A Long Prayer

A Long Prayer

Dear God,

There is much that I am uncertain about.

This interpretation, that interpretation…

And if I don’t feel a conviction to do this, does that mean that I am not actually called to do it,

Or

Does it just mean that I should grow some spiritual muscle and develop a conviction for it

?

 

 

Also,

Is it always holier to do the more uncomfortable thing

?

 

I don’t know how to pray, God.

How can I pray, when it only reveals how very little of you I understand?

I imagine that you must be

So

Much

More

Than just a perfect superhuman.

But

What

?

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And what do I do if I realize that my motive for knowing you more

Is so that I will appear and feel more

Wise?

(I hate when my motives get all twisted like this.

Forgive me.)

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I know that learning to know you is a journey-

An adventure!

I will not navigate it perfectly.

I know that there are mountain-tops along the way

With much clarity.

I also know that there is…

Muck.

 

Speaking of muck…

 

I confess that when I hear the words child-like faith

Something inside me splinters

And not in a good way.

 

I have slid into a pit of

“Earning my faith”

By being skeptical about this and about that.

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We talk about owning our faith and how good it is to question and search.

But nobody tells you

What to do

When you are just…

Lost.

 

When the answers to your questions sometimes involve that child-like faith and you just

Can’t

Quite

Regain it.

 

There is much that I am uncertain about.

 

But also…

 

The daffodils in the flowerbed outside our door just keep blooming and blooming, through cold and through gray.

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In The Horse and His Boy, Aslan was all the lions.

 

There are certain things that I hesitate to pray for because I’m afraid you’ll send me what I ask for.

 

“… in You we live and move and have our being.”

 

Some days, the sun shines in a warm way and the grass is green beneath me.

 

Perhaps, right now, many small pieces of you are more necessary for me than one giant understanding. And maybe I don’t even need to worry about putting all those pieces together.

 

Maybe I will just watch for the beautiful pieces and name you as I see you.

 

I’ll be watching, God. I’ll be watching.

 

Amen.

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Question: What are you certain or uncertain about these days? Hearing either is encouraging. 

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Confession

This week I have chosen to share a story that I wrote for an online creative writing class that I took this winter. The prompt for this story was that the story needed to involve a confession, and be told in a “stream of consciousness” manner. It was the kind of story that flowed from my fingertips, and it took me a little while to realize how it connected to me. 

I cried when I figured it out.

The pain, the frustration, the weariness of trying to pray- that is what this story came out of. 

And then some of my fellow classmates commented on the story, and said things like, “I understand,” and “I am journeying too.” These things helped (I’m a normal human! Yay!) and these things hurt (I feel guilty for not currently experiencing the JOY that following God is supposed to bring, and guiltier still because certainly it is my own fault that I am not experiencing that joy). I am still pondering these feelings. 

But for now… here is my story. 


 

My forty-five year-old knees hurt. I suppose that I have been kneeling for a long time now. Any second now, I will start to pray. Pray for real, I mean. I’ve had all these false starts.

 

Dear God.

Heavenly Father.

Lord Jesus.

Anyone? Anyone at all?

 

I am a terrible human being.  I don’t know what to do about it, and I have exhausted myself.

 

I don’t know anything about prayer. Never have, and never will, at this rate. What am I doing here? I’m not even a Catholic. Every day on my way home from the hospital, I drive past this church, and in recent weeks, I started to feel the the urge to pull into the parking lot. To open the heavy doors and enter the still, quiet grace. I imagine the grace all trapped inside, swirling over and under pews and colliding with stained glass. That’s why things have been so hard out in the world, I guess.

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For Pete’s sake, I got distracted again.

Focus, Thomas. Focus. Close your eyes. Deep breath.

 

I am tired. I don’t think that I have the strength to do this anymore. I don’t think that I have the strength to stop, either.

 

I try to imagine God being real, being a presence right there in the church with me. Wrapping me up. But all I feel is the stillness working its way into me until my body fairly hums with it. It works its way up my spine until I have to shiver.  Am I being absorbed by the stillness, or am I disrupting it? I can’t tell. I shift uncomfortably, aware of the sound of my joints popping loudly in the silence of the church. It’s not just my mind that is having trouble submitting to prayer. My entire body seems to be resistant to it.

