A Word for 2013.

In just a few days it will really seem like the new year has begun, as I brew an extra cup of coffee and the kids open their books for the first time in 2013. I always have great intentions to manage my time better; like money, time is one of those things that you never manage perfectly and always want to do better.

This year I also have a Word for the Year. It just came to me, I think because I spent the last two days driving from Saskatchewan to British Columbia following a visit to my in-laws and thirteen hours of driving lends itself to a lot of thinking time, even with kids along.

Hiking in Jasper with my daughters, July 2012.

My word for 2013 is Satisfied.

It comes directly from my theme of 2012, which was gratitude. I really learned last year that being thankful brings joy in all circumstances, and so the word “Satisfied” is a natural follow-up to learning to be joyful.

My natural instinct is to throw myself wholeheartedly into everything I do. I master a new skill, and I want to either profit by it or compete in it or make myself a professional at it. While this has brought about some really neat opportunities (like teaching scrapbooking and having paper craft projects published in magazines!), it can also mean that I am always striving, and never satisfied. Occasionally I have to stop and speak firmly to myself:
“Angela, you will not become a competitive cross country skier. Just enjoy the trails with the kids.”
“Angela, you do not have time to paint vintage signs for anyone but your husband.”
“Angela, the internet is full of instructions on how to use Facebook safely. Let someone else worry about the newbies.”

Me and my boy, August 2012

Enjoying Vegas with my husband at the wheel, March 2012.

I have a fantastic life. How foolish would it be to spend this year trying to make it better instead of recognizing how great it already is?

I have an amazing husband (we celebrate our 15th anniversary next week!), three fabulous kids, and a home filled with life, laughter and colour. I get to do art every day, and spend my days with my favourite people, and we have everything we need. Satisfied.

Finally, this quote from John Piper has been resonating in my mind since I first thought of my Word for 2013: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I am not only seeking satisfaction in my circumstances of home & family. I am a child of this amazing God whose eternal qualities can never be plumbed to their depths. Every day of this year can reveal something new about God’s infinite character; His love, His faithfulness, His mercy & compassion, His creativity in creation. I want with all my heart to seek to be satisfied in Him this year.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
~ Romans 11:33-36 

Emmanuel

Merry Christmas! This Christmas my wish for you is that you would know the significance of Emmanuel, God with us.

I’ve been listening to Steve Bell’s Keening for the Dawn CD, especially, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Poet Malcolm Guite reads between the stanzas and the meaning of the song became so much richer, the melody haunting:

Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key…
…I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key

O come, Desire of nations, come and bind
In one the hearts of broken human kind
Make all our sad divisions cease
And be yourself our King of Peace

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel! Shall come to thee, O Israel!

This Christmas I can’t stop thinking about dear ones who are walking broken-hearted. We never dream it will happen to us, and when the bottom drops out of our lives, where do we turn, and who do we trust? In all the pain and heartache, there is Someone who understands abandonment, suffering and hurt, and who promises to uphold us, to be a rock, to sustain us, comfort us, and give us peace and even joy in our sorrow. How I wish that everyone would turn to a Creator God who holds everything we need and so freely gives it. Won’t you seek to know Him more deeply in 2013?

My Peace I Give

This week has been crazy! And yet my day planner is almost blank. Weird, huh?

I need this verse today. Just seems like the older you get, the more people you know who are hurting. It’s hard to live and interact with people and know their problems, and yet not be able to help them. I know a lot of women who suffer from “wee hours anxiety” – you know, that waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep because you’re thinking about all the ones who love who are struggling. What a gift God gives us in being able to live without fear!

I just read in a devotional book recently (can’t remember where) that “Do not be afraid” is such a constant theme in the Bible – some say that phrase, or a variation thereof, appears in the Bible 365 times – one for each day of the year! I don’t know if that’s true, but there are literally hundreds of verses and passages about God’s care for us, our safety and rest in Him, and the truth that we can rely on Him and have no need to be afraid.

Just a little self-talk today – like I said, it’s been a busy week but life is good!

Supplies used: Paper, My Mind’s Eye; Stamps, Unity Stamp Co., Papertrey Ink; Ink, CTMH Creme Brulee, Stampin’ Up! Basic Grey; Dies, Spellbinders Blossom Stackers; Button, Pink Paislee

Little Runaway.

My eight-year-old packed a bag the other night. She didn’t know what else to do to get her point across than to empty her drawers to run away.

Sassy is a wonderful girl. A head taller than most of her friends, sensitive and sweet and so willing to take responsibility at home. Like many firstborns, she tends to be bossy and controlling with her younger siblings, and sometimes with me. And she has a very hard time sharing. These are her issues, and I know them well, because most of them were mine too (I was the oldest of three, just like her!).

I think her firstborn issues can be summed up in one incident that took place a few months ago. She was telling me about something her sister had done wrong, and I replied that “Yes, Scooter did make a mistake. You make mistakes too.” Sassy replied instantly, “Yeah, but not as many as Scooter does.”

