Category Archives: spiritual

The Vomit Diaries

I have two stories to tell. The first one is true. Not internet forward true, but really, truly true. I know because I was there.

The second is one our pastor told in church today. He read it from someone who heard it from someone else, so the thread of truth is slightly murky. But it’s a good story nonetheless.

Story One

Nine years ago, I found myself on a flight from Toronto to Calgary with my two small daughters. Armed with fishy crackers, colouring books and 14 pacifiers, I was sure I could handle a two-year-old and a five-month-old on my own.

By hour three, we were running perilously low on smarties and I had detected an unholy smell in our section. With a sigh and a prayer for strength, I buckled the baby into her carrier, grabbed the diaper bag and wrestled my overtired, and extremely ripe, toddler out of her seatbelt. As I stood, I lifted her up under her arms and propped her on my hip, then shuffled my way into the aisle.

The next part of this memory plays in slow motion. She leans forward slightly, just over the seat in front of us, opens her mouth, and vomits all over the poor man’s head. I spin her around as quick as I can, spewing vomit on myself, the baby and the seat behind us.

My eldest child is a prolific puker. It’s kind of amazing.

I’m sure it was an unpleasant awakening for the man in the front seat. And he was not impressed. He began yelling and cursing and screaming for the flight attendants. They rushed over to clean him up and tried to calm him down, while I apologized profusely.

He did not accept.

Standing there dripping vomit and smelling so bad, we all three started to cry.

Worst flight EVER.

Story Two

My second story is somewhat similar. A mother and infant boarded a plane wearing sparkling white dresses. The baby looked up eagerly with each person who walked by: “Dada?” As she began to fuss, Mom pulled out a bottle of orange juice. This apparently was the best way to pacifiy Baby Girl, especially when the plane hit some turbulance.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. As the flight grew increasingly choppy, the next part seems inevitable – sticky, orange vomit from head to toe.

I’m sure she wiped it up as best she could, but that didn’t help much. By the time the plane landed, Mom was frazzled and overwhelmed. As they disembarked, the baby looked across the tarmac and shouted “Dada!”

There stood a young man, also dressed in pristine white dress shirt and pants, waiting for his family. I imagine the handoff was a quick one, as Mom dashed off to clean herself up. Most of us would hold that smelly, sticky child at arm’s length; perhaps find some way to cover up the worst of it. But not this Dad.

He eagerly scooped that vomit covered child right into his arms and held her close. With a smile on his face, he kissed her head and snuggled her all the way through the airport.

I’m struck by the contrast in these two stories:

the censure of the disapproving man

VS.

the embrace of a loving parent

It reminds me of the two gods I have believed in.

The first is a distant stranger, angry and disgusted by my mess. This god requires polite, well-behaved followers. I must carefully control each word and action so as not to offend. Mistakes will not be tolerated. I am small, insignificant and afraid. I would never approach a god like this; instead I would hide, sit behind and desperately scrub everything clean. But it’s never good enough.

This is the god most good church people expect. And he makes sense to me.

The other guy, the one who barely notices the filth, seems weak and permissive. Isn’t God supposed to be pure and perfect? Aren’t we?

I am reminded of a third story.

I’m pretty sure vomit played a part in this one as well, so it fits. There were years of hard core partying, homelessness, depression and scrounging rotten food from the slop. It got messy.

The father in this story Jesus told had been rejected and publically humiliated. He had every right to be angry. But when the prodigal son slunk back home, his Dad ran to meet him, sweeping him up in his arms and holding him close.

The God of the story is a delighted Father who longs to hold me close, no matter what state I am in. This Daddy-God is not horrified by the ugly parts of me. Nor is he surprised when I screw up. He wants me at my best, even those clumsy attempts and lopsided efforts that don’t quite work. AND He wants me at my worst, with my slimy, sick failures and vomit encrusted regrets.

This is the God of the Bible.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.

Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.

Now we call him, “Abba (Daddy), Father.”

Romans 8:15

So here’s me, messy and screwed up… and loved, always.

How do I react to the mess of others? When life gets ugly, which story do I resemble?


