Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Magnificat

My kids drew these pictures to help me share a children's message at church on Sunday. So this first one is by Trevor. If you look past the stripes on her shirt you'll see a face. So this is Mary with baby Jesus in her belly. I asked Trev, "What are those blue things?" He said it was her arms.

Tamara drew these next two:

The rich queen is on top because from a worldly perspective she is the most important whereas the sad poor person is just a nobody. As I see it, the bottom picture represents anyone who is an underdog whether that be because of social exclusion, mental illness, addiction or lack of money.

But let me tell you about Mary. She's pregnant and she sings a song about how the coming of Jesus flips everything around. God pours love and compassion upon the sad poor person and she gets moved to the top:

Whenever we show love and compassion to someone who is downtrodden, we participate in the Kingdom of Jesus. It is the upside-down kingdom. It runs contrary to the way society tends to categorize people. All this is to say that, in Christ, the poor person is just as important as the so-called successful person.

Mary's Song reads as follows:

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud
in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.
Luke 1:47-55

*Note - When Scripture speaks of fearing the Lord, it doesn't mean being frightened. It means reverence or honor.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mr. Spark

These past two Wednesdays after the school's final bell, Tamara and Trevor hung out with Michael and Julia in Mr. Spark's office. I've changed his name slightly to protect his identity, though I can't imagine him objecting to my writing here.

He's warm and kind. The first time we met, he asked me a bunch of questions in between interactions with the children while they sat around the table drawing pictures. Do Tamara and Trevor play outside much? Do they get along at home? Do they play minecraft? and so on. There was absolutely nothing in his manner to indicate malicious intent, but I felt sheepish and unprepared to answer his questions. I fumbled through some responses and discovered he was accepting and encouraging. And, as the expression goes, that's just my cup of tea.

At one point his cell phone vibrated. He glanced at the call display, promptly put his phone in his pocket and said, "You know you have a good friend when you can hang up on him."

And the following Wednesday everyone seemed more relaxed than usual. The children were comfortable in Mr. Spark's presence as he handed them candy canes and watched them make Christmas drawings for his fridge. "I love Christmas!" he kept saying. Julia, an affectionate one, put her head on his lap. He seemed a bit surprised, but he just rolled with it. "It's been a while since my own kids were this young," he said.

I guess I could share more details with you but I think this will give you a good enough idea of why the children love to spend time with him.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mess of Colors

Joleen is passionate about art. She loves looking at it. She does a wee little bit of mess-making herself but her paints are apart. The pink is nearby and blue is a couple rooms away. Her blue paint has a flaw called anifozicks.

She gets frustrated with pink. It's a supportive color, in its own way, when she puts it next to her primary colors. But, really, she doesn't enjoy playing with pink.

Just like the blue paint, one of her crayons has anifozicks—the orange one. She loves that one a lot. It has its own place, but needs care even though it works fine. If she doesn't wrap tape around it regularly, it rolls into figments and phantom colors. She can tell when it hasn't been taped. One time they couldn't find it. She was terribly frightened, but it turned up in the drawer among the toothpicks. She hopes her orange one never vanishes like that again.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Kitchen

I have my own personal chef. Lately he's been frustrating me because he's been serving meals on the gold-plated china when I much prefer the casual dishes—the ones that have the pictures of cartoon felines on them.

Just now he's offered a genuine apology with a reassurance that he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. "I see the destructiveness of the gold-plated dishes," he said. "I'll inform the rest of my team so that if any of them need to fill in for me, they'll know to stay away from those."

I'll be honest. My kitchen is not especially clean. Sometimes it's hard to find things. There's an island in the middle. The salt and pepper shakers got stranded inside a cupboard in there. Parker and I put them there because we wanted to keep them away from the mangoes. Then he left to play poker all night and I got preoccupied with trying to find my preserves. I think I had them out in the open for a while but various catastrophes meant they had to be put in a much less obvious location. I believe my chef might be able to help me find them.

The dishwasher's helpful. I haven't always had one. The sink is so deep that when I put my hand into the sudsy water I can never be sure if I'm going to cut my hand on some sharp knife or broken wine glass. I'll probably make some astonishing discoveries in my sink. It's the depth of it that makes it amazing and frightening at the same time. There's a decorative mirror above it now that I hope will somehow help me find more things around my kitchen.

And from my kitchen I can see the television. When the Super Mario Bros. cartoon comes on it brings negative effects.

Before all the disasters my kitchen seemed wealthier, full of vigor and shine. Now it's different, but I'll just have to work with what I have. I think making it more Christmas-oriented in here is an exquisite idea.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Pen Pals 3

Dear Sharon,
You did it! Thanks for carving another bum and sending me the picture. I got the two inch fire hydrant, too. Keep up the hard work! I want to reassure you that your eggplant carvings aren't offending me. I hope you carve some more bums. Elves, too! I know they're difficult to do, but they're awesome at the same time.

If you like, you can send me one or two close-up shots of the bum carving. If you try it and it's too blurry or something, that's okay. All of these things take practice.

Are you ready for learning (ouchie!) and adventure?

Just as a side note, I asked my buddy, Carson, if he could drop off some roses at your front door because he lives in your area. I hope you got them.


Dear Waldo,
I got the roses. Um, thanks, I think. I don't like the thorns, but that goes without saying. I could tell the one yellow rose was artificial. That's why Carson took it out right when I was opening the door. I'm not stupid.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pen Pals 2

Dear Sharon,
I got the recent photos you sent. I'm so thankful you haven't given up! I think you are the most courageous person I know right now because you have lots of fear yet you're choosing to share parts of yourself with me. Bravery is incredibly beautiful.

I hope you realize the depth of my care for you. If you have trouble accepting it, then it could be that I'm misunderstanding you. But it's just as likely you're misunderstanding me. That's okay. Sometimes that happens because of the barbed wire fences.

