Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Go The Distance

I know I can go the distance
Though the road ahead is long
Seeing you in the horizon
Makes me feel, I too am strong

I know I can go the distance
Though a hill I have to climb
When you gently come beside me
And you whisper "take your time"

I know I can go the distance
Though each step I take is tough
Your words challenge and encourage
When I've simply had enough

Yes I know I'll go the distance
I will make it to the end
And I'm thankful that you take the time
To run with me, my friend.

For Carey
and my "ATB" running friends
Thank you

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Someone Other Than God is Watching

There is a tree-lined public pathway that runs along the southside of my house. I suppose you could call it a shortcut to the main road, Yonge Street. However, I think if you were to time yourself taking the path versus the street, the path probably only saves you seconds rather than minutes.

The public path a few weeks ago

While I will be the first to admit that I use this path often, I find that it is more of an
 inconvenience to me than a convenience.
 For two reasons...

Firstly there are no garbage bins along the path. I  have called the city to request one, but they told me that having a garbage bin would "attract too much garbage". Hmmm... really? Anyhow with no bins, the garbage often ends up being thrown or blown into my backyard.

Secondly, since some of  the city trees overhang my property, it is my responsibility to trim them
back on my side when they become overgrown during the summer
 and rake the leaves when they drop in the fall.

So, I was delighted a few weeks ago when the city works department came along the path and not only trimmed the trees, but pruned them back. To almost nothing. Less yard work for me!

The pubic path today

Last week while I was upstairs cleaning the window in my sons bedroom,  I noticed something. Somethng I'd never noticed before in all the five years I've lived here.
I noticed the view. I could now see the neighbourhood all the way to the main road and beyond. Wow.

I noticed something else too. I found that I could see into some of the rooms of my neighbours house (which is lovely I might add). They seem to have a flair for interior design.

The removal of the city trees had given quite me the vantage point

For a while I stood there checking out the scenery, but then it hit me. Oh no... no, no, NO!

I rushed downstairs and ran out into the backyard.  Once there, I lined up the chairs neatly on the deck. Covered up the empty rabbit hutch with a tarp. Straightened the crooked bird feeder and added some bird seed. Put away the ladder from the pool. Hid the lumber from last years deck project under the stairs by the garage. and returned the boys bats and balls to their rightful home, the toybox. Phew.

So you're probably wondering what initiated the sudden frantic backyard activity. Well I'll tell you. I suddenly became aware of the fact, that if I can see my neighbours house so clearly, then they can also see mine. And if they can see mine, then they will see that this quite ordinary, Contrary Mary doesn't grow a such a great garden after all. Or keep a tidy house. And now the whole neighbourhood knows 

Isn't it funny how we change our behaviour when we think others are watching.
We have to keep up appearances.

Take reality shows for instance. You have to laugh at them. The producers want the stars to "be themselves" and "act normally" in front of the cameras. But we all know they don't. They will either be super nice or behave really badly just to boost the ratings.

And it happens in real life too. We keep ourselves in check when there are people around us.We choose different clothes, put on make up, tidy our homes, edit our words, make different decisions and moderate our behaviour when we're in public. And so we should.

But what if who we are in public, is nothing like who we are in private? What then?

The bible gives some insight. 'Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of wickedness..." (Luke 11;39)

Jesus was referring to the religious leaders who outwardly seemed good and did what was right, but inside their hearts were evil. He tried to teach them that their inner character mattered more to God than their outward appearance.

"The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. "(1 Samuel 16:7 )

 God is Omipresent and He sees everything all the time. He can see above all the privacy trees,
 but is mostly concerned with the matters of the heart.

He's doesn't care how my deck chairs are lined up, but would like my attitude fall in line with the teachings of Jesus. A crooked birdfeeder is insignifcant compared to a crooked and deceitful heart. I can hide the lumber anywhere, so long as I don't hide from His truth. Do you see where I'm going with this?

This is liberty, at least for me. Most people close to me know I'm no Suzy Homemaker. Things are rarely if ever in place. And nothing matches. I can't keep up. I have lots of friends who have really lovely homes and one day I hope to have one too. But right now the only interior renovation work will be taking place deep within my heart. Where only God is watching.

And in the meantime you will find me walking up and down the public pathway sprinkling
Miracle Gro on the soil and praying this miracle will work.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

when it all comes down ...there are memories

Why are people in such a hurry to take everything down?

Today after bible study I went to do some grocery shopping and buy a birthday card.

I turned into the card aisle to be greeted by a sea of red and pink. Valentines Day cards are here. And some Easter cards too for that matter. And here I was thinking I might get a Christmas Card or two on sale.

