Makings of a Home

I’ve been inside beautiful homes, drool-worthy homes, and admired their cleanliness, attention to detail, color schemes, etc. I’ve been in homes which, upon entering, appear to be a cut out of a House and Homes magazine. Where every frame, every piece of furniture, every textile, every book and knick-knack were placed intentionally.
Then I go back to my own home, ( a place I am certainly blessed to have!) and am surrounded by clutter that somehow multiplies faster than rabbits, mismatched second-hand furniture, and basically, absolutely Nothing that would beckon for a page in ANY interior decorating magazine, other than to be shown as a before shot.
But stuff is stuff.
I don’t need pristine furniture that silently beg to be kept away from red wine; I don’t need a dozen matching, brand name frames; I don’t need to subtly coordinate the couch with the rug with the throw pillow with the throw cushions with the curtains.
What I want, is my home to be my home; Our home, to be our home. (That is, my husband and I )
When it comes to things, I like to think of myself as simple. Of course, time to time, I get the bug for something new or updated. I like to switch up the scenery once in awhile. But I’ll be the girl daydreaming in Ikea, rather than pushing a cart full of goodies.P1050351

Taking a second look at my home, I see memories, and I see space for memories to be made.
That sunset painting on the wall? Done for us personally, while on our honeymoon in St. Lucia.

P1050352The long wooden coffee table, with a scene painted on it? Second hand from my folks; used to be my granny’s. She was the one who had painted it.

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That hand-crafted brown clay vase? From a silent auction held at a Hope banquet we now attend regularly.

Along with these, are many personal photos on the wall, gifts from friends and family, crafty projects and garage sale finds. I hope, as we continue to grow and change, that we can say there are many things in our home that have a story. ( Or at least a sweet memory!) I want our home to reflect who we are as individuals, as a couple, as (hopefully, someday) a family.

However, above ALL these things, I always hope for our home to be welcoming. When it comes to making a home a home, I hope this is our first area of consideration; have I created a safe place in which I can serve and bless others?

What makes your home, home to you?

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Shovelin’ and servin’

 Growing up, I was the kid that mumbled and grumbled when my Ma called my brother and I outside to shovel the driveway, before Dad got home from work.   Perhaps  the  root  of  my frustration, was knowing  we  had a perfectly functional snow blower parked in the garage, waiting – silently begging – to be used. However, my Ma felt uncomfortable  using it, or letting any one of us kids use it, lest we manage to break something.
So instead, we reluctantly dressed in our winter gear; snowpants, jacket, boots, scarves, toques, gloves (sometimes 2 pairs); and trudged to the garage for the best shovel.
For a mid-sized family, we had quite a collection of shovels. Two heavy, metal shovels for chipping the ice; two small, plastic red shovels from when my brother and I were much younger ( My folks’ certainly weren’t against child labour – I intend to do the same!); A sturdy plastic shovel; and then, our personal favorite, the giant, red scoop shovel. So large, two kids could use it for a sled, if they so desired. ( I don’t recall if we ever did…)
So, because there was a favorite, we would take turns, swapping shovels every so often. Most of the time, my Mom was the ice chipper. But occasionally, we’d swap with her too.
I’m sure when evening rolled around, Dad was pleasantly surprised to pull into a cleared driveway. Really, it was the least we could do. That man has the best work ethic I’ve ever seen in my life. He just gets things done. He’ll work a 9, 10, 12 hour day, then come home and fix the vehicle, work on a project, fix something in the house or yard. Often in the winter, when the snow reached knee-deep or higher, he would use the snow blower and make his way across the field, creating for us a path to school. I’m sure lots of kids used this path. Heck, even deer used the path!
That’s how he showed Love; by doing, by serving.
Isn’t that what serving is all about? An act of Love and kindness? You don’t have to know somebody to demonstrate kindness either.
A couple of winters back, sometimes my roommates and I would be pleasantly surprised to come outside and find our driveway already shovelled. (That Christmas, we gave our neighbours a small gift basket, with a note of our appreciation.)
I want to learn to have a servant’s heart. I think it is safe to say, Jesus is the best example of how to do this.
How can we show love to our neighbours this season? To family? Friends? Co-workers, and strangers?