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I know what I came in here to do. Every day, I feel my ugliness winding its way through me, loving me and destroying me.  I’m going to give you a name and a face, I say to it. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get a grip on you and… I don’t know what would come next, but I am worn down from hiding.

 

I look down at the soft and wrinkled pamphlet in my sweaty hands. “How to Make a Good Confession.” I had found it on a table just inside the door. Praying isn’t going so well for me, but I think that I gave it a fair shot. I stiffly rise to my feet and head towards the confessional booth that I noticed on my way in.

 

I sit on the chair by the screen, fumbling as I try to open my pamphlet. I need to see the instructions for how to do this.

 

My throat feels scratchy. I clear it, before whispering (the pamphlet says to whisper), “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” I hastily try to make the sign of the cross, but I don’t know if I am doing it right. Perhaps God will overlook that.

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There is no response from the other side of the screen, so I determinedly barrel on. The pamphlet said to explain my sin briefly, and include how often I have committed it. “I accuse myself of the following sin. I… I do not love my wife. I do not want to be married to her anymore.” I do not love my wife. My wife who has given me three beautiful children and shared herself with me in every way. My wife who has cancer. My wife who has been in the hospital for the past few weeks. My wife who is unexpectedly recovering rather than dying. It would have been simpler, a more dignified end for everyone,  if….

“I have committed this sin… for several years, now, I guess.” There is no pinpointing when something like this starts. I conclude, “I am sorry for this sin, and all the sins of my whole life.”

 

I wait. The pamphlet says that the priest would give me some prayers as penance, but there is nothing from the other side of the screen. I lean nearer and listen. Not even any breathing.

 

“Hello?” I finally dare to whisper. No response.

 

There’s no one over there. I almost laugh at myself, but my sin is still holding me too close.

 

What am I going to do, God? Is a person even allowed to pray about something like this? Something so selfish? Something that has no right answer?  What am I going to do?

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I stand up to leave. I’ve spent too much time here.

 

As I walk to my car, lost in my guilt, I nearly trip over a good-sized stick that the wind has brought down from a nearby tree. I stop and pick it up, intending to set it on the nearby grass so no other sinners trip on it.

 

Instead, I find myself walking back up the steps to the church with the stick. I open the door, and wedge the stick in, so that it holds the door open just a crack.

 

Maybe now some of that grace will be able to escape.

 

Maybe it will find its way to someone in need of it.

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Ketchup Time

It has been awhile since I have blogged. I do hope that you found other ways to occupy yourself and did not sit around waiting for me. The extra words for blogging just weren’t in me. There have been many factors involved- physical, mental, spiritual. Maybe someday I will attempt to explain some of those things, but for today, I am going to ease myself back into this space with a simple, fluffy post.

Winter has ended and spring is here. And with that thought… forward, MARCH!

I have chosen to share some photos from my phone that I have taken in the past few weeks, along with a caption of explanation. The quality of the photos is not great, and for that, I apologize. (Are you allowed to get a new phone just because the quality of your phone’s camera has gone down? Are you are you?)

