About Me

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I live on the North Shore in BC, after a (too) brief time in the prairies. Working as an artist, mother and wife (not necessarily in that order), i am striving to live well, to find the truth of God in all things, and to pass on this truth to others.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

get me off this ride

this summer has been a bit of  a roller coaster emotionally.  some breathtaking highs and some plummets that pull your stomach up into your throat.  all in all a good ride that's left me a little shaken.

and, as a shining jewel to top it off, my summer ended in my 39th birthday last thursday.

last thursday was one of the best days of my life.  i woke up at 8, grabbed a delicious coffee and my robe, and scooted downstairs to paint for two hours.  it felt like a dream.  my son quietly opened the door to my studio and threw in a paper airplane with birthday love written on it.  my husband made me breakfast.  and i painted and sang and sank into the goodness of my family and my gifting and my life.  later i went shopping with the kids and bought some new plants and gardened in sunshine.  then i headed off to my dear friend leah's birthday party - it was perfect!  an amazing party that i didn't have to plan or execute or clean up after, filled with close friends and delicious food.

at this moment you might hate me, but remember:  the roller coaster.

the next morning i brought the kids to the doctors because i had this insanely itchy scalp.  i had looked up symptoms of candida on the internet (candida is something i'm dealing with, hence the annoying sugar free diet), and confirmed that an itchy scalp is totally related. scott is the one who basically forced me to go to the doctor, so i explained everything to her, in a tone that was saying "i'm sorry i'm wasting your time, since i've self-diagnosed my issue, but my husband made me come...". She smiled and gently pointed out there are many reasons for itchy scalps.  she had me pull my hair up off of my neck and she shone the light on the back of my head.  i think it was instant.  no, i'm almost positive it was instant - her reaction i mean.  she stepped back.  she said "oh, yes, your head is infested with gnats".

INFESTED.

i calmly yelled "GNATS?!!!!" and then immediately realized i had just informed the entire waiting room of my condition.  i confess i fleetingly had the thought that maybe gnats weren't the same thing as lice.  maybe they were a higher more rare breed or something.  the caviar or infectious head-biting diseases.  no, no, they're not.

let's just get it out there:  my whole family has lice.

so, friday, the day after one of the best days of my life, was filled with chemical treatments, lice combs, laundry, vacuuming, more laundry, and sticking hats and dolls and one of my favourite dresses in quarantine.  this was a plummet my friends.

by monday, we'd gotten into a groove as a family.  scott and i would get up, make the coffee, and sit on the back deck in the rising sunshine and nit-pick.  not "i hate it when you leave your flat iron on the counter" nit-pick.  no, the reason the entire phrase was invented.  we pick little spider-like bugs and their eggs off each other's heads (and you know how much i love spiders!).  scott wanted to add "professional de-louser" on his linked-in profile.  actually, truth be told, he's very good at it.

anyways, on monday we're in the groove, no longer completely grossed out, and trying to find the beauty in early morning shocks of sunshine.  it could even be romantic if it wasn't completely disgusting.  i decide, after i've been cleaned, to workout.  to not just do yoga this time, but a weight-lifting routine.

and i put my back out.

and i was lifting three pound weights.

and, yes, now i feel like a louse-y old woman.

do you see what i'm saying about the roller coaster?  don't get me wrong, i know it could be a pit, i know there's worse things than being on this ride, but i still want off.  give me a prairie field of flat predictability.  at least for a few days.

  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

oh to be wise!

I've been thinking about wisdom the last few days.

on sunday Mike, a pastor at our church, preached a sermon about spiritual gifts.  usually a sermon on this topic touches on the different "gifts" (teaching, encouraging, serving, exhortation, prophecy, etc.), then explains how you know you have these gifts, or how they should be used, and a "spiritual gifts inventory" is sometimes handed out, and a passionate plea is given about how each member of the church needs to use their gifts in order for the church to work effectively.

this is what i was expecting.  this is not what i heard.

