My Everyday {original art}

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Tinfoil sculpture (?!)

We made a decision many moons ago that I’m so happy that we’ve stuck to.  We decided early on in our married life that we wanted the walls of our home to be one of two things, they could either be bare and we’d be okay with that or they would be adorned with original art.


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I'm a lover of photography and these two pieces are some of my faves.

I’m a lover of photography and these two pieces are some of my faves.

I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a time when at least one of us isn’t working in the arts.  We love being surrounded by creative people who passionately use their minds and hands to make things.  We both thrive on tangible expressions of our artistic selves and find we get a little grumpy when we’re not engaged in something creative.

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An early paint-sketch by the always intriguing Janet Bright.

We’ve also both struggled as artists.  Doing things that people didn’t love or figuring out how we’re going to eat and still do what we love.  We’ve been surrounded by many people in the same situation.  People who are doing amazing things, creative things, taking risks and putting their all into projects only to have it be stored in a garage unnoticed.

An art school piece by my hubs.  We both chose one piece of each others art to hang in our home.  We would never on our own choose to hang something we created but both love what the other has done! That's love!

An art school piece by my hubs. We both chose one piece of each others art to hang in our home. We would never on our own choose to hang something we created but both love what the other has done! That’s love!

It’s because of this that we made the decision that we wanted to support artists and not IKEA or mass produced print companies.  We wanted our home to be a reflection of this.  While the large print from a discount store might be less costly and more in line with your colour schemes, you simply can not replace what a canvas with paint that a working mind and hands created with a purpose, with an idea, with an agenda, even.  It changes your walls in a way that we love and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Sketch by Royden Lepp (incidentally, our boys FAVE comic book artist. If you have a son, go buy him the Rust books ASAP!)

So, we have many empty walls and that’s okay.  We also have beautiful pieces that tell a story  on others.  It’s also taken nearly 20 years to collect these few pieces that we have.

Photography on Metal by Brandon Thiessen

Photography on Metal by Brandon Thiessen

We love to know that we support artists.  Real artists.  People who bought their groceries because we bought their piece.  People who can continue doing what they love because we support them instead of trying to copy what they do ourselves.

We also love that we have insanely passionate and creative friends who have contributed to our collection.

We love it and we won’t ever change it.

 

**I’m a believer in living with intention.  So my ways are only my ways because I believe in them and I desire to live out what I believe.  I never want to project that my ways are the only ways when it comes to matters of preference.  I love to hear why you do what you do because it let’s me know what’s important to you.  This is just a piece of what’s important to me. 

Our Weekend in Pictures, Without the Pictures

Each time I have a child in grade 4 there’s one field trip that I like to go on.  I’m mostly done with the tagging along and chaperoning a bunch of children to the always rainy pumpkin patch or the always boring planetarium.  I’ve long sworn off riding on the bus with a rambunctious gaggle of children all sweaty headed and loud.  But the grade 4 trip takes you back to a time when movies were silent and blacksmiths banged out horseshoes and the general store has items that I long to decorate my home with.

It also has a carousel.

The carousel gets me every time.  It’s not an adventure ride and it doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping or warrant fist pumps to the crowd.  No, the carousel is different.

It all starts in the line up as you’re waiting to get on and you see the children before you riding round and round and you’re not focused on them at all but simply on which horse you’re going to pick and run for as soon as that gate opens.  Which one looks the most majestic or bobs up and down at just the right pace.  Which one has the most jewels adorning her head or the prettiest sheen on her mane.  It’s a psychological tapping into which horse most fits your needs just then and which one you want to be atop when the music starts to play.  The warrior or the princess.

Our Easter weekend was all the things that are perfect about the carousel ride.  Not too fast and yet not too slow.  Timing and pace are everything with both affairs.  It had the perfect rhythm of ups and downs but none so far up that it  made the middle’s seem nominal and not too low down that the grin ever got wiped off your face for you know the down simply leads into the next up.