Isn’t that a true reflection on the human condition? We all want to believe we are mostly right, at least more right than to whomever we happen to be comparing ourselves. So on Monday night, after I had checked Sassy on some bad choices in her behaviour, and then checked her again, and then, frustrated at her stubborn unwillingness to admit her mistake and start over, I sent her to bed a half hour early. Which is when she started packing.

I sought Sassy out to talk about what was going on, and my initial thought was that she was running from me, big mean Mummy. She’s not good at talking about her feelings and it would have been easy to continue to assume that – her face was still set, chin jutting, eyes downcast. But a few questions revealed that she had swung on the pendulum from self-righteousness to self-condemnation, and she wanted to run away to spare her family her presence.

Oh, have I been there. It just seems too awful, to snap out of a stampede of selfishness to the reality of the damage I’ve inflicted while on my rampage. I don’t want to look at myself in those moments of realizing just how ugly my behaviour has been. And I don’t understand how people can think they are generally good when we all have such ugliness simmering inside.

How glad I am that I can offer my child unconditional love when her behaviour is most hideous! How important it is to model that kind of acceptance and forgiveness when my deepest desire is to point her to a God who offers unconditional love, forgiveness and grace. It felt so full of hope to tell her, “Honey, you belong to God. Your problems are His problems – you can bring all of this to Him because He is the one who changes your heart.” These teaching moments are always so timely for me too: I so quickly forget that when I am looking at what I have or haven’t done, I am failing to look at what has been done for me by Jesus Christ and trusting in Him to continue to do it.

Giving in to Fear

All I’d wanted to do was encourage her to choose better for herself, to think a little about truth, and faith, and the future. But she took my words and slapped me with them, twisting them into a condemnation of her lifestyle and priorities, and now? All I want to do is protect myself. Avoid speaking so I’m not misunderstood. Avoid her.

I’ve always desired to keep a short list of wrongdoings – to be forgiving, as I have been forgiven – and for the most part, that has been so. Those people in my life that are hardest to love, who inadvertently wound with words or careless actions, are people that I still desire God’s best for. But this latest wound is still raw, and I don’t know if I have forgiven. Can I be forgiving and still want to hide?

I have a theory about women and pain. There are so many women in their forties or fifties who are alone, and I wonder if they carry a shell over their hearts. To be hurt and remain soft, it takes more from us than we can give on our own, and bitterness crackles like iron over tender hearts.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:3-6

I think at some point many women do give in to fear. We fear that if we don’t protect ourselves, no one else will. And a once gentle and quiet spirit is broken by an overwhelming desire to avoid pain. In marriage, in friendship, we will be hurt. And it takes an incredible amount of courage to stay soft, to choose to continue to love and trust the one who has wounded us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I am so blessed to know that I am loved like this – by my husband, by my family, by Christ.

Grateful not so Grating

I don’t like the word “grateful.” It’s not a pretty word – gratitude is slightly better, thankful sounds more worshipful to me. Grateful just…grates. And yet I’m learning how vital gratitude is in how I view my life. I’m reading One Thousand Gifts and thinking about gratitude’s effects in ways I never have before. How can we praise him for the blessings, yet doubt him in the pain? And how I lived so many years in a half-life of faith because I placed God in a box, far too small. Every box too small for Him.

Today I stood in the shower and thought, We must receive our faith from God because it is the only way we can have a faith large enough to see Him.

It takes time to learn these things. Experiences layered so that I can say, “God has been true through the troubles. He’s generous in blessings.” I can see it, through the rearview mirror, as Voskamp would say, and I bring that gratitude forward to today, and it’s enough for tomorrow as well.

This is a Five Minute Friday post, courtesy of The Gypsy Mama. Five minutes of unedited writing on the prompt: grateful.

From Heart to Hands and from Brain to Fingers on Keyboard.

Wade and Wecco went quadding on the weekend. The quad broke down.

The girls and I tidied house and watched “Human Cinderella.” (Scooter’s words. 10 points if you guess the actual title.*see end of post.)

The wind blows. It’s cooler than it should be for July. The girls dress in their skimpiest summer wear and run out to play, then back indoors for layers. Leggings under shorts and hoodies over tank tops. Wecco is the maverick, insisting on pants and long sleeves despite the heat. He doesn’t notice mosquitoes, and comes home studded with bites if I insist on short sleeves. How is he not alert enough to avoid bites on his hands? Oh, for the absorption of child’s play!

My hands are my favourite feature. “Pianist’s fingers,” my mother called them. (It’s a lie. I play poorly.) People watch my hands, deft with pen or brush, confident strokes. Painting Sassy’s face for Canada Day, parade participants eyeing us sidelong. My fingers don’t let me down – they fly to create, stained with ink or crusted with dough. They turn pages, brush hair away from blue child’s eyes, knead work-stiffened muscles at day’s end.

I’m learning that my heart pours out through my fingertips, love in action.

Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts has made me think about praise from a new perspective. The last chapter I finished is based on Romans 8:32: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? This fear that we have that freezes us in place – the failure to trust, the grasping of self rather than surrender – we are stonewalling a God that sent His only Son into a sin-darkened, hateful world – a world perpetually reeling toward death – to His own certain death. He did this, and we clutch our rights? Voskamp is swiftly convincing me that thanksgiving lies at the heart of faith. Also, my library copy isn’t enough. I’m buying it. For that chapter alone, it’s worth it.

