Be All There

My mother left behind everything she knew when she was just shy of 35 years old. She threw the baby out with the bath water and headed East, in the hopes of finding new life. One could hardly blame her — when the life you lead breaks your heart into a million pieces over and over again, sometimes there’s no other option. I was that little baby, and I couldn’t blame her. Sure, I might have back then, but I certainly don’t now.

I can picture her in my minds eye, packing her things into a ratty suitcase and leaving her life in the rearview. She grabs the hand of the man beside her, and he squeezes back, reassuring her. How thankful I am for that man now and for the safety he gave her. Knowing what you leave behind is the hardest part of leaving, and in this case, it was her own flesh and blood. But her hope grew with every border crossed, and she eventually found her Eden– her home, her peace, her joy.

Even as the eldest child of the two left in her wake, I identify with my mother in a deeply significant way. Like her, my home has always left me restless and unsure. The people I grew up with confused me and walked away in search of greener pastures. I struggle with feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, and my heart calls out for some place where I can rest. I have enough reasons and excuses to pack it all in and bolt. My mother had no fear in leaving, and neither do I.

And I am. Leaving, that is. I’m selling my things, closing up shop, and flying away. Like my mother, I have a lot of things to leave behind. I have people I’d really love to be distant from, situations I’d like to forget about. But that’s not how it works. I understand that leaving home is not a matter of running away. It’s not about cutting ties or putting the past behind you. We can’t run from life when things get too difficult. To those who might have wondered, I’m not running from anything.

In this case, I am being called to go. Obeying that call is part of what I signed up for as a Christian. I’m okay with that. And I’ve learned that there is power in “leaving well” or “finishing well”. My mother left in the blink of an eye; up and gone before I even knew it. I have another three months or more to hang about until life as I know it changes forever. We don’t always get time, but when we do, we have to use it well. We ought not close ourselves off to protect or preserve. We ought not to always talk about the joy ahead of us, because there is still joy in the present. We ought to draw close to those it will ache to leave behind, and invest until the very last second. People are not to be used in the sense that we should only give to them when it suits us. Give your heart to people you love because soon enough you won’t have the same chance. Don’t hide it away because you’re desperately trying to save yourself from being hurt. More pain will be left in your leaving when you sever ties while you’re still home. You will mourn lost chances, and you will notice the overwhelming loneliness.

As Christians, our lives are not going to be pain-free or neat and tidy. They’re going to be a mess of heartache and love, laced with the joy and hope that we have for things to come. When you’re called to something difficult, be it leaving a church, leaving a country, or leaving a relationship, let it hit you. Let it break your heart, let it bring you joy, and feel it. Let me leave you with this:
“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” — Jim Elliot

Hey There, Sports Fans

blue jaysGrowing up, I was never particularly encouraged to be athletic. My parents were usually preoccupied with trying to hold together a separated family (fair enough) and somehow, sports just never fit into the family dynamic. Honestly, I think it would have been way too complicated for my parents to coordinate–every-other-weekends here, Wednesday afternoons there, packing and unpacking overnight bags, etc.

Yet somehow, I found them. Sports, that is. Between homework and mastering the monkey bars, I found a love for athletics. People who meet me may laugh, because I’m 5 Foot Nothing with the least athletic build known to Man, but I love sports. The funny thing about sports is that it’s normally the “team” aspect of things that ropes people in. The camaraderie and the fellowship that comes with rooting for a sports team is more than half the fun.

As a kid from a fairly dysfunctional home, I learned to like the things my parents liked in order to spend time with them. This likely explains a lot of my odd tastes in books (poetry and fantasy) and TV shows (The West Wing, old British sit coms), and it certainly explains how I got into sports. My father was a closet hockey fan–“closet” in the sense that he loved it but barely had time to watch it, so I had no idea he was into that sort of thing. As we got older, he had a bit more time to watch games, and I started to get into it too. Since the rest of my family was pretty disinterested, I could finally have some quality time with my father. That’s how I became a fan of the Leafs–a team that never wins, but we love them nonetheless (and will still pay through the nose for tickets). I’ll never forget when he took me to my first Leafs game. We had Gold seats. They lost.

I guess I can’t say we were never encouraged to get into sports. When we were younger, my father enrolled us in baseball. I knew nothing about baseball, but my father became the assistant coach and gave my sister and I a crash course on all we needed to know. I wanted to be a bat-catcher so bad, except I was terrified of being hit with the ball. So I was a short-stop. Of course. Our team was in a league with two other teams and we lost every single game the whole season– except for the final two games. In our tournament we beat the second place team, and advanced to the finals, where my little sister got us the winning run. The ultimate underdogs won the whole kit and caboodle.

