The Choir Tours of Yesterdays

Recently, I was watching my little sister sing in a choir she has recently been a part of which by the way was incredibly beautiful.  Afterwards, I saw they had videos of the choir tour interviewing different people and showing the sights and different activities to and from programs. I kind of got caught watching them for a while.  I was struck by how similar from what I could see in 10 minutes worth of video, it seemed to different tours I was on years ago.

By similar I mean there were the seemingly cool, beautiful, confident girls, who could do no wrong, they could do the craziest things and everyone thought they were funny. There were the grouchy people, the cool groups, the game people, the older ones who just seemed to enjoy talking and relaxing enjoying a little time away from their normal home schedules.  There were the committed ones, the ones just having a good time, and the ones who genuinely enjoyed singing, and you could tell it. There were the kind ones who were a friend to everyone and the ones who looked a little insecure.   There were the couples who obviously liked each other though they weren’t technically “dating”.  There were the guys who were friends, the guys who were shy, and the guy you wanted to like you.

Choir tours seemed to bring the best and worst of people. Early mornings, late nights, and hours spent in close quarters on a moving vehicle you couldn’t hop off of either meant developing super close friendships, or worse enemies. Some of the best memories and friendships of my early adulthood was made on such tours. Youth group tours, Bible school tours, MDS tours…

It brought back a ton of memories.  I always loved these tours, and yet in the beginning my experience was feeling very insecure and wondering if I could matter.   I remembered how self-focused I was back then.  How much I wanted everyone to like me, and how I was so sure that nobody really did.

There was a switch when I finally, due to God’s work in my life, realized that reaching out to make other’s happy, and hearing the heart and pain of another, and bringing glory to Him was what really mattered.  Plus, people liked you best when you were confident in who you were in Jesus.  When I saw someone hurting and could genuinely feel their pain by listening and loving, it was as though a whole new world opened up to me.  The last choir tour I was on was wonderful mostly due to a different perspective, and yet even then….I wish I could go back and change some things.

I was imagining what it would be like to go on a choir tour now, as I am now. My life is so different than that young person years ago on the choir bus, just wanting to matter. Today I would love every moment, I think, and I wouldn’t really care if that guy liked me, because let’s face it the best guy out there is crazy about me.  I wouldn’t care if I would fit in with the popular crowd.  Plus I think, I would better see through their tough exteriors and into their hearts than I did back then…or I would want to. Life experience has developed in me a great love for people and a knowing, that people are people no matter how cool 😉   I would go for the joy of singing with a group (the thought of doing that alone seems like a little heaven on earth), blessing others,  praising the Lord,  getting to know people, and a break from the normal routine of life. Or at least that’s what I think I would do. Who knows what insecurities might sink in again? Still I think it would be different…

You ever wish you could put yourself back then and make decisions based on the person you are now?  I do…Too bad there are not more choir tours as an adult, but then maybe it wouldn’t be as different as I’d like to think.  Just the other day I said something stupid to a friend that I wish I could go back and change, and how many times do I have to apologize to my family for having a bad attitude.  The fact is we are always messing up here on earth and wishing we could go back and change our attitudes our words, bus tours of yesterday….but we can’t.

So maybe the best lesson is choose today to be the person you wish you would have been yesterday.  Even better realize that maybe entirely impossible and as Jesus to help you be the best person you can be today, and accept his grace and mercy for the choir tours of yesterdays.

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photo by Justin Nice

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Introvert or an extrovert?

The month of April hits us like a wildfire every year, and on into May with so much…busy that I feel completely overwhelmed with life.  This year it was stressful enough it had me totally rethinking how we live our lives.  I was tired, I was overwhelmed, wash was piled up a mile high, and I felt like my children were getting missed in the process. My children were overwhelmed with school work, I was overwhelmed with life.  Everyone from baby to Daddy was stressed, and stretched to the breaking point.

“At what point is enough, enough,” I thought, “We can’t go on like this.”  I revamped my laundry system, my meal planning, started getting serious about saying, “No!” to everyone and everything, except family.

And than it happened like a breath of sweet mountain air, or a gentle rain putting out our wildfire, along came summer vacation.  Suddenly, life slowed way down, no longer was I running to and from school 4 times a day rushing from one event to another, finally, I had full days at home.  My laundry pile decreased, my stress was all but gone.  Suddenly, I am not stressed or overwhelmed or even tired.  I have sweet moments with the Lord in the morning and my children, we talk about things, just sit and talk, and I feel alive again.  But I am a hermit.  I don’t want to do anything or go anywhere.  I honestly feel other than our trip back east, I would be perfectly content sitting on my hearth doing all the things that mommy’s do and not going anywhere, or seeing anyone, or doing anything outside the home.  Is that bad?