The Great Boot Debate of 2012

Call it karma. Call it genetic predisposition. Call it reaping what you sow. I call it parenting the child I deserve.

She is me. In so many ways, good and bad. A smaller, spunkier version of myself. And usually that seems like a good thing.

When I was 12, I put my foot down… right into a snow bank. What self-respecting 7th grader would wear ugly, clunky snow boots when they could be rocking a pair of thin white sneakers with flourescent green laces? So what if I had to walk 3 blocks to the bus, knee deep in the snow? What is a little suffering in the name of fashion?

Moms just don’t understand. After as much arguing and weeping as I dared, she decided to let me try it my way.

It took almost a week for my toes to thaw out.

I grudgingly wore my boots the next day. Lesson learned. Sigh.

Me 2.0 has had several upgrades. She is funnier, more creative and, oh happy day, even more stubborn. Excellent.

This morning was a blow out. Her black boots with the silver stars no longer fit. It takes her 20 minutes to squeeze her feet in and she can’t do the zipper up at all. I have 2 pairs that are a bigger size, but apparently the Hannah Montana pair her sister loved are “so embarassing” and the other pair “don’t work at all”.

With over a foot of snow in the school yard, we are out of options. We only have about 1-2 weeks of snow each year, so there is no way I am buying another pair. The school is not as forward thinking as my mother with her let-them-suffer-that’ll-teach-em philosophy. So she has to wear them.

By the time we were walking out the door (15 minutes late, mind you), I was in full froth. Almost an hour of relentless bargaining, whining and outright wailing had taken its toll. In my loudest Angry Mom Voice, much louder than I intended, I yelled “THEY. DO. NOT. FIT. YOU!”

YOU… You…you….echoes through the neighbourhood.

As my howling 4th grader throws herself into the van, I look up to see two sets of neighbours loading their own kids into their vans. Trying to pretend like they weren’t looking. Fantastic.

No one can push my buttons like this kid. I’m pretty sure she was put on earth lest I become conceited about my life and my superior parenting. And she is doing a fine, fine job.

After school, we talked about it. I apologized again (this time with my teeth unclenched) and I told her a story about the olden days when florescent colours were cool and I longed for sneakers in winter. I’m sure we’ll be recapping this discussion again tomorrow morning, but I think I’m ready for it.

The boots might not fit, but she does. Here, with me, always. I thank God for her, especially those rough edges that remind me so much of myself. My children are the best curriculum He’s ever given me. As I teach her, I am learning too: to be teachable, to choose substance over appearance, and that life may be full of necessary unpleasantness, but a good attitude can make all the difference.

I see the best of myself in her also, and am amazed.

I wonder, when God looks at me, does he see himself?

Creative.

Compassionate.

Kind.

Patient (okay, probably not that one).

One day when my little girl is all grown up, she will spit on her thumb to wipe the schmutz off her child’s face and come to the shocking realization: “I’ve become my mother!”

Oh sweetie, you’ve been there all along!

So here’s me, counting down the days until I can start giving my grandchildren ugly, clunky boots. Then I will sit back and watch the fireworks. And I will laugh and laugh.


Unspoken Things: Is This Grief Normal?

I’m like a badly dubbed foreign film. The words sound right, but the voice is all wrong. My lips keep moving long after the words are said. It feels laughably false, but they keep on watching anyway.

If I go through the motions, I may actually start believing what I say. It’s not lies or misdirection, simply an unspoken truth that lingers in the air.

I am desperately sad that I cannot have another baby.

There, I’ve said it. And very few will understand. It seems I am speaking a foreign language after all.

“ANOTHER? You want ANOTHER child? Seriously?” the woman shrieks at me, wide-eyed and astonished. I wish I had just left it alone. This is why I stick with the abridged version, the words they expect, familiar phrases that mean less than nothing at this point. No one wants to hear about this crazy hope I have been clutching for years.

Even my dearest friends, who love me and listen patiently, do not understand.

I love the life I’ve been given. I adore my three beautiful daughters. I have been absurdly blessed. And I feel greedy wanting more of it, but I can’t seem to reason my disappointment away. I have tried and tried.

