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In which she can come along and see for herself

The other day, my eldest daughter asked if I could print off a picture of Malala Youzafzai for her to take to school. She wanted to do her grade two class presentation about the sixteen-year-old Pakistani educational activist who was shot by the Taliban. We had had a few conversations about Malala last week. I was watching an interview online and she kept asking me questions so finally I pulled up a chair, started the video over again and said, “see for yourself.”

I had no idea she was paying much attention: sometimes, you just talk, you know? We did spelling homework, she rolled her eyes when I told her to clean up her room before bed, same old night. But she was listening and a few days later, she marched into her little classroom and told them all about Malala for her presentation, instead of Justin Bieber, and my heart nearly burst with pride. She got it.

Last night after supper, I was madly running out the door to go to Sweating for Sisterhood when I made the spur of the moment decision to invite her along. It was a school night, she’d have to stay up an hour later than usual, but what the hell? Get your runners, kid, we’re going out.

My friends, Megan and Chervelle, planned the fundraiser circuit workout at a local church, complete with prizes to benefit the amazing program Keep a Girl in School in Gulu, Uganda. Basically, girls in Gulu drop out of school because they don’t have sanitary napkins (seriously. Pads. They need pads to stay in school. Unreal. It kind of makes me angry). So then they fall prey to teenage pregnancy, early marriage, poverty, and worse. Megan and Chervelle joined up with the women in our community to support one school of girls in Uganda.

On our way there, my daughter and I began to talk about the night ahead.

That was the moment when I realised I should have thought this through a bit better: we had to discuss what having your period actually means before I could explain why Keep a Girl in School matters.

So THAT was fun. And not at all awkward or unplanned. (We both survived.)

sweatingforsisterhoodPost work-out. Clearly.

 

We had so much fun. She’s just the best little kid. A lot of the SheLoves and Mercy Canada community showed up so it was nice to see everyone and catch up for a moment. My sweet girl completely dominated the circuits: she lunged, she squatted, she punched the air, skipped, did push-ups, with tremendous enthusiasm (while I heaved and sweated my way through all of it.)  She’s an athlete, man. She ate a cake pop while she was doing her stretches, bites between reps.

Anne loved being with “The Ladies” at church and earnestly paid attention to the info video. She proclaimed herself one of the SheLovelies. She came home with a little key necklace and proudly informed her father that it meant she was “the key to someone’s freedom.” Well, then.

Annie is at that age when she simply longs to be with us: it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as we’re together. Like most kids, her little love language is absolutely “quality time” and she doesn’t care if that means talking about menstruation and social justice with her mum while driving on the Fraser Highway to a little workout night at a Pentecostal church for a schoolroom of African girls that she likely won’t ever meet in her lifetime.

I want to raise tinies who rest in their God-breathed worth, who walk in the fullness and wholeness that comes from living loved. I don’t care much about the Romans Road or star charts or behaviour modification techniques. I want to raise tinies who walk humbly and do justly. I want to raise them to know and understand the importance of family and community. I want them to see, know, and honour the men and women who have walked ahead of us on The Way.

And so that translates into a lot of “come along and see for yourself.”

Come along, sweetheart, come along and see for yourself.

Come along while I pray, while I write, while I read, while I visit friends, while I minister, while I cook, while I do laundry, while I learn, while I worship, while I go to church, while I preach, while I advocate, while I clean this house, while I rest, even while I do an undignified circuit work out in the multi-purpose room at Church for girls in Uganda.

Come along and see for yourself what I think it looks like to be a disciple of our Jesus. I’m figuring it out as I go along, come figure it out with me. It will look different for you, of course, but a little child shall lead them.

I believe that the Gospel is usually caught, not just taught. For every earnest conversation, there are a hundred more unscripted moments: the rides in the van, the talks at the supper table, the nights at church, the invitation to come along and see for yourself. Maybe this isn’t the most important moment but all those small moments have a habit of adding up and creating a small outpost for the kingdom of God.

However imperfect, however incomplete, come along, dear one, and see for yourself.

P.S. You can still donate to the Keep a Girl in School project right here….

photos courtesy of SheLoves.

Continue Reading · Anne, community, faith, parenting, SheLoves · 30

In which I can’t help myself

She climbed a hill and I snapped a photo of her, standing small and resolute against a wide open sky. I thought to myself, she’s a mountain climber, she’s a conqueror, she’s brave, fearless. When she climbed back down to me, I laid my arm across her thin shoulders – God, when did she get so tall? – and gathered her to my side. I said, I think you’re a brave kid.  Then a few days later, she didn’t want me to use the adult nail clippers on her toenails because she was scared of them. She said, I know you think I’m brave, Mumma, but I’m not that brave yet. No big deal, I told her, you’re brave when it counts, these are just the times you get to practice. You are brave, you are.