In high school I played football for two years and started watching the NFL at home. Unfortunately, no one in my family got on that bandwagon, but I now have a lot of friends who like awful teams, so I can at least talk about football with them. There’s a certain comfort in sitting down to watch a football game. I can’t really explain what it is, but seeing the amazing Greenbay Packers run in a touchdown just makes my heart sing. Maybe it’s knowing that thousands of people are cheering along with you. Or maybe it’s being a part of something bigger. Team loyalty is a strange thing to me sometimes–most of us will never meet or know the players on our favourite teams, but we accept them as one of our own. We love when they succeed and we feel for them when they fail.

Tomorrow the Jays play their first game at home, and I’ll be working across the street, cheering them on. I’ll be making lattes for excited fans, and showing off my new Arencibia (we miss you!) jersey, soaking in that unnameable feeling. I know a lot of people don’t care about sports or scores or things like that, but for those that do, I’m with you. Sports teaches us a lot of things: working together, healthy competition, endurance, focus, and what it means to do your best. Even though the drinks are expensive and the stadium is always smelly, it’s worth going. It’s worth it for that moment when they get that crucial run, and you think to yourself: I love this team.

Bring it on, Yankees.

Sudbury

He realized she was no longer 

a child, as she turned to walk

away for the last time, and it

was in that moment that his

thumb was forced up. 

The day she had claimed for 

most of her childhood had arrived, 

and just as she had promised, 

she was gone. He remarked that

there was not a quiver in her

voice, or a wobble in her step, 

as she turned to leave.

He would think of her as he walked

to work, or when he would stumble

across her toys in the attic, and he

would wonder if she ever thought of

coming home. 

 

The answer, of course, 

was no. 

 

After-the-Fact Advice

You’ve heard it before.

You’re lamenting over a very embarrassing or difficult time in your life with a friend of yours and they hit you with it: the after-the-fact-advice.

It comes in the form of a very subtle “I told you so” or an “I always thought…” and your head starts to spin. You think back to the aforementioned time in your life, and you try to comb through every instance in which your friend offered you wisdom or advice.

And just as you thought. There wasn’t a single one.

You heard things like this before:

“Yeah, maybe those bangs weren’t the best look for you.”

“I never did think you two were a good pair.”

“You know, I didn’t want to burst your bubble, but you did move a little fast.”

Ugh.

This happened to me recently while making some brief mention of an awful choice in boyfriends during my early years of university, and it got me thinking. Why do we do this? Sometimes our opinions and wisdom could be helpful, but it sure isn’t helpful months later. Why do we keep our mouths shut while the people around us are proverbially crashing and burning? And then, when all is said and done and our friends are picking up the pieces, then we offer our two cents? What are we so afraid of? We hold back what we truly feel in order to be accommodating. We hold back, because even though we think our opinion is correct. We’re afraid to create a ruckus. But really, there’s a better word for it.

Dishonest.

Whether our thoughts are correct or completely wrong, we have a responsibility to offer truth and wisdom to those we love. And we certainly have no right to offer such things after the fact. As soon as we open our mouths to offer our oh-so wise advice after the fact, we become high and mighty, insensitive, and unkind. Even if it happens to be about that time when I accidentally died my hair a patchy purple colour (which did actually happen, and on more than one occasion), it’s just not right. Essentially, it’s like complaining about who became mayor even though you didn’t vote.

So the next time you think of gracing your friend with your after-the-fact advice, please don’t. And of course, I’m talking to myself as well.

Engaged Before the Proposal

As a little girl, I spent a large chunk of my childhood dreaming of when I would get married. I loved Cinderella, and pictured myself in a large white dress walking down the isle to my own proverbial Prince Charming. But the fantasy wasn’t really about my Prince, per say, but about the grandeur and splendour the event promised. I could nearly hear the birds chirping and the bells ringing, and I was sure that my wedding would be nothing short of picture-perfect.

As a grown woman, I’ve spent even more time trying to forget and do away with all my lofty, fluffy dreams. Strange, you might think, but I have good reasons. Not only have I grown out of my childish tastes (no poofy white dress for me, thank you very much), but I’ve also realized that marriage is not what we often make it out to be. It’s not simply an event, a party, or an occasion to spend ridiculous amounts of money. It’s celebrating something much deeper, and much more sacred. Girls spend hours hunting through Pinterest in order to create the perfect idea of what they want, when, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter. You can plan and organize and create the ideal party, but it’ll be over in less than 8 hours. A wedding is one day in a story that will (or should) go on for the rest of your natural born life. Yet we weigh down the scale with our concerns and care for the day, and forget about the lengthy marriage that will follow. We’re lopsided. Willfully.

