How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish

Emily

I met a little girl named Emily today.  I really can’t tell you much about her, except that she wore a purple, fleece, zip up hoodie with unicorns on it, and was in the grade one/two split class I visited this morning.  I don’t know her last name, I don’t know who her parents are or where she lives.  I don’t know anything about her home life or what her reading level is.  In fact, I don’t even remember her answering questions on the carpet or visiting my center.  She wasn’t one of those keen to learn students with her hand up in the front row, who smiled pretty when she answered the right questions.  She wasn’t even one of those kids in the back row who wasn’t paying attention either.  She didn’t poke or giggle with her friends like a typical grade one elementary schooler.  She seemed to be “just Emily.”

Come to think of it, this little invisible girl only appeared on my radar after the class was over and I was busily packing up my equipment to head home.  The rest of the class was tired and hungry and eager to get on to the lunchroom.  They had obviously had a delightfully engaging morning — full of hands on science and learning, taught expertly by yours truly.  (Ahem! 🙂 ) They had even given up their class snack time to learn!  Emily, however, seemed to doddle about busily nibbling on a cucumber slice that her teacher had given her earlier from the class lunch bin.  Her mousy, long brown hair was disheveled slightly and wisps of it got in the way of her field of vision,  the way it does for a grade one girl who seems to be forging her own way in life.

microscope

She casually sauntered up to me, brushed aside her hair and inquired about my bins.  Where did all the things come from?  Where was I going now?  Did I live at the science centre?  I politely answered her curious questions and began to shoo her off to lunch with her friends.  Emily had other plans, though.   She picked up one of my microscopes and proceeded  to “help” clean up.  (ack! …slight panic… heavy, expensive equipment slung about by a seven-year-old is a disaster waiting to happen!  It’s one of those things they tell you about in classroom management courses!)  “Oh, no, no, my friend… thank you for your help… but off you go to lunch now…” As I gently removed the microscope from Emily’s grip, I hear an assistant say that Emily is not listening — again.

Suddenly, I feel the need to rethink my purposes.  It’s probably true.  Emily probably doesn’t listen much to instructions.  She probably doesn’t follow the rules easily.  Maybe she doesn’t sit and do all her homework and hang her coat on the hook.  She probably forgets to her to change her indoor shoes and tie back her untamed locks.  But at this very moment, Emily wants to help.  And so I let her.  I ask her to collect all my pencils and stack the pencil bins so they fit together.  I ask her to pile the books so I can pack them away.  We spend the next minute or so tidying up together.

I don’t remember the moment Emily decided to go off to lunch.  Suddenly she was invisible again… a purple unicorn hoodie blur in the mass of grade ones and twos filing out the door.  Dumbfounded for a moment, I was struck by the realization that we so often meet Emilys.  People seemingly invisible — but there.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The elderly man on the bus.  The teenager plugged in to headphones at the back of the class.  Do we take the time to simply engage them when the spark of opportunity arrives?  A smile as they open the door for us?  A thank you when they hand us our bags?Emily

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  A unique image crafted with personalities so complex and diverse.  None of us are the same.  And yet, we function somehow as a whole. We strive, like Emily, to do a little good now and then.  Even when it is hard to follow the rules.  My little moment with Emily taught me, that maybe, just maybe, the key to engagement is not always in grand productions full of magic and wonder.  It’s often not in the polished presentation with flash cards and perfectly laminated worksheets.  Perhaps it is simply taking the time to answer a few curious questions, and the chance to be polite to those invisible strangers as they reach out and stack a few pencil bins for us.

 

 

 

 

Using our Gifts and Talents

A short post today for all my adoring fans.  Ya’ll are too stuffed with Canadian Thanksgiving Turkey anyway, right?  It’ll be short because a tonne of my energies have been working on our newly created 30 Days of Blessings! challenge!! Hurray!  Which got me thinking… why don’t we get tired of doing what we love?!