I still remember the parade of doctors that came to my room: GP, OB, Nephrologist and even a few nurses. They began to cautiously broach the subject in the days after B was born. I had made no secret of my desire to have a big family, at least four (and a whisper in my head adds “or five, or six”). Add that to my “religious” demeanor and I can see why they were worried that I wouldn’t listen.

No more babies for me.

My kidney would not survive, and neither would I.

I didn’t give it much thought at the time. A twinge of sadness that I would not feel the wonders of pregnancy again; a sigh of relief that I would not feel the wonders of pregnancy again. Of course we would adopt. It had been discussed since we were starry-eyed teenagers planning our perfect life.

I’ve been holding tightly to the dream ever since. My husband, not so much. As we enter our third year in the process, almost a full year with our name on the list of approved homes, it has finally occurred to me that this may not happen.

No more babies for me.

After all the classes, workshops, paperwork, praying, homestudy, endless discussions, hopes raised only to be dashed again, waiting, waiting, waiting… we are near the end. We aren’t on the same page anymore.

He’s been good to do this for me, though now I wished we hadn’t even started. It was something he felt we should do, but had no actual desire for. But adoption is a team sport. And when push comes to shove… well, I just can’t keep pushing.

I know this isn’t a real tragedy. I’ve lived through that before, the complete and utter devastation of it.

But in some ways this is even lonelier. I feel guilty for being this sad about a normal thing. So I minimize the longing and paint a happy face on it. I’d rather keep it to myself. It’s so much worse when I share and they stare at me blankly. Or, worst of all, act like I’m crazy for feeling this way. Because deep down, I wonder if they’re right.

It’s time I face it, so I can move on. I want to dream new dreams, but first I have to grieve the old one.

We all must learn to lament,

otherwise “year by year,

as we deny and avoid the pains and losses,

the rejections and frustrations,

we’ll become less and less,

trivial and trivializing,

empty shells with smiley faces painted on them.”

Eugene Peterson (Leap Over a Wall)

So here’s me, and this is my lament. Because God hears my secret disappointments… especially when no one else understands.

What about you? Do you have a grief that people don’t understand? How do you mourn for hidden hurts?


The Sacrament of Small Talk

‘Tis the season for close-quarters shopping, holiday recitals and office Christmas parties. Extroverts soak it all up – the energy, the excitement and the near constant socializing. For the rest of us, who shall hereafter be referred to as “normal,” the constant pressure to make nice with strangers is exhausting and overwhelming.

I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate analogy to describe my feelings as I anticipate my husband’s staff dinner. Sticking hot pokers in my eye? Getting a pap smear? Painful dental procedure? All three at the same time…

I hate small talk.

I’d like to think that this makes me a person of great depth, integrity and complexity. As if I am simply too busy/intellectual/chock full o’ spiritual insight to discuss unimportant topics with any old Joe Schmo who crosses my path. Of course, I have ample time to peruse pintrest, watch Walking Dead webisodes and google my own name.

The truth is, I am shy in new situations. Most people don’t realize it, but I’m actually chock full o’ insecurities. I care too much what people think of me. I over think everything I say. Then I over analyze what I’ve already said and the tone with which I said it, and my body language, and how it may have come across.

And this is why a simple discussion about the weather, local sports and your pet cat freaks me the heck out! I put on a good show. I am outgoing and friendly when I need to be, but my heart is beating like a hummingbird and my whole body is tensed to flee. Before a party I sit in the car and suck back the nausea.

Does it really matter if I can maintain a steady stream of shallow banter? Although I like people (and talking!) I’m an introvert, so small talk with new people will never be comfortable or easy. So why turn myself inside out to make it happen?

Someone reminded me the other day that every person I meet is made in the image of God, and when I get to know them, I am getting to know God better. Everyone has something to contribute. Those few moments in passing may be my only chance to connect with this completely unique and precious person.

So maybe it won’t change my world to hear about her bunions and his disgust with union politics, but it’s not always about me. I need to stop focusing on my own angsty feelings and make sure they feel comfortable. After all, who doesn’t want to feel heard and valued? Even just for the duration of the elevator ride, or the really awkward office party my husband is dragging me to.