 

I read two great books lately. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sounds like a novel but is actually non-fiction, about a woman from the 50’s whose cells started a research revolution – without her or her family’s knowledge. Fascinating, thought-provoking, and very sad. The author, Rebecca Skloot, actually made it easy to read about a very scientific topic with a real human interest angle. The second book was titled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and I might have to buy it just so Grandma can read it. The novel is written as letters – ordinarily this makes for dry reading, in my opinion, but in this case I fell into the book and the characters became vividly real. The book is set in the immediate aftermath of World War II and before reading the novel, I had no idea that the Channel Islands even existed, much less that there was a part of England that was occupied by Germany during the war.

Sassy has read over sixty books in a week. We signed up for the library’s summer reading club and she is gung-ho to read a hundred books. I keep telling her she has nearly two months to do so, but she got excited when she checked in last week and she had read the most books of anyone in the club. Today she found out she’s one of four who have read over sixty books, and though  there are no prizes for reading the most, it’s not limited her motivation. I wonder where she gets her competitive spirit from?

Running isn’t happening much lately. My 5km run has turned into a weekly event. And I eat candy daily, and feel guilty by day’s end. How much better it would be if I placed my priority, my “should have’s” a little more firmly on the things that actually matter? Not that exercise and healthy diet aren’t important, but so much more are spiritual disciplines and the sign language of love in action!

So much more to say. I’ve been storing it up for an uninterrupted bank of time, and this post has taken two sessions and my husband is waiting for me downstairs. We’re watching Horatio Hornblower. I got  it from the library.

*Ever After – did you guess it?

Life Above Ground

I’m a little high on life right now. Somehow the sky has never seemed bluer, the kids cuter, the household chores more significant rather than drudging. I could live like this for a while!

When you live in the north, summer is a little like that, no matter how good life is in winter. It’s just better in summer. Life is easier when school is done and the sun is out. I get to order curriculum which always excites me (so many great books!), we go swimming, pick berries and hang out with friends a little more often.

But what really has gotten me excited this summer is that I have truly done it: I’ve cut back. I wrote an email to the newspaper I write for and resigned from writing artist profiles. I have written for them every other week for over two years, and it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed visiting with artists, and it hasn’t taken a lot of my time. But even a little time commitment can sometimes be a burden, and I didn’t realize how much so until I stepped out from under it. It feels so good to not have to be constantly aware of the next deadline and the need to find, contact and interview an artist. I don’t want to rush out and replace that time with some other project, either. This is about having time to breathe and enjoy this stage of my family life.

Yesterday I took the kids to the dentist. Sassy has an abscess caused by impacted molars, so she’ll be having two baby teeth pulled to make room for them, and a spacer put in so they grow in correctly. I’m hoping she won’t have too much pain from the abscess until her teeth can be pulled next week. Wecco had a doctor’s appointment yesterday – he’s in misery from hay fever. I’m skeptical, but willing to try the homeopathic pills and spray the doctor recommended.  It’s annoying that he has to take it every 1-2 hours though. It’s hard to see your kids in discomfort or pain, and I am so thankful for their otherwise perfect health.

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and it is good. Her writing style has always been difficult for me to enjoy – it’s a kind of raw poetic prose that dances around the frankness I strive for – but the content makes up for it. How gratitude can colour every area of our lives – this process of learning to understand that because from him and through him and to him are all things, we can take it from His hand with thankfulness, whatever He gives. While I just haven’t opened a notebook to number His gifts, I’ve given the numbering to Jesus for now, and have taken on the naming:

  • wiggly little boy eyebrows
  • a multitude of wild roses
  • crisp Canadian breezes
  • sore muscles after soccer
  • words on a page read by a new reader
  • so MANY best friends – Sassy counted eight the other day
  • squeezy hugs

The Wonder of It All

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder…


Even a decade of television commercials hasn’t dulled the impact of that line for me. Talking about wonder is so often reserved for children – the first time they see Disneyland, so the ads would have us believe, or childish joy over little things – rainbows and blowing bubbles. We adults have no choice but to be jaded, we’re told.

As an artist, I’ve always fought against the idea that there is nothing new under the sun. I strive to see the world with new eyes. And yet when I’m awestruck by beauty, often my first response is to be frustrated that I can’t paint it well. Where is my sense of wonder?

Over the last couple of years, as I’ve given up on self-inspired holiness and learned just how panoramic God’s grace is, my heart has changed. Because “jaded” was always my first response to spiritual matters, despite my Spirit-led desire to seek God. It did feel like I knew Him – I certainly knew the Bible and the principles of Christianity inside out. Or not. How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, exclaims Paul in Ephesians 3. And I can never lose my sense of wonder as I step beyond myself and start to explore those depths. He’s given me my heart back. And my eyes. And my gasp of delight.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

The above post was written as part of Five Minute Friday – GypsyMama’s challenge to write, unedited for five minutes. The prompt this week is “Wonder.” Join the challenge here.