Saturday, December 09, 2017

Five Minute Friday: ONLY


I'm linking up this post with Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word: ONLY.


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Have you ever had an "Oh, it's only you" experience? One where you feel like another person doesn't see or value you at all?

I have.

Many years ago our young-adults group at our former church was having a sendoff for one of the couples in the group who were leaving to move to another city. The guy of the couple wanted to get a picture of the whole group, and he wanted himself and his wife in the picture too, so ... he handed me the camera and asked me to take the picture.

I was not a professional photographer nor in any way renowned for having good picture-taking skills. I'll probably never know what this guy was thinking, but the message I got was, "Let's see, who do I not care about having in this picture? I know, I'll ask Jeannie. After all, it's only Jeannie -- she won't be missed."

I wouldn't be at all surprised if everyone reading this post can point to a similar moment in their lives. A moment where the message they heard (regardless of what was intended) was "Oh. It's only you."

The Christmas story is full of people about whom most of us might say "Oh. It's only you."

Oh, it's only Mary. An unknown young woman from an obscure family.

Oh, it's only Joseph. A simple man with (ahem) a pregnant fiancee.

Oh, it's only the shepherds. Lower-class, rough-around-the-edges livestock watchers.

But God called Mary to be the mother of His Son. He gave Joseph the humble but crucial task of raising Jesus. He arranged for shepherds to receive the very first news of the Messiah's birth.

God sees and knows each one of us, even when we feel unseen. 

He never says "Oh. It's only you."


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 "My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant."
(Song of Mary - Luke 1:46-48a)


 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Five Minute Friday: NEAR




The reason I am writing my Five Minute Friday post on Saturday is that yesterday was a CRAZY day. 

I had to be at the university at 9 a.m. to spend two hours conducting interviews for teaching assistants for our course. 

Immediately after, I had to rush over to Jonathan's school so we could take him to a doctor's appointment. He sees a pediatric neurologist every six months because of his history of seizures, and her clinics are usually very busy. Yesterday we were there for over two hours: one-and-three-quarter hours of waiting, and fifteen minutes of actual appointment.

Then we had to take Jonathan back to school; it was nearly 2 p.m. by that point. Then I had to go back to pick him up again at 4 p.m. because he had stayed after school to participate for the first time in Special Olympics basketball. 

After supper I went out to a lecture and concert with a friend; it was really good and interesting, but very long. So I was glad to get to bed last night, wiped out from a day of running around.

At the beginning of the day, though, I'd been walking through the park on my way to campus and saw a guy coming toward me who often shows up at our church. He is intellectually disabled in some way; I'm not sure of his whole story. Because I walk pretty much everywhere and so does he, I often run into him. 

Most of the time he just looks as if he's upset with me and mutters something, so I don't always engage with him for very long -- and I was in a hurry this time. But when I said hello to him, he gave me a huge smile. "Is this Friday?" he said.

"Yes, it is," I said.

"And what date is it?" he asked, still smiling.

"Uh..." I paused; I hadn't been expecting a quiz! "December first."

"So, only one more month until 2018," he said, beaming.

"You know, you're right!" I said. "Isn't that amazing? Well, I should get going; bye!"

As we parted ways I thought, Wow, that puts it in perspective, doesn't it? Another month and 2017 will be past. Who would have thought the change to a new year was so near

Days can be packed with activity -- far more activity than I would have liked, yesterday -- and it's easy to just focus on the next thing, and the next, and the next ... just get through it and move on.

How do we make this month (the last one of 2017) really count? How do we keep from rushing numbly from event to event? 


"But when the fullness of time had come, 
God sent His Son..." 
(Galatians 4:4)

God sent Jesus at just the right time, placing Him right in the middle of our human life. God came up close and personal so that we could know Him -- so that we could be assured that even in the midst of our busy, fleeting days, He is near.







Friday, November 24, 2017

Five Minute Friday: FAMILIAR


Today I'm linking up at Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt.

This week's word: FAMILIAR.



Before starting to write, I did a quick Google search on the etymology of the word familiar. As we might expect, it comes from the same root as the word family. Familiar can also  refer to a spirit that someone might summon if they want to contact the dead.

But I like the Old English sense of the word: "on a family footing."

It makes me think of our family's farm in PEI. The property is sold now, so I won't be going back to that particular house anymore. But during the many summertime visits Richard and I and the kids made to visit Mom and Dad, it was always the familiar things that truly made it "home."

Almost immediately after arriving, we'd go to the pantry to run a glass of cold water from the tap. Our own city water could never compare to the well water on the farm.

The first thing Jonathan would do was go out to the porch to find the buckets of old Legos, drag them down to the parlour in front of the TV, dump them on the floor, and spend the next few hours filling and dumping.

(Even the words I've used -- pantry, porch, parlour -- seem like "home" words. Others would probably call those rooms the kitchen, the mudroom, and the living room or family room. You can call them that if you want, but those weren't our familiar terms.)

Allison would go to the cabinet in the kitchen and look for some old copies of Reader's Digest, or upstairs to the bookshelf in the hallway to find the Little House books or the old school readers. 

Finding the familiar things in their old familiar places was comforting. 

Before the farm was sold we took a few small pieces back home with us: a plate with a house and tree painted on it in blue; a cow figurine with little blocks that you can remove to change the date; a water jug; and a few other things. 

