Paradigm Shift

This morning I read the parable of the sower for probably the zillionth time. I think it’s probably among the most famous of Jesus’ parables, but I will write it here in case you don’t know it.

Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted and grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted. -Mark 4:3-8

For years I’ve been reading that little story, hoping that I am the good soil, and the faith that God planted in me would grow and grow. Sometimes I was worried I was wilting in the heat of the sun, and sometimes I thought I would be choked out by weeds. I prayed and begged that I would be the fertile soil, and my little plant would flourish and grow and never die.

This morning, as I read the parable, my prayer changed.

I want to be the farmer.

Tuesday’s List is Full of Grace

As there is no cohesive post in my head today, have a list!

1. At the beginning of January I said that so far this winter had been pretty mild for me in terms of getting the blues. Well, in the last week or two, the SAD has hit full force. I’ve had a general sense of blah even when things are, by all reasonable standards, good. I’ve been easily overwhelmed when life throws me little annoyances. And I’ve even had a couple of full-on ugly crying jags because of the heaviness in my soul even as my mind searches but can’t find anything to blame.

2. Coping mechanisms: Friends. Reminding myself that it IS January, that I often feel like this in January, and that a lot of other people feel like this in January too. Lifting others up; brightening someone else’s day. Prayer. Watching movies. My husband, who has been going the extra mile to be nice because he knows how January is for me. Listening to music. This morning I considered taking a mental health day, but I knew I had a lot to do at the office, so instead of the whole day, I took a mental health half hour instead. I texted my boss that I would be 30 min late, and resorted to the good old go-for-a-drive-and-listen-to-a-new-album trick. And it did the trick. I’ve considered medication for the first time in my life. But that feels a little bit like giving up, so I have resisted the temptation. The idea of tanning (haven’t actually made it in there yet, although I did find a great tanning salon a block away from my workplace).

3. This could fit under coping mechanisms because it has been helping too. But it needs it’s own paragraph. I’m not usually the type to follow a daily devotional, but in December I decided to order Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word devotional. It has been incredible. I keep it at work and I spend the first few minutes of the day while my computer fires up. Each day has a theme and takes you through praying scripture along the same lines. Some of the days, a lot of the days actually, have been bang-on what I need to hear in terms of meditating on the scriptures, but praying them has thrown in this whole other  element that I didn’t anticipate and that I can’t exactly describe either. I highly recommend this little book. You don’t have to wait until next year. Start is February, It looks like this:

Praying-God-s-Word-Day-by-Day-9781594151804

4. My favorite household chore lately is laundry. My second favorite is vacuuming. I have not been loving any of the kitchen related stuff though. I used to revel in the planning / shopping / cooking / cleaning / organizing the kitchen part of household maintenance. But now I don’t. Which is weird, because my new kitchen is fantastic. I’ve never enjoyed cleaning the bathrooms though. Yuck.

5. I’ve been considering hiring someone to do the bathrooms and the floors. But I’m cheap. So I just keep thinking about it.

6. In the fall, I didn’t really get my kids involved in too many extra-curricular activities. I thought we’d take a bit of a break from the crazy this year. So they just did their usual ballet class that they’ve been doing every Friday afternoon since Adora was 4. In January, my Mother in law started them up with their piano lessons again. They had taken a break while she wrapped up her master’s degree. So now she’s teaching them piano and voice. Adora picked up a second ballet class. Basketball season started for her as well, with a game and a practice every week. Grace starts musical theatre next Saturday, and whammo! Tuesday is the only day of the week when they don’t have activities.

7. It smells amazing in here! Apple crisp in the oven. Boo yah!

8. Also amazing: Fiction Family’s new album, Fiction Family Reunion, just released this morning. I had pre-purchased it on iTunes. Worth the wait!

9. So I sort of let my blogging resolution for January slide. Considering the way I’ve been feeling, I was trying to not give myself too much of a hard time about it. I can never seem to decide between self-improvement and self-acceptance.

