more Beautiful, True, and Funny

Hi guys.  I want to keep sharing these things – partly because this is part of the process I am going through, thinking and learning, and partly because I think that these things have the ability to encourage and inspire others, too.

hidden life of trees

Reading this book filled me with wonder.  Some of the things he talks about, you can see by just looking out the window if you have a tree or two in view.  Reading a couple chapters and then going for a walk in the woods… wow.  I love trees to start with, but this has changed my whole experience of being outside.  Some of the mechanisms trees have for regulating growth and communicating with each other are beyond anything I had previously imagined.  (Mike and I have been discussing how Tolkien showed some keen insight with his creation of Ents.)

We all need more awe and wonder in our lives.

 

 

 

beauty will saveIf you’ve been reading my previous posts at all, you know why I was drawn to this book.  And it was in the discount section!  It wasn’t exactly the book I thought it might be – but it still spoke so deeply to my heart.  (This was the book I quoted from in the last post.)  I’ll let the book describe itself.  “In today’s world we have technology, convenience, security, and a measure of prosperity, but where is the beauty?  The full message of the beauty of the gospel has been replaced by our desires to satisfy our material needs, to empirically prove our faith, and to establish political power in our world.”

 

 

Let me make a confession:  I LOVE mom-blogs.  I have for a long time, long before Beatrix was born. (I mean, after she was born, its not like I had time to read them!)  (Although they have even helped me in practical ways in the past.)

This blog has made Mike and I laugh so many times.  I am amazed at her ability to convey so much emotion with simple drawings.  It is also a motherhood survival skill to be able to take things that are difficult and laugh at them – she has it, and reading her blogs helped me develop it.

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And this sock commercial!  It made me cry.  Not because they are doing business AND helping the homeless (although that’s great), but because they had a great idea, and then they did it.  The guy saw something that bothered him, and that made him think.  He came up with a way he could help – they imagined and researched to develop something good, and then they actually did it.

 

One more thing:  Did you go watch all the Walk off the Earth videos yet? No?  Here’s another favourite.

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Blessed are those who mourn…

I know this doesn’t sound like a thank-you from the title, but bear with me.

I’m going to start with a quote from “Beauty Will Save the World” by Brian Zahnd,

“Sorrow is a necessary consequence of loving others and being fully engaged with humanity.  It is through the work of grief that we carve depth into our souls and create space to be filled with comfort from another.  In this way, grief is understood, not as a reality to be denied, but as a work to be attended to.  …Where… banal happiness seems to be the highest goal, we don’t want to attend to the work of grief, we put it off as an unpleasant task or something beneath our station,  But this has consequences…  In such a state the soul can never know true comfort and joy; it can only be anesthetized with entertainment.  It is in the work of grief that space and depth are created – space and depth that can be filled…

“Jesus is making an important announcement to those who… have allowed themselves to be sculpted by pain and sorrow.  Jesus seems to be saying that those who have… engaged in the real work of grief… are the ones who will encounter deep comfort…

When human beings suffer tragedy and profound loss, there is a certain amount of grieving that is required.  But in the mystery of human inner-connectivity, the work of grieving does not have to be done alone.  When we choose to bear the burden of sorrow with others, it really does lighten the load for the suffering.” 

(emphasis mine)

I read this on the same day I went through cards again – cards from the funeral, and cards that we have received since. I sat in front of the fire and glued them into the blank books that Don put out at the funeral – that many of you wrote memories and encouragements in.

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You guys, this season is hard and awful and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  And yet in the midst of our pain, at what feels like the end of joy, we have received such overwhelming comfort.

It reminds me of more of Jesus’ words: he promises that those who have left homes and families for his sake will receive them back many times over.  We have done this, and sometimes it has been a joy and often it has been a sacrifice, but…

Especially in our time of need, we have found that we have a greatly extended family who is looking out for us – providing us with homes (including our home for this month on Pender Island), transportation, food, and encouragement.

Comfort.

So thank you.  Your words (and your presence through them) have meant so much.  Your cash gifts have given us the freedom to make choices based on what we need at the moment without fear that it will cripple us tomorrow.

In the midst of our mourning, we are finding such incredible comfort.

Advent is coming

I’ve written before about our process of beginning to celebrate Advent.  Its become a family tradition that is fun and deeply meaningful.

For the last few years I’ve started planning Advent in summertime, trying to gather materials and presents to help us celebrate in December.  Last year we wrapped up 28 books for Beatrix, and she got to open one each day.  She was old enough to kind of get it.  She understood that each day, she got to open a package and then read a new book (some of which she was more interested in than others).  I worked hard to choose good books that we would all enjoy – with no library access, this was all we would have to read, and I think reading with small children is one of the most important things a parent can do.

