Peace be Upon You

Oh, my dear beloveds… will you humour me in a little exercise? Take a big deep breath in through your nose and fill up your lungs to the deepest capacity … now let it all out in a big ol’ sigh. I don’t know about you, but I needed that after the last few hours. The weather outside has been “frightful” here in the last day or so, and old man winter is certainly making his presence known in our neck of the woods. Normally, I don’t mind too much… but last night both my hubby and my eldest son were out driving in it. Late, after dark, alone. And as much as my dearests tell me not to fret, the all-season, I repeat, not-official-snow-tired-car with ABS brakes make me nervous to drive in … for fear I am the only woman driver on the road who will find the obscure patch of black ice and go crashing into a telephone pole. Or worse still, a rambunctious reindeer who recently escaped from a small town Christmas parade finds my son on his way home in said unsafe car…

Anyway, you get the picture. I worry a bit about bad weather. I worry a lot about driving in it. I think I am getting old. Grandma genes are starting to settle in. And there is nothing like a taste of old lady frailty (read anxiety) to rob you of that peace within. I know you know what I am talking about. Seems fitting that this second week of advent is “peace” week. A gentle reminder to me to attempt to bring my heart back to that state of peace. Especially as we anticipate the nativity scene… all babies wrapped in swaddling clothes, quietly sleeping amongst the barnyard animals. (All the moms out there recognize that this, too, is far from a realistic scenario… barn animals, people… and what newborn isn’t screaming for food in the middle of the night?) but the story of Jesus’ birth brings our focus to a unique place: Bethlehem.

Let’s look at it a little shall we? I did a little digging and here are some”fun facts” I dug up about “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”. In Hebrew, it is called “Beit Lechem” which roughly translates as the “House of Bread”. Perfect for Christmas holidays, I’d say. Warm toast brings me peace! Bethlehem is home to approximately 25 000 people… both Christian and Muslim. Interestingly, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the U.S. is home to 800 000 Americans… who probably see just as many tourists!

The proposed “exact spot” where Jesus was born is marked by a silver star, that leads to an underground grotto or cave. Of course, the surrounding area is the tourist mecca for those seeking Christian history. With a large market for trinkets and a chance to profit from the bus tours. Maybe as much as Bethlehem, PA. I’m guessing either would be a cool place to visit… (dreamily look off into the distance… House of Bread… Amish baked goods…) Still, the Middle East has been far from a “symbol of peace” in recent years. Or the U.S.A, for that matter. Which brings us back full circle.

As you continue on in your Advent journey of faith, may you be prompted with thoughts of peace this week from the only One who gives true peace. And may your anxieties be comforted … even as you drive along the icy roads of life.

Photo: wiirocku Tumbler

Feelin’ all the Feels

Anxiety. Pain. Crisis. Fear. Pandemic. Isolation. Many of these words have been in the headlines these last few weeks as people come to grips with the “new normal” of Covid-19. Zoom and virtual chats. Church on line and working from home offices. Unemployment. Everything has been shut down and cancelled until further notice. Disappointment. It’s been long enough and I think people are beginning to feel it. Now, I don’t normally have anxiety. In fact, I don’t understand that fear of the future emotion, much to the shagrin of my friends and family who often find anxiety crippling. “How can you not ?” “Don’t you care?” But — It’s not about that. It’s me being different from you. My brain is wired unlike yours, and God made us each unique for our own unique purposes. This is not up for debate. It simply is.

Today though – today – I am feeling all the feels. Not anxiety and what ifs. Not fear of catching viruses. Diseases have been around much longer than this. Our days are numbered and we should not fear. Many are suffering. And many of you are wired to help — and you are. You are spreading joy and doing your best to connect when it is hard to connect. Keep doing that. Continue to bless the new superheros working on the frontlines and the spiritual leaders who are trying to shepherd at a distance. #Faithoverfear is being touted as the believer’s response to this pandemic. Jesus called us to stand firm in our faith. I’m with you on that. However, He didn’t ask us to be stupid. He encourages us to pray for, and obey, our leaders. He asks us to share His love and be kind. He didn’t ask us to take risks, but to be wise and seek council. He gives us tools, and expects us to use them.

And yet, I am preaching to myself as I write these words. You’ll forgive me if I use this platform as my journal this week. Maybe it will benefit you, too, as we positive self talk together. Because today, I am feeling all the feels. There are too many people in my space. There is no routine in my world right now — and I thrive on routine. There have been things happen this week that have made me sad. I am frustrated and angry. Not fear or anxiety, but insecurities and fights for control. And it’s not about right and wrong. Most of us have never experienced something like this before. We are winging it together. And please don’t tell me I just need fresh air and human contact. I am fully aware of the physical consequences of isolation and too many carbs. I am smart. I know things will eventually come out the other side.

