All are worthy of dignity and love in an upside-down kingdom

photo

It’s been a weird week.  It’s left my face scrunchled up trying to figure it out.  I’ve realized that I can’t, though.  Cause some weeks just are what they are and it’s better to just let ‘em roll.

I’ve always thought that I needed order.  Stability.

I’ve always thought that I thrive on routine.  Rhythmic days.  Moving to the tick of the clock.

It was only a few short years ago that we kicked all that to the curb.  The plans and the ideals and the certain way of doing things.  Upon looking back, it seems ages ago that we threw up our hands and fell on our knees and gave it all up.  The job.  The home.  The security of knowing how we were going to pay bills.  But it only seems ages ago because so much happens when you decide to stop deciding and follow paths that seem sort of crazy.

I’m so thankful for weeks like this when I’m reminded that I couldn’t make this stuff up.  There is no way on the planet I could orchestrate the life that happens to us.  Noone would jot this stuff down on their 10 year plan and yet here we are, living it and loving it more than any list that could proclaim ‘bigger house, more vacations and moving up the corporate ladder’.

It may not look like much, I assure you.  From the outside it’s just people.  Just interactions.  But to me it’s relationship and connection and seeing Christ in all and I can’t help but be humbled that he would allow me the moments I have.

I met the deputy health minister of our great province.  I brought my son along because, heck, why not.  It’s not every day you meet deputy’s of anything.  I was nervous because I assumed she was fancy and I’m not fancy and I just wanted to hide behind my racks of used clothing and do what I do at the youth clinic instead of shaking hands and hob nobbing the way fancy sorts do.

Schmoozing is not my forte.  Small talk doesn’t look pretty on me.  It looks like cats getting caught ready to dig up your flower bed, all wide eyed and frozen.  I nod alot.  And agree alot.  And then nod some more, all the while thinking, “Is this almost over?  And does my face look frozen?” So I was worried about the impressing of the fancy person and feeling insecure about my lack of fancy and I figured I’d just stay in my little room with laid out shoes and non-perishables and maybe it would all go away.

And then she pulled in on her motorcycle.

I could have smacked myself in the head because I always forget. Just because people have a title and drive and have accomplished big things in their life doesn’t mean they want to sit around and have their ego’s stroked and be told how wonderful  they are for doing all that they do.

Most often I find that they are really just commited and driven people who have a passion for something and have worked damn hard to accomplish it.  Most often I find that the title means very little to them and is merely a way for them to take what they do to the next level.

So as I shook her hand and explained that I have the privilege of giving clothing and food and dishes and stuff (your stuff, I might add!) to the youth in our community who are in need, she simply smiled and nodded and asked questions about how this works.

And within 3 minutes she was off to the next person talking to them about what they do.

Fast forward 2 days and I find myself on a park bench chatting with a lovely aboriginal woman who use to sleep in this very park.  She had a beautiful smile and such a warmth to her voice but her arms told a tale of life lived hard.

I use to be afraid of people who had lived hard.  Afraid that they would lash out at me for having a seemingly cushy life.  Afraid that they would judge me because I have lip gloss and a place to sleep.

But I’ve learned not to be afraid of marks and bruises because I have a few myself.  Sure, they may not be right out there on the surface of my skin but I assure you, they’re there.

Moments later I’m approached by a man who tells me how pretty I am.  How my eyes sparkle.  How someone told him there would be free food there, at the park, and he couldn’t find it.  Could I help him find it?

And I’m torn between the feelings of meeting fancy people and meeting a woman with scars so real and wanting to help a man find food but being wise enough to the human condition to know that the one he’s calling pretty and sparkly is probably not the one who should take him for dinner. I’m torn because the humans I meet are all the same.  Deputy’s and women with scars and men who need food.  We all have marks and scars and insecurities and bruises.

But I’m torn for a second between kindness and personal safety and I whisper a prayer in my head.

It’s then that our lovely conversation shifts and he asks if my husband is here and I shake my head no with a polite smile.  The words that come out of his mouth next are honey and his hand reaches over too near to my shoulder and I move aside and look him straight in the eye and tell him, with strength and with dignity, that he may not touch me, I belong to another.  I tell him to have a lovely evening and that he may go now and I politely use my no thank-you’s when he tries to shake my hand.

The places I find myself are beyond my dreams.  Meeting important people in our government system and meeting beautiful women with scars and meeting men who have misplaced notions of what is appropriate and all the while God is telling me, “I made them.  They are mine.”

So I can’t be scared of the fancy or of the man or of the scars.  They are his and they bear his image and that might sometimes be hard to see but my heart screams out that they are his image bearers and whatever we say and whatever we do to all of them is what we do unto Him.