I don’t have one picture of my children on the carousel, though all 3 of them have been on this field trip with me in tow, camera phone in hand.  Of course I have pictures of them in front of the tiny old church and in front of the ice cream shop or even sitting in the old school house, backs straight so as to not get the ruler across their palms, but none on the carousel.

I knew our weekend was nearing perfection when I realized just the same.  When I had the fleeting thought of, “I don’t know where my phone is.” But it never beckoned enough for me to stand up to find it.  As if taking my focus off of what was right there before me might have caused a warble in the weekend.  Might have caused me to lose my balance on the carousel and spend my time trying to capture what really cannot be captured anyways.

The photos don’t make the memories though, do they?  I have the best images in my mind of my sons smile as they glided round on their horse.  I can hear their laughter and see the motion they made of drawing out a sword as they round the bend.  Even all the hearts on instagram and knowing you revelled in that moment with me couldn’t make it better.  In fact, I fear I may just remember the little snap shot moments instead of everything in between, if I had just that one shot.

I don’t have a picture to show for our Easter but I have a trilogy of it playing in my head.  Each day the memories gathered could make a feature film that perhaps only I would want to see but I’m going to watch it over and over and over.

The moments around the breakfast table with all 5 of us.  A rarity in these parts and something to hold on to.  The reading of scripture on good friday and being so impossibly indecisive about how far back in the story I should go to begin the reading.  Where does one start?  “Genesis,” says the Hubs and I swoon because he’s all too right.

I have engrained the laughter and the sound of running feet from the front door to the back, trying to escape the capture of their second cousins once removed (?!)  Family that our children didn’t know one bit that in an instant became playmates and friends.  The dirty feet and the grass stained jeans don’t matter one bit because something is going on outside that you can only watch.  Community is forming amongst your littles and the littles of extended family and it’s something beautiful to behold and a picture couldn’t capture what this means or what this day holds.

I remember the feelings, the do-we-have-to-go-alreadys, though you’ve played for hours and the babies need to go to bed and the adults just deem it time and yet you don’t know when you’ll see these people again and it all seems just a bit unfair and like the adults hold all the cards.  Because they do.

But the ride isn’t over and this was just one day and there are more to come we’re just slowing it down for a minute to regroup and rest and head into it again tomorrow…

Mid-ride the pace always picks up just a bit and you’re not sure you can sustain.  More food and more driving and more, more more,  but the smiles, oh the smiles,  of everyone around you gathered at the table that is our carousel for the weekend make you know that even if it gets just a tad bit hairy it’s all so good.

It’s a new table and new company and a baby passed around for snuggles.  It’s new food and new wine and new stories to tell.  It’s obstacle courses set up in basements and little cousins that look up to you like you’re the best thing that ever happened and please don’t take a minute to stop.  It’s nieces that feel more like friends now, given the age they are, and the teasing they have to take from uncles wondering who that boy was that was with them the other day.

It’s stories and laughter and food and community and what we all long for, right here around the table.  It’s the kingdom of heaven here on earth in a glimmer so slight and yet all we can handle because how could it get any better than a squishy faced baby asleep in grandma’s arms and melt in your mouth dessert topped with the sprinkles that may not change from one generation to the next.

I’ve always wondered how the carousel can go round and round and round and yet you never leave dizzy.  I’ve always imagined the blueprints and the designer (With a european accent in my mind) coming up with the perfect size circle and the perfect speed so that you never feel queasy, only pure delight.  The creator, timing things with such precision, so that it’s not more than you can handle but each corner leads you to a new place and each rise and fall brings you joy.  Perfectly paced joy.

Our creator does the same, without the accent, I presume, but He led us from Friday to Sunday with the perfect timing of not more than we can handle under the weight before getting to the glory of the resurrection.  His blueprint perfect.  His timing precise.

We proclaim that He is Risen and the thoughts go through my head that Scripture is right, it looks foolish.  It sounds foolish.  To those around us who don’t believe I can only imagine we look a bit crazy but when you know something with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and the words line up and the documents are there and history shows and your heart is bursting, well – looking the fool doesn’t matter at all.

