The Next Step

Do you have a fitbit? One of those little devices that count how many steps you’ve taken and what you need to make your optimal steps for the day? Or how much you’ve slept and ate and who you should marry? I don’t have one. We did have a “pre-fitbit” step counter once… I think we got it out of a cereal box. You clipped it to your pant leg and you could trick it into adding steps by swinging your leg or frantically waving your arms. It obviously didn’t fulfill its purpose very well.

Funny how we focus on “steps”. Moving forward, moving back, constantly checking where you are and where you should be going. Now, I am a girl who likes to plan. I like to check off my steps and put the x in the boxes. I follow the list and love instructions with bullet points and numbers. I follow the steps. But what if you come to the fork in the road? The edge of the cliff, and you are unsure of your next step? What happens then?

Perhaps it is a big decision. Perhaps a life goal. Perhaps a next stage in life. How do you feel when you are tip-toe with that edge and your next step will determine whether you soar or fall off the cliff? What happens then? The fitbit doesn’t tell you what to do with your steps, it just shows you how many you have taken. You have to set the goal.

We studied John the Baptist at church this week, and I couldn’t help but compare his ministry to a few people I follow on social media. There were “big announcements” posted and “new projects” to be taken on, and I noticed that life seems to be timeless when it comes to the edge-of-the-cliff decisions. Everyone eventually comes to that point where you have to take the next step. Sometimes you celebrate it, sometimes you mourn it, and sometimes it just quietly moves forward.

If you are diligent, you make informed decisions… you pray, study, ask the experts, debate, consult, read… and then? John chose to end his career of “preparing the way” because the Messiah had showed up! He worked himself out of his job. Some people set the stage ahead of time and contract themselves into a plan or timeframe. Then the time ends and you stop. Some of you are vision castors — entrepreneurial types who love the prospect of something new — and your life just becomes an ebb and flow of projects and plans. Some of us peddle backwards, afraid of the unknown and where the path may lead.

I’m learning to be patient. To plant my steps purposefully. But the journey is hard and the path rocky. My footing is not always secure and I seek answers. What now? Which way? Should I wait here while others catch up, or plunge ahead and take the risk of not knowing the path? A wise person once told me: Just take the next step.

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.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

It has been a crazy few weeks! Busy spring schedules means my house is a mess, I’m tired, the laundry is backed up, and things are just a tad bit grumpy around here. So, there is really no time for casual reading, despite my comfy couch calling my name as the sunbeams warm the spot! But before the chaos hit, I had the chance to finish up a book entitled “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks. (FYI – Apparently the author goes by Matthew Green in Australia and the UK). I picked it up in one of the thrift shops we stopped at on our girl’s getaway a few weeks back. (You can read about those adventures, here).

The reviews label it as a “psychological novel”… and I am not quite sure what that means. But it’s good. It is also an auditory book, so if you prefer that, it might be a cool one to listen to on a car trip this summer? Personally, I loved it as a great read, and couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of Max, an elementary school-aged boy with some special needs, and his imaginary friend, Budo. Budo, although imaginary, and only seen and heard by Max, is quite “real” for an imaginary friend. (He has eyebrows!) He is also quite “old” for an imaginary friend (More than five years old — most imaginary friends get killed by kindergarten says Budo 🙂 ). He discovers, through twists and turns in the book, that the more he learns, the more he dislikes reality. Budo’s biggest reality? Imaginary friends do not last very long. And Budo has to make some tough decisions in order to help Max, which in turn, may bring about his own demise.

I’m not a “fluffy” book reader… I like some interesting (and slightly dark) twists in my novels — and this one had just enough to keep me up at night. It boasts of sacrifice and internal struggle and pushing forward. Budo has to face his fears. Ultimately, his friend, Max, does too. The author has made it quite creative, almost whimsical — there are some other meritorious imaginary friends described in the book, and a few teachers who tickled my funny bone, as well.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is not considered a “spiritual” book by any shape or form, but I couldn’t help but see the parallels it has to our own faith journeys. Faith being the operative word here. Have you ever felt like an imaginary friend? Heard and seen and understood by only a very select few? You struggle to “do the right thing” but it may mean sacrificing your friendships, or even your very own existence? Do you have to rely on the strength of others to get you through a challenging trial?

Recently, I discovered our youngest had copied out a verse on the chalk board hanging on her wall. It struck me how we have been developing her faith by our family choices, our encouragement, and our example. In turn, she is beginning to live out her own faith in Christ. And we see it reflected in the doodles and drawings on her chalk board. What a scary privilege we have as parents!

Oh friends, after busy spring weeks like these past few, my faith is weak. I want to achieve big things, but I struggle with simply keeping things at the same, comfortable and re-assuring spot. I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, into the “real” world and face challenges that might be too hard for me. Sometimes I am barely keeping a float where I am right now! Can I get an Amen? Anyone out there feel the same?

Perhaps, Budo, Max’s imaginary friend, could take notes along with me, from 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT), where we learn that there is someone very real we can count on to strengthen us in our spiritual journeys. Someone who can truly help us step out in faith.  “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. “ So be it.