For any of you who have taken any kind of personality test or giftings survey, you will know that each of us were created with distinct personality types.  Introvert, extrovert, planner, partier, type A, type B — all those kinds of things.  Then, of course, we have certain talents and spiritual gifts as well.   Some of us are good at organizing, some – not so much.  There are the creative ones who work with their hands, and others who flourish in relationships and relate to people.  Some of us have our cat as a best friend.  I have actually studied a lot about this topic — especially with regards to learning styles and how we learn based on our personalities (perhaps another day I will enlighten you all about that!)  For now, let’s just say we are all different.Using our

It is because we are all different that life tends to flow rather well… we all fill in gaps that someone else has left behind.  God designed it that way!  Take for example, our 30 Days of Blessings endeavour… I have been thrilled to be tweaking photos and planning and promoting and writing up all the blurbs.  I love a project, and so I believe God has gifted me in administration…. I so adore a to-do list!  I don’t always get it all completed, of course, but I love to see the list!  My beloved, on the other hand, is a relationship guru.  He would rather spend time doing something with the family than sitting in front of a stack of papers.  So… we are trying to work on this venture together.  It’s been a learning curve, but he keeps me in checks and balances so that I don’t become a total hermit in front of the computer, and I give him a sticky note collection of what he needs to do next.  Somehow it works.

My encouragement for you on this post-thanksgiving day?  Be thankful that we are not all the same.  Rejoice that God has made you just the way you are, for just the thing He needs you to do, for just this perfect moment in time.  Delight in the fact that by working together we can achieve big things, my friends!  When you are in His will, and doing His work, there simply is no getting tired.  Not even after turkey dinner! 🙂


Want to use those gifts and talents to bless others?  Join us for the 30 Days of Blessings! challenge.  We start Oct. 15th, 2018.  Check out the 30 Days of Blessings page for sign up.30 Days of Blessings!

Apple Harvest

It’s apple harvest season!  Here in Ontario, we have an abundance of apples!  According to Ontario Apple Growers, there are 15 main varieties of apples grown on the nearly 16 000 acres of land dedicated to the production of the fall fruit.  The top five varieties are: MacIntosh, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious and Northern Spy.  My favourite happens to be MacIntosh.  They are smaller and a bit more tart.  Ohh! My mouth is watering just thinking about it… apple butter on warm toast, apples and peanut butter… apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp (is there a difference?) … apple sauce smothering a good farmer’s sausage…. Okay, Okay, I digress.

One of the neat things about living in Canada is when the cooler days of September begin to roll around, the farmer’s markets begin to pop up everywhere… with not only local apples, but an abundance of harvest goodies.    farmersmrkt We happened to frequent a few in the last couple of weeks, and the hubby and I marvelled at the people carting off huge bags full of peppers and tomatoes and colourful bouquets of flowers!  Rich, rich shades of golds and reds and deep pinks and chocolate browns.  Truly, our Creator has displayed His handiwork in the beauty of the harvest!

Now, I am a city girl born and raised in the suburbs… so I know I cannot comment on the work that encompasses the idea of “harvest”.  However, I am very thankful for the farmers who do provide me with the fruits of their labours!  Yet, I was reminded again, just today, that although we can plant a seed, water and tend it, and even though we hope and pray and wish it to grow…  only God can do the actual miracle of life thing.  I am fascinated, as a life scientist, by the idea of cloning and test tube creations.  I am thrilled by genetic codes, developmental biology and mutation, diversity and evolutionary principles.  We have learned to “create” so much… but not quite from scratch yet… we still need a starting point.  Apparently there are some 7 500 varieties of apples worldwide.  Just think about that.  A simple “apple” could conjure up 7 500 varieties.  Each one of those varieties then produce different actual fruits: some perfectly round, some bumpy, some red, some green and some yellow!  And, of course, they taste slightly different… tart, sweet, sour… wow… I am boggling my own mind.  So let’s move on….

