Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Art of Regrouping

So its going to be more like 51 Weeks of Giving or maybe 49 or even 46.

We've taken this week off ... no envelope opening, no questions no soul searching. This week we have called a 'hold' on our project. This week, in the midst of prayer lists scribbled on napkins, half finished fruit trees and the general chaos of our life, Mr. Awesome and I decided that we need to circle the wagons and tighten up the reigns ... or some kind of cowboy analogy.

These last couple of weeks have been particularly full of commitments and opportunities and while we've been busy committing and opportuning things have gone a little mental in This Random House.  Some things, important things (like hygiene and nourishment) have slipped trough the cracks. Our house looks like a hoarder's paradise and my book as been sorrowfully neglected. Its hard to have a home of peace when everything is in chaos.

So we stopped. Everything. Well, almost everything. We are still following through with our commitments but we've cut out all of the extra running around, the added stress of lessons and clubs, the rush of the school-activity-dinner-activity-bed circuit we often run. We are being still ... and getting organized.

This morning, I took the kids to school and came home. I didn't run errands, meet a friend for coffee or go prep for one of the commitments on my calendar. I came home and before I even allowed myself one sip of The Precious, I completed three tasks off my Massive To Do list. When I crossed them off the list I did two more, just for kicks.

Picking up the dirty socks from the front entry or vacuuming the dog hair off the couch isn't going to change The World but it will change my world. Most of the time I get so focused on The Big Picture, on volunteering, advocating and planning for the future that I gloss right over the here and the now. I forget the importance of towels in the bathroom, of clean underwear in dressers and milk in the fridge. I get so focused on growing character that I lose sight of the fact that my kids are growing up. Too fast.

Life will return to our normal soon enough. Lessons and clubs will go on and I will be back to my regular schedule of mayhem but it will be balanced with the things my family needs me to do. Recently, I heard a very wise woman, an international speaker and a mom to three boys say, "It would be a real shame if while I'm out planting in your garden, foxes were running loose in mine." So true. What is the point of all of the things I do in the community for my kids if I am not taking care of them at home? Who cares if I show up for recitals and school meetings if I am not present with them in our own house?

So, we are regrouping. We are cleaning, sorting, organizing. We are resting, laughing, being. We are together. We Are.

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.  Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.  ~Paul Pearshall

Friday, January 25, 2013

Talking Soup

Elbert Hubbard, an American writer, is quoted as saying, "A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you." How true is that?  Am I the only one who cleans my house in degrees based on who's coming over? If its a new acquaintance then I do a full clean, if its a casual friend then I do a quick tidy, if its one of my very closest pals they're lucky if I brush the dog hair off the couch!

Today I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with a few friends, making soup and chatting it up for a local radio station. Apparently, January is soup month and I was asked to invite a couple of gal pals to our church kitchen to hang out and cook soup. The radio host is an acquaintance and when she asked I said yes with out really thinking. 

As the day approached, The Big Soup Day, I started to get a little nervous. I'm not much of a cook and the soups I make generally consist of canned and frozen items being tossed into my crockpot; nothing fancy, that's for sure. I contemplated looking for a really nice 'from scratch' recipe, something that would qualify as a proper soup but I just couldn't do it.

I had to keep it real.

A few months ago, I started meeting with some fabulous ladies in our community. We ,set once a week, watch a teaching podcast by one of several fantastic lady preachers and then we talk. we talk about life and family and faith. We talk for real and we talk about being real. 

I've discovered that the biggest road block to relationships between women is competition, either real or perceived. We all have a desire to show ourselves in the best light; to have the cleanest, nicest house, to have the most polite and well behaved children, to look our best at all times. We want to look like we have it all together.

So when our house is messy, our kids are having a rough day, we didn't have time to put on make up or take a shower we tend to pull away from each other. We don't invite people into our lives, into our homes. We don't want them to see our mess, to see the 'real' us. We are afraid that if people saw the real chaos, the real mayhem, the real life, nitty gritty stuff they'll ... what? Not be our friends anymore?


Turn that question around. What if you saw your friend, your neighbour, in moment of 'real' life? What if you saw dishes in their sink, dust bunnies in their corners, their kids melting down? Would you think less of them or would you think, "Phew! They deal with that too!"?

