Believe It

I made the follow-up phone call with so many thoughts running through my head, and by the time I put the receiver back down, my mind was blank, washed clear in a rising sea of tears and uncertainty.  The only other time I had felt so lost, so frozen with no idea where to start, was nine years prior in the arms of my father down the hall from my mother’s hospital room.  There I was, 20 years old, hours away from the last exam of my second year of university, pregnant, unwed, and with a sack full of baggage.

There was a moment during my wedding reception when my heart leapt up to my throat to avoid drowning in humiliation.  I held my breath as my new father-in-law began alluding to the elephant in the room.  For the entire day, nobody actually mentioned the obviously-impending arrival of our first daughter four months to the day, but I hadn’t gained full perspective yet, and felt my transgressions exposed for all to see and judge.  I would spend years fighting the urge to prove the legitimacy of our family and my motherhood; that we were just living the early pages of a fabulous success story.  Today, sixteen years later, I know it to be true.  We are ever a work-in-progress but we have been honed into a pretty great family and I enjoy that peace that my younger self begged for in the days when those later chapters of the story weren’t believable to anyone, including her.

Many, many years before this day, an even younger lady found herself pregnant and unwed.  If it was controversial in 1997, can we even imagine what social predicament she and her fiancé were in?  How could anybody believe her when she said she was still a virgin?  That she was carrying the ever-awaited Messiah?  That this infant, born without fanfare in a barn and sleeping in a trough (some artists have depicted Him resting on the floor), is the divine son of the Most High God?  That this baby would grow into a man who would rock the status quo, heal the sick and raise the dead?  That she was part of the turning point where a loving and merciful God sends His own child be sacrificed in reconciliation with the whole world?

Most of them didn’t.  But she was.  And He was.  And He did.

Perhaps you are in a dark corner of your life where all bets are against you.  Where you cannot make out any twinkle of light ahead.  A sudden curve ball has shattered what you imagined your future would be.  You feel barren, abandoned.  You are lost in the wilderness, accompanied only by pain or bitterness or frustration or loneliness or betrayal.  Or blankness.  Let me tell you something.  When you feel like you have suffered through four hundred years of deafening silence, a light will break through.  It will not come when you expect it, or look like you expect it to.  But it’s there – He is there – awaiting that perfect time for you, according to a victorious plan for your life that you could not even wrap your head around if you knew it.

This is what the Lord says:
“At just the right time, I will respond to you.

I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’
They will neither hunger nor thirst.
The searing sun will not reach them anymore.
For the Lord in his mercy will lead them;
he will lead them beside cool waters.
And I will make my mountains into level paths for them.
The highways will be raised above the valleys.
I will fight those who fight you,
and I will save your children.
All the world will know that I, the Lord,.
am your Savior and your Redeemer,

the Mighty One of Israel.
Isaiah 49:8-26

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9

TLP-TeamAustria2013

Happy Christmas to you=)

The other office finale

When I started my first real full-time job, I was a new mother at 21.  While my friends were still sitting in lectures, writing papers and probably partying a bit in between, I had entered the workforce, all the way downtown and everything.  Having lived my whole life within a 10km radius, I found myself immersed in a foreign culture of more variety than my young, sheltered, suburban mind could wrap around.  I remember encountering my first Jewish and first openly-gay co-workers almost as clearly as where I was on 9/11.  (I worked at Church & Wellesley, by the way.)

Feeling unaccomplished professionally and horribly unqualified as a too-young mom, I made a conscious decision not to form friendships with co-workers that stretched beyond the cubicles.  I marveled at my cousin’s extracurricular social life with her office mates and was wowed when my sister stood as matron of honour for a friend she met at work.  But I couldn’t do it.  My immature heart couldn’t handle it, and this arms-length behaviour that feared judgment and rejection continued throughout the next decade, with a few glimmers of hope, but nothing lasting that would warrant even – gasp! – sending a Facebook friend request.

Then I started working at a company that was like none I’d ever experienced.  Or, rather, in the company of people I’d never experienced.  And that’s when the party started.  This place was like a family.  I found myself going on lunch-hour shopping escapades, helping out with social events, and allowing myself to open up to these now-friends.  But it was slow-going and still very cautious.

