Lord, make us truly thankful all your blessings,
and bless those who sip tea with me today.
Sometimes we just gotta’ wake up and count our blessings. Widen our focus. Put on some music and dance. Each day is a gift. Even the hard ones.
When we “count our blessings”, we shift the focus from our circumstances or the 4 walls of our minds. It helps us appreciate what have, or who we have, in our lives. It encourages us to say “thank you”, thereby spreading the blessing. Renewed gratitude renews relationship, even the one you have with your own soul.
Like a conversation with someone else, we are forced to rethink our perceptions, talk through what is holding us back, or holding us down. We can see where we have been and where we are going, and where we are growing. If we don’t like the direction, we can start to make choices to change it.
This life could almost kill ya’ when you’re trying to survive
When all your energy goes into just surviving, ask God to show you the blessings in your life. Share the pain, the guilt or whatever it is that is threatening to overwhelm you. He can handle it. He can handle your anger, your disappointment, and your sorrow. He can fill your loneliness, restore your peace, and strengthen your resolve.
Each day is a new beginning, a little resurrection. A chance to start over. A reason to find joy.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” –Elizabeth Stone
Someday you will understand. Someday, you will, I hope, be a parent too, and you will understand how much your children shape and reshape you. You will experience the pain and the joy that comes from giving your heart away. You will examine your character, your relationships, and your decisions through new eyes. You will see life through the eyes of a child, and your soul will thrill to see beauty and innocence again. It is an indescribable adventure and a lifelong journey. I am privileged to share it with you.
I wanted to be a “good” and “fun” and “perfect” Mom…the kind who baked cookies and milk, who never lost her temper, who always took time to listen. I wanted to roll out of bed in the morning with a song on my lips. I wanted to be the one to wipe away your tears, and chase away your fears. To be your greatest cheerleader. To never miss celebrating a special moment. I wanted to be Mrs. Cleaver…able to gracefully solve any problem in half an hour or less. I wanted to be a “good” and “perfect” Mom…
Instead, you got a real Mom…I baked cookies (that were often burned or funny looking) and bandaged boo-boos. I tried to pay attention and never turn you away, even in the middle of the night. But I know I didn’t always do it gracefully. I didn’t always keep my temper, or put my “listening ears” on. I failed in many ways, and you will too. Humble yourself before your children when you need to – they love you any way. Treat each day as a new beginning.
Sing loudly even when you don’t know the words…make up your own. It doesn’t matter if they’re super silly or they don’t rhyme. Words like “poop” will always get a laugh. Pick dandelions. Blow bubbles. Make faces. Play. (actually that’s good advice even when you don’t have kids…)
I hope that I have given you some happy memories – things like snuggling on the couch, rescuing worms on rainy days, arts & crafts, and bedtime stories. Savour these little moments – you are giving the gift of time. Children never remember the “big” moments, the ones that adults think are important. Plan “big” moments any way!
Pray without ceasing. It is the only way that you will begin to have the strength, patience, and wisdom you will need for each day, from diapers to driving lessons, and everything in between and beyond. It is one of the most important things you can do for them, and for you!
There are many memories that I treasure in my heart. To Big Guy: “I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be”. To Little Guy: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…” You guys are the biggest part of my “story” – some day I’ll tell you more. Love ya’
“I don’t know if you know that”, my friend whispered in my ear as we embraced. And then she whispered what I didn’t know. Her words of encouragement and affirmation poured into my soul like a gentle rain in a dry and dusty place, and I felt refreshed.
How quick we are to speak words of judgment and criticism over another. We destroy others with ease, but are so slow to build up, if we even bother to take the time.
We bless people and we curse them by the way we speak to them or treat them. Sometimes we use words.
We can curse someone with a raised eyebrow or an eye-roll. We can curse someone with a shrugged shoulder, or that slight delay before replying, “Of course I love you.” The more comfortable we are with someone, the more subtly and cruelly we can curse them. And sometimes we take great delight in it.
Dallas Willard says that the reason we are all so sensitive is because our souls were made to be blessed; we can’t survive without them. But blessing someone, by pausing to listen, smiling or offering a kind word requires time and effort. When did we become too important to make it?
Sometimes we have to grab on to someone to get them to hold still long enough to receive it. And receiving a blessing can be as much an art as giving one.
My friend and her family are moving away. She has been such a blessing to me over the past 5 years (I mean, we ran in Mud Hero together – is there any better way to bond?) We have gone shopping and shared gluten-free goodies together. We have laughed from our toes and cried together with broken hearts. She is a gift!