I can’t believe I have the honour of interacting with this diverse a crowd within a matter of days.  I’m thankful that the rhythm of our life doesn’t hold us to a certain crowd or stigma.  I’m thankful that my circle doesn’t include people that simply look and sound and dress like me.  Doesn’t lock us into being only in certain situations with people who, in this world, are deemed important.   They’re all important.  Each one.  The one with the title no more so than the man who doesn’t know boundaries.  By the worlds standards they aren’t even comparable but to God, they’re both his.

The upside down kingdom life is my favorite.  You never know where it will lead.

 

Why I Don’t Want My Life to Look Like Stucco’d Walls

photo

“It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.”  -Tozer

I’m not really a paint your nails girl.  I sometimes pretend that I am and I choose a colour from my collection of 4 nail polish bottles, all roughly the same tone, but in different brands and I think, “I can do this!”  I curl up in comfies on the couch and set to the painting and I marvel at the change.  How simply sliding that brush right over top of my nail creates a whole new thing.  It’s prettier and sometimes sparklier and makes my hands look so different!

It never fails though.  I paint my nails in the evening and it doesn’t seem to matter how long I wait before I fall asleep, when I rouse in the morning my nails are all bumpy and grooved from the texture of the blankets.  The slight lines in the surface are testament to the fact that I didn’t wait long enough and I always wonder if this could be a look.  Like stucco’d walls.  Can I pull this off?  (Seriously, I think this every. time)

It only takes a few seconds before I realize that the bed sheet look isn’t a look and I wonder why I even bother.  I remember that I’m not really a paint your nails girl and yet twice a year I get suckered.  Trying to be someone I’m not.  Trying to change my exterior to prettier and sparklier.

Turns out when you try to cover up what you really are it is to no lasting effect.

I wonder why we’re never content with who we’re created to be.  Why we look at someone else and see stars in our eyes and want to be like that.  Why we think that who they are is better than what we are and so we slide the little brush dripping with paint over our lives and we marvel at how great we look with the change.

We pat ourselves on the back for how pretty and sparkly we are.  We gaze in the mirror repeatedly and constantly display this new look, this new thing, this way we are and it feels pretty great.

But the truth of it is, if we’re not being who God created us to be, you, me, him,  sister over there and there and there, then it can’t last.

It’s a cover-up.  A fraud.  A shiny coating over the truth of the matter which is that we are called to die to our self and live only in Him.

And it’s when we try to be something we’re not, try to be something we weren’t made for, that we wake up with lines all over ourselves, wrecked from the trying.

We can get the bottle out and apply another coat, of course.  We can smooth it all out with a bit of effort and time.  But it never lasts, sister.  It never lasts.

It’s only when we strip off all that we think we want to be, all the flash that we think we need, all the “I want to be like her’s”, that we can truly let God show us who He’s called us to be.

Some of us need to start picking away at the layers of me.  Let them simply chip  and fall away.  Others of us need to get out a cotton ball and the toxic smelling remover and scrub and scrub and scrub until we get to the bottom.  The fresh and raw.  The natural and simple.

It’s only when we rid ourselves of ourselves that God can take his position.  It’s only when we give up the thoughts and ideals and who we think we are’s and this is what makes me me’s, that we can allow Him to be responsible for the shine.

And I know that the sparkle and shine of a life lived in Him is the most beautiful thing there is.

It’s more lovely than the polish and more amazing than the glitter and it’s longer lasting than anything we can doctor up and it doesn’t ever end up with blanket lines from slumber.

 

Sugar-free Jam?! What?!

IMG_2811

Before this summer making jam wasn’t on my repertoire of things to do.  It seemed like a daunting task.  A full day in a steamy kitchen, sweating and smelling of raspberries just didn’t seem like my idea of a good time.   I know, shocker.

I do love me some jam though and my eldest son consumes it in a similar fashion to the time we saw the lion feeding at the zoo.  His eyes get slightly glazed over and there may or may not be some grunting involved.

So when I learned that there was a way to make Jam that didn’t have to involve 17 hours of work, I was curious.

When I learned that there was a way to can jam without having all of the fancy pants pots, I leaned in a bit and started to eavesdrop.

But it wasn’t until I heard the words sugar-free combined with delicious that my jaw dropped and I raised my hand and jumped up and down repeating, “pick me!  pick me!”

It seemed too good to believe but I knew I had to try it.  I don’t know about you  but I’m a visual learner.  It’s why my favourite recipes are ones that have lots of pictures in the cook book!  The pages with no pictures?  Skip right by ‘em.

