I Challenge You!

Finally had a little break from the busy work schedule of last week! I escaped North to visit the oldest beloved. It means I will have lots of work to do when I get back home, so it may not really be too much of a break, but for now, I am relishing the quiet. An introvert needs her time to recoup, you know!

Today, we worshiped at her church… a younger crowd of Jesus followers meeting together to praise the Lord with a little more flash and flourish than I am used to, but a great Bible based message was given, and I am thankful she has found a place where her faith can continue to grow away from home. The pastor’s sermons are relevant connections to the group living there, intended for their special circumstances and neighbourhood. It is different from ours at home… and that is okay. Which got me thinking about an activity I saw in a classroom about a month ago.

The teacher had a bulletin board displayed with challenges that the students made up for their peers to attempt. Simple things like “write a poem like me”, or “play the game I made for you to try” or “make up a cool emoji to use to describe your feelings”. My understanding is, that it was an exercise to create some student choice, as well as an activity that allowed the students to interact and learn from their peers. I thought it was quite a noble concept for public school — and got me thinking about the world as a whole.

I have many friends who have chosen to home school their children. Others who choose to send their children to private or religion based schools. When our eldest was born, we explored various options as well — even considering Montessori learning. As parents, we want the best education possible for our kids. We also want our values and culture to be relevant and present in the lives of our beloveds as well. For many of us, this includes our faith. Especially at a stage where their development is so poignant to their future lives. Let’s face it – whatever we have exposure to when we are young, we tend to use as part of our future lives also.

But let’s get back to trying to condense my muse into something more concrete. I guess what I am trying to say, is that no matter what our background, no matter what our culture, no matter where we grew up, or what kind of life we have led, we come to the cross on the same level. Yet — we need to learn from — and be challenged by — our fellow humans. Our peers. Different cultures. Different methods of learning. Different methods of worship. To use our five senses in worship, thus allowing our faith to grow in whole body, soul, mind and spirit. Fellow students of Biblical learning, challenging one another in love, to go beyond what we know, to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron. It’s a Biblical concept that instructs us to learn from each other, to meet together to fellowship, to share ideas and grow in our relationships. It’s part of who God made us to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day knew the law — but Jesus was always challenging them to live out what they learned… with grace and love.

I will be the first to admit that this is not easy for me. I am quick to be negative. I am quick to criticize this or that as not a “proper” method of worship. I, too, have my own biases and preferences. Therefore, I too, must do my research and discover if something is simply tradition, or is it a biblical practice? Can I learn from my peers and be challenged to try something different? Do I choose to hide from the “grey areas” of the faith world and not engage in discussions about difficult topics? Can I learn from someone else’s background? Or worse, will it strengthen my children’s faith by allowing them to be exposed to hard questions? To be confronted by their friends? Or do I hide and protect them from it all? It’s not an easy answer. Are you up for the challenge? I’d love to hear from you! In what ways have you been called to give an answer by others? Has it been easy or hard? Share in the comments!

A Thankful visit to Transvaal Farm

Hello again, my friends! We just got back from a wonderful, long Victoria Day weekend. We opened up our tiny trailer and got our first real taste of summer — despite the fact that it was still quite chilly. Oh my, we are so ready for some warmer weather over here!

Which got me thinking about all things vacation. Therefore, I wanted to throwback to a few weeks ago, when I took a lovely, little “mini-vacation” with a couple of good friends. We had an awesome time together — simply enjoying each other’s company, with no set agendas, just doing whatever tickled our fancy (which was a whole lot of shopping!) We journeyed to little town called St. Marys, near Stratford, Ontario (Canada!) and spend a few days in a wonderful little place called Transvaal Farm.

The guest house, situated on 50 acres of rural farmland, was quaint — and perfect for the girls’ getaway. The home features two bedrooms, a lovely sitting area, and a country kitchenette, allowing us to save some money by cooking our evening meals in-house (all the more cash for shopping!) Our host, Cindy, and her working partners, were eager to show us around, and we reveled in the delights of the goats… and you guessed it… CHICKENS! (I don’t know what it is with me and chickens, right now….but I am lovin’ them!)

Although not a true bed and breakfast, our hosts delighted us with a stocked fridge full of fresh goat cheese, delectable, baked artisan bread and treats… and, of course, farm fresh eggs! We even got to gather our own eggs, direct from the coop, one day! We visited during off season, so many of the garden’s goodness’s were not yet available, but I’ve been told that the property boasts a lovely variety of fresh veggies all summer long. I did see quite a few rhubarb patches, too! I understand that Cindy hosts some wonderful classes on all things good and yummy, as well. I encourage you to check it out!