I can’t help myself, I’m my father’s daughter: I want her to hear my voice speaking the truth to her about her own self. Brave. Smart. Funny. Clever. Wise. Gracious. Kind. Disciplined. Gentle. Loving. Generous. You are you are you are you are….

I like her. I like sitting on the couch with her on Saturday nights while we watch HGTV together. She curls up against me, still hanging onto her old Blankie, and offers up opinions on tile back splashes. We’re pals now, or at least we’re sowing the seeds of friendship. I pray sometimes that I’m sowing enough now that when she is writing in her diary (or her Facebook wall? who knows what kids will be doing in a few years) that she hates me and I don’t understand, I hope there’s still a tendril of the truth down there under all the angst: Mum loves me she loves me, no matter what, she’s where I belong. And hopefully she will still be her mother’s daughter: she will come back to me.

I genuinely like her. Oh, she’s great. I would eat her up, I love her so. She’s a lanky kid now, all colt-ish and quirky, she’s missing half the teeth in her mouth and she wears leopard print runners with sequins on the toes, and I adore everything about her. She’s a really-real little kid now with occasional fits of sulkiness and drama.

I can’t help myself, I’m my father’s daughter: the more fiercely she sulks, the more I laugh at her. And she can’t help herself, she’s her mother’s daughter: eventually she starts laughing through her frustration, too, she’s not a grudge-holder.

When she wakes up from a sound sleep and wanders out looking for me in the night, I can hardly breathe for how she is all of the girls at once: she’s still my little blue-eyed baby, still my first little toddler, still the preschooler, still my wee girl with the triangle mouth. Her eyes are sleepy, her hair is a tousle, and she still wants me.

I can’t help myself, I’m my own mother’s daughter: so while I have a chance, I’ll hold her and trace her eyebrows with my thumb, I’ll sing old Keith Green songs like “Oh, Lord, you’re beautiful” into her dark bedroom like a lullaby until she’s asleep again.

You know what, I blinked. I did, I blinked, and now she’s wearing skinny  jeans and bossing her little brother and little sister within an inch of their lives instead of sleeping in the middle of my bed, milk-drunk and mewing.

She is at the stage when she wants to hear the old stories, the family legends, and sometimes we end up telling her, oh, you’re so much like your mum when you do such-and-such, and then she glows with belonging. She can’t help herself, she’s her mother’s daughter: she will grow into her communal identity and make it her own.

Everyone likes to make fun of the charismatics and the Word of Faith people with their emphasis on “confession,” with the silly reverence with which they treat their language, with the way they act like words are poof! – magic. I get that, I do.

But I still catch myself, holding onto my words, and some part of me wonders if I am speaking life or death, if I am speaking identity, if I am forming her life with my words.

In the beginning, before we know better, maybe the voice of God sounds like the voices of our parents. It would be nice if that’s a wide path to follow straight to the truth of Love, instead of a prison to unlock or a fetter to untangle or a dark wood to wander until we find the light. In the beginning, until they know better, I hope the voice of God breathes in my words to them: loved loved loved loved lovedlovedlovedloved thumping out a rhythm of belonging right into the ventricles of the breath.

Perhaps I am still wrestling with some aspects of my Mother Church. Resting in the in-betweens is okay with me now. Yet I find I am reclaiming more and more, fighting my way through the weeds of over-realisation or extreme cases or weirdness, to find the seed of the real that is still there. After the fury, after the rebellion, after the wrestling, after the weighing and the sifting and the casting off and putting on, after the contemplation and the wilderness comes the end of the striving and then comes the rest.

And maybe someday the tinies-who-won’t-be-tiny-anymore will remember how their Old Ma watched the words she spoke over her children, caught the words she assigned to them and made them into faith words, how she filled their ears with their identity of the Beloved and spoke it over them because she finally gave in and admitted what she’d always known to be true: at the end of it all, what is there left to speak but the Truth in Love?

 

 

Continue Reading · Anne, faith, family, parenting · 27

In which the Kingdom of God is also a small family leading worship

 

Every Sunday, during Advent, one family gets up at the beginning of the church service to read the devotional, text, and prayer. This Sunday’s candle was Love, and it was our turn. So I carefully dressed Evelynn in her older sister’s hand-me-down Christmas dress, but the older two couldn’t be bothered: fashionista Anne wanted to wear harem pants and a lotus dress, pragmatic Joseph preferred his red hockey t-shirt.