instead, Mike, got right down to the root of the matter - why does God's Spirit gift us in certain ways?  what's the point?  sometimes we have gifts that come naturally to us, sometimes we have them for a specific time or place - but all of us are gifted in some way to do something, or be something.  short answer:  the reason we have gifts is to give them, to use them as a means of extending the grace we have received to others.

there's no ego here.  no comparing my gifts with another's.  there's no need - every gifting has the same purpose.  we, each of us, are a gift to God's people and the world in unique ways.  we are each presents, put in place for the good of all.

therefore the question isn't "what's my gift?", but "how am i giving myself?".

i apologize for the little sermonette there, but that is the context to my ruminating on wisdom.  and the short story is: i want to be wise.  i want wisdom to be one of my gifts to my community.

as i was gardening on monday, stewing on this thought, i glanced up at my husband.  he was sitting in the front yard reading theology.  i thought about the fact that he loves, (LOVES) to read theology.  he loves to read autobiographies.  he loves documentaries. my husband is a gleaner of information and the wisdom of others.

i glanced over at the book i'm reading.  no, that is a lie.  i'm not reading it, i'm listening to it as an audiobook. i am not even making the effort to use my eyes to decipher letters.   it's from the "young adult fiction" section at the library, and is about a future distopian society where everyone gets plastic surgery to make them beautiful at the age of 16, thus making everyone "equal" and eradicating crime.  i won't say this is as far from theology as you can get, but it's definitely past the mid-line between wisdom and stupidity.

suddenly something became clear:  i may want to be wise, but i'm not drawn to gleaning wisdom.

i'm drawn to story and beauty and romance, to delicious smells and tastes, to laughter and colour and lilting melodies and complex harmonies.  i can honestly stare at the colour of our kitchen walls and feel this great sense of thankfulness.  i will shove my nose inside a rose and feel pleasure ripple through me.  i paint for an hour and feel restored, or sing with scott and feel blessed beyond measure.

i am gifted with the arts.  i love the arts and the arts love me.  they rejuvenate me and push me to praise.

i thought about this while weeding around our japanese maple and came to the conclusion that i need to just let go of my wisdom fantasies.  surely harry potter and van dyke brown (my favourite brown) and the indigo girls will not end in me being wise.

and then today i was talking to scott about the whole internal process and he said - "you're kidding!  you'll never believe what i was reading while you were thinking that "and he started to read to me from his theology book:
one of the urgent needs of our day is to recover an understanding of the interplay of wisdom with the arts - to speak to how the arts are vital to the formation of a Christian mind, the cultivation of a Christian imagination and the nurturing of a deep love for the good, the noble, the excellent and the worthy of praise. (Gordon Smith, "Called to be Saints").


well, would you look at that!  the arts are vital to the formation of a Christian mind.  hallelujah- i'm not a lost cause after all!!  and maybe (maybe) my young adult fiction isn't an embarrassment - at least it's an inventive and interesting story that's not filled with sex.  and maybe my dream of my paintings pulling others closer to God is not a fantasy.

maybe the Spirit of God is using the arts to build wisdom in me.  a love for beauty, a passion for imagination, a gratitude for creation:  a trust in my Creator.

i must hear more of Gordon Smith!  i'll get Scott to read the book and give me a summary.  maybe in the form of a dance, or a haiku.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

holiness and husbandry

yesterday i puked my guts out.  or, at least, the entirety of my stomach contents.  in truth,  it felt like some guts snuck in there as well.  perhaps a little spleen?
but let's not dwell.  instead, let me tell you about my incredible husband.
there i am, lying on the floor, half in the en-suite, half in the bedroom.  i am clutching a green plastic bowl at my side, as though it is a flotation device.  i am covered in sweat.  my hair: a rats nest halo.  lets not even mention my breath.  i'm moaning and would be crying if not for dehydration.
scott stands above me, having just saved me from passing out.  the dear man looks down at me and says: "Janet, you are not dying".
(for those of you who are not familiar with my tendencies to over-dramatize my illnesses, feel free to read my past blog post entitled hypochondria).
he then tucks me into bed, washes out the bowl (unbelievable!), researches and buys something sugar-free to re-hydrate me, and sets up netflix on a pile of blankets beside me.
i mean, seriously!!!.