When our office relocated my partner and I were seated at the border between two departments, and my manager now sat only steps away.  And that was when this small collection of women drew me out of my insecurities and introduced me to the idea of allowing my authentic self to exist in the workplace.  I was 34, for goodness’ sake.  They arrived right on time. photo (22)Two years later, we are all on the cusp of new beginnings that beg us to choose whether we are casualties of evolution or newborn trailblazers.  And by the end of the summer, almost all of these women will no longer be a part of my daily experience, swapping recipes and housekeeping tips, sharing in our personal and family triumphs and sorrows, planning lunch dates and holding mini-parties, bouncing reflections about faith off of each other.  Instead, we are now being prompted to elevate our relationships to real friendship, the kind that is voluntary and isn’t boosted by a shared parking lot.

My excitement for each of us is not properly expressed in my mid-commute blubbering; my heart really is bursting in anticipation for this next chapter in each of our lives.  As for my own, I’ve already learned a couple of lessons.  First: friending people on Facebook is not going to kill you.  But they now have access to the crazy videos and pictures you make with your husband and kids.  Second: personal, supernatural affirmation aside, I know that God loves me and has good plans for me. Because in His daily pleading for me to be a bright light in a dark world, He speckled my corner of it with living examples to greet me every time I swivel my chair.

Too young, too old

An old friend from elementary and high school died unexpectedly last week, as most thirty-seven year-olds would. As I sat in the chapel for the funeral service, surrounded by his friends old and new, his family, and beloved colleagues from the job he held for his entire adult life, my mind was running overtime with questions. How will his parents and brothers adjust to this new normal? For which of these people has his death changed the trajectory of their lives? Are Hubby and I officially “that age” where we are only seeing friends at funerals? If I died today, have I created enough of the legacy I want to leave for my children? Am I the best wife/daughter/sister/friend that I can be?

The world will have to adjust to a much quieter version of itself; he was a walking exclamation mark. But I like to think that, as I recently discovered of my own mother’s seemingly-too-early passing, we planted a seed this afternoon rather than buried a man. A seed that, as long as we commit to it, will grow into a harvest of lives lived loudly and with love.

As the sun sets on this still-chilly spring day, this is the run-on sentence I’m taking to the bank: We are too old to be satisfied with a life running on auto-pilot, not seeking out and seizing purpose, meaning, joy and peace, not discovering the fulfillment found in encouraging others to do the same, allowing weak relationships to continue eroding, or be uninterested in leaving this world without having made a positive, lasting impression on those who have ever stepped into our 15-foot radius.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
– Matthew 25:13

What I learned in 2012

I spent more time experiencing than publishing this year, but I couldn’t let my annual tradition go unobserved.  This year drilled deep into my heart.  So much pain, so much revelation, and more hope than ever before.  I don’t know if I can create an accurate list of everything that enriched me in the last twelve months, but I’ll try.  And as always, I encourage you to take some time to reflect and do the same.

2013 is your year.  Take it.

 

Serendipity is a melodious word meaning God’s good favour.

St. Louis really does make fantastic ribs.

The best teaching method is example.

There is something more dangerous for your productivity than your first six months on Facebook. But now you have the fanciest looking nails, know 15 ways to braid your hair, and can whip up the best avocado-flavoured fondant quinoa bacon cheesecake cups for next week’s pot luck lunch.

If you wait long enough and reach out far enough within your networks, yes, “things” will always happen in threes.  But sometimes, it hits close to home, all three times, in three and a half weeks.  And it hurts so bad.

It is never too late to shut off the autopilot and begin seeking out your best life and best relationships, and at the same time there’s no time to lose.

I, the one who could barely finish the magic mile back in high school (ask Hubby; he’ll proudly share the whole story with you), taught myself to run 10km straight this summer.  *pats self on the back

Online shopping is a beautiful thing.  So is Tarzhay coming to Canada.

Don’t knock it ’till you try it.

You can’t take yourself too seriously. That’s no fun.

Want to feel something indescribable? Surround yourself with 27,000 like-minded people for three days.

Your children do not get younger.  And your job never finishes.

Hindsight is 20/20.  But if you focus, look and listen hard enough, so is foresight.

I finally really love reading now.

“When you gossip, you hex yourself.” – Iyanla Vanzant

You think you know, but you have no idea.

You can choose hope, joy, mercy, forgiveness, love…in fact, you must.

Listen.

My name is Leah & I am 35.

I am at that age when many of my peers, mostly women, have celebrated a handful or two 29th birthdays.  To each her own, but I only had one, and the year after that, I turned 30.  And I celebrated it.  And now I can’t stop.

