Thursday, October 01, 2015


My soul daughter and I

I want to remember these moments, Part 2 

Andrew and Rebecca's pre-wedding week was a rush, literally. We forced ourselves to drive the speed limit while running errands. There’s no point, really, ever, to exceeding the speed limit. I’m learning in my later years to accept the reality that if I am “behind schedule”, going faster is only going to cause more problems, so I exhale, relax and face the consequences. Usually, it’s a false sense of urgency that drives me to think I have to rush, but as my momma always said, “Haste makes waste” and as my daddy liked to quote: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get”. I'm not sure what that even means, except I know when I rush, I inevitably forget something or drop something and make a mess or get a speeding ticket or (God forbid) even get into a collision.

We arrived in Langley on Monday before the big day Friday. We had already been on the road for a week, sightseeing, visiting museums and wineries and spending some slow, savory time together on vacation, getting ourselves mentally geared up for the rush of wedding week with all its bustle and people. We took a room at the Ramada for two nights, until our VRBO reservation was ready, which we would share with my brothers beginning on Wednesday when they arrived.
Every morning, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we headed over to Porter’s for breakfast. This is the café so capably run by Rebecca's parents. The first day, Tuesday, we met up with my son (the groom), his bride, her mother and several Danish and Dutch relatives who had arrived in town for the wedding and wanted a chance to get acquainted. Such delightful folks. It reminded me again about the beautiful scripture God gave me when I was widowed, which found it’s fulfillment, first in my marriage to Henry and now in Andrew’s marriage to Rebecca - how God “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). I still am moved by the sensations of love and laughter and warmth of family that surrounded us that day and the days following.

I spent Tuesday with the groom, running errands while Rebecca was working. While Henry bonded with the bride’s father running various errands, I went with Andrew to look for socks and a tie, and then dropped his vehicle off at the Honda dealership to have the air conditioning serviced. It had broken down during their trip back to BC from Calgary in July. Since the long range forecast for the Langley area included +38C temperatures for the coming week, I couldn’t imagine not having A/C. 

We made a stop at Staples to duplicate some photos and look for a special folder in which the wedding license could be placed for safekeeping. To our pleasant surprise, we ran into Aunt Elsje at Staples, collecting the wedding ceremony programs she had designed. 

They have a lovely cover and back (with photos of the couple) 

These then fan out to reveal three pages inside (wedding party, order of ceremony and lyrics for the hymn), all anchored by a decorative fastener. 

Much love and labor went into this souvenir.

We had a quiet evening taking a dip in the pool and a soak in the hot tub at the hotel before heading for bed. The next morning we packed up and checked out and met Andrew and his roommate, my soul-son, Fraser, for breakfast at Porters. 

This day, Wednesday, found Henry bonding with Bill by visiting Bill’s barber and both having their heads shaved. Bill always keeps this look, and it wasn’t the first time Henry had done this and I really like the look. He says he’ll let his hair grow for “warmth and traction” in the winter but I think the “Mr. Clean” look is definitely hip. The rest of the day included more errands and checking into our lovely VRBO home in Surrey, about halfway between the bride’s home in Langley and the wedding venue in Pitt Meadows. It had four bedrooms and two baths and a kitchen fully stocked with everything but food.  We purchased some groceries and coffee for breakfasts for the six of us who would be staying there.

Danielle, Karin and Rebecca get the royal treatment

In the late afternoon I had been invited to join the mani-pedi excursion with the bridesmaids, bride and her mother. To be included in this event was such an honor and it was great fun to hear the girls chatting and preparing for the big day.  When my brother Jim and sister in law Sheilia arrived later from Colorado, they went out for supper with Henry and then relaxed at the rental house until I returned. Steve and Wanda arrived from North Carolina after midnight, which was nearly 2 a.m. by their normal Eastern Time Zone, but Wanda and I immediately sat down to catch up – oh, the fun of “sisters” after being apart for a year. Wanda stood up for me at my wedding last August.

Centrepieces over Vinyl Record Albums
Thursday was pretty much all business. We had volunteered to take a jaunt to the east side of Chilliwack to pick up chair covers, and then later morning we spent picking up take-n-bake pizza, veggie trays and fruit trays from Costco and delivering them to the refrigerators at Porters in preparation for dinner for family and bridal party after the rehearsal. After that, everyone headed for the venue to decorate and rehearse.