So here’s me, off to check the weather report to make sure I have some good material.

How do you feel about small talk? Are you the silent, mysterious type or the life of the party?


I May Be Biased But…

In the mid 90’s, researchers conducted a study on the connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children… at least that’s what they told the parents they were studying. All the children were given a drink, then parents were asked to rate their behavior. Half the parents were told that their children had been given a high dose of sugar. These parents rated their children as much more hyper than the parents in the control group. Of course, both groups of children had been given the same sugar-free drink.

Expectation alters perception. Those parents were convinced that their children were all hopped up on sugar, so that is what they saw. We almost always see what we expect to see. Everywhere we look, we find evidence to support our existing beliefs.

Tony Campolo once said that ultimately people believe what they want to believe. It’s something I can readily accept about other people, but somehow I prefer to think of myself in another category. Others may be prone to delusion, but I only believe what is true and right and sure.

So, in the spirit of this post and the Christmas season, I decided to debunk some of my own false beliefs. I googled “Christmas myths” and sure enough, I found a few surprises.

Pointsettas are dangerously poisonous, especially to young children. This has been proven false. At worst, they are mildly toxic, causing irritation of the mouth and some vomiting, but 9/10 people experience no negative effects. So chow down, there’s nothing to fear! After years of obsessively moving these flowers up high (even at other people’s houses) I can finally relax.

The suicide rate increases significantly during the Christmas season. Also not true… in fact, it is spring and summer that are most dangerous. That said, I realize that the holidays are a difficult time for many. All those family gatherings can be a huge stress, both for those who are alone and for those who wish they were. Which brings me to the Christmas homicide rate… I wonder?

The abbreviation X-mas is a plot by evil secularists to take “Christ” out of Christmas and a sign of “the times” <-this must be said in a deep, foreboding tone of voice. Now this isn’t a conspiracy I have ever subscribed to, but some in my family do. The truth is, the Greek word for Christ (you know, like in the New Testament, which wasn’t actually written in english btw) starts with an X and has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for centuries.

These are fairly silly beliefs, nothing life-changing, but what about the big things? How can we know anything when our own preconceptions colour how we interpret everything? Lately I’ve realized that I’m living in a world that is a lot less black and white than I once thought it was. Some of these biases I have are not holding up to scrutiny. Faith is a little harder, a little riskier, but I’m convinced it is still worth it. It isn’t supposed to be easy anyway.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

I think I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase the best: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” So maybe I’m wrong about some things… okay, definitely – no one tell my kids (or my husband). And maybe I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trusting in a God who does. That’s what I believe… perhaps because that’s what I want to believe.

So here’s me, eating a big helping of humble pie (with a pointsetta garnish).

Whether it is silly or life altering, have you confronted a personal bias lately? Have you ever?


My Sunday School Lesson

It was my birthday this weekend and I had BIG plans to do very little. It’s a wonderful family tradition in our house: a day of complete, guilt-free laziness. Of course, since it happened to fall on a Sunday, this wasn’t entirely possible.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit choked when I realized that I would be teaching Sunday School that day. Mind you, in a contemporary church like ours we call it something much more hip and fun-sounding than “Sunday School”. But regardless of the name, I wasn’t looking forward to the workload on this, my special day of sloth.

It’s not a lot – arranging the supplies, reading through the lesson a couple of times, then wrangling some adorable little first graders into some semblance of order until parents arrive for pick-up. I’ve done it a thousand times. In fact, I started teaching Sunday School when I was only 16. After a little quick math, what with it being my 36th birthday, I realized that this means 20 years of nose-picking, pee-pee dances, barely audible answers and completely unrelated stories about parents/siblings/pets/somebody-they-once-met-somewhere-they-can’t-remember.

And though I may have dragged my feet upstairs, by the time I was sitting around that table in an absurdly small chair with ten sweet little faces and three eager helpers, I was kind of glad to be there. We talked about gratitude, that we always have something to be grateful for.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thesselonians 5:18)

Closing our eyes, we imagined happy circumstances (a surprise trip to Disneyland), sad circumstances (too sick to go to the birthday party) and frustrating circumstances (losing the ice cream off of your cone), then came up with a list of all the things we could be grateful for in each situation. Being alive, parents who love us, siblings to play with, not getting friends sick, more birthday parties still to come, a funny story to tell… they hardly needed any prompting. I’m sure our Pastor preached a fine sermon that day, but I doubt it could have done me as much good as that table full of 6-year-olds.