Phew, they got rid of the holidays in a hurry.

I got home and saw the two Christmas wreaths on the door; and the reindeer; and the snowmen

 And I didn't want to go inside, because today is the day I've designated to take down my Christmas decorations (collective gasp from the readers)
"They're not down yet?" ;"The tweflth day of Christmas was Jan 6th! ";"I think it's bad luck to keep them up for this long" 

 To that I say Pfft!

I like to linger and enjoy the good times. I really enjoyed Christmas this year. I did more than I normally do, because my parents were coming. And I went a little overboard with the decorating. My friend Elizabeth loaned me a some decorations (that I probably didn't need, but boy did they ever look nice) I'm just not ready to take them down, partly because of the memories, but mostly because it will be a lot of hard work. Tearing down will be a enormous task. My front room looks like a scene from hoarders.

 Instead of going inside to take everything down I stayed outstide and put something up.

We only have a handful of snow here right now. Normally at this time of year, we're buried under mountains of it. And wiith the unseasonably warm temperatures, I'm not sure we'll get anymore snow anytime soon

So, with my groceries melting on the doorstep, I stayed outside and built a miniature snowman. By myself (i wonder what the neighbours thought). But it was fun. And it will make for a good memory when I'm old (well, older because, according to my children I'm already old)

I think my snowman is great. Like most good things he won't last very long.
 Especially in these temperatures.

But when he melts at least there will always be...

...the memories.

(Now I'm going inside to take the decorations down. Well, perhaps later. Or maybe tomorrow)

*btw...this is not my snowman, because I couldn't find my camera, because it's buried under a ton of Christmas stuff, that I've yet to put away*

Monday, January 9, 2012

When you're running... on empty.

Last week I woke up early to take my son to his hockey game. My dad, Ethan and I got into the car to drive to the hockey arena. I pulled out of the driveway and no sooner had I done that, when the low fuel warning light appeared on the dash. Grrr...I hate it when my husband does that!

Although I knew I would pass three gas stations on the way to the arena, I didn't have time to stop, because I was already running late. It was then that I heard the familiar voice of my husband ringing in my head. "Don't worry, you can drive at least 40km with the gas that's in the reserve ".  He always says that to me because he always leaves it empty. But since the arena is only about 10km away I wasn't too worried. I drove straight there promising to get gas on the way home.

After the game, I stopped at the first gas station and pulled up to the pump. I flicked the release button to open the door of the gas tank and... nothing. I tried it again and again nothing. I flicked it over and over. The door would not open. My dad got out to help me, and he couldn't open it either. The two of us tried for about 15 minutes to no avail. We couldn't open the door so we couldn't fill the tank. Unable to get gas at a gas station. Oh the irony.

My car is new so  I decided it would probably be best to take it back to the dealership. Again I heard my husbands familiar (and now very annoying) voice saying "Don't worry, you can drive at least 40km with the gas that's in the reserve". Really? I did some quick mental math and concluded that since I'd only driven about 10km, I could possibly make it to the dealership which was about 25km away. I didn't want to take the risk, but what choice did I have?

What followed next can only be described as some of my worst driving ever. Canada's Worst Driver? At that moment...yes I was. I was so anxious that the car would choke and die if I stopped that I tried my best not to. My husband said it could go for 40km, but how did he know? He'd certainly never tried it. And what if he was wrong?  What if it only did 39km? or 35km? Needless to say I was erratic badly drove Even went through an amber light or two. But don't tell anyone.

At the dealership, the mechanic took approximately one minute to diagnose the problem. He looked at my car and told me there was nothing wrong with it except for the fact that it was frozen. Pouring hot water over the door would've released it. That's it. Frozen. I myself stood frozen for a moment. Feeling stupid.

Why do car mechanics always state the obvious and make me look dumb? DON'T answer that!

As I drove home I thought about how I could've avoided this situation. Carrying extra gas wouldn't have helped me because I couldn't even get into the tank. I knew the secret. It was something my good friend Liz told me.

You see this would never have happened to Liz, for one good reason. Her car is never empty. Ever. Liz keeps the car full and refills it when the tank reaches the halfway mark. She has never seen the low fuel warning light. She doesn't need a low fuel warning light.

Hmmm. A valuable lesson there me thinks. And not just for driving.

I also found that last year when I did my half marathon training clinic, my instuctor Monick would remind us all to "Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate". Two weeks before the race she layed it on really thick. "I don't care if you're thirsty or not....DRINK"

That advice made all the difference for my race. I ran more efficently. I avoided the build up of lactic acid in my legs . And I ran a lot faster. My personal best, shaving a whopping 25 minutes off my time.

