Monday, September 23, 2013

Perfection's Name is Love

"In the end, everything must become love. Perfection's name is love."Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Collected Sermons P. 165
After I published yesterday's post, I read it again, and thought briefly, "What was I thinking?" 

That thought often occurs when I have been completely honest. The desire to "self edit" rears up, the urge to present my "self" in a better light: to seem more humble--or pleasing in another way--take your pick from the list of common virtues! :) But what I posted was pretty much what I had written in my journal, and was what I really thought about yesterday, and the funny idea of changing what I wrote has a connection with something I was pondering this past weekend. 

It had to do with the basic imperfection that lies at the heart of us all and the way we struggle against its acceptance in ourselves and others.

I started thinking about this, when at the end of my work week, someone that I think of as highly professional, signed off an email in a way that left me smiling and thinking of the title of a book by John Ortberg that we once studied at our Thursday evening supper and study group: Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them

The fact is that the email let me see behind the professional "persona," to the slightly wacky humanity of a person and it gave food for my introvert brain for a satisfying number of hours!

I found myself thinking, truly no one is perfect; a fact that we have surprising difficulty with if you will stick with me as I try to explain.

What if we considered this fact a "given?" What if we went into our day, knowing in the core of our souls that we were about to engage with a world of people as flawed as we are, and with as much private weirdness as we have ourselves, and to expect it, not be surprised by it.

Handing people we meet invisible cards that grant them such acceptance is a gift rarely given, except to our closest friends.

Instead I tend to look "up" to others and "down" on myself. In doing so I do others a disservice because their pedestal comes with certain expectations. Expectations, along with their kinfolk, Assumptions, are usually a mistake and I don't like others having them about me.

I'm ending with a quote from a writer who has experienced a lot of flack for writing with vulnerability but whose book about the shame and blame game has impacted many. She came to mind when I was writing this. As for me, I am going to do my best to accept myself as kindly as I offer acceptance to others, and to remember, that as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote, "Perfection's name is Love."

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ― BrenĂ© BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Sunday, September 22, 2013

This Writer's Prayer

During the past couple of days I found time, energy and inspiration--the key ingredients to write anything of worth.

After my Sweet September post, Brave Raven left a lovely comment, quoting some of the lines I had written, and saying that she checks daily for just such a gift. Today in church I thanked her with a hug for the encouragement of her words. She, and a small but loyal band of readers make me want to write my heart out.

I have a target reader, I realize; that unseen and mainly unknown friend for whom I tap out the words on the is someone who may or may not have faith in God personally, but they are open and "listening." They read here because what I write is down to earth, honest, and sometimes the adventure of my life is funny. I have a list in my head of those I know are reading and I never take them for granted; I treasure and appreciate them.

This afternoon I wrote a writing prayer in my journal, and here it is, just so you know what I'm asking God for. If he answers, you will know it. :)

Lord, help me to write words of worth in a way that sparkles with beauty, insight and fun, and through which you breathe, and speak, even when you are not explicitly mentioned.

My big ask of you is that when you give me a glimpse of something I hadn't thought of, you will help me to share it simply. You know that I am prone to quoting text and verse, and can make things complicated and bookish, when the real skill is to do the opposite--to captivate the reader as you have captivated me. 

That's it. 

And if you answer my prayer, my heart will sing!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sweet September

Honestly-summer this year was exhausting!

July and August were busy at work, with significant change to adjust to, and then on the home front there were all of the emotions that went with the move of our beloved family downstairs into their new home, in August.

So much was going on that there was no energy for some things that I love, especially writing, and I felt that was okay for the time being. But I noticed the world around me; the fields that surrounded our house in August full of an army of soldiers standing row upon row with golden spears in hand. They stood erect and tall awaiting the battle cry, and I admired their fortitude; until one September day I looked out and saw an army of warriors gone to seed; standing now in remembrance of summer past.  

I welcomed September with its sense of returning order and normalcy, even though a "new normal." Tonight rain drummed on our rooftop and skylights and I reflected on a day that felt like a turning point.

Today in the new office in the city where I now work part of the week, I felt completely at home. I relaxed into my office and felt I belonged. My laptop got connected to the printer in the hallway, and I had my first phone calls directly to that office phone. It didn't matter that it was only our IT department calling to set up the printer on the laptop--someone found me there! People dropped in to visit, and in between, I enjoyed the hum of activity surrounding me. I have a new place, and "a place" is what I have. I didn't even mind the long drive  home. I had an engrossing crime novel to listen to on the journey and I considered the drive the start of my weekend.

So friends, all this to let you know that it is well in Belindaland, and I hope with you.

Friday, September 13, 2013


On Tuesday when I came home from work, Paul said,"Belinda, did you drop off the movies at the video store? The video store says that we haven't brought back The Iceman."

I'd started the week on Monday with Paul calling out as I left the house for work, "Could you take  a movie back to the video store on the way?"