I have something to ask you. It's important. Next time you carve eggplants can you do a darker one? Preferably another bum? The great thing about bums is they can be ugly or funny or even just plain weird. And I suppose they can be sexy, but that's not what I want to focus on right now.

You might be surprised when I tell you I think carving bums will help the entire process move along in a healthier direction. I only know this because I've carved plenty of bums myself.


Dear Waldo,
The barbed wire fences make me upset. People need to know that I'm not a cow. I just want some respect! Maybe I'll carve a bum, or maybe I'll carve a fire hydrant. You'll find out.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I will lead the blind in the way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, 
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do, and do not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pen Pals

Dear Waldo,
Mr. Shanks has given me so many eggplants I've started putting them into the upstairs bathtub and desk drawers in my office. I remember your suggestion of choosing any which one and carving it. I tried a few. I wanted to make them funny so I carved one into the shape of a bum, another into a fire hydrant, and the other into a stoned Christmas elf, but I was terrified Edgar would find them and think they were stupid. I emailed photos of them to you. Did you get them? Maybe the stoned elf was too offensive. Please delete that photo if you got it.

I've thought about carving more eggplants but the last time you wrote you mentioned you didn't like paring knives, so I feel like if I use a paring knife it's going to irritate you and you'll stop sending me letters. You're my friend and I don't want you to stop writing to me.

I haven't been to the art studio in months, except on a Wednesday in November to pick up a mother-and-child figurine they wanted to trade me for the origami booklets I gave them in the Spring. I saw the Hildermans there. I'm worried they're mad at me for not attending their classes regularly. I'm quite certain they think I'm a bad person.

I hope you can forgive me if I don't carve anymore eggplants. It scares the hell out of me.


Dear Sharon,
Mr. Shanks continues to give me eggplants as well. If you don't carve them and give them away, you might run into some problems since there are only so many places you can store them. I liked the photos you sent. My favorite is the elf. I didn't find it the least bit offensive! In fact, I hope you carve more elves. People can't tell when I get your photos. I like to keep them to myself and pray for you. That can be our little secret.

It takes a certain kind of bravery to carve an eggplant. You did the right thing when you made those ones in the photos. It doesn't bother me if you use a paring knife. It's only that I don't like to use one myself. Different people use different knives, but you've probably already noticed that.

Don't give up. And my hope is that you'll push through your fear and take a risk—that's what bravery is, after all. Your photos are safe with me.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fallen Feathers

I pulled a box closer, grabbed hold of the flaps
"Wait!" thought the wing-broken bird when it opened
but there in the corner it trembled, it begged
for some kind of solace or rescue or way
to fly out of the box in front of my face
to show me its pain without leaving a trace

No, not just any pain, no, not just any—
There was more in the box: a bracelet, some keys,
a coffee stain under the feathers that fell
when the bird tried, yet failed, to cheep chirp for help
The failure was due to shoddy reception,
the kind that spoke only frowns and rejection

I reached in and fondled the feathers that fell,
gathered them, placed them inside my large conch shell,
then the colors of courage started to drip
from that sad broken wing—what beauty, what grace!
All changes begun in a color-filled whirl
to nudge the bird out into wide open space

(Also published at The Checkerboard Collective Issue 49)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

art project 49

the all-knowing Who

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths,
you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:1-10

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stuff Breaks

I've been noticing the brokenness. Our washer went on the fritz and a new one's coming. Hopefully it will arrive within the next few days, but in the meantime I've gotta wear socks that don't match. I've no need to get riled up about socks, though, because I think I can trust the promise that we'll be getting a new one.

When I was in the Walmart parking lot at High Street two days ago I discovered a broken tail light on my golden chariot. Honestly, it's a Ford Explorer, but calling it something else is what gets me places. Do you know what I'm saying?

Anyway... tail light. Broken.

My garage door opener hasn't been functioning for Who knows how long, so today I stopped at the hardware store to ask about replacing the battery. The cashier fiddled with it for a moment and said something like this: "You just have to take a screwdriver and pop this open and do that..."

While she worked on it with admirable confidence, a woman behind me leaned harder on her cane and said in a slightly sarcastic and jovial tone, "Don't you just love it when the ones with expertise say 'here's all you gotta do' as if it's the easiest thing?"

I decided not to compare myself to the cashier. It would only make me upset. After all, she's been practicing this often—probably for years—because of her various customers looking for battery replacements. Of course she's going to excel at it!

Besides, I'm different from a cashier. Being a stay-at-home mother is just as honorable and well worth practicing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Show Someone Your Dirty Laundry

... confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. - James 5:16

We don't have to call it "confessing our sins". We can call it venting or therapy or confiding in each other. It all means the same thing.

In the Lutheran church we speak a confession together that usually sounds something like this: "Forgive us for the times we've sinned in thought word and deed. Forgive us for not loving others as ourselves." I think this is suitable for the easier seasons of journeying, and confessing this at church services helps keep us humble and aware of our shortcomings.

But when we're depressed or ashamed and life seems to be falling apart, we need to get more specific when we confess. We need to find a friend to confide in. Church offers a pastor for this, but if you don't feel comfortable with him it's totally okay to find someone else.

You can put your feelers out to test whether or not someone could be your confidante. Grab some of your dirty laundry, something small like one of your stinky socks. It could be that time you told your Uncle Martin to fuck off. Every time you remember it, you feel guilty because your Mama taught you never to swear and you know you were super rude to him when all he was doing was trying to offer you daffodils.

How does the person respond to your pieces of dirty laundry? Does she wag her finger and tell you you're not allowed to do those terrible things? Or does she smile and say something like "Aw, it's okay. Do you wanna hang out on Saturday?"

If you find the person who still wants to spend time with you after you show her many pieces of your dirty laundry, it means she's someone who walks in the way of forgiveness and she's someone who truly cares. It means you can trust her and show her more of your dirty laundry. Even your poop-stained underwear.