Yesterday, she grabbed me and held me long enough to receive her blessing. Her few words from her heart to mine, things I didn’t know, was a benediction, and I will be forever thankful for it.
Do me a favour? Take time this week to speak a blessing over someone else. Tell them how they encourage you or share a special memory you have of them, with them. It can be a passing comment or a heart-to-heart sob-fest. Humour permitted! Happy Monday!
One man’s overlooked blessing is another man’s treasure.
Friday night, I was frustrated, exhausted and late. My car was filled with boxes and bins; my legs were sore from multiple trips up and down the stairs. Two minutes after leaving home, I hit a in a traffic jam. A bus had broken down 5 car lengths from where a lane ended. I growled as we crawled along, particularly at the red Toyota ahead of me. When the 12th car cut the line, I wailed, but when I quit wailing, the toy ambulance in the backseat was still wailing. And it wailed every time I turned a corner or hit a bump…for a total of 14 times on what should have been a 20 minute car ride. ‘Twas the night before the annual yard sale at the church to raise money for our ministry to the homeless.
By the time I arrived, busy volunteers were shiny with sweat. The entire basement was filled with books, trinkets and furniture from eras gone by, mostly eras that involved a lot of brown and orange floral prints. I made my multiple trips down the stairs to set up my own table of crap treasures in the gym, as well as the 4 dozen cookies I baked for a bake table. Yes, with my track record of burnt offerings, I baked…after work…two nights in a row. Talk about exercising faith!
I went home and spent time on my knees – blending ingredients for gluten free chocolate cupcakes for Big Guy’s friend. This is how much I love my son!
“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde
We woke to a beautiful sunny and muggy day. People were questioning the decision of the organizers to hold the sale inside. But the organizers became smug “prophets” in the afternoon, declaring in a loud voice, “It’s starting to rain. If the windows in your cars are open, you’re going to get wet”! No sooner had he delivered his message, than the heavens opened; torrential rains and furious winds swept over the earth. We lost all visibility out the gym windows…and thus, I remembered that I was parked at the back of the lot and my windows were indeed cracked open.
Overall, it was a good day. I met some neighbours and chatted with friends. I made $44 (before expenses and purchases) and I went home without the wailing toy ambulance. It’s now living with our youth pastor’s son – may it bless their household for many years to come! This vendor purchased a new bracelet, a frivolous summer vacation read, and some hot footwear! I’m happy to report that all the cookies were sold and no one complained on Sunday morning that this baker had tried to “poison” them. My car was dry this morning and the boxes of unsold crap treasures are piled in the hall. Best of all, we raised over $1,000, which will be used to feed and clothe a number of people this year, in Jesus’ name. That is a greater treasure.
I didn’t make it to the store, Bed, Bath & Beyond, but I made a valiant effort. I nearly put myself in traction scrubbing down the tub and tiles on Saturday in an outlandish burst of energy. As I scoured, I let my thoughts wind down the garden path to what my bathroom would look like were we to be blessed with the money to do it. For example, the sea foam green bathtub from 1959 would be replaced with white, and the salmon and sea foam green tiles would be replaced with white or gray, or aqua subway tiles… But since we aren’t blessed right now, I decided that perhaps it was time to invest in a new shower curtain. We have had the current “fish” curtain for over 15 years.
Hence the trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond…or the attempted trip.
As I turned the corner on the green light, having successfully resisted the urge to beep my horn at the person snoozing in front of me, my car made a horrible sound like the clutch slipping out of gear, followed by a futile attempt to accelerate, much to the annoyance of the person behind me…I made it to the dealership and they were able to take my car in right away. They were also able to set me up with a rental car in the interim. O happy day!
It wasn’t until later in the afternoon, with the smell of chicken roasting in the oven and as I was stirring 3 mugs of hot chocolate (with marshmallows – you have to have marshmallows), that I caught myself smiling. My car had broken down, but I was able to limp to the dealership, borrow a car, and return it for my own by 5 p.m. Big Guy has been staying with us for nearly a month for work, and we have enjoyed a windfall of laughter and games together. At that very moment, the boys were brushing off snowballs from their clothing on the front porch after constructing a snow fort in the front yard.
I didn’t make it to the store, Bed, Bath & Beyond, despite my best intentions. But yesteday I received many other “bed, bath & beyond” blessings…and hot chocolate…and marshmallows.