Most people think I am 100% extrovert. I feel a little like that song that says, “They don’t know that I go runnin’ home when I fall down…” because it truly feels like people don’t understand that I can have a very strong introvert side.   Just because a person is out going, and loves people does not mean that they always want people around.  I had a long talk with my sister about the fact that most of the time, I actually feel like I am about 50\50 a very odd combination.  I love people.  I love getting to know new people, and visiting and sharing, people energize me.  Until they don’t.

I will suddenly and unexpectedly hit a wall, and I don’t want to see anybody, or go anywhere.  I want to hide in a closet with my Bible, a good book, and my notebook and a pen and stay there for a very long time.  If that can’t happen even in the smallest sense, I get extremely depressed, tired, grouchy, and just done.

However, give me too much time at home alone and the other 50% of me screams for attention.  Suddenly, I am talking to the sales person on the phone or the guys that come to stretch my carpet learning all about their families, and that they love to go fishing in Willimina.  Here again, if there are no opportunities to visit with other people I feel trapped, grouchy, alone, and depressed.

I have been meditating on this a lot.  Paul talks of contentment, and I want to like him be able to say, “I have learned to be content….”  It’s not all bad perhaps we all need a sort of balance in our lives, and burn out can bring a side of any of us that is just not so pleasant.

But how do we keep our perspective?

How do I say, no to things I enjoy, or feel pressured to do?

How do I know what to say, “No” too and what to say “Yes” to?

Do you try to keep a good balance on life so that you can better serve God, or does being overwhelmed help keep us close to God?

Like I said, I have a lot of questions here, and not a lot of answers.

One thing I do know is that our lives are too busy with going and doing and there’s not enough time to just be.  In a world that has so many “Time-saving” devices, we have little time to sit and talk and laugh and love. Mostly, we need time to be along with God to regroup, and listen and sing and pray, watch a sunset, and praise him for it.  There you go the introvert part of me is pretty strong right now.  😉

I also know that people are the most important thing in our lives.  Our relationship with God and people is the only thing we can take to Heaven when we die.  The time here on earth is short and we need to make the most of it serving God at every opportunity He gives us, even pushing ourselves past our comfort zones.  Sometimes that means making myself go visit with that person who needs a friend even though I would rather stay home and be a hermit.

See how it goes.  The two very different parts of my personality fighting.  Am I alone in this? Is there a balance?  Or is one side or the other more right, more spiritual?

Meanwhile, I wonder about this whole introvert, extrovert thing.  Am I one or the other? Can one be both or neither?  😉  Oh dear…

Holy Balance in Work and Rest, Good times and Suffering

Tonight I am about as weary as I’ve ever been.
Body, mind, and soul weary.

We just came through a week of Vacation Bible School at our church.  I love Vacation Bible School!  I love being creative and making it fun for the children who come, seeing their eyes light up when they get that truth.  I love hearing them giggle when something strikes their funny bones. Getting to know them, seeing them soak in the love and attention that they desperately need, introducing Jesus to them and seeing the hope in their eyes, when they hear about His unending love for them.  Mostly, I love hearing them sing.  There is nothing quite as beautiful as children’s voices raised to Jesus in song.

We always learn more traditional music aka Patch the Pirate, Ron Hamilton, hymns, and old favorites like Jesus Loves me, and Building up the Temple.  Most people today believe that children need really spicy, upbeat music to really enjoy it.  I’m here to tell you they are wrong.  I love seeing children’s eyes light up as they sing the old familiar hymn “Jesus Saves” with little twists here and there,  and it comes alive for them, and they sing with their whole hearts.   I would suggest maybe more alive, than some of the hyper, head banger songs that are so popular today.   But that is not the point of my Blog post.  The thing is every exhaustion is somehow worth it.  Because of those sweet children…

But my post is about where I am tonight and where I am is exhausted.  I have pushed my body and spirit way beyond what I thought I could do, only by God’s grace.

Recently, I read a blog about how we ought to expect suffering, rejoice in it when we are doing Kingdom work.  It greatly challenged  and encouraged me.  I believe indeed that Scripture would back that idea up.

But it also brought  up a lot of questions in my mind…is it ok to embrace and be thankful for the good times as well, or should we be wary of them as a trick to get us to slide.  Does God encourage rest away from the crowds to regroup?  Or do we push ourselves to the death?  And what about burn out?  What do you do and how do you prevent that?

