The Season of Relief~ How do you spell JOY?

Theodore Roosevelt said that Comparison is the thief of Joy.

I would argue that expectations are actually joy-stealers. I often tell my kids to lower their expectations of friends, relationships and family. If you go through life expecting someone to meet your expectations, they will always disappoint you. And disappointment leaves no room for joy.

We are in the third week of Advent. This is supposed to be the time of anticipation – waiting for a Saviour.  We have set ourselves up to expect a lot of our families, our churches, our friends and ourselves. We are consumed with dread, worry and stress.  Anxiety means sleepless nights and restless days. To-do lists lengthen.  Bank accounts shrivel. Get-togethers cramp our calendars and family demands our presence.

How do you spell JOY in the midst of this chaos? How are we supposed to REJOICE with the angels when we’re herding sheep with the shepherds? It all just feels like work.

Let’s give JOY a new name.  RELIEF.

There is a moment- it is so brief. At times, you barely even recognize it, but it is there. It is the moment when all of the anxiety you feel is washed out of you. It doesn’t mean you forget your troubles or deny reality. It is just a brief release of all the expectations that have mounted.

Relief is when the waters parted and the Israelites walked through on dry land. The Egyptians were still on their tail and the wilderness lay ahead of them~~ but the waters parted.

Relief is when payday comes and you write the last cheque to get your bills paid and you’re not in the hole. Maybe for a day. Maybe for an hour. But it’s still relief.

Relief is when you write your last final before the break.

Relief is waking up Christmas morning knowing that what you bought was enough. Maybe it wasn’t what you originally planned. But it’s enough.

Relief is the moment you walk in the door after a long, hard day at work.

Relief is the baby tucked into her bed, the toddler sleeping on the couch and a warm cup of tea in your hand.

Relief is signing those divorce papers and letting go of marital expectations that were never going to happen.

Relief is waking up to find that your husband did all the dishes and let you sleep in.

Relief is finding 3 Christmas cards in the mailbox instead of bills.

Relief is working on a puzzle with your teenage daughter even though there’s multiple chores to be finished.

Relief is getting a call from your dad for no reason other than to say “hello” .

Relief is 100 refugees landing on the shore after a perilous journey across the sea.

Relief is a new immigrant family walking through the open door of their new home in Canada.

 

Relief is the MOMENT Mary gave birth and all of the pain of the world was suspended~

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Relief is this moment for the shepherds on the hillside:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

(Matthew 2:10)

You know how it is when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry? So you do both? Because……relief. It is the BEST feeling in the whole world and there is no word to contain its whole except for pure  JOY.  

Christmas season is here. For many it is a chore to be joyful. But that is not the message of Christmas. The JOY of Christmas is the relief of knowing that SOMEONE has your back. SOMEONE is going to handle the worry, anxiety and pressure.  SOMEONE had to come and break the chains of darkness, sin and dread. The moment HE was born, the world responded with a collective sigh of joyful relief.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

THIS, This….is why we have Christmas.

I found this quote- there is no author given for it. And it speaks loudly to my soul:

              Sometimes you don’t feel the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release. 

The moment you let go of your fear and worry is the moment God sends His strength in the form of joy.

 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. ~ Matthew 1:21

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How To Keep Your Christmas Tree from Ruining Christmas

2015 Update!

I wrote this blog about real Christmas trees 4 years ago. To date, it continues to be one of my highest read posts. As we near Christmas, the searches that lead people to my blog become more desperate and alarming. Things like ” how to revive a dead Christmas tree”  or ” what to do when your Christmas tree is dried out”  …..

So here’s the quick news you probably already know. THROW IT OUT.  Seriously, if you forgot to cut off the trunk, haven’t watered it daily and it is brittle dry…it is a FIRE HAZARD.  People die every year because of dry trees that are lit up with warm bulbs.  Please don’t do that. Please, remove the tree from your home immediately. There is still time to get a new tree and have a lovely Christmas.

 

Here’s another trick I saw today:  use a wrapping paper tube to water your tree. So easy and efficient! I just did it myself today as we have a real tree for the first time in 10 years!  I check the branches every day to make sure they are still pliable and getting water.

christmas tree watering trick

***UPDATE*** After numerous Google searches with people frantically trying to revive their sad and pathetic trees, I must interject and let you all know that #2 is SO CRITICAL to the health and life of your tree. It cannot be said loud enough or often enough….YOU MUST CUT OFF at least 2 inches  off the base of your tree before you put it into your tree stand with water. The bottom is sealed tight and opening up the trunk is the only way for water to get to your branches and needles. If you don’t do this, your tree will die and that’s really all there is to it.  Happy tree trimming and tree hunting!