(Bonus: My bathroom is still ugly but it is also sparkling clean!) 😉
Little Guy’s name means “Gift from God”. Today our gift turns 8! I’ve shared once before about waiting for Little Guy because it’s an intensely personal story and I am an ineloquent writer…but let me try again.
In 2003, my husband and I decided to have a baby. We had been married 7 years and there were many times over those 7 years that I wondered if we would ever both be at that place. Before trying to conceive, I asked God “to close my womb” if it was not the right thing for us, or not the right time for us. I wanted God’s will to be done in my life. I don’t know what prompted me to pray this way…but God answered, and as the months passed into years, the disappointment, the obsession, the sense of failure, and all my questions grew. I struggled with shame, guilt and an overwhelming sense of “failure”. It seemed there were pregnant women everywhere I went. I dreamed about babies. I remember having a dream so vivid, that when I woke up I could still feel a baby in my arms. Other areas in my life started to fall apart as well. I felt like I was in a dark hole with no escape. I was drowning and there didn’t seem to be anyone close by, not even God. I cried, I begged, and I raged. I tried to ignore God; sometimes I simply sat with Him because I had no more words. There were days when it hurt just to breathe. I still wanted His will and I acknowledged that even in my current anguish, He could be sparing me more suffering if He answered my prayer and it was not His best for me.
In 1 Timothy 1:19 Paul wrote to Timothy “I give you this instruction…so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” I knew had to choose – keep swimming by looking to God and living faithfully, or let my faith be shipwrecked. If I let my faith be shipwrecked, where else would I go?
Eventually we were referred to a fertility specialist who ran some tests. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months. It is estimated that 1 in 6 couples will experience infertility. I already knew there was no physical reason we couldn’t have a baby. We elected to try the least invasive treatment, but if it didn’t help in 3 months, it wasn’t going to work. During that second month, I re-read the story of Hannah. Tthat Friday morning, I prayed and I sobbed (as I had done before more times that I can count), but when I finished, I felt for the first time in a long time that I could take a deep breath. God was rescuing me from the pit – I wasn’t going to drown. I felt hope, peace, and joy. God had another plan for me, a better plan for me. I could truly say that I had surrendered to Him. I thought I had surrendered before, but this was different. I was free.
The next day, I told Hubby that I was willing to stop trying for a baby if nothing happened after this treatment. And I asked him to be patient with me because I would need time to grieve the loss of this dream. 5 days after that conversation, I found out I was pregnant. God blessed me in 2 ways. Yes, he gave me Little Guy. But more importantly He gave me Himself. Yes, my circumstances changed, but more importantly God changed me in a profound way.
But God has shown me that the dream to be fruitful can represent a deeper desire to to invest ourselves in something that matters. God does not allow surrendered hearts to continue to long for things He will not ultimately grant in one way or another. Until we have surrendered our hopes and dreams, we have little way of knowing what would fulfill us.
I had a hard time getting pregnant after Little Guy, and when I did, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated by that loss and the loss of that dream. I’m middle-aged – I won’t be bearing any more children. But I am trusting God to fill that desire for more “family”. Isaiah 54: 1-4 says “Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby. Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth! You’re ending up with far more children than all those childbearing women.” God says so! Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big! Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep. You’re going to need lots of elbow room for your growing family”. (The Message*) There are still opportunities in my family, my church, and my community to bear “spiritual offspring”. I love that God thinks outside the box!
Happy Birthday Little Guy. You are such a blessing! You give me so much to celebrate every day!
We can all recall at least one gift that made an indelible imprint our memory. Our pastor was talking about this on Sunday, and one of his memories was a special race track (and the hours he spent racing his Dad). Nearly every year, for the past 20+ years, I have whispered in Big Guy’s ear – “you are my best Christmas present”.
I was barely 16 when I found out I was pregnant. As you can imagine, it was not quite the joyous occasion that the announcement of an impending child brings. My parents and I received lots of advice and suggestions, most of it not really all that helpful.
From the moment I heard that I was pregnant, I began to ask God to show me what His will was for this life I was carrying. Would I raise him or her, or would it be better to relinquish him or her to another family? And I waited, and prayed, and explored my options, and continued with my studies…and I waited. By Christmas, time was of the essence. My baby was due February 4th, and a decision needed to be made. And I waited…until Christmas morning.