Let’s think about the symbol of “apple” for a moment… for many of you (and for Google!) the first symbol that comes to mind is for apple computers and all things “i”.  Apparently Steve Jobs came up with the idea for apple from Newton and the idea of knowledge, gravity, the falling of the apple from the tree and all that.  Many educational institutions have adopted the apple for their symbol for this reason as well.  Education and the idea of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has promoted it as a symbol for health and growth and the furtherance of good futures.  The apple tends to have a slightly darker theory as well… especially in religious circles, as the “forbidden fruit” of lust, sin and the fall of man through Adam and Eve (although the Bible doesn’t say the forbidden fruit was an actual apple…).  Needless to say, the seemingly simple apple is not so simple… in fact, it is quite complex!complexapples

Personally, I have been thinking about apples in terms of their great diversity and abundance.  It symbolises the bounty of the harvest and the thankfulness for our many blessings.  Each one of us is different, with our own unique looks and tastes.  Yet, the bunch of us, as a whole, can make a significant impact for good in the world.  Or the opposite.  One rotten apple can ruin a whole basketful.  By blending a variety of apples, and adding just a bit of spice, you can create such rich and comforting delights.  So many foods blend well with the simplicity of an apple.  My grandpa used to say that apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze… isn’t that cute?  There’s just something about an apple that evokes feeling blessed.

And so… it is with great delight, that I announce a new adventure at mittonmusings!  The new “apple of my eye” shall we say?  A new learning experience that (we hope) will not only have you feeling blessed, but present you with a chance to bless others!  With apples as our theme, we have developed a 30 day course (think random acts of kindness with gratitude journal) designed to give you a focus for the day:  with prompts for action, daily verses, and practical tips to strengthen your relationships with God and others.  Imagine it as that big bushel of harvested apples… each of us unique and different, harvested with comfort and care.  Then we get all shined up so that we can be passed around to enrich others, furthering health, knowledge and the furtherance of good futures!  All achieved within the comforts of home!

30 Days of Blessings!

Want to join us?  We’d love to have you!  See more information and get sign up information on our 30 Days of Blessings! page.  It’s absolutely free!  The adventure begins Oct. 15th! Don’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

How to Stay Motivated (When you just want to eat chocolate covered almonds)

Okay, so here it is the middle of September, back to school has happened and the kick-offs are all around us.  Get involved! Join this! We need volunteers for this! We want to serve this year!  *Sigh*  I don’t know about you, but today I just wanna crawl back into a hole and eat my secret stash of chocolate covered almonds.  The whole bag.  By myself.  I’m supposed to start teaching Sunday School this week.  Our study group begins again.  We want to serve others and engage with family this year.  The kids will soon be starting lessons and clubs and the minivan will be put into overdrive as workshops start up again for me.  It’s usually a time when my organizational skills flourish and I get all excited for new beginnings… but I just ain’t feeling it.  Can I get an amen?  Anyone else struggling with feeling motivated?  Are you a leader and trying to recruit some volunteers but get the same five people for every ministry?  Or are you like me and feeling like the apostle Paul in Romans 7?  You want to do the things you know you should do, but you just don’t do them.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, as they say.

Okie dokie then.  Shall we muse together on how to start that spiritual flame under our unmotivated, ummm, slightly “fleshy” behinds and move forward?  Are you with me?  It will be no easy task, my friends… chocolate covered almonds have a big pull for me…

eatchocalmonds

Did you know that if you google motivation, there are almost    940 000 000 results?!  Obviously we are not alone here.  This is a big issue… and “how to stay awake” is in the top 5.  Maybe people are simply just tired.  Our flesh is weak.  Literally.  Highly motivated people quickly burn out if we don’t get proper rest.  Late nights and too many chocolate covered almonds don’t make for good servants.  We know this.  However, it’s a good place to start.  A strung out new mom who is caring for a colicky newborn might not be the best one to ask to head up the children’s ministry.  Just sayin’.  So our number 1 must be:  take care of the physical you.  Rest well.

My number 2 is:  pray about it.  Life is hard sometimes.  Only God knows our future and our past.  He has given you the gifts to move forward, and can heal the hurts from before.  Tell Him your frustrations.  Ask others to surround you with prayers as well.  If need be, seek Godly wisdom and prayers from professionals who might need to help in practical ways you cannot provide for yourself alone.  Those prayers may also be the catalyst in sending others your way!  Who knows, maybe someone is praying about how to serve you!  This intimacy with God often gives us clarity and focus.  Perhaps you will add some quiet meditation or praise and worship music to re-align your focus on “things above” versus the many distractions we have “here below.”  I often end up praying about what to blog about — because my thoughts are not always the ones that need to be said… and it often surprises me the direction that my muses take!

