My Little Gymnast

When I was a little girl I was always doing something creative.  I remember being holed up in my room for hours, drawing horses, trying to get the angle of the ears just right, or making candy wrapper collages for my notebooks.  I wrote all the time – stories, poems, songs, essays.  Inspired by Gordon Korman, I wrote my first novel in seventh grade – a mystery starring Ryder Strong and Ben Savage from Boy Meets World.   I had all the time in the world to devote to my creative endeavours, as long as my  homework was done in time!

I miss those days.

Now creativity seems like a luxury.  I find myself encouraging my kids in their creativity, praising their choice of colours and solutions to problems when their artwork doesn’t turn out quite like they expected.  I refer to the Beautiful Oops book often, reminding them that their projects don’t have to be perfect – sometimes it’s more about the process!

I need to tell myself the same thing.

I know that I’m the most myself when I’m being creative.  I’ve noticed a change in my attitude, my mood, my productivity – when I push my creativity to the side.  It’s a part of me that I need to pay attention to.  It’s who God – the ultimate creator! – made me to be.

* * *

This is a poem I wrote for Ellie as part of the Coffee + Crumbs Year of Creativity course.   We were encouraged to pick a childhood activity that we don’t do often (or in my case, ever!) and spend some time doing it.  Really doing it.

I used to love writing poetry.

These days it feels like everything I write has a purpose and a deadline – so I sat in the viewing room at Ellie’s gymnastics class and watched her with my notebook open on my lap.

This is what I wrote:

 

My Little Gymnast

The gate opens and she dances into the gym,

Giggling, her hair a caterpillar bouncing down her back.

She sits on the red warm-up mat, eyes raised expectantly,

Awaiting her coach’s instructions.

She knows Mama’s rules:

If you don’t listen, you don’t do gymnastics.

So she waits.

 

The first circuit is trampoline – her favourite!

Star jump, bum drop, tuck jump.

“Land on your feet!” her coach tells her.

 

Then onto the foam pit.

She cannonballs from the edge, then decides to try the vault.

She climbs up – one crash mat high, two, then three.

“Oh, that’s high!” she exclaims –

And scrambles down to slide in from the edge.

 

Airplane arms on the beam, a stork stand in the middle.

Jump off –

But land on your feet!

Bear walks on the p-bars, a tuck solo hang.

Wait your turn for the rings!

 

It’s time for floor.

Backward rolls, dog tails, jumps and twists.

“Land on your feet! LAND ON YOUR FEET!”

Under the rainbow tunnel, cartwheeling over the French fry mat.

She avoids the rope as long as she can after a fall last week.

 

Then Coach Mariam helps her wrap her legs around the rope,

And gives her a push.

Her eyes are as big as saucers,

Then become slits atop a wide grin.

She swings back and forth, back and forth –

Then drops neatly to the floor.

On her feet.

“I did it!” she cries.

 

My little gymnast.

* * *

Creativity is never a waste of time.   

I feel like I’m slowly making my way back.

Beauty for Ashes


Beauty for Ashes

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain. You can’t have one without the other.

Today I’m sharing a story of how God created beauty from ashes:

“Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt: “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding.  Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more … ”

Read the rest at Anchored Voices.

The List

I was always a serious child. I liked rules, I liked routines, and I liked lists.

Maybe that’s why the youth retreat I attended when I was fifteen had such an enormous impact on my life.

I remember sitting in the dark conference room, squirming in my chair as the speaker talked about one of my least favourite topics: Boys.   I was a late bloomer when it came to boys. Horses were much more interesting!

Nevertheless, I began paying attention when she started talking about a list. She explained that when she was in high school she had created a list of the qualities she was looking for in a boyfriend. If a boy didn’t possess all the qualities on her list, she wasn’t interested. We were given pen and paper and directed to create lists of our own. According to the speaker that weekend, if The Boy didn’t meet all the requirements on The List, he wasn’t the one God had chosen for us.

It seemed simple enough.

Lists were my thing, so I wholeheartedly embraced the project!

At first my list was very specific and looked something like this:

  1. Must love horses.
  2. Must love animals.
  3. Must be older than me.
  4. Must be smart.
  5. Must have brown hair and brown eyes.
  6. Must have a good sense of humor (but not a crude sense of humor).
  7. Must be anti-drinking/smoking.
  8. Must meet and be approved by my grandmother.

