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? 

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? 

 

Running in a New Place

 

It doesn’t take long.

For newness to wear off.

 

And here I am

In a place

That doesn’t yet feel quite

Like it fits.

 

I don’t have a library card.

I am scared of going grocery shopping. (Someday I’m not going to have a looney with me and how will I get a shopping cart and then what? Huh, people? THEN WHAT?)

I have a job but I’m never quite sure if I’m doing it right.

Why are there always so many people walking everywhere? (I think I would feel much more comfortable in the city if there were fewer people.)

 

But I’ve been to Ikea three times

And I’ve been to Dollarama twice.

I’ve seen it rain here.

I’ve felt the cloaking humidity.

I’ve laughed here,

And I’ve felt like crying here.

 

These things count for something.

 

Tonight the air smells like the most like fall that it has all year,

And the sky is deep dark blue

And the street lamps are a friendly shade of orange

And the wind feels like

It’s got something mysterious tangled up in it.

 

I’ve been hiding away in our apartment,

And I’m tired of the way that feels.

 

So I lace up my shoes.

I strap on my armband.

And out I go into the night.

 

There are people to run past.

There are stop signs and crosswalks

And many vehicles pulling into their driveways. (I like the thought of all those people coming home, because coming home is such a good feeling.)

 

The warmth comes to my muscles at a different time than that other route I used to run,

But it still comes and running isn’t stiff anymore,

It’s natural.

 

The tiredness and the bursts of energy also arrive at different points than I am used to,

But they are familiar when they come.

 

It sure would be easy to trip and fall

As I run

On these unfamiliar, uneven sidewalks

In the blue evening light.

But if I watch where I’m going,

I’ll be fine.

 

The ups and the downs and ins and outs are different.

But they are also kind of the same.

Running in a new place isn’t so bad, after all.

 

 

When it’s all said and done,

I sit outside my door (right under the light even though anyone driving by could see me),

And I think about how

Now

This place has seen me sweat

And heard me breathe hard

And felt my feet pound.

 

It feels just a little bit more like I belong with this place.

 

It feels like…

I want to do this again.

Soon.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

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

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.