In Memory of Blitz

We know that life is made up of small, ordinary, lovely things.

On Tuesday night, as I was driving to Walmart to do my grocery shopping, my mom called me and we talked (via Bluetooth, of course). She told me that she had sad news. Our family’s dog, Blitz Shantz, had died that day.

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I am not an animal-lover, but I am very soft-hearted, and Blitz and I had many a nice time of just sitting peacefully together. So I was teary. Mom was teary.

We were sad, even though we knew that her body was old and at the point where dying was the best relief for her.

Blitz was just a dog. Just an ordinary, lovely, slightly overweight dog, who had been a part of our family for years. I don’t know how many years exactly. When I look back in my photo files, there are pictures of her in the “2011” folder, but I suspect that she was with us before that! She was a peaceful creature, who could just sit for a long time.

She was the kind of dog who just wanted to hold your hand.

She gently brought much life with her.

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She was the kind of dog that you wanted to see lumbering towards you.

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She was the kind of dog who made you feel loved. When you petted her, you felt like she was loving you. Not just loving the petting. Loving you.

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All these things make me feel like it is okay to be a small, ordinary, gentle, loving soul.

 

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Christmas 2017

The beauty of holidays is that you can do things that you wouldn’t normally do, and you can enjoy processes that might normally feel rushed or frustratingly time-consuming. I have been celebrating my liberty to enjoy processes by doing, well…. nothing at all, really. I HAVE been doing things… but they are all very relaxing things like being with family, taking multiple naps in the same day, and eating chocolate. It has been delightful.

(Just so you know… this blog post contains nothing clever, spiritual, or inspirational. If that’s why you are here, sorry. It is purely a “journal entry”. Feel free to leave now if you don’t enjoy reading about other people’s Christmases.)

 

 

The holidays began on Friday night, after the school Christmas program. That night gives me such a rush, and Ricky and I stayed up rather late eating Big Macs, singing “Joy to the World” (listen to Ricky sing here), being hyper and happy because CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS. 

On Saturday afternoon, we hopped into our car and headed to Toronto for the night (in celebration of our second anniversary). A few highlights from that trip were riding the subway, sleeping in a gigantic bed, walking around Toronto and taking pictures (it’s a good thing that taking pictures happily occupies both of us), and watching an outdoor play where the audience walked through a park to the different scenes of the play. Something inside of me wants to be a part of making a play like this happen some day…

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The group of us that gathered in Christie Pits Park  to experience the outdoor play.

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On Sunday afternoon, we came back home, took a nap, and then headed over to my family’s house for Christmas. We traditionally eat pizza on Christmas Eve, and this year, we decided to make the pizza instead of buying it. Everyone helped, and it was delicious.

 

 

 

After eating, we went to Waterloo Park and walked through the Christmas displays there. We came back home, chopped up veggies in preparation for a casserole for Christmas dinner, each opened one present (a new pair of pajamas), tried to watch a movie, but gave up on that when most of us were falling asleep.

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Christmas day consisted of brunch, opening presents, playing outside, eating Christmas dinner, painting, and just hanging out. It was lovely.

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Photo credit: Ricky (I think.)
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Kenton and the mysterious name exchange gift that he wrapped using three different kinds of wrapping paper. It ended up being for me, which was very exciting.

 

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The weather was downright snowy and blowy.

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Here is a short video clip that my wonderfully creative little sister Renee put together: Christmas 2017. 

And since then? I have just been feeling a little bit lost. There was so much to do in the days leading up to Christmas, and now that those responsibilities are finished with I feel a bit… blah. However, as the days go by, I feel more and more like myself again. Holidays are such a good thing. It can just take a little bit sometimes to adjust to the different lifestyle. I made myself a to-do list that I am very excited about working on. But for today, I think that I’ll just keep reading and napping and eating chocolate.

The Perfect and the Imperfect

This is the time of year that I love.

I always say that being a teacher is the very best job you can have at Christmas time. (Muffled snort.) I do genuinely love celebrating the Christmas season with my students, but honestly- it is quite exhausting.