It seems like so much of life is a Holy balance, and knowing where that balance is, is the height of wisdom.  I am far from that.  I do think that we can easily swing one way or another.  It’s so easy for us as humans to be people of extremes. Prosperity Gospel vs. Martyr Syndrome, of Workaholism vs. Laziness.  Is there a sweet balance somewhere in there?

I do know this, Jesus Himself, took time away from the crowds to rest.  And yes some of that time was spent sleeping in the bottom of the boat.  We also are encouraged…no commanded to have a day of rest.

We also are commanded to give thanks in the good and in the bad.  There are verses that say things like, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;” 1Timothy 6:17.  The context of this is of course warning us not to trust in riches, but in God.  However the ending would seem to encourage us that God does gives us all things to enjoy.    Should we not celebrate and rejoice in the good then.  Always recognizing them as gifts from our loving Father’s hand.  In Matthew, Jesus gives the example of a good Father, who gives good gifts to His children.  Which would again imply that God does give us good gifts to enjoy.  Recognizing those gifts and being thankful for them works a miracle of joy in our hearts.

We know that suffering produces in us things that are so great! But that does not mean that God does not want us to rest and enjoy the good that He has given us to enjoy.  He commands us to rest, to “Be still and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10a.

Taking care of our “temples”  what does that mean how does that look like in the context of this Holy balance?  Eating good, getting a good night sleep, exercise, etc, these are all things that provide that Holy balance of rest and work.

I know there are definitely times that we must push ourselves beyond what we feel physically capable of doing, but we must also take time to rest.  There is this Holy balance that we with the direction of the Holy Spirit must find if we are to truly be all that we can be for Christ. There are times to rejoice in suffering, but we must also enjoy the blessings, not cringing for the suffering that will be sure to come, but resting in Jesus in the good times and the bad.  

Tonight I long for rest, I don’t know if I will get it.  I often wonder how purposeful I need to be in pursuing it. I just know I need it, so I will pray and trust that God will either provide the needed rest or be faithfully give me the strength I need to press on.  

 

So join me friends in resting if you need to, or working if you need to, finding that Holy balance with guidance from the Holy Spirit Who will always give rest and peace to our souls.

This seems like a lot of rambling, but it’s where my thoughts are tonight.  I do hope you can make some sense of it all.

Mother Torture Lessons

“Tick-tick, tick-tick…”  I could hear the clock ticking as I sat in church with my 6 rambunctious children.

I had looked forward to this all week long.  Going to a church, I had never been to hear an acapella Mennonite choir sing.  Here in the west it is extremely rare have this opportunity.  Rare, in that it’s been years since I have heard an acapella chorus.  Add to that my cousin was to be in the choir which was a once in a life-time opportunity if you live in the west and most of your family is far east.  So to say I was looking forward to this week, would indeed be an understatement.

However, as we sat there waiting for the choir to sing a mere 20 minutes before starting time, I began to wonder what I was thinking.  My children turned into little monsters right before my eyes.  Looking back, I wonder if it was more because of their actions or because of the stark quietness compared to their noisy whispers, the stillness, in contrast to their wiggles.

We were sitting about four benches from the front in one of the most conservative Mennonite churches I had ever been to.  But I knew some of these people and loved them.

When we first walked in one of my friends smiled, and gave me a friendly little wave.  Excitedly, I waved back.  Everywhere else I glanced I was met with sober silence.  Suddenly, I felt like a chicken nugget in a box of french fries. Were these the same friendly people I had eagerly visited with at the local Mennonite store.  Every whisper from my children sounded like a yell, and bickering between siblings, like a megaphone.  All my most embarrassing moments no longer had the label “most”.  My two oldest boys who should have known better were pinching and poking each other, and making faces. Four of my children wanted to sit beside me.  This of course proved difficult, since obviously I was only blessed with two sides. I quickly put one on my lap and threatened the oldest with a  stern warning.

Just as we got settled in and I was ready to sigh a deep breath of relief my youngest boy whispered loudly, “I have to go to the bathroom!”

Then beside me another loud whisper, “I do too Mommy!”  Now normally, in our own church this would have been a great time to say this, before church had started, but here…well I was mortified.  They loudly, and rather clumsily stumbled out of the bench with their Dad.  Of course when they came back there was more bickering about where they wanted to sit.  Mortified, I vowed to myself that I would be doing some serious training about bickering as soon as I got home.

“Tick, tick…” On went the clock, what?! only 5 minutes had past?  By this time I had only died several deaths of mortification.  Oh where is a sink hole when you need one?  The minutes crept on and on with one child wanting to draw, but then not liking the colors I gave her with which to draw.

“More, More!” She demanded,

I died again, “No, mommy doesn’t have any more, ” and she had another fit, on and on it went.