So when my friend offered to come over and make it with me I knew life couldn’t get much better than that.

Being taught in person by someone who knows well?  Amazing.

Being able to produce something awesome while chatting and stirring together in a kitchen?  Triple amaze.

I kid you not this is the most amazing jam I have ever tasted.  It also contains not one stitch of added sugar, though of course there are naturally occuring sugars.  And if I told you it only takes an hour would you believe me?  Because it does.  One. Hour.

photo 4

I arrived home from the berry farm at 8:30 am and spent the next 10 minutes washing the berries.  So far I’ve made strawberry, raspberry and blueberry. The strawberries are the only ones you have to slice up – so that might take an extra few minutes.  The raspberries and blueberries are fine to use whole.

photo 5

IMG_2794

Measure out 12 cups of berries and dump them into a largish pot on the stove.

Grate up a green (granny smith!) apple, peel and all, and chuck it into the pot!

IMG_2803

Note: the apple must be green as they have the highest levels of naturally occuring pectin, especially near the center of the apple.  This is your natural Certo!  No more icky preservatives or chemicals under the guise of ‘natural flavours’ entering our jam, thank you very much!  If you like a thicker jam you can add 2 apples.  I did with my raspberries but not my blueberries so we can also use it more like a runnier syrup!

IMG_2802

Squeeze the juice of one lemon and add it to your berries.  I also like to grate the peel finely and add the zest in because in my opinion you can never get enough lemon zest!

Next, measure out one and a half cups of honey.  The local-er and more organic-er the better!  Put that into your berry pot and you are ready to cook!

I cooked mine over medium heat adjusting the temperature slightly along the way to avoid any unsightly boil-over.  As the berries heat up they’ll start to liquify and you want to get a good boil going.  Once that happens, turn the temperature down a bit but still having a rolling bubble.

IMG_2809

Set your timer for 45 minutes and stir at random.  If your berries aren’t breaking down as much as you’d like you can either use the potato masher to mush ‘em or a handheld blender does the trick too.  Depends if you like your jam on the smoother side or with some nice berry chunks in it.

Your jam will start to reduce and thicken and will literally taste like heaven.  After the 45 minutes it should be done!  The most amazing jam you will ever taste and it contains zero added sugar, is completely natural and as organic as the ingredients you choose to add are!

There you have it.  One hour, amazing result, and a great thing to keep your people happy throughout the year!

**I obviously haven’t included the ‘canning’ process here as there are a bazillion youtube videos about that.  however, if you’d like a rhonda tutorial on my simple ways without large pots or fancy racks, let me know!

Making jam is my new jam!  (ha ha too much?!)

The campfire and how it allows our teens to talk

I woke up this morning only to discover that my keys were locked in my vehicle.  The great thing about starting a day like that is that it can really only go up from there!

We’ve pretty much embraced all things summer around here.  Things like water on the trampoline, making jam and traipsing to every body of water within a forty minute radius.

photo 4

photo 5

I’ve written before about how these are the days we live for, the days that get us through the rest of the year of homework and rain.

This year we’ve taken one of our favourite things to a whole new level.  The campfire.  It’s the best thing about camping.  I’ll even take the smoke saturated clothing and hair for days for what the campfire brings out in everybody.

photo

We read aloud, page after page of the best books.  We hold sticks in the flames, poking at the charred logs until the end glows and we can write our names in the air in smoke.  We lean into the warmth and stare at the dance that never stops before our eyes and the stories start to come out.  The stories start to flow when we don’t need to be looking eye to eye.  When noone is watching for reactions.  When the dark engulfs us and we are hypnotized by the light we aren’t hindered anymore.

photo 2

photo 3

We have learned more about our children around a campfire than any other time.  We ask questions that are hard to answer and for some reason they talk.  It just comes out.  Stories we missed during the school year.  Things we didn’t have time to listen to between basketball practices and dinner prep.

There’s no way we wanted those experiences on only the few weekends a year we actually go camping so we got a small fire that we can sit around on our back porch.  Turns out it works in just the same way.

photo 1

We’ve heard tales of times they ate 7 pieces of pizza and wanted to throw up.  We’ve heard stories about school dances that they didn’t attend.  We’ve heard about about the time one of their classmates came to school high and the time they were offered drugs.  We’ve heard about the time that they were bullied at school and the time they got really scared.  It all just flows…

And they ask questions about hard things.  About death and what it feels like to be drunk.  They admit to fears that are deeper than spiders and snakes.  They look for us to tell them about the time God provided in ways that seemed so mysterious.  They ask again about the day they were born and how you know what sort of career to begin.