The aunts doing décor placed one part of the centrepieces on each table, awaiting the floral part the next day. Each one was to be adorned by photos of the bride and the groom at the age that equates with the table number (i.e. table one had photos of both of them at age one, table two = age two and so on, up to age 12).

While my brothers and I were practicing our quartet in the blazing sun, Henry was climbing up and down a very tall ladder in the stifling heat of the screened room where the reception was to be, hanging strings of twinkle lights with the help of one of the Dutch cousins. It was likely around +40C up in those rafters and it took several hours, but the result was truly lovely.

Henry and his assistants

Everyone pitched in to put on chair covers, these had burlap ribbons and a daisy tied around each one. I made sure the correct number of chairs was placed at each table. 

Steve, Fraser, Rebecca and Robert handle the chair covers with ease
After the formality of the ceremony rehearsal, we all headed to Porters for pizza and visiting. It was the bridal party and partners, along with any family members who had traveled from a distance. Some of our Harback family was there: Pastor Brad, wife Tina, kids Paige and Max; Andrew’s grandparents, Roy and Lila; his cousin Rachael and her husband and kids; as well as with Rebecca’s Dutch and Danish relatives and my dear friends, the Boersmas, from The Hague. My brothers and their wives, of course, with the addition of my brother, John, his wife Kathryn and one son joined us there – we’d visited them in March at their home in Phoenix and I was delighted they could join us for this special time. 

We all ate, laughed, listened to live music by one of Bill’s bands and shared some special time of getting acquainted or re-acquainted. Everyone was hungry so the pizzas we’d brought disappeared faster than anticipated and once again, Bill saved the day with a few handmade flatbread pizzas for the latecomers. He and Karin are such incredible hosts. I am in grateful awe.

(clockwise) Kathryn, Sheilia, Jim, Roy, Brad, Tina, Paige, Steve, Mark

(L to R) Dianne, The Jensens, Linda

A great time in a great venue for family and friends

(L to R) Brett, Lily, Reese, Rachael, Lila

(L to R) A cousin whose name I missed, Rebecca's Jensen grandparents, Brenda

Simone, Thomas, Danielle, Adam

The groom and Pastor Brad

Back to the VRBO rental home for the evening, we visited a while and then all went to bed. Such a unique and rare privilege, to sleep under the same roof with several family members for the first time in a very long time.

A special interlude that remains one of my favorite memories is when we arrived at the Costco parking lot. We were still sipping our McDonald’s coffee from Chilliwack and Henry parked in the shade and kept the car running so the A/C would keep us cool. He said something to the effect of, “Let’s just take some time to catch up. We’ve been around a lot of people for a lot of time and I’d like to have some time for just you and me.” So we exhaled and stretched and relaxed into some easy conversation. This was a refreshing oasis in the middle of the activity. It was such a wise choice and I am so grateful for Henry leaning into ways we can connect. This was only one among many ways I’ve witnessed in the past year where he is very intentional about our relationship. Even in the middle of a long to-do list or in the middle of a crowd, he lets me know he sees me and appreciates me, reaches out with a quiet word, squeeze, or wink – our own private love-link in the middle of being alive. In every aspect of my son’s wedding prep, he’s been available and helpful in jumping in to do whatever is necessary or release me to do what I needed to do but he also knew we needed to just be still and enjoy each other for a few precious minutes.

This whole week has been about connecting family, sharing love and memories and making new friendships. We’re united in one purpose and it is this sense that I want to re-remember whenever I recall the wedding. It is about the people, the family, the friends who have made our lives rich, who have built into us and encouraged us and held us when we cried and poked us when we got too full of ourselves and above all, loved on Andrew and Rebecca and helped make them the amazing people they are today.

More to come tomorrow… The Wedding Day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What Do You Do All Day? (Part 2)

I’ve been finding myself in the fast lane with life flying by at breakneck speed. A year of marriage, higher piles to sort and file in the office, the to-do list growing exponentially greater and the primary question in my life being “How will I ever get it all done?” It was starting to stress me out this morning.