Confessing sins is what I like to call The Ugly Beautiful. It's where healing happens. Where confidence grows. We've gotta reach for those stinky socks and lay 'em out into the light.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

dear diary - page one

Ferdinand dumped the contents of my jewelry box into the toilet. I managed to salvage some pieces but they smelled bad. I thought hairspray would help get rid of the odor so that's why I went down into the cellar. I know what you're thinking: why would I keep hairspray in the cellar? It's because Molly-Ann put it there.

She annoys me to no end. That whale. She keeps putting things where I don't want them. I have to try to tolerate her for many reasons, one being that she was my babysitter for many years and I owe her big time for that. Besides, she keeps my gemstones at her house when I go on vacation. And, trust me, I need my vacations.

Ferdinand has the same gemstones as me but he doesn't stay near them like I do. He just takes pictures of them from a distance. He went and got a different jewelry box before he was even done with mine. It's weird, you know. He won't officially separate the gold ones from the silver ones. Maybe it costs too much energy. Maybe he doesn't want to deal with a vendor. He could want to see my jewelry box again. I hope he wants that, but he probably doesn't. I don't know.

Now I'm not down in the cellar anymore. I'm on the bottom floor where the tic tacs are. Gramma thinks I should suck on two at a time, but I like only one. I intend to tell her next time I visit her.

My neighbor, the one who's a nurse, rang the doorbell this morning and jabbed me with a syringe. It was the flu shot, but she didn't even ask me first. Why did she do that?! It hurt. I'm scared she's only pretending to care about me, that she doesn't honestly want the best for me. She's nice, though, to give me seashells from her trips to the beach.

I could start my laundry now. I don't think anyone's going to get mad about that.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Checkerboard Collective

I belong to a group of writers over at the Checkerboard Collective. The site's been quiet for a while, but Issue 48 is released today and hopefully we can keep the issues coming regularly now! Topics vary from poetry to films to politics, etc. My contribution is called Bell Sinker and Hook. I hope you click the link and check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2014


Today Trevor brought home a notice from his teacher saying that his kindergarten class celebrated Diwali on Thursday last week. The notice says, "Diwali is a South Asian celebration, celebrated in India and many other parts of the world, including Canada. Diwali is the celebration of lights. It's a time for many to share love, success, and happiness."

During the class, they read a story, danced to Bhangra music, and painted divas. A diva, as I understand, is like a tiny bowl for lighting a home. I have plans to ask Trevor how exactly that's used for Diwali. I can only guess that it's meant to hold a candle.

Here's what I think is great about all this:

1.) Trevor learned something about another culture

2.) It gives me opportunity to talk with him about what the difference is between celebrating Diwali and celebrating life in Christ

3.) It gives me a starting point for talking with Indian parents at the school. When the opportunity arises I can ask them if they celebrate Diwali and I can mention the diva Trevor painted. I can talk about what I think is beautiful about Diwali and, if we're enjoying our conversation, I can talk about what our own family believes. When I have these kinds of conversations they usually go quite well. I tend to pay attention to nonverbal cues, so if the person appears receptive and the moment presents itself I can share the Gospel message. It's not about trying to control anyone. It's about sharing thoughts and loving another human being.

4.) It gets my curiosity going. Now I want to google Diwali. And I want to find answers to my new questions. Do people in India celebrate Christmas? What other traditions do they have besides Diwali? Is that a Sikh temple in Abbotsford or is that for Hinduism? I know that a Sikh man grows his hair long and wears a turban. Does a Hindu man do the same thing? Chances are I can even ask some of the parents these questions. Most people are happy to answer such questions and knowing these things is important to me because if my children and I are going to be in contact with Indian people on a regular basis, I want to be able to love them in a way that's meaningful to them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In the October mist...

In the October mist, eucharisteo opens the eyes, the heart, to the grace that falls upon us, a drop, a river, a waterfall of blessing filling our emptiness. It falls into the open hand and makes life a paradise again. We wonder: if eucharisteo had led us to let go and open the hand to receive all His shimmering river of gifts, how can we now close the hand?

If I close these fingers, try to hold, hoard the river—dam up the grace—won't the water grow stagnant?

... I think of this. That fullness grows foul. Grace is alive, living waters. If I dam up the grace, hold the blessings tight, joy within dies... waters that have no life.

I turn my hand over, spread my fingers open. I receive grace. And through me, grace could flow on. Like a cycle of water in continuous movement, grace is meant to fall, a rain... again, again, again. I could share the grace, multiply the joy, extend the table of the feast, enlarge the paradise of His presence. I am blessed. I can bless. A life contemplating the blessings of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ.

 — Ann Voskamp

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Toys

Yesterday I took the kids to Walmart and agreed to buy them toys.

Trevor chose a remote control monster truck. Tamara chose a Littlest Pet Shop blind bag (you don't know what you're gonna get until you open it). She said she wanted two or three of them, but I said no. I was thinking, she has way more toys than Trevor, so one is enough.

She begged and begged. I thought, I'm the parent; I gotta be firm on this. "No," I said. "Just one." She wouldn't let it go. She cried and screamed and put up a big stink. I kept saying no.

A pregnant lady was nearby and she seemed the sensitive type, so I took the kids away from the aisle. Tamara's fussing got louder, tears streaming. She was genuinely upset.

"It's not fair!!" she wailed.

I bent down to her level and said, "Okay, let's talk about this. You gotta calm down, though, so we can talk."

She quieted.

"So you're upset because Trevor gets that nice, big toy and you only get one small blind bag?"

"Yes, I was trying to tell you!"

"You're right. That doesn't seem fair. Let's get one more blind bag."

"That's what I told you at the beginning and you kept saying no!"

"I know," I said. "Sometimes I get into a train of thought and it's hard to switch over to a better one."

The pregnant lady looked relieved when we returned to grab another blind bag, and Tamara was thankful I took the time to really listen and care about what she wanted.

Was this poor parenting? I don't know.