"Sure," I said, I had a few spare minutes. And I also grabbed the items waiting on the bottom shelf of the hall table, to be returned to the library. 

I'd dropped everything off at their respective destinations. I remembered checking inside the DVD cases to check that the Rizoli and Isles episodes we'd enjoyed over the weekend, were there, before dropping them into the chute in the outside wall of the library. This wasn't my fault, I was pretty sure, I knew I'd dropped everything off. "Maybe they lost it, " I said to Paul. 

Paul hunted high and low in the den, just in case it was still there, but couldn't find it. I knew he had a suspicion that I had something to do with the missing DVD but I was equally sure that it was nothing to do with me. The video store would find it, eventually, I was sure.

They did, sort of. It was Wednesday when Paul said, "The video store called again to tell us that the library has The Iceman." He said that the only way it would get from the library to the video store was if I went in and got it. I was stunned that The Iceman was at the library. I have no idea how that happened.

It was rather embarrassing at the library on Thursday, explaining why I was there to pick up The Iceman. The librarian looked up from the books she was working on, and peered over her glasses at me, with friendly eyes and a smile. "Don't worry, she said, as she slid open the door, "It happens all the time." And she waved her hand like the library's own Vanna White, at a shelf full of DVDs that didn't belong to the library. 

She said, "These are from schools, video stores--all over! What did you say the one you're looking for was called?" And she soon handed me The Iceman.

My next stop was Videoquest where I handed over the DVD at last. The girl behind the counter asked if I wanted to settle the account now. I said yes, and asked how much I owed, "Five dollars," she said, "Did you like the movie?"

"I didn't watch the movie," I said, "My husband did."

"Then he owes you five dollars," she said.

"Oh no," I felt compelled to say, and explained about the library and the shelf of DVDs left behind by other people, just to make myself feel better.

I said, "It's not going to get better either, there are a lot of Baby Boomers getting older you know."

And the owner, who was labeling DVDs, looked up from her work and nodded knowingly with a smile. 

I just realized why she was smiling. The demographics are in her favour. She may be about to become very, very rich. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Written in Haste! Read with Humour

I have a running list of things that hang like pegs on a washing line in my brain: Things to be done.

Last week one of these was looming. Our pastor had been busy organizing a "ministry expo," to be held after church on Sunday. All the ministries in the church would have a booth set up to communicate their vision and purpose to church members and have sign up sheets, hopefully to recruit newly interested people who previously had no idea that such a wonderful opportunity existed.

I needed to complete a description of the cell group that meets in our home each Thursday, and use picture frames to display the details. I'd been wracking my brains thinking how to describe "us," then I had the idea of asking the people who come, how they would describe our group.

They brainstormed a number of adjectives and I wished that I had written them all down, they were so good. The basic picture that emerged was of a group that was welcoming, about "family," and where you didn't have to be a biblical scholar to feel at home. And there was no question too dumb to be asked.

It was Saturday evening, after a busy day of going to the hairdresser; then for an afternoon out with friends; and then on to a spontaneous visit to Brenda with Susan, that I tried to remember all the things they had said. Susan helped a lot as she had been there, and I took notes this time! She even took me to WalMart on the way home, to pick up my picture frames.

I was tired before I went to bed on Saturday evening, as I made my display on the computer. It was simple, but I had it done. The next morning I set up the picture frames and the sign up sheets on the spot on a table, helpfully marked by our pastor: "Belinda."

It was only as I was wandering around the other displays that I noticed people pointing at mine and smiling. I wondered what was so funny. That was when Paul said that I really should have proof read and edited my display, which read:

Thursday Evenings 
Dinner 6.30-8.00 p.m.Bible/Book Study  8.00-9.00 p.m.
Important things to know about the Bond Head Cell Group 

Relational Family Belonging 

Food—we break bread together each week sharing a meal! 

Multi-generational group 

Currently 9 of us 
Come as you are and where you are at! 

No dumb questions

What I had meant as a welcoming invitation, "No dumb questions;" was being read as an instruction and having quite the opposite effect!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

School Days

At 20 minutes to 7, a cheery voice called from the hallway below, "Hello!" 

I looked down over the banister, and shouted a welcome in the direction of the woman with short auburn hair and vibrant blue eyes; my friend Carolyn.

"You're probably thinking I'm early, but I'm not staying," she said, her voice husky with congestion, and coughs punctuating her words.

"I'm sick and I don't want to spread it to everyone else, but I just had to drop off your copy of my book!"

The book, Pine Warbler, is Carolyn's third, and one of the endorsements of her writing, at the beginning of the book, is mine. Exciting!

I followed Carolyn out to her car to pick up another copy of the book from her trunk. A September heatwave has enveloped Ontario and late in the day, the air outside was still hot. Against her protests about not wanting to spread whatever she was fighting off, I hugged her goodbye, and went back inside as she drove off, just as other writing friends arrived.