In fact, when a friend recently asked, “What do you do all day?” I was startled and a little insulted. I even blogged about it here. To be fair, this person was, perhaps, genuinely curious. She has no idea what my life looks like. She is stressfully employed, hard-working, socially active, and has a significant commitment to care for and support family members. While we have a number of things in common, my life looks nothing like hers and our temperaments and priorities are very different. My reality is, I’m busy All. The. Time. and I have absolutely no idea how I didn’t totally lose my mind when I was employed.

In truth, I don’t know how I did it.

A year ago, I began sensing God leading me to “Be still and know I am God.”

Be still? I had no time to be still.

I was working full time while still processing significant emotional fallout in the grief recovery process and making financial adjustments required due to my late husband’s suicide. I was actively engaged in a weekly cohort to become a Spiritual Director, attending women’s Bible study, overseeing necessary maintenance on my home and working out at the gym 3-4 times per week. I was giving back through mentorship of two women, assisting the choir director, speaking and singing on a semi-regular basis. I was committed to maintaining friendships, dating a new person, getting to know his friends, his family, and planning our wedding. All this, while trying to operate at peak performance in one of the most demanding positions I've ever held. The job was literally making me sick.

Through my work, I organized a “Holy Spirit Encounter” – a few days set aside to meet with God in a quiet setting in the mountains, engaging in quiet worship, learning to hear God’s voice through guided and personal meditation. During this time I sensed very clearly that I was to “Rest”. The scripture Matthew 11:28-30 spoke very clearly: "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." I love how The Message translates this:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
I asked how this would be possible given my circumstances and the reply came “Don’t worry. Tell God what you need, be thankful for all He's already done and peace will follow,” (my loose paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-7).

God was saying, “I’ve got you.”

Within three weeks, after much prayer and discussion with my new husband, I resigned my paid job and gave up my seat in the Spiritual Direction cohort. For a few months, I rested and waited. It was the greatest relief of my life. I “worked” at getting healthy and being "still" - no easy task for one who battles adult A.D.D.

After a time, I was drawn to take a writing class – not "work" at all, but rather re-creation. Within a few weeks of the class commencing, I felt a clear and compelling “call” to write a book – something I never wanted to do, nor ever dreamed of doing.  In fact, I often joked I "didn’t have the attention span" to write a book, but God countered with, “You can write it, one word at a time.” I began to set long term and short term goals. And if it takes seven years, like one successful author I recently encountered, then, that’s still okay.

Yesterday, while attending a picnic, I spoke with a couple women who work at my church. One suggested a possible role in which I could volunteer and my response was, “I’m saying ‘No’ automatically to anything new,” (as this has been my determination since realizing how busy I am), but then I flippantly added, “unless money is involved.”

I don’t know why I added that.

I’ve always believed, “If money is the primary motivation, it’s likely that I’ll make the wrong decision.” It comes out of the scripture that teaches “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Not money itself, but the love of it. The preoccupation with money or with the lack of money. The reality for most of us is this: we don’t love money but we require it to obtain the things we need (food, clothing, transportation, education) and to do the things we enjoy (recreation, travel, entertainment) and so on.  Oh, I know there are some who do love money, but that’s not what this post is about.

From the moment I first became a widow, I sensed God saying, “I am your Provider.” And this is clearly evident to me – in every arena, not just financial – God provides. God has always provided, from my earliest childhood memories until today. Not just financially, but physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. It gives flesh and bones to the command that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart (emotions), soul (spirit), mind (intellect/philosophy), and strength (physical body). As I surrender all of me, God fills me in all these areas. As I spill my most precious things, my “alabaster jar” given out of love, God takes care of my needs. I empty myself to be filled up with God.

My off-hand remark about money yesterday was based in the question every artist faces: when do I give away my work, time or skills and when do I set a monetary value on them? This is a question every artist has to determine for themselves. The answer lies in relation to what I have budgeted, what I can afford or how I feel God is directing me to spend my resources. Sometimes it comes down to giving all you have, like the example Jesus gave of the widow’s mite. Others may be able to give much more out of their wealth, but she gave everything she had, and therefore, she gave more than anyone.

