Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Really Simple Things

I've been feeling guilty lately over all the time that's passed since I got around to writing something. It's not that things haven't been happening, but probably more that they've been happening a little too much leaving very little time to quantify and assess what's happening in my wonderful world. The busyness has kept me from pausing to really be grateful for this incredible journey and it's time to break the cycle. Thanksgiving will be coming soon in Canada and then a little later in the US. I miss that time over here in Australia. So instead of doing a facebook 3/5 days of things to be grateful for, I'm just going to start and see how far I get. There's an awful lot.

I am grateful for modern technology. It means I can communicate with my loved ones on a daily basis and see exactly how their lives are going. It means I can pay bills and do banking without having to find time to get into the branch during their operating hours. It means I can read as many books as I want at the same time and carry them all with me without renting a trailer. It means I can take pictures and share the memories with people I care about right away. It means I can text my husband as soon as a thought pops into my head without worrying if he's busy. It allows me to live in two worlds quite happily even though my body can only reside in one.

I am grateful for my body. It lets me see beautiful things, breathe incredible air, touch other human beings, taste food that makes me want to sing, dance when I feel like it, sing when I want to, sleep and feel instantly younger when I wake, and experience a myriad of sensations and memories. It is a miracle. I can walk. I can run (slower than I used to). I can feel. I am alive.

I am grateful for words. They can encapsulate the breadth of experience in my existence. They have so much power and they're largely free for the taking. They can take me to places I've never been and allow me to see things in a way I had never imagined. They are precious and strong. How we use our words is one of the clearest indicators of who we really are as individuals and a society. I am always conscious of the blessing and responsibility they represent.

I am grateful for a near perfect husband that accepts a less than perfect spouse with a selflessness that motivates me to do much better. He seems to instinctively do the right thing in nearly every instance. That's hard to keep up with, but I know without the motivation to hold to his pace I would have been so much less. He is one the biggest mercies God has seen fit to bless me with.

I am grateful for water. Not only is it vital to existence, but it manages to be beautiful and lyrical at the same time. It sounds, tastes, smells and feels good. Water can gently caress, swirl and dance as well as being strong enough to cut steel. It adapts with complete fluidity to every occasion. Nothing can put a smile on my face faster than watching waves rolling into shore on a beach or seeing a torrent cascading down a cliff face. It reminds me that real power is so much more than what humans wield so carelessly.

I am grateful for sunlight. I love it's warmth, the way it captures motes of dust in its fingers as it twists through the air. I love the way it transforms every colour it touches to a better version of what it seemed before. I love the way it reminds us to move a little slower, pause a little longer, and let life soak deep into our bones. I crave sunlight sometimes in the depths of winter and that's why when it returns it's such an occasion for joy.

I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is an imperfect world, full of imperfect beings trying to overcome all that imperfection as best they can. The gospel, however, includes a way for all of us to transcend that imperfection in Christ. Yes there are rules. No, not everyone likes them or understands them. But that's okay. Because Christ and his gospel are infinitely perfect in patience too. We start where we are and we place ourselves in his hands and ask him to help us see our way forward. And in his perfect love he does. We live in a time where we are clouding the lines between obedience to His law and the acceptance of everything and everyone. That's very difficult to reconcile, but if we really listen to our Saviour he can teach us how love and accept without needing to condone or embrace. That is remarkable.

I am grateful for music. I appreciate how it can capture exactly what I'm feeling with far more eloquence than I possess. It has the ability to change a bad mood for the better in a just a few measures. It can motivate us to do hard things. It can allow us to touch the divine. It can build bridges between cultures and soften broken or even angry hearts. It can revive memories we had lost and give us release for emotions we cannot contain. It is one of the things that glorifies our intelligence and gives it voice. It makes us smarter. It is magic.


I am grateful for little things. Tiny reminders of where I've been. Little mementos of my life to date. I cannot carry them all with me, and often they get lost or discarded,  but we all have them. Those small objects that we rediscover and then sit back for the flood of memories and sensations they carry into our hearts with them. They are often unremarkable to anyone but us. A ticket stub for a concert. A particular marble. A rock or shell from a beach. A scribbled birthday card from a toddler. They are like acquaintances that we run into once in a while and thoroughly enjoy catching up with. For example, I have a pair of opera glasses on a silver gilt chain. They come from a trip to the Sydney Opera House to watch Carmen. They were kind of an extravagant purchase at the time, but every time they come out of the box I can see that performance, feel the seat, touch the music and remember exactly how I felt that night. And that makes me smile because I understand what a privilege that memory is. I love my memory tokens, because that's what they are. An instant trip into cherished moment of the past.

I love my family. They are unique and diverse. They understand my mindset in varying degrees, but they all love freely. Each one is a miracle in my life with something incredible to contribute. When I look back on things in my life I want to count as my successes, my family is one of them. Because they are nice people. That's a precious thing. They are funny, they are smart, they are beautiful, and they are part of me. Each person has influenced who I am and the way I see the world. They have taught me so much and asked so little in return.

