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 Plea and the Christmas Giveaway

Yes, this is a giveaway. But first you have to read the beginning of the post. There will be a quiz at the end to make sure that you did. Just kidding. No quiz. 

Just read the post, okay?


The Plea

Allow me to be perfectly honest for a moment, although I feel a little bit bashful about what I am about to say. This has been brewing away inside me for some time now.

Blogging is such a weird thing to do.

I struggle with it.

I mean, how very presumptuous and arrogant of me to write out my thoughts and assume that someone else is interested in them.

And how very obnoxious of me to post the link on Facebook and Instagram! How much more “in your face” could I possibly be? Who do I even think I am?

I disgust myself.

I’m being dramatic. However, I do think the aforementioned thoughts and they weigh on me in varying degrees depending on things like my current life circumstances, hormones (of course), and the topic of what I wrote. Whether it is “spiritual” or “non-spiritual” makes a difference for me, as I don’t want to clutter your mind with things that aren’t beneficial.

I guess that what I’m saying is that blogging feels self-centered to me. It’s me writing about my life and thoughts, and there isn’t even anything extraordinary about my life and thoughts. It feels like I’m pointing a spotlight at myself and yelling, “Hey, everybody! Look at me!” If you know me in real life, you might have an idea of how uncomfortable I would feel with that scenario playing out for real.

I’ve been doing some thinking about whether it is possible for blogging to not be self-centered. I spent some time considering the bloggers whose work I enjoy reading, and it turns out that although they each have their unique voices and niches, they’re pretty much doing the same thing that I’m doing… writing about their lives and their thoughts. Go figure.

And yet something struck me as being different about their blogs. I think I might have finally put my finger on it.

To me, their blogs felt like a community and a conversation, and to me, mine often feels an awful lot like a lecture.

(Keep reading! Don’t give up. That give-away is still coming.)

Now, there are several things that need to be acknowledged at this point. I shall make a list.

  • I am not good at discussion. Particularly not initiating or leading it. I’ll just admit it. I want this blog to be a place of discussion, but I have no idea how to pilot this thing, you know? But don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll all survive.
  • I am not good at asking thought-provoking questions. I would love to be able to produce deeply theological posts, with many, many footnotes and evidences for my statements. But that just isn’t the way my mind works. I tend to share things like poetry or stories or inspirational (hopefully?) things. I recognize the possibility that sometimes conversation may not happen because my writing did not prompt it or inspire it. I understand that, and I’m okay with it.
  • There are a bunch of you who have faithfully read my writing and commented over the years, whether those comments were on the blog, through email, or in person. That has meant so much. There are those of you who have begun contributing in these ways more recently, and that’s been exciting and fun for me too. Thank you.
  • If you read my blog, but don’t comment… it’s okay. It really is. I get it. I tend to be the same way, although I am trying to grow in this area of participating online, rather than just consuming. My intent is not to guilt you into grudgingly commenting. I just want you to know that if you read a post, and happen to have a thought or a question, I would LOVE to hear it and other readers would too.
  • When I speak of comments, I’m not meaning that I expect compliments from everyone. That wouldn’t be exciting for anyone. (Except me, I guess. Hehe.)  I mean comments that start with things such as, “In my experience…” or “I’d like to challenge the idea that…” or “One thing I’m taking away from this is…” or “My opinion is that…” or “I have a story about…” or “God is teaching me…”

I guess that what I really want is to learn from you guys, and for us all to learn from each other.

That is all I shall say on this matter, except that I have a plan to coax you out of your cozy nooks and crannies. And that plan is…

The Christmas Giveaway

In honour of the approaching holiday season, I am going to be giving away this beautiful brand-new ESV Bible. (The one pictured in the photos below belongs to me. I have one that is still packaged that will go to the winner of this giveaway.) If you (or someone in your life) appreciates pretty lettering, space in the margins for notes, and beautiful, thoughtful artwork… this is definitely the Bible for you.

I think the pictures will pretty much speak for themselves.

I mean, just look at this Bible!

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It has a beautiful, soft burgundy cover.

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Each book of the Bible has its own beautiful opening page, with artwork that pertains to the theme of the book. At the back of the Bible, there is a section with explanations for why the artists chose the design that they did for each book.

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There are full-page illustrations, as well as lovely lettering in the margins scattered throughout this Bible.