i once read this book. ok, i once read the first few chapters of this book (as is my practice with non-fiction) called "sacred marriage".  the thesis was that marriage is not primarily for personal happiness, but as a means of building holiness.  (i know, that's a slap in the face to popular culture, and me, quite frankly).  the author encouraged his readers to pray something along the lines of "God, help me to find my husband the most attractive man in the world.  may my definition of beauty be all that he is.  may my eyes be for him alone".  so, i pray this every so often (possibly after watching james bond).

as i lay on the floor, my legs stretching into our bathroom, literally wondering if i was at death's door, and he said those words "Janet, you are not dying" i thought "he is the most beautiful man in the world".

answered prayer!

and now i'm typing on my laptop as he sits across the family room, guitar in hand, singing a worship song he wrote when we were first married, and my heart is bursting.

the catch for this marriage-for-holiness thing is that holiness breeds happiness.  when scott was serving me he was acting out the character that God has been forming in him.  who else could make him into a man that deals with his wife's puke and hypochondria but God in heaven?  my hope and prayer is that I am being transformed into someone that reflects Christ too.  that scott will see in me what i see in him.  for the closer to Jesus we become, the more deeply we will love each other, and the happier we'll be.  (which makes me think i'm in this for my personal happiness... perhaps i should read a few more chapters of the book).

oh dear, now he's doing handy man jobs.  this man needs to be kissed!  i must go.

Monday, May 26, 2014

memories of kauai

i'm back from Hawaii.
i know, for some of you it's like i never left, like the blink of an eye.  but i did.  can't say i have the tan to prove it, but i do have sand around the edges of my dryer and some new shells scattered about the house, and, most of all, memories.  want to hear some?...

...it's mother's day and i'm sitting on a manicured lawn which borders a small beach.  my hair is ridiculous -curls curlier than i've ever seen them, splayed around my head, thick with salt.  again, i wish for some sort of hat to cover up the travesty.  the sun is setting.  i rip a piece off the costco roasted chicken with my hands and shove it in my mouth.  scott smiles beside me.  on the beach, my children are building a hill of sand.  they've named this hill "fat joe".  when my son told me it's name he said it a little sheepishly, knowing that i don't like to hear the word "fat" as a descriptor - but i assured him that naming a hill of sand 'fat' is appropriate.  they squeal every time the waves surround them, and cheer for fat joe surviving the onslaught.  they are sun-kissed and filthy and happy down to their bones.  i turn to scott and say "best mother's day present ever".

...we are at secret beach: a series of tiny inlets, framed by mounds of volcanic rock.  we climbed over a few of these before settling onto this stretch of sand.  behind me is more rock and then a jungled cliff-face.  ahead is pounding surf.   beneath me, warm sand.  to my right, a jumble of dry rock.  to my left, wet rocks as the waves crash against them, sending spray up and over to form a small pool.  my husband is in this pool, his back against the rock, smiling at me.  it's deep enough that when he crouches down it hits his shoulders.  suddenly, an enormous wave crashes and scott is under a waterfall of water, laughing and yelling.  i think to myself:  "scott is standing under a waterfall.  i am sitting on a towel reading.  i have to get up."  i'm not the type that loves to play in the surf, not being a great swimmer.  i also abhor being cold.  warm sand and a good book is my circle of happiness.  but something bloomed inside me, when i jumped up and ran into that water.  when i was kissed under a hawaiian waterfall.  something like satisfaction.

i am floating in the ocean, the sun hot on my back.  i hear my breath moving in and out of my snorkel.  salt stings the corners of my eyes.  i hear a little squeal through the water, it's scott.  he's pointing to a school of white tropical fish eating along the edge of the reef.  there's fish everywhere i see, all colours, shapes and sizes.  i love the little round black ones with white polka dots, they make me think of Audrey Hepburn.  a fashionable lady in fish form.  and those longer ones with the florescent purple streak along their backs.  for a moment i am transported above myself, and i see that i am being filled with beauty and warmth, more than i am able to receive.  i squeeze scott's hand.