I’m sad to admit that I have a very high mortality rate with any living plant in my house. I just can’t seem to have a thriving greenish type of thing that isn’t plastic, silk or otherwise fake.   And when it comes to Christmas Trees…well, I’ve killed my fair share.

Needles all over the carpet, ornaments too heavy for brittle branches, even trees that topple in the night due to pathetic hydration.

I grew up on a farm and we had a real tree every year. My mom would use a coffee can to hold the water and I really had nothing to do with it from there. I just cared about tinsel and shiny balls all over it along with the multi-colored retro LARGE bulbs.

We had artificial trees when we moved off the farm and my husband and I only started with real trees in our 5th year of marriage.  I killed that tree early too.  And then next one.  I couldn’t figure out how to prolong its life.  Until I asked my mother how it was that we always had our tree up for at least a month on the farm.  Ginger Ale.  Say what?  Yes.  You know the saying ” a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”? Well, it applies to evergreens too.  Seems that the sap in the tree blocks up all the pores when you cut it down. Sort of a life preserving technique but it makes it pretty tough to absorb any water.  So here’s the tricks I learned and let me tell you, it works and you can even revive a nearly dead tree!

  1. When you buy your real tree or cut it down , you must let it “settle” in your warm house before it can be decorated. It may take hours or up to a day.  But you cannot leave it inside without putting it in water.  So set up your tree stand(or coffee can) and fill it half full of water.
  2. CUT OFF the bottom of the trunk. Regardless if you have cut it down in the forest yourself or not, the sap will have solidified on the bottom of the trunk and you need a fresh cut to absorb the water.  I have even had to take down a tree and cut the bottom off after I’ve started to decorate just because I forgot this step. Not fun.  Also, trim off  those straggler branches on the bottom. You don’t need them sucking up the water before it gets a chance to travel up the trunk.
  3. Add equal parts of Ginger Ale(I like Canada Dry myself) and water to your tree stand.  Watch the water level~ in the first couple of hours the tree will suck up most, if not all of the liquid and you will need to top it up. After the first day you can go to a 1:4 ratio of ginger ale to water.
  4. You MUST check your water level daily. If you live in a dry climate, have a wood stove, have forced air heat it will dry your tree out quicker.  Also, if you have a vent near where your tree is, consider closing it off for the season to avoid it blowing directly on your tree.
  5. All trees shed needles a bit at first.  You are going to want some sort of proper tree skirt that will catch most of them so that you aren’t still vacuuming needles in July.(been there)
  6. Check your tree daily. It should smell, needles should be pliable and not brittle.  Keep the water level up at all times and you will enjoy your tree through New Year’s! ( I also have used a spray bottle mister sometimes to add a bit of moisture to the upper branches but that’s not really necessary if you’re watering properly)

I don’t have a real tree this year…but next year….OH YES I WILL!

*** NEW**** if you don’t have ginger ale, sugar water will work too! But my experience has shown the gingerale works faster/better??? Not sure why. I’m not an arborist or chemist.

60Days of Jesus- Week 1

So last week I shared a little bit about what the past 6 months have been like in the blogging arena.

I have decided to get back to the basics this summer and I’m posting on my Facebook page every day.

Here is the past week’s posts for those of you not on Facebook. I don’t think we can ever read these words too many times. The words of Jesus are life.

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day 2 60days

day 3 60days

day 4 60days

day 5 60days

day 6 60days

day 7 60days

#60DaysofJesus

#OnceUponAPrairie

#ThatsWhatJesusSaid

Not Up for Interpretation

Blogging is a funny business. I cannot really explain to you all why I blog. Initially I started when we moved from Alberta to Saskatchewan in 2010. Blogging was a way to journal my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t much care who read it. I still don’t- most of the time. Every once in a while,  a blog post from years ago gets picked up and someone shares it and I get little blips of activity. But in the last 6 months I have barely looked at my stats to see if anyone is even reading. As of this moment, I haven’t got a clue where things are at. It’s been a bit of a struggle for me to decide if I even want to blog anymore.

At Christmas, I posted something off of my heart without editing. That post when viral. It was crazy. On Christmas Eve alone it was viewed by over 120,000 people. That’s INSANE!  Most of the comments were really tender and heartfelt. But some weren’t. And isn’t it just like a human to take the couple negative responses and focus on them rather than the multitudes of others?  It took me a long time to shake off what had been said to me, about me and at such an emotional time of year. So I stopped. I stopped reading the comments, stopped tracking stats, stopped writing. Even now, I feel conflicted because what I wanted to say– what I always want to say———–it gets interpreted in ways that I wish it hadn’t. I really want to blog and write and let my words just be.

 I want them to be what I say. I want them to be what I say in the tone and in the manner I wrote them with….But ….interpretation. I do it. We all do it. It’s a fault of humanity to nit-pick, cherry-pick, pick-pick-pick apart someone else’s words and make them what we want them to be.