I am incredibly grateful for the people the Lord has sent into my life. I have met and known so many incredible people who have shared so much of who they are with no demands. They have made me want to stand taller, speak more kindly, share more freely and love with abandon. They have brought colour and music into my existence at every turn. They are teachers, confidants, exemplars. They are bosses, coworkers, playmates, students. They are the best and brightest stars in my past, present and future skies. I owe them everything.

I suspect that's enough for now. My list could probably have chapters if I kept going. That's the wonderful thing about gratitude. The more you think about it the more you realize there is to be grateful for. Thank you, life.






Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Exceptional

One of the saddest bi-products of our digital age is the prevalence of inflammatory prose. It’s everywhere we turn. Individuals tweet their opinions, blog blatantly, or post their statuses with impunity. Their words cut and maim and disillusion with complete apathy. Some individuals even profit from the sensationalizing of their bogus views through the hits the ads on their blogs receive each time someone checks out what they have to say. Television does the same as networks concoct “reality” situations to hook viewers who have to tune in just to see what those “real” people will get up to this time. We think we’re getting somewhere as a civilization when in reality we’re still showing up to watch the beheading/hanging/feeding of the lions for the cheap thrill it is. We can pat ourselves on the back for not being the victim/contestant/subject matter before our eyes. And it makes all of us a little less than what we should be. 

Yesterday I let myself get a little incensed after reading a blog written in reaction to another blog that was truly offensive and obviously staged for effect. That made me angry. That anyone could put such words out into space knowing they were blatant untruths was painful. And then I disappointed in myself for falling straight into the trap. I found myself reading the offensive blog and felt ill. In wanting to see the cause of the all the upset I probably earned the woman a few dollars of revenue via her blog ads and that really hurts. So, as I explain I will not put a link to her site. She doesn’t deserve it. But I will share what she said.

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.”
Amy Glass, Thought Catalog, Jan. 15, 2014

Wow. You only have to take a look at history to see that exceptional married women with children are there in number. Marie Curie, Queen Victoria, Emily Murphy, shall I keep going? That anyone could write something so ridiculously self-absorbed and argumentative then publish it as their enlightened opinion is pitiful proof of the prostitution inherent in sensationalism. And our society seems to thrive on it. We sell our integrity, thoughts, private lives for attention and money. We want to be seen and talked about.

What exactly is exceptional? It’s the remarkable, the unusual, the noteworthy, the uncommon, the atypical, and the extraordinary. And in a world increasingly preaching the need for identity outside of marriage and motherhood, the choice to embrace motherhood and marriage in an exceptional way is gradually becoming all the more exceptional, especially when people are continually taking time to attack and deface it.  Because we only attack and belittle the things we fear or don’t understand.

The very exceptional Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, wrote this in 1746:

“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”

I believe that with all my heart. It is part of the reason I chose to be a stay at home mother. I’m not a stupid person. I could have chosen to be anything if I wished. None of it really seemed worth the effort. So I got married and became a wife and mother. And every day I woke up and chose it again and again, and I was determined to do it as well as I could in the process. And while feeding, clothing, caring, teaching, laughing and loving may increasingly seem unexceptional to our society, the things I have learned and mastered along the way are definitely exceptional.

I learned you cannot force another human being to do anything without destroying part of your own humanity. I learned that yelling to get your way is selfish and lazy. I learned that words are some of the most powerful things we possess. I learned that children are entire worlds unto themselves. I learned that love is priceless and eternal. I learned that it’s easier to become your best self when your focus is on someone else’s well-being. I learned that joy cannot be bought or even engineered. It happens when we least expect it and surprises us every time, and we can miss it if we aren’t there when it occurs. I learned that when we try to be the best mother and wife possible, we usually become so much more than just a wife and mother. Parents acquire a multitude of skills by necessity during that journey and become truly exceptional, because a stay at home mother creates a single income family, and money is tight. You cannot afford to buy your solutions to everyday problems. You must teach yourself things that professionals pay other people to do. It doesn’t always come easily. But we learned as much from the failures as we did from the successes. And the amazing thing is that our children learned it at the same time. We took that journey of discovery together. And now that our children are all adults, they have the basic skills to find solutions to their own problems. That is rather exceptional.


I became a stay at home mother because I felt a sense of responsibility to these small people I had helped to create. I did not trust the world to do a competent job of teaching and nurturing them to their full potential. Deep inside that choice felt right. And I wanted my children to know it was completely possible to have a stable, loving, nuclear family with two committed parents – a mother and a father – in this world. I wanted them to know that their lives were worth taking 20+ years of mine to focus on their needs. I do not have a university degree or a high-profile career. But I can do a myriad of things very well and they bring me joy. And I do have an amazing family of incredible, gifted, talented people who make my soul sing. There are five other people on this planet whose lives I changed as they changed mine and that’s beyond exceptional.