I know and understand why an organization sometimes hires staff to meet needs and sometimes they recruit unpaid volunteers. The church and many non-profit organizations are very dependent on members donating their time, skills, intelligence, ability, gifts – these are all valuable and irreplaceable – and most organizations cannot exist without them.

My responsibility is to budget how I spend my money and my time, how I give out of my "wealth" or "poverty". If I’m asked to volunteer, it’s a completely different question from being asked to do a job that pays. I donate my time and talents in many areas. I have no problem “working for free”. But when my time is already allocated and a new opportunity is presented, then saying “Yes” means I have to say “No” to something else. It’s a case-by-case decision. 

As it stands right now, my resources (time, money, talents) are fully committed, fully offered to the things I believe God has called me to do. I say “No” to new requests (paid or unpaid) so that I am able to continue saying “Yes” to what I’ve already determined is God’s will for my life at this time. And I know God can change it at any moment, so I hold my schedule loosely, with open hands.

So what do I do all day? Every day?

I say “Yes” to what's in front of me and do the next thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Photo credit: #25224381, standard license

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Moments I'd like to forget

I've blogged before, here and here, about the negative narrative that runs a common track in my mind, around and around like the model trains we used to build as kids. It looks the same every time it circles around. Once in a while we'll put a plastic cow on the track to try to derail it. Sometimes it does, but oddly, we always set that negative train upright and it starts going around the track again. Sometimes we run it at night and it seems more mysterious but with that light on the engine, these thoughts always seem to stay on the same track, over and over. I found it difficult - even with good friends, prayer, journaling, meditation and therapy - to break free from this kind of habitual, unwanted, negative rumination.

Part of my intentional attempt to change my thinking has come by enrolling in an online tool called Happify. I've used it sporadically over the past three or four months and I can attest that it's made a difference. I'm not getting paid to promote them, I'm just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, and enjoying the journey in the process.

It is scientifically based, and from their website, they affirm that it's an exciting time for those who want to overcome negative thoughts, worries, and everyday stress. "Happify has turned a decade’s worth of research into a series of activities and games that train your brain and build skills for lasting happiness." That's their mission. And it's effective and measurable.

It's created with leading experts. You'll find many places on the internet that talk about the science of happiness. It's true, the science of happiness is as real, substantiated, and exciting as other areas of science that are changing our lives for the better. Happify tracks were created with the best and brightest minds—experts, research scientists, and practitioners—who are passionate about improving people's lives.

It fits into my life, into my schedule and transforms it. Their "cheerful games and activities are deceptively effective. And they can be used anytime, anywhere—on your smart phone, tablet or computer. Small slices of time can make big-time changes."

I've found this to be a helpful and fun tool. Here's some of what my exercises and games today helped me learn about these interruptive, sometimes debilitating, negative, intrusive thoughts:
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted, involuntary and tough to get rid of. These ideas, sometimes described as inappropriate thoughts at inappropriate times, storm the mind uninvited and against a person's will. As such, experiencing them is unpleasant, on the mild end; and, on the more severe end, anxiety-provoking or paralyzing. Intrusive thoughts can even grow obsessive.
To defuse negative thoughts, the last thing you want to do is to concentrate on them. Successful defusion techniques include observing the physical sensations that accompany what you're feeling, asking yourself if you're making your own interpretations on reality, and countering negative thoughts with new thoughts that are grounded in reality, rather than a skewed perception of reality.
Mindfulness meditation helps you avoid harmful round-and-round rumination. Becoming more aware of the present moment allows you to better recognize any never-ending negative thought patterns holding you captive. Observing is half the battle; it’s when you see the thought trap trying to barricade you that you’ll be able to break free from it.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a type of mindfulness-based therapy that aims to help people accept life’s tribulations. By encouraging you to be present and Accept reactions, Choose directions and Take action (ACT), the treatment teaches you to work with what you have. These strategies include realizing thoughts and feelings for what they really are instead of what we think they are, and acknowledging that we can control how we react, think, and feel.
That's just a sample of the kind of information they share. But I like the games. Shhh, don't tell anyone, but my inner child has a lot of fun with "Uplift" and "Knock Out" (it's patterned a lot after "Angry Birds" and the picture at the top of this blog is a screen shot from the game). And even though they seem like common video games and simple reflective exercises, they combine it with beautiful visuals, more complex meditations and journaling, along with explaining why it works - if you're into that - and it truly does make a difference.