We respond with, “He is risen, indeed!”

The ride changes just a bit here because it’s now right here.  It’s in our home.  It’s not us as the guests but us as the hosts and there’s a beauty in that that can’t be captured.  Boys scouring the house for a few more chairs doesn’t make for social media shout outs but their feet scurrying and their hands helping to prepare for friends make a mama’s heart glad.

The smell of cinnamon buns in the oven makes our bellies rumble.  The smell of coffee dripping into our mugs make our eyes open a wee bit wider.  The texts of, “We’re on our way,” make boys actions excited and anticipatory and the joy of seeing these friends that feel more like family is on their faces.

And the arrival with hugs and babies and gumboots and slicked over hair makes my heart sing.  He is risen.  He is here.  The kingdom of God in extra chromosomes and babies hands digging in a pot of dirt.  The kingdom of God in teenagers bonding over whipped cream on waffles.  The kingdom of God in conversation that dives straight into tales oft kept in but shared so freely here.  There’s no chatter about weather or sales at the mall.  No we plunge head first into the good stuff.  The heart stuff.

I think of how Easter Sunday should be spent and my mind goes to visions of church and arms raised and heads bowed and unending worship.  But my images are often alone.  One person standing in awe before God and yes, this is good, but today this is worship.  Babes running with arms raised and swinging a fly swatter around, holy noises of laughter from the other room as pre-teens watch old video clips from when they were little, heads bowed to wipe dirt off of faces or pick up a child or breathing in that spot on their head that smells like heaven itself.

And it’s another table and it’s more food and it’s dark coffee and it’s heaven right here in our home.

Of course, as soon as it comes it’s on its way out again.  And as joyous as the hugs were upon arrival we sink just a little when we must hug on the way out.

And just like that carousel, we know it will all end in a blink.  We will grasp for more, just a few more bobs, as the pace inevitably slows and we know the end is near.   We’ll cry for more, just a wee bit more,  but alas the man with the whistle and the hat will direct you which way to the exit and back to real life all too soon.

Him, Not Me.

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I was recently called perfect.  I snorted as gracefully as a woman can and laughed thinking to myself, “You clearly don’t know me very well!” The words have me a bit riled for a number of reasons, but mostly because it makes me feel like I’m portraying a very wrong message.

I’m not perfect in a thousand different ways.  I wake up early to pray but sometimes I flip through instagram instead.  I have myself convinced that I don’t NEED coffee in the morning because that would be an addiction and would show that my joy is in caffeine and not in Christ.  Everyone around me before I have that first cup? - They know that my joy is in caffeine but are too scared to tell me the truth.  I do not love my neighbor as much as I love myself.  This shows itself by exactly how I’m not cleaning their houses for them or making them dinner or purchasing them things like expensive boots.  I get angry when I make myself a delicious snack and then my kids want to eat it and I may have developed a habit of sending them outside to play before I dare make myself anything to eat.  I’m selfish and can be kind of full of myself.  I’m not patient or slow to speak and I just happen to question God from time to time……click here to finish reading.

{ I’m over at Family Life today talking about serving in your community and how it impacts our children.  You can head on over there to read the rest of my thoughts on Perfectionism and the Mistake of Thinking We’re Good.}

My Everyday

We all have things that we do each day that we don’t even think about.  Each morning my alarm goes off and I know the general direction for my day because I’m a person who thrives on order.  Of course, I think that the things that I do each day are totally normal and pretty much like how everyone else does it.  Turns out, that’s just not the case!  Mine normal is not my next door neighbours normal, nor my friends normal, and is most definitely not normal if you hit another country or continent.

So I thought it would be fun to share a few of my every day normals and I’d love to have you join along.  If you have a blog and want to do a “My Everyday” post please leave a link in the comments so we can all see each others different normals!  I love that – different normals!  If you’re not a blogger you can just leave a comment about whether you do it similar to me or very very different and what that looks like!