Putting this danger aside, we have yet another to contend with. We see this all the time with our friends, family, and even with ourselves. Christians are especially bad for this. Fully aware of the flack I may get, here it is : I think we are almost a little too intentional with our dating relationships, or at least too soon.

Before you all write me off as some non-committal hippy, hear me out. I think our culture has trained us to be outspoken and forward with our hopes and expectations for relationships. We meet someone, finally woo them, and declare our undying love before we even know their middle name. And this is all in the name of being intentional, or purposeful, or responsible. While all of these things are good and honourable, I think we’ve gone a little overboard. How many couples do you know who start dating and are completely enamoured with each other, and within a month or so they’re planning to get married? How many of us have been in that relationship? Where things go so fast from the get-go and all of the sudden you’re whisked away by someone else’s expecations? I know I’ve been in that relationship before, and it taught me a couple major lessons.

While I’m all for being up-front and honest, I think there is a time and a place for everything. I think, like Solomon, that there are wise times to say things and unwise times to say things. Even though we may feel an emotion, it might be wise to keep it to ourselves, before sharing it with our significant other. Having someone tell you they want to marry you while you’re on your first date is probably pretty unwise on their part. Not only does that communicate immaturity, but it also puts a level of expectation on the relationship that is far above what the relationship can handle. While it’s all fine and good to feel that way, maybe these are things we ought to be saying with our inside-voices. Sometimes it’s better to keep things close to the chest until our relationships are developed and we’re really sure.

I say this while being completely guilty on all accounts. I’ve found myself in this weird, limbo stage before. Someone communicates their desires to marry you a little too early, and suddenly you’re right there, on the bandwagon, dreaming of your future life. You automatically skip dating, and in your mind you’re engaged without the proposal. All you need is the ring and you’re set– everything else is planned out in your head. You see the other person as your partner. You have expectations that couples shouldn’t have when they’re just dating. You plan your life around someone who hasn’t truly offered you that level of commitment yet. And trust me, it’s all the more devastating when you realize your significant other wasn’t actually in a position to promise you the world. Things went too fast, and now you have a pile of snotty Kleenex and torn-up love letters to deal with.

All of this is to say, we shouldn’t treat marriage as the be-all and end-all of our lives. It’ll happen if it’s supposed to and in it’s own time. Until then, we shouldn’t fantasize and idolize. Marriage is not about a wedding day. Not only that, but we should take the pressure off our relationships and keep certain things to ourselves for a while. If you fall madly in love with someone on the first date, great, but maybe keep that locked away until the right time. Make sure you’re sure, and when you are, make sure again. Remember that our words are powerful, and we can put unreasonable expectations on relationships that could end up destroying it. And think of how much healthier a relationship would be if we allowed it to evolve and grow on it’s own, rather than rushing it along?

I’m telling you, friends, it’ll be worth waiting for. No need to hurry.

Music Monday

My mother taught me how to love music. A love affair fed by Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries that has now evolved into a genuine love for all things acoustic, indie, and folk. I’ve been listening to a bunch of different things lately, and I figured it might be fun to share some of the bands I’m into with some other music enthusiasts. So here’s my top ten winter bands (not that they came out with anything this winter, but I’ve been listening to them a lot this winter), and you should check them out. Hopefully you’ve heard all of these bands! Let me know what you think and leave me some suggestions of bands I just HAVE to listen to!

1. The Head and the Heart — amazing band. folky and acoustic, brilliant lyrics. Saw them in concert on Halloween.

2. Local Natives — these guys have been around for a while but released a new album recently. amazing live performers.

3. The Civil Wars — everyone’s heard of them, but their new album is actually just magical. MAGICAL.

4. The Staves — these three sisters toured with Bon Iver and sing harmonies that will melt your soul. Seriously.

5. The Oh Hellos — a very folky band from the States that have some of the loveliest lyrics out there.

6. Ben Howard — this Brit knows how to melt hearts. His voice is like silk. For real.

7. John Lucas — a small up-and-coming artist who has some pretty great tunes available on noisetrade.com (for free!)

8. Flogging Molly — Irish punk music. Enough said.

9. City and Colour — always a favourite here in Toronto, and his new album is just spectacular.

10. Dustin Kensrue — from Thrice, this guy has an amazing new worship album out that is mind blowingly fantastic.

So there you have it. My winter top ten is there for the taking. Leave me some of your faves in the comment section below. I’ll let you know what I think! Also, in case you didn’t realize, the video I’m feature with this list is from The Head and the Heart– Down in the Valley. This version was filmed in Toronto, in front of the Opera House last year. Awesome!

Until next time,

Lena