Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Impact of an Unexpected Moment

The phone rang and on the other end of the line was a familiar voice, thick and rough.  

"Hi, Laurie, I wanted to make sure I called you back because I have that postal code you were asking me for yesterday."

I'll be honest with you, it was an unexpected moment and it stopped me in my tracks. 

"Oh, um, right -- that's just great," I responded a little surprised.  

As I listened to him rattle off the letters and numbers over the phone, an instantaneous smile spread wide across my face. I couldn't help myself and gestured an 'atta-boy' fist pump into the thin air!  Two years ago, if I had asked the same young man for the same simple request, the response would have been very different.

Slowly but surely, with time, consistency, routine and the long suffering sweep of compassion and grace, a wounded soul begins to realize and believe that they have worth, they are valuable and they belong.  Layers peel back, though painful at times, and eventually a thick fog lifts and for the first time they see themselves through a different lens.  Without even knowing it, they move the bar just a little bit higher, persistently flexing their muscles until eventually, with one long and strong stretch, they firmly wrap their grasp around it.  The old pre-set expectations are shattered and no longer keep them bound to the past.

Two years ago, that same young man I mentioned came into my office with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  Years of struggling to believe in himself, feeling rather outcast and never knowing quite how to do the right thing, chiseled that chip solid into place.  He learned to become defensive, sarcastic, angry and sad.  Today, he is a different person! He is well liked and accepted and doing his best to do what is right. For the first time, I dare say, he has found a root of hope for a bright future.   

I have the privilege of working with students with moderate to significant learning disabilities.  Each student unique and each one with their own gifts, abilities, challenges and hurts. Because of their example, I am compelled to raise the bar higher in my own life, to flex and stretch my own feeble muscles.  I am aware of my mediocre attempts to overcome when I am witness to their well-deserved triumphant success!

In my youth, I thought I knew the answer to a lot of things in life, but as mid-life is very much upon me, I am keenly aware, more than every before, of how little I do know! So, this post is more of a 'note to self' to never give up and always believe in a bright and beautiful tomorrow. It is a solid confirmation and reminder that God is always and forever sovereign and at work in our lives every single day, even when we get lost in the messy stuff and trip over a bit of rubble. 

I am deeply grateful that I rub shoulders with these students and for their profound impact on my life!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Romancing the Book Store

A small bell latched high above jingled as I pushed back the large oak door. The sign taped somewhat haphazardly to the front read New and Used Books for Sale! Walking across the creaky floorboards, a familiar yet somewhat forgotten smell mixed of paper and ink woke up my senses and in an instant the romance was reborn.  My feet shuffled slowly forward, my head tilted ever so slightly as my hand reached out and my fingers gently caressed the scripted title down the backbone of the spine.

When was the last time I had done this?  I was bit undone, if you will, and delightfully taken back at the unexpected joy of it all.

The best bookstores are hidden gems. There is something endearing about those small outfits lodged in a basement of an old Victorian home or carved out in a nook in the heart of the downtown corridor.  It's those bookstores that have corners and itty bitty crevices just wide enough for a slight turn on the heel that keep you keenly aware that if for just one miss step you surely will be met with a crashing pile of books in a heap at your feet.  Yet one cannot deny, with such ominous danger all around, the opposing comfort it brings when one is surrounded from floor to ceiling with glorious books!

Yes, I do believe, even those who do not deem themselves avid readers would, possibly, if they truly let themselves be transfixed into a soothing lull browsing such a delightful establishment!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Going Rogue

What is that familiar saying, haste makes waste?  Or what about, measure twice and cut once.   

It would seem, for those who are on my automatic emailing list, you received a very old blog post from September 22, 2012 this morning at approximately 6:30 am.  I'm not exactly sure how that happened, so first and foremost, let me apologize that you were subjected to a very unseasonal rant about Christmas decorations arriving far too early in stores in the month of September!

I'm pondering, how could this have happened? 

In the past two weeks I have made many changes to my blog, both aesthetically as well editing old posts, drafts; a little spring cleaning if you will. The only thing I can surmise is that in my haste I republished an old post by accident and I guess you call it ... waste?, since indeed it was published two years ago. 

I also have to admit that since I decided to merge my blog with my Google account, I've become a bit undone. Notifications are popping up, things are beeping and well, I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing! So, in short, this is my apology not only for the little rogue post this morning, but possibly more bobbles and miss steps as I meander through my new account in the days ahead.  

Thank you, dear friends, for your patience!  Long live technology and those of us who try to understand it!  Here, here!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pondering the XOXO's of Valentines Day

I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's day. Could it be that through most of my teenage years I was rarely the beneficiary of a gallant knight showing up at my doorstep with flowers and chocolates?  Like any other young girl, I would secretly hope but I can count on one hand the times it actually happened.  

The light hearted conversation around the 'water cooler', that being my desk in the main office, centred around the meaning of February 14th and what, if anything, we did to celebrate.  It was agreed, unanimously, that for the most part it meant very little and most couples did nothing out of the ordinary to mark the occasion. 

When a spot light shines on something it not only reveals the astounding beauty but also, in detail, reveals the flaws.  And so it would seem to me that declaring a day centred around romantic, passionate love only compounds feelings of loneliness and sadness for many who may not be on the reciprocating end of someone's affections.   

The pursuit of romantic love, an eros love, is a rush and can make ones head spin.  It is the love that most romantic movies and books are based upon.  But as quickly as it can appear, it can also vanish. Our feelings can be so fickle and hearts are broken and tears are shed.  It can be a rather selfish love. It certainly is apart of who we are, but in and of itself, it is not complete.

