Thursday, 20 November 2014

A faith journey is a lonely one

Every Tuesday I get together with a few good friends and we relate scriptural ideas to motherhood and being a woman.  Every Thursday I attend an interfaith bible study, a different group of eight women each year.  Every Sunday I oversee the teaching of seventy-five children.  Every day I teach my children to read from the scriptures and pray.

My faith life is filled with people.  But a faith journey is one you take alone.

I don't know what made me come to this realization this morning.  The only difference I suppose was an extra ten minutes.  I was already in the car and so I headed up to the bible study early.  Someone was already in the child care room, which is unusual.  Juliette ran on in without a second thought, also unusual.  My table was empty.  I sat down, opened my bible to Hebrews 11, and prayed each verse aloud.

Father, help me understand the power of faith, by which you framed the worlds.  Help me see that if faith can create this world, it can work the smaller things in my life.

Verse by verse.  A Hall of Faith.

Give me the faith I need to go out into the wilderness to follow where you call me, even when I don't know where I'm going.  Keep the blessing of my inheritance in the front of my mind, so that I know toward what I am travelling.

Verse by verse, 40 verses.  (40.  A significant number in the Hebrew culture  A number that signifies a large number, approximate number, like umpteen.)  Umpteen verses on examples of faith.  Lives of the past, life circumstances.  Nothing easy, only trials that seem soul crushing to endure.  Except that it had the opposite effect: it didn't crush their faith, but fortified it.

Remind me of the better country, the Heavenly city, prepared for me.  Remind me that my divine nature is stronger and older than my physical nature.

I come upon a list, a list that signifies the writer must move along, cannot touch on every single example of firmly built faith given us in the pages of the Old Testament.  I can feel the passion and faith bleeding from the ink on my page.  Here is a writer, a man, whose desire to build other's faith comes across as near desperation.  "Please!" he begs.  "You must have faith!  If nothing else you must have faith!"

subdued kingdoms
wrought righteousness
obtained promises
stopped the mouths of lions
quenched the violence of fire
escaped the edge of the sword
out of weakness made strong
valiant in fight
dead raised
cruelty and scourgings
bonds and imprisonment
stoned and beaten
destitute, afflicted, tormented

And what is my fight compared to these?  I pause and struggle to find personal meaning in such trials.  Instead, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

And suddenly buoyed.

The apostle Paul's fervour is catching.

I catch my breath.

My friends have arrived.  I have been moved and they sit down with their books and coffees as though the Spirit had not just breathed over the table.  I look around at these women: we have studied, learned, shared, cried, and prayed together.  We have been vulnerable because of the newness of friendship.  We have journeyed together in friendship, and yet I come to realize that that is not the same as a journey of faith.

There are not earthly words to describe my understanding, my faith.  At one time I would have chalked it up to an inability to gather the words, but now I am more likely to attribute it to the touching of heavenly and earthly realms.  It is simply a knowing.

I don't think it is possible to relate one's faith completely.  There are too many facets, too many angles, too many emotions involved.  So many, in fact, that nothing is linear.  It is the culmination of it all, doubts included.  It is a breath, a cloud, something settling over you, seeping through your pores and simply becoming you.  It cannot be expressed, hence the loneliness of the experience.  Even for all the words that Paul penned, I can feel the desperation of inadequacy.  Perhaps the best we can hope for is to inspire someone to take a step in a similar direction.

While I wander in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves, build my faith, so that even if I don't see the blessing right now, I can know that God has something better in store.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The other benefits

We have a one income family.  That means that right now, James is working at a job outside the home, and I am staying at home to raise our children.  There are many, many reasons we have chosen this course for our family.  There are benefits and downfalls which we weighed in making our decision.  None of the reasons had anything to do specifically with a "career" but were instead about "providing": we have a vision of what kind of life we provide to our children, and our decision reflects those desires.

