If the Shoe Fits

It’s only a week back to school and I’ve already heard “Where’s my other shoe?” twelve times already! Can I get an amen from any other moms out there?! Now let me explain: we have a very small entrance to our front door that spills out into our ‘open concept’ kitchen and living room. I do not have a mudroom. I do not have an enclosed porch. There is no room for shelving, no hooks or fancy baskets. I have a few shoe trays and a small closet that homes our collection of winter coats and boots, and a large amount of hockey paraphernalia. I have tried to organize and tidy our shoe collections… but we have six people in our family, and live in Canada, where all four seasons can accumulate into one week, so we have a giant pile of shoes at our front door. And it seems to be growing.

Believe it or not, they are not all my shoes, either! Despite being the prime aged woman, I do not have a large collection of shoes. I have worn the same plastic sandals since April. For every occasion. It’s the rest of my family that has created the pile! Elementary school requires two pairs of shoes per student: one for indoors and one for outside. Then there are flip flops and hand-me-downs, and dress shoes, and athletic shoes that are only for this or that sport, or running, or “the lucky pair” only for games or tournaments, or the ones that still fit but have a giant hole or broken shoe laces. Oh, and then the hubby has a casual dress pair and a fancy dress pair. Plus the hiking sandals, and the green stained ones for cutting the grass. Seriously, we have shoes for cutting the grass.

I also have teenaged sons. Yes. Those of you who have lived this stage know what I am talking about… the stink. The lingering odour of one-too-many-soccer-matches or the accidental slip in the creek that allowed some feisty bacteria to breed a large set of offspring. I could run a level 4 biohazard lab at the World Health Organization headquarters with the contents of those shoes. Those blessed runners rest outside for a day or so before they are allowed to find refuge in the pile.

And so I have been musing. One about how blessed we are for gracious people who share hand-me-downs. Two, about how fortunate we are to live where seasons change and how lucky we are to have multiple pairs of shoes and boots that accommodate the weather. Many suffer for basics, let alone for a set of shoes for “special occasions” (or cutting the grass). My mind has wandered through phrases like “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” or John the Baptist’s statement about being “unworthy to untie even the laces of Jesus’ sandals”. *Giggle* I even watched some Youtubers trying to recreate Cinderella’s glass slipper run down the stairs. (Technically glass shoes are very hard to run in!)

photo from Disney.fandom.com/wiki

I’ve concluded that shoes may give us a glimpse of our deeper selves. Our “journeys” so to speak. Biblical shoe references speak of ties that bind (pun intended) and of contracts. Athletes claim the shoe can make or break a performance, as do ballerinas who spend hours breaking in their slippers. Cinderella and glass slippers indeed. And you, my friend? Where have your shoes taken you? What journey have you walked through that has made you who you are? Who’s sandals are you not worthy to untie? Are you blessed to have a full closet? Does it inspire you to see others in a new light?

For these reasons, I will remind myself to rejoice as I tidy up the pile at my front door…or yet again…search for the lost shoe that has run off on it’s own under the couch just before we are off to school. And contemplate the day when the pile will be diminished and only my plastic sandals will sit at the door, and then, it will be tidy, but I will be sad.

I Survived Summer Camp

Ever been to summer camp? Ever send your kids to camp? Better yet… have you ever been a leader at camp? Bless your souls, and extra jewels for you in your heavenly crown! It is not a task for the lighthearted. You VBS (Vacation Bible School) leaders know what I mean… you don your tye dyed staff shirt every morning and cut out what seems like thousands of paper circles, and then count billions of colour coded beads for the ultimate friendship bracelet, only to have your camper go into complete meltdown mode because you chose the wrong background colour of string. No one sees it, you spoiled, little brat! (Did I say that out loud?! Oh my, not a very Christian like attitude – will need to confess that at campfire tonite.) I have only been to sleepover summer camp once in my life. I have mixed memories of it. On one hand, I enjoyed the activities (became the fabulous archer I am today starting at summer camp) but the stress of pre-pubescent, introvert apprehensions constantly flare up when you are in close quarters with 8 other girls in a hot, sweaty cabin for long periods of time without the comforts of home. Just sayin’.

I did learn some survival skills at camp, though: bring salt with you when you catch frogs in the leech infested swamp. Sunscreen is slightly important. I became an expert at changing in a sleeping bag. Learned how to whistle with two fingers to attract cute boys, and how to endure long hours in a deflating, plastic dinghy with a slow leak. You will survive seaweed. I also learned to fake it.

I recently read an article by a seemingly accomplished online writer who shared her experiences as a Catholic-raised teen who attended evangelical Christian summer camp for most of her growing up years. She even did leadership training and became councillor for her own cabin. And although she knew she was raised differently than the other bible wielding, kumbaya singing, born-againers, she learned the lingo and wrote out her testimony along with the others. I’m sure she knew the four spiritual laws and had prayed the sinner’s prayer over s’mores and stories as the embers of the staff campfire dwindled late into the night. But, I wonder, did her church camp truly change her life? How many of those teenage friends became divorcees, or struggle with self esteem, or felt isolated as new moms? Did they still support each other as they vowed they would over stringed friendship bracelet pacts?