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Pictured above is the back cover. I feel that this verse must have been inspiration for the artists who worked on this project, because I really feel that their goal was illustrate the beauty that is found in Scripture.

Here’s how you can enter, as well as a few notes and guidelines.

  • To enter the contest, you need to comment here on the blog. (NOT on Facebook, NOT on Instagram, on the BLOG). In your comment, please share one thing that you plan to do/hope to do to create meaningful moments in the upcoming busy-ness of the Christmas season. There are no wrong answers here, folks! I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas.
  • Each person who comments will have their name put into a bowl. I will pull out a name (with my eyes closed- obviously) to determine the winner. Each participant will have one entry in the draw. (You may comment even if you don’t want the Bible, bless your heart. Just make sure to specify that.)
  • The giveaway will be open all week. It officially closes November 25, at 11:59 p.m. I will post the winner on the evening of November 26.
  • If you do not live close to me, you may still enter. We’ll figure out a way to get it to you, whether that is shipping or super strong carrier pigeons.

Okay! Comment away! What can you do to create meaningful moments (with God, with your family, etc.) this Christmas season? 

 

Experiences, Tips, and Thoughts from a Half-Hearted Runner

This past spring I ran one kilometer to see if I could do it without stopping. Let’s just say that I’m not really a natural runner. I’m becoming okay with that. It may not be one of my strengths, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do it and enjoy it.

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Here is a collection of my experiences, tips and thoughts about running.

Experiences 

  • One time a squirrel and I almost simultaneously ran each other over. It was traumatizing for everyone involved.
  • Skunks do exist. I know this because I saw them on someone’s front lawn right beside the sidewalk while I was on a run. I have not yet run into the Loch Ness Monster, but I confess that I hope she also exists.
  • Due to my personal schedule and the limited number of daylight hours at this time of year, I have been going running in the dark. I initially felt a little bit weird about this, but quickly caught on that everyone and their dog are out walking in the dark, so it can’t be too dangerous. If everyone else is doing it, that means it’s a good thing to do, right?
  • While running, I do a lot of thinking. One time, I was so lost in my thoughts, that I ran right past the street where we live and didn’t clue in until I started running out of street to run on.
  • I like to imagine that while running, I look all long and lean and athletic. However, one time I caught a glimpse of my shadow on a fence that I was running past, and it looked more like Gru from Despicable Me than long and lean and athletic. Sigh.

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Tips 

  • You don’t have to stop running to rest. I learned this from Ricky. If you’re tired, just run more slowly. You don’t have to walk to rest. I know. I can’t believe I had to be taught this. I wonder if it applies to other areas of life too…
  • Set little goals to work towards. Sometimes my goal has been to go running ten times in the month. Sometimes my goal has just been to break my own record for speed. This month, there’s a certain number of kilometers that I’m aiming to run.
  • Use an app to track your progress. Runkeeper does the job well for me.
  • Give yourself rewards. I’m serious. I haven’t met my running goals for the past two months, and therefore, no rewards for me. (It’s quite tragic.) But I sure do hope that I meet November’s goals because I definitely do want this month’s reward.
  • If you take a Kleenex with you, your nose won’t run. However, if you do not take a Kleenex, your nose will run.

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Thoughts

  • There’s something rewarding and empowering about knowing that your own two feet can run you from Point A to Point B without needing to stop.
  • Your huffing and puffing sounds louder to you than it will to anyone that you run past. Probably. Right? Also, huffing and puffing is a natural part of running. At least that’s what they tell me.
  • What is annoying is when your legs feel tired, but your brain just won’t let them quit. There have been a few times that my brain has gone into that mode. Often, though, my legs and my brain are on the same page about quitting. (Hardcore is not a word I would use to describe myself. I am often all too willing to quit.)

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Here is my concluding thought:

  • I don’t run super far, and I don’t run super fast. I don’t even run super regularly. But the way I figure, something is better than nothing. Also, my goal isn’t to be able to go fast or far. My goals are to spend time outside, move my body, and challenge myself to be disciplined enough to do something that doesn’t come naturally to me. But you know what? I have gotten stronger. I don’t know if it was a physical change or a mental change, but I can go farther and faster than I used to. It feels good and it makes me want to keep going. And so I think I will keep going. Even though it’s November.

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Photo credits go to the coolest and nicest Ricky Martin ever. 

