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.

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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.

 

 

 

The Call of the Crows

CalloftheCrows1I’m writing this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks… okay it’s not true.  Unfortunately, the internet is not reliable here, and although I thought of playing it old school and using pen and paper and transferring it later… I am just too lazy for that.  (Funny how attached to our technology we are now, eh?)   So.  I am writing contemplating this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks near our summer home.  The olive leaves sway gently in the breeze, a mix of mature and mighty oaks and a few spindly little ash trees.  The ash borer beetle destroyed a lot of them a few years back.  It’s so pleasant here.  In the spring, the leaves are sparser and you can almost say we have a lakefront view.  The lake is there, the forest just blocks it most of the time.  Occasionally, if you are really patient, a chipmunk or squirrel will dart through, inquisitively eyeing you, hoping you have a treat or dropped one nearby.  The other night the foxes crept near,  sheltered by the dark brush, but close enough to let us know they are becoming less afraid of us humans.

It’s cooler here than over in the field where the sun beats down all summer.  It has its disadvantages though — nothing ever dries, and the dark, damp ground attracts mosquitoes.  We don’t picnic outside too often, here in the bush.  But it’s a great place to read — or contemplate blog posts.  We rarely have to cut the grass.  Nothing grows much, except the weeds that seem to tolerate the acidic soil.  It’s tranquil, but it is definitely not quiet.CalloftheCrows2

I live in the city, so you think I would be used to the noise.  However, up here it is nonstop.  We love how a good thunderstorm sounds on the roof of the trailer.  During the day you can hear the people playing and enjoying their vacations, or a boat out on the lake beyond the trees.  On Mondays, the garbage truck comes by and you can hear the bins clanging.  Cars make a distinct grinding noise as they go slowly down towards the private cottages along the gravel roads.  The squirrels and chipmunks climb high into the oaks and get at the acorns.  Every so often they drop one, and if it happens to drop on our porch roof it bangs with such a thud, you’d think there has been a shot fired!  Seriously — it’s loud.  When you get used to it, you wait for the ping ping ping as the nut rolls down the incline and off the roof.   Single handedly, the most annoying noise in the woods, however, is the crows.CalloftheCrows3

I say they are crows, but they might be ravens.  They’re big, but ravens are bigger, though, I think.  So let’s say they are crows.  You don’t see them often, their black, sleek bodies with just a hint of iridescent green, blend in to the dense foliage in the treetops.  Sometimes you can hear them fly in — the flapping of their huge wings like some horror movie from the sixties.  It’s their calling that is so obnoxious, though.  Kinda like a cross between a duck quack and dog bark.  Loud and harsh.  It doesn’t seem to hold any meaning either… perhaps they answer one another.  Perhaps they just like to be heard.  Like a two year old and a new, flashy, electronic toy that is stuck on repeat… caw, caw, caw… Either way, the sound is creepy.  During the day, they are there, but the other noises drown them out, and it is easier to ignore them.  It’s in the wee hours of the morning when they become most hideous.  The sun is barely up and the calling begins… like some sick rooster announcing the dawn.   No pretty songbird chirp, just caw, caw.  How come the falling squirrel acorns don’t hit them on the way down and knock ’em out?  Sheesh!

And yet, as I sit here in contemplation, I can’t help but compare the crows to the doubts, fears and insecurities in our lives.  Big, black, and often overshadowing the pretty songs of our other qualities, our doubts creep in and disrupt all our other solitudes.  “Am I good enough?” “Why does this always happen to me?” “Will we make it to the next paycheck?” “What about the kids?”  I don’t know what your doubt is, my friend, but I know that we all have those nagging worries somewhere down in our souls.  We can ignore them most of the time — when the other noisy distractions can push them aside.  They hide in the treetops until, sometimes, in the wee hours, when no one else is around to displace them, they come calling again.  Loud and harsh.  Caw, caw, caw.Callof theCrows4

I want to end this post on a positive note, but the crows will always be there in the treetops… and the doubts and fears will always be there, too.  Sometimes they fly away and the calling stops, but then a new set of crows show up and the noise begins again, in a different tune and tone.  Take comfort, then, that God is the orchestrator of the forest, the one who created the “call of the crows”.  I don’t understand why all the noise, to me it is just harsh and annoying — but He has some purpose in the call.  It’s up to us to give it over to Him, and let Him use those needling noises, the ones all unrelenting and severe in our ears, to blend them in to the swaying melody of the mighty oak forest, in a concert worthy of the master conductor.