Our felted owls
Our crazy little felted owls!

The girlfriends and I spent our days touring around the surrounding cities, thrifting (I was on the hunt for glass bottles!!) enjoying cafe lunches, and quaint little gift shops. We found boundless treasures and laughed and chatted for hours. We even tried our hand at some felted owls one night. Which led to a deluge of giggles at our own inadequacies! But, the fireplace was warm, and the company was even warmer. It was such a refreshing time for me!

I am so blessed. Indeed, I must remember to be thankful. To take time to reflect and thank God for the bountiful blessings He provides — warm beds, nourishing food, a bountiful earth full of good things, and lasting relationships with friends who bring such value to my life. I must remember to be thankful that I am blessed enough, financially, to take time away from working, to be a bit frivolous with my time. I must remember to be thankful for a family that is home waiting for me to share my joys upon my return (and to hear me talk about chickens… again!)

Have you made your blessings list? Have you taken the time to indulge in a few days with no agenda, to laugh with friends and collect fresh chicken eggs? To pet the barn cats and enjoy lattes at a quaint, small town cafe? To find treasures hidden away in a thrift shoppe? Oh, may you enjoy coming home again to the faces of your beloveds, because your absence has made your heart grow fonder. Be blessed, my friend — and be thankful.

Moms who Mop

There is a poignant scene in Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, where Jesus’s mother, Mary, is desperately wiping his blood from the cobble stone walkway where He was just brutally tortured moments before. It’s graphic and gruesome. Yet, to me, it is such a vibrant picture of motherhood. Here is a mom, who’s firstborn son has been wrongly accused, and is about to be crucified. Mary has watched Jesus grow from a tiny baby into this radical man who has had such an impact on His world, and although she doesn’t understand it all, she knows somewhere deep in her heart, that she must do something to support Him… something, anything… even to the point of wiping up bodily fluids.

From The Passion of the Christ 2004

I had a wonderful mother’s day weekend away with my own mom and daughters this year. We had fun together and enjoyed our time. I read the posts on social media about mothers everywhere… flowers and cards and beautiful Sunday brunches. Florists all over Canada just moved into the red based on their sales for this one day a year. But let’s be honest, moms. Motherhood is tough.

Children do not come with a set of instructions. There is no book, no podcast, no blog or youtube channel that will tell you how to mother your beloved. Because there is no one exactly like you… and no one exactly like your kid. God made each and everyone one of us special. Which makes mothering hard — and absolutely beautiful at the same time!

I am really quite amazed at how resilient God made us mothers. Our bodies take a beating and fight back. We survive sleepless nights and midnight feedings, we kiss skinned knees and manage the daily task of hair brushing and teeth flossing. God knew what He was doing when He made babies so cute… because despite all the paranoia, we often do it all again… and then a third and a forth and a tenth time! What were we thinking?!

And then! Then, we pray for soul mates and fret and worry when they leave the nest and fly away and become their own. And we get angry because it’s not how we wanted it to be. They deviate from our perfect mother-knows-best plans and we can no longer shelter them. We have to let them go — and let God. Or we don’t understand why God has given us this challenge, this extra need, this life curve that throws us off our plans for a future of flowers and rainbows. And we cry out “Why”?! Trust me, I’ve been there.

Or maybe you have to be the mom to your own mother now. Roles are reversed and you have to be the caregiver to the one who once cared for you. The vulnerability is still there. You have to make hard decisions, and be the one to fight for dignity, and be courageous and kind. You become like Mary in the movie. You don’t quite know what to do — but you have to do something! So, you mop the floor.

I have met many brave moms. Courageous mothers who fight like momma bears for the sake of their children. They advocate, protest, speak out and speak up. Still others who quietly, yet equally as bravely, support their children with every ounce of their being, through silent prayers whispered late at night. Parenting is hard. This is why God gives us families and communities and villages… and the internet! We need each other. Good grief, if even Mary didn’t know what to do in her crisis situation, we can consider ourselves in good company.

So, if your Happy Mother’s Day bouquets have now slightly wilted, and you are feeling a little frazzled by it all, remember that there is no magic wand. No fairy godmother to make it all go away, and no enchanted mice to clean up the messes. God has chosen each one of us for His specific plan, and the specific plans for each of our beloveds. We must learn to trust that God knows the why. We just have to bring along the mop buckets sometimes.