One of my biggest obstacles is being overwhelmed with the task at hand.  I look at the space around me and think, nope, too big, not worth the effort, where are my almonds?  Oh man, I struggle with this one.  I am task oriented, so if the task is too big, I can’t wrap my brain around it and quickly become unmotivated.  This is where I have to heed the words a very wise friend once told me… just do the next thing.  Say you want to live simply and clear the clutter.  Thinking about the whole house might be overwhelming.  Start with one drawer, or one closet, and then… do the next thing.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

planpurpose

That leads to the next big one… the plan. This is not new either, I am just reminding you (and me) that you have to plan for things to happen.  My husband and I often converse about this one… he hopes things will just fall into place, that his romantic gestures will sweep me off my feet and date night will spontaneously happen due to some great alignment of the universe.  But he knows that if he sets it up on the calendar, I am more likely to carve out that time with him to work on our relationship.  Some of us need this more than others.  Many volunteers quickly abandon their posts if there is no set plan.  Don’t forget that plans include your materials!  Some folks are overwhelmed with a disorganized, unkempt space.  Many are willing to cook at the pancake breakfast fundraiser… but if the kitchen is a disaster and there are no clean spatulas, it might be a no-go.

I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that nothing we do is in vain.  The smallest efforts can lead to great things with God’s help.  However, I do think He wants us to set a distinct purpose behind our efforts.  Ever have your kids ask WHY?  Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to clean my room?  Why do we have to go to church?  Why is the sky blue?  If we don’t know why we are doing something, then it often loses its lustre and we become frustrated with the effort it takes.  Or it is simply not needed.  Do you run a program just because there has always been one?  Is it necessary?  There is a story about a new housewife who always trimmed the ends off her roast before cooking it.  One day she asked her grandmother: why?  Was it some ancient technique for a fine Sunday dinner?  Her grandmother replied that it was the only way a large roast would fit in her small roasting pan.  Yup, sometimes it’s helpful to know the purpose behind the plan.

Occasionally, we get motivated by an event/learning experience.  If you are new to mittonmusings, you will quickly discover that I am always up for learning something new.  I am eager to draw information from others.  To glean insight from another perspective or someone else’s life experience.  I had the privilege of sitting under some very learned people this summer… and was able to fill my brain with a tonne of things to spark my musings.  Our little blips of time on this planet are not enough to cover all that is possible.  God’s great big world is full of opportunities!

Having said that, it is a good reminder to me (and you!) to never take anyone for granted.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help directly — but don’t leave them there all alone!  A servant who gives of their time should never be ignored.  Encourage those around you who have accomplished even the smallest task.  It is a big motivator in taking the next bite of the proverbial elephant. motivatehearts Our youngest son was often overwhelmed with anxieties when attempting new tasks.  We knew that slow (and often painfully time consuming!) encouragement to “just do the next thing” allowed him to overcome his fears and often flourish at the task at hand.   By learning things and being encouraged by others, we often strengthen our own efforts, and can focus in on the real purposes behind our motivations.

Above all, our motivation should continue to guide us forward towards Heaven.  Matthew 6 tells us that no matter what we do, no matter what the goal is, or what steps we take to get there, the motivation we have is always based on where our hearts are.  The treasures at the end of the journey will be reflections of where our hearts were at the beginning.  Want to motivate others?  Encourage their hearts.  Want to motivate yourself?  Spend some time letting God change you from within.  Oh… and a few chocolate covered almonds can’t hurt._Store up treasures in Heaven, for where your treasure is your heart will be also_

 

 

 

 

