Garbage In…

It’s been a long, stressful day, and I am tired and a wee bit grumpy. In fact, the last month or so has been long and wearisome. Covid-19 is taking a toll, the new puppy is full of energy, I started a new-to-me job, it’s been difficult deciding how to school the kids, church in person or church online… it’s been a challenge navigating this pandemic and all the seemingly normal tasks have had added demands and adjustments. Maybe you’ve been feeling it too. Perhaps my job is not to complain. Joy in circumstances and all that. I don’t know about you, but some days I have a hard time being joyful. Some days I have a hard time connecting and being the light of Jesus in ways I know that I ought. Some days I choose not to shine.

You wanna know what the new puppy did this week? He’s been barfing socks. He’s a labrador — and I know they have iron stomachs, but he has a particular affinity for socks… and with a house full of teenage boys, socks seem to be quite readily available. And he’s quick, too. And so, I have been panicking about intestinal obstructions, up at night worrying about possible major surgeries in our future for exploratory searches to find foreign bodies — and the guilt about not having enough energy to follow around the dog and his adventures in eating strange things. I was told not to worry “he throws them up whole”… and I wondered at this gift – until I got to see it for myself. Yup, an esophageal miracle: sport sock completely intact, gagged back up, packaged neatly in a thin film of bile. (Sorry * graphic warning* for those of you who are squeamish). It’s actually quite impressive in a sword swallowing magician kind of way… how did that little body encapsulate such a bulky thing and expel it, all while wagging it’s tail and happily playing for the last hour?

Alright, enough of the gory details — but I share them with you to explore some thoughts with me. I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase: “garbage in, garbage out”. It’s actually a computer reference, implying that what you enter into a software will influence the information the computer will spit back at you. Perhaps you’ve even experienced it as my new co-workers and I have as we navigated this new computer system implemented in the last few weeks. Unless you follow the correct steps, you don’t get to the place you need to be. And that can be frustrating. And so it is with life sometimes.

When your faith journey is “disconnected” or you’ve been entering in all the wrong stuff, it tends to come back up. Or come back out. And not in the way you want it to. We get grumpy, burnt out, and ill tempered. People say that you need some “self care”. A time to replenish and recoup. And although those words seem fostering and valid, I’ve been challenged recently about that whole idea of “self” care. If, as believers, we have died to self, are we feeding the wrong entity? If He is the vine and we are the branches, does watering the leaf do any good? Or is it better to quench the roots? To dig deep and choose nourishing food that sustains and grows us. Not fillers made of old socks. Do hot baths and candles really replenish the soul?

Do Hot Baths and candles really replenish the soul?

Now, please, don’t get me wrong… I love a good spa day as well as the next girl. And I’ve convinced myself I “need” them once and a while too. Yet, no amount of warm drinks and essential oils are going to repair a damaged heart. It takes the life giving, supernatural gift of grace given to us by a perfect heavenly father. I’m saddened that we are missing some forms of our corporate worship connections during this pandemic. Even being the introvert I am — fellowshipping with other believers fuels the flame of my heart. It is the soul food I sometimes require.

So, what of it, my friend? Are you spending your time devouring sports socks only to throw them up later? Guilty as charged here this week. There. I even admit it to the whole internet. I’m not connected in the way I need to be. But there is always tomorrow…

Frenemies

I learned an interesting life lesson this week. At least it was a muse that could possibly turn into a life lesson. As you know, we have a new puppy added to the Mitton zoo. “Reese” has been with us for about a month now, and is slowly adjusting to our world — and the two cats that live with us. So here comes the lesson: yes, cats and dogs can get along. Sort of. As much as our pet rats and the cats get along. Let me paint the picture for you:

Large domestic cat wanders up the stairs and comes face to face with stinky, slightly smaller, energetic puppy who sees said cat and decides this may be a fun new friend to play with…. large, grumpy cat who has no tolerance for said bouncy pup, makes deep growling noise, lets out a hiss and with a quick paw swipe, communicates his distaste for the new invader to the household. Then large cat proceeds to walk by, hop up on the windowsill and bathe in the sunbeams, leaving bewildered dog rendered speechless. Second scenario: somewhat smaller and, shall we say, less “streetwise” cat, comes upon said bouncy (and still naive) puppy and considers that this creature may be worth the play. Well, a chase pursues, and cottony white fur flies as female cat finds the highest point to perch and proceeds to bless the world that she is still alive. Dog barks excitedly and decides the fluff is not worth it.

All that being said, as I write this post, two cats are on the windowsill with sleeping dog contented at their feet — and peace ensues once again in the Mitton household. Will they be best friends? More than likely not. Will they learn to live at peace? I hope so. I suspect the cat food will forever be eaten by the greedy dog, though, and we will have to be on constant watch. Frenemies. Have you heard of this word? The “urban” dictionary informally defines it as “a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.” Do you have such a person in your life? A co-worker? Boss? Facebook friend who posts those political quotes you would love to sink your teeth into — but don’t because who wants to see that on Facebook? A family member perhaps? We all come with our own set of opinions and passions. This is a good thing — but it often ends up in, well, a cat and dog fight.

Scripture is full of words encouraging us to live in peace with one another. To love our neighbours as ourselves and do good to even our enemies. But does God expect us to get along with everyone? Is that even possible? I’ve had this conversation with my kids several times. “It’s not fair” “This person is so…” “I hate so and so…” Strong words full of emotion and sometimes hurt. Deserved hurt after spilled words that were unkind or uncalled for. A conversation or action that spews evil. I’m guilty of it myself. Yet, when I dig deep, I’m usually tired, or upset at something totally unrelated, or unsure, and I lash out in a last ditch effort to find comfort in my own skin by barking out at someone else. Still, we are called to forgive. I remind my kids to be kind — even when it is hard. Those actions speak so much louder than words.

So how does a Jesus follower respond? Are “frenemies” okay to have? Do they only lead to back stabbing and fur flying? Sigh. Isn’t it comforting to know that God is so much bigger than our quarrels? He can heal the broken heart and melt the callous one. He can miraculously establish peace when there should fundamentally not be any. Does it mean we have to “do lunch” and smile and nod and agree all the time? No. But we are called to love, and to be at peace with one another as much as we are able. Even if the fur does fly now and then. Blessings, my beloveds! May you be encouraged in the journey this week… and aim for peace.

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.