From what I've experienced in life, there is a love that, by comparison, is at polar opposites of an eros love, it is an agape love. A love that shows up in the messy places when hearts are broken and a healing balm of forgiveness is granted.  It is a love that chooses to quiet rumblings of discontent and frustration; a love that chooses to look past indifference and make a change for the better; a love that is long suffering and unconditional no matter the circumstance; a love that is freely given even when it is undeserved. 

This kind of love is described beautifully in the book of Corinthians 13, 4-8, 13.  Love is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable or touchy.  It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.  It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.  If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost.  You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.  The three things that remain -- faith, hope and love -- and the greatest of of these is love.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Keep Counting

I've heard it sung a thousand times or more, an old familiar hymn that echoed through my childhood.  I've heard it sung with great enthusiasm from a congregation of the faithful and gently hummed by my sweet mother as she busied herself with housework. Without even knowing, the repetitive melodic phrasing became woven tight over time within my heart and soul.

Count your blessings, count them one by one.  Count your blessings, see what God has done.  Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings see what God has done. -Words by Johnson Oatman Jr., Music Composition by Edwin O. Excell

Blessings, I think we would all agree, are good to count.  Some days, I find it easy to count them.  They slide off my tongue with ease and though I'm truly, genuinely grateful, the weight of their meaning seems a little light, a bit too carefree.  

Then there are days when finding anything close to resembling a 'blessing' seems hopeless and lost in a thick shroud of pressing fog that rolls over every inch of the day.   How can one keep counting when they face their own Mount Everest?  How does one seek out the hidden gems of goodness when all seems rather bleak and beyond repair?

It truly is in the darkest of moments that the strong-willed spirit is revealed. And when 'Mount Everest' does not go away, somehow, if we look closely -- if we choose to look closely, God reveals gems of beauty that stir us to our knees and in turn closer to His heart. And in that moment of surrender, God pours into us everything we need to press on and keep climbing.

And so it is then, I begin to realize that the simple act of counting blessings becomes the greatest value that I can possess. It is when, with sheer determination, I choose to look between the shards of brokenness, when all seems lost, that a gem is revealed. I no longer see them passively, but search for them actively for I am learning they are the threads woven within the foundation of my Faith, my hope, and my love for Christ.  He gives to us all we need, in just that moment, so we can be sure of Him.

Jeremiah 29:13, 14
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord.

You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have. - Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Up Side of Sleepless Nights

I remember clearly when my Dad started having restless nights.  In the dark stillness, I would often hear the door to my parents bedroom creak open every so softly.  Dad was up.  The shuffle of his slippers lead him to the kitchen where eventually the water would run freely from the kitchen sink tap and he filled a glass of water and took a long refreshing drink. From there, I'm not sure what was on his agenda, but I just knew the next morning, by way of his tired eyes, he did not get much sleep.

For the most part, I have always slept fairly well.  Then I gave birth to two babies.  But even then, when I was up at all different hours of the night, I could still manage to get back in that bed and be out like a light before my head even hit the pillow. Like most young moms, I was a machine and I probably thrived on the sleep deprivation!

Fast forward some thirty years.  Something shifted.  I suppose the shift started slowly and the start of my long, restless nights began somewhere in my late thirties. When it first began, this waking up at 2:45 am, I would play a rousing game of peek-a-boo with the digital clock on bedside table. I would squeeze my eyes shut, fists clenched and with relentless determination, will myself back to SLEEP! I would ever so slowly open just one eye to gaze upon the neon numbers in hopes that maybe, just maybe I did fall asleep only to find that a whopping two minutes had passed.  Oh the frustration!

Well, I guess with restless nights comes some wisdom, if you can call it that. I figure I'm ten years into this 'sleepless nights' routine and somewhere along that time line I decided to take off my boxing gloves and give up the fight against the little digital clock on my side table.

And so it is, in the quiet and stillness of the night, a familiar sound echo's ever so softly down the hall from my own children's bedrooms.  I open the bedroom door, slip down to the kitchen, turn on the tap and fill a glass with water.  I make my way to the couch.  Sometimes I read my book or thumb through a magazine and other times, most of the time, I just sit and think. I think about a lot of things. Mostly, I think about people. I have a bit of mental checklist really and it always begins with my children. How are they doing?  What do they need? Can I help? It moves swiftly to others who are near and dear to me. And if I am not careful all these thoughts can break me down into a puddle of tears and I am overwhelmed with the breadth of what needs to be done, hearts that need love, hands that need holding, tasks that need doing and so on.

So, the upside for me, you ask? It's simple really. Jesus meets me. When I let him, that is. It's taken years of practice to do this thing. Most of my sleepless nights in the years past and even those today, I admit, have been and are more about a restless, wandering soul. But every once in awhile I get this thing right and I own the promise of John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  It is not as the world gives that I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The 'Selfie'

The 'selfie' surely has become an obsession amongst teenagers and adults alike and a sad and telling story of the misguided attempt to find self-worth. As tempting as it is, 'editing' our true self to look a certain way is not true beauty. Some of the most beautiful woman I have ever met, in the world's standards, would be described as plain and common. 

Can we be content in our own skin and be deeply grateful for the gift of life God has blessed us with no matter what our appearance? Within my own heart and mind, it would seem to be one of the greatest challenges I have faced. With too much careless thought given to question my own goodness and self-worth and beauty certainly leads down a trail of layered consequences. 

Social media, specifically Facebook, has become a weapon leaving many precious souls believing they are 'less than' when the response from a 'selfie' isn't what they hoped for. And the opposite has provided them with a rush of temporary pleasure when the 'likes' calculate in great number. 

Is this truly what we define our beauty and self-worth on? 1 Peter 3:4 "Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 

Oh, the challenge is great but the wellspring to draw from to overcome is so so much greater!! Be encouraged.