 

It was a lot of fun, and I was really looking forward to doing it again this year.

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As I’ve started looking ahead at the months to come, trying to think about what to do for Advent and Christmas filled me with despair.  Any option I thought about just brought pain.  I couldn’t get excited about the idea of arranging 30 days of chocolate (or tea, or cheese, or whatever) for Mike and I… it seems so empty.

Yet, we can’t not celebrate.  Our rituals and traditions are about things that are true no matter what our circumstances.  Advent is about celebrating joy fulfilled – and at the same time, the recognition that our world is not right – and the longing and the hope that one day all will be well.

It seems to me that Advent is precisely what we need at this time in our lives.

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I thought about a few years ago, when Mike and I wrote notes to each other for each day of Advent.  This seemed like the best idea, but I am pretty sure neither of us is up for that kind of project.  Then I remembered that we are surrounded by wonderful and amazing people who have been wanting to do things to care for us.  One of the things we have appreciated so much over the last few months is the various emails, blog comments, and cards we have gotten from our friends.  It has been such an encouragement.

We would like to organize that a little bit, so that we each have at least one new message to read from one of you, for each day of Advent.  I have asked a friend to receive and organize them for us so that it can be a surprise.

It feels a little strange to be asking people to send us kind words – but please send us kind words!  It doesn’t have to be eloquent, or even your own words – we would be happy with poems, songs, scripture verses, comics, etc – whatever you think is meaningful, true, beautiful, and/or funny.

You can email your messages to: tallonadvent@gmail.com.   (If there is anyone who wants to mail a card or something else tangible for the “calendar”, please send me a message and I will give you our friend’s mailing address.)  Please have them to her before Nov 25 so that she has time to arrange everything before she delivers them to us.

In advance, thanks.

Beautiful, True, & Funny

There have been so many things over the last few weeks that I have wanted to share with one or another of my friends.  Things that are profound, things that have made me laugh; things that have inspired me.  So I thought I would use this venue to share some of these things with you all – and if they seem interesting to you, please check them out.

 

out of sortsI picked this book up at my new favourite store.  (Its called Wendel’s in Fort Langley.)  Its a book store where you can tell each book has been chosen by someone who loves books.  The story is about her faith journey – in church, away from church, and back again.  Woven throughout her theological and relational wrestles is her story of loss, of babies that she didn’t get to hold in her arms.  This book is funny and heartbreaking in turns.  She lives in Abbotsford, BC.  The way she describes her thoughts about living there put words to much of what I have been feeling as we have been in Chilliwack.

 

daring greatlyAgain, Wendel’s.  I’ll confess it caught my eye because it’s pretty.  But I picked it up because the title comes from one of my favourite quotes.  This book is about vulnerability and shame.  It is well-written and research based.  Go read it.

 

 

Side note: There is a section where she speaks about gratitude, that expresses something I have wanted to say, so I am just going to post a picture of it here:

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god at war

 

I’m not actually reading this one right now.  But I re-read it last year when baby Jonathan died and I was heartbroken.  Gregory Boyd’s theological teaching, particularly from this book, is one of the things that has helped me to face Beatrix’s death with honest grief, acceptance, and hope.

 

 

It’s not all books!  The next one comes with a disclaimer: these comics are crass, and are full of foul language.  (If this offends you, please skip to the next section.)  I read The Oatmeal’s comics long ago: He shows us how to use proper English grammar, he makes fun of his own laziness and things that frustrate him.  He is a keen observer of human nature, and able to make fun of both himself and our culture in ways that make me both laugh and consider.   I was not, however, expecting it to be a source of inspiration.  But in the years I haven’t been reading, he has made some life-changes, and so you can find my new favourite series here.

 

I you haven’t seen the video of 5 people playing a song on one guitar, please go watch this.  I don’t usually enjoy watching videos on the internet, but I watched this video over and over after I first saw it a few years ago.  I have found out – they have other songs!  And their videos are all amazing to watch.  (This can be a rabbithole, sorry.)  They creatively cover popular songs as well as making videos for their own music.  If you have lots of time, just go watch all their videos, but if not, this is one of my other favourite covers,   and I’ll recommend the videos for their original songs “Rule the World” and “Red Hands.”  Their music, videos and interviews leave me laughing and feeling inspired.

 

One more book.  In the midst of many important issues that no is not enoughseem to compete for attention, and so many loud voices full of prejudice and hate, reading this book felt like I could breathe again.  She is full of scathing criticism and relentless hope.  She explores the ways the important issues of our time are intertwined, the ways our culture has accepted ways of living that are good for no one, and looks at creative solutions for “winning the world we need.”