It happened the way it happened and that's okay.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mother Hen

She comes to me, her voice like a gentle brook, a tender smile. Long tendrils sway when she walks.
She likes the color blue. She's becoming a nurse.
She surprises me with notes and affection, spontaneous knocks on my door, calls and invites me to
come and join.
Praise is on her lips. And she draws attention to the ache that's inside all of us. This yearning.
This hope.
She bends low to pray, holds her hands open to receive the Highest Love.
She sifts lovingly through my speech and mannerisms, pierces holes through my melancholy. There's holiness in her laugh.

I'm like a sponge, collecting. Filling, squeezing out. Soaking it in again, relieved to leave the clunk and clamor of high school behind.
We gather often. All of us. We pour compassion, we teach one another, we love, we grow. We sing.

My tears fall now when I remember

dorm 2D
year: 2000
Trinity Western University

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Letter from a Teenage Fan

Dear Mrs. Mitchell,

It's that red food coloring. Auntie Gertrude keeps putting it into everything. Cupcakes, scrambled eggs, toothpaste, kale. It's like everything makes her bleed. I've been trying to tell her she needed a better color but when I say something she gives me a fifteen minute speech about the life-span of some stinky animal somewhere. Last time it was the ladybug. Well, boo hoo. I don't care about her stupid ladybugs.

It's because of her freakin' red that I can't even stop at a traffic light without getting ticked off about all the cars—especially those shitty volkswagens. Not to mention that stupid chinese guy on the bicycle who rides past my house every day. Yesterday he was belching. "Nice one," I said. He took it as a compliment. Can you believe that?! As if I'd be complimenting anyone on their burping abilities. What a dumb shit.

Then at Vikki's memorial the funeral director told me to stop spraying perfume into the open casket. But I got him back. I shoved him onto the cement steps outside when he was least suspecting it. His wife complained later. What a loser! Doesn't she know how to take a joke?

Bring a six-pack with you next time you come over.

Yours truly,

Sir Farts-a-lot

Friday, September 26, 2014

composition 28

fight my tunnel vision, fight my tunnel vision
where is my help from?

the ants keep marching all around
do you hear the thunder in the ground?

fight my tunnel vision, fight my tunnel vision
look with the sky in your eyes

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Hospitality has no rules. Not exactly.

I think hospitality starts in the heart and flows outward from there. If I have a YES kind of attitude, then love and light will radiate from me. If I'm cynical, then even if I work hard at faking hospitality, the other person will sense my distrust or fear and feel unwelcome.

A yes attitude says, "Hey, awesome, here is someone to love." It's a faithful attitude.

A no attitude searches for excuses and focuses on flaws. For example, "This guy looks too much like Albert Einstein so I'm not gonna open the door."  or  "She's not chatty enough."  or  "That fat guy wears sweat pants in public and that's disgusting. I don't want him over." or "I'm not going to try and get to know her if she's a Catholic." It is entirely possible to have a no attitude and be full of giggles at the same time. It's also possible to feed someone a gourmet meal and yet communicate hostility or rudeness. That's because hospitality is about more than just food. It needs a personal warmth and flexibility along with it.

I think it's generally acknowledged in our culture that if someone visits our home, it's our responsibility to extend hospitality and that's because many newcomers naturally experience varying degrees of fear about being in a new place. And being outnumbered puts them in a weak position.

If I can put aside my expectations of how I think that person has to behave, chances are he is going to be much more at ease in my presence. But if I'm unhappy with him from the very beginning, it's going to be difficult to gain his respect after that. A first impression, whether nasty or warm or even just... stale, can set the tone for future encounters with that person.

If I'm not ready to accept the new person with a yes attitude, it has more to do with me and my own immaturity or mental blockage than it does with him (or her). It's like being happy to inhale an ice-cream cone when someone hands it to me but not willing to dish out any ice-cream myself. It's not a bad idea to get some help for that.

But all this begs the question. Where does a yes attitude come from?


Monday, September 15, 2014

A Girl and Her Flute

There was a small girl walking through town, playing her flute.
She walked along the sidewalk.
She walked into gas stations and into stores, all the while playing her flute.
Some people got mad. "Stop your noisemaking!" they scolded.
But the girl kept walking and playing her flute.
She walked and walked.
Then some more people got mad. "Stop that stupid noisemaking!" they said.
But she kept going.
More people got mad. "Why are you playing that flute? Stop it!"
Finally she took her lips off her instrument and said, "I'm following Jesus."
The people got quiet and she walked some more, all the while playing her flute.
She walked and played.
And she walked all the way up into the clouds where she saw birds flying and rainbows all around!

The End.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On Spaces and Switching Over

If you're super observant you might notice I've begun using only one space after each period. I've been typing two spaces for years, but last month I read a blurb called Why You Should Never, Ever Use Two Spaces After a Period. The title is a bit extreme so as to catch attention and that's fine. No need to get snappy. The article is helpful, I think.

Social media has been my practicing arena for switching over. It required more work at first because habits are hard to break, but eventually I didn't need to delete that second space as often and started to appreciate the nice, tight feel of the single space. My sentences aren't so far apart from one another now. My work seems less choppy.

But the great thing is nobody's going to get punished for typing two. That would be lame! So if you're a bloggy person like me and you prefer two, I say go for it. And if you wanna switch to one like I did, that's also fine. It's not like you'll get kicked off the internet because of it.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rod

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. - Proverbs 13:24
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. - Proverbs 22:15
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. - Proverbs 23:13
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. - Proverbs 29:15
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4

As I understand it, a rod is considered an instrument of authority. It was used by shepherds for counting, guiding, rescuing and protecting sheep. It's also seen as a figure of speech for discipline of any kind.

What is the hebrew word for rod? Finding that might help me interpret these verses. Is the rod in Psalm 23 the same rod that's found in Proverbs? Since I don't know the answer to this question, I'll simply work with what I know for now, relying on Grace, and hope for the best.