Journey

I have always wanted to be a jogger, and this past summer, I started to take that desire a little bit more seriously.

I didn’t do as much running as I should have,

But also,

I did more running than I would have if I wouldn’t have done any running.

That’s my way of saying that since May 5, I have gone out running thirty-seven times. (And that’s all the statistics you’ll get from me, folks. Don’t even ask for more.)

I am going to be sharing two posts on the topic of running.

Today, I’m sharing something that I wrote way back on May 9, when I was just starting out with running, and the whole process of convincing myself to go was a pretty big deal. This post also contains photos from where we lived before we moved that I felt were too pretty not to use somewhere, but didn’t know exactly where to use. Since the majority of my thirty-seven runs took place in that beautiful little town, it seemed like this might be an acceptable place to use those photos.

Next Monday, I’m going to share “A List of Confessions, Tips, Experiences, and Thoughts from a Half-hearted Runner”.


 

Let me tell you a story about a girl who never knows when she can trust herself.

It probably begins years ago, when she was a child, but for the purpose of this story, it begins on a Monday morning, at 5:45. The alarm goes off, and the girl’s legs are still stiff from the two previous mornings of exercise, and she decides, “No. Not this morning. I’m tired, and I already hurt.”

She stays in bed while her husband gets up and leaves for his run.

But at 6:12, she sits up, oddly alert for having been dozing.

Maybe I will go after all.

So she gets up and gets ready. But by the time she’s ready, it’s bright outside, the husband is back, and the street is full of cars going to work, even though it’s only 6:30. The girl sits on the cold steps out in the fresh morning. She could still go. But there’s not that much time, and she feels weird about all the people driving to work seeing her running.

The girl decides not to go running, but she can’t stand the thought of officially giving up and going inside, so she sits on the steps and feels a bit like crying, and also a little bit proud that at least she is not still in bed sleeping.

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Tuesday morning comes, and it’s 5:45. It will be a busy day with teaching, a bridal shower supper, and a board meeting, so she already isn’t planning on running. How wonderful to just know that she isn’t going running. She feels very free as she goes back to sleep while the husband leaves. At 6:11, she sits up.

Really? Again? She gets out of bed and gets ready to go, not even knowing if she’s actually going to run this time.

Something inside her soul is pulling and poking uncomfortably, and so is something in her stomach, and she sits on the edge of the bed. Time is ticking and the mental agony is increasing because she WANTS to go, but her stomach…

It starts to feel better, and she decides to go. Maybe just a walk. No running.

This whole exercising ordeal is so mentally uncomfortable and exhausting for her, and she wonders if maybe she should give it up altogether. For the sake of her sanity.

She goes. The cars drive past, and it’s 6:37, but she is going. There comes a point where the road turns to gravel, and she starts to run. She only runs one kilometer, which doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. But she runs with the husband’s words pounding in her heart to just try. Don’t walk. Just run.

It turns out that she can do it. Without dying even once.

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As she climbs the hill on her way back, she sees the tinges of green on the trees. A closer look brings brand new buds into focus- slowly, slowly coming.

When she sees this, the girl who never knows when she can trust herself remembers that life isn’t about achieving something all at once.

It’s about

One by one

Step by step

Better by better.

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One Little Task

I confess that I just spent the whole last week being a very lazy human being.

We won’t get into the details.

But let’s just say that all of my laziness last week resulted in a wonky sleep schedule, a Friday night and Saturday morning spent fiercely and furiously sewing a dress for family photos on Saturday afternoon, stacks of dishes, and a frustrated attitude. (Poor Ricky. He had to deal with my snippiness. AND the dishes. Bless him.)

Yeah.

Let’s just leave it at that. I know this kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone else, so I don’t want to overwhelm you with more details.

I seem to go through stages of sometimes being driven by productivity and other times feeling completely unmotivated to do anything. Consistency has never been a strong point of mine. Do you know what the crazy thing about these two attitudes is?

For me, the difference between these two attitudes usually lies in ONE TASK.

One little task.

If I do one thing, doing another thing feels manageable and appealing.

But before I do that one thing, getting started can seem almost impossible.

One little task.

I recently read through the book of Proverbs. Being the sort of person who loves little tidbits of wisdom on how to live well, I enjoy Proverbs a lot. Proverbs is a book of the Bible that happens to frequently address the topic of laziness. I’m going to share a few verses that I’m choosing to focus on this week as I tackle some things that I’ve been avoiding. There are many areas of life that these can be applied to- spiritual growth, physical work, relationships, personal development, etc.