I have to say that the following two reasons have come to light more recently through some readings, and neither were ones that I had considered before.  They are more about how what the other person is doing benefits me.  Usually my arguments are about what I am doing and why it is good for my children.  But I hadn't considered how what I am doing is good for my husband (and vice versa.)  The benefits of his job, for me, and my job for him.

My husband's primary focus is providing financially for our family.  That means most of his days are spent out of our home, running his business.  He is responsible for having a job, keeping that job, and providing for our family the necessities of our physical lives: shelter, food, clothing.  We are blessed to also have a bit of an abundance that also allows for some wants.  Because of my job (staying at home) he is able to focus his attention on his.  If the kids are sick, I am home.  He doesn't have to worry about getting time off work, rushing back from the city to pick someone up from school, or even exposing himself to the illness and risk getting sick himself.  When he comes home from work, he doesn't face more hours of house work, meal prep, cleaning, tidying.  Those hours he was at his job, I was at work keeping things in order at home.  While we do work as a team once he gets in, he doesn't have to worry that we are both pulling in at 6pm and still have to face laundry and dinner and homework.  If we need to schedule a repair person, he doesn't need to be home "between the hours of 12pm and 6pm" waiting.  Part of my job is that I'm already here.  Because of my job at home, he can rest assured that things are running relatively smoothly, the details are taken care of, and he can focus his attention entirely on his work.

My primary focus is providing a home setting for our family.  I take care of the daily house work, the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking.  I take care of getting the kids ready and out the door, helping with homework, and general instruction in helping the kids learn and grow at home.  Because of my husband's job (providing financially) I can focus my attention on our children.  If one of them is sick, I can be the nurse.  If one of them has a hard day, I can sit and listen without the cloud of outside work hanging over me.  My husband's job gives me the gift of time. If I need to think clearly and ponder over an issue with a child, I can take the time.  If I need to spend some extra one-on-one time teaching a specific principle, moral or lesson to a child, I can take the time.  If we need to celebrate a child "just because" or attend a school concert or provide support for a daytime event, I can do it without any hassle.  As a mother, my primary role is to nurture my family, and nurturing takes unclouded time.  Because of my husband's job in providing financially, I can focus on the nurturing of my family.

Family dynamics are different in every house you enter, and how mothers and fathers are providing for their children changes from family to family, and even from year to year within the same family.  I'm so grateful that we are able to have the kind of setup we desire.  I'm appreciating it a little more today.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


For a short while, we were in a flurry to sell our home and buy another.  It was not specifically on our radar, but the seemingly "perfect" home came on the market, and after two years of perusing and finding exactly zero homes to our liking and budget, we thought we would jump.

Our home was not ready to go.  Four small kids and two adults in 1000 square feet means that we are packed in pretty tight.  And said small children do not leave a pretty home in perfect open house condition.  By the time we were ready to go, the other house was gone.  (I mean, literally.  Our agent was preparing our offer when we got word it was sold.)

I thought I would feel loss, but instead I feel peace.  I have suddenly seen what a beautiful blessing our home is.  A few articles about tiny homes and simple living have crossed my computer in the last couple of days and now I realize that we don't need more space.  We have that which we need and a little extra.  I can be happy here.

Monday, 10 November 2014


Today I am reflecting on silence.

I was asked this question: when someone is silent, what do you usually assume is the reason?  The offerings were anger, busyness, frustration, apathy.  I made my own box: desire.  If someone I know is quiet, then I assume they just want a little quiet.  This, I realized, stems from my own relationship with silence.

I crave silence because there just isn't very much of it in my world today.  The last nine years I have had (at least) a child under the age of two home with me.  Given that all four of my children love to be around people and love to talk, and that all four were terrible night sleepers, that left almost zero quiet time in my house.  Add to that the noise of media and the general loudness of town life.  It's no wonder that I yearn for a little country cabin in the woods, or that I love to shovel snow during a late night snowstorm when you can actually hear the sound of silence echoing around you.

I crave silence because I am a musician.  That seems counter-intuitive, but for me, when music is playing, it leaps to the front of my brain and crowds out anything else.  I am so connected with music that I can't read or study or even have a conversation with "background" music.  Music is never background for me, it always becomes the foreground.