A common interpretation of these verses is that the rod is about spanking. But just because an interpretation is common doesn't necessarily mean it's the optimum one and it's fine to explore other avenues. I have seen unruly young children who received few to no spankings grow to become teenagers with Christ-like character who, for the most part, make beneficial choices. Conversely, I've met plenty of people spanked as children who've turned out to be disrespectful and self-righteous jerks in adulthood. And vice versa.

Are children affected most deeply by who we are as people and the examples we set rather than how we discipline them? I'm not saying we ought not to discipline, but only bouncing thoughts around. Do we as parents really have so much control, or are we just deceiving ourselves? Parents can train their child in the way they think is greatest, but that child still makes his or her own choices. Isn't it best simply to trust our families are cared for by God and respond accordingly?

If I want to raise a child to have Christ-like character, how exactly do I go about that? It seems to me there's some teaching or explanation that needs to happen, and I would think teaching is most effective if it flows from a place of trusting in Love. I suspect teaching is a type of rod, then, that may or may not need to be accompanied by physical discipline depending on the personality of each unique child and what a specific situation calls for and so on.

And a rod is for fishing. So there's that.

All this to say the reality is that no matter what method of discipline you use, you're failing at this parenting thing. You're failing because you cannot possibly be perfect at it, just like you can't be perfect at anything else.

So may it be that when the "We're-better-parents-than-them" attitude rears its ugly monkey head, the current of Grace sweeps it away and carries us deeper into a life of love and mercy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Be Still

As I've been thinking and praying about what to write today, a verse has been surfacing. "Be still and know that I am God." It's in Psalm 46.

Being still and being aware of Divine presence can be hard for anyone who doesn't normally do much contemplating, but I think it's important for our own sakes, as well as for others, that we stop and acknowledge we aren't the ones in charge, that it's okay to let go of trying to control our lives and instead just... be.

For me, being still is like celebrating the air. The air is what I so often take for granted, but when I stop and pay attention to it my whole focus changes. I don't need to try to change the air, just simply rely upon it. And that's what Christ is like—invisible, but always here. Being still in His presence reminds me how much I need Him, that I can't keep going on my own and it helps me live more peacefully.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Not long after we arrived at Cultus Lake campgrounds, we received a warm and gentle greeting from one of Kevin's sisters and her family. In the evening a bunch of us gathered at their site for drinks and junk food. I don't remember what drink was given me but it tasted like Five Alive citrus juice, and others had beer or Coke with rye. Naturally then, our conversation turned to drinks.

"Have you guys tried Arbor Mist?" asked one of the brothers-in-law. "It's fruity and it's only like seven bucks a bottle."

At one point a sister mentioned she didn't even like wine so I said she'd probably like that Arbor Mist. I remember only small patches of conversation from that night. Some of it hurt me, so I tuned out once in a while as a way to take care of myself. I'm giving the benefit of the doubt in assuming they weren't trying to harm me on purpose.

A parks guy came by to tell us to be quiet since it was past quiet hour. They made fun of him after he left but he had been hiding and listening behind the boat somewhere, so he came back and stressed that we really did need to be quiet. I get the feeling this is a common occurrence at Cultus campgrounds.

Trevor has his own particular brand of whine. He uncorked the lid on it and poured it often during our stay and that's not surprising. He also threw a temper tantrum once. I lifted him, kicking and screaming, into our camping trailer so he could take time to calm himself. He put his size five hero shirt on inside out and backwards the one day. When I tried to fix it, he seemed annoyed so I left it. Not a big deal.

The men and boys went river fishing for salmon the next day. Caught their limit.

Kevin and I went to bed early that night.

Most of the family went fishing again the next day. Caught the limit again, if I remember right.

Two of my little nephews brought joy to our site on several occasions during the trip. Their mother wasn't feeling well and ended up in hospital getting her appendix removed. This was disappointing in more ways than one 'cause she had been excited for camping. She's a trooper.

A highlight of the trip was watching her kids and mine play with a maltese poodle named Chelsea at the beach.

Back at our campsite my mother-in-law wandered over and said, "Dad [something, something]." I couldn't pick up what she said for some reason—it was blocked out completely. All I heard was "Dad" and I could've asked her to repeat herself but instead we stared at each other for a moment and made our way to the chairs. An occasional robin or squirrel came near. We had no fire going and I gestured toward the pile of garbage that had accumulated in our fire pit. I apologized for the unpleasant smell, though I didn't need to do so.

Crows flew high in the trees above. She looked up at them and her eyes darted from one to another like she was counting them. As for me, I noticed their presence but wasn't interested in keeping track of crows.

Kevin went dirt biking up the mountain and got pricked on his wrist by a wasp, though that was unprovoked. He bee-bombed the nest which was on a fence, and at the top of the loop he texted me a photo of his scenic view.

In the afternoon, four of the kids were drawing on ancient computer paper—the kind with tiny holes along the sides and perforated edges—that my grandmother gave to me before she passed away. A sister came by and told me she was pissed off with her neighbor who, upon mysteriously seeing the food bowls though they were hidden, kept going onto her property and overfeeding her pets. And her husband mentioned how it wasn't fair the other brother-in-law kept catching so many fish at the river, using his children to cheat the limit, while the other boats around him weren't catching any.

I began to draw on Trevor's paper, asking him and his cousin if they could guess what I was making. "A cloud?" they said. "A flower?" When I added the bottom part, they got it. As you can see, Trevor helped me color small areas.

Then there was the incident. The two other boys continued on with their coloring, but the littlest one casually made a mark on his big brother's paper without knowing what he was doing. Well. The big brother was distraught about that minor offense and cried inconsolably for about ten minutes, all the while scratching at his eczema with his fingernails. Eczema runs in the family. They get it from my mother-in-law, apparently.

The brother-in-law forgot his can of beer on our picnic table and fruit flies were congregating on it. When I got around to giving it to him, I mentioned the fruit flies but he didn't care.

