-Luc is an indoor cat, with aspirations that lean towards arctic explorer. It is easy for him to imagine himself plodding through the frozen tundra, exploring the icy nooks and crannies of our little neighbourhood, especially when he is sitting on a warm window ledge in the sun, looking out at the world. Once the frost starts building up on his whiskers and his toes get snow packed, the dream dies a quick, shivery death.

Then comes the meowing at the door. Loud. Insistent. Bold. One would think he had not just slipped out behind my back only 15 minutes before. One would think a mad dash for the closing door, risking injury to head and/or tail, would result in a longer escape outdoors.

Sometimes I am tempted to leave him out in the cold for a while. Teach him a lesson. But I never do. I can tell from the tone of his meowing that he fully believes that if I can hear his requests to come inside, I will open the door for him. Such confidence cannot be denied. If I did not open the door for him, he would not think me strong, or wise, or a lesson-teacher. He would think me deaf. Or asleep. Or away.

So, I open the door when he calls. Every time. As soon as I hear him.

There is something about his faith in me that inspires me to be there when he calls.

The thing is, as beautiful and funny and sweet as he is, he is not the brightest bulb in the pack. One evening this past week, we had a guest who smoked, and Jean-Luc escaped four times, every time our guest headed outside to smoke a cigarette. He forgets how cold it is out there. The world calls his name and he can't help but answer, the consequences of his last escapade long forgotten even if it took place just minutes ago.

In this, he reminds me of myself. How often do I head out into the "world", to do my own thing, to mess with something that is better off unmessed with? I screw up, lose my temper, do something that I know God doesn't want me to do, and find myself out in the cold, on the wrong side of the door. Calling to be let in.

It's not that God turns me out. I run out, on my own. And it's not like God forgets me or rejects me, anymore than I forget or reject Jean-Luc when he manages to scoot outside despite my best efforts. In fact, I am rarely more aware of him than when he is outside. There is danger out there. Cars. Dogs. Mean people. When Jean-Luc is out from under the umbrella of my protection, my heart and mind are on him constantly. I believe this is a reflection of God's heart for me.

When I am rebelling against God, and stray out from under His protection, He moves Heaven and Earth to bring me back. To bring us back. When He hears my cry, He answers. Always. Everytime. No matter what.

So, maybe I am a wuss where Jean-Luc is concerned. Maybe it's lame of me to jump whenever I hear him calling. And when he is curled up in my lap, leaving puddles of melted toe snow all over me, maybe it does occur to me that he needs to learn a lesson.

Then, I hear his purring, and remember the confident, expectant cry from outside the door. I recognize that cry. I recognize that confidence, that faith in someone who loves us more that we know, who asks, "What do you need?" instead of, "What do you deserve?"

I know what it is like, to see the door swing wide open, to feel the warmth flow out to me, from within. I have felt the strong hand of comfort on my back, as the ice melts from me and life is restored.

People say that cats score low on the gratitude scale. I beg to differ. After a quick bite from the food dish, I am usually the first place he comes to rest, the first warmth he seeks. He purrs, and trills, and rubs his soft, sleek body into mine.

His, like mine, is the gratitude of the beloved. We are secure in the passionate love of someone greater than ourselves, someone who knows how to open the door for us when we can't do it ourselves. Someone whose ear is tuned into our voice, our need, our cry. Can we respond in any other way but to return love in the greatest measure possible?
My Zimbio