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Two of my students got the same fortunes in their fortune cookies one day at lunch time. I thought that was humorous, but that fact that both these students are under three years of age made me chuckle even more. What old business could they possibly have?
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There’s nothing like a best friend getting married to give you all the feels. March 16 was a truly beautiful day.
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My family came to our house to celebrate Wendy’s fourteenth birthday. It was fun to make some special food and do some special decorating for the party.
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I do not know what exactly caused the halo to show up above Wendy’s head in this photo, but it seems fitting.
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Oh, my babies. I love them so much. I love to have a lapful of squashy, cuddly, brilliant little ones. And yes, we have goggles, because that’s the way we roll at our school.
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One evening, I ordered Chinese food for us online, and was pleasantly surprised when I received this fortune cookie at the end of the process. However, they did not give us any actual fortune cookies with our order, which was obviously disappointing.
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Parks and Rec might just be the funniest thing ever. Even when watching episodes for the second time.
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My tennis husband. I’m so thankful that he teaches me and is patient with me. In tennis, but in other areas, too.
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Tiny new student.
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We attended the play “The Horse and His Boy” this past weekend. (A Christmas gift from Ricky’s dad.) It was delightful. As I sat and watched, I felt my eyes keep wanting to fill with tears in a most familiar way. It’s something that always happens to me in plays, and it doesn’t always have to do with what’s happening in the story. I’m realizing that these tears are connected to seeing people singing, dancing, and being free with their character. These tears are connected to the beautiful costumes and the thousands of details that bring the story to life. These tears are connected to the curtain call, where the audience gets to catch a glimpse of the actor as their character, but also just as their very own self. I don’t know what this all means exactly… just that I have decided to pay attention to these feelings and to explore what they mean about myself as a creator.

I’d love to know what you’ve been up to. Any tidbits- highlights or low points- from the past few weeks that you’d care to share? 

Wendy Faye

Wendy Faye

My Wendy sister,

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I have always loved you.

From the beginning, you were a key factor in my life.

You were joy among packed and stacked boxes over moving time.

You were the one who made me useful and capable when I felt helpless.

You were a place for me to put my arms when I needed to hold onto something.

You were a place for me to put my love when I was too shy to show it to others.

Thank you for these things. They mean even more to me now than they did back then.

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My dear girl,

You have been tossed around like a sack of potatoes,

And you have survived.

This is something to be proud of.

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That one summer awhile back, the one that I spent at Faith Builders?

I was so scared about going, and I remember hugging everyone goodbye,

And it was hugging you that finally made me cry.

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It is very strange to see you so grown up these days.

However, I know from experience that it is so fun to have a little sibling grow up and grow wiser,

And so I am excited.

You may be tall now,

And you may wear cool clothes, 

And love Bourbon Street Grill,

And we may have a Christmas Starbucks tradition,

But when you laugh,

I still hear and see my little Wendy Faye.

I love it,

I love you,

And I always will

Forever.

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Keep growing, sister.

You are doing an excellent job. 

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Photo Credit: Unfrozen Photography

Selfish Serving (Giving- Part 2)

Selfish Serving (Giving- Part 2)

Whoops… I did it again. Said I would post, but I didn’t. Sorry.  Here is part two of my stories about giving. It is actually two stories- one from myself, and the other from one of my favourite writers, Shannan Martin. (No, not a Mennonite, for those of you whose minds went there.) I felt that these two stories could travel peaceably side by side, so here they are. Mine first, then Shannon’s. 


 

I can see the toll that being a mom, a student, and an employee has taken on her.

Her eyes are less bright, her smile less natural. There isn’t time for the friendly chatting that used to happen.

I cannot imagine being as busy as she must feel.

And so I think, “How can I help this dear woman?”

And the answer is…

French fry casserole.

(It usually is. Along with bread, salad, and dessert. You know how these things are.)

I plan to make a meal for her and her family, hoping that just one night of not needing to think about supper will be a relief.

But before I can execute my French fry casserole, I get a message from the same dear woman that I was so earnestly and selflessly wanting to help, saying, (in short) “I need to send my boys to school on Friday.”

And everything inside me pauses, and then roars, “FRIDAY. FRIDAY! THE SCHOOL IS CLOSED ON FRIDAYS, PLUS I HAVE THINGS THAT I WAS COUNTING ON DOING THIS FRIDAY!”

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Funny how much I want to lighten her load, but how much I do not want to help her in this particular manner.

Oh, the inconsistency and selfishness of wanting to help, but on my own terms.

I smile grimly, dutifully recite the words, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver”, and tell her that I will be able to care for her boys on Friday.

Because I am able, and because I do want to help.

Lord, have mercy.


A story that Shannan Martin shared on Instagram. (Used with permission.) 

“A story.

