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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

I've been thinking about loneliness lately.
The worst thing about loneliness isn't the aloneness. It's the idea that there is no one in this world that thinks enough of you to take the time to connect with you.
 There are different reasons for loneliness. The first reason is isolation caused by a person's circumstances. A person may be lonely because they are physically, mentally or emotionally unable to reach out. Seniors, the disabled, the mentally ill and even young stay-at-home mothers of multiple children fall into this category.
There are lonely people who, because of circumstances,  have become bitter depressives who repel people.
Then there are those who are physically isolated because they live in remote areas.
But last I think that there is a newer breed of lonely people. This last breed is a product of our culture. They are those who choose to be alone. They are the busy people of this world. Most of us these days have fallen into this category at one time or another. Our modern society makes it easy to be alone. One no longer needs to leave the comfort of their home to; pay bills, check out, request or renew books from a library, gain access to newspaper and magazine articles, shop, go to school or even socialize.
When my kids were small I fell into the first category. There were times, during flu season, where I hardly left the house for months at a time. I don't know how I would've made it through if it weren't for those women whose children were no longer wrapped around their ankles who came to my rescue. I had several friends who would visit, sit, have a cup of tea. There was one woman who used to come  and chat while we folded laundry. There was always a mountain of laundry..
I no longer fall into this category and yet there are times when I  feel lonely. Over the past year or so I've backed out of commitments at church because I've been busy.  Recently I woke up to discover that I was lonely.  I began to think about how I'd come to this place, to ponder the Bible verse in Genesis where God states "it is not good for man to be alone." In the garden man had a relationship with God with no barriers; yet God saw the need for a companion for Adam. God created Eve out of Adam's rib. He could have scooped up a handful of clay, formed it in the shape of a woman and breathed life into it but he didn't. I believe that God wanted there to be a deep connection between Adam and his companion. Since that time every human being has started life connected physically to another human being. We are not meant to be alone, we are meant to have deep connections with others.
This Sunday our pastor preached from 1st Corinthians 12:12-26, about community.  (The passage where Paul compares the Church to the human body.) The sermon was one of the best that I've ever heard on this passage. It spoke to me personally because God had been talking to me about this already. Fred's final points were on how to experience community. He said first of all; one needs "to show up"; secondly participate in the community; one should share, tell their story; stay and spend time with others; and lastly don't give up. Community is not necessarily an easy thing to deal with sometimes people get on our nerves or offend us. It is important for me to remember that sometimes I get on people nerves or offend. Lots of grace is required in order to have community.
This week I've decided to do something about my lonely state. I've decided to get out, show up, participate, spend some time getting to know others.
But what about those in and outside my community who might be lonely but don't have the capacity to do anything about it. This is something I know I need to work on; seeing the loneliness and doing something about it. 

The Moment

Small children have a gift. It is the gift of living in the moment. When I was a child the first snowfall thrilled me, it was magical. It was like I had never seen snow before.  I used to marvel at my children's ability to take joy in the smallest things or be absolutely engrossed in things that most adults wouldn't even notice. I remember Pieter as a three year old crouching down to examine a dead frog in the road. A bit gross for most people but absolutely fascinating to a three year old. He used to take things apart, to see how they went together. He didn't worry about getting them back together. Luke would to wake up singing and dancing, no thought about where his meals were coming from or what his future would be. Luke,  at twenty, still lives in the moment more than any other person I know. He loves to create, sing, play music and philosophize but even he worries at times about the future. Watching my children grow and discover the world was a joy. I remember Anna following our dog Bashful around and taking such pleasure in the way she wagged her tale. I loved how determined she was to ride a bike, she persevered like there was nothing more important in the world. Tina was another one that would sing, dance, twirl completely free from worldly constraints.
When Grace was about a year old, I was facing some issues within myself that were overwhelmingly painful. One spring day she and I were out in the garden. I was hanging laundry and she was sitting on the grass near me. I noticed that she was totally oblivious to what I was doing. She was looking around herself in wonderment. Lost in the moment. I wrote this about it:


My baby sits in the garden

The grass curls around her legs

as if she is born of the earth.

a sunny flower.

She waves at a bumble bee

and strokes the grass with

her soft hand.

I pick her up and hold her,

her heart close to mine,

perhaps to share in that 

deep, wide unsuspecting innocence.

She doesn't know the brown grass of summer

or the bee's sting

and when she's close

I forget.

Every once in awhile we forget ourselves and become totally lost in the moment. Sometimes sitting beside a lake early in the morning,with the mist rising off the water  we glory in the dawn. We stop thinking, we just are. In church when a great piece of music is played we close our eyes and soar far above the earth. In the spring we go for a walk and breath deeply of the fresh smell of earth and plant life. We are caught up in the green newness of the world.  In prayer we are transported from the here and now and are engulfed in the ecstasy of the Lord's presence. Every time these things happen it is because I have forgotten myself and am more aware of God's kingdom. Life, as we grow, grows busy, we become weighted down with doubts, self-consciousness and worry. We have experienced pain and at times old wounds seem fresh. I have learned that at those times it is important to stop, look outside myself, run to the one who created us and wants us to live with him always. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear" 1 John 4:8 "How great is the love the Father has given us so freely! Now we can be called children of God." 1 John 3:1
Anna and Bashful

Sunday, 22 January 2012


 I love to read.  My parents were and are avid readers. They introduced us to books at a young age. But the thing that made us into readers was their example.

I read mostly fiction but I think the reason I read is to understand people, the world around me and at times to uplift my spirit.  To me the best books are honest books. Books that are written with a love of the craft and not just for profit. This is true of all forms of art. I don't have to necessarily agree with the characters' points of view if what is being said is genuine.