Back to School Blues

By the time this post comes out, many of you will have sent off your beloveds back to school.  Perhaps it is the first day of kindergarten for you.  Or perhaps you’ve moved them in to their first dorm room at college or university.  For many others of you, your kids are grown up and are sending off children of their own.  The first day of school, for me, evokes such happy memories… I loved (and still love!) school.  Shiny new shoes and backpacks, sharpened pencils all in a row… it’s a new beginning, a new chance to learn and grow and flourish.  I giggle as I think about this because my boys usually scuff up their new shoes a bit and grab whatever writing implement they see in the drawer for their first day.   No great anticipation there.  It’s nice to know that we are made so diversely, eh?

backtoschoolshoes

Photo by: Jiayan Chui

Okay… let’s pretend everyone is excited about learning and growing… and then go a little deeper.  For many of us, sending our kids off to school is a scary new chapter.  It means they have reached an age where independence is beginning… and their dependence on us, is diminishing.  When our first born was getting ready for school, we researched the options.  Should we use public education?  Private, montessori… homeschool?  Did you know there was even something called unschooling?   I have heard all the arguments against public education and the benefits of this or that.  Feel free to add your personal experiences to the comments… However, no matter what venue of education one chooses, there must always be a day when we must let them go.  For some it comes earlier than others.  But it always comes.

I am not sure why, but the story of the prodigal son has been popping up all over my journey this summer… I have heard it spoken on about seven times in various sermons and talks throughout the last few months.  Obviously God is asking me to look at it!  To be honest, it’s a mystery as to why this particular parable has been so popular, but I mention it because perhaps we are to look at it together.  To be linked coincidentally here on the internet through a story about letting our sons and daughters go.  Some of you I know personally.  Many of you are dear to my heart, and I know your children like my own.  Other readers are strangers to me.  Perhaps you have connected with mittonmusings for a completely different reason.  A fellow blogger looking for followers.  Yet, my hope and prayer is that God has connected you to this particular post because He wants you to learn, along with me, that it is okay to let those so near and dear to our hearts go on their own way.  I am sure that the father in the story of Luke 15 was a complete basket case on the day that his youngest set out for a foreign land with a stack of money in his back pocket.  I am sure his mother was even worse!  “Will he go to synagogue?”  “Will he drink too much and get caught up with the wrong crowd?” “Will he spend his money wisely and invest properly?” “Will he learn all the wrong philosophies and be exposed to false teachings?” “Will I have to pay half his student loans from our retirement fund?””Will he eat properly ?”  Yup, I am sure his Jewish bubbe had plenty to fear.

I have to be honest with you.  I shed very few tears when my children went off to school.  I proudly packed their bags and handed over the reigns to their teachers.  Was it easy?  No.  Our youngest son screamed, bawled and ran off down the hallway for the first two months years of kindergarten.  Our eldest daughter struggled to complete her first year and find her niche at University (away from home).  The other two have had ups and downs with teachers and peers.  We’ve had to juggle family activities with four kids in four different schools.  We’ve had to balance tolerance and diversity with our faith based values. Prov22 We’ve also learned to love and share with others who don’t always see the world the way we do.   Anxieties, competitions, goals and mighty accomplishments have been a part of our school careers.   I have quickly learned (and have instilled in our beloveds!) that teachers are just people too.  They have good days and bad days like the rest of us.  So if you are just starting your school life… please, please, please… be involved.  Go to school council meetings, go to the interviews, get to know the staff and your kids friends.  Be the house that invites them home for lunches and after school snacks.  Claim the promise in Proverbs 22:6.  You have trained and prepared them for this… now let them go.

I guess I have to caveat the “let them go” statement… with the fact that although the father in the story granted his son’s wishes and let him go off to a foreign land, he certainly didn’t forget him!  He kept a watchful eye on the road for his journey back.  He was there to celebrate his return… and to love him despite his failures.  Back to school is a mixed bundle of emotions:  we are proud and excited, and worried and anxious.  The great wide world is full of the allure of the grandiose and the independence our children crave.  And wise parents must trust that the Almighty has a plan for their children.  He knows them so much better than even we do.  So, there will be no back to school blues at our house.  No tears or anxious peeking through the classroom windows.  There will only be new shoes, and packed lunches, and bank loans for student expenses.  And a mom and dad keeping watchful eyes on some kids who were trained to the best of our abilities to return home.  The rest… is up to God.Back to School

 

 

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

Can you believe how fast the summer is flying by?!  It’s hard to fathom that it is already the last week of August!  Since we just returned from a little road trip to the USA, I thought I would share this late summer musing by blending a bit of American and Canadian content.