 

A Little Taste of Heaven

Recently, we took advantage of the fact that I was participating in a Summit that had me staying in the heart of downtown Toronto, to visit a unique treasure known as Kensington Market.  (By the way, the Summit gave me a tonne of great blog material — so I enjoyed it thoroughly!).  I have vague memories of visiting Kensington Market as a child in grade school.  The purpose of the school trip was to engage in “the cultural diversity of the city and participate in the richness of its culture”… or something like that.  As students, we were only allowed to buy something if we had not had it before.  I remember picking out a rich banana square from some Asian bakery (I always remember food details).  I could probably find a tonne of them now, not far from my own neighbourhood… but back then it was something different.  The class soon discovered a shop that had fresh sugar cane… and half of us came back sucking sweet juices out of the green, fibrous sticks.  It probably wasn’t that fresh after all, but we thought it was great and some old Jamaican guy made a profit that day!  We all pretended to be from the Islands and swayed along to Bob Marley songs as the school bus bumped along on the ride home.  I suppose the teachers accomplished their wishes.kensingtonwelcome

Our more recent “adult” trip (although we dragged along the younger two to …umm… engage in the cultural diversity of the city and participate in its richness of culture… ) was a unique clash of feasts for the senses.   We weren’t exactly sure where the market begins and ends, as it is spread over several blocks of residential and main streets tucked into allies and in between old homes and meeting houses.  We started along Spadina Avenue and its discount stores filled with cheap t-shirts and Canadian souvenirs.  I abandoned my family for a short moment as I ducked into a small art supply store to look around.

I am not much of an artist, but I love these little art supply shoppes, piled high with coloured pastels, a variety of brushes and canvases in various sizes.  It’s a little collection of whims, a peculiar example of diversity.  Such an eclectic mix of colours and textures, yet all designed for the creation of something beautiful.  Not to mention it just looks cool.  After finding my crew again… who had lost track of me… we headed along a side street.  A large, white truck was unloading cardboard boxes of ripe mangoes and the smell of the tropics hit us.  “Now,” says the hubby… “Now,  we have come to the right place.”  The marketplace store was filled with baskets of exotic fruits and veggies with their cardboard price signs scrawled in magic marker.  The hubby shares with the kids that this is the way he remembers shopping overseas.  He used to run as a kid to buy a glass-bottled Coca Cola — cool and icy.   We turn the corner again and weave our way through the crowds, taking in the sights — shoppes of authentic Mexican delights and street fairs,  an Indian spice shoppe with teas and incense.  We passed the middle eastern restaurant recommended to me at the Summit.  Organic whole food places have popped up everywhere… all those young, hippy, artsy types going green… secretly I am jealous and gaggle at the waste free containers of pantry staples.  A tiny bunch of champagne grapes would cost you $14 if you wanted such a luxury.diversity

I sneaked into a little organic print shop stocked with natural products and handmade cards.  Just for a minute.  The kids crossed over the street to a little park and splash pad to play a bit… because they know how mom easily gets distracted in craft shops and her minute takes forr-everrrr… (insert eye rolling from children and spouse here).  When I did join them, it was hot and my feet were beginning to swell up… so I rinsed them off in the splash pad and watched some cute little girl dash in and out among the random squirts and fountains… she was laughing so innocently and gleefully that it made me smile.

We wandered back and stopped for official Italian gelato… two flavours allowed, but the kids picked the familiar.  Hmmn.  Need to expand their thinking and get them out of their comfort zones more, methinks.  I took a few snapshots of the street art and allowed my senses to take in all the colours again.  I’m not a downtown girl, but every now and then ya gotta see some graffiti.Gelato

After my little getaway downtown I couldn’t help but think that I had a little glimpse of heaven in those few days.  Not only had I sat at the feet of some very learned men and women and gleaned insights on so many topics, but I worshiped with others with different styles and backgrounds unlike my own.  Then we took in the sights, sounds and smells of people who were craving cultural comforts of their native homes.  Others were clinging to social beliefs and political freedoms… organic, pesticide-free foods or animal rights.  Searching people who were clinging to their ideas of “goodness” in a fallen world. Even the artists were trying to express things through the colours splashed on walls and concrete planters.