10. Oddly enough, I think I have used my elliptical trainer more times than I have blogged. That is odd because I love to write, hate to exercise and made a blogging resolution and did not make a fitness resolution.

11. But I still blogged more than I have in a long, long time. It makes me happy.

12. Well, the timer on the oven went off, and I’m not going to take the time to re-read and edit this, so forgive me my typos and the sentences that don’t flow so well. Thanks for reading!

The Freedom of Being a Girl

feminine

Today at work I was talking books with our lead pastor. I ordered a pile of new books for the church library and they arrived today which was a huge bright spot in the middle of this dreary January Tuesday. We are both great bibliophiles and talked about how exciting it is when a box of books arrives in the mail, even if the books aren’t our own. He said he got so excited a few weeks ago when his daughter received a shipment from Amazon. She was like, Dad, they’re just textbooks. But the appearance of the brown cardboard box with the smiley face on it’s side filled him with glee anyway. I get that. New books! What a great feeling.

We went through and examined the new additions. And we got to talking about what we’ve each been reading lately.  He was telling me about a great series he enjoyed recently. He was apologetic about it though, because the series was “a little on the girly side.”

I walked away from the offices towards the library, my arms full of the new purchases, and I laughed back at him. “I love not having to worry about whether a book is too manly. I can read whatever I want! Ha ha!”

It got me thinking about my feminist leanings and a particular lack of equality among the sexes that is still culturally prevalent – the social pressures that keep men and boys away from doing ‘girly’ things. There are strides taken against this. There is the fantastic annual anti-bullying day at schools where all the kids wear pink shirts. There was that story in the news over Christmas about the little boy who was frustrated the the Easy Bake oven was only available in pink, because he really wanted one. His big sister started a petition and long story short, the manufacturer decided to design a black and stainless-steel one. Funny how the colour pink worked into those two stories in two radically different ways there.

It often comes down to pink.

When my first daughter was born I was so frustrated that most of the little girls clothes in the department store were pink, so I did some of my shopping in the boys section so I could dress her in ALL the colours. I felt happy for all the girls in the world (well, in North America at least)  who can wear whatever the heck they want, and whatever hair style they want and play hockey or rugby or football if they want, and go after any career they want (glass ceiling or no). I felt BAD for boys who can’t wear ALL the things and colours without being bullied, who can’t go to ballet class without being eyed suspiciously, often by their very own fathers. Who can’t do certain activities, enjoy certain entertainment, read certain books. It’s the boys who are cut off from things these days because of their gender. And that sucks.

Some feminists would say that this is actually demeaning to girls since to do / wear / be “girly” makes a boy somehow “less” whereas doing masculine things makes girls somehow “more.” And you know, I would even go so far as to say that that is a good point.

However.

It is still AWESOME to be a girl and have ALL the options. I know society still has a lot of work to do when it comes to gender equality. I want boys to have ALL the options too. And I will do all I can to encourage others to think the same way. There are still kinks to work out, and we can all do little things to contribute every day. But I thank God on a regular basis that I was born in the post feminist age. I’m going to read whatever I books I want to read, darn-it! Among other things.

January Resolution Update

At New Years time I decided I would try having a new resolution every month. In January, I wanted to work on my self-expression, and my measurable goal was to blog every day. I had other non-measurable goals too, such as to be more honest. I’ve been trying to be more honest, more transparent, and I think I am, but not having a way to measure that certainly makes progress seem really vague. I guess that’s why  the golden rule of goal-setting is for them to be measurable. At the beginning of January I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Gretchen did a similar 12-month plan, and her resolutions were all centered around increasing happiness, and she designed an elaborate resolutions chart on which she could check her progress every day. So far, all I’ve done is put a tidy little check mark on my kitchen calendar on the days that I’ve blogged. (Gretchen also has a bunch of cliched rules that guide her life. One of my cliched rules is KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.)

red-check-markYesterday, when I wrote a post about being reminded of how much God loves me, combined with the day before that when I was open about feelings of sadness and frustration, I felt like I really made progress with self-expression. It’s been a long time since I communicated how I really feel, for good or for bad. So that’s good!