I have opinions that are probably not popular with a lot of my blog readers and even my own friends. I am opinionated. This has never been a secret. But opinions can hurt. And I have chosen to refrain from sharing my opinion as of late because I actually have the power to offend and hurt. And that is one thing that I never want my words to do.

When I read comments from other threads and posts I am mortified beyond belief that people have zero shame in condemning, criticizing and grotesquely over-stepping when they comment. I have done it myself. And I deleted them all. Because words have the power to curse and the power to heal, we must choose the latter.

My mom always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We all ought to keep that in mind.

All of this to say that I have decided I need a bit of an attitude adjustment. I really want to blog about current events and topics of interest. I have had multiple posts swirling around for months. I love to engage in dialogue and thoughtful conversation. I love the stories of humanity. But too soon, interpretations get in the way of the Truth. And this is where I must stop and readjust my focus. My eyes are on the words instead of The Word. And for this reason, beginning today, I am going to do 60 Days with Jesus. Not that ONLY 60 days will do, or that it is enough. But it is a start.  For the next 60 days, I am going to post on my Facebook page the words of Jesus. Just HIS words. Not mine. And yes, I will use paraphrased versions like the NIV or The Message.  Please don’t rake me over the coals for not having a degree in Greek etymology.  I’m just a prairie girl who loves The Word. And I love His words. And  I need them to remind me that some things are not up for interpretation.

It is easy to misquote Moses or Paul or Isaiah. We can get confused with cultural settings and poetic prose. But the words of Jesus- they just are.  They don’t need blog posts and commentaries.  Jesus spoke in plain language to plain people with real issues.  He said the simplest, most loving, thoughtful words ever spoken. And more than ever, our world needs to be reminded–*I*  need to be reminded of what He really said.  Yes, you can interpret them however you want. I will not be doing that. I will simply quote them and I will be praying that all who read them will allow the Holy Spirit to do the translating. If there is any confusion, may it be gone in Jesus’ name. Let’s let the Words of Life speak to all of us. I think you will find, as I am planning on finding, that when Jesus’ words are clear, everything else will come into focus.

Tonight I was at worship practice for Sunday’s service.

We closed off with an old chorus- sung in 3 part harmony- which made my soul weep….

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will go strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

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That is my prayer.  #60DaysofJesus

I hope you will join me on Instagram and Facebook.

My kids go back to school in 60 days- I think this is the perfect way to refocus this summer.

44 Things

It’s the last day of June and that means one thing. I’m older.

When you’re a teenager or in your 20s you really do think “wow, I’ve arrived”.  But you haven’t. You’re an idiot. fool.

The crazy thing is this; I still feel like I’m 20 in my mind. Some days I cannot grasp the speed at which my life has raced by. I recently told some moms on a Facebook thread who were dying in the throws of their toddlers, preschoolers and the mayhem of it all:  ” The days are so so so long….but the years go by so fast.”  It’s true. Here we are. 44.

So, 44 things that I have learned:

1. Convictions rarely change, but opinions do. And opinions should.

2. Little kids are cuter now that my kids have grown.

3. Spanking isn’t the best way to discipline your kids. Really, on this side of things…..there’s better ways. Most of the time.

4. Nude camps and beaches totally make sense now. Because no one cares after 40.

5.Not eating dessert every day does not keep you from gaining weight. So, eat the pie! Buy the ice cream! Live!

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6. Moms who don’t have hobbies and passions are moms who go literally half-way to crazy land when their kids grow up. Really moms, get a life outside of your kids. You’ll thank me for it later.

7. You don’t have to have lots of friends, but you need to have good friends. Quality vs Quantity.

8. I will never be done decorating my house. And that’s okay.I will also never wear the same clothes for 40 years.  Right? Right.

9. Sometimes your cousins are your closest family. I think they’re God’s gift- similar history with different perspective.

10. People’s stories matter more than your opinion of their stories.

11. I’m going to be the best grandma. Watch me.

12. I have less than 44 things to say but I’m going to finish this list on the principle of the matter.

13.  Principles matter more to me than lists.

14. I have an opinion on almost every subject. And if I don’t have an opinion it’s because I know nothing of the subject. This makes me a hoot at parties.

15. I’m not really a hoot. I have never been a hoot. I learned after 40 to be okay with not being a hoot.

16.  My husband loves my hooters. And that’s a hoot.

17. Hoot is the dumbest word.

18. Right now I’m losing about half of you. Totally okay with that.

19. My kids think I’m weird.  I’m just trying to teach them the value of being an individual. Also, I’m lame.

20. I only like the King James Bible version for reading the Psalms. Also, the word “dung”.  Because dung in the Bible is modern man’s “shit” and seriously, that makes me giggle.