There are so many special moments…

And so many imperfect moments.

This is the time of spilled hot chocolate and having wet socks all day because you stepped in a puddle of melted snow in the hallway.

This is the time of learning new songs that go higher and notes that hold out longer than your voice wants to.

This is the time of forgetting to do your spelling homework because you plain old have a lot on your mind- like memorizing your Christmas program lines, for example.

This is the time of getting hit in the face with a snowball that was somewhat icy, and nobody can tell if it was meant to be icy or not. Except for the thrower, but he’s sure not giving anything away.

This is the time for going Christmas carolling and riding on a school bus. The time for tying yourself to the back of your desk seat with your sweater to remind yourself to sit up straight. The time for not being able to run as fast as normal, because of your puffy snow pants and clompy boots.

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This is the time of garlands and Christmas lights, nouns and simple subjects, reducing fractions, and growing bean plants with Miss Kerra in science class. The time of Christmas piano recitals and buying Christmas presents for your mom and dad.

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This is the time for making your own nativity scene out whatever materials you want to. The time for throwing the regular schedule up in the air and saying, “See you next year!” to it.

And at home….

This is the time for knowing that beef and broccoli stir fry is on the menu for supper, and thawing beef in preparation for that, but then somehow (in the span of 20 minutes) forgetting about the stir fry and putting potatoes in the oven to bake so that you can make loaded baked potato soup. I didn’t remember until I was well into the process of making the soup that I was supposed to be making stir fry. This is the time of scorching said soup so badly that it was inedible, throwing it away, and making a new pot of soup.

This is the time of baking at eleven o’clock at night. This is the time of finding your oven mitt in the garbage but having no memory (and certainly no intention) of putting it there.

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This is the time of dirty dishes and full countertops. (And the time for writing about these things rather than cleaning them up.)

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This is the time of starting a second compost container, because the first one is full. It’s not that you don’t have time to empty it, it’s just that you’re simply, well, not doing it. 

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This is the time of slippery spots on the kitchen floor, but don’t worry- there’s a sticky spot right beside it that will help you get a grip before you wipe out.

This is the time for scrunchy corner kitchen hugs.

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This is the time of secrets and surprises and walking home in blue, heavy, comfortable snow.

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This is the time of going Christmas shopping with very grown-up little sisters.

This is the time of a sweet student bringing you a Lindor chocolate on a morning when your lunch (and spirits) were, shall we say, lacking.

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This is the time of loving what you get to do every day, and the children that you get to be with, so much that you don’t really know what to do about it.

This is the time for choosing joy and relationship, even if you are tired.

This is the time of accepting imperfection- both in others and yourself.

This is the time of lighting candles and sitting on the living room floor and praying.

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And that praying time? That is the very hardest and the very best of all the times. The exhaustion of all the things that you don’t know wears away a little bit, and hope and trust take its place. The pain of the imperfect becomes bearable because you know that there is a Redeemer and you are His.

The perfect and the imperfect… it was even this way at the very first Christmas.

The Savior of the world born into this dull, shadowy world?

How very imperfect and how very beautiful.

 

 

The Weary World

We are a weary world-

Hurting and homeless and hungry-

Within and without.

It is easy and “admirable” to be skeptical and critical and logical,

And that wears a soul down.

 

What does faith mean?

 

Then comes this season of waiting

With its glorious plainness and simple anticipation.

The lights are lowered, but persistent.

The songs are familiar, but fresh.

The soul is longing, yet satisfied.

The story is unbelievable, but truth.

 

It all comes down to this-

The story.

To hear the angels.

To see the star.

To hold the baby.

To kneel with the wise-men.

To adore.

To acknowledge the precious grace of this gift.

To just quietly be there for awhile-

The soul needs these things desperately.

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The beginning of the story brings immense joy and hope,

But the end?

The end will bring more- so much more that it will be perfect.

 

This time is for celebrating what has happened and what will someday happen.

May we do so simply, hopefully, and with abandon.