I think it’s funny that, as kids, we wanted to be grown-ups so bad, and then one day we changed our minds and started wishing we were Benjamin Button or something.

If I spend the rest of my life turning 29, then I am devaluing the lessons learned and wisdom gained in each year that follows.  I would have never learned to appreciate and take better care of my body.  I would still be saying “yes” more times than my life could really accommodate.  I would never have as full an understanding of my own parents’ parenting.  Caring about what others think about me would still be too high on my priority list.  I would not have learned the lessons that came with starting (and then ending) my own business.  I would never discover the miracle that is mascara.  I would never have started blogging (how sad for you!).  I would not have learned how to feed my faith in God or how to put it into action.  I wouldn’t have a sense of urgency to achieve peace in almost all areas of my life.  I would not have learned the need to create my own legacy independent from my past.

Note to Self:  “Self: Request a t-shirt for Mothers Day that reads: Every useful thing I know I learned after 29.”

Acknowledging every new year of my life with appreciation and gratitude not only shows respect to the sources of my life (both divine and earthly), but also honours those whose shortened lives did not allow them the opportunities or experiences that I have.

My name is Leah and I am thirty-five.  And a half.

Proper Ganda #kony2012

First, if you’re not one of the 70 million+ in the world who have already seen it, watch this:

This campaign is brilliant.  It just made serving the world cool.

It’s been a few days since the video’s release and I know people who are awaiting their action kits, I’ve heard the criticism, I read up a bit, and yesterday I watched an interview with the film’s director, Jason Russell.

Let’s focus, people.

At the heart of this are communities suffering.  There is murder, mutilation, rape, kidnapping.  Families are being torn apart or killed.  And the sad part is that I’m sure central Africa isn’t the only place in the world where this is happening.  As Spiderman’s wise Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility*.  I have been blessed with circumstances rich in resources and influence.  At the final accounting, what will I say if I didn’t try to do my part to help the helpless?

Let this video and the buzz around it serve as a call to action.  No, you don’t have to donate to Invisible Children if you don’t want to.  I myself have chosen to donate to a more grassroots organization working down there.  But I was reminded this week that I am in a position to help someone.  Most of us are.

If nothing else, let’s applaud this organization and others, like People For Good and Maxwell House, for harnessing the power of the media to bring attention to better things than good Christian b*tches and playboy clubs.

*shout out to FDR for the original quote but let this be a lesson that good advice can come from many sources…

What I Learned In 2011

The list is back. 

It has been an incredible year.  I am so thankful for every minute of it, even the ones that felt like hours.  My eyes are open wider than ever this year, taking in everything around me and juicing whatever lessons I can get from it all.  My arms are outstretched in gratitude, in willingness to receive whatever He has in store for me, and to offer to you the nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up before I tuck them into my back pocket.

It’s proven to be a healthy exercise, this annual brainstorm, and I once again encourage you to do the same.

Peace and Happiness to you in 2012.  Lei=)

Want to be happy? Do something nice for someone else.

A high-performing family and a successful family are two different things.

My daughter is more like me than either of us has the stomach to admit.

Everything around you is impermanent.  Take nothing for granted.  Seize all opportunities.

Before you consider complaining, take 30 seconds to remember the people you have at arm’s reach who are carrying a much heavier load, and then reconsider.

If you want rave reviews at every potluck, find a recipe that gets at least 4.5/5 stars.  That, and know your audience.  Don’t bring a chic new salad to a carnivore convention.

I love my age.  If we admire trees with more rings and deeper roots…

Not everybody likes surprises.

Great friends are low-maintenance.

Women need girlfriends more than they need a man.

Really pretty decor can be cheap, even free.

*No brilliant revelations about laundry yet.  If you’ve got one, please share.

Express Toll Routes are like drugs.  They make you fly, but you pay in the end.

You can say “No” and the planet will continue turning.

It may take 30 years for my kids to understand what I did today to show them that I love them.

Floor seats are amazing.

Fear is often a cover-up for laziness to do hard work.

The iPhone is a toy, an immensely useful tool, and a total distraction.  Oh ya, and it makes calls too.

Patience.  Patience.  Patience.

Smoked salmon tastes pretty good.

If my husband and I tell the same joke, he will always, always get a bigger laugh than me.

I love running.  My knees don’t.

We all will die one day.  And it doesn’t have to be a dark or scary thing.  It can actually be really beautiful.