Proverbs 18:9

“Whoever is slack in his work, is a brother to him who destroys.”

Laziness is the same as destruction? In a way, it is. This was a sobering thought for me.

 

Proverbs 19:15

“…an idle person will suffer hunger.”

The word hunger here speaks to me of discontent- hunger for success, hunger for the things I value, hunger for a deeper knowledge of and love for God. Idleness leaves you longing and weak.

 

Proverbs 20:4

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.”

Laziness- doesn’t work/think ahead, but still feels entitled to a harvest. That sounds painfully familiar to me.

 

Proverbs 25:28

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

A lack of self-discipline leaves you without walls- weak and vulnerable.

 

Proverbs 21:25-26

“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labour. All day long, he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.”

I find it interesting that the sluggard craves and craves, but the righteous find their righteousness not in collecting and gaining (satisfying cravings), but in wholeheartedly giving.

Here we go, folks.

A whole new week.

Let’s give and not hold back.

And let’s remember to be joyful and calm and delighted as we go along our way, shall we? We spend far too much time feeling pressured and tense and stressed. (That is a whole new topic, right there…maybe some other time we should talk about that.)

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What areas of your life do you battle laziness in? What can we do this week to fight against the temptation to avoid rather than tackle

Moments of Connection- Part 2

The last time I blogged, I wrote about an experience of mine that made me feel like I had been seen. By that, I mean that it helped me to feel like I am a real-live human being who is not invisible and not weird and who is capable of connecting with other human beings. I think I am still adjusting to the fact that we now live in a community where we don’t know people. It’s very odd to go grocery shopping and see no one that you know. My introvert self likes it, but there is also a part of me that misses the potential of being recognized and acknowledged.

Now.

What I am about to say next may sound kind of the opposite. I mean, I just said that I missed being recognized and acknowledged. And now, I’m saying this:

I don’t like to draw attention to myself, and being a Mennonite woman has a way of drawing some attention to yourself. And this bothers me.  (There. I said it.) I think that I am mainly bothered by it because I am generally a reserved person who prefers to not be in the spotlight and also because I don’t like the idea of people possibly making negative assumptions about me based on misconceptions about Mennonites or Christians. I also need to remember that I have also had people make positive assumptions about me based on my appearance. (This is a complicated topic…)

There are people who do a double take when they see me and there are lots of times when I look up and make eye contact with someone who is watching me, and what is there to do then except to smile nicely and say, “Hello, where are the Triscuits in this dumb grocery store?”  (I have never said that to anyone. I promise.)

It is only fair to also note that there are a whole lot of people who don’t give me a second glance. And there are sometimes people that I watch out of curiosity too.

ANYWAYS.

What I’m trying to say is that it can be exhausting to feel anxious about your appearance every time you have to go anywhere. I was definitely feeling that exhaustion three weeks after our move, and I was annoyed at myself for being so “shallow” and concerned about appearances. But then came an experience where I didn’t feel like I was sticking out. I felt like I belonged, and it went a long way in reminding me of where my identity truly rests.

It was at a Chris Tomlin concert.

Ricky and I were generously offered two free tickets to Chris Tomlin’s first ever late night worship session. Ricky already had plans, but since it was only five minutes from our house and since my sister Renee was willing to come with me, I decided to go even though it’s been years since I regularly listened to Chris Tomlin.

I donned my largest glasses and charged my phone in preparation for selfies and instagram stories, and off we went. And you know what?

I loved worshipping in the middle of the night with all those other Christians. I felt like I belonged right there with all of them, even though I looked a little bit different. The feeling of connection caught me off-guard, because, out of habit, I carried my fear and dislike of standing out to the concert with me. I had forgotten that there’s something powerful about a whole group of believers- with all their different ideas and opinions and personalities and backgrounds- singing and listening and praying and laughing and longing for God and for heaven together. I had forgotten that God is my good, good father- that I am His and He is mine. I had forgotten the joy and freedom of my salvation. I had forgotten that He is a healing and living God.

That concert, with its songs and its audience, reminded me of those things and I left feeling encouraged and stronger, because I was reminded that I had God’s spirit in me. I left feeling unseen– just one small believer surrounded by an big and beautiful cloud of witnesses.

