Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gold in my kitchen, jewels in my laundry

Yesterday a friend’s Facebook status shared that another friend’s husband had died suddenly, leaving her with 2 young children, widowed at 35. Sobering. “You don’t know what it’s got till it’s gone” (Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi). Comments under my friend’s status reflected on the need to appreciate what is and not take anything for granted.
How many times have I wondered, What I was thinking in getting married?  There were struggles in singleness, but marriage has often blindsided me with weakeness. My single self certainly had plenty of insecurities, but marriage has abounded with days of feeling consciously incompetent! Well, Luther has been reading my mail. Marriage is not the easiest path. Ah, but it is a God-ordained path, which makes it a good path and the one I travel right now.
Luther: The Estate of Marriage (1522) LW 45: 38-40

“The world says of marriage, "Brief is the joy, lasting the bitterness." Let them say what they please; what God wills and creates is bound to be a laughingstock to them. . . .

Now the ones who recognize the estate of marriage are those who firmly believe that God himself instituted it, brought husband and wife together, and ordained that they should beget children and care for them. For this they have God's word, Genesis 1[:28], and they can be certain that God does not lie. They can therefore also be certain that the estate of marriage and everything that goes with it in the way of conduct, works, and suffering is pleasing to God. Now tell me, how can the heart have greater good, joy, and delight than in God, when one is certain that his estate, conduct, and work is pleasing to God? . . .

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason . . . takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and say, "Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise."

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, "God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. 2013-09-11 22.12.48I confess to thee that I am not worthy rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly wd I do so, . . . for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight."

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; . . . These are truly golden and noble works.”

Isn’t it interesting that Luther refers to “our natural reason” as “that clever harlot” and continues to write in apparently feminine terms, then it becomes clear that the following two paragraphs that he is addressing the husband? Fascinating that Luther should portray the man as complaining about stereotypically wifely duties.

Whether husband or wife attending to such concerns, the burdens are the same, the complaints are the same – and the dignity is the same: “adorned with of divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels.”

Gold in my kitchen? Oh yes.

Jewels in my laundry? Indeed.

All photos (except me & a friend’s baby in our rocking chair) are under attribution copyright from flickr’s creative commons.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

what I need to be creative

I need a variety of things. These days I wish for  …

  • time
  • some solitude
  • setting aside tasks
  • a good pen & a journal with smooth, thick paper
  • OR a blog “canvas”
  • a brain and body that can stay awake!

2013-07-17 15.20.59Sometimes it’s helpful to move physically, like walking the dog -- in silence, no podcasts!

This morning’s walk was not conducive to creativity according to the list above. We found someone else’s little runaway dog, so I brought it home, called the city number on its tag, called a vet clinic to drop it off – all while our German Shepherd noisily chased the little visitor around the house(!). After calling all over, I hooked both dogs to leashes in hopes that the owner was out looking. We had barely stepped outside when a white car honked at me from the end of the block. Found. Whew.

There! A story lived and told. Somewhat mundane, but life is very ordinary, isn’t it? With plenty of inspiration around me, I just need a bit of time and space to process it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Take your own advice

2013-03-23 15.30.29Do you take you’re own advice? The old cliche “easier said than done” is timeless because it’s so true. I am able to give advice about writing because I’ve done it and read about it and taught it – but it’s easier to give advice based on past experience than to maintain a writing discipline of my own.

This summer my step-daughter decided she’d like to live with her mom full-time. We’ve been privileged to have her with us full-time for nearly two years as she finish junior high in the same school. It makes sense that she missed her mom and wants to be with her.

This radically changes things for my husband and I. Additionally, he is taking a year off from the elder board at our church. It’s starting to sink in that we will have a very different and somewhat lighter schedule this year. Yesterday he asked what we should do with our time.

I’ve been on hiatus from blogging since August 2011. Two years. Lately I’ve been wanting to get back to it, and I have a growing clarity about the subject matter. This summer I’ve done manuscript critiques for two women who are wondering about writing their stories. We’ve had written conversations around these critiques and, in the process, I often wished I had a series of blog posts for them – not just with my own ideas, but pointing the ideas and posts of other people.

This evening I took about 40 minutes to copy and paste one of these conversations from Facebook into a Word document. I plan to break it down into a series of blog posts. It’s eleven pages long (font: High Tower Text, font size: 11, single-spaced with a break between each paragraph). That’s a lot of material! That’s a lot of advice.

So do I take my own advice? Yes and no. Not always in the structured way that I advocate. But that’s one answer to my husband’s question: both of us would like to work on writing projects. Developing this blog will be one of mine. Regularly writing in my journal will be another.

For the record, even though this blog has been silent for two years, I have still been writing. Here are links to a series that I recently wrote for Ambrose University College Bookstore’s Facebook page:

Why we carry fair trade gift products.

  1. Because they are meaningful.
  2. Because they dignify.
  3. Because they make a positive difference.
  4. Because they are beautiful.

What advice do you tend to give a lot? In what ways are you taking your own advice?


* Pictured above: our cat Finnick. He’s one of my writing helpers – though it’s not very helpful when he sits on my work!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Encouragement in Action

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." ~ Proverbs 14:1

Here's an excerpt from Spiritual Mothering by Susan Hunt.
The wise woman will have a building influence in her relationships; a foolish woman will have a destructive influence in her relationships. And this influence extends beyond the home to every part of her life where she has the opportunity to affect the atmosphere. A church that has the combination of sound preaching from the pulpit and a unified effort of encouragement from the pews will be dynamite! And I personally believe that it is primarily women who bring the energy of encouragement into a church.