21. In my 44 years I have learned that you actually don’t need to agree with everything in the Bible. Isn’t that fascinating?  It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or isn’t true- You just don’t have to agree with it!  Freeing! Also…..life lesson. See #22

22. I can disagree with you and we can still get along. Also fascinating.

23. I would live poor in the country  any day rather than rich in the city.  City folks have no idea what they’re missing.

24. I miss singing in a choir.

25. There is no perfect school for your kids and every school has at least one teacher who probably shouldn’t be teaching. It’s better you know this now so there are no surprises or disappointments. Again, thank me later.

26. I truly believe that a large chunk of my fibromyalgia pain is exacerbated by over-peopling and extroverting. I’m totally serious.

27. I wish I had known when I was young that I was not shy, just introverted.  It would have helped me so much.

28. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew, but they didn’t know everything.

29. You should always go with your gut. Your gut is your guide.

30. Being an adult with responsibilities can really suck but I would never ever want to go back to being a teenager.

31. Buying fresh flowers every week is a must. Don’t even look at the price. Just stop and smell the roses.

32. There will always, always, ALWAYS be someone who thinks you’re wrong. Some people just like to be contrary.

33. Growing older makes you care less and less about what others think. It is one of the beautiful gifts of aging.

34. Having our kids young was one of the smartest things we have done in our marriage. Here we are- mid 40s and we can leave home for pretty much any length of time without stocking the pantry or fridge. It’s awesome.

35. I have learned that I was not a great mom, but I did my best at the time. I wouldn’t go back and change things. If I didn’t mess up, I wouldn’t have learned that I was wrong.

36. All those years growing up with parents who listened to the weather and the news daily, sometimes hourly, made me learn about the world, politics and humanity. Some call it street smarts. I call it socially smart.

37. #20 is the best, right? *shit*

38. Most people are just trying to live their lives, mind their business and do right. Most people. Think about that the next time you get annoyed with someone.

39. I love, love, LOVE reading other people’s stories. I would rather read about someone’s life than watch a movie. I am completely fascinated by the story of humanity.

40. Friends are the best. They really are. When you find friends that get you, expect nothing from you, challenge you, love you, care about you but never berate you……that’s the best gift there is.

41. Having a spouse who is your best friend is how people stay married so long. I’ve watched it, learned from others and I’m living it. Also, marriage is better after 15 years.

42. You cannot have everything you want. Get over it.

43. Integrity of character is a good goal for life.

44. Naps are king.

I’ve learned a few more things but this is a good place to start. I wonder what I will write when I’m 88? Nude beaches really are awesome? :)

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Mercy

It’s really late. I should probably be sleeping. But I’m on YouTube and listening to certain kinds of music just makes me all weepy.

I must confess, that sometimes, my theology is propped up and fortified by network TV.

I watched the 2nd last episode of Parenthood tonight. I cried. A lot. This show has become my family in so many ways. I keep saying I’m a Braverman on the inside. Zeke reminds me of my dad. The ups and downs, the drama and the stories…I love it all.  The writers on this show are pretty incredible people- of that I’m sure. If you have no idea what I’m talking about I encourage you to watch it. I only started at Season 3 and I grew to love these people. I even prayed for them. Weird. I know. Maybe I was just praying for the people who are like them. I relate to them all.

On tonight’s episode there was a lot of full circle moments. (spoiler alert) And there was an over-riding message: MERCY.

It’s a theme that we don’t talk about a lot. And we should.

The dictionary describes mercy as *compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender*.

Tonight, Joel extended mercy to Julia. And it was exactly how it should be. She had cheated on him and although love is strong, it’s not always enough. Mercy is required.

I was reading a thread regarding the visit of Senator Hillary Clinton to Saskatoon this week. One person made an extremely egregious comment:  “I’m sorry but I can’t completely trust a woman who stays with a two-timing husband, all for the sake of power and money.”  And my one and only thought was how sad that a woman who stays with her husband 20 years after the fact has her integrity called into question. I am not a Democrat. I’m not an American. I actually have zero opinion on her as a presidential candidate. But she extended mercy to her husband. And that’s worth something.

Compassion shown, even to one who has offended you……..

And all of this is just rambling to get you to read these words and listen to this song because it speaks to me deeply and maybe it will speak to you too:

“Mercy Came Running”

Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God’s embrace
And I can almost see mercy’s face
Pressed against the veil

Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail

And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Once there was a broken heart
Way too human from the start
And all the years left you torn apart
Hopeless and afraid

Walls I never meant to build
Left this prisoner unfulfilled
Freedom called but even still
It seemed so far away

I was bound by the chains
From the wages of my sin
Just when I felt like giving in

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Sometimes I still feel so far
So far from where I really should be
He gently calls to my heart
Just to remind me

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running

…..When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me