It's about Grace. Friendship. Life. Real life.

So, all that to say ... I kept it real today. I brought my store bought chicken broth, my Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, my frozen vegetables and my crockpot. I dumped my ingredients into the pot and then sat down for some conversation with my pals. After all, life is about the relationships, not the soup.

Keep it real. Real is magnificent!

We are meant for community, for friendship, for sisterhood. We are meant to know each other, to bear each other's burdens, to share each other's joy. We are women. We are meant to be extraordinary.
~Some Random Mother

Monday, January 21, 2013

52 Weeks of Giving: Week 5










About two days into our chaotic week I had an epiphany. Its called 'fruit' of the spirit for a reason. It takes a long time to grow.

You don't plant a seed and have a nice juicy apple the next day. You plant a seed and then you water it and water it and wait and water it some more. Days and days pass without any fruit action. Actually, it looks like nothing is happening for a very long time then one day, out of the blue something breaks through the ground. You have fruit!

No, you don't.  You have a wee sliver of green that looks nothing like the fruit of your dreams. Do you give up? Do you stop watering and caring for this, this thing that isn't even the thing you were hoping for? You could. It would be easy to walk away in a huff because all of your hard work and patience has yielded nothing more than a tiny shock of green.

But you could stick with it. You could keep watering, weeding and waiting. You could keep hoping for more growth, for the fruit you intended to grow to show up. If you did keep tending and waiting what you would see is more growth. Still not the juicy apple you planned on but eventually you would face the undeniable truth that something is growing.

Now to be fair, you will grow old while you water, nourish, protect and strength This Growing Thing but one day, years down the road your tiny shock of green will actually develop into a serious tree. Its not the apple you had hoped for but still, a tree isn't a bad pay off for a years of tending The Growing Thing.

But wait. This tree is flowering! Its a thing of beauty now and that's even better than a regular old tree. What's this? Those flowers have fallen away and now Some Other Growing Thing is on our tree. Its small and green and there's not just one; there's a thousand and one! That Some Other Growing Thing is fruit! Its the fruit of your dreams, except there's not just one little fruit for you, there's a whole tree full of sweet delicious fruit. Enough to share with everyone you meet!

And so it is with kids, my kids at least. I have planted the seeds of what I hope their lives will grow and even though I see no miraculous growth right now, I have to trust with a little watering, a little nourishing, a little protection and time that they will grow. Their lives will be a bounty of every good thing, enough to overflow and share.

With a little time.

With a little patience.

Week Five: Give Love!

Think of someone who is mean or irritating. Add them to your prayer list.

Matthew 5:44
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you.

Let's Chat:

1.Can you think of one or two people that make life rough for you sometimes? How do you feel about them?
2. Why do you think Jesus put so much emphasis on loving people, even people who are unkind?
3.What are some practical ways you can 'do good' to those who are unkind?
4.Ask Jesus to help you see and love these people like He sees them. Ask Him to fill your heart with peace, your words with kindness as you go about your day.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long.
~Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Label Me This

I hate name tags. I cringe every time I show up somewhere and there's name tags involved. I went to a family reunion for Mr. Awesome's family this summer and everyone was required to wear name tags. I almost left.

The disdained for name tags is irrational but most people I know feel the same way. I don't know one person who walks into a conference or meeting and says, "Yay! Name tags! I love wearing name tags!" I'm not sure what the issue is really. Its our name. Its what people call us. Its what distinguishes us from others in a crowd. Its just a name, no big deal, right?

But what if the name we've been called, the thing that distinguishes us from the crowd, the label we wear is negative, hurtful or weak? What if the all the words we wrap ourselves in tell a story of someone who is a failure and a fraud? What if the words that we use to describe ourselves include terms like 'worthless' 'selfish' 'stupid' and 'inadequate'? Worse yet, what if those are the words that other people use to describe us?