 

Courage

I’ve been working on a post about Gord Downie in my head for several weeks now…  I’m not sure I have all of the words ready yet – but when I heard the news of his death this morning, I wanted to try.  I know there are many of you for whom the grief is still too near.

It would be stretching it to call myself a fan of the Tragically Hip, but their music is woven throughout my memories.  It was my favourite CD to listen to at a house I babysat at.  When I was 14, I agonized over what to buy my first boyfriend for Christmas – my friend and I settled on a Trouble at the Henhouse tape.  A friend and I used to joke that he would be 38 years old… and never kissed a girl.

I’ve watched Gord’s courage with amazement.  I loved that, when he found out he was dying, he decided he wanted to continue doing what he was already doing – that he was living his life in a way that he loved.  (Oh, that we could all say this.)

I was amazed at the work he put into it.  He had to re-learn 90 songs for their last tour.  Wow.

I also admired his work on the Secret Path.  He knew he was dying, he knew he had a Voice at this moment in history, and he chose to use it to help bring awareness and justice.  I bought a copy of the graphic novel a few weeks ago in a bookstore, but have been waiting to read it (and listen to the music) until I can give it the attention it deserves.

Its a sad day.

But I am inspired to live more courageously because of his life.

not a dress rehearsal

A Different Kind of Beauty

I first noticed it a few years ago.

It was a woman I have loved since we were children… All of a sudden she looked old.

It wasn’t really all of a sudden.  What with her busy life and my busy life, I hadn’t seen her in a few years.  My initial reaction was shock and dismay.

But as I thought about it, I realized that those years had been particularly difficult.  She had walked through deep griefs – the kind that are not only unbearably sad, but make you stop and evaluate your whole direction and way of life.

So I kept looking, and as we went through the process of getting to know each other again, my view changed entirely.  She has come through her grief and remained whole.  I don’t mean entirely complete – we have lost too much to be entirely complete in this lifetime.  But the kind of wholeness that has experienced life-altering pain, and not given up on love and hope.  The marks of her journey are unmistakable, they are written over her face; over her whole body.

She is one of the most beautiful women I know.

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I’ve seen the changes in my own looks over the last few years.  I’m very proud of the grey streak in my hair.  I saw the lines starting around my eyes, and thought “maybe I should start using night cream?”  And then I laughed and laughed, and wondered where that thought even came from.  (Products I own beyond ones used to wash are pretty much limited to deodorant and lip balm.)

I’ve seen it when I come on this blog, and see the fresh face on the banner picture above.  That wasn’t that long ago, but the years are showing like dog years.  Some of it is just the age that I am, some of it is the months without sleep, and some of it is less physical – the suffering I have seen, and been a part of.

I’ve seen other women whose pain is written plain for any to see who might look.  Their trauma has made them old before their years, and it is not beautiful, it is distressing and painful to be with them – because you cannot be with them without being faced with their suffering and brokenness.

 

This year can’t help but be etched deeply into the way I look.  I’m hoping pain makes me softer (emotionally, not physically), kinder, more patient, compassionate, loving, and hopeful.  I know I am looking older, but I think that these characteristics will be visible as well.

 

But how are you really doing?

People have been very gentle with us.  But we have been asked this question enough times, in enough ways, that I am sure most of you are thinking something like this.

Its hard to explain.

Neither of us is very good at having a public face that is different from who we are.  Sure, there are different things we may say (or not say) depending on who we are with, but our conversation typically comes out of who we are and what we are thinking about.  We’ve always been pretty honest here on the blog – sure, we polish it a bit, and work to communicate it in a way that a broad audience can understand, but it has usually been a good representation of what we are experiencing.  That hasn’t changed.

There aren’t many days where I don’t shed some tears – some days more, some days less.  I get kind of morose in the evenings when I am tired, and start to dwell on my pain – but that is usually around bedtime, and when I realize its happening, I’m able to just go to sleep.  I do a whole lot of nothing, because simple tasks and social interactions are exhausting.

 

I can see signs of life, though.  I’m able to do just a little more before I am knackered.  I’m able to focus and read things.  I’m curious about things; I am learning.

Being outside is good for my soul, and I’ve been able to get out into “real nature” nearly every day.

I’m mostly able to choose coping mechanisms that are good and healthy instead of ones that are destructive.  I won’t speak too much for Mike, but I will say that the same is mostly true for him.

And we are doing OK.  Mike & I are drawing towards each other and not away.  We are giving each other space to grieve differently and to heal differently, but also spending time together.  Doing our best to be kind, gracious, patient, and forgiving towards one another.  Not shying away from sharing our stories and memories, be they funny or sad (most of them are both).  We’re looking at the future, and starting to consider some ideas.

We are not putting up a good front, or trying to be strong for anybody else.

We are strong.