I’m 36 now (or “almost 40” according to my husband) and I keep coming back to this same lesson. I don’t need to be thankful for bad things or, as I once thought, pretend that they are actually good in some twisted form of Christianized stoicism. But wherever my life ends up, good or bad, I need to make it a place of gratitude.

Immediately after I finished writing this post, before I had a chance to post it, I had a chance to put this into practice. Not the easy kind of gratitude I found on my birthday while I sat with my feet up on the couch, watching my husband clean the house and spending quality time with my new i-phone. Not the kind that spontanteously wells up in me as I eat the chocolate cake my daughter made for me and open even more presents (fair trade chocolate bars – yes!). This kind of gratitude is hard.

It is the kind of gratitude that hears disappointing news about a friend’s health, but chooses to see the time we have with him as a gift and the skills of the doctors as a blessing. Even while I wonder why life is so cruel and so unfair. I hate cancer.

It’s hard for me to see the silver lining when once again we are “not what they are looking for in an adoptive family”. What’s wrong with us? It’s been more than two years and I can’t spend the rest of my life in waiting mode. Yet, I am thankful for the things we’ve learned along the way, the deep conversations and the wrestling with who we are as people, as parents, and as a family. I am thankful that we can enjoy our family holiday without wondering if we will get a call. I am thankful to have more time to organize and paint the future baby’s room. I am thankful that we are free to find the right child for us.

So here’s me, thankful for another year and the circle of first graders who taught me an important lesson this week.


The “F” Word

It’s a bad word. I get after my kids for using it. So I should definitely know better, but I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. I don’t often say it out loud, at least, not so anyone can hear. Nevertheless, it is frequently used vocabulary in my internal dialogue.

Failure.

It’s my personal kryptonite. I recently organized a large event for the church where I work. I worked with some amazing people and the evening was a huge success. But even weeks later I can give you a long list of my failures. Small things that no one even noticed. Problems that may very well exist only in my mind.

Last night I organized another event and it also went remarkably well. Yet the same mantra is playing in my head… a list of all the little things that went wrong and that F word over and over again.

It could be that birth order phenomenon – I am the oldest and hold myself to impossible standards, wanting to control things that I can’t possibly predict. It’s a twisted form of pride (all insecurity is). I don’t expect as much from others as I do myself.

Perhaps it is temperament. I am conscientious and responsible. I am detail-oriented and task-focused. According to Myers-Briggs, I am INFJ, which is psycho-babble for “perfectionist control-freak”.

Maybe it’s my religious up-bringing. Plymouth Brethren (think semi-Amish city folk) can give the Catholics and the Jews a run for their money in the guilt department. My parents were definitely moving towards a faith of grace and forgiveness when I was a child, but I seem to have picked up the self-flagellating attitude somewhere along the way. Jonathan Edwards wrote a very famous (and in my opinion quite horrible) sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. For me a scarier title would have been “Sinners in the Hands of a Disapproving God”.

When I made my very first foray into therapy, I was sure I knew which problems I needed to discuss. A gifted and insightful counselor knew different. About halfway through our second session, he looked me in the eye and said, “God is not disappointed in you.” I burst into tears and proceeded to blubber for the rest of the hour. After crying all the way home, it occurred to me that this may in fact be the real issue.

The God I picture in my head isn’t nearly as good as the real thing.

There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

No condemnation. No disappointed sighs. No disgusted eye rolls.

When I keep reading that same chapter of the bible it is clear that in God’s eyes I am not a failure. He made sure of it. It says:

I am free.

I am a beloved daughter.

I am forgiven.

I have purpose.

I am loved no matter what.

I am more than a conqueror!