Mud and Guilt

It’s a rather vague memory, but it’s there. At a relative’s farm; it was early spring. Mucky, muddy, slushy season. And what kid can resist an adventurous trek through an enticing mud garden?
Rubber boots? Yup. One can almost see the ‘Just Do It’ logo hovering over our heads, as we cautiously at first, then gleefully stomp through the muck.
Ok, so I’m embellishing a little. Truth is, the image in my mind is of my young self – maybe 8?- standing on the grass at the edge of this mud pit, and turning around to find my younger brother a few feet away, his boots half-swallowed by mud. He was stuck real good.
So I did as any good sister would do, and reached out to him, encouraging him to take my hand.
He tried. He reached…
And reached…
And, well…
I’m pretty sure my Aunt put him in the shower with all his clothes still on. Poor lad.
Isn’t that how bad decisions go about sometimes?
We cautiously consider our options, tip toe-ing around the mud pit.
Perhaps it is not a good idea…
Then again… what makes it so bad? Perhaps there isn’t any real harm in it at all… And, just this once…
Funny thing is, we tend to be a moment too late in the realization that, yes, it wasn’t a very wise idea at all.
Not that children would be giving much thought to the choice that led to their muddied selves. Perhaps in this aspect, my analogy is lacking. I mean, kids and mud – it’s just bound to happen, right?
But can we approach everything with this attitude?
“Everyone’s doing it these days…”
“It’s just a phase…”
“Just curious…”
“Just this once…”

Perhaps it is just me, but the moment I realize I am trying to justify something to someone – or more often, myself – the Guilty light flickers on.

The more recent sermons at the church I attend, have put a lot of focus on kingdom-first living. And it’s a challenge. How does one go about that? How do we incorporate our faith into our lives? Or is it, how do we incorporate life into our faith? And in this aspect, my guilt is not so much a matter of what I’m doing, but rather, what I am not.
So, what now?
The question that is never completely satisfied…
But I feel the need to write that God is Always Listening.

The Time I Prayed the Hardest..?