When I was about 10 years old I remember going to a book store with my mom. As she browsed around the store, I loitered by the bookmarks. I already had a pretty sizable collection of bookmarks but I was always on the prowl for pretty or witty ones to add to my Super Secret Hiding Place of All Things Mine. While I was looking through the racks filled with cat, rainbow and waterfall bookmarks I came across a whole section of ones with names and their meanings. And there was one with my name on it ... with the correct spelling (I have rouge 'h' in my name that has been the bane of my existence my whole life!). I didn't even take the time to read the meaning ... I snatched up the bookmark, ran to my mom and pleaded with her to buy it for me. And she did.

In the car on the way home I caressed the little bag that held the one item I had ever seen with my right name on it. I couldn't wait to add it to my collection, to show all the Jennifers and Taras that my name really is real. I was finally validated!

Once we got home I made a beeline to my Super Secret Hiding Place of All Things Mine (aka the hall storage closet), pulled my new precious bookmark out of the bag and really read it for the first time.

"Victorious One"


That's what my name meant? Victorious? I knew that victorious was connected to the word victory but just to be sure I pulled my dictionary (yes, I was 10 and I kept my own dictionary in my Super Secret Hiding Place because it was sacred to me ... as sacred as my smelly sticker collection, my mini popple and my favourite giant pen with four different ink colours) out and looked up the word victorious.

Having won a victory, having overcome a struggle or hardship.

My name means 'winner'? But kids at school call me a loser. My cousins call me a crybaby. That teacher says I'm lazy. That grown up says I'm moody. Liar. Weak. Stupid. Fat. Slow. Uncool. Whiny. Selfish. Loser. Loser. Loser.

Something clicked inside me that day. Some truth found my wee heart. The truth that even though people may say mean things about me, they may use negative words to define me, my very name calls me a winner. I'm not saying that insults and rudeness never again affected me, but when those things came my way I reminded myself that the truth of my name IS the truth of my life. I am Victorious.

Wat is the truth about who you are? No, think past the names you've been called, the failures you've experienced and the hurts you bear. Think about the truth of who you are.

You are victorious. You are strong. You are good. You are kind. You have value. You matter.

That's the truth. That's you're name. Precious. Beautiful. Capable. Gifted.


Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

Monday, January 14, 2013

52 Weeks of Giving: Week Four

Three weeks in and we have an 'incomplete.'

I knew we would have one of these weeks; who am I kidding, I knew we'd have more than one of these weeks! I just didn't think we'd have a fail just three weeks in. But we did. This week we failed to plan Dude's friendship party, we failed to give friendship.

Or did we?

We didn't have time to plan a friendship party because we were busy being friends. We had my friends' kids over for super a couple of times, we went out with friends, made cards, went out for coffee, had phone conversations, wrote letters and had playdates.  Our kids invited kids to sit with them at lunch, played with different kids at recess and made new friends at their weekly activities. None of these things were preplanned and non of them were written on my little index cards; they just happened.

In talking about friendship and serving one another our kids began to recognize opportunities to be a friend in their every day life. They followed their hearts and extended kindness without prompting or planning (or interference) from the adults in their world. They 'got it'  and did it, all on their own.

Another thing that happened in this Random House this week was a lot of fantastic conversation. Mr. Awesome and I have come to realize that the more we are intentional in teaching our kids things the more they become intentional in their learning. We have been asked fabulous questions about our faith, politics, the economy, developing countries, relationships and Middle Earth - seriously, the Middle Earth conversation was intense!

Our kids have become hungry for knowledge and understanding and in their hunger they have challenged us to have answers and not 'because I said so' answers. They want the truth, they want real, honest to goodness explanations to the things they see in their world. And when they get their answers they do the most marvellous thing ... they apply this new understanding to their lives!

Now, they're kids so there is a lot of repetition and 'doing better next time' happening but just the same, they are asking, learning and growing and that's all we can ask of them!

Now, we will complete Week Three's challenge at some point, only because Dude is looking forward to having some pals over but for now, I'm changing my mind and calling this week of giving a success!

Week Four: Be Fruity!

This week make a tree and add a piece of fruit for each virtue listed in Galatians 5:22 - 23. Then think of one way you can live each virtue this week.

Galatians 5:22 - 23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... 