Initially, I handed Brian the full reading and text we were given without thought. Probably I would stand, beatifically, madonna-like, no doubt, surrounded by my children, behind him, supportive.

This up-front-stuff is the part of worship that The Daddy does, I defaulted, without thinking, slipping into my old pastor-wife groove. It was my husband who said, “No, this is Advent, and it’s church, and we’re a family: we’re all in this. Together.” (Usually, he’s the one reminding me that those old ways don’t fit a Jesus-shaped life, not anymore.)

.Of course, Anne was thrilled. There is no timidity or fear in her, she dances through church. One day, a friend of mine came over to me, with tears in her eyes, and said, “I know it might be odd but I need to tell that I think I heard a word from God about Anne. I was watching her dance, and somehow, in my heart, I heard Jesus say, “I love to watch her dance for me. It makes me so happy.”

Isn’t Jesus happy when children are happy in his Presence?

Now, all on her own, Anne often goes into a quiet room, turns on praise music, and spins and dances, just her and (I imagine, I wouldn’t be surprised) an Audience of One, dancing with her even. (I cried when my friend told me that Jesus was happy about Anne’s dancing. I tucked another moment into my own heart, Mary-like, we know what it is to ponder and remember for the rest of a life.)

Joseph is my singer, my worshipper. He memorizes the words to songs, and is always singing under his breath. I didn’t realize how easily songs came to him until I heard him singing to himself all the time, just working on puzzles, singing all the songs I sing. He loves to sit in the very front of church, but I’m a back-row soul so we usually clash about where to sit in church. Every once in a while, we end up in the very front, and he watches and learns, and he wants me to hold him close during worship, so I sing the words right into his ears (and Brian chases Evelynn back and forth across the gym because, have mercy, that child never sits still). He told me, in his Cookie-Monster boy-voice, that he wants to sing songs always, and someday, that will be him making up songs and playing the guitar. His favourite song, his top-of-the-lungs-gracious-that-is-loud-bellowing-song,  is Matt Redman’s Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul. And he means every word of it.

So Anne ran on stage, and I followed in her confident wake, sedate, the matriarch of this little tribe. Brian handed the microphone to Anne, and my girl, she read it strong: “This morning we light the second candle and we remember Love.”

The sound of her girlish voice through the speakers, rang out, in bell-ringing-clear proclaiming.

Brian sat down on the stage beside her and Joe, and he read, in his midwest man voice, “In a manger on that incredible night Love was born. Mary held Love in her arms. The shepherds from the fields came to worship Love. Years later, Wisemen would come to bring gifts to the King Love. Here was Love born to us. Love grew and touched those who could not be touched. Love forgave those who would not be forgiven. Love listened to those who had no one to listen to them. Love prayed for those who did not love him. Love gave life to those who were caught in the grasp of death. Love willingly died so that our sins were removed, forgiven, and so we could be face to face with God.”

Anne took the microphone again, and prayed, “May we be teachable to love like Jesus himself.”

Then I took the microphone and began to read the Scriptures. I had Evelynn balanced on my cocked hip, and I wasn’t nervous. For once in my life, holding a microphone, I wasn’t nervous. My daughters, my husband, my son, were all here with me, there was no need to fear because this, this was communal worship: not a performance.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love,” I read from 1 John.

Then Evelynn grabbed the mic out of my hand and hollered “LOVE!” into it, bursting out laughing at the sound of her own loud voice. I laughed, too, relieved, and joked that we were raising a preacher in this one. (Seriously, this girl.)

“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

I handed the microphone to Brian, thinking we were done, but Joseph took his Dad’s arm, pulled it down to his wide mouth, and solemnly said, “A-men” in benediction. I lit the candles with a fireplace clicker thing, we walked back to our seats to sit amongst our friends.

I think the Kingdom of God looks like children, men, and women in worship together. We wait in the darkness together, so we worship together. Aren’t we all a picture of the restored life in the full light of day, how this new life means all are welcome?

So that the Kingdom of God is yeast and seed, and also a slender little girl, dancing for Jesus alone, and one little boy, singing songs, and one little family leading worship for the community, and one more candle burning, on a lampstand, lighting the whole room. It’s Angels on a hillside with common shepherds, and Kings in stables, and virgins having babies. It’s the uneducated Galileans as ambassadors for God, and murderous Pharisees as great apostles, it’s Mary Magdalene charged with announcing the resurrection, and little children as our examples.