I love learning and growing and seeing how people around me do things.  I think we can learn so much from each other and it’s one of the reasons I love reading blogs and blogging.  We can see others lives and learn or debate or disagree or make changes based on what we read.

So my first, “My Everyday” theme is What I Consume First in the Morning!

I’ve had a few people ask me for this recipe so I figured it would be a good place to start.

I’m not someone who loves eating in the morning. Breakfast is for sure my hardest meal even though, I know I know, it’s the most important.  I just never feel like putting food in my body until around 10 am.  I know this isn’t good for me though and so I’ve found a way that works for me to get nourishment into my body without having to chew!  Win and win!

What do I consume first in the morning?  Green Juice!

I originally found the recipe for Green Juice in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook “It’s All Good”.  She does a version of it by juicing all the ingredients but I’m not a huge fan of juicing.  (too much waste, loss of key ingredients in food like fiber etc making it not as filling)

So, I tweaked it a bit and I simply blend all of the ingredients so you get the full benefit of each ingredient but in liquid form.  This green juice is like fuel in a glass and gives you an energy shot better than any cup of coffee.  Two weeks after I started drinking it I noticed a huge lift in my energy throughout the whole day and a general better feeling.  I like starting the day like this because I know that if I happen to have a cinnamon bun for lunch or some other treat throughout the day, I’ve already started the day well so it’s okay, right?!

Onto the recipe!

Here’s what you need:

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A few kale leaves, half a lemon, a handful of mint leaves, fresh ginger and an apple.  Oh, and a blender!

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First, break off the leafy portion of your kale.  I usually use the leaves off of about 3 stalks.  Throw it in the blender.

(kale is high in iron, which I was always low on before starting this, plus Vitamin A, C and K!)

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Then squeeze in the juice of half of a lemon.  I just squeeze by hand but I think one of those things that you twist the lemon on would be helpful.  I just don’t have one.  (hint, hint)

(Lemons stimulate your digestive tract and aids digestion so it’s perfect in the morning!)

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Throw in a handful of mint leaves.  I like a lot of mint but you can adjust to your taste.  I had to buy this because my poor little plant couldn’t keep up.  I can’t wait until summer though because I can plant more outside and hopefully not have to buy it anymore!

(Mint is high in Vitamin C plus contains many minerals including magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, and calcium.)

I forgot to take a picture of the ginger.  Peel fresh ginger and finely grate it.  About a teaspoon full will do and pop it into the blender.

(Ginger improves the absorption of nutrients in the body, is an anti-inflammatory and helps with digestion aka gas!)

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Choose a delicious apple and rough chop it up and fire it in with your other ingredients.

(Apples are high in Vitamin C and calcium, antioxidants and fibre!)

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Add about a half a cup of water and pulse your blender a few times to begin mixing the ingredients.  After they’re somewhat stirred just blend, blend, blend!  I blend mine for about 2-3 minutes because I don’t like it chunky and I don’t have an especially awesome blender.

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The final product looks something like this.  I chug it down every single morning.  Each morning I can’t wait for it, I love it so much.  It’s a perfect start to my day and gives me way more of what I need than coffee can!

So – what’s the first thing you consume each morning?  

When it gets a bit heavy I shift to how’s the weather.

I see her eyes downcast and an unwillingness to even meet my gaze.  She sits and fiddles with her hands as they clench and unclench between her knees.  Fingers cross and uncross.  Never still.

I see the marks up her arms.  Some raised and thick with scar tissue.  Some fresh with scabs just barely formed.

I want to ask why.  Not of her, I know why from her.  I can barely dream I’d be doing anything different if I were her.  If I’d walked the road she’s walked.  If I’d seen the things she’s seen.

I want to ask why of God. Why was this the life given to her?  Why has she had to endure atrocity?  Why can’t she just catch a break?

I roll my eyes at myself as I hear the trite conversation starters come out of my mouth.  I keep telling myself to just shut-up as I ask trivial questions about her day.  Her week.  Her weekend.

For God’s sake, she’s hurting!  Who cares what she did on the weekend!  She cut her arms, that’s what she did!  Is that what you want her to say?