I crave silence because I am socially awkward with any situation other than a small gathering of very intimate friends.  If I am giving an acquaintance a ride home, I will probably sit in silence as I drive.  If I am sitting next to someone at an event, I will let the conversation fall off and not struggle to fill in the gap.  There was a time when I worried about my inability to do "small talk" but now, I just embrace the silence.

And so, if you are silent, I rarely assume there is something wrong.  I assume you, too, are yearning for a little peace, a little space, a little time to yourself.  (So please do not use silence in place of communication if there is something wrong!)

One day I will have that little cabin in the woods.

Sunday, 9 November 2014


Our Caleb is seven.  I should probably write about how I can't believe he is already seven, where has the time gone, wasn't it just yesterday he was born?  But the truth is, he is an old soul.  What I really say to myself is "is he only seven?"  In fact there are times when I have to remind myself of that, as I sometimes put too high expectations on him.  He and Colin are the best of friends, and more often than not I see the two of them as eight or nine years old.

Caleb brings such joy to our home, smiles to our lips and amazement to our lives.  He lives his life with a running commentary in his head, and usually verbalizes it all day long.  He get the play-by-play, the review, the commentary, and the personal essay.

Caleb is smart as a whip and loves to learn.  Things come easy to him; new things snap into place very quickly in his mind.  He has that innate sense of logic that quickly scans a problem and then works it into a solution.  He works to make sense of something and then it sticks in his brain permanently.

Caleb is also incredibly social.  He does not search out to be the leader, but others flock to follow what he is doing.  I think it's an uncommon form of leadership in that sense.  He isn't looking to have everyone do what he is doing, or wanting to control the situation.  He simply does what he wants with such passion and joy that others see that it is a good road to walk.

Caleb, we are loving the dynamic you add to our family.  And that grin!  It says "life is good" and shines on everyone you meet.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Among a small group of women, we were discussing the passage of scripture where the apostles of the New Testament gather to replace the former apostle Judas.  Two names are put forward.  After prayer and deliberation, they cast their lots and one was chosen.  And one was not.

We talked about this idea, the idea of being chosen for one path or another.  Imagine the human emotion involved: anticipation, excitement, passion.  There was probably humility, given the spiritual maturity needed to fulfill such a position, but I don't think we can discount that both men wanted to work in such a profound way.

One was chosen, one was not.  For that path.  It can be hard to realize that we are all chosen for our specific paths.  Sometimes we look longingly down another road, yearning to follow a dream not matched to our life.  Maybe we know deep inside we are not meant to, maybe life circumstances prevent it.  Either way, it can feel like a dream that slipped through our fingers.

I think about Matthias, chosen as an apostle of Jesus.  One moment inspired by the impact of such a role, the next overwhelmed by what it actually means to step into it.  I think about Barsabus, walking down a path toward a calling, only to have the gate shut.  One moment tingling with anticipation and the next left wondering what now? what next?

That's what is so amazing about our lives: the "next."  It is not just the roads we walk that shape our lives, but also the roads we don't take.  I heard of a man in the next town, yearning to be a father.  His beautiful daughter was born with multiple severe disabilities.  No facilities existed to help his daughter with the many physical needs she had.  He turned a small cottage on his farm into a small hospital for her, fitted with the equipment necessary.  He learned and trained and cared for her until her frail body gave out at three years old.  Standing in the grand farmhouse, he no longer saw his path as a farmer and a father, but as a life-giver to others facing similar struggles.  That grand farmhouse was turned into home for 16 children with multiple severe disabilities whose needs outweigh their parents' ability to provide.  Nurses are on staff, sometimes one-on-one.  Medicine, equipment, everything these children need.  That first father now sees his path as an advocate and fundraiser for these few families whose lives look nothing like what they expected at the first twinge of their baby's conception.

We never know what might be next for us.  We never know what we are chosen for.