Let's Chat:

1. Read Galatians 5:22 - 23 and write down the meaning of each virtue. 
2. Why do you think these nine things are so important?
3.What does peace, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness look like in a friendship?
4.Choose one virtue to grow in your life. Think of one or two habits you can adopt to help this virtue grow in you.

Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.  ~David Star Jordan

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

52 Weeks of Giving: Week Three


That was our challenge last week. We asked our kids to make a short list of people they wanted to pray for and it was so interesting to see how each of their unique quirky personalities processed this challenge. Before I dive into how this week went, though, I want to answer the question I was asked most this week ... especially from people who don't share the same faith views as I do.

Why prayer?

Growing up in a Christian home, attending a Christian school and being at church pretty much any time the doors were open I began familiar with the language of prayer. I recognized prayer as part of our faith but as I matured I often chaffed at the mention of prayer and struggled to stifle my yawns during designated prayer times. Prayer was boring, lifeless and, from what I could see, useless. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen if I said a few words in prayer or not, so what's the point. Right?


During the last year I have rediscovered the importance of prayer. Or meditation. Or sending happy thoughts. I felt felt the power of good vibes sent my way and I have depended on the borrowed strength of well wishers. I don't believe prayer is about saying the right scripted words in a designated holy space and a designated holy time. To me, prayer is about two things; its about seeing the needs of others and surrendering control.

And that's why we challenged our kids to pray.

We wanted them to think about the people in their world. We wanted them to recognize that we all have needs, struggles and sadness. We also wanted them to see the goodness in their lives; we wanted them to identify the blessing that friendship is. In making a list of people to pray for, it forced our kids (and ourselves) to really think about the individuals we encounter every day and the struggles they may be facing and that in turn, increased our empathy and awareness.

Once we became aware we then needed to acknowledge our lack of control. We can't bend the world to our will, all we can do is offer support, good wishes and hope. Offer and let it go. Once we surrender that which we have recognized we are free to be filled with peace. The burden is not ours to carry because we have no power in and of ourselves to make anything happen. Its up to God. Or fate. Or the universe. No matter what you believe or who you believe in, the truth is still the same .. its SO not up to you to fix or control.

So we see the people in our world, we recognize their needs and then we surrender control. That's it. That's all we can do ... to start. Sometimes in taking the time to pray for others we also see where we can help. This happened for our kids. Like I said, all three of our kids approached this challenge from their own unique perspectives and they each had their own experiences of growth and understanding.

Dude sat for a good long while and thought about the people he sees regularly and what their needs might be and then he chose the top five people he felt were most in need. He prayed for those five people every night. He was very spock-like in his approach to this task, very logical and unemotional. Mischief prayed for everyone and I mean EVERYONE he came into contact with each day. His list changed everyday. His great big caring heart didn't want to leave anyone out so his prayers sounded a lot like roll call.

Crafty, surprisingly, had the toughest time with this one. She wanted to know why prayer, why out loud, what's supposed to happen, what's the point. I had many in depth and interesting conversations with her over the course of the week about prayer, faith, God and relationships. She challenged me on every point, not out of defiance but out of a desire to fully understand. She's never been one to buy into the 'because I said so' thing. I love that about her.

It took her several days but she finally made her list. It was a short list, just three kids. Two girls from school whose families are falling apart and one boy who is bullied on a daily basis. Her prayers were as short as her list. She just closed her eyes and said each f their names. That's it. But I can tell you I have never heard a more powerful or heart felt prayer in my life. She understood, she saw and she surrendered.

That's why prayer.

Week Three: Give Friendship

Dude, its your week to party! Plan a casual friendship party. Invite a few people you would like to be friends with or who need a friend like you. Crafty and Mischief you are the party helpers. You will help your brother get ready for the party, serve during it and clean up afterwards. This is a team effort!

Luke 10: 42
Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her

Let's Chat:

1. Read Luke 10:37 -42. Does this seem fair? 
2. Why do you think Jesus said that Mary was doing the right thing when clearly Martha was doing all the work?
3.What were the attitudes of Mary and Martha? How could they reverse their attitudes (Mary grumbling and Martha being happy)? What would that look like?
4. Choose your attitude for this task. Decide to look past what may seem fair or not and choose to do your best. You never know what the future holds!

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.  ~Mother Teresa