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Those are my stories.

In conclusion, I have been seen and unseen here, and I feel more rooted in this place because of it. I have learned that I crave this- to be acknowledged as an individual, but to also have a place in a larger group. I bet I’m not alone in that desire. The beautiful thing is that we can all take care of each other in these ways. That’s my challenge for you: value people as individuals and make space in the group for them.

Afterward

The Joseph play came to life last week at Countryside Christian School. It really did. And now, the performances are over, the stage has been taken down, the beards have been smeared away for the last time, the floor has been mopped, and the discussions have died down… but I’m still thinking about it and feeling like tears are going to come sometime because of how beautiful this experience was.

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I loved seeing students shine in different ways than they normally do.

Some of them shone alone in the spotlight, with vulnerability and fierceness that sent chills upon chills all over me. Sharing pieces of their character, and pieces of themselves. Beautiful. Thank you.

Some of them shone on the stage with their smiles and nudges and gestures and nods and constant engagement- all small things that together, created a powerful effect. Beautiful. (And so delightful!) Thank you.

Some of them shone in the shadows, wearing black and no shoes- trying to be as invisible as possible, more and more invisible each performance. Beautiful. Thank you.

Some students had their fingerprints all over the play- the backdrops, the stage, the props, the costumes, Joseph’s dreams, the mics, the bulletin, the lights, managing the tickets. Oh my, folks. It could not have been done any better. You aced it. Beautiful. Thank you.

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The students weren’t the only ones who shone. Let’s just say that I work with some amazing teachers who never showed up on stage. These teachers were patient, creative, hard-working, and brave leaders. Perhaps one of the most powerful things about these teachers is that they set an example of being willing to work hard, to try new things, and to learn. Beautiful.

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Calvin Martin also belongs in this picture.

I loved working with Meghan on this project for a second time. I loved the discussions and planning and imagining and growing and the sitting and typing and typing.

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Please excuse our cheesiness. (And shiny-ness.)

I loved seeing Ricky visualize the story, thoughtfully plan how it would all play out on the stage, and add details that brought it to life. I loved seeing him interact with the students.

Last summer I wrote a post about what it is like to write a play. (You should probably read it in order for the following snippet from it to make sense: An Enlightening Exploration of Play-Writing) I ended it with these words:

“Someone walks past and stops to look at your ball of snow.

They reach out and touch it.

They start to roll their own ball of snow.

You think,

This is why I did it.”

I pray that this whole play experience set something in motion for each person involved. I pray that we all would remember the things that we learned, and that what we learned is a strong foundation for more learning and serving and reaching out. I pray that we would pay attention to the aspects of this that made our souls feel alive.

I pray that we would remember that a big thing is made of a thousand small things.

And most of all, I pray that we would remember that each of us can be a living story of redemption.

Amen.

CHALLENGE: The Balancing Act

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She flounce-trudges into the light of my airy, after-school classroom.

She comes in and she seats herself and she says heavily, “I have so much homework.”

We discuss the ins and the outs of this, and arrive at the looming cavern known as time management.

“I know what my problem is,” she says and throws her hands in the air in despair. “I simply don’t know how to manage my time well!”

She is just young, but already so very human. I have to chuckle. “Well, my dear, you are not alone in that. I have a hard time with that too.” What I don’t say is that at the rate I am currently going, learning to manage my time well is shaping up to a life-long struggle. I had hope to have mastered it by now.

As tempting as it is to wallow in our despair, I decide to move things forward by asking her the question that I have been pondering myself.

“Are there any changes you can make in how you spend your time?”

“Yes!” she says fiercely. “I spend too much time wandering around. Outside. Thinking. Talking to myself.”

I love that she does those things, but frustration and irritation are evident in her voice, so I don’t dare smile. “I know that I should be doing other things instead, but I just don’t do the things that I should be doing!” Exactly! Me too!

We talk specifics, such as, do your work right away before even considering pushing it off until later, and don’t just think of it as something yucky, let yourself enjoy it, and then she must go.

I am left with my stacks of books and herds of sticky notes stampeding across my desk. And my thoughts, of course.