Our heavenly Father has created us with such diversity… each with our own unique talents and gifts.  Even my own four, who have been raised in the same house with the same set of genes, are so different from one another.  It’s kinda like that art supply shop… our world is stacked to the ceiling with textures, colours and blank canvases that God has given us, and it is up to us to use them well.  To create something beautiful.  To display our wares and share our wealth with others.  The bible tells us (Matthew 25 and 1 Corinthians 12) that the Spirit gives us gifts and talents of all kinds and we are to use them “…for the common good…”  You can take that a variety of ways, I suppose, but I have to think that if it says we should use our gifts, then, by golly, we should use them! Please share your thoughts and talents with others… and never stop learning from those around you!artsupplies

I get kind of excited when I think about Heaven… not only to see Jesus face to face, but to walk down the streets of gold and chat with people from all over the world… to hear their stories of how they met Jesus, and what their traditions were.  To taste the food in Heaven (oh… can you imagine what gelato… or chocolate… will taste like in Heaven?!) And no one is going to argue which way is the right way… because we are all there already… face to face with our Saviour and fully aware of all that He has given us.  The rich diversity of colours and textures and shapes… simply for our pleasure.  Forever.  Hmmmn… as the old hymn says “what a day of rejoicing that will be…”

 

 


Have you been super excited to share in this adventure with me as we “muse” each week?!  We are so close to 100 followers!  How exciting!  Would you consider sharing with a few friends and ask them to join us?  I’ve got some fun changes coming and need as many friends to be a part of it as possible!  Thanks much!

 

Strawberries!

It’s berry season!  Despite it’s overgrown spread and lack of attention, our backyard raspberry bush is yielding some bumper crop this year.  We have also been loving the organic blueberries that come via our local farmers markets in summer.  We even tried some haskap berries via our basket of deliveries (Which I discovered aren’t really berries… but are still yummy!).  Hands down, though, our family is big on the fat, juicy delights of strawberries!  The youngest Mitton can down a bucketful in 10 seconds flat!  I love mine with cream or in a smoothie with some banana.  Mmmmnnn… nothing says summer in Canada more than berries!

A few weeks back, we went on our traditional “pick your own” strawberry expedition with grandma. We’ve been doing it for years.  In fact, I can’t ever remember not having a freezer full of strawberries — which is actually ironic because my mother, bless her heart… does not like strawberries. strawberry picking We used to laugh as kids when mom would replace one frozen bucket with another one she had just picked, even though last year’s produce didn’t get eaten.  You see… it’s tradition.  Please… bear with me as I break out in song with Tevye in my rendition of the Fiddler on the Roof’s opening song…dai, dai, dai… okay, enough of that.  Back to strawberries.

Now that I am a mature homemaker, devoted wife and mother, I have taken on the task of processing my own strawberries.  Let me tell you… this is no easy task!  This year we picked about 7 litres… enough for three batches of jam, two giant servings for eating and about 2 cups to put in the freezer for later (the tradition continues — except we eat ours).  The whole process is a very full day’s work.  This year the picking was hot and humid.  We went to the farm early and had our baskets filled in about an hour or so.  Then the real processing begins… washing and stemming the juicy morsels as the red, staining juice drips down my arms and everything turns slightly pink.  I pop a couple super cute berries into my mouth to compensate for the mess.  Then the waiting begins.  I make “no cook” freezer jam (just follow the packet of your favourite brand) which means adding sugar, stirring, waiting, stirring, timing, waiting, stirring and finally pouring.  Making three batches at a time is… well, time consuming.  One year, I didn’t get the timing quite right and I ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam.  Which is just as yummy on ice cream as jam, so no worries.  After all the chopping, stirring, waiting and drippy messes… the pretty red jars head off to the freezer to be pulled out again in December for decorating and gift giving.  I think all the work is so worth it… and I hope our friends and family do to when they receive their jar come Christmastime!

All in all, the effort and toil brings joy and pleasure to others.  I suppose this is why such things become traditions.  My mom fills her freezer because it reminds her of her own mother.  My kids visit the farm because it’s an activity they love to do with grandma.  Our friends are beginning to expect a jar of strawberry jam at Christmastime.  Perhaps your church has a strawberry social in the summer with loads of strawberry shortcake topped with fluffy whip cream.   I have to agree with Tevye … traditions keep our balance.  It allows us to have some sort of constant expectation.  Often, it’s an enjoyable one that we look forward to… like strawberry freezer jam.  Perhaps the hard work involved makes it even more special.  And the beginnings of traditions… often unknown or lost through the years.  Which begs the question… is a traditional way the only way?