Kevin drove Tamara to a birthday slumber party (of course!) and returned in time for all of us to gather in a circle around a crackling fire and have a barbeque. I brought the shrimp dip because, you know... I'm shrimpy. I was amazed and thankful for tasty food and family and pleasant conversation!

Yesterday we got home, picked up Tamara from the birthday party and at two o'clock decided to walk to Dairy Queen for ice-cream. Tamara ordered a Kit Kat blizzard, the rest of us strawberry sundaes. I don't know if Kevin enjoyed it much; he looked ticked off about something. Trevor accidentally jabbed himself in his side with a stick on the way home and showed me his faintly bleeding scratch when we got to the driveway.

Overall, a memorable family vacation. No complaints here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

i see cracks

i want to lean against
the wall inside your mind

drum my fingers
then march around

         until it falls

Friday, August 1, 2014

composition 27

Come down
come on down, down to the River
where the water carries me

because the eye of the tiger weeps

Come down
come on down, down to the River
where the water carries me

because the eye of the tiger weeps
that's why sometimes I lose sleep

Come down
come on down, down to the River
where the water carries me

because the eye of the tiger weeps
I wanna know what secrets you keep

Come down
come on down, down to the River
where the water carries me

Be human with me
Come to the River with me

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two Nights Camping

"You're in luck!" the old man said to Kevin.  "There was a cancellation half an hour ago!"

When he returned to the truck and told us, we all cheered.  Even our little guy Trevor, who had been holding his hands to his tummy because he needed to poop.

"I prayed," said Tamara.

We got Site #82 and much to Trevor's relief it was next to the #7 outhouse.

Inside our camping trailer...  "What are you doing, Mom?"

"Testing out the bed," I said.  I explained the extra blankets were put on the mattress to keep the bed springs from poking us.

"Take a test, take a rest!" he chanted.  "Take a test, take a rest!"

Thankfully there was no fire ban, but our wood was damp and it took considerable time to get the flames going.  "Gotta do smaller pieces," said Kevin.  "Slivers."

Finally he cheated with gasoline and by six the fire blazed well enough to roast four European wieners.  He inhaled his hot dog but I enjoyed every bite slowly.  Imagine what it's like to eat while the occasional whiff of marijuana from neighboring sites overpowers the campfire smell, and the nearby river continuously roars.

By the way, we ate our vegetables like good little Canadians.  Trevor opted only for grape tomatoes, or Moon Squirters, as Tamara likes to call them.

Next day I got time to myself so I wandered through the forest, listening to the male British narrator inside my head and pondering endorphins until I reached a clearing where a green-vested fisherman was pissing into the river.  It would've been funny if he got a bite on his hook at that exact moment!

I kept going until I arrived at a small beach just as a group of Japanese people were leaving.  They left behind their artwork, four sand balls upon leaves and Canada spelled with rocks.  Later Trevor stepped on one of the balls without realizing it, but he and his sister made some more until there were nine.

I could share more details of our camping trip.  I could tell you about the bearded guy with the happy wrinkles who told me he lost somebody and that he lost his marbles, too, but he had been born with some missing anyway.  Or I could tell you about the people who came to visit us briefly while we were there, but then this would be a longer blog post.  And long blog posts—like long-winded speeches—are too much work, don't you think? 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Stairs

Deena put on her hat—the ridiculous one covered in fake flowers, the one that was floppy as hell—and stood at the top of the stairwell.  The scar on her left cheek glinted in sunlight that slanted from the rectangular skylight.  She inhaled.

Suspense.  Exhilaration.  That's what she wanted.

And if you were standing beside her, you'd notice the grandfather clock at the bottom next to the front door.  You'd see the pile of shoes down there, the white ruffled curtains around the window, the yellow stains in the carpet.  Most likely you'd descend the staircase as you would any other day.

But Deena was different.

Two seconds into her exhalation, she leapt like a gleeful frog off the lip of that top step and reveled, ever so briefly, in the whoosh until she smashed.  The landings, of course, were always a problem.  This time she landed heels first onto the step with the skid marks on it, second one from the bottom, and fell on her back against the hard edges behind.

Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.

There was a knock.  "Where's my hat?" she gasped.  It had flown off mid-jump and come to rest beside her head.

Alfred entered through the front door.  Still sprawled over the stairs, she put on her hat.  "Oh, it's you!" she said.  "I haven't seen you in years."

He stroked his bushy mustache.  "Been a while," he said.  "I see you still leave your door unlocked just like you always did."

"What have you been doing?" she winced when she sat up.

"Mostly lying."

"Hah.  Well, people will believe anything."

He thought for a moment.  "I'm broke, you know."

"Me too," she said.  "I think my back is broke."

Alfred closed the door and nodded at the grandfather clock.  "It's seven.  I've got lotsa time."

"No, it's not seven.  It's six!" Deena said.  Thus began their staring contest.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

a taste of Buechner

... when it comes to putting broken lives back together—when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls—the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best.  To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do—to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst—is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still.  The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from.  You can survive on your own.  You can grow strong on your own.  You can even prevail on your own.  But you cannot become human on your own.

Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

miracle garden

I know there are gardens more extravagant, but this one brings me joy because it's the one I've been tending.  The size is manageable.  The vegetables nourishing, the flowers various and beautiful.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

here i am, plumbing again

To love—the paragon against which all else falls flat.  No words could possibly convey this deep, unfathomable thing that dances in the heart and oozes outward.  Oozes?  No, cascades as if light itself were bending and falling and multiplying.

Can light spread or is it already multiplied?  The dawn brightens slowly but sunlight reflects from water in various lines and shapes.  Through the window and into the pool, inside the apartment building, it forms a rippling rectangle that doesn't appear to multiply at all.

How is it that the speed of light is faster than I can comprehend, yet the dawn arrives slowly?  It's the earth that's slow, isn't it?  A tiny ball rotating amongst a plethora of stars in a universe of which none of us has seen the end.