Another thing I wanted to do this month was to express myself creatively. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t sure how to go about measuring that. I’m still kind of stuck. My friend Elizabeth is hosting a night of creative worship. I plan on attending, although I’m still not sure what I will do once I get there. Off the top of my head, I just remembered that I am having people over next Friday night. We moved into our new home in November and I still haven’t done anything with the living room other than plop the couch into the middle of it. Right now I am making the mini-goal of decorating the living room before my get together. I have exactly one week.

I’m happy with where I stand with my January goals. For February I had initially thought I would focus on my physical well being, but I think I will do relationships instead. It’s Valentines month after all. And I want to have a weekend getaway with my husband. And one of my initial thoughts about 2013 resolutions was to try and be a better mother. And I always think I could be a better friend. I love my friends but I’m not the best at expressing that. So, yes. February will be relationship month.

Did you make any resolutions? How are they going?

One Line at a Time

Last night, even as I expressed my frustration and sadness on this blog, a question was brewing in my mind:

Why, God?

Who do I feel this way? I went through the list of the usual culprits. PMS? Nope. Time of year? Maybe – January and February are usually hard on my mental health, but so far I’ve managed to stay pretty light. So, maybe, but I don’t think so. As I went through the list of possible explanations nothing seemed to fit.

But even as I did that mental exercise, there was something there in the background that I didn’t really acknowledge, that I was either too tired or too stubborn to acknowledge. That God IS there. That God KNOWS why, even if I don’t. And especially this, that no matter how many times in my life I have cycled in and out of the darkness, God has remained constant and continually and relentlessly has reminded me of his great love for me. Even as accusations hurl towards me, often from right inside my own mind, God swoops in and whispers: precious, valued, redeemed, beautiful, adored, faithful, enduring, loving, loved, mine, mine, mine, mine. 

His.

And it isn’t just a hunch that I have. He shows me. He tells me. He reminds me of this truth over and over. Mine, mine, mine, mine mine. Love, love, love, love, love.

So why do I continue to go back to the dark places? And so quickly and easily? What is wrong with me that God keeps having to teach me the same lesson over and over?

This morning I got out of bed when the alarm rang at 6. I peeled of my pajama shirt and started putting on my workout clothes so I could head down to the elliptical machine in the basement. Suddenly. Not today. Today I need the quiet. and the Word. So I put my jammies back on, and my warm robe and fuzzy socks. I found coffee waiting for me in the kitchen from my hubby who just left for work shortly before I woke. I found my Bible and I picked up where I left off in Isaiah.

I found my comfort in a weird spot. In Isaiah 28 the prophet is… well he’s prophesying, which means I don’t really understand what is going on… but at one point he id describing the priests as drunkards. Not a pretty picture. It says “They reel when they see visions and stagger when they render decisions. Their tables are covered with vomit; filth is everywhere.

“Who does the Lord think we are?” they ask. “Why does he speak to us like this?

Are we little children, just recently weaned?

He tells us everything over and over –

one line at a time

one line at a time

a little here

and a little there!”

When I read that I laughed. The drunken priests, metaphorical or not, seem arrogant, belligerent, to me.  They are complaining that the Lord speaks to them this way.

Not me. I say, God tells me I am HIS, and praise that he speaks to me like this. YES I am a little child, just recently weaned. He tells me everything over and over.

Mine, mine, mine, mine.

One line at a time.

One line at a time.

As many times as I need to hear it. Because he loves me.

A little here. A little there. One line at a time.

I’m Tired

I just sat down on the couch for 5 and I feel tired. I don’t want to get back up.

My eyes feel tired from the short cry I had out of frustration right after dinner.

My body feels tired because it’s the end of a long busy day and I didn’t eat well after 3 pm. I had a bowl of cereal after work and corner store pizza and a glass of wine for dinner. Blech.