I cringe inwordly at the constant sound of my own voice.  The chatter.  I sound like I’m talking to the lady scanning my groceries at the check out and I’m pleading with myself to just stop.  To wipe the smile off my face and let her see that I hurt for her.  No, that I hurt with her.

I’ve been told point blank that I go too deep too quick.  World knows I’m awkward at small talk and I just want to get to the heart of it.  To the what makes you ticks and the where you came from’s and the reasons why you believe what you believes.  I’m not good at weather and I’m certainly not good at what’d you do this weekend because my answer is always the same.  Lazed around.  Hung with the fam.  Y’know.

But for some reason  I can’t do it with her.  I can’t ask her the hard questions or the in’s and out’s because I know enough to know that’s probably not what she wants to spend her days talking about.  Why would I want to trigger points of pain with her at this very moment or bring up things about the past that maybe she’d rather forget.  Maybe she’s tired of people digging and prying and feeling like there’s something wrong with her.  Maybe I can just be that light -hearted friend who can make her smile or laugh.

I know I’m wrong.  Even in the moment I know I’m wrong.  Because more than likely she’s never actually had someone to listen.  Someone to feel her pain along side her.  Someone to weep with her and nod in agreement that it’s just not fair.  Maybe she’s never had anyone actually validate her feelings and let her know that while I don’t fully understand I want to.  Maybe she’s never sat across from a healthy mother figure.  Maybe all she knows is people who don’t give a damn and are just looking out for themselves and are seeking to get what they can from their relationship with her.

So why can’t I do it?

The truth is I’m scared.  I say I want to help and serve and be there for the youth in my community in really tangible ways but right now, sitting in this room with her, it’s so much easier to offer her a pack of Kraft Dinner than to really go to the place of allowing her to speak her pain.  Because what then?  What if she tells me?   What if she let’s me into her life and shares more than I know what to do with?  What if she needs me more than just here every other week handing out food and sweaters?  What if she needs me outside the walls of this place?  This room where it’s safe and there are professionals around and after closing we all go home?

I say I trust God.  I say that I will follow where He leads.  I say that it can be anywhere.

Except when it gets scary I start to talk about the weather and the weekend and what we’re having for dinner.  When it’s about to get real some weird shift happens and suddenly I’m not sure I can follow this path.  I’m not sure I’m qualified or prepared.  In fact, I’m certain I’m neither.

I say I trust and will follow but then the doors get locked up and I go home to my beautifully simple family who hug altogether too many times in a day and I sink into my life and I’m really comfortable here.  We sit on the couch, legs all tangled one over top of another and we sip on our tea and we talk about the harsh realities I’ve seen and then we flip on an episode of Suits and let the cares of the day be gone.

This is it.  Us vs. Them.  Us with the beautifully easy life and the whining about how expensive the braces on the children’s teeth are.  Us with our Costco stocked fridge, oh and the one in the garage too, and let’s not forget about the deep freeze.  Them with the fridge empty and no means to buy toilet paper.

The question begs to be asked – is my time volunteering really what I’m called to?  Is my every other week, few hours of duty really it?  Because scripture says it’s my life that is supposed to be given up, it never draws a line.  It doesn’t ever say that we are to leave them when our time is done and cozy back into our posh life.

The question begs to be asked – am I volunteering my time to earn the social justice checkmark on my report card?  Am I doing just enough to make the grade but nothing too much so that it actually costs me something.  Anything, really.

The question begs to be asked – at what point am I going to be brave enough to say, why don’t you come to our home for dinner, without worrying that something might be stolen.  Without worrying that it might be unsafe.  Without worrying that maybe the  people they’re connected to will find out where we live and damage something.

When will it stop?  When will I stop?  When will I actually live like I say I want to and believe what I say I believe?

When is it going to cost me the way Jesus said it should?  Until it does, I’m afraid I’m just not getting it.  I want to, but I’m not sure I am.