People who start using Happify see dramatic improvements in their positive emotions and overall life satisfaction. This isn’t marketing. This is what the users say. Over 86 percent get happier in two months. If you want to check it out, go to I'm glad I did.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I want to remember these moments

Rebecca asked if I could be in Langley by Monday before their Friday wedding. Less than a year before, she had stood by Andrew’s side at my wedding. Strange and wonderful, knowing we were all going to be family. Beside her stood her parents, my son’s soon to be in-laws, who really have been filling the gaps left by the distance between Calgary and Langley since Andrew first met them five years ago.

I love Bill and Karin. I love them for how they’ve loved on Andrew from the very beginning but I also really like them as individuals and as a couple. How they helped me out before we’d even met, getting Andrew’s vehicle from Salmon Arm back to Langley in August of 2011 (long story). Further, I respect them as business people and craftspeople and artists. Karin is a baker, working both for the restaurant they own and another early morning job elsewhere. Bill has been a restaurateur for many years, having spent a large part of his career setting up the restaurants in new Ikea stores. They now own Porter’s Bistro, a coffee and tea house, café, housed in a historic turn of the century building at Five Corners in historic Murrayville (on the east side of Langley). Bill is also an accomplished jazz musician, playing drums in a professional jazz trio and hosting live music every Friday and Saturday night at Porter’s.

Their hospitality comforts me and their faithful work ethic inspires me. This became even more evident in the months and days leading up to the wedding, on the day itself and the days afterward. Yes, it was their daughter’s wedding, and the bulk of the planning and coordinating had to be left to them because I was too far away to be of any practical help, other than holding a wedding shower in Calgary and helping with errands the week of the wedding - which I will get to in a future blog post - but first, the prep and pre-events.

In addition to the immediate family, including Julia, Rebecca’s sister, their aunt Ricky had volunteered to help coordinate many items related to the wedding and another extended family member on Bill’s side, Aunt Beverly, offered her assistance as a floral designer. Side note here: Beverly was using succulents as the primary “flower” in the décor and bouquets. Many of these were grown in her own garden and the gardens of other family members and four of them spent several days the week of the wedding gathering these from various gardens and putting together the floral décor. A labour of love, a beautiful result!

When I attended the family wedding shower for Rebecca and Andrew a few weeks prior, I got my first glimpse “behind the curtain” of the legacy of family and faith that have brought me to understand, even more, how and why Bill (from his Dutch ancestry) and Karin (from Danish parents) have become the amazing people they are. The entire experience has developed into a panorama of experiences that bolsters my belief in the legacy and constancy of loving family who set aside their personal preferences to come together to help and contribute to landmark events.

It started with an invitation in the mail, a hand made card. The shower was held in the home of Ricky, one of Bill’s sisters. The floral designer pinned a corsage on the bride to be, and we had a buffet of sweets, fruit, veggies and sandwiches to enjoy. One by one we shared one word we felt described Rebecca, each of these a blessing, a mirror back to her of what her life has meant to ours: as our lives have gathered these blessings like wildflowers, walking along life’s path with her. Aunt Elsje, Bill’s other sister, will incorporate these words into a wall hanging to remind Rebecca of the love shared around this intimate circle.

Gifts were precious. The ones that struck me were the more sentimental keepsakes: an elaborate and beautiful scrapbook from Elsje, filled with traditional family recipes. The first version of this gift had been destroyed in a tragic fire only a few weeks before. Her aunt was able to save the computer that held many of the photos and documents used in the making of the book and she worked long hours to recreate this heirloom gift in time for the shower. The same fire destroyed the work done on centerpieces for the wedding reception and these, too, were recreated in time for the wedding.

Another gift was a box of family heirlooms both old and new. It included hand-embroidered and edged linen napkins made by an ancestor, hand-tatted doilies, sachets, candles, heirloom candle holder and a “bouquet” of collector spoons from every country Rebecca and Andrew have each visited so far in their lives, collected and donated by family and friends from across the world. The gift box included many more items of poignant significance in Rebecca’s family history. A treasure box, indeed.