Even though my hubby is helping me try and figure out my technology issues right now (I have ISSUES) (hence the crying) the technology doesn’t want to work, and I don’t want to sit around waiting for all the things to try and update themselves into working, and yet here I sit. Technology costs a lot of money I’d rather spend on other things. Why doesn’t it just WORK darnit?

I’m tired of dishes and laundry and dishes and laundry and dishes and laundry and dishes and laundry and dishes and laundry and dishes and laundry. And cooking.

I’m tired of fricking facebook.

I’m tired of feeling guilty about all the things I do and don’t do and that probably don’t matter anyway but that for some reason I feel I should do differently.

I’m tired of being the fat one, the unintelligent one, the short one, the weak one, the least savvy one, the lesser paid one, the  antisocial one, the unreasonable one, the emotional one,  … I’m tired of feeling inferior in every way.

I’m tired of making do with what I’ve got and not going after what I want.

I’m tired of not knowing what I want.

I’m tired of battling the same demons over and over. I thought I won these battles already. Why am I still fighting?

I’m tired of life’s various treadmills.

I’m tired of getting older and I’ve barely started!

I’m tired of trying to impress, of keeping my walls up, of guarding, of hiding.

I’m tired of buy and sell.

I’m tired.

Tired.

I’m tired of my own yakketty yak.

I want to read and go to bed. But instead, I’m going to wrap up this post, close the laptop and go try and figure out the technology.

Parenting Lesson

I just had a parenting epiphany. Not one of the general-rule kind, but the this-is-the-way-I-parent kind. And not a flattering realization either, but hopefully I can use this insight to be better in the future.

I love both of my children with my whole heart, and I try to treat them fairly. But that doesn’t mean that I treat them the same because they are different people, of different ages, with different personalities and different likes and dislikes, yada yada yada. In many ways, I respond to them differently, and often that’s a good thing.

My oldest shares many of the characteristics of her personality with me, while the younger shares several traits with her father. My epiphany arrived while I was standing in the kitchen, elbow deep in a sink of dishwater while the girls did their homework at the table and I listened to their discussion. As I responded to each in my own mind, I realized, I am far less charitable with the one that is most like me.

When it comes to behavioral expectations, I’m pretty fair. But when it comes to the evidence of what lies in their little hearts, I am far more prone to give the little one the benefit of the doubt, or if there is evidence of a problem, I assume it’s based on something she doesn’t yet understand and I am therefore more forgiving and ready to teach. My poor older daughter however, the one that is, at times, like a little mirror of myself, I assume is selfishly motivated, manipulative and mean-spirited. I don’t give her the benefit of the doubt but assume she is always out to get the best of someone.

I’m going to have to watch that. I have to stop thinking of my big girl as an extension of myself, and I have to stop being so hard on her.

And me.

 

Shortfall

When it comes to goal setting and accomplishment I don’t think I’ve ever hit a bulls-eye. Nonetheless, setting goals and tracking my progress is the most surefire trick I have to change or improve my habits.

I made it my goal to write a blog post everyday in the month of January so that I would get back into the habit of blogging, which I love, and expressing myself, which I find freeing, and honing my writing skills, which were growing dull from lack of use.

It’s only the 12th of January today and I’ve missed three days of posting. On the one hand, I feel a twinge of disappointment at my shortfall, and that’s a regular part of tracking goals because I never score 100 percent. But the disappointment is chased away at the gladness I feel when I realize that with the 8 posts that I have written comes the changed habit. I’m back into blogging. I do revel in that certain free and happy feeling that arrives in my soul after I write, and hopefully, well, theoretically, my writing is automatically improving from practice, even if only imperceptibly at this point.

A couple of years ago I found the same thing. I was working out more often and at one point I had the goal of going to the gym 5 days each week. I hardly ever hit my target. But I was going to the gym at least three days a week, sometimes four, and occasionally 5. That was a huge improvement over the zero, one or two that visits that would be my habit without a goal to improve. I’ve only just been coming aware of this pattern and am looking forward to employing it to my own benefit over the course of the next 11 months of resolution setting.