And suddenly it doesn’t really matter that I miscounted the RSVP list and couldn’t figure out the coffee maker. Beating myself up over silly details does seem profane when I remember who I truly am and the God who made me. I make mistakes. I screw up. I may even fail from time to time. But I am not a failure. So bring on the cheesy affirmations; the “F” word has got to go.

So here’s me, and doggonnit, people like me!


Religion for Dummies

I love the “for Dummies” series. With over 1,600 titles and 200 million books in print, you can find everything from Acupressure for Dummies to Yorkshire Terriers for Dummies. Their tag line is “Making Everything Easier” and it’s definitely a concept I can get behind.

I have begun to question many of the religious traditions I grew up with, but I have no desire to spend my life as a professional skeptic. Cynicism may provide some witty punch lines, but it is those things we embrace and deeply believe that actually matter. Since I have both devout Christians and wouldn’t-be-caught-dead-in-a-church folks reading this blog, I wasn’t sure how to approach this topic. But I’m starting to think it’s easier than we’ve made it.

I’d be hard pressed to find a more powerfully divisive subject than religion. It has gotten a bad rap over the years, even (and at times especially) among those of us who are religious. We wade through layers of doctrine, theology, dogma, hermeneutics, exegesis… and most of us regular schmucks are left feeling like, well, dummies a lot of the time. So instead, some of us leave the thinking to others and focus on familiar tradition as a way to measure our religious worth.

Although it has been used and abused since time began, religion itself is not something to fear. It is simply the outward expression of an inner belief. In practice this ranges from the beautiful to the utterly bizarre. Even those of us who share similar beliefs may have drastically different expressions of our faith. For instance, I have never felt a particular need to handle poisonous snakes in our worship service, nor has the Spirit moved me to whip myself into a bloody frenzy, but I am a big fan of group singing, even the 7-11 choruses my husband hates (7 words, sung 11 times to a catchy beat).

But the one thing that all religion has in common is this: compassion. Good works are a crucial component of all the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and pretty much every one I can think of (except for hedonism, which is more of an excuse to be a selfish jerk than a true belief system). We may not agree on much, but on this we are on the same page. There is no better way to honour God than to show compassion.

According to the Jewish prophet Micah, it is all that God requires of any of us. (Micah 6:8)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Religion at its best is not about whether we sprinkle, dunk or dip in baptism, but whether we show selfless love for those in our path. Lately my “religious heroes” are not great thinkers, but the great DOers. Ordinary people who have bills to pay and chores to do just like me. People who never seem to have enough money or time, but choose to give it away anyway.

Ordinary people like my friend who chose to adopt not one, but four children from foster care. Although she already had three biological children, their family had room for more: more chaos, more noise, more learning issues, more Dr. appointments, more complications… more love. She doesn’t feel like a martyr, although I know she is often overwhelmed. She is just living what she believes.

Ordinary people like my cousin who chooses ethics over convenience in her shopping habits. Avoiding big box stores is not a decision I’m ready to make, but I respect her commitment to doing what she feels is right. Not just for workers here and overseas, but to counter a culture of mindless consumption that is deeply corrupt. She buys organic, grows her own food, and even makes her own toothpaste (for real). Five small children would be plenty of excuse for me to do what is quick and easy, but not her.

Ordinary people like our good friends who took the time to get to know new neighbours from Zimbabwe. They were moved by the stories and fell in love with the people of that country, before they had even seen it themselves. What started as a few piles of donated clothing in their garage has become Hear Africa, an organization committed to partnering with Zimbabweans to overcome poverty and rebuild a thriving economy.

It doesn’t matter if it is orphan care, ethical consumerism or foreign aid, THIS is the religion that best expresses my faith. I’m still finding my way. I’m not sure what this ordinary girl can do, but I’m on the lookout.

So here’s me, making religion easier: love God, love others.

After writing this post I found they actually do have a “Religion for Dummies” book (of course they do). I haven’t read it (yet), and this is my disclaimer that I have nothing to do with the official “for Dummies” brand.


Commas

I love to write and I always have, ever since I started writing short stories about Rascal the Raccoon in the back of my grade 3 exercise book when I was supposed to be learning my times tables. I may not be the most brilliant author of all time (every single Rascal Raccoon story started and ended exactly the same, after all), but I’m fairly confident in my skills, except for one thing: I’ve never been very good with commas. It seems like such a small thing, but it can make all the difference between a well-crafted sentence and a wordy, unreadable mess.