I was recently in a meeting at the elementary school and someone said “You know what we need? Chapstick.” The next Sunday I grabbed the mic at church and shared. An hour later I had $62 and ALL of it came from people who were in work release and have very little. 😭 (Reminder: we all want to live generously!) I reached out to one of my favorite local shops, @thesoapygnome and said “I’ll take as many lip balms as I can get for $62.” She hooked me up (yay, community!) and a few others from church added what they had grabbed to the hopper. When I delivered a giant bag of lip balms to the office last week the school nurse squealed.

Takeaways: ✔️ Ask people what they need. Don’t assume you know. ✔️ Work with the people near you. Support each other. Love your neighbor WITH your neighbor. It’s just better that way! ✔️ Small is big. Small is big. Small is big. On Repeat. Amen.”

Shannan Martin


Sometimes we know what others need… but sometimes we only think that we know. 

Let’s care enough to find out what the right way to serve is. Let’s care enough to find out what the need truly is. Do you have any stories? 

Money Mitts (Giving- Part One)

Money Mitts (Giving- Part One)

I don’t pretend to understand. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable. I am just telling this story, with my own thoughts and impressions included. 

Statistics say there are over five thousand homeless people in Toronto.


 

He appeared out of nowhere on the crowded subway platform. In my memory, he was navy blue and unzipped coat and black toque and everything else ordinary. Bundled up, rather like I was. By the time I noticed him, he almost blended in with the group of people he had approached.

I couldn’t hear what he said, but as I saw him move to another group, I realized that he was, indeed, asking for money.

I hoped that he wouldn’t work his way back to us, because…

Well. My wallet was in my backpack that was on my back, and I didn’t even know if it had any cash in it.

And then I remembered that I had a looney in the pocket on my mitt. (Thanks, No Frills shopping cart system.)

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I guess I was watching him, because our eyes connected, and I couldn’t tell if that meant he would come over or go to a different person.

But he came, quiet and ordinary and expressionless. I think that something in me wanted him to, now that I knew I had something to give. 

“Nickels? Dimes?” I forget exactly what he said, but I remember those words.

“Yes,” I said, and took off my mitts to unzip the pocket that contained the looney.

Except that I had to check the pocket on both mitts, because I couldn’t remember which one it was in, and my initial squish of the mitts didn’t seem to reveal the whereabouts of the looney.

To make things worse, I felt that rush of air that announces the subway’s arrival. PANIC.

There we were, us two humans, standing there with my fumbling, mitt-musty hands between us.

He stood waiting, calm.

The subway came and I managed to extricate the looney (plus a dime) from my glove.

He nodded as he took them.

And then I crammed onto the subway with the masses, and he….

I guess I don’t know what he did next.

I felt ashamed of myself. Of my giving.

Because there I was, gliding along, feeling glad that I had given a looney, instead of just the nickel or dime that he had asked for.

Because we had made eye contact, and I was afraid of what he had seen on my face and in my eyes.I honestly don’t know what was there. What had my face shown?

I wanted to know…

What he actually needed.

I wanted to know…

How the situation had seemed to him.

His face hadn’t revealed a single thing to me.


 

I don’t think that I will ever be able to see a homeless person asking for money without it hurting my heart.

I also don’t know if I will ever know what to do with that hurt.

I am quick with all the usual excuses.

“I only have a looney. It’s almost embarrassing to just give a looney, when the need is clearly greater than that..”

“I only have a twenty dollar bill. We can’t just go around handing out $20. We don’t actually have that many $20 of our own, after all.”

“That person looks a little too… crazy. I’m afraid to approach them.”

“That person looks a little too… normal. Do they truly need the money?”

 

Too much,

Too little,

And there seems to be no “in between”.

 

Oh.

Then there’s…

That good old, holy excuse, “By giving money, I may be enabling this person to pursue unhealthy habits and addictions.”

That excuse has never made me feel truly better, and I’m almost at the point where I think it’s just….

Dumb. 

Here’s where I’m at:

My few dollars probably aren’t going to make or break someone’s addiction. I think it’s better to give.

 

Yes, it could harm…

but it also might help.

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There’ll be a second blog post coming sometime this week with another story about giving. Stay tuned! In the meantime, how do you handle giving (money, or otherwise) to homeless people? What would Jesus have us do? How do we show love?