A special surprise came from Karin’s mother, Else Jensen, Rebecca’s grandmother. She crocheted a beautiful white wrap/shawl for Rebecca to wear on her wedding day if it got too cool. None of the family knew she was doing this and the needlework was so intricate and beautiful, the yarn so delicate and soft, it was an immediate heirloom – a treasure to keep for the ages.

As I recount these moments I want to remember, there are many more details, many more gifts, many more significant people, some details and names of which I may not have gotten straight or remembered accurately. If I have made any errors, let me know so I can correct them.

In recording these moments, I echo again what I did in an earlier post surrounding the events of the wedding: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, this far by God’s help I’ve come.”

So grateful,

…to be continued

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Hard and the Beautiful: How Healing From Hurt Can Help Others

Yesterday, I spent an hour in the studio as part of a project some friends are producing regarding grief recovery and coping with the holidays after losing someone you love. I was asked all sorts of questions and told some of my story after my first husband, Brent, died - the journey of grief, what kinds of remarks, advice and attempts at comfort from others were helpful or unhelpful, how friends held me together, how some parts of the journey I just had to walk by myself, how faith and doubt impacted the process and finally, how we remember him on special days.

One reflection came out of my son's recent wedding. He had chosen his favorite photo of his dad from 1990. Brent is rocking aviator sunglasses, a fabulous 'stache and wearing acid-wash jeans while feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco, Venice. They put the snapshot in a small frame which the florist then wired into the bride's wedding bouquet. In this way, they honoured Brent's memory and included him in their wedding day. We also included tributes to Brent's influence and legacy in our speeches during the reception. There was also a memorial table set up at the reception which included my father's guitar, given to my son after he passed away, and photos of my parents, Brent and his sister, the bride's grandfather, and a dear family friend: special people on both sides of the family who have passed away but whom we would have desperately loved to have present. They had a candle burning with a note indicating it burns in memory of those we love who could not be with us.

Another healing practice I introduced our first Christmas without Brent. We had already planned for his brother and family to be with us, so we decided not to change plans, even though we'd just been together for the memorial service only a week prior. It felt really important to not make any significant changes and we wanted stay closely connected to each other because grief was so raw. I found a candle-lighting ceremony on-line that included reflections for a new holiday healing tradition using four or five candles, modelled after an advent wreath. I tweaked it to make it personal for our family. An explanation and a copy of the brief text is available at this link.

I've also asked the question on Facebook about what others found helpful or hurtful during their grieving journey and I have been honored to hear many stories, both in the comments and in private messages I have received.

Do you have any stories to share of how you lived through and began to heal from the hurt of trauma and bereavement? How others helped you or wounded you further? Please share them in the comments or email me at

It seems the more we are able to tell our story in a safe place to compassionate hearts, we heal just a little bit more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Amazing, Awful, Ordinary, Beautiful Life

A Facebook photo and commentary on the "Perfect Life" by gifted adventure photographer, John Price, woke me up this morning. His candor is refreshing and echoes what many have felt but could not articulate about social media.

The disturbing reality of photography (and social media) is that it can lie or tell the truth (and everything in between). In art, as in life, we strive for excellence, to find and showcase our best selves, our best work, in the best light. But as much as we try to hide our flaws behind appearances, carefully crafted eloquence or post-processing, some of the post powerful lessons and imagery comes from the shadows.

While we want to live in the infinite spectrum of colour, there is nothing more powerful than facing the stark contrast of black and white. While we pursue the adrenalin rush of hanging from a cliff face, we also desperately require the silent stillness of black night to sleep and restore our bodies. All darkness and desire with no light produces Gollum. All sun and no rain produces drought. The true artist must acknowledge that it all matters, that we cannot deny any part of ourselves, but we also cannot dwell only in one arena. Cover it, discover it, uncover it all and bravo for finding a way to share your real self. It gives us permission to do the same.

It is in naming our fear that we take away its power. One underlying human fear is that we will never be enough, have enough, do enough, attain enough. Or perhaps our fear is that we will succeed, and lose ourselves in the process.

