Breathe.

Breathe. Just Breathe. It’s a phrase we hear all the time. Sometimes it is a little out of context — like those old sitcoms when a couple is having a baby in the middle of the night and the crazy husband is driving to the hospital, bags packed, but all in a panic. He assures his labouring wife to “breathe” and everything will be just fine. I used to say it to my middle kid who struggled with anxiety. Focus. Count to ten. Breathe. Or we remind ourselves to remain calm when the university acceptance letter arrives. Or the call comes from the doctor’s office with your latest test results. Breathing seems like such a simple thing to do until you forget how. Forget how to breathe? That seems strange, considering our sympathetic nervous system jumps in to make sure we don’t die from lack of oxygen during stressful times in our lives. The so-called “flight or fight” response makes us breathe. Still, we need reminding now and then.

Trained athletes are good at breathing. Stig Severinsin (age 39) just broke the record for holding his breath the longest — a whopping 22 minutes (according to the Huffington post). You have to train for that, though. The average lung capacity of an adult is about 6 litres of air. Factor in age, gender, health and stress level, and we get a slightly different picture — but 6 litres is still a fairly large amount. Interestingly enough, though, great studies have been done showing that if we slow down our breathing and focus, we can improve that number significantly. We need to breathe to survive. However, I’m not here to present the health benefits of breathing techniques, nor am I an expert in the science of lung capacity. In fact, walking this new puppy of ours in the heat of this summer has proven I need some serious work in the shortness of breath department! But that’s a different story altogether!

So, why do I bring it up? As I mentioned last week (what?! You are not caught up on our weekly muses? Join the adventure, here!). I’ve just finished a short devotional on rest and refreshment. Day 4 of the study, a familiar verse struck me in a unique way (don’t you love when that happens with scripture?!) Here’s the verse:

Perhaps, it is a familiar one to you, too. Now look at the first part again: Scripture is God-breathed. Have you ever thought about God breathing? An interesting muse. For me, it is a reminder that the scriptures I study have been given focus and deliberated before being marked down for generations. Perhaps the words were full of sadness, knowing how fallible humanity will be. How disobedient and far from God we will wander. Perhaps the words were in great anticipation of good things and God had to “control His breathing” to find just the right words to speak in order to get His message across. Or perhaps He whispered the words under His breath with a hush of secrecy, knowing the splendors of Heaven and other spiritual secrets were far too grand for our capacities to handle just yet.

Above all else, I am positive the scriptures were focused words. Focus. Count to ten. Breathe. Fully equipping each of us — all the people chosen to walk upon this earth — to do good work. Mind blowing, actually, that each one of us have specific gifts, talents and words spoken just for us. And so, in turn, we too must focus our thoughts. Rest. Breathe. Focus on the thoughts given to us and meditate daily on the words. I’m trying. Sometimes I need a good reminder to breathe, too.

Will you join me, friend, in this faith journey of breathing slower, focusing on the Words of God, breathed with life giving essence for each one of us? Join the adventure! See you next week!

Fresh. Then Refresh.

Whew! It’s been a week. We’ve spent the last six days up north, house sitting for friends who have an even greater zoo than we do: Chickens, bunnies, dogs and more! Plus my kids, and a restless husband who thinks holidays must include several walks and trail exploring, makes for a busy, but full week of adventures! Not to mention our new (currently untrained) puppy added exhaustion to the list. Chores were to be done and early morning walks were on the agenda. No wonder farmers are in such great shape! However, we also spent some time just chillaxin’ on the porch reflecting in the sunshine. It was a different kind of ‘vacation’ – and perhaps many of you have experienced similar days during this pandemic. A forced rest, even.

The youngest of the Mitton crew lapped it up. She’s a lot like her mama — animal lover with a keen sense of devotion, and less inhibition and worry than I do now that I am older (and know more than I should). She was definitely in her happy place! Baby bunny cuddles and dog belly rubs are this girl’s zone. One of her favourite things to do was check the nesting boxes for chicken eggs. Poor birds were disturbed several times a day, as she hoped to discover their treasures… it was a bonus if the egg was still warm! One day we discovered the perfect egg. I know, weird thought… but really. It was the perfect egg shape, with rounded edges and ever-so-slight point at the top. A beautiful tan colour, dappled in a smooth textured shell with a few darker specks to give it just the right amount of shade. If I were a painter, it would be a perfect still life subject, nestled against a lightly stained wood grained table… but perhaps that’s not your thing. Just work with me, okay?

The perfect egg… what a treasure!

Nonetheless, the discovery of “the perfect egg” had me thinking about God’s provision. His treasures, given to us in nature. Rich colours of flowers and sunsets, the smell of morning dew, the ruggedness of flint rock cliffs, the softness of my new puppy’s fur. As we devoured fresh eggs one morning this past week, we talked about whether “fresh eggs” were different tasting. My verdict is yes, most definitely. Fresh always seems better! If you google “fresh” the top ads are all about food. Next come “natural based” skin care products…. and then something in Fortnite? That seemed a little off topic, but whatever. Summertime is an explosion of freshness! My socials are filled with farmer’s market produce and your country lakefront cottage pics. It seems like holidays are the perfect time to renew and refresh.

