The Village It Took

In the spring of 1988, several weeks into our new normal, my class was working on an assignment, probably colouring a map of Canada or something.  One of the boys, let’s call him Johnny B. Jerkface, asked to borrow one of my pencil crayons.  For whatever reason (I guess I was a Jerkface that day too), I said no.  He proceeded to threaten to hurt my feelings if I didn’t.  Okay, go, I taunted back.

“At least I have a mother.”

Ooooh that pissed me right off.  I escalated this to my dad, and perhaps what followed resembled Schwartz getting licks from his mom on A Christmas Story, I don’t know.  Years later, our paths crossed again and when his memory was jogged, he apologized and I forgave him.

So it’s Mother’s Day, twenty-six years later, and this time I’m thinking about my village.  There were so many times when I wrongfully subscribed to Johnny’s cheap shot.  That I was motherless and alone.  But eventually, with each passing year, my surroundings came into focus and the blur sharpened into recognizable faces.  Even before Mom died, people were stepping in the gap of her absence at home, delivering hot meals to our house.  And in the many years after, an army formed to pick up where she left off in raising me.  My older sisters, my aunts, my grandmothers, and later my stepmother and my mother-in-law, they all had now-unmistakably active roles in shaping me into the woman, wife and mother I have become.  And the army continues to grow and nurture me, from my younger siblings (yes, lil’ bro, even you and Dad are my mother) to friends old and new.  It turns out, I never really lost her.

We orphans need never feel forgotten, because God has us on His heart.  He cares for us (Psalms 146:9)has always been there (John 14:18)and asks His people to follow suit (Isaiah 1:17).  I remember it and I recognize it.  So this year, I am celebrating the brilliance of His greater plan to assemble a tribe of men and women whose touch in my life personified both a mother’s and His outrageous love for me.

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P.S. I still toast to all of you today too!

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.

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.