Using these familiar items and recalling exactly where they were in the farmhouse gives a sense of continuity between past and present, there and here, one home and another. I suppose it really does put me on a family footing.


photo Jeannie Prinsen Nov. 2017



Friday, November 17, 2017

Five Minute Friday: EXCUSE


Is it Friday again already? Yes, which means it's time to join the Five Minute Friday linkup, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is EXCUSE.



I went to a salon this morning. The young staff member, whom I'd never met before, asked me what I did, so I told her I taught an online course in essay-writing at the university.

"Oh, I guess that's the way of the future," she said.

I told her that for many years the course had been offered by correspondence: I would walk to campus to pick up my papers, mark them by hand, and walk back to return them. But now, I said, everything is uploaded to the course website, so no student can use the excuse that they couldn't submit their essay because their dog ate it.

"No, a dog certainly can't eat a cyber paper," she laughed.

I had some fun looking up this cliche -- "The dog ate my essay" -- on Wikipedia. An early variation of this trope occurred in the early 1900's when a minister was filling in at a church in Wales. After the service, he tenatively asked the church clerk if the sermon had been all right -- and then he apologized that it might have been a little short because his dog had eaten part of the paper it was written on. 

Apparently the clerk responded by asking whether that dog might have any puppies -- the implication being that their regular vicar might also benefit from having his sermons cut short (or rather, chewed short) by a dog!


It's always tempting to look around for an excuse when something has gone wrong. I suppose humans have been doing that ever since the dawn of time, when Adam blamed his disobedience on Eve and she blamed hers on the serpent.

Sometimes we make excuses to try to avoid facing the consequences that we know, deep down, we deserve.

Or we make excuses because it's just too painful to admit that we've failed.

One of my favourite quotes is from author Henry Cloud: "The truth is always your friend." It's such a simple (almost simplistic) statement, but I think it has a lot of hidden depth and maybe that's why I find myself pondering it so often.

If the truth is really my friend, then I should stop making excuses for myself ... for other people ... even for God ... and embrace the truth and what it has to teach me.









Wednesday, November 15, 2017

November 2017 What I've been reading (Quick Lit)




Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and sharing a few short reviews of what I've been reading.

I actually haven't done too much reading (of books, that is) these past few months: I've been having some trouble with my glasses, or more precisely my eyesight, which has made reading more of a chore than a pleasure at times. But what I've lacked in quantity, I've made up for in quality.



Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel (nonfiction).

This book is by Modern Mrs. Darcy herself, Anne Bogel. In it, Bogel explores several of the most popular and influential personality-typing models, including the Five Love Languages, Highly Sensitive People, StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and others.

Bogel writes in a warm, encouraging style. She explains each model in an unintimidating way, providing many personal examples that clarify and demystify the material. I was familiar with several of these systems already, but the "cognitive functions" of Myers-Briggs were new to me and at first glance seem very confusing. But Bogel explains them clearly and carefully, repeatedly stepping back to assure the reader, "Don't worry, you'll get this!"

My single caveat: the "girly" cover. It's beautiful -- but this book would be interesting and helpful to male readers as well as female, and the cover doesn't reflect that fact. 

Otherwise, though, I just loved this highly informative and extremely well-written book and will likely be going back to reread some or all of it in future. If you're even a little bit interested in personality typing of any sort, you'll enjoy it.

(Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the author, but that has not influenced my review, nor was I asked to write one.)

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  Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (fiction).

This novel tells the story of Jojo, a teenage boy growing up in Mississippi. He looks up to his black grandfather, Pop, who tells Jojo stories about the time he spent in Parchman, a notorious state pentitentiary; and his dying grandmother, Mam. Jojo has a more complicated relationship with his mother, Leonie, a drug addict who is grieving her brother's death and struggling to be a good mother to Jojo and his baby sister; and with his white father, Michael, who is currently in jail in Parchman. 

When Michael is released, Leonie takes her children on a road trip to pick him up. On the return journey they are accompanied by the ghost (whom only Jojo can see) of a boy Pap had befriended in prison many years earlier, who needs to hear the details about Pap's involvement in his death so that his soul can rest in peace.

Ward intertwines issues of race, spirituality, and family in a way that is both riveting and haunting. Her characters are flawed yet beautiful and admirable in their attempts to rise above circumstances they never asked for. I have never read anything quite like this book. Highly recommended.

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Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown (nonfiction). 

I love Brene Brown's work and have read most of her previous books, including The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. She returns to many of the same themes in her books -- shame, vulnerability, empathy, and courage -- continually layering on new insights. 

In Braving the Wilderness, she addresses the current crisis of belonging in our society: how we tend to split up into camps (left-right, Republican-Democrat, NRA-gun control) out of a desire to fit in -- but often our sense of true belonging withers in the process. With examples from her own life and her research, she discusses how to speak both truthfully and civilly, how to have a strong back but a soft front, how to draw closer to strangers in times of joy and pain, and more. Brown asserts that when we are true to our deepest selves yet also recognize our deep connection to the rest of humanity, we can achieve true belonging, so that -- paradoxically --  we belong nowhere yet everywhere at the same time.

If you're tired of feeling you need to take sides all the time and don't know where you fit anymore, you'll probably appreciate the insights Brown offers. 


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 I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Have you read any of Brene Brown's books? Are you into personality types? What's the latest good novel you read?