There must be some weird psychological reason why I don’t ever actually meet my goals. I don’t understand what that is, and it would be interesting to figure that out. In the meantime, I will try and manipulate myself based on what I know about myself. I won’t set realistic goals. It simply isn’t realistic for me to blog every day without fail. The other afternoon I had visits with six different individuals that I love and care about and don’t get to see often enough. And when I got home, my husband wanted to hang out. I willfully said no to blogging that day because in order to do it, I would have had to say no to something better – spending time with the people I love. When setting my January goal, I knew there would be days like that, but I set the blog everyday goal anyway. Some people say that the route to success is to set realistic goals, but I have found that no matter how high or low I set them, my success rate is about the same. So I aim a little higher on purpose.

So cheers to my ninth post in the first 12 days of January. Cheers to goal setting and chart keeping. Cheers to the unending quest for self-improvement.

Decisions, decisions.

With the New Year I experienced an unexpected paradigm shift in the way I view and live my faith. It started with a quick little article that my pastor pasted to our church facebook page called Don’t Put Jesus First This Year – Seriously by Steven Furtick. I followed the link and took the few minutes to read it because the title was intriguing, and because our pastor is a big Steven Furtick fan. One year for Christmas he gave everyone on staff a copy of Furtick’s book, Sun Stand Still.

The article started by pointing out that we so often (especially when making resolutions) make ourselves these little priority lists: Jesus first, then family, then work, and down the list we go. The problem with that kind of thinking is, first of all, that it probably doesn’t reflect reality (for example, compare the number of hours you spend at work, with your family, and doing “spiritual things,” whatever those spiritual things may be.) Furtick’s main problem with this way of thinking though, is that it segregates faith from all of life’s other parts. Instead of Jesus first, then family, it should be Jesus, at the centre of my family life. Jesus at the centre of my work, and so on.

I agreed with what he had to say. But this was no earth-shattering idea for me. I think that most people of faith try and live a God-centered life in their way. I did the little ‘hmmm,’ shrug, move on to the next thing on facebook thing. I forgot about it. That was in December.

Also in December we bought an elliptical machine, used, from some family members who were employing it as a clothes rack. For the last two years we’ve had a family pass to the local fitness centre with a gym / pool / indoor track. But since my husband and I both got new jobs and relocated to a new neighborhood, our lives, especially in regards to our schedule took a pretty significant shift, and we found that we just weren’t using the gym as much (especially me). We decided not to renew our membership when it was up at the beginning of December. He bought a pass to a more serious gym that’s open late and where only serious, confident, muscular people work out. And we bought the elliptical for home. It was my favorite machine at the gym so I knew if we had one here I would use it.

And use it I have! It is so handy having it right down in the basement. I used it all through the holidays and managed to stave off any holiday weight gain. And it just felt so good to get regular exercise again. But when the holidays were over and I went back to work, it was time to establish a new routine. It became obvious to me that if I was going to use my elliptical on a near-daily basis, it was going to have to be at 6 am. 6 am has many benefits. Getting it over with, for one thing, since exercise is not my favorite thing to do. Doing it while my energy is up, rather than after work and dinner and homework and laundry and socializing and, and, and bffffffft. Then there’s the whole sweating issue. This way I could shower, get ready for the day and stay un-sweaty for the rest of the day. That’s important. So basically – Yep. 6 am. No brainer. Right? Right.

One problem. It has been my habit for seven years to get up at 6 am and spend my first hour with my coffee and my Bible.

Seven years.

In all that I have done in the last seven years, which was a lot, nothing – nothing – has impacted my life as much as that first hour.

First.

Jesus has not been first to me on a figurative level. The literal first hour of my day has been his for a long, long time. I wouldn’t have traded that sweet hour for anything else.

Suddenly, my no brainer 6 am workout plan seems flighty, fleshly and foolish.

I was pretty conflicted about this for most of the month of December. I didn’t have to make the decision right away, but I knew January was coming and I was going to have to act get out of bed at the 6 am and make a choice.

to be continued…