They start thinking about big things while the smoke wafts around them and the flames heat up their knees and so we’ve created them more often.  They’re part of our normal now and it doesn’t matter if we’re at home or in the woods the effect is the same!

When Being a Family Is Hard

photo 1

I once read this thing about how family’s are either sweet or spicy.  It made me breathe a sigh of relief because for some reason it felt like this was the first time I was given permission to not be precious.

Not that there’s anything wrong with precious!  There’s not.  It’s beautiful.  It’s just something I could never pull off and it made me feel somehow like a failure.

I felt like Those Moms somehow loved their kids more than I did because they wrote them notes in their lunch boxes and cut the crusts off their sandwiches.  I thought they must have more affection than I ever could and my children were somehow missing out because my heart didn’t ache for them when I wasn’t with them.  I wasn’t spending my time after school drop off pining for them.  I was sort of enjoying the time by myself.  I had moments of questioning myself because their room isn’t decorated with heart warming sentiments or even decorated at all.  At bedtime I would tell them that I’d peek in on them in 10 minutes and then I would forget.

All I could think was, what is wrong with me?!

Until I was given permission to be who we were made to be.  Not precious or sweet, but I’ve realized not really spicy either.  I’ve come to think of us as a more robust flavour.  We’re strong, the lot of us, and we’re sturdy, though a bit sinewy, I’ll give you that.  We’ve got a strong flavour that you can’t miss and we’re not afraid or ashamed of it.  But you sort of have to be ready for us or we may catch you off guard.

The past few weeks I’ve been wishing we were a bit more precious.  More lovey.  More dote on each othery.

Because sometimes being a family is just plain old hard and when it is I feel like the precious family is better at caring for each other through it.

I’d like to blame it on summertime and more time spent in close quarters.  I’d like to blame it on late nights and too much junk food.  I’d like to blame it on lack of structure and the sticky heat but I’ve been in enough counselling sessions to know that blame shifting gets you a total of nowhere.

It’s the little things really and nothing new.  It’s big brother being annoyed with middle’s taste in music and incessant tapping on things.  It’s middle brothers victim posture.  It’s everyone mad because the little always gets his own way.  It’s Dad working overtime.  It’s Mom tired of making dinner.  It’s the garage is always nearly impossible to walk through because of sporting equipment chaos and recycling that never gets taken in.  It’s why were you created that way and my way is clearly better.  It’s your opinion is less than mine and can’t you see that I’m right.  Always.  It’s I want to be in charge.  It’s your way is stupid.  It’s when the sound of someone’s breathing becomes a missile heading straight for your brain and it’s all you can focus on.

It’s 5 humans with sinful hearts living together and let’s not hide behind the beautiful mess gig, okay?  Sometimes it’s just a mess.  Plain and simple.

We’re there right now.  In this place of annoyance and selfish.  In the place of you’re chewing too loud and stop looking at me.  In the place of it’s not fairs and I don’t want to’s.

Matt Chandler, one of my favourite (alive) preachers has this phrase he uses constantly and I love it.  He says, “It’s okay to not be okay, it’s just not okay to stay there.”

So we recognize that our robustness has turned less into flavourful fun and more into mean.  And we acknowledge that our bold and vibrant nature can be all sorts of awesome when we use it to love big and loud and can also be all sorts of gross when we shoot glares and roll eyes.  Robust can be amazing and it can be hurtful.  Our hearts can be beacons of light and of brooding dark.

It’s okay that we’re not okay.  We’ve been a family long enough to know that these things come.  But it’s not okay for us to stay here.

photo 2

There’s only one way out of the not okay and it’s recognizing the intention of our hearts.  It’s admitting that we’re wrong.  It’s being able to look each other in the eye and say I’m sorry.  It’s knowing that light pushes out dark and so we reach and yearn and run towards the sun.  We bask in its glow and we let it penetrate deep and feel it warm on our skin and for a few moments we look around and know that even when we’re not okay, we really are okay.  We hit the reset button on our hearts and we remember that we are so loved and so we ought to love in return.

It won’t be perfect.  In a few moments we’ll forget.  In time we’ll be right back in this same place and that’s okay.  Because being a family is hard.  But it’s also amazing and so again and again we will arrive here and maybe the intervals of goods between the hards will get longer but maybe they won’t.  As long as we remember to keep coming back to the light.  Sometimes we may sprint there with all we’ve got and sometimes we may drag our heels and kick up some dust along the way.  Sometimes we might just stand looking and others be barely able to look up at it but be on our knees facing in its direction.