jamI ask because traditions can also be taken for granted… we do something a certain way because we have always done it that way.  Is it wrong?  Not necessarily.  God’s word is full of examples of traditional laws … many of which we still follow today.  They are given to us by God and therefore I deem them worthy of consideration and practice in my faith walk.  Many a saint has grown spiritually from using disciplines and routine.  The caution must come when tradition overtakes our desires to grow with God vs. religious tradition.  It’s about relationship not ritual.  I am not one for change.  Really.  I like things when they stay the same… even when it comes to church.  There is something to be said for tradition.  It keeps us balanced.  But I have learned that time does not wait for anyone.  The ebb and flow of society forces us to move along and find new balances.  Like Tevye, traditions will be challenged.  We must learn and be constantly examining why we believe the things we do… is it biblical or simply a tradition?  In thirty years will it be the same?  Should it be?  Does it need to be?  This being said, God doesn’t change.  He is our constant — kinda like the pectin in my strawberry jam.  He’s the gel that should be the catalyst in our mix.  As long as we add the right amount of sweetness, and allow for some time, a little chopping and stirring brings things back to a perfect consistency.  A flawless gift we can give to our friends and family.

Will you examine your practices and traditions along with me?  Do you simply do them the way you do for the sake of tradition?  Is it good?  Or do you have to examine your reasoning deeper?  Are you just replacing another freezer burnt bucket of thoughts for the same ones?  Becoming more Christlike is a journey, and we have to twist and turn and be pruned and challenged… only then will we produce the sweetest fruit worthy of passing on to others.  It’s work, but it’s worth it.

Worth the Work!

It’s the Little Things

Little thingsThe Mitton crew has just returned home from a lovely vacation in our summer dwelling.  It truly was lovely.  Except, that about two days in, I got sunburnt.  It was my own fault, really, I did not re-apply the sunblock and could feel the crispy-ness attacking my legs… but was simply too lazy to head back in to shore from the rubber dingy I was lounging in.  Consequence received, I spent the next few days slightly pinked and diligently re-applying the “after sun” aloe vera gel and searching for home remedies for sunburn.  Then the youngest got a sliver in her foot after dancing around barefoot on the dock.  Why is a sliver always the biggest disaster to a small child?  Breathe.  Dig out the blessed thing, slap a Band-Aide there, and move on.  Sheesh.  I soon discovered that it’s the little things in life that make up your days.  Much to the delight of that same little girl, we also fed pistachios to a cheeky little black squirrel who was just brave enough to come near.  We watched the sun go down over the lake and marvelled at the orange and pink glows that silhouetted the trees beyond us.  We giggled under the covers as we read our book late into the night.  None of these things were super adventurous.  We didn’t save the world or climb a mountain.  There were no great heros.  None of these things were utter disasters, either.  There were no trips to the hospital or bank loans needed.  And yet, as I seek to be more grateful, I am again reminded that often it’s the little things that matter.  You can consider this post my gratitude journal of sorts.  A documentation of things that simply remind me of why I should be happy.Little things3

As time goes on and my hair gets a few more streaks of grey in it, I can’t help but stop and remember the days when the kids were babes and we rejoiced at their first steps, and encouraged them as they splashed and played in the sand at the beach.  The greatest joys were when the sandcastle moat collapsed and you had to quickly breach the leaks before the whole kingdom was washed away in the floods.  Slivers were a big deal then too.  But so was jumping off the dock, and pushing the limits was getting just a bit closer to putting their whole face under the water!  Now they strut about with their friends like proud peacocks, hoping mom and dad don’t totally embarrass them by acknowledging their presence.  Oh — the horror — you have parents!

I am delighted to see you grow and come into your own as you begin to lead.  To begin to take more chances and go off on your own.  To not only put your face underwater, but jump wholeheartedly forward… willing to sink or swim. I remember hearing a preacher say once that when you are a new mom, you should be thankful for every Cheerio you pick up off the floor — revel in the moment that you are in right now.  Little ThingsTo be honest, if you are that new mom… you have no desire to be thankful for those blasted bits of cereal… I know, I been there, sister…  but now that some time has passed, I can tell you…yup…it’s true… you are thankful for the Cheerios.  Psychology tells us that there are benefits to gratitude, to counting our blessings and to recognizing that seeking joy makes us healthier.  (Just so you know: it’s not psychology… it’s a God thing…)

Our lives are so full of little things.  The everyday blessings and hurts of this journey we call life.  The slivers and the sunsets.  I am trying to enjoy the learning process — are you?  Are you taking time to revel in the moment that you are in right now?  To not complain about your aches and pains, your lack of wifi, your bank balance or what the weather is doing?  It’s hard.  I get it.  I have those days too… when I am tired and sad and everything seems to go kaput.  But we are here for a only a brief moment, a mere blip in the eternity of time.  So pull out that splinter, slap a Band-Aide on there, eat the Cheerio off the floor, and go jump in the lake!Little things2

 

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