My list changed as I got older and actually began to develop relationships with the opposite sex. (At first I wasn’t sure if changing my list was allowed but decided it was when I realized there weren’t any boys in my entire town that fit all of my requirements!)

The List changed even more as I began to date real boys instead of fictional ones. (SPOILER ALERT FOR MY CHURCH GIRLS: TODD SPENCER ISN’T REAL!)

Items on my list that I once thought were deal breakers no longer were. I began to value traits like loyalty more than appearance and being treated with respect was more important than an undying devotion to my pet cat.

By the time I graduated from university The List had changed from that The Boy had to be to what he couldn’t be:

  1. Bearded.  By that point in my dating career I had firmly established that I did not like beards – or facial hair of any sort. It was prickly and scratchy and my hair got stuck to it like Velcro, never mind that kissing a man with a beard was sometimes downright painful, and I was always picking hairs out of my mouth that were not my own.
  2. Anything but a New Brunswick boy. I was a maritimer and I wanted to stay that way.
  3. A pastor. I grew up in the church. I wanted nothing of the politics and nothing of the drama.

When I moved to Alberta after university I wasn’t looking for love. I wasn’t looking for any sort of romantic relationship at all, to tell you the truth. My plan was to go to school, learn what I needed to learn, and go back to New Brunswick to start a youth ranch. Boys didn’t factor into the equation at all.

Especially not Alberta boys.

Then I met Nathan and I forgot all about The List.

He was everything I didn’t want:

  1. David Crowder’s doppelgänger (proof here and here.) My husband has more hair on his face than our dog does on her entire body.
  2. An Alberta boy – and not just that, a complete city slicker who had never seen a live chicken – in real life – until he visited New Brunswick with me when he was 25.
  3. A pastor in every sense of the word except official job title. Nathan graduated from Bible College and worked in full-time ministry, then decided he preferred volunteer ministry positions instead of paid ones. He leads small groups, teaches Sunday School and Wee College, leads worship on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings as well as at retreats and conferences, is involved in prison ministry – the list goes on!

What I thought I wanted wasn’t what God knew I needed. That silly list seems insignificant now, after ten years together. If I could write a new list and send it to my younger self, these are the qualities I would put on it:

  1. Passion for God and things of God.
  2. Love for family.
  3. Patience.

Nathan meets all of those requirements easily!

He’s devoted to God and his family and he has more patience than anybody I have ever met! Who else would calmly pull over on the side of a busy highway to console his sobbing, hormonal, pregnant wife and pray for a dead coyote’s grieving family?

For the past ten years he’s been my rock.

He’s my support, he’s my encourager, he’s my inspiration.

He’s my love.

So although I’ve swallowed more beard and moustache hairs than I can count, dip my toes in the Atlantic ocean every five years instead of every weekend, and have fed my children cheerios in the church coffee shop on more Sundays (and Thursdays, and Saturdays) than I ever would have imagined – I’m happy. I’m more than happy. God has done abundantly more than I ever could have asked, or even thought to ask! – in giving me my husband.

Happy birthday, Nathan!

 

New Year, New Perspective

newyearnewperspective2

 

For ten years I’ve blamed Bible College for my lost passion when it comes to reading the Bible.

If you’ve ever been to Bible College, maybe you can relate. In those days I read with a purpose: I read to prove something, for debates, to win arguments. I searched for obscure Scripture references to support an opinion I had already formed.

I knew the Bible. Sword drills were my jam. I had memorized large chunks of Scripture that I could recite when I wanted to impress someone with my vast theological knowledge.

When I finished Bible College I worked with youth. I had good marks so I thought I was ready to handle anything they threw at me.   I searched the Bible for answers to their questions: “What makes Christianity better than other religions?” “Why is God the only way?” “Is homosexuality a sin?” “Why did my mom die?” I read the Bible for them, to answer their questions and help with their struggles – but not my own.

I knew the Bible, but my spirit was parched.

Then I became a mother and the kids became my excuse. With work, diaper changes, dayhome drop-offs and pick-ups and scrambling to keep the household running, Sure, I could quote Scripture to my children when I needed to, but I didn’t have time to read the Bible for anything more than the occasional Bible story when I remembered to do family devotions.

It wasn’t until my six-year-old innocently asked me one night before bed, “Mommy, why do we read the Bible?” that I realized that I was completely missing the point. I don’t have a specific purpose in mind when I spend time with my son, I do it because I love him. I love being with him, talking to him, learning about him and from him. He’s not an obligation, he’s not something to check off a list every day.