Facing the Week

On Sunday evenings, it can feel like Monday morning is right there, breathing heavily in your ear and tapping your shoulder every now and then just to remind you of its presence. We anticipate the weekend, and it comes- in all its blazing glory- but before we know it, it’s gone again, leaving nothing but some sparkles and stale popcorn behind it.

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Now, as a general rule, I enjoy Mondays. But on Sunday evening, it’s hard to remember that. However, I am learning a few things that make the adjustment from weekend to weekdays a bit easier for me. Maybe they can work for you too!

  1. Plan ahead. On Sunday nights after church (or early Monday morning), I like to sit down (preferably in a beanbag in front of the fireplace) with my day-planner and write down everything that is coming in the next week, and everything that I need to do to prepare for what is coming. My mind feels a lot calmer when I get those things out on paper, rather than trying to organize them in my mind. In my mind, those “to-do” or “to-go-to” items behave rather like a flock of chimney swifts, if you can picture such a thing. On paper, they are controlled, contained, and well…. manageable. (One thing to note: give yourself the freedom to be okay with the week not going exactly as planned.)
  2. Just take things one step at a time. So, you’ve planned your week. Now, you need to actually do the week, which you will find takes significantly more energy than the planning stage. One thing that helps me is to just do the thing that I’m doing, and not try to do everything at once, or think about everything at once. Be okay with just doing one thing at a time, sometimes.
  3. Accept what the week holds. Maybe it’s an event that you are dreading, or a responsibility that you don’t feel qualified to handle, or being gone every single night of the week. It’s okay. That’s just the way it is that week. You’ll survive. You might learn and grow. For me, accepting and acknowledging this helps me to move forward in a more positive way, instead of griping and complaining the whole time. Just hold on to Jesus- Grace, Beauty, and Truth- and you will be okay at the end of the day!
  4. Intentionally plan some joyful moments. It’s okay to spend some time relaxing or doing something that you enjoy doing. Schedule it in, if at all possible. If you plan for this ahead of time, you have the added bonus of anticipating it! I don’t think it’s selfish to think, “Okay. What would I really enjoy doing at some point this week?”
  5. Get enough sleep. This one is self-explanatory. But honestly- sometimes I have to intentionally fight the mentality that “I need to squeeze every last second from this day”. Sometimes, if you are tired, it is more efficient to go to bed early and pick up your project again the next day. I’m learning that it’s okay to just go to work, come home, do what needs to be done, and go to bed.

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Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.

-Lamentations 3: 22-24

The Glory of It All

There is something amazing about snow.

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It makes the familiar things look different- softer and more mysterious.

It comes to the ground in flakes, but over time, manages to cover a lot of ground (if you know what I mean). To me this is more proof that God is a God of process and journey.

Snow also brings the hope of Christmas.

I’ve been feeling little twinges of Christmas recently.

This came in the mail yesterday:

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We opened the box, with great excitement and expectation. I am a sentimental, nostalgic sort of person, and all sorts of warm feelings were welling up inside me as we began to take out the pieces. This was the nativity set that our children would grow up with. The nativity set that our grandchildren would grow up with. (This is not a pregnancy announcement! This is just me being sentimental and futuristic.)

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But lo and behold, when we began taking out the shepherd, and wisemen, and other figurines, several of them were broken. My warm feelings started to feel just a bit fractured and splintery.

This poor, gentle creature lost an ear.

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Baby Jesus has an unrealistic amount of hair on his head AND he is missing one hand. (See missing hand in the bottom left corner of the photo.)

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Joseph looks like he is shocked or gagging.

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Perhaps the real reason for that expression is because his head is not attached to his body. Which makes it totally understandable!

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We debated returning it. But I think we’re keeping it. I shan’t go into detail about that decision here, but let’s just say that something inside my soul- at some point- began to embrace the idea of an imperfect nativity set. We’ll glue them together, and they will be comfortable in their imperfection, as though they have already been around for awhile. And someday, perhaps little children or grandchildren will break more of them.