Yet, they say the biggest distance on Earth is the six inches between your head and your heart. You wanna know where God lead me this week? What I mused about? John 14. Twice in this passage, Jesus says, “Do not let your heart be troubled…” Your heart. That seat of emotions where things get mixed up and messy. The disciples knew Jesus. They had seen what He was capable of. They lived with Him. They ate with Him and followed His every word as He taught and prayed. And yet, He comforts them where it counted: in their hearts. Oh my friends, it’s not about whether you are in your pajamas for the whole day. It’s not about doing three hours of homeschool (or none!) or eating pasta again for the umpteenth time. It’s not about your double chin, your hairline, or the background lighting in your video chat. It’s not about doing the “right” thing. It’s not about knowing — it’s about understanding.

We’ve not been this route before. The disciples had never met anyone like Jesus before, either. They knew things, but they still didn’t understand the whys. It wasn’t supposed to be like this and our humanness often gets us mixed up in emotional messes, especially when the Devil gives us an extra dose of doubt, stress or insecurity. Jesus knew the path He had to take this week before Easter, and He knew His followers would be confused, misplaced and be having some “heart trouble”. It’s comforting to know that He still is in the business of calming that unsettling feeling deep within our chests.

I wish you virtual hugs this week, and encourage you to read and muse about John 14 along with me. May you be smothered with some supernatural peace in these unprecedented times (especially when you are feeling all the feels!) and “…let not your hearts be troubled….”

Lost Luggage

You will forgive me if you are a traveler and have have experienced this story a hundred times; but I am not, and so I share it from the perspective of a newbie, strained in the dilemma of being a “first timer” and all the fresh perspectives it brings.

I recently traveled from my home province to beautiful Nova Scotia for a short stay in wonderful “Wolfville Valley” as I participated in a conference at Acadia University. Although we are pretty experienced travelers, and I have no fear of flying, this was my first solo trip. The event took on a kind of snowball trajectory and I was not super prepared for it. The hubby booked the tickets for me without my consultations, we were unsure about the small details, and the return trip was still not nailed down until the day before I was to leave. This does not bode well for a slightly neurotic rule follower who likes to plan and have all her ducks in a row before undertaking any new task. These facts notwithstanding, I was looking forward to the conference and some alone time with my thoughts.

I strategically packed only carry on luggage to avoid extra costs, and despite his assurances that everything was fine, I made the hubby print out my boarding pass ahead of time. Old school. My emotions were high (see last weeks mid life crisis post) as I said my goodbyes and plodded on through the security lines. I watched as many scanned their electronic boarding passes via their smartphones with all the confidence of world class, techno savvy travelers. Perhaps I will survive my return flight without a solid piece of paper in hand.

The walk to our departure gate was seemingly endless and I struggled to juggle carry on suitcase, bag and old fashion paper work and itineraries, without losing anything on the moving sidewalks (anyone else have a fear of getting something sucked into the end of those things?!) After a marathon trek to the final boarding gate, I plunked down beside two young moms travelling alone with small children and blessed them both, silently, for taking on that challenge!

The staff eventually called that our flight was quite full and that if anyone would like to check your carry on luggage, they would be happy to pop it on the plane at no extra cost. I knew this might happen, and readily took advantage of the call. The moms also packed off their stroller and small child suitcases. I was sure to ask where exactly should we place them? “Just at the door of the plane — next to the stroller.” Okay. Done.

The short flight was uneventful and the slightly smaller airport made baggage collection easy to find. Colourful boxes and bags poured out and around the carousel, until the only ones left were those of us who had checked our bags at the gate! The young mom got her stroller…but no carry on sized luggage had arrived! Great. No big deal though… make a claim, lots of flights in from the big city today… should have your stuff by this evening… they will deliver to front desk, call when it arrives… okay, okay… I can do this. Happens all the time, I have a number to call, a printed receipt even…

The day goes by. No luggage. The evening goes by. No luggage. I call the toll free number. Not yet. I begin to slightly panic. I will have to sit through lectures with no deodorant! I will not have brushed my teeth. I will have to sleep naked! Oh, The horror!

Anxiety: Being consumed by the uncertainties of the Future. But God says: Let Tomorrow worry about itself!

Eventually my small suitcase arrived in a very reasonable time frame, all things considered. And despite my panic and fear of overwhelming body odor, no one seemed to bat an eye, or flinch a nostril. Life goes on. I survived.

As I sat on the flight home (with my carry on safely stowed above my head in the compartment above!) I marveled and mused about the whole idea of anxiety. Those who fear flying, those who struggle with phobias, those who are crippled by the very definition of the word anxiety: being consumed by the uncertainties of the future. I get it. I often feel it. I easily get overwhelmed with the unknowns, the what ifs, the lack of control.

Realistically, this is the big make up of our anxiety isn’t it? That lack of control. If we can’t fix it and be in charge, then who will? As a Jesus follower, I am squarely confronted with the fact that He is in control. God almighty is the only one who knows the future. Every other world view puts our destinies in our own hands. The end of Matthew 6 reminds us that the future will contain trouble, but it’s not my job to worry about it. Tomorrow will worry about itself. The lilies sleep naked all the time — and are all the more beautiful for it. I’m learning -slowly- to not fret at my lack of control. To try and move on and learn and grow. I even scanned my phone generated boarding pass on the way home! Small steps, my friends, small steps.