I didn’t always appreciate this fact. When I recruited a friend to proofread my English 11 essay on Macbeth, I was frustrated by his insistence on punctuational accuracy. I mean, who cares about commas, periods and semi-colons when I have important things to say? But he knew these little breaks make a huge difference. He was a good editor.

So, I decided to keep him… and now, when my husband edits my blog posts, he teases me about my poor punctuation. Even with the casual format of blogging, I need to do better. In my last post he had to add only one comma; that’s my all-time record!

“Say it out loud; wherever you take a natural pause, that is where you put a comma” he says.

I’ve never been good with commas, in writing or in life. There are times when I need a deliberate pause. Time to take a breath before moving on to the next thing.

I tend to operate at two speeds: go and stop. When I am really busy, I often forget to eat or even to take reasonable bathroom breaks. There’s nothing dignified about a 35 year old woman doing the pee-pee dance, because she just had to get one more thing done. And on the rare occasions when I’m not busy, inertia begins to set in and it’s hard to get my butt off the couch at all. Yet life, like good writing, flows best with an unhurried rhythm and the occasional pause.

Today I needed a pause. I needed to get out of the house and find some solitude. I felt guilty about it. I worried about all the things I should be doing (knowing full well I wasn’t going to do them even if I did stay home). I asked my husband repeatedly if he minded, until he was irritated at me for thinking the world would fall apart if I left for a few minutes. “It must be hard being a single mom” (his new favourite line from Modern Family). When I finally took a walk in the woods, it was EXACTLY what I needed. Why do I fight it?

What if I took a few minutes each day to enjoy what is, rather than worry about what still needs to be done? What if I saw interruptions as a natural pause in my life, not a ghastly inconvenience? What if I took a moment to pray, to listen, and to catch my breath, whenever I can, all day long?

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

~ Jesus (Matthew 11: 28-30)

I’ve never been good with commas, but I have a good editor who’s teaching me to do better.

So, here’s me, embracing the comma.


The BEST news ever!

I am following up yesterday’s post about the problem with chocolate with some awesome, stupendous, brilliant news! If you haven’t read it, this may not make that much sense to you. In a nutshell, our family has decided to boycott buying chocolate bars because they are made through the use of child slavery. I know, crazy right?

Now the good news… Cadbury is now making one of their most popular chocolate bars with Fair Trade cocoa beans.

My kids tell me this picture is "soooo cheesy and embarassing"

This means sustainable farming for the entire community and no child labour. It’s not a perfect system and needs to be constantly monitered to keep the pressure on, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Fair Trade Dairy Milk was launched summer 2010, but only in certain countries such as Britian, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and, wait for it… CANADA!

I’m more than a little bit THRILLED that this is one of my all time favourites bars. I was willing to give up chocolate because it was the right thing to do. Now, I can support positive change by buying MORE chocolate. Life is good.

I considered titling yesterday’s post “Why Capitalism is Evil” but decided against it. While I’m not a communist, I do have a problem with powerful corporations ruling the world. This is for one simple reason: they do not have a soul. They aren’t designed that way. But we do. We, the consumers, hold far more power than we realize.

Why else would Cadbury go to the trouble and extra expense of doing the right thing? If we begin to expect better, to demand it, we can change business as usual. Vote with your wallet and let them know it. We influence corporations best by what we DO buy, rather than what we don’t.

So, Cadbury, I really appreciate what you’ve done for the people of West Africa. I will only be buying Fair Trade chocolate from now on, so be warned – sales of Dairy Milk may soar. Also, could you please, please, please make Fruit & Nut bars fair trade also? Those are really yummy and I’m going to miss them.

As for Hershey’s and Nestle… come on guys, get with the program! Your products are delicious, but I’m going to use my power as a consumer to do good and not evil.

 “This is the kind of WORSHIP I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.” (Isaiah 58:6-8)

 ~ God

So here’s me, rescuing the oppressed – one chocolate bar at a time.


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