The encouragement imperative tells us to "... consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." To understand how to put this into practice, visualize a cave with people hiding inside. This represents people hiding their spiritual gifts. It is impossible to "spur them on to love and good deeds" when they are hiding.

But why are they hiding? Usually the assumption is made that these people are not committed to the Lord or to the ministry of the church. Their non-involvement is interpreted as lack of commitment. Of course the commitment level is sometimes a problem. But more often, the problem is not lack of commitment but lack of confidence.

Generally, people are in the cave because that is the safest place to be, or at least, they perceive it to be the safest place. Involvement necessitates vulnerability that is risky. What if I fail? What if I don't meet the expectations of others? What if I'm criticized or rejected? Most of us simply are not willing to take that kind of risk unless we are operating in a safe environment.

God provides safety for His people. We should seek to do the same.
"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock." (Psalm 27:5)
"Serve one another in love." (Galatians 5:13)

We must make it safer for people to be outside of the cave than it is to be inside the cave. And God tells us how to do this: "let us not give up meeting together ... let us encourage one another." Encouraging relationships can make it safe for people to come out of the cave and to use their spiritual gifts "for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Who encourages you? Who have you encouraged lately?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Merry Sunshine Baby

I first heard Carrie Catherine’s song “Sunshine Baby” when I covered her songwriting residency in Southey (Oct ‘08) for the Last Mountain Times newspaper. “Sunshine Baby” reminded me of a lullaby Mom used to sing to us: Good Morning, Merry Sunshine. Every since that little Southey encounter, I’ve been following Carrie’s career, particularly watching for a recording of “Sunshine Baby”!

Recently, Carrie and I have been emailing about organizing a concert for her in the Calgary area, so I told her about Mom’s little song. Carrie replied, “Just the other day, I played a gig and was asking the audience if anyone knew the original nursery rhyme containing Merry Sunshine! Although my mom called me that, I have no recollection (nor does she) of where it came from! So thanks for that! Glad you finally got the song. :)”

Until today, I had never looked for it online, but apparently it's quite long with a couple of different tunes.
I found it here with two different midi tunes. The second midi file containes the tune I'm familiar with, but it’s longer.

I found lyrics here, and a slightly different, but apparently official, set of lyrics here, with source citation. Who knew the song’s composer had a name? G. Ambrose.

How delightful to discover that the song is a dialogue between a child and the sun. And here I thought Mom's four-line lullaby was all about me!

Interestingly, my Mom's tune is very compatible with Carrie’s for a little medley. Carrie’s lyrics also reminds me of another song Mom used to sing to me and with me: "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sun Shine In". I remember entertaining groups with this song when I was about 4 years old ... and 40 ... and many ages in between. But I didn’t know Pebbles and Bamm Bamm had performed it!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

what to do this summer

Are you a creative woman who wants to think more carefully about why and how you do what you do? Check out Regent College Summer School. I especially recommend my friend Chelle’s course:

Chelle Stearns: Beauty, Brokenness, and the Cross: Exploring Atonement Theology Through the Arts, July 11–22

Of course there are lots of other courses to check out here.

Better view of above video here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What is creativity? (part 1)

image Often when people tell me they are not creative, I tell them, “Creativity is the ability to use other people’s ideas well.” The idea came from a college textbook that made a strong impression on me two decades ago: Creative Teaching Methods by Marlene LeFever.

My sister is getting married next month and because I live far away from her, I’m compiling a cookbook using The Great Family Cookbook Project. It’s fun to read the submissions & sending out little inspirational notes to the [would-be] contributors.

My next note will suggest the contributors don’t need to be original and will encourage them to share favourites from other sources. For example, one woman added “Angel Biscuits” and included her source: Company’s Coming Muffins and More. I need to include “Blender Hollandaise Sauce” from The Joy of Cooking—so easy and so scrumptious on asparagus or eggs benedict.

I found Creative Teaching Methods on Google Books (of course). In searching for the quotation above (if it IS a direct quote), I have discovered other gems, like this one:

Creativity has become a feminine word. Women are usually thought of as being more creative than men, more at ease sharing their emotions through drama, song and teaching. … “Of course not,” we say, but our attitudes don’t always back up our words.

Look a little deeper. Most creative people are both sensitive and independent. In our society sensitivity is a female characteristic, and independence is considered a masculine characteristic. (p. 37)

LeFever goes on to show that creativity is NOT just the domain of women. That’s good, because I know a lot of creative men: my brother Jeffrey (an insanely talented potter-photographer-videographer-painter-musician), my friend Grant (carver; wordsmith), the illustrious Robert Genn, my husband, etc., etc.

The problem is connotations in meaning. When most North Americans hear “feminine,” we tend to think female. The French would never make that mistake. Or when we hear feminine in relation to men, we tend to think effeminate and/or gay. True, some creative men are effeminate and/or gay, but lots of men (like the ones listed above) are not. It’s too easy to make false equivocations.

So technically, I have no problem with saying that creativity tends to be a feminine quality: not female, not effeminate, not gay, not limited to women. And I’m comfortable saying that independence is a masculine quality, but not male or beefy or limited to women. Of course, to say creativity is feminine implies softness, which is kind of true (think intuition), but it certainly requires discipline (more later), which has a masculine denotation. But creativity is NOT chiefly a womanly thing.

Do you agree or disagree? Why?


Originally published on 2conversations.