Wednesday, February 27, 2013

little sweet

this morning, vava woke up at 6, just when i was getting ready to go to the gym.  i started to feed her, and then my dear darling took over caring for her so i could still go.  yay!

when i came home, i discovered he had tucked her into our bed while he went to the washroom.  (her bed is in sam's room, and once we successfully get her out of there without waking him up, we don't risk putting her back in ;))  i tiptoed in to see her, and she opened those gorgeous eyes halfway and smiled sleepily at me.  i snuggled in beside her and put my arm around her.  she reached out and patted my arm, then sighed a sweet little sigh and fell asleep.  perhaps the dearest morning ever!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

fire and ice

the other night, a few blocks away, a house burned down.  patrick and i drove past it yesterday and just stared in awe at the creepiness ... only half of it was left standing, charred brick and no roof at all.  the firefighters must have battled strong, because huge torrents of water were gushing from every window and crevice, frozen mid-tumble.

my mother-in-law and i decided to take a walk tonight to go see it - just a quick walk before bed.

it wasn't even midnight yet.

we hadn't even gone five blocks.

we walked past two prostitutes.  young.  pretty.

my heart hurt hard, my stomach churned sick.  as we walked past the second girl, she was approached by an older man.

i might have been wrong.  it might have just been two neighbours stopping to chat about the weather or share cigarettes.

but i don't think so.

i feel angry and immobile, like that horror-house.  flames of anger against society and poverty and addiction and that man. but frozen with uncertainty - and even, yes, fear.  but can i help?  how?

part of me wants to adopt a walking habit - get a friend to join me, walk a circuit around my neighbourhood a few times every night, get to know the girls who stand on the street corners.  maybe bring them hot chocolate in travel mugs, even just stop to say hi, just be a person who cares.

but the other part of me shrinks in fear. i don't know how to deal with the lifetime of hurt or oppression that leaves a girl out on a sidewalk.  i don't know how to help that kind of problem.

but it's not a problem, God says.  it's a person.  she's a person.  you don't 'deal with' her.  you love her.


Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  
(Isaiah 58:6-7)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

pouring out

i was thinking about fasting last week, fasting God's fast - a fast of goodness, of pouring out, a blessing, a joy.

and Jesus was always pouring Himself out.  for people in need - hungry, blind, sick, sin-soaked.  He met everyone where they were, in their need, and poured Himself out for them. 

so i gave up snacking for lent.  not an onerous fast, i thought, but one that i can do.  i can give this sacrifice, this little pouring out.  and of course, God's fasting is one that blesses others, so to make my fast His, i decided to pray for my sunday school girls every time i wanted to but didn't reach for a snack.

let there be no doubt: there has been lots of praying.  (i was actually really surprised by how frequently i swing the cupboard doors open, browse through the fridge, absent-mindedly reach out to nibble from sam's tray.)

on thursday, we had friends over for a birthday party in the evening.  i made that snack my supper, and so the gap from lunchtime to party time was longer than usual.  i was so tempted to eat, especially when i was preparing supper for everyone else, and making the party treats on top of that.  but i wanted to truly pour out - pour out.  so i prayed, and prayed again, for my sunday school class, and for others too.  

this verse of poetry was weaving through my thoughts -

measure thy life by loss and not by gain; 
not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth. 
for love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice, 
and he that suffereth most hath most to give.
-hugo bassi

so today, thinking about that phrase the wine poured forth, i turned to john 2 to read about Jesus' first recorded miracle.  it's always struck me as such a funny one to include - but today i got it.

it's a picture of him.  he was telling his own story in his own medium - miracles.

there are these pots - six big stone pots, ready to be filled with water for purification.  and Jesus tells the servants to fill them with water.  like they do every day. this ordinary rite, this ordinary task, this ordinary life.

but when it was poured out, it was no longer water.
poured out.

Jesus was poured out for us.  not merely a humble carpenter's son, no; his earthen vessel contained heaven's glory.  his pouring out for our joy.  his pouring out of himself, sweet blessing and sacrifice.

the wine was poured out at a wedding - a marriage feast.  for love.
he poured his life out in love.  crazy, hungry, absolute love.

measure thy life by loss and not by gain; 
not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth. 
for love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice, 
and he that suffereth most hath most to give.

Jesus' life was this fast that He chose - this fast of pouring out, this fast of blessing and love and joy.

oh, i'm so glad i worship this God!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

my own flesh

i'm studying fasting this week, inspired by lent (although lent-fasting isn't something i've done).  it's been a while since i fasted as a regular practice, and i am hungry to remind myself of it, that discipline of joy and submission of heart.

isaiah 58:6-7 is God's impassioned question to us on the subject.
 
Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, 
and to break every yoke? 
 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

the part that slices into me from these verses is that last phrase - your own flesh.  

we think of it as the direct genetic tie, don't we?  sam is my son, adopted, and vava is my daughter, biologically - my own flesh.

but God carries it differently.
all of humanity - your own flesh.

and it's easy and instinctive, ever since that first hiding in the garden, to hide ourselves. 

i find myself walking past homeless people, hiding my eyes, in spite of this verse and this Saviour who feeds the hungry and says 'do likewise.'  i tell myself they don't want me to see their shame but there is no shame in needing - the only shame is mine for choosing eyes that will not see and ears that will not hear and a heart that will not love my own flesh.