i am standing in water up to my waist.  the car is packed with all of our suitcases, and we leave for the airport from this beach.  here there is an oval pool, protected from the waves by another rock cropping, but unique in that the rock reaches fully from one point on the beach, to another - one half of the oval.  as i stand holding my daughters hand i see a glint of blue in the water.  as we stare a school of large blue fish with bright yellow side fins comes into view.  my smile must reach my ears.  smaller silvery fish are swimming around us, and then, oh my goodness!  they are circling us - around and around they swim with my daughter and i forming their epicenter.  it is an extravagant parting gift.   i think that i must remember this moment later when stuck in a cramped plane.  and i do.

we arrived home to a cacophony of colour in the form of front lawn flowers.  our personal paradise.  how incredible is my life that my home boasts as much beauty as my vacation destination.  i stand amazed.

now it's back to work and vacuuming and painting and gardening - this abundant life.  hopefully i carry the lessons of beauty and warmth and rest that i experienced.  hopefully i am more grateful and humbled and awe-struck:  some holiness gleaned in the holiday.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

emmaus



this Easter season, I spent a lot of time meditating on the story found in the last chapter of Luke - the disciples travelling to Emmaus.  in it there are two disciples and they are leaving Jerusalem, weighed down by the grief of the crucifixion.  it is sunday.  Jesus has been dead since Friday, and although the Bible does not detail what happened on the day between, I am positive it was a drowning experience. unrelenting waves of hopelessness and bewilderment.

a week prior these two may have been in the throngs of people welcoming Jesus into the city, laying their coats down for the donkey he rode to walk upon.  they had plans, they had hopes and dreams that were being fulfilled in the person of Jesus.  their entire lives were centered around this - they followed him from city to city, they digested his teachings, maybe they worked crowd control on one of his healing nights.  maybe they were in the temple when he rampaged through, and silently cheered him on. they must have lived with the thought "it's happening!  it's happening!" for weeks on end, sure that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, come to free them from Roman rule, but also it seemed from disease and hypocrisy and maybe even death.  no more death.
and then Jesus is arrested.
and he doesn't deny the charges.
and he's crucified.
and he's dead.

and hope is crucified with him.

where does a disciple go from there?  what does one do when your life's' purpose has been murdered?
not stick around, that's for sure.  as soon as it was lawful to travel, as soon as the Sabbath was over and there was light enough to travel, they were gone.  off to Emmaus.

there are days in my life where I feel like i'm plodding along, possibly looking for escape, bewildered and wondering.  why aren't things turning out as I hoped they would?  where is God?  how did i get there and how do i get out?
I can definitely empathize with these disciples, and picture them, unkempt, tired, eyes red from nights of tears, stooped and shuffling along in the rain.  the road seems to stretch forever before them.

and they meet another traveler.
and he begins to change the lens of their worldview.  he pulls out old stories and scripture they hadn't heard for years, and suddenly their perspective is changing.  they start feeling some excitement - which i'm sure was a little terrifying.  their hearts start to burn.
they sit down to dinner and this traveler breaks the bread.  wait a minute....did i just see?....were those nail scars in his hands?!!!
and he's gone.
and they're up from the table.  and they're running, sprinting, back to Jerusalem.  back to the city that stank of death and fear and hopelessness - they can't get there fast enough.


all hope is reborn.  truth has come burning into the hearts of the disciples, and they tie their shoelaces tightly and RUN!  I see them laughing and hooting and praising, looks of wonder and joy and incredulity on their faces.  
"remember when he said...."  
              "when did you know?" 
                             "i can't believe it!!  we have to tell...."

like you, i wish that resurrection could happen without dying.  i wish that the fire of sunday didn't require the bleak hopelessness of saturday, and the agony of friday.  but each year Easter reminds me that it does.  i look around my garden at the little green shoots springing out of what seem to be dry and dead stems, and i'm reminded again.  life from death.  and this life, stronger and more beautiful than the previous one.  and the death has, against all odds, been made worth it.  