We have learned to fake it. We know what we should do, so we pretend. We say we spent our two hours of daily devotions reading the psalms, but really we just doodled in our notebooks. We say we practised our memory verse every day for the last week, but really we just spent the last half hour cramming to get our token badge for memory work. We go to hear the missionary speak of saving the “unreached” tribes, and sit through his slideshow, but secretly envy the girl two rows ahead who has the best. hair. ever. We say we love our neighbours, but are clique-ish and spread rumours and gossip.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think summer camp experiences do have the potential to shape lives. I think gospel seeds can be sown, and I believe God changes the lives of countless young people. But only if we are honest. I also think summer camp has changed from my “back in the day” experiences. The frogs are no longer easy to catch… we’ve poisoned our lakes. Staff now no longer have to have to learn how to whistle, but they do have to complete a 3 hour long online course on vulnerable sector safety and proper conduct. I’m sure they still have to count out and colour code beads… but now they do it according to the Pinterest instructions and ordered the craft supplies online via their Amazon prime accounts. Campers now have to be tolerant of and ignore the outcries of kids with special needs who are included in their cabins. They still share stories over campfires, and then their Instagram accounts. They not only have learned how to change in sleeping bags, but they have also learned to hide the scars from last year’s cuttings.

It’s hard to be a kid today. And yet, I think our kids are so much more aware now. Does that make it better or worse? I don’t know. Do we, as adults, still sit in our Sunday pews and smile and nod as we reminisce about camp songs and tell others we will pray for them as they go – while our teenagers talk about gender fluidity and what the Bible says about artificial intelligence?

I pray, that as my children have their own experiences of summer camp, they they not only learn how to put a worm on a fishing pole, but they learn that the fish have a significance in God’s world. That they learn not only to swim and build sand castles but that they learn to be real. That they learn that art and the world around them are created for God’s pleasure and that He gives them these things to enjoy. I pray they learn that friendships are deep, and that the people they play games with will struggle with pain and rejection and doubt their faith. And that it is okay. It is not just about learning your Bible verse and saying the sinner’s prayer. It is about asking questions, and not understanding, and being fearful but overcoming your fears. It is about being vulnerable. And trusting that the God who made the starlit sky is still in control, and smiles down at you as you lick the sticky, marshmallow goodness off your young and full of potential face.

Our Urban Garden

When I was in elementary school, we did those career quizzes that predicted what kind of employment path you might choose based on your interests and skills. My number one vocation, three times running, was “farmer”. It never happened. I am a city girl born and raised, although, I’ve had my fair share of farm experiences. Horseback riding, picking berries, we even brought home baby ducks for the weekend after we hatched them at school (my mom was not too pleased either as we didn’t tell her her bathtub was going to be occupied for three days with stinky, mess-making, fuzzy little creatures!) My grandpa was a great gardener too, and I loved following him around his garden. It was always laden with deep red geraniums in hanging pots, an abundance of peas and beans … and I always fell for his trick of tasting the sour grapes from the not- quite-ripe vines that overhung the trellis walkway.

This year, the youngest and I attempted our first “real” urban garden. We have done a few potted tomatoes in the past, but our soil is poor, and we have a lot of shade, so not too much grows in our neck of the woods. This year, since moving our carport, a plot of earth literally opened up for us. We planned early and picked seedlings to start (part of my going greener adventures). It has been fun to watch her get excited about watering and weeding! Sadly, Ontario has had a terrible spring this year… wet and cool for way too long… and then we skipped right into hot and humid summer, so I am pleased that anything grew in our little urban farm experiment! Today, we harvested a bumper crop of mixed lettuce! Complete with a beetle of unknown variety and several creepy, crawly earwigs! Success! Organically grown produce! In the city!

Part of the fun of success is letting my imagination get the better of me… I get carried away with thinking about the next project… beautifully tiered growing boxes of fine veggies, plots of land with free ranging chickens that get tucked into adorable coops at night. Corrals with milk producing goats shoving their annoying little kids back from climbing over the fences. Oh, I could learn how to make goat cheese! Or lavender scented goat milk soap in small, handmade batches!

But alas, my ever patient hubby reminds me to “be satisfied with what you have”. Delight in the joys of what you have — right now. See your current success as a blessing, and not always look for bigger or better. I’m trying. But I crave more. I fight this inner struggle of my dreaming heart — and my practical head. I know I would become overwhelmed with a bigger plot of weeds. I know escaping chickens would drive me crazy, and failed goat’s milk soap would frustrate me (even in tiny batches). But a girl can dream, right?

Am I alone in my struggle to do more? Not likely. Perhaps, this is why Jesus used so many examples of agriculture in His teachings. Sure, it is something the people would be familiar with, but it is also such a growing and changing creature in and of itself. Agriculture — urban or otherwise — requires good growing conditions, fine weather patterns, and a whole lotta hard work! The people of Jesus’ day understood that His parables about soil or mustard seeds are partially dependent on what they did and partially dependent on trusting God for the process.

We have read countless children’s books to our crew about how we can plant seeds and water and give good soil, but only God can grow the seed. Our little plot of land has reminded me of those simple truths. We pray for our family members to be healed, or go to church, or see our faith as something real. We send them books to read and online articles to ponder. We teach our kids Bible truths and send them to Christian summer camps. But only God can grow the seed.

We have one lonely carrot in our urban garden. One. Oh, we planted lots… but only the scraggly top of one, singleton carrot is showing. We have no idea if anything is growing beneath the surface. Perhaps the visiting bunny may finish it off completely before the harvest season. I want and wish it to be fat and plump and delightfully orange… but it may be only a tiny root come the day we finally dig it up. And I will again be reminded, that God is in control, and we need to be patient, and just keep trying again — next year.

Want to see a tour of our little urban garden? Check out our Instagram page @mittonmusingsblog or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Mittonmusings/