In the end there were just six of us, as several couldn't make it tonight. As I had anticipated, the topic "School Days," elicited creative responses.

Debbie said that she hadn't written about the evening's topic, but shared a speech she's giving this weekend on the disease she survived 5 years ago; ovarian cancer. When she finished the speech, which chronicled a journey none of us would wish to take, sharing all the things she had learned along the way; we insisted that she had indeed written about the topic, even if she didn't think she had!

Susan Starrett wrote about her favourite school day memory--recess! She wrote in slam poetry, a word picture that had us laughing and remembering, it was so vividly evocative, describing the games we all played and the wildly spinning pieces of playground equipment, long removed from the safety conscious playgrounds of today.

I shared the blog post I wrote yesterday, including my friend Dave's comment at the end, about life classes he's had to retake, which made everyone laugh.

Magda wrote her memories of school in one room country schools in Canada after leaving her homeland of Holland, just before the end of her first school year; of an ill-equipped teacher who forced Magda, a left handed child, to write with her right hand until her parents intervened, and who flew into a rage at the children one day when she was unable to maintain classroom discipline with the older boys and took it out on two little six year old girls because they were talking to one another. She told them they would be strapped, even though she had told Madga to help the other girl, who was having difficulties, and that was why she was talking to her. She refused to listen though and told them that they could choose between being strapped immediately, or at 12 o'clock. The other girl chose to be strapped right away, while Magda chose the later time, having a getaway plan in mind. She remembers running home to the calls of the older girls shouting that the strap didn't really hurt that badly. 

It turned out as we talked, that three of the other writers in the room had been strapped in school. It is hard to imagine that anyone thought this was okay at one time, not so long ago. Parents would say, "You must have done something to deserve it," if a child complained, and often add their own punishment to reinforce solidarity with the teacher.

Gail read two poems recalling the magical hiding places found by children when they want to escape.

We laughed and cried a little at the stories that tumbled out one after the other. School days had traumatized some, and shaped all of us. Magda said that just writing about it was healing.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye again. I walked out with my friends, into the dark driveway. A hot breeze still blew, feeling like air from a heating vent in winter. School days may be back, but there remains a bit of summer to enjoy, even now!

Monday, September 09, 2013

All I Really Need to Know...

Tomorrow evening a flock of writing friends will descend on our house and share their individual perspectives on our assignment for September--"School Days." I'm looking forward to it. Some will be funny. Some will be deep. All will be good! I've thought hard, but haven't come up with anything exciting about my own school days. 

I've written about the teachers etched in my memory before. They are forever frozen in time for me, just as they looked in the 1950's and 60's. But I think I'll leave them resting in peace and undisturbed for now. :)

I love the little book by Robert Fulgham, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, but I'm still learning, all the time, and my best lessons don't involve holding hands or even milk and cookies. 

I guess it's all in how you view "education." I continue to learn from books, from other people and from my mistakes (I hate making them, beat myself up when I do, but take consolation in learning to be a little bit better with every mistake I make.) 

Sometimes I wonder, as I apologize, yet again, "Is it just me?" Oh, I hope not, but I have a sneaking suspicion...

From Mum I learned to celebrate and appreciate. I learned to see the best in people; to be bravely vulnerable; the value of humour; and to understand what is truly important in life.

From Dad I learned to argue from either side of a debate. I had so much practice over dinner at home that I can usually see the other side, and that can be a valuable asset. He also taught me to think, and love art, music and reading.

From my brother Rob I've learned the value of simplicity and contentment.

I believe that God has his very own education plan for each of us. His lessons are innovative. We would never sign up ahead of time if we saw them in a glossy brochure and yet they are priceless.

So "School Days?" They never end!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

White Space

It was just over a week ago that I looked at the massive amount of emails piled up in my in-box at work and decided that I had to do something about them.  Over the next several days I spent time sorting; responding; filing and deleting--until finally--pristine, dazzling white space stared back at me from my computer screen.

Ever since that splendid moment of triumph, I have waged a daily battle to hang on to it.

Partly because it has been such a busy summer at work, I found that I had no energy to write. I was even beginning to wonder if my well of inspiration had dried up--was my season to write, over?

It felt to me; not only about writing, but about a few other things too; as though God had pressed the "pause" button. 

Just like my father, who in gentlemanly fashion always walked on the side closest to the traffic when we were out together, and when were about to cross the street, put his arm across my chest like the barrier at a railroad crossing, holding me back until it was safe; it's felt like God has been holding me back, and by doing so, giving me the gift of space.

Today I realized what a gift that space has been. And not only the space, but the inner freedom to accept the gift.

There is peace in waiting for God to say, "Go."

Fall is a time for new notebooks, full of pages just waiting to be written on. 

A time of new beginnings.