We were sitting around the tree, bundled up because the furnace had quit in the night, opening our Christmas presents. My brother was home from university, and he had given me 2 gifts. That seemed strange. I opened the smaller gift first – and it was a cassette tape of lullabies. He told me that he had been in the Christian bookstore and he really felt he should get it for me. And I knew. I knew that I was meant to keep my child. I knew that whatever the future held, God had spoken to me and He would support me through it. I knew with a certainty that has never wavered…not when Big Guy had surgery (twice…both times during my college exams and I lived at the hospital for weeks and studied in the middle of the night in a ward full of restless children), not when he broke my heart by calling my Dad “papa-dad” because he knew he should have a dad, not when we moved to the Big City and my parents were so far away.
I didn’t have to wait long after that morning…I went into labour exactly one month later! Life as a single parent was tough! I wouldn’t change a single moment of it. Big Guy was my best Christmas present and I’ll be sure to whisper it in his ear again this year.
p.s. My cabbage patch doll is a close second…and my Xbox and Guitar Hero games and controllers…that was pretty cool too…
I started the morning by irritating Little Guy by singing loudly: “Seven years old, seven years old, Mama’s little birthday boy is seven years old. Growing like a tall tree, good as gold, Mama’s little birthday boy is seven years old”. My mother sang this to me on my birthday and I’ve carried on the tradition with both of my boys!
Seven years ago today, I finally held my baby boy. It had been a long journey Waiting for Little Guy. I had waited, and prayed, and wrestled with God, and God has blessed me, not only with more of Himself, but also with this beautiful red head!
It was fun to reminisce…My last meal before he was born was a Wendy’s Big Bacon Classic meal. I had called my Mom around 11:00 p.m. to say that this baby was coming (for sure, this time!) and then I stayed up and waited for her. I filled the time by ironing…and watching porn. Don’t get the wrong idea – 1) it was 1:00 a.m. and there wasn’t much on TV; and, 2) I was curious. There really is no plotline!
Mom arrived around 2:00 a.m. and we curled up on the couch and shared a pot of tea. I woke Hubby around 4:30 to say it was time to head out. My Mom waved from the front window. It was snowing lightly and we passed one car in the ditch on the way to the hospital. We had our priorities though…we stopped at Tim Horton’s first so Hubby could get his morning coffee!
This was Hubby’s first baby, so it was good that we had lots of time to wander around the hospital before things got serious. We were lined up at a coffee kiosk to get some breakfast when the first serious pain hit, and I hit the floor. Once it was passed, I could laugh at the 3 guys in line ahead of us, who were staring at us, mouths agape…they were probably worried that they would be called upon to deliver this baby. Poor guys!
Hubby lightened the mood (for awhile) with frequent thumbs-up and telling me “you’re doing great” (just like Eddie Murphy in the movie Bowfinger. Eddie plays a nerd filming a scene with Heather Graham, where she takes off her shirt. He’s shy and doesn’t quite know what to say). Several hours later, I was holding my 8.5 lb beauty, and life has never been quite the same!
Happy Birthday Little Guy!
“Dolce far niente” means “idleness” in Italian (or so google translate tells me) – the sweetness of doing nothing. Instead of a “manic Monday”, I spent a large part of it with Big Guy, not doing much of anything. And it was sweet. We watched 2 movies – one was funny and one was scary – snacking on pop and chips! So often when Big Guy visits, he is just stopping by on his way somewhere else, and while that’s ok (I’m glad he has friends and a “life”), we don’t get the longer periods of time when it’s just the two of us. Sometimes I miss just hanging out…the sweetness of doing nothing! After all, for the first few years of his life, it felt like it was the “two of us against the world”. I was a single Mom with a lot of family support, but I still felt the responsibility.
Anyway, it was sweet but the time passed too quickly. Big Guy headed back to his apartment and I headed to the school…where I had a good cry. Can’t be helped! There’s another great expression – “Home is where your heart is” but I find these days, my heart is in many homes. It’s in my parents’ home, missing some of those happy times and knowing that everything is changing, and I’m not there to be a support in return. It is in my home, loving and supporting Hubby and Little Guy. And a part of it has moved out to another city. Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”. It may be part of the stage I’m at, part of midlife, but it can still hurt sometimes.
Anyway, my goal today is to not be idle! I appreciated the rest and the laughter, but my house won’t clean itself. I have class material to prepare, music to plan, and life to be lived. And with any luck, I will be free to enjoy some dolce far niente this evening.
"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." —Laurie Buchanan
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