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

woman's lib

i've been dealing with some anger lately.
here's where it began.   a few weeks ago Scott bought us some tickets to a concert.  it had been AGES since i saw live music so i was really looking forward to it.  we invited some friends and went out for dinner and then hit the club.  first shock:  we were carded at the door.  i asked "is it because i look younger than 18?!" and the doorman said "no.  you definitely look old enough.  i just have to do this."
nice.
not that i want to look 18, but well, i want to look a little like 18...
second shock:  no seats.  looking around the room my friend and i quickly ascertained that we were indeed among the aged in the crowd.  we were delighted to see a woman older than us who took out her reading glasses to read her iPhone (bless you angel of age).  it seems young'uns these days don't require chairs.  we squeezed onto the side of the stage to give our poor legs a rest and managed to have great views.
here's where i start getting angry.
the band finally (FINALLY!  is that seriously the time?!) gets on stage and here's what grates my anticipatory eyes:  slobs.  amazing musicians - beautiful harmony and lyric and musicianship, but what the heck are you wearing?  and when's the last time you looked in the mirror?  and why do you all have beards like tom hanks in castaway?
i'm noticing more and more that women these days are wearing less and less and men these days are looking worse and worse (could there be a correlation?).   i think of female performers i've seen on tv lately - most are wearing what look to be hard plastic swimsuits.  fishnet stockings.  stilettos.  they look like they've been in the makeup chair for hours.  their bodies are a major part of their performance.  contrast that with ripped t-shirts, shaggy beards, baseball caps, the "just rolled out of bed!" look that frankly, i believe.
  
last night scott and i went to a movie and in the elevator we see two girls dressed to the nines - pretty dresses, sparkly purses, heels, you get the picture.  and with them:  boy in sweats.  i'm starting to see why my mom was annoyed in grade 9 when my date picked me up wearing shorts, socks and birkenstocks.

this is my angry thought:  where is the liberation?  what have we been liberated to?

and do not get me STARTED on miss mylie cyrus.  i've counted two magazines in stands that have headlines like "why we love mylie!".  one of these magazines, 'seventeen' to be exact, sent a free copy to our house (i suppose there was a teenage girl living here before us), so i read the article.  here's why seventeen magazine loves mylie - because she does what she wants and ignores the world.
wow, that's a fantastic reason to love someone.  how admirable to ignore all wisdom, all mentorship, all societal practices of decorum and decency and just do whatever you like!  naked!!  is this seriously what it takes for a girl to make something of herself these days?  justin bieber seems to have tried the same tactic and failed - nope, only girls allowed on this ride of humiliation.

ugh.
this frustration is simmering.
and then, thankfully, Easter.
once again i read the resurrection story, of women, stooped with grief, carrying jars of spices to the tomb. preparing themselves for a corpse that is hardly recognizable.  bowls for water to wash him, to speak tenderly to his body, to honour a man they loved with this last act of hospitality and sacrifice. what a beautifully feminine thing to do - we swaddle our babies, and swaddle our dead.
and then the shock of sleeping soldiers, a vacant tombstone, and no body.
grief added to grief.  
now there will be no tender goodbye.  no mutual consolation between the women who loved him.  no part of closure.
Mary Magdalene cannot move with the pain of it, and starts weeping in the garden.
and then a gardener....the same gardener who planted the world in Genesis and walked in the cool of the day with another woman, Eve.  a man who is God, who has just defeated death, who could have proclaimed his resurrection in truly mind-blowing fashion (explode out of the tomb?  come down from the clouds?  fall from the sky on a giant throne?) chooses his first act of revelation to be to a woman.  and not the queen mother or even a woman of noble character - no, a woman who had been demon-possessed for most of her life.  an utter outcast.
he says her name "Mary" and suddenly she knows him.  and her life is in that moment given incredible purpose.  and all of the female sex in that moment are valued, upheld, honoured.  the men didn't believe her story when she told them later (how incredibly frustrating for her!) - so Jesus didn't choose her because she was the most believable witness.  quite the opposite.  he chose her to reveal the worth of a woman.  this is true liberation.

and i'd bet my bonnet that his beard was nicely trimmed, even having been dead for 3 days.