The glory of the story will still be there.

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That first Christmas wasn’t perfect.

And Christmas around here isn’t perfect. There is the potential to become tired out, people-ed out, and food-ed out (considering both the eating and the preparing). But there is also the potential for much, much beauty, if we choose to be okay with the on-going imperfection of it.

Everything is okay, because Jesus came and one day, He will come again.

Isaiah 40:9-11

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

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Three Small Things

There are many things that I think about blogging about. Honestly, there’s probably at least one time a day when I’m like,  “You know, I should really blog about this.”

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HOWEVER, thinking about blogging and actually blogging turn out to be two very different things. For more thoughts on thinking versus doing, follow this link: Dorcas Smucker. 

Yesterday, I read this blog post and one of the thoughts from it is still circling my head.

“Today I heard that if I don’t speak until I have something to say that will astonish the whole room (cf. Pride and Prejudice), I’ll never find it easy to say anything at all. I am not sure what I feel about that.”

-Shari Zook, “The Astonishing Things I Heard”

I am very hesitant to share in any way if I feel as though I am unprepared or under-qualified to share it. This goes for face-to-face discussion and blogging. I’m starting to wonder if that leaves too many things unsaid. Or perhaps it’s better this way? I don’t know. I do know that it takes me approximately ten times longer than some other people to develop a thought/opinion and figure out how to communicate it to someone else. Or I go the other way, where thoughts and questions bombard me, but my brain comes up with answers and responses almost immediately, and then I can’t figure out if the questions are legitimate or if they were dumb. And by then, the conversation has moved on to something different. This is horribly frustrating, and leads to much silence.

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I used to blog about everything. Read this old post if you doubt that. But somehow along the line, I began to feel as though I wanted my blog to be less random, and a bit more… polished.

And then… I fell in love with that polish. Choosing carefully what I wanted to say. Choosing much positive, and really only sharing the negative there was a twinge of beauty in there somewhere. When really- although I honestly do love this life that I have- there are days when I feel quite annoyed at everything that moves. There are days when I feel like I just work and sleep and that’s all I did in that day, and I am not even proud of what my working was like that day. There are days when I feel far off, and I want to be brought near but I’m not sure how to let myself. There are days when the thoughts are very small and scared, indeed.

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There are also one million wonderful little things that I want to share, but it is easy to convince oneself that those small things only matter to you. But now I’m wondering if maybe… maybe those small things might be worth sharing.

My friend Meghan is studying at Faith Builders right now, and one way that we keep each other updated is by sending each other “Three Things” emails. We simply list three things that we want the other person to know. The things can be big or small.  And sometimes it feels like the small things are just as connecting as the big things.

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Here are three small things for you.

  1. I am reading Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt to my students. It is probably a little bit above their level, but they are fascinated by idea of living forever. We do much discussion as we go, and they have fabulous questions and ideas. For example, yesterday, one of them was questioning whether Mae (a good and gentle character) was actually good, because she did a very bad thing- but she did it for the best reason. There are many beautiful wise pieces, but here is one that struck me as being particularly true.

“The way I see it,” Miles went on, “it’s no good hiding yourself away, like Pa and lots of other people. And it’s no good just thinking of your own pleasure, either. People got to do something useful if they’re going to take up space in the world.”
― Natalie BabbittTuck Everlasting

2. I had fun with my sister Renee on Wednesday night. We went to a bookstore and took some pictures of her, and basically just skedaddled our way around Waterloo.

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3. I was talking to one of the “school moms” after school one day, and we were talking about what you can do when you simply feel like you are not enough for all the children who need you- whether you are a mom or a teacher. She had two wise things to say that I keep playing through my mind when I start to feel panicky or overwhelmed. She said that it is important to just stay calm, and that it’s important to prioritize. Moms are smart.

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Do you have three small things from your week? Feel free to share here. We’d all love to hear them! Or you could randomly send your three things to a friend, and that’s fun, because sometimes they send three things back, and BAM- you’re just a little bit more connected than you were before.