Despite my efforts, there have been days in my years of being a Christian, where I wasn’t as close to God as I would have liked to have been. Not exactly a deliberate rebellion, just a passive straying, from time to time. (Does that really make it any better though?) Such as the case when I travelled two months in Europe. Surely God was there, but I kept him packed up in a little box, and tucked away into a back corner of my mind, for when I would really need him. But otherwise, this trip was for my enjoyment; to enjoy being young, being free.
However, when there came a time that my heart quickened, my mind started racing, and those little red flags started popping up, who then did I turn to?~~~~~~~~
Here we are, two young Canadian girls in the foreign country of Poland, pacing the train station carrying a large Canadian flag. We were waiting for a gentleman who would pick us up and drive us over to the Auschwitz tour that we had booked online. The Canadian flag was so that he could pick us out from the crowd. (‘Cause of course, we didn’t already look out-of-place!)
An hour passed. No ride. My friend is having little luck contacting the tour company.
Flag One.
A not so restful night on one of the last cars of our jerky train may have been a contributing factor to the jumble of thoughts now occupying my mind.
We booked online…
We paid online…
We are totally being screwed over.
The attempted phone calls continue for a time, as do my doubts, until finally, she gets through. Our supposed ride is where we are, but cannot find us, we are informed.
The ball of yarn continues to unravel, as we endure painful minutes of more miscommunication. To the extent that this “tour company”, ( I was still suspicious of its legitimacy) had contacted the number we left upon booking the tour.
(My friend’s folks’ home number. Thousands of miles away. In a whole other time zone. Oh dear.)
Finally,  a man approaches us – perhaps in his late 30s – and in his very limited English, manages to communicate to us that he is with the tour group. And we follow him out of the train station…
Flag Two.
…Across the center, a short way down the street. And there is a plain white van parked at the side. No writing. Tinted windows. We climb inside, then quickly depart.Flag ThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTen…
Despite my earlier suspicions, it had not occurred to me NOT to get inside that van.
Have Hollywood movies not taught us anything???
Perhaps it was then, I realized what real anxiety was. My gut knotted over and over again, and I was nauseous at the idea that we may have walked all too casually into our death beds. We followed so blindly. I don’t even remember where in the van we sat, just that, upon entering it, my mind didn’t cease in its repetitive prayer.
God, please let us be okay. Please don’t let us die. Please keep us safe. Keep us from harm. Please get us to the tour safely. Please protect us God.
I stared out the window, wondering if we had just done the stupidest thing in our lives, with entering this unmarked, travelling trap. I nearly pleaded with God for my life. And while doing so, did not utter a word to my friend.
Though our driver did not appear threatening, I knew that looks could be deceiving. Who knows where he could be taking us?  I didn’t have time to theorize about such things however, what with pleading for my life, and all.
And then the van stopped. My curiosity peaked.
The driver leaves briefly, then returns with two more people; an Irish man and his teen son.
And for some reason, it was then a wave of relief flooded over me.
At least we were no longer alone.
And, it turned out the tour company wasn’t a fraud.
And, as you may have suspected, we made it both to and from our tour destination A-Okay.
My fear revealed where my hope and trust lie, should times become desperate. It’s not always easy to trust him whose face we don’t see. I try to turn to God when I hurt, when I’ve had a bad day, a bad dream, etc.
It’s easier to cling to something when we are desperate.
However, I’m guilty of not thanking God enough on the days that are good. The days that are blessed. For life in general
I should be praying – talking – to him diligently everyday.

Finders Keepers, right?

My job is… a cleaning gig of sorts.
I’m a car detailer, to be more precise. About half the vehicles I detail are units that have been traded in. Unwanted, 2 to 6 year old things already being shoved aside for something younger, faster, stronger. But I will remove the garbage that has been carelessly jammed into its every crevice; vacuum the gravel and dirt and fries and mysterious half-eaten goodies; Wipe, wash, rinse, and scrub to restore even a  fracture of its dignity.
And occasionally, perhaps out of its gratitude, I am rewarded. Sometimes in nickels, dimes and pennies. A loonie on a good day.
A 20 dollar bill on a really, really good day. ( Woohoo! Free lunch!)
And  a diamond ring on an exceptional day.
I kid you not.
Just a couple inches out of suction reach of the vacuum hose, in a pile of sand and dirt, it sat. Blingy things and sparkly rings don’t usually turn my head, (Except when my husband and I got engaged. I was then totally transfixed, and it’s a wonder I never walked into walls or drove off any roads!) but when I saw that small metallic circle I just had to be sure. Just had to get a closer look. Just had to –
“Wow…”
I turned it over in my awkward, blue-gloved hands. It was pretty. It appeared to be an engagement ring; A diamond in the center, and a few smaller sparklers on each side. White gold.
This was the first real treasure I had ever found in a used vehicle. I assumed it was real anyways. Closer inspection revealed inside the band, ’10KLIBCO’. Whatever that means…10 karat, something-or-other. Sounds real to me. So I took it up to the managers. It was kept in a safe place as they spent nearly two months trying to get a hold of the vehicle’s previous owners and leaving them voice mails.
Now, it is in my hands.
I suppose one person’s misfortune, is another one’s fortune. I was both excited and uncertain to be handed over this ring. Did we try hard enough to  find the owners? Maybe they were on holidays..? What do I do with it? Should I sell it? What if someone suddenly calls back?
My husband and I want to get it appraised, then probably sell it. And then what? Maybe put the money towards school, or fixing the lifeless honda in the driveway, or just adding to the ol’ savings account. But… part of me just wouldn’t feel quite right about any of those options.
Every so often, it is laid on my heart that my money is not my own. My fortunes and blessings don’t end with me. That ring hasn’t made it very far yet, but if it does get sold, I would like to see at least some of the money go somewhere other than my pocket. Maybe the church; someone in need; a charity or fundraiser of sort; etc.
I’m trying to grasp the meaning of generosity. Through observing fellow peers, I can see I’ve got a long ways to go. But  I try to keep this thought in my head, when something good comes my way…
Blessed, so we can bless. Given so we can give. Pay it forward, right?
So maybe, in a sense, it shouldn’t be finders keepers, should it?