Friday, April 11, 2014

why i cry and other sundry items.

Picture this:
i'm sitting on one of the Adirondack chairs in my front yard.  beside me is a Camellia tree - huge, over 10 feet i'd say, and breaking into bud.  i hear the creek laughing.  i see tiny purple pinpricks of flower on its bank.  it smells like spring.  the warm breeze feels like spring.  the blue sky and mountains surround me.  i breath deeply.
my son, who is home from school because he's sick, is kicking his soccer ball around the backyard (yes, obviously sick-as-a-dog).  he looks down the side of the house and sees me sitting.  he yells "he mom, do you remember this?"
and then he sings "i've been dreaming of a true loooooves kiiiiiiss".
from the movie "enchanted".  have you seen it?  you should.
his pitch is perfect.  he even works the vibrato and extends his arm out as he holds the last note.
my son, at the age of almost seven, is a hopeless romantic.  and i am the object of his affections.  i love it.  i know it won't last (it better not last!), so i will soak in every ounce while i can.
and that was my perfect moment of the day.

i love spring.  i love love love spring.  and here, being in a home with a beautiful established garden, every day is a treasure hunt.  today i found new purple hosta shoots, 2 inches out of the ground, that i swear were not there a few days ago.  there is a tree blooming with some tiny fuschia clusters of flower.  something is green and leafy everywhere - i'm hoping it's hyacinth (otherwise i have a truly invasive weed that i'm smiling at daily).  i found tulips today that i hope will be out for Easter.  i truly feel like there is magic taking place out the front window.  it fills me with wonder.  what an incredible gift to be reminded, year after year, that death and rest bring lift and flourishing.  that even the lifeless rotted sticks of a plant can be made new.  i love seeing the dahlias returning - the new red shoots pushing up right beside the dead brown ones from last year.  pure miracle.

i am realizing more and more in my older age that i love tradition, rhythm, ceremony.  i was reminded of this last week when i cried at my sons little league parade.  what was there to cry about?  a row of boys in too-big t-shirts plodding behind their coaches.  and bagpipes.  but i looked at the crowds of people cheering on their sons and brothers, and these awkward boys, and thought of how this organization has been doing this for so many years... and i was done-in.

maybe it's the public encouragement that makes me cry, i don't know.  i cry when we watch "the voice" and one of the coaches gives a heartfelt congratulations to their team member.  i cry in Christmas productions when everyone starts clapping. do i just tear up with applause?  man i'm strange.

i keep reminding myself that tears are the storehouses of disease and stress and they just need OUT.  i think i've kind-of made up that philosophy/biology, but it works for me.

i've been painting non-stop the last 3 days, trying to finish two pieces for our church's Easter service.  i'll post them when they're completed.  as i've been painting i figured out how to listen to audio files through the library.   what fun!  painting while listening to a story.  i've been listening to "big stone gap", a story set in the blueridge mountains of Virginia.  the author (Adriana Trigiani) is reading it (i love that) and she has this magnificent southern twang that i simply can not get out of my head.  i keep asking Scott "am i talking with an accent?" and he just smiles.  what's weird is that i'm thinking with an accent.  as i type these words i'm hearing them with an accent.  and i want to say "corn grits" and "higgeldy-piggeldy".  now, that felt good.  i've been listening to Adriana's voice for three days straight and i'm still not finished the story.  i haven't seen the physical book, so it could be 600 pages long, but i think it's taking so long because she just takes her time.  this manner of speaking does not rush.  i'm listening to the story in blueridge mountain time, and i wish my whole life lilted and paused and swaggered like her voice does.

tomorrow is a busy one with my daughter's 10th birthday party. the theme is "cupcake spa", and, being the sole spa employee, i hope it doesn't kill me.  death by cupcake and face mask.  hopefully i will find a moment to peruse my front yard miracle, and speak to myself tenderly in a southern drawl.

maybe i'll even be serenaded by a little prince in t-ball uniform.