“Tick-tick” on ticked the clock….finally the chorus filed in and the children were focused on the singing for a short time.  I soaked in the first song letting the beauty of it get to my heart.  That was about the only song I was fully able to enjoy.  The rest of the time was spent wrangling kittens, on a church bench, of this quiet cathedral.  The mom guilt came on strong, and my pride got a good beating.  “I should be training my children better,”  I thought, ” I really just need crack down and demand some better behavior from them.”

Thankfully, we got through the service without a whole lot of mortifying experiences.  Then it happened.  The last song was finished and the pastor was praying and again the clock ticked, and suddenly, in a moment of complete silence, the youngest sitting on my lap, chose that moment to very indiscreetly relieving herself of some gas bubbles.  It was not a quiet little relief people!  I suddenly lost ever ounce of my pride I wanted to giggle and cry all in one puddle, and then disappear forever.  😉

Thankfully, everyone just kind of acted like they didn’t hear it.  I know they did because my dad sitting on the other end of the bench mentioned it later as we laughed out loud about it.  The minister stood to say a prayer.  Finally, my night of torture was over.  As he finished his final “Amen”.

And then my youngest who is at this time a sweet 2 years of age, piped out a loud,”Amen!”

For the first time that evening I saw amused smiles sweep over the congregation and the chorus members.    A dear lady afterward, complimented me with an encouraging word of, “Your little girl was a testimony that your family prays together.”  In those kind words the embarrassing night fell off of me.  I was relieved to be free of it.  I enjoyed visiting with friendly faces that moments before I had felt so intimated by.

The whole thing has left me feeling a little curious about some things.

  1. Is this typical for a conservative church, the sober silence?
  2. Do people come into my own church not from my background feeling just as intimidated by it?
  3. If they do, what can I do to change that?  I like the quiet reverence of preparing your heart for worship.  However, I think a friendly smile and wave goes a long way in making people feel comfortable.
  4.  Do I let what other people think to often dictate my parenting?
  5. Do I let what other people think to often dictate what I think about myself?
  6. What can I do to change that about myself?

As I contemplated on the night and these questions, I realized that I was proud of my children.  It didn’t matter that they didn’t sit like perfect little robots on the bench.  For one thing  they had just sat an hour on the way here, I really should have taken them on a walk before we just walked into this quiet sanctuary.  I also realized that the people there probably didn’t even notice me or only felt compassion when I felt all eyes and judgement were upon me.  Perhaps judgement of others comes more through our own hearts than reality.  The Lord has a lot of work to do in this mommy of 6.  My children are my little teachers, and God continues to use them to smooth out my many rough edges.  I was reminded how far I have to go still in my “people pleasing” vs. “God pleasing” journey, and how easy I feel shamed.  There are many things to learn through a night of “mother torture”.  Perhaps one day I shall 😉

 

Midnight Musings

Today I was at a funeral of one of my husband’s uncles.  It was a beautiful service, and tribute to not only a man, but to the extra chromosome that made up so much of who he was, and how he blessed the people around him.  I have a lot to say about that, and hopefully I will someday, just not tonight.

After the service, we had a meal,  as we were sitting and talking a sweet lady came up and gave me a hug.    Her and her family attend a more conservative church a little distance away, but they live close by.  Although a distant relative in a matter of speaking, she often meets me with a sweet smile, a hug, and a, “How are you doing?” I’ve always felt so comfortable with her even though I really do not know her very well as our paths don’t often cross.  Tonight, I suddenly realized why, she reminds me of some of my dearest friends from home.  I’m not sure if it’s her sweet, quiet spirit, or her neat cape dresses, the smell of her perfume, or the way she carries herself, but I began to feel all nostalgic, missing them, and on came the trigger.

It may be hard to understand how difficult it can be to move far away from your roots, your foundation, the people who grew up with you and the people who helped you grow up, and the things that can trigger…a certain homesickness for the people you grew up with.  With it comes a deep pain and you just want to weep, and sometimes you do. There are other triggers like family reunions, deaths, weddings, graduations, feeling misunderstood, or like people don’t really know you, or ever really can. Even though it is not realistic or affordable, there are days you  would give the shirt off your back, just for a moment in your hometown, and give that person a hug that feels like home.

I am not alone in this.  I have talked to enough people whose experience is very similar to mine.  I remember talking to an elderly lady, years ago when I first moved out here. She mentioned her husband who moved far away from his family.  She said, even after living far away from them for years and years, his eyes would often well up with tears, as he talked about his family from the place he grew up. At the time I thought, wow, 40 or 50 years from now, will this still hurt.  13 years later and I  believe it. Not as often or aggressively as it did in the beginning, but still there are those triggers.