Friday, June 27, 2014

composition 26

Make this faith radiate like the dawn

Lovely birdsong in our ears

Make the justice of this cause
Shine like the noonday sun

Friday, June 20, 2014

the lunch

Today was Gainer's Lunch at our little crappy church.  It's a once-per-month meal served by our kitchen ladies for anyone who walks in.  Our fellowship hall, small though it is, gets packed for these.  Most of the people who come for lunch are not members of our congregation.

I sat with the kids at an empty corner table and soon a bunch of ragged-looking strangers joined us.  We took part in some guitar-led singing and a prayer, then filled our plates with yummy goodness.

I was quiet at first.  After all, it can be difficult to have conversations when our mouths are full of food. But also there was a battle between love and fear going on inside me.  You see, these strangers already happened to know each other and that made me the minority at our table.

Being the minority is usually hard and scary.

Yet Gainer's Lunch is our only outreach to the community (I told you our church is crappy) and it's amazing people are drawn to it.  I mean, it's only a meal.  That's it.  Nothing complicated, just come fill your bellies and donate a few bucks if you want.  Or not.  Just whatever.

Some people arrive after the songs and prayer because they only want the food.  That's okay.  It's about serving and welcoming them, not getting them to meet a standard.  One such person came late to our table today.

"Hi," I said.  "I recognize you.  I've probably seen you around town."

He joked that he came in his wheelchair.  Except it didn't register with me at first that it was a joke because I'm slow with that kind of thing.  Often, by the time I realize something's a joke the conversation's already changed and it's too late to laugh.

His name's Daryl.  He is First Nations and lives on the reserve.  We talked about his lawn-cutting that he does, his grandsons, what it's like to live on the reserve, his roommate, his alcoholism.  Mostly I just listened because I was curious and fascinated.  And I saw Christ in his eyes—the love that binds and captivates.

It's the same Christ I saw in Barry's eyes, too, and in the woman beside him.  I'm disappointed I didn't catch her name, but she seemed comfortable with me and I believe I'll see her again.  It's the same Christ I saw in the other two women as well, the ones who talked with me about parenting and schools.

When they left Daryl said it was great to meet me and maybe he'd see me again one day and take me on a date.  I think he was joking, but I'm not sure.  Sometimes witnessing to the opposite sex can be awkward.

All I know is fellowship happened at our table and I'm thankful for the experience.

People are so lovable! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Remember me mentioning we were going to visit different churches once in a while?  A couple Sundays ago, we attended a small gathering that meets in a gymnasium.  It's been planted by Christian Life Community Church.

When we first walked in we were greeted at the building's entrance by a couple of people and we got to meet Naomi for the first time.  She wrote down our children's names and explained there would be a kids' activity/learning session in a separate area part way through the service and that ours could join in if they wanted.

Tamara was excited because her friend was there and I chatted with a couple of mothers I recognized from her school.

Being first-time visitors automatically made us the minority, but I felt comfy and only slightly nervous.  Kevin appeared to feel okay, too.

After some worship songs we were invited to "Koinonia" which is the Greek word for fellowship.  During that, we drank coffee and socialized for about ten minutes, sent the children to their session.  Next we watched a video sermon.  I honestly don't remember any of that, but the pastor got up after and spoke for a few minutes of the passage about how when one or two are gathered in God's name, there He is with them.

They do Life Groups which they advertise as places of belonging and support.  We will probably get involved in one of those in September when they start them again for the school year.

I felt safe there.  People treated us like we were already members, and we'll probably visit them again some time.

This past Sunday, I took Trevor to our own little church again.  Kevin opted to stay home with Tamara.  Probably a wise decision because he's been working six days a week lately and sometimes it's helpful to simply stay home and relax.

We picked up a few groceries in the afternoon.  I enjoyed smiling and talking to strangers in the store.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

the soft place

Today I took the children to one of my favorite places for lunch, the LA Cafe.  The teachers are on rotating strikes here in British Columbia, so there was no school.

Trevor slurped most of his chocolate milk through a straw while we waited.

"Save the rest," I said, "for when your food comes."

"Okay, then I will do this!" he said, and blew bubbles in it.  I could've fussed about that, for the sake of table manners, but I thought, Meh. Every kid likes to blow bubbles with a straw and he'll grow out of it one day.

Our waitress, Grace, arrived with our meals and offered him more chocolate milk.  I asked for water instead.  She's one of those people—you can tell she's not in this just to make a buck.  Light pours from her as she sets down cups, as she refills them, and she's always happy to see us.

It's the gentleness I love.  Both Grace and Hank, with their smiling light brown faces.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Voice

In Horton Hears a Who, the elephant's trying to keep tiny people on a clover from being tossed into the beezlenut stew by the kangaroos, and the mayor of those whos finds a small shirker.  He takes him to the top of a tower.
"This," cried the Mayor, "is your town's darkest hour!  The time for all whos who have blood that is red to come to the aid of their country!" he said.  "We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts!  So, open your mouth, lad!  For every voice counts!"
The kangaroos finally hear when the shirker opens his mouth with a "YOPP!" and they come to believe the whos are real.

I do agree that every voice counts.  Every human being has the miraculous ability to communicate in some way.  Being broken and faulty, we're not always adept at honoring that.  I think it's a luxury to have this internet on which I can make my own voice heard in the hopes that something good will be made of it.

Luxury sometimes amplifies my own feelings of emptiness, though.  With the internet comes the emptiness and complexity of too much information, too many opinions, and it can be as if the world wide web is only pointing fingers at me.  Why don't you just measure up already?

But I've been learning to listen deeply to the True Voice—Christ.  He has been teaching and strengthening me to listen well.  It's not like he speaks physically into my ear.  The Voice uses heart language, and as my heart engages with the Voice it affects my mind and how I see images or situations.

I believe my heart, body, and mind are interconnected in a way I can't understand so it's kinda hard for me to explain all this to you, but I'll keep trying.         