Here’s what I do know, though.  I know that I’m going to continue to fall on my knees in the middle of the living room floor and beg God to show me.  I know that I’m going to continue to let the tears fall as I pray for the cuts up her arm and the wounds on her soul.  I know I’m going to keep engaging in trivial banter until I recognize that Christ is with me and in me and I let His words be mine and I love in a way that is beyond Kraft Dinner.  When it starts to cost me.  When it starts to squeeze a little.  When it’s a bit scary and so it brings me back down to my knees in prayer that He will deliver on His promises.

Because I know He will.  In my mind, I do.  It seems my heart has some catching up to do and so I pray earnestly that He will push me out of the comfortable place.  That I may be an empty vessel without contrived ideas but simply hands of love.   That the love will break beyond the trivial and will move me to actions that are hard but that I will simply place one scared foot in front of another because I trust deeply, oh so deeply, in the promises of God.

The journey is slow.  The process is long.  But I know He’s with me and so we’ll move forward together, one awkward conversation at a time.

**I process through writing and so you, my friends, are privvy to my process.  The details mentioned here are many stories melded together to make one and not specific to one person for the sake of privacy.  My questions are simply that – questions.  

I am not a warrior. I am not brave.

How about you start the revolution and I'll do the dishes?

How about you start the revolution and I’ll do the dishes?

I heard it on the radio again this morning.  “Women!”  it blurted out, “Are you a warrior!?”

No.  I muttered in my head. No, I am not.

I’ve been reading it and hearing it and seeing it all over creation these days.

Be a warrior!  Be brave!  You are strong!

Women are choosing their word for the year and it’s things like fearless and courageous.  It’s mighty and big and valiant.  It’s defender and conquerer and words that are gung-ho and let’s do this and I am awesome all coiled up into one big ball of magnificent.

Then I look at my life and I think about who I am and my character traits and I make a list on one side.  On the other side I write these other words that I keep hearing that women are and need to be and do you know what I’m finding?  I’m finding the two don’t coincide one little bit.

As I’m nurturing boys through their teenage years I feel nothing but weak.  I feel incompetent and uneducated to complete such a task.

As I’m chopping veggies for homemade soup that will probably be greeted with moans and I-don’t-like-that’s, I feel fragile.  I feel like I’m doing the very best that I know how to do with the resources I have but I question myself daily.  I feel indecisive about whether I’m ruining their love of food forever or whether I’m nourishing their bodies well.  I’m wishy washy about eating healthy and wanting to be fun.  I mix kale and kefir and candy and hope that they’ll come out okay.

As we’re sitting at the dinner table and I read them scripture and I try to break down what’s going on in the passage and how God is speaking to us through it just as much as he was to the people it was originally written to so many years ago I feel burdened.  Am I teaching them well?  Am I leaning too much towards love and not enough towards action?  Am I mistakenly teaching them morals and rules over awe-inspired worship?  Am I messing it all up and leading them down a path that they’ll only reject when they see my hypocrisy?

As I’m pulling the warm laundry out of the dryer and scrubbing the ring out of the bottom of the bathtub and cleaning the flies out of the window sills I feel mediocre.  I feel just like a million different other women on the planet.  I feel no different.  Not special or unique.

I don’t feel like I totally rock at any of it.  I don’t feel especially awesome or warrior like.  Most days I feel fragile and nothing like brave.  I feel like courage might be just around the corner but it’s not entering on this particular day as I explain for the fourth thousandth time why deodorant is important.

I don’t.  I just don’t.

Many years ago my husband and I were part of gender based bible studies in a church we attended.  Essentially, we were studying the same book but he had the ‘guy’ version and mine was the girlie one.  I was incredibly angered and distraught as I compared the titles on the cover.

His:  Twelve Ordinary Men:  How the Master shaped his disciples for greatness and what He wants to do with you.

Mine:  Twelve Extraordinary Women:  How God shaped women of the bible, and what He wants to do with you.

Do you see the difference?  The Men were ordinary.  The women extraordinary.  To which I say, whaaa?!?!