I spent more than half my life with a dear man who both feared he was not enough yet succeeded in every goal he set. The effort it took to maintain appearances was completely exhausting. He was an endearing, humorous and entertaining man, yet was unwilling or unable to be open and vulnerable about his fears and shadows. This meant he struggled alone, emotionally disconnected from others, not realizing that many have walked the same path and that there is hope and help in community.

As David Whyte says in his essay, Friendship, we need someone to walk with us, believe in us, and sometimes just to accompany us "for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone." He continues:
We encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves. Through the eyes of a real friendship an individual is larger than their everyday actions, and through the eyes of another we receive a greater sense of a self we can aspire to, the one in whom they have most faith. Friendship is a moving frontier of understanding, not only of self and other but of a possible and as yet unlived future.
Yet as much as we can have those who are a mirror for us, a testament to forgiveness, we still must receive the gift of being ourselves with all that it entails. Dr. David G. Benner writes about this as the spirituality of desire:
Our deepest desires call us to both soar on the winds of spirit and be grounded in the realities of body and soul. They point us toward the self-transcendent but encourage us to remain anchored in the mundane and immanent. They invite us to honor both longing and belonging. Soulful Spirituality
So, as John Price writes, most of us are guilty of falling for the myth of "Perfect Lives".  In our search for longing and belonging, we scroll through social media platforms while judging our own lives, moments, achievements and work against others.

Bottom line? It’s not a perfect life. For me, for you, for anyone else. I continue each day to work at telling myself the truth, to be a friend who is present, forgiving. To stop the deadly sin of comparing myself to others. To search out ways to fulfill my longing to be healthier in mind and body while accepting myself as I am in this moment. To be willing to stand in front of the camera instead of hiding behind it.  To name my fear in a safe place so that it loses just a little bit of its power every time I call it out. To share my wounds with merciful friends so I can heal just a little bit more every time I talk about it. To accept others as they are, flaws along with glory. To encourage the better part of themselves to rise. To always be aware that life is amazing, and then it’s awful, and in between it’s just daily and mundane and I can live and breathe and love through it, because I am loved. I belong here, in this life, doing what I’m meant to do.

Come with me?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mother to Son Blessing

My son’s July 31 wedding to my soul-daughter was everything I could have ever hoped: youth and beauty, love and grace, commitment and prayer, wine and song, laughter and dancing, and all things wonderful. I soaked in satisfying visits and time well spent with family and dear friends. For weeks afterward, I have quietly pondered the peaceful inner glow of knowing it was all good. After telling a friend about it again today, I realized it needs to be documented. An Ebenezer, as it were, a memorial to God’s faithfulness to us this far.

But first, some background:

A little over a year before, on Father’s Day weekend 2014, Andrew proposed to Rebecca. At Christmas, in anticipation of their new life together, I gave Andrew a blessing around the New Year’s Eve dinner – a carefully crafted commitment to my place in the new order of his life going forward after his wedding. It reads like this:

I, Joyce, release you, Andrew, to be the man you choose to be. I will love you, accept you, respect you, encourage you, believe the best of you and pray for you daily as long as God gives me breath. I promise to answer your questions honestly and to refrain from giving advice unless you ask. I promise not to interfere, except in the unlikely event you're about to 1) harm yourself, 2) harm someone else, or 3) do something illegal.

I bless you in the free exercise of your gifts, I honour your choices, I respect your autonomy, I delight in your humour, I admire your style. Most of all, I love your choice of life partner and I bless the new and separate family you will become. If you choose to have children, I promise to love, pray for, encourage and spoil them.

I celebrate who you are and the friends with whom you have chosen to walk on your journey. My heart and home are always open to you and to those you love.

I believe in the man you are and the man you will become and I will support you in any healthy way possible to reach your goals.

I am so proud of you. I am grateful for your love and so honoured that God gave me the privilege of being your mom. I offer always, to the best of my ability, my unconditional love.

When I wrote and read these words for Andrew, I meant every one of them and still do. I will return to them on occasion, when I need a reminder of what I promised.

I will blog about each part of the beautiful wedding events over the next few days or weeks. Stay tuned.

So grateful,