It’s like experiencing several deaths in a lot of ways.  You experience the death of separation, of friends, of dreams, of family, of consistency, and I’m not talking about adaptation to small changes, more like smack you in the face and make you feel like a teenager kinds of changes.

It’s not that I don’t love my church and the people out here.  In the past that accusation has come to me at times…and to others.  It is extremely frustrating   because the people here are very much a family to me as well, and my love for the friends and family I grew up with does not make the love of those I am with now any less. I know if ever the Lord called us to move far from them, I would miss them in the same way as I do the people from the church I grew up at.

So what’s my point to all this…well not a lot beyond the fact that I was just feeling the need to write in order to sort out my feelings to some degree.  Perhaps I wish to understand and be understood, the latter is not very noble, but it is truth.

Also there is a part of me…maybe it is my personality, and my fierce sense of loyalty, inherited from my mother, because of this there is a sense in which I feel the need to let these people know how much they still mean to me, how much I miss them, perhaps I don’t want to stop missing them, because that would betray my loyalty.

Don’t think that because people miss their roots that they don’t live fully where they are at.  On the contrary, they tend to throw themselves into life fully and passionately, wherever they live.  Perhaps that is the reason it is so heart breaking to leave.  But then what is the alternative.  Someone once said that the extent, to which you feel pain, is the extent to which you will feel joy.   I have been tempted at times to close my heart to pain,  to ignore it and tell myself somehow that it doesn’t exist, but a hardened heart would be the end result and not worth the temporary relief from pain.  Pain draws us into a Savior who cares and heals.  Pain keeps us from getting too content in a world that is not our home.

So for you who have moved far away from the home of your youth.  May I encourage you when those triggers come and they will, embrace the pain.  Take a moment or two to cry on the shoulders of your Saviour, who understands all, and cares.  Then praise him.  Praise Him for the beauty of having a place and people who meant enough to you and you to them that you miss them. Few have that.  Praise Jesus that your heart is still soft and beating, and that you can still feel pain, because to love means to open your heart wide to pain…and that is beauty that is always worth it in the end…it means you are whole, it means you are alive.   Lastly, thank Him for the new life, places, and people that He has placed in your life today, and embrace the today’s.  Live passionately and fully where you are at…today. Knowing that God has an abundant purpose for you in this place where He has called you.

This is  a little of what I have learned in the last 13 years since moving to a different world in so many ways, there are many more lessons to learn, I am sure, perhaps these lessons can encourage another in my midnight musings.0303191453.jpg

He sees you…

I am writing this post today for moms. I don’t often single out a certain group of people, but I felt that you needed to read this today. You moms who get up everyday and show up. Who get out of bed in the middle of the night once again to soothe that crying baby, or pray for your scared child. You mom’s who make that meal again, when you know it’s going to be consumed in about 15 minutes even though it took hours to prepare, and another hour or more, to clean up the mess just made in 15 minutes time. I write for the fight you have to solve again. Those words you tire of saying, “Do your homework, brush your teeth, wash your face, be kind, get dressed, where are your shoes, no you may not have another cookie, etc, etc, etc…” I write for those days that you long to be alone for just 10 minutes, and the other day when you long for another adult to talk to for just 10 minutes. I write for you moms who feel lost in the mundane of laundry, dishes, and house cleaning, who find folded, clean laundry in a dirty clothes hamper…again. Who teach that child who doesn’t want to be taught. You moms who come to the end of the day feeling like a failure.  You moms who never quit, never run, never give up.  Who choose love every day, and in choosing it you stay, and keep moving, keep doing, and keep being “mom”.  I’ve talked with you. I’ve been with you. I am you.

 

I write to encourage you! You are not alone, you are seen, you are important, so important! Don’t give up. Don’t give in, you have a Heavenly Father who loves and cherishes you. He keeps a record of your tears. He cries with you. He sees the times you choose to do the hard thing even though it’s painful. He smiles when you choose to praise him when you feel like crying. He sees when you think nobody sees or cares, He cares for you, and as long as you show up.  As long as you don’t quit, you are amazing! You will never be the mom you want to be…but keep striving to love and cling to Jesus and you will be more than enough.  You will be just right. Because your Father is the perfect mom and dad for your children.  Lead them to him and they will know love and they will know perfection that you can never be.  May you know that today. May you feel the Father’s love in the deepest part of you. May you know that nothing you do is done in vain. When you do it for Jesus, it is of greatest worth, the greatest treasure. It is an alabaster of oil poured at His feet, and He will not reject it. The King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, and you, He treasures your work, always! He sees you, mom, He sees you.IMG_0667

Photo by Justin Nice