But I haven't been applying that principle to my personal life.

Lately I've been feeling dry. Empty. Completely drained. And it's not just the post Christmas blahs or the fact that I'm missing my parents. So why?

I didn't have to think for very long or look very hard for the source of my drought. It lay on my beside table covered in a fine layer of dust. Just when did I last read my bible?

"...but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14 NIV)

The word of God is a source of living water for me and I haven't been reading it. Hence the thirst. Simple really. Nuff said.

So today I picked it up again. And not just the familiar favourite parts, but something new and fresh. I also started reading Max Lucado's "God's Story, your story".

Ahhh...that's better.

Life can be draining. Very draining. So it's good to be spirtually filled. And keep topping yourself up. Daily.

Because you never know when a situation may arise that keeps your gas door from opening.

And you can only go so far on your reserve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Arrivals and Departures

I love airports. And many years ago, before having children and 9/11 changed everything, it was my favourite place to go. Twice a month I would drop my husband off at the departure lounge for his business trip, and then I would spend an hour or two checking out the shops. And also watch the people.

The airport is a most fascinating place. I really don't think there is anywhere else quite like it. I mean what hasn't happened at the airport? There's crime, mystery, drama, suspense, and hundreds of people, often in a highly emotional state. I'm sure there's been death and perhaps even an birth or two (although I haven't seen it). It's like an ongoing reality show.

I soon found though, that I preferred to spend more time in arrivals than in departures.

Departures always seemed so sad, So final. People going home, going away, running away, leaving someone, saying goodbye.

But Arrivals...ah, now there's a happy place. The people coming through the gates in the arrival lounge , no matter how tired, or how long a journey, were just so glad to have reached their destination. And then, when they made eye contact and connected with their loved ones, the reunion was inevitably sweet.

So imagine my delight when three weeks ago I got to go to my favourtie place, to meet two of my favourite people. My mom and dad.

My parents were coming to spend Christmas with me. I was so excited about this that for once in my life, I actually arrived half an hour early at the airport. Their flight was delayed by 45 minutes so I had time to kill. Bursting with anticipation I paced up and down. I was way too anxious to read a magazine, so instead I did what I always do in arrivals. I watched the people.

Because I was already brimming with emotion, I shed a tear each time I saw a traveller greeted by family or friends. By the time I saw my parents, I couldn't hold back. The levee burst and I wept openly. It was the most wonderful reunion.

Three weeks later, I made the same journey to the same place. However my experience was remarkably different. I was still very emotional, but this time instead of saying hello,  I was saying goodbye. I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched my mom being taken through airport security in a wheelchair. This was the hardest goodbye ever.

I miss them so much. Nothing prepared me for the emptiness I feel without them.

But here's the irony. In arrivals I did three things. I hugged my parents, I kissed them and I cried. In departures, again I hugged them, I kissed them and I cried. The same act, in the same place, but the experience was poles apart.

Arrivals and departures are different.

And life is just one long series of arrivals and departures. They are played out every hour of every day. Much like at the airport.

Most of us arrive (are born) into a family where we are expected, anticipated and loved. Upon our arrival there is fanfare and tears of joy and happiness. And when we depart there is a sense of loss and sadness. Tears of grief and sorrow.

And it's not just life and death. Our children arrive in kindergarten and then depart for university, leaving us with aching hearts and an empty nest. Seasons come and go.  So do relationships, pets, events, activites and jobs. A new year has just arrived and in 360 days or so it will depart. Arrivals and departures, comings and goings, to-ing and fro-ing, hatch and dispatch.

We do it all the time, yet still find it hard to say goodbye.

I believe that one of the reasons saying goodbye is so hard, is that we were never meant to.

 "God has placed eternity in the hearts of men..." Eccles 3 vs 11.

Look at all we do to extend our lives a little longer. Diet, exercise, pills, anti-aging lotions and potions. The truth is we just don't want to go. None of us. Ever. And yet one day... we all will.

I like to think that maybe all of these arrivals and departures are somehow preparing us, not for death, but for the afterlife.

I certainly take comfort from the fact that one day there will be a Heaven. Eternal life. No more goodbyes.

As a believer I'm awaiting my final departure.  It will be heralded by the arrival of Jesus. "The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised..." 1 Corin 15 vs 52. But since I don't know when that will be, I guess here is where you will find me. Waiting.

So I suppose I may as well plan another departure. But it won't be a sad one. I'm looking forward to the day when I can go to Lester B. Pearson airport departure lounge, to take an outbound flight YYZ to MAN. And when I land 7 hours later, I'll see the faces of my mom and dad waiting for me in arrivals.

I can hardly wait.