If you look up the definition of “fresh” and it’s similar based “refresh”, you’ll discover a myriad of definitions: not stale, pure, new, or recently come into existence. Even bold and brassy, as in don’t get “fresh” with me, young man. Interesting, eh? I recently embarked on a 5 day study/devotional on Refreshing. A big part of that “refreshing” is rest. Our physical bodies need that rest to recoup, recover and refresh. Our spiritual souls need that renewal again, too. It’s exciting when a piece of scripture becomes “new” again, isn’t it? Like fresh oxygen breathed in, our souls need a good cleansing every now and then as well.

a quote from my new devotional study

I’ve missed some of that worship as we’ve been isolating. It’s hard to have deep conversations and rich discussion via a webcam. Radio praises aren’t the same as revival concerts where fellow believers are singing from the heart, and straight up to heaven! But God is still very much present, and very much behind the scenes, preparing our hearts for revival, renewal and refreshment. Perhaps many of you have been forced to “rest” right now. To reflect on what is important. Maybe others of you are looking to “refresh” and start anew. I think it is a God thing. This desire to reflect and gather perspective. To assess and refocus. Then you are able to appreciate small treasures, and reflect on the simple things that God gives us — like the perfect backyard chicken’s egg.

Should we get a Puppy?

We have become a statistic. A Covid-19 statistic. No, there’s been no virus here, but we have entered a crazy stage along with almost half of the population right now. We are looking into getting a puppy. Apparently, everyone else is getting a “Covid canine” too! If you’ve been following mittonmusings for any amount of time you will have heard me mention our zoo before… creatures abound at our house and are a vital part of our lives. Although there has never been a dog. I love dogs and we have done our fair share of dog sitting — I just happen to be a cat person and know that dogs are a bigger commitment of time, work and money. And yet, here we are on the brink of dog ownership.

Now before you go all judgey on me and think we are just looking to fill the gap during the pandemic, don’t. I certainly do not wish people to get a dog and then abandon it in six months when the world goes back to normal and there is no longer “time”. Please don’t do this! We were thinking about it before we all went into lockdown — but since then, the search has been increasingly difficult! Obviously, we were not alone in our quest! The pandemic has forced people to clear their schedules and fuelled the fire for furry companionship: adoption inquires jumped 122% in the first month of lockdown (petfinder.com), fostering increased 500% (wow! 500%) as shelters began to shut down and people wanted to “do good” with the time on their hands (ASPCA). In Canada, humane societies saw a 30-70% increase in adoption and fostering applications, and registered breeders were very quickly sold out of puppies and added to waiting lists up to two years ahead! Kijiji has been flooded with “backyard breeders” asking astronomical prices for cross breeds and scams are abundant. People are looking for companionship.

All of this has had me thinking and comparing. We’ve been debating between a few “high energy/high maintenance” breeds and slower, more “family oriented” dogs. I have some definite “no’s” on my list… and some confusion about a few ads I’ve seen (what on earth is a doganoodle?!)… add an honest budget to the list and finding a pup has not been easy… much to the youngest’s dismay and discouragement. So many choices. So much diversity. So many pros and so many cons.

At first, I was going to compare these thoughts to the faith profiles of Mary and Martha in the gospel of Luke. Each of the sisters had unique priorities and personalities … a high working drive and a calmer, more relaxed approach to life. Jesus points out many valuable points in both approaches and reminds us that companionship is the goal. As I considered the sisters, I discovered that we can expand those thoughts to each of us and our churches at large. God’s kingdom, like the available dog breed list, is HUGE. Pedigree people are just as valuable as the street “mutt” in God’s eyes — He made us all and has placed us right where He wants us to be in order to do great things for Him. He wants us to be loving companions even (or especially) during a quarantine.

I was reminded of it during Sunday service today. We are to be kind, to hate sin, but to be radical in our love for others — especially during this “new normal” we are living in. Some of us are struggling to keep it together as fear and anxiety take over. Some of us are craving a good game of fetch and are dying to be social again. Some of us need a challenge to get up and out of the doghouse. Others need strict and constant training. We all need love. Now please don’t think that I am comparing humans to dogs. I’m simply using the analogy, that like dogs, we each have different needs and are uniquely gifted for specific purposes. It’s not our job to compare — we don’t have to pick people like we pick puppies. Our churches should encourage one another to serve and be served.

The Mary and Martha story reminds us to examine our priorities in addition to sharing our gifts. Our new puppy will be welcomed into our “zoo” and will change our routines for sure. It will be fun, but require effort. We are hoping it all will work out as a balanced leap of faith. I found a blog while researching for this little post with a great prayer that focuses on that balance. It makes me think that we are kind of like a new puppy in Jesus’ great big new house. I hope the author doesn’t mind that I am borrowing it:

Heavenly Father we open the doors of our heart to you.  We long to spend time sitting at your feet and learning all that you have to teach us.  We long to lay our heads on your lap and have you comfort us.  We long to know you as well as you know us.  We pray for wisdom in making our priorities in our day; we pray that you would guard us against the bossiness of our feelings and emotions that sometimes stand in our way.  Like Martha, we offer our hospitality, and like Mary, we choose to sit at your feet. Thanks to God who wrote our story and made it unique and beautiful.  Amen

From: https://lauriehampton.com/2018/11/18/three-lessons-learned-from-the-mary-and-martha-battle/