Is this done because of a preconceived stereotype?  Is it a cultural reading of how we must talk to men and women?  Is it a biased on gender roles?  Is it because men naturally feel extraordinary and so they’re brought down a proverbial notch by being called ordinary?  And on the flip side, do women suffer from normal syndrome and so need to be elevated to feel their worth?  Their extraordinariness?

Any way you slice it I didn’t like it.  And any way this world markets to me about what I need to be – I don’t like that either.

I am in no way extraordinary.  Guess what?  I’m totally cool with that.

I know that some people thrive on motivation.  They need to blast Katy Perry songs at record decibels and make sure the world knows that they’re going to hear them roar!  They need to fist pump and high five their way through life.  They need words like brave and warrior and fearless to make them do whatever they’re going to do that day.

I get that some people in this world were made to do big things and we need to celebrate when they do.  Cheer them on, for sure.  But what about the people who were made to do little things?  Quietly.  Sans fist pumps.  Without any sort of roar.

Our very worldly standard of doing big things has got to change.  Big things are really ALL THE THINGS.  You got out of bed today?  Well done!  You wiped your kids snotty nose?  You rock!  You overlooked the fingerprints all over the mirror?  YOU ARE A WARRIOR!!

Or you’re just a human.  A mom.  A dad.  Living their life.  Doing the things that need to happen day in and day out and not feeling especially awesome for it.

It’s okay to be content doing the little things you’re doing.  You don’t need a t-shirt made to validate the fact that you healed from that bruise you got when you walked into the corner of the coffee table.   I still think you’re pretty fab.

Most days I feel anything but brave.  When I’m on my face pleading for wisdom in my teens I feel weak.  When I thank God for the employment that my husband and I currently have I feel fragile yet grateful because it’s here today but also know very well that it could be gone tomorrow.  When I look around at my family and our health and our home I feel humbled and unworthy of all we’ve been given knowing that so much of the world does not live like this.  Even thousands in our own city don’t live like this.  When I read about the poor in our community I feel helpless.  When I meet the youth in our city who haven’t eaten in days I feel like what I do is meager .  When I see mental health robbing a life of really living life I feel inefficient.

But I contend we don’t need to be warriors.  We don’t need to be brave.  We don’t need to feel strong.

We need to love.  We need to open our hands that are holding whatever small amount we have and give.  We need to walk forward, one uncourageous foot in front of another, as we teach our children.  We need to stir the soup and clean the floors and get down on our knees and wash the feet of the least of these and this, this my friends, is what scripture calls great.

Baby steps are good.  Worn out knees in your jeans are right.  Feeling scared while you do all of it is just fine!

How communicating my needs saved the special days {Part II : The Practicalities}

I talked the other day about how important it is that we communicate our expectations and feelings about holidays and other special occasions to our spouse in order to not end up disappointed and crying in the bathroom.  You can read that post here.  Today I’ll be continuing on with that theme with the practicalities of how that actually works out in our life!

For the record, communicating your wants and needs to your spouse regarding special occasions really works.  I’m happy to report that I have not received one paper flower since stating that I didn’t want them anymore!  What I do wish is that we’d have realized it earlier and we could have started the progression without it being a fight.  That we could have simply started talking to each other about our wants and needs earlier on to save on the drama.  But the bottom line is, we started and we’re better for it.  I whole heartedly recommend not waiting for the fight before you start too!

There are a couple of ways that we determined we could help each other out when it came to holidays and gift giving.  The first being – speak!

If there’s something you really want – say so!  If there’s a play you want to see on your birthday – tell him!  If you would like a new pair of running shoes – let him know!

I’ve learned that it doesn’t make the gift less special because your spouse couldn’t read your mind.  In fact, if your spouse is listening to you and you’re listening to your spouse there’s something beautiful about that!

My husband and I now send each other online links all the time.  I have a folder in my email account dedicated solely to things he’s sent me that he wouldn’t mind receiving at some point in his life and he has a file on his phone with the same for me.