It’s all okay.  Sweet or spicy.  Robust or zesty.  Charred or braised or blackened.

Give yourself grace and know that when its hard, you’re normal and we’re right there with you.

Warnings that seatbelts may be required

photo

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m typing to you with bare feet and hair still wet from the shower.  The sunshine on my face is glorious, as is the mess from last nights dinner with friends.  We went to bed late avoiding most of the mess and we slept in and traipsed straight outside to avoid it again.

Of course, I’m an adult and I’ve learned that avoiding the mess isn’t going to make it go away.  I can no longer sneakily brush the crumbs off the table onto the floor so that Mom will have to swoop in and clean them up.  Because I’m the Mom now and the sneaking is all aimed towards my having to do it.

I’ll be honest with you and say I have nothing much to say this morning and yet so many disconnected thoughts streaming through my brain.  I like to assume this is how you operate too.  So many things to say and not sure how to get them all out?

Truth is I haven’t been able to connect any points to get them down in type lately.  I’ve got roughly 87 blog posts started and none of them finished.  I have approximately 17 bajillion ideas in my head but exactly zero ways to wrap it all up in a pretty post and lay it out for you here.  I’m finding that the more people I know are reading this little place of mine the more I think I have to do it a certain way.   Like I owe you clearer ideas, better thought out ways, beginning  and endings to stories and not just jaggedy starts with ‘I’ll get back to you laters’ on how it ends up.  Maybe even a pretty bow tied on top.

But let’s be honest, my life is not really a picture of clear thoughts, destinations and pretty bows.  It’s not the gathering place for happily tied up stories and advice on how to do things well.  Instead I feel more like the grab bags that use to entice me at the candy store as a kid.  50 cents and you never know what you’re going to get.  The thrill of the surprise was what drew me in, the logic behind not being able to choose your own candy was what scared me away.  In typical Rhonda fashion I would get them about half the time.  Because sometimes you need the anticipation and sometimes you just really don’t want squishy strawberry marshmallows.

Here’s what I know about myself.  I change my mind.  I hold my own opinions loosely because God knows that just when I decided that I’ve placed a stake in the ground on not wearing coloured jeans, I’m won over and I have to admit I was wrong.

It’s just one of the ways God keeps me humble.  I think it’s his way of messing with me.  I’m pretty sure it’s hilarious to watch and even now I’m learning that it’s kind of hilarious from my vantage point.

I might as well just tell you right now that my so-close-to-being -a-teenager-he-can-taste-it, middle child just asked if he could have pizza and rootbeer for breakfast and I said yes.  I’m quite sure I would have judged parents of teens who didn’t make their child eat a balanced breakfast – UNTIL I HAD A TEENAGER!  Now pizza and root beer sounded about right for the morning because sometimes you just have to stop saying no to your teens and give them a yes that really doesn’t matter.

Moral of the story?  I don’t know.  Maybe that we can’t know until we’re in it.  Maybe that whole walking a mile in someones shoe thing.  Maybe just that I don’t have any answers and I need you to know that’s just the way it is.

I do know that I write best when I allow my heart and head to process what’s actually in there – pretty bow or hurricane.  It’s why I started this little spot on the internet to begin with and it’s where I need to get back to.  To process with pencil and paper or fingers and keyboard and to allow myself the freedom to not be right and not even know where it’s going but  to live the journey alongside you guys without worrying about having 3 perfect points, a good tie in story, humour in just the right spot and a conclusion that brings tears to your eyes and has you nodding along with me.

I’ve never loved just a pretty package.  In fact, more often than not it scares me because I have a hard time believing that the contents inside can match.  I’ve long been drawn to honest, to raw, to quirky.  I love a challenge and learning new ways and new things and not being afraid to say I have no idea.

I don’t know if you should consider yourself warned or just buckle up for the ride.  Either way, I really like you and I hope you want to come along!

Drying herbs.

photo 3

Our Mother’s Day tradition is to head to the garden shop and pick out our favourite flowers and herbs to plant outside.  We fill the pots on the deck with whites and purples and we  fill wooden cranberry crates with the herbs we use the most.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 10.31.20 PM

Well, it turns out this year our herbs have decided to grow and grow and grow and we can’t keep up with the eating of them.  So, I decided to try drying them.  I figured it can’t be too hard.  Can it?

photo 2

photo 1

I picked some stems, gave them a good shake to fling out any creepy crawlies, tied the ends up with twine and hung them upside down, as per internet instructions.

photo

And now I guess I wait!

Have any of you dried herbs before?  Any tips for a newbie?

With any luck we’ll be eating rosemary chicken all winter long!