So my children lead worship right alongside of the grown-ups, and their mama reads Scripture right alongside of the men, and their dad is the one who willingly gave up his own time in the lead, for the joy of giving his most-loved-ones a chance to worship out loud, too.

Isn’t it beautiful, all together? Isn’t it beautiful when young and old, male and female, rich and poor, broken and beautiful, all gather for Emmanuel, God with us?

Come, Lord Jesus, among us, and until you do, I have a little girl who wants to dance, and a boy who wants to sing, and a baby who wants to preach, a husband with a leader’s mind and a servant’s posture and a heart after God, and me, I am learning to be not afraid but to speak truth in love.

It’s just a small incarnational moment, hardly worth noticing for most of the world, but for me, this was a metaphor moment of life in the Kingdom, life in the glorious truth of worship in spirit and truth, Jesus-shaped leadership as servanthood, and so our family’s lighting of another candle within community, with their affirmation and prayers and participation, pushed back just a bit more of the darkness, and then we scattered back out again.

 

 

Continue Reading · advent, Anne, brian, christmas, church, community, Evelynn, faith, family, Joseph, women · 34

In which Anne and Joe talk about God

I like to eavesdrop on Anne and Joseph these days.
They share a room and so their conversations can be quite educational.

Anne has that big sister tendency to always want to teach Joe everything that she knows.

“Now, Joe,” hands on hips, akimbo,
“God loves us all the time.
He made everything.
Everything except, um, beaver houses.
And Esther was a girl who saved her people because she loved God.
And…God makes you sing and make you rest.
He is the one that made the heavens and the stars.
He’s always kind and never bad-angry.


When you look at him, his face is love.

“Yes, my know, Annie,” Joe says, matter-of-fact.

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Continue Reading · Anne, faith, Joseph, moments, parenting, tinies · 11

In which I sing songs in the cold twilight

It had been a long day, you see, and my quickest remedy is this: Get Outside. Even though it’s flirting below-zero and the sun is setting, we need to be outside. So here, this is me, sweaty and wrestling three tinies into their winter gear, Evelynn doing her Maggie-Simpson-in-a-snowsuit impression, immobile on the floor as she waits, toques and mitts and boots for stomping loud are on us all, I strap that big baby to my chest and we head out, I am determined, in the dusk. It’s only 2 o’clock.

Here we go, walking up the slippery hill to the field across the road. We pass through the bent and ancient barbed wire fence and then there we are, in the wide opens spaces at last, breathing out a breath we didn’t know we had been holding. Anne is off exploring and I snap pictures of the back of her, gesturing wildly, narrating every thought. Joe isn’t paying attention – is he ever? – and nearly falls into a blackberry thicket, all thorny, so I hold his hand, thumb carefully stuck into the right spot of his mittens, he’s so proud, and we walk together.

I saw a rabbit, a little brown one with a snow white tail, leaping away from us and oh, I wish I had taken a picture but instead I held on tight to the little mitten hand and three-year-old Joe said into the dim, “You helpin’ me, Mumma. You a good helper. I really love ya. We not an angry family, we a love family.”

I said, yes, yes, we are. And I thought, most of the time, I hope, always aware of the miles to go.

We walked across the field, knee deep in last summer’s clover with ice now clinging to it, the sun low on the horizon, sinking into the graveyard before us. Anne dashes this way and that, her nose bright red, but Joe stays close, holding my hand still, Evelynn always looking right up at me, her blue eyes full of something brave and gentle. I feel the weight of them all in the late day hours.

Rosehips shrivel on the bushes and the tinies call the graveyard a garden. We wander through the old gentle stones on the way home, most covered with lichen, even the barest details of their lives now nondescript. We somehow find ourselves in the little corner from the 1950s for the lost babies, the stones with small lambs etched on them. I feel like sitting on the cold earth and crying for the babies lost 60 years ago, for the mama who made sure that they wrote “A Lifetime of Love” on the grave of her 6 month old boy. Anne and Joe walk slowly, well instructed in how to behave in this place, but they lay down the pretty leaves they’ve found, the red ones, for the lonely stones without plastic flowers or wreaths. We turn towards home.

I am the axis, we’re turning. Joe holds one hand and Anne holds the other, Evelynn still content because she is close to me. I sing old songs in the cold twilight as we walk, thinking of what to make for supper, my voice thin but the stars are coming out, the pines stark as black lace on the sky. Anne is clinging to my hand with both of her mittens, she feels it all, too, and her head is on my forearm, like she can’t be close enough. I’m carrying us all home.

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Continue Reading · Anne, enough, family, Joseph, parenting · 10