Listening to the Voice isn't about shutting everyone else out.  Communication is a gift; people need one another and I believe the Voice speaks among and through people.  Discernment is involved in this because any time someone's not speaking in love it's important for me to recognize his or her human nature.  When people say something in conversation or post on social media and all I hear is accusation or judginess, I take a moment to listen for the Voice.

The Voice of Christ always speaks love:

I have sacrificed everything—my very life—for you and I have risen so you can participate in new and beautiful creation.
I love you, no matter what.
I don't hold your wrongdoings against you.  I remove them and remember them no more.
I give you everything that is good and beautiful.
Don't be afraid; I'm caring for you.
If you are afraid, turn your heart to me.  I'm here, in Spirit, to help you.
Everything's going to be alright... even more than just alright.
I approve of you.

Sometimes, at an intellectual level, we can know about this highest love of Christ yet still not feel peace.  Maybe all that means is there are some damaging thought patterns going on within ourselves that need to be dismantled, or a wound that needs healing, or it could be we have some insecurities that are hindering us from receiving all Christ offers.

You have a voice and it matters, so don't be afraid to let it out.  Christ can bring it into harmony with his own.  Don't ask me how that works.  I just believe it.

Love is always here.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Instrument

"Ever since Sidney made that radio announcement, the Klippensteins keep going on about how I don't play my mandolin," said DeeDee.

"Oh, the poor dears," said Vern.  "So you do play it?!"

"Of course I play it!  Sometimes twice in one day."

"But the strings—"

"So it has eight strings.  It's still a mandolin," said DeeDee.

"I thought it had six."

"We've been over this."

"Oh, right.  It used to have six, now it has eight."


"Somebody needs to tell the Klippensteins," said Vern.

"Two of them aren't real," said DeeDee.

"The Klippensteins?"

"No, the strings."

"Ohhh!" said Vern.

"Two of them," she repeated.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Mr. Eisan's Office

It was the multi-colored wall Shaylene noticed first when she entered Mr. Eisan's office.  Her mouth dropped open while she squinted at the huge display before her.  The wall was covered entirely with photographs he had pinned upon it, with no spaces in between.

Mr. Eisan put his pen on the desk and leaned back in his chair.  "Do you like pictures?"

"Mmm hmm," she said dreamily.

Mr. Eisan snapped his fingers to get her attention, then gestured toward the padded green chair in front of him.  "You're welcome to have a seat."

She hesitated.

"Is everything alright?" asked Mr. Eisan.

"This isn't a test, is it?" she asked.

"I wouldn't call it that," he said.

"Okay, because I'd like to tell you I think there's something wrong with me, except not really.  I mean I'm normally a good person.  I've always been a good person, but yesterday I hurt my pet rabbit.  With my bare hands."

Mr. Eisan waited for her to continue.

"So what I did was I got the coal-black dye from the bathroom cabinet and used it on her fur because I read an article in my work handbook.  It said for injured creatures this dye gets to the source of the problem and that's how the pain goes away."

"What happened after you used the dye, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I tried to give her a bath after a while.  A warm one.  I used the blow dryer on her.  Is your boss coming?"

"Pardon?" said Mr. Eisan.

"Is your boss coming?"


"I'm going to take her to the vet soon because she's still—"  She leaned forward and squinted at one of the photographs on that west wall.  It was of a man sitting in a chair near a bookcase.  In front of him stood a boy of about five years of age.  The man was cupping his hands around the boy's head and looking into his eyes.

"Excuse me for changing the subject," she said, "But that photo—I need it.  Please?"

"I'll do what I can to reserve it for you, but you want to know what I'm thinking?" he said.


"I'd like to meet your pet rabbit some time."

Shaylene scowled.

"Oh," said Mr. Eisan.  "My apologies.  If you need the photo, have it straight away.  I'm here to help if I can."  Smiling, he removed it from the wall and handed it to her as gently as he could.

Monday, April 28, 2014

today i weeded

I put on my gardening gloves and crouched, baring my buttock cleavage to the sky.  Critters scrambled to find new hiding places as I pulled the weeds.  Spiders, worms, a centipede, a fat caterpillar, a shiny beetle.

I liked the feel of tiny roots ripping.

A couple of larger ones were stubborn.  They were dandelions.  I didn't mind their yellow flowers but they needed to go, so I dug down with my fingers around their white tubers.  They were stuck.  When the roots are big I like to remove them whole so you can imagine I was slightly disappointed when they broke.

No matter.

The children pulled out the dead sunflower stalks with ease.

I went inside to Kevin.  "Honey," I said.  "Garden's ready for the rototiller."

Now I wait for him.


Saturday, April 26, 2014


It's Spring.  Flowers blooming, birds at the feeder, it's still light out at dinner time.  But what to wear in this weather?  If only a t-shirt, a few gusts of wind can get you shivering.  If a sweater, you can get too warm.

I suggest the multi-layered outfit.

And pay close attention to people's layers because where there are layers there are surprises both pleasant and perplexing.  Remove one layer and behold the new color underneath with a complicated pattern coming next, all of them contributing to Spring's green aura.

Speaking of that, if you take the green pickle off the top of my cupcake you might as well take the cupcake as well.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

the coffee machine

I've been attempting to descale our Tassimo coffee machine.  The red signal light went on months ago but we didn't feel like figuring out where to get descaling solution.  It kept producing coffee, despite the red light, so we procrastinated until our machine stopped functioning properly.  Half cups, then quarter cups, then a few measly drops.

I did what I could.  I bought descaling powder, followed instructions.  But because we didn't deal with the red light situation immediately, our machine is now ineffective.  You see?  Actions—or in this case, lack of action—bring consequences.

Thankfully, though, we face the likelihood of getting a whole new machine.  Kevin says there's a better variety of flavors for the Keurig brand.

I'm excited about this.

There will be some sort of process, I know.  Maybe there will be awkwardness in deciding exactly which model from what store.  Will we need to heat the water before pouring it into the reservoir?  And, of course, there will be an expense but that won't be a hardship for us.