 

The Truth is…

The Truth is…

People sometimes say that they appreciate my honesty in my writing. Yes, I am honest, but I am usually only honest about the things that I want to be honest about. If I were truly honestly these days, I might write something yucky and choppy like the following.


 

Hello, my name is Jasmine Martin, and the truth is, I am not good at Januaries, Februaries, and/or Marches.

I want to be, but I’m not.

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These months are dangerous ones for me. They immobilize me. I think my body may be trying to settle into a form of hibernation, and it turns out that laws of nature are difficult to work against.

These blindingly white days have a way of shoving me towards darkness, even though I don’t want to go there.

The truth is…

 

Being social feels like too much work.

Untangling myself feels like too much work.

Writing feels like too much work.

Trying to swallow a giant Advil feels like too much work.

Working well feels like too much work.

Making decisions and moving forward feels like too much work.

Surviving feels like too much work.

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Ah.

Perhaps that last one on the list is the real frustration.

Why does living require so much maintenance?

(You mean that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I need to regularly wash my hair, brush my teeth, do dishes, make food, tidy, do laundry, go grocery shopping? And on top of that, I am supposed to be having a job, responding to texts and emails in a timely and meaningful manner, and making life decisions? And I am supposed to read my Bible and pray? And sleep at night? And clear the snow off my car? And have a mysterious, exhausting cold that goes on for almost two weeks? And write and create and have thoughts? Plus I was going to EXERCISE and LOSE WEIGHT? AND WHY DO MY FINGERNAILS NEED TO BE CLIPPED- AGAIN?  How is this humanly possible?)

(But I’ll have you know that I have kept that new year’s resolution to make our bed every day. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health… I have made the bed.)

The truth is, I do all these things, and then I just need to do them again the next day, the next week…

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The truth is, I have to learn to be okay with the small, daily, necessary tasks. I have to. That is what life consists of. It is time to accept my smallness, my humanity, and to take delight in the process of nurturing a life of quality.

The truth is, I might not feel like I want to do all these things, but I feel so much more alive when I do.

The truth is, once I start these tasks, I usually don’t even mind them.

The truth is, there are things that I can do to make February a healthier month than January was.

 

Here’s my list.

  1. Go outside and do fun things to combat the mentality that the cold is something to be avoided and fought against. Embrace the cold (before it embraces me).
  2. Get into a regular sleep schedule. This has always been tricky for me because I COME ALIVE between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., and just want to stay awake and do ALL OF THE THINGS. Unfortunately, I have yet to work a job that works well with this.
  3. Leave enough time in my schedule to enjoy caring for myself and my body, so that I don’t need to rush through my morning and evening routines like a madwoman, and end up resenting my body for the care that it requires.
  4. Choose to be okay with the process of making food. It’s a required part of life-  nothing to get all huffy about. It is literally a life-giving task. Embrace it. I like this woman’s perspective on it: http://www.thelazygeniuscollective.com/blog/enjoydinner (I actually like her perspective about a lot of things. If you aren’t yet familiar with the Lazy Genius, you have been missing out.)
  5. Do the next right thing. One step at a time. (If you ever feel overwhelmed, consider listening to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, The Next Right Thing. Her voice alone will calm you, and her words are truth.) 
  6. Hand my phone over to Ricky in the evening so that I avoid mindless scrolling.
  7. Watch my little sister Renee’s videos for artistic and just general life inspiration. (You can count on beautiful and thoughtful content from her. You should definitely subscribe.) Here’s one of my favourites:

“I suppose I thought life was the puzzle. That it was meant to be lived, to be understood, to be unriddled with the help of the ocean and a bottle of wine. But the puzzle isn’t life, is it? The ocean, the wine, the Sunday evening on the balcony- that’s life. It’s enough to be enjoyed, with or without the missing pieces.”

Erin Loechner (Chasing Slow)

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Happy February, everyone! Does enjoying the winter months come naturally to you? What have you learned about yourself in this area? What makes winter wonderful/bearable for you?