Since 1971, August 26th is celebrated in the United States as “Women’s Equality Day” — it commemorates the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the women’s right to vote.  I’ve taken it as an occasion to celebrate the ladies North of the Border as well.  (FYI, “International Women’s Day” is March 8th… perhaps we will celebrate then, too).  We walked along Rosa Parks Street on our recent trip to Cincinnati, and had a wonderful discussion with the kids about her role in Canadian history as well.  Racism. Women’s rights.  Environmental activism.  So many blog topics… so little time!  Let’s just look at one, shall we? Now, I’m not a big women’s libber… but have been musing about this topic since one of the books on my summer reading list was “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

handmaid

The book peaked my interest after seeing advertisements for the American Web TV’s series based on the novel.  I haven’t seen the television series (who’s first airing was in 2017) since my own imagination is probably less graphic than Hollywood’s visionaries… but it triggered my allure to the book, which I discovered was originally published in 1985.  It’s my first book by renowned Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.  The almost eighty-year-old famous Canadian is certainly well known to me, but I’ve never read her books until now!  I was not disappointed.  She is certainly a fine author, and definitely has a way with words.  I was immediately drawn in and devoured the book in less than a week.

The novel is written in the first person according to its main character, Offred.  It is her tale as a captive, fertile woman in the dystopian based realm of Gilead, which was once New England.  (She was captured trying to escape to Canada).  The “handmaids” are forcibly assigned to produce children for the ruling class known as “commanders”.  The handmaid name was borrowed from the biblical story of Rachel and Bilhah, from which Atwood quotes (Genesis 30).  It is not a tale for the faint of heart.  Atwood’s graphic (although brilliant) writing is what obviously sparked the movies and television series.  It is a twisted tale of power, steeped in the fundamentalist perversion of biblical old testament stories.  And so I muse… how many more women think of the Bible in this way?

From what I can gather, Atwood (a self confessed “strict agnostic”) does not see this particular book as a feminist work, but it nonetheless makes mention to the overall thought that women, as portrayed in (especially) the Old Testament Bible, are nothing more than vessels for bearing children.  I have often heard and seen many critiques of the Christian worldview, based on the fact that the Bible often makes references to this, and other “inferior” roles of women.  Does the God of the Bible condone such patriarchal views as Genesis 30? How do we explain the stories of Hosea or Sarah in a #metoo world?

This summer, I had the privilege of sitting under the words of Dr. Marion Taylor, the graduate director for University of Toronto’s Wycliffe college.  This tiny little lady, who got her PhD from Yale, came out on stage in this frocked and flowered dress, and yet spoke with such authority on women, that many of us sat in awe.  Her resounding message stuck with me:  does the righteous and sympathetic way we read the Bible reflect our understanding of how non-believers read the same stories?  Do we see Hosea as an intimate metaphor of Christ and the church, or as an abused wife who is told to love again after abuse?  Do we recognize the poetic language of Esther or Ruth in an ancient world or do we make current cultural flashpoint references in a confused society?

How do you read

As a scientist, wife, and mother of both sons and daughters, and as a believer … I am a complex mix in this world of feminist views.  I am compelled to see the old testament stories with a sympathetic view, and yet not compromise my beliefs that God has created a uniqueness in me, as an intelligent, gifted and competent woman.  I strive to raise my girls (and my boys) to be strong and capable.  I also choose to submit to my husband as the biblical authority in our home as a compatible wife.  Human beings are not perfect.  The old testament stories are prime examples of this.  Once we start to abuse Christ’s ultimate authority, and pervert His plan, it is no wonder we see the characters in the Bible as abused and enslaved.

And so, I must remember to see my bible studies not only as love stories to me, as woman, wife and mother, but to share them with others.  Others who may not yet understand their full identity in Christ as one who is honoured, loved and respected as one made in the image of God.