 I have favourite authors and books. There are books that I reread every few years. David Copperfield, Little women, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are some of my favourite rereads. Of all the books that I have read multiple times the one I reach for most often is the Chronicles of Narnia.

Every two or three years I pick up the Chronicles of Narnia and dive head first into that world.  I need to visit that place once again. I love that a lamp post hurled in evil rage from our world into Narnia plants itself and continues to shine for eons there. I love how Aslan creates his world with song. I can hear the music as it emerges from his being, causing stars to twinkle and the sun to rise for the first time. I revel in it as it rolls and swells and hills, valleys and plains are formed. I thrill as the song trills and flows and streams, ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans appear. I love the idea that a good and blameless king will pay a price for a crime he did not commit. It moves me that people who are weak and selfish come to see their weaknesses after they come face to face with Aslan and are changed. That children can be heroes and grow to become fair princes and princesses and noble Kings and Queens who rescue others. In Narnia the wicked hatch schemes to deceive but in the end their falsehoods are revealed and their plans to do evil are thwarted.

After reading CS Lewis' books I am infused with hope again. I can see our world in a different light. I see that there is evil and tragedy, but also light and love displayed in the face of adversity. I can see what is noble and think on those things. I am challenged to look beyond myself to others. To see promise in those around me.  To forgive as I have been forgiven and to bless others as I have been blessed.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

They grow up.

My youngest child left home this year to go to the University of Waterloo for the honours Math program.
Every one of my children has taught me something and one of the things that this child taught me was, don't get hung up on what others think be who you are and want to be .
When Grace was very little I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. I was thinking she would say something like teacher, police woman maybe even princess. My little girl looked at me and said "I want to be a dragon!" I was a little taken back by this and so said "but what are you going to do?" Grace looked at me as though I didn't really understand the way things worked and said, "I'm going to Breath Fire!" Grace took my question at face value; what do you want to be, not what career do you see yourself having. She let her imagination go and ending up flying and breathing fire. She did not let the constraints of this world hold her down.
Around the same time she started to refuse to wear dresses. You can't do somersaults and hang upside down on the monkey bars in a dress. Throughout grade school she had her own sense of style, it had nothing to do with what was cool or pretty. It was all about comfort and what made her feel good. She hung out more with the boys for a long time because "all the girls wanted to do was talk about boring stuff". If a child was catty or mean to Grace she would just move on, why waste time on that kind of thing. Good lesson.
Grace has always had a quirky sense of humour. Her grade 2 teacher told me that one day the back of Grace's chair came off as she tried to pull it out from under her desk. Grace laughed and laughed at that. (Sometimes you just have to laugh at little mishaps.)
When Grace started High School she met what Anne Shirley would have called "a kindred spirit" in a boy named Geoffrey. Grace and Geoffrey hit it off really quickly. It wasn't long before teachers were mentioning their friendship to me. Geoffrey was also someone who didn't take others opinion of himself too seriously. He had a quirky sense of humour and his own sense of style. I started to hear his name daily from Grace. She was really happy with this friendship. I would say that grade nine was the happiest school year that Grace had ever had. That summer Geoffrey got sick, was admitted to Sick Kids in T.O. and then passed away. Grace, who was always quiet got quieter, she clung to her father, she slept a lot. It was the hardest thing I've ever gone through with one of my children, her sorrow was mine. After  a while Grace came to us and told us she needed to do something and she had decided to shave her head, donate the hair to make wigs and raise money for Cancer research but she wanted some help. Pete called the Canadian Cancer Society and got the sponsor sheets and other items needed for such a campaign. Grace worked tirelessly to raise the money. She canvassed the neighbourhood, the school and she spent two weekends at the local grocery store. Our community was amazing and in the end Grace raised over $8,000. The people at the cancer society told us that was the most that anyone had ever raised with a head shaving campaign. It didn't change the fact that Geoffrey was gone, or that those who loved him missed him and always would. It spoke volumes about one boy's impact on the people around him.
My girl is off at school doing one of the things she loves, Math. I don't really get it. I have always been a words person, but my girl loves numbers and what you can do with them. In high school she started a comic called Doctor Math. It became a tradition of hers to draw a Doctor Math comic at the end of all her math tests and assignments She has carried that tradition on into first year university. I can appreciate them but admit that I  don't get them. My daughter has grown and she has a life all her own.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

He weeps.

People suffer. I don't understand why and all the standard answers just don't cut it. There are times when my heart feels like it has taken over my whole being and is drenched in tears. At those times all I know to do is to pray and remind myself that Jesus wept, he sweated blood, he cried out "my God, my God why have you forsaken me!"

When Paul, my brother, was 25 he committed suicide. My whole being was transported to a foggy and oppressive place.  All I knew at that time was that God is there and he is good. It was in the core of me this knowledge. It was the light that came to me through the fog. I couldn't say that God caused Paul's suffering and death for a higher purpose, I didn't believe it then, I don't believe it now. But I know that Jesus wept.

My brother David died suddenly when he was 43. After I broke the news to my children I went and sat alone. I was struck once again. After a short time Grace, who was 6 at the time, came in and sat beside me and held my hand. We sat quietly like that for a little while and then she said "you know, if one of my brothers died I would be really, really sad."  Then we sat quietly again for awhile.

When Grace was in grade 10 one of her best friends, Geoffrey, died of cancer. Grace was in that place of fog and oppression. My heart wept. I wanted to pull my girl out of that dim place. If I could have  I would have taken her place, but all I could do was hold her and pray and I knew that Jesus wept. I watched Geoffrey's parents go through what must be the hardest sorrow for a parent. My heart wept and I prayed and I knew that Jesus wept too.

I don't know why there is sorrow and suffering. I do know that God is there, God is good and at those times he holds us in his arms and weeps with us.