What are my thoughts on time management? (Random, for one thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

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  1. The older I get, the more I am convinced that spending your time wisely and in a disciplined way makes it easier to be exercise self-discipline in other areas (particularly spiritually).
  2. If something needs to be done, just do it right away. Don’t allow yourself to waste time simply because you are avoiding doing something. The job won’t get any easier after avoiding it. For example, sometimes after school, when it’s time to come home and make supper, it is so tempting to flop down on the couch and scroll through Instagram for awhile before starting to make supper. But I cannot describe how much harder it is to get up and make supper after scrolling through Instagram than it is to just start making it right away. There is a huge difference. It’s best to just dive into the task at hand.
  3. Even if you have a huge list of things that need to be done, just do one thing at a time. I feel much calmer when I choose to handle things one at a time.
  4. I don’t want to be so busy that I have to be doing something profitable all the time. That sounds very lazy of me, but it’s true. I want to have time for just sitting and thinking and walking and talking and journaling and reading. These things are profitable in their own way.
  5. I think that it’s important for us to take time for the things that make us come alive. Make a list of the things that make you feel the happiest and the most alive. I believe that God has given all of us things like that, and that we are meant to enjoy them. Don’t squelch them by treating them as though they aren’t as important as those projects that have deadlines attached to them. Make a list of what those life-giving things are for you, and figure out how to make them a part of your life.
  6. Often, I find myself craving the weekend or the next holiday. Sometimes I need to ask myself if I am truly working hard and tired or if I am just feeling entitled to a break. Am I experiencing actual exhaustion or just laziness? I’m afraid that line for me is blurrier than it should be. Am I “gluttonous” of free time?
  7. When I do have free time, how do I manage it? Do I dedicate it to those life-giving, soul-rejuvenating activities that bring me closer to God, or do I waste it online or taking naps that I don’t actually need? (Not that I am against napping. 😊 I just know that I am probably too quick to allow myself to rest physically, when really, it’s my soul that needs the rest. And soul-rest, for me, often comes through activities that still require some physical/mental effort.)
  8. Am I just mindlessly doing the things that life brings my way, or am I prayerfully considering how God wants me to spend my time? Sometimes I worry that we just feel obligated to say yes to everything that we are asked to do, and then we are busy with those things, and we don’t have time to allow God-given dreams and desires to grow and develop and become real.
  9. The final thought I have on the matter is this: Watch for Him as you go through your days and choose how to spend your moments. Watch for Him and make room for Him and worship Him all through the day and night. One morning at school, as I was preparing for the day, I caught a glimpse of the sky through my window. Just a glimpse. But it was enough for me to know that something beautiful was going on and I did not want to miss it. I put my coat on and zipped outside to witness a brilliant, fierce sunrise. I was so glad that I went out to see it, even if I did sacrifice a few minutes of work time. Those beautiful moments of just me and Jesus were completely worth it.

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That’s the end of my random list.

I wasn’t sure how to end this blog post, so I asked Ricky how I should end it. He said that I should just say, “Hey, ya’ll! Manage yo’ time well!”

So there’s that.

And also- what are your thoughts on the topic of time management? Have you learned anything over the years? How do you balance responsibilities and rest?

Also, I like what Wendell Berry has to say about how we should spend our time. Life is so much more than just being efficient and productive and practical.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

-Wendell Berry (select lines from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”)

A Week of Love

Family Sunday dinner complete with Mom’s cooking and red candles.

Chocolate hearts for the two of us from a dad.

Candy and notes left on my desk from sweet children.

Chicken alfredo with three lovely ladies, complete with laughter and stories and chocolate Timbits and strawberries and perfectly-brewed tea.

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A good day after a bad day- a gift from the good, good Father.

Comfortable (and slightly crumbly) meatloaf eaten at 8:30 in the evening on the couch, and sizzling fajitas at Kelsey’s the next night.

Kelseys

I married a wonderful, comfortable, gracious Ricky.

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Photo credit: Renee Shantz

I have learned a few things about marriage in the past two years.

  1. Seek Jesus.
  2. Be best friends.
  3. Don’t be selfish.
  4. Love your ordinary life.
  5. Go on adventures sometimes.

I am looking forward to learning these things better and better (along with some new things too, hopefully) in the coming years.

At the end of this week of celebrating Valentine’s and feeling love from so many sources, I have to ask myself this:

Did I show love?

Yes and no.

(Of course. That’s the way life is when you are a human being.)

Perhaps the more important question is this:

How will I show love in the coming week?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:9-10