So, I’m perusing etsy and I see some metal letters that I think would be perfect on the mantel?  I send him the link.  I see a necklace that I would love to own?  I send him the link.  I need a new pair of rain boots and I’d love for him to gift them to me?  I send him a picture.

Now each of my links will have a little disclaimer with them.  Sometimes it’s, “exactly this one!” and other times it’s, “just this idea, doesn’t have to be exactly this one.”  For the rain boots I sent him a link to the website along with my size, which height and my top 3 colour choices.  I don’t like to just demand my gifts, but leave some element of surprise to be had.  So by allowing him to customize certain aspects or choose a colour I don’t truly know what I’m ever going to get!

Because I’m a fan of the surprise we always have a number of things on the go as far as what we’d like and we’re sure to tell our spouse if we happen to have bought something off of our list!  Nothing worse than having him wrap up that book I claimed I wanted so badly only for him to find out I actually borrowed it from a friend and read it 3 months ago.    I’ve also sent updated notes like, “Scratch that piece of art off my list.  I changed my mind.”

The next practical way to ensure these days go down well is to listen.

My husband, years before the iPhone, started carrying a moleskin notebook around with him and would jot things down when I mentioned them.  So if we were out one day and I picked up a mug and proclaimed my love for it, he would write it in his book along with where it was and how much it cost.  Of course, he did this without me knowing!

Let’s be honest, by the time a special day is rolling around we won’t remember all the little things that our people have said they might want.  Having this list meant he could look it over and choose something off of it and he’d know I would like it because of the way I had gushed about it right in front of him!

This, my friends, this makes me feel incredibly loved!  When I open up a gift and it’s a beautiful journal that I had picked up months ago and then set back down on the shelf and walked away from, it warms my heart.  Because he saw.  He heard.  He listened.  He also knew that I chose not to buy it for myself which means it was likely not a necessity but something fun or special or expensive!  He already knows I’ll love it and so even giving the gift is fun!

Another thing I do is act swiftly.

Quite often when my hubs sends me a link to something I’ll whip online and order it right away.  A collectors book from Amazon could be long gone by the time his birthday rolls around and so if I like what he’s sent and it’s an appropriate price I’ll just order it and hide it away.  When it came to his birthday this past year I had 3 different items tucked away and could choose which one I was going to give him.  It was so easy and so fun!

Because really, gift giving should not be a chore and that’s what we have decided to take out of it.  If we have to spend our days frantically running from store to store hoping that the perfect thing will pop out at us, we’re sorely mistaken.  And if we need to purchase something just for the sake of handing it over on that certain day it’s also so much less fun.  A gift is something that essentially should be given voluntarily not out of a compulsion, so having thoughts in mind of what will make your loved ones feel special and loved on their big day makes the giving just that.  Voluntary.  Not a stress.

Lastly, as we’ve gotten older we’ve realized which things really worked well for us.  Our priorities have also changed somewhat and so keeping up with the communication and be willing to say, “you know what, I don’t need that anymore.  I’d rather…” is okay and good and right.

So now for my birthday, more than one token gift I’d rather spend time away with just my husband.  Maybe just a dinner out together and a play.  Or a concert.  Or a weekend wandering around the city.  Time spent has become a bigger love language to me these days than gifts and so I’m sure to relay that to him.  We talk now about how we loved that time we spent the weekend with all of our best friends or we tried that new fantastic restaurant.  We also laugh about how we thought breakfast in bed might have been a good idea but really – it’s just crumby.

We’ve learned to talk and change our minds and communicate the goods and laugh about the bads.  We’ve learned to not buy for each other what we might want for them or what we think they need but to really gift them with things that will make them feel loved.  We’ve learned that explaining that pretty packaging is meaningful to you and newspaper wrapping is not something you find ‘cute’ is a good thing and we’ve learned that above all, our spouse really does want our good.  Even when they’re making us paper flowers.

p.s.  I’m not saying I want them, honey!  Let’s keep not making them!!

Next week I’ll talk about teaching your kids how to celebrate occasions and how I announce my birthday is coming every day for a few weeks before it actually arrives!