God's fasting isn't a meagre thing of self-denial and subsequent pride.  no - Jesus mocked that kind of fasting.

His fasting is a pouring-out, a self-denial in order to bless, a fasting that holds fast to our own flesh.  it's the kind of fasting that ties together the hungry and the full, that gathers the homeless around a table, wraps warm around those who shiver from the cold and cold shoulders.

it's a fasting that reaches out, that whispers "my own flesh" to the stranger and passes him my own full plate.  a fast that has nothing at all to do with shame or pride, a fast that has everything to do with love.

is not this the fast that i choose?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

sheldon win

yesterday we were eating supper with the kids and sheldon, and one of his friends came to the door.  we invited him in to join us, and he looked a little hesitant before he said "our friend's outside."  we invited him in too, and they both sat down to supper.

they were really nice - both of them chattier than sheldon, not that that's saying much - and we had fun getting to know them.  one of them had stayed for supper before, but the other we hadn't met.  

later, we were getting an impromptu dessert from the kitchen when i overheard the low conversation in the dining room.

"you're lucky, man," one friend said, "this is a really open home."

"yeah, it was so nice of them to invite us for supper.  it's not like that where i stay."

"yeah, i guess so."  (coming from our close-lipped sheldon, high praise indeed!  we keep looking for ways to show him we love him but his responses are few ... so this was pretty special.)

and a few minutes later the conversation switched to a topic that made me so grateful that God placed sheldon in our home.

'i heard your dad was in town and didn't even tell you, shelly,' his friend said.

'yeah.  my cousin told me.'

'you're the only one who calls him dad now, eh?'

'me and my sister.  'cause we weren't there when he walked out.'

!

beyond the fact that i was thrilled over his opening up - this was the first personal stuff he'd shared with us - my heart hurt so much at the thought of sheldon growing up with (out) a dad who would walk out on his wife 6 kids.

there is no better dad in the world than patrick.  he adores sam and vava with his whole heart, and serves and loves them joyfully and sacrificially.  every night, he comes home and spends every moment playing with and caring for them until bedtime.  he crashes cars with sam and snuggles vava.  he prompts sam to remember his manners and gives him a bath.  he reads them bible stories and sings and prays for them before tucking them in.  and then together we put the shambled house back in order :).

so maybe, in a little way, sheldon is getting familiar with the rhythm of a family that beats with a strong father-heart, and his own fathering someday might reflect that.

he couldn't have been placed with a better example.

Monday, February 11, 2013

determination

whew.
just watched here comes the boom.

movies like that - where people really put their guts into something they believe in, strive against obstacles, and persist in a glorious montage with a triumphant soundtrack - make me so hungry to do something big.

but in this movie, the main character didn't set out to do something big.  just something ordinary.  and he decided not to give up.  he kept going.  with

determination.
focus.
persistence.
presence.

all these feisty qualities that i don't think i've ever embodied.

sam - my spunky, adorable, strong son - has them in spades.  and every day he practices them.

and i have this friend - i'm completely jealous of her life.  not because she's got fabulous good looks, a wonderful family, and a super-cool job - but because she seems to have this focus and drive and intensity of spirit (and Spirit) that i'm hungry for.

i think it's time for a determination boot camp.
this week i'm giving myself some goals.
and i'm going to practice living with a little determination and a lot of persistence and focus and presence.

i'm tired of the mindless shilly-shallying i've sunk into.

(and this is a good week to practice, because my parents-in-law are coming to help us renovate our basement, and there's a lot to be done before they get here.)

this week i'm going to kill the disorganization in this house.

concrete goals, before thursday:
-kitchen cupboards, sorted and reorganized completely
-sam and vava's closet, sorted and reorganized completely
-broken vanity drawer, emptied and readied for removal
-no facebook before 8pm
-going to the gym at least 3 mornings
-putting word stickers up in sam's room and living room
-hang africa pictures
-sort random basement things onto shelves in back room

well.  that's my challenge to me.
here comes the boom!

ps - if anyone has a great cleaning song/soundtrack, email me your suggestions at janellevivian@gmail.com ... i'll be working on my montage ;)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

refocus

a few housebound weeks of infant teething, transitioning a toddler from a crib to a bed, failed attempts at potty training, and some other hard stuff can definitely knock this mama's train off the rails.

i found myself acting as if my kids were the enemy, and sleep was my goal.  bright, hopeful january had degenerated into a sludgey trudge through a whole bunch of muck at midnight without a map.  can i paint it any gloomier?  you get the idea.

last night i finally realized that was how i'd been seeing the kids.  enemies!?  ack!  oh, for shame!  hardly! 

so i sat down with my pen and my bible and i made a list of what i thought a good mom, a holy mom, looks like.

  • praying for my kids
  • being led by the Spirit through the day
  • not losing my temper
  • praising God with them
  • being an honest example
  • deliberately filling them with good things
  • cheering them for good choices
  • teaching them to lean on God
  • seeking their good above my own

the list went on, but you get the idea.  i stopped and looked it over and i cried when i realized i could only check off one of those things yesterday.

i decided it was time to make a mamafesto, a concise statement that summed up my mothering goals, so i could post it prominently and refer to it frequently.

this was what i came up with.  it's not particularly specific, but when i weigh my choices against it throughout the day, i hope it guides me into being a holy mom.


xo.