If something is really important, we don’t find the time, we make the time.

It wasn’t Bible College’s fault, it was mine.

I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t searching, I wasn’t showing up each day with the expectation that God would reveal Himself, His truth, to me – not for grades, or to win an argument, or to have something to share when it was my turn to lead a group devotion, but because He loves me.

I’ve done Bible reading plans in the past – chronological, historical, from beginning to end. This year I’m reading just to read, with no real plan and no goal in mind other than to get to know Jesus better. Not as an acquaintance, but as a Father and a creator and a friend. My perspective on reading the Bible has changed from being something to cross off my to-do list each day to something I look forward to each and every morning when I wake up.

Lord, I don’t want to go through the motions anymore.  The Bible says that You make all things new – so please, make my heart new.  Make my mind new.  Make my life new!  Proverbs 8:17 says “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”  I’m seeking, Lord.  I want to desire You more than anything else.  Renew  my passion for You and for Your Word!

Home

bridgehome1

Last month I went home to New Brunswick for a visit.

I use the term “home” loosely, because even though I grew up there, I couldn’t leave fast enough.

Home was a small town in the middle of nowhere with one grocery store, three stop signs, eight churches, and 918 people. I ducked behind the newspaper office on my walk home from school because my grandma worked in the front office and I knew if she saw me she’d call me in to fix my hair, usually with a paperclip. Most days I would be stopped two or three times by kind neighbours asking me if I wanted a ride up the hill. I usually declined – not because I was afraid of being abducted, but because I genuinely liked the walk.

Everybody knew everybody and the biggest news day of the entire year was when the ice broke up in the spring and started moving beneath our famous covered bridge.   Would it or wouldn’t it knock out a pillar? The tough kids hung out and smoked in the library parking lot on main street in clear view of anybody who walked by, and although I think my cousin once streaked through the courtyard after dark, they never did anything really bad.

My sisters and I played outside in the fields and forest behind our house without a care in the world until darkness fell and my mother called us in for dinner.

But home isn’t home anymore after 15 years away.

It’s still a small town, but now there are two grocery stores, countless stop signs, and even more churches. The newspaper office was torn down years ago to make room for a parking lot, and the beautiful, hundred-plus-year-old heritage houses that stood next to it are slated for the same fate later this fall.

The town has been in the news more often in recent years for break-ins, beatings, and occasionally worse. The library parking lot isn’t the main hangout anymore, since the youth have become interested in things a bit more severe than cigarettes. The inside of our famous kissing bridge is covered with vulgar graffiti in place of love notes signed by tourists.

To an outsider – which is what I felt like, after 15 years away! – my hometown felt like a fallen down ghost town.

My trip last month was my first solo trip back east since Nathan and I started dating, and interestingly enough, it was also the first time I caught myself hesitating before I referred to New Brunswick as home.

See, for the past decade I’ve made my home in Edmonton with Nathan. He certainly considers Edmonton “home”: It’s where he grew up, and most of his family still lives here.   I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a big city girl, but I’m comfortable here. We live on the outskirts of the city: A ten minute drive in one direction can take us to the downtown core while a five minute drive in the other direction can take me to wheat fields, corn fields, and the barn! I love having choices and easy access to good schools, great hospitals, and all the shopping – but still, Edmonton doesn’t feel like home.

It’s strange, really. When I’m here I long for there, but when I’m there I can’t wait to come back here …

I’ve struggled with the concept of “home” for years.  Whenever somebody asks me where I’m from I still say “New Brunswick” – even though I’ve now lived in Alberta for more than a third of my life. At what point does this become home?

Last month I came to the conclusion that maybe it never will.

Maybe it’s not supposed to.

* * *

While I was on my trip I realized that I need to hold on my idea of home loosely – not only because of the inevitable way places change over time, but because this isn’t my home. Hebrews 13:14 says that “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (NLT). I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty confident that doesn’t mean a physical home! I like the way Eugene Peterson phrased it in the Message: “He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (2 Corinthians 5)

I love New Brunswick and I love Alberta – but neither of them are my true home. I need to focus less on where my home is – and more on the people around me. I am where I am for a reason, and there’s more to it than buying a comfortable couch and painting the walls a nice, neutral shade of gray.