                  
 

Clovers and Shooting Stars

I’m not really a superstitious person. Wasn’t in my younger years either. I didn’t feel threatened by black cats; ( Actually, in fact, I felt threatened by ALL cats) I had no problem walking under a ladder if I needed to fetch something, etc. But I did however, believe in wishes.
If I spotted a shooting star, I’d make
a wish. Find a four leaf clover,
make a wish. Perhaps it was the the rarity of these beautiful things, that had me convinced that they possessed the magic –  the   power to make  my  small dreams come true.
Isn’t that what most children want to believe? That the unexpected can come true?
That there is hope in dreaming their dreams, wishing their wishes?

I remember a sunny spring day. I was with my younger brother. I remember a large green field of freshly mowed grass and little white flowers.
And little green clovers.
Hundreds of them. Patches of them. Everywhere you looked.
As I was in the habit of doing at that age, I crouched down just to see if I could find that one 4-leaf clover.
And in time, there was revealed not one 4 leaf clover.
Not two.
Not a few.
But dozens of them! And there were 5- leafed clovers too! Oh, the excitement that swelled within me. I could make so many wishes! What would I wish for? Goodness, I didn’t even know what to wish for with one 4-leaf clover, nevermind dozens!

But my memory goes blank. I don’t recall what happened next. I don’t remember if I started collecting handfuls of these lucky clovers. I don’t remember if I eagerly started making wishes, or what I would have been wishing for. And such a lapse in my memory causes me to wonder…
Was it even real?
As a child, we might selfishly think, more is better. More toys, more ice-cream, more play time, more wishes. Sometimes what we have, we figure is just not quite enough.
Even as an adult, I struggle with wanting more. More sleep, more money, more purpose, more time. And though I have been provided with enough, I keep asking God. Somedays, he has been reduced to a shooting star, or a 4 leaf clover;
“God, could you grant me this?” ” God, could you give me more ____?”
I ask, and wish, and ask; but often out of my own selfishness. Today, as a Friday trend it seems, my energy was low. I was starting to feel a little irritable, and time just wasn’t going by fast enough.
I found myself thinking,  ‘God, I could really use a little more energy right now.’

Have I not provided you with enough already?

The thought threw me right off. Did I just think that last thought? Or did the spirit just whisper to me? I thought about the blessings of the day; the free lunch provided by my work, the generosity of a fellow employee in buying me some juice, etc. These are just a couple small blessings.
God provides, and he provides me with enough.
It’s time I stop hoarding my 4-leafed clovers. When blessed, go forth and bless others! It’s time to realize how much I already have.

~~~~~~~~
Now, if I were to write an epilogue to the clover story…
In that same field, up on a hill, about a decade later, sat a girl and a boy; gazing up into the starry night sky, on a warm August evening. Blissfully hand in hand.
Two days later, he asked her out.
Two years later, he asked for her hand, and year after that, she said I do.
But I can’t help wonder…
Was God giving us a sign? A hint, when he showed us a splendid shooting star, bursting through the night sky? That my husband and I gazed upon, almost 4 years ago now?
And the thought just makes me smile.