A journey towards greater faith and creativity

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Dark of the Year

It’s that time of year again. The part of the year where I have to wake up in the dark and somehow find the energy to get up and get my daughter up and start our day. The part of the year where I may not see the sun until after my daughter has been dropped off at school.

I would happily stay in bed until there’s actual daylight outside. This getting up in the middle of the night (that’s what 7am feels like right now) is insane. I’m pretty sure humans were originally intended to sleep through the dark and be up with the sun… or at least whatever is passing for daylight.

And then Daylight Savings time will end. (Why do we even still have this in a society which has us up at all kinds of strange hours anyway?) And it will be dark outside by the time I’m taking my daughter to her late afternoon/early evening classes.

And then we’ll reach the winter solstice and it will be dark when I get up and dark when I’m making supper. And all I’m really going to want to do is hibernate. Seriously, why don’t humans hibernate? I would much rather do that than deal with the dark and the deep cold and the deep snow and ice.

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Sincerely Grateful

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving falls on October 9th this year. A date which is rapidly approaching and I find myself calculating what more needs to be bought for dinner and when I have to pull the turkey out to thaw.

Turkey dinner is all fine and (usually very) good, but the point of Thanksgiving is to pause and express gratitude for the harvest (originally) and all the things we have. A time to stop and take stock of how much we really have in our lives.

Gratitude has become one of those words. Overused, too often to try to sell some service or thing. And when a word becomes one of those, it’s actual meaning seems to get lost in the buzz.

Because Gratitude is actually very important, provided it is combined with sincerity. It’s easy to say (or post) that you’re grateful for something or someone or some event. But are you actually feeling it? Are you really grateful for what you claim to be? Or are you merely caught up in the latest self-help trend?

What we are sincerely grateful for we are far less likely to take for granted. We’re more likely to remember to acknowledge its affect on our lives.

I know some things (people, events) are hard to feel true gratitude for. Blessings do come in some really obnoxious/unpleasant/upsetting disguises. Sometimes it’s a matter of doing the best we can now and finding the sincere gratitude in hindsight.

What are you sincerely grateful for in your life?

For myself, I’m incredibly thankful for my husband and all the ways he supports me and my work; for our beautiful, active, strong willed daughter; for my high strung fuzzball of a Bandit kitty; for all the resources I have to draw on to build my life and business; and for Life in Jesus Christ.

When Life Sucks

Sometimes all you can do is Breathe

I don’t remember exactly what I was looking at when this popped into my head. I’m fairly sure I was online, reading something someone had posted about their life going to pieces and being unsure what to do next. The specifics of the situation escape me, especially given how much of this kind of stuff I see daily.

Because lives fall apart all the time. Things, big or small, are lost. Plans fall through. What appeared to be a sure bet turns out to be anything but. I know I’m not the only one who feels like there is always “another shoe.”

And it’s all largely out of our control. Yes, some of these things trace, at least partially, back to the choices we’ve made. We can make the best choices we know how and life will still happen.

It’s all too tempting, when life sucks, to complain and blame and look for an external source to fix it all for us. But none of those things have any power to change what happened. They also have no power whatsoever to improve our future prospects. What they’re really good for is keeping us stuck.

What really needs to happen next is we need to breathe. Sometimes it’s all we can do.

One breath at a time

One step at a time

One day at a time

“Hi. How are you?”

In North American society, “hi, how are you?” is considered a routine polite greeting. People spout it off without even pausing to consider what they’re saying or asking. When I took German in university, one of the things we learned early in the course is that, to German speakers, asking ‘how are you?” is considered extremely rude unless one, the person you’re asking is a close friend or family member, and two, you’re prepared to take the time to listen to the truth about how they really are feeling/doing. But, in North America, the polite response to this polite query is to lie. No matter what we may be feeling, we’re expected to say good or fine or okay. We’re expected to limit our response to one or two words and never tell the person asking the truth unless it’s short and positive.

The older I get, and the deeper I get into what I believe and how to live it out, the less I like the social niceties which require lies in response. The so called ‘little white lies’ grate on my nerves. As far as I’m concerned, a lie is a lie is a lie and it’s better not to say anything in some situations.

I do believe there are situations where is is better to keep silent. Because yes, we should always tell the truth when we speak. That said, just because we believe something to be true, doesn’t mean it needs to be blurted out without a thought to how it will be received.

If the truth cannot be spoken in Love, it’s far better to keep silent

I may say hi or hello or good (insert time of day), but I rarely ask anyone how they are unless I want to hear a true answer from them.

‘Tis the Season

Cold season apparently.

No sooner did my daughter start public school again than she brought home a head cold and shared it with myself and her dad. If there was ever anything I really wish she would keep to herself and not share, it’s the colds and flus that go around public schools.

It’s really hard to concentrate enough to accomplish anything when my head is stuffed right up. Worse is not having any energy and needing to nap to survive the day. Add to that the self imposed guilt which comes with not even being able to keep on top of my usual day tasks.

Not that beating up on myself is going to make the cold go away any faster. Especially since I know stress is only going to make it hang around longer.

It’s hard to give myself permission to rest and recover and know that I will be able to catch up on all the things I can’t manage right now. So hard to not feel guilty over slowing down and allowing my body to heal.

Yellow Leaves

I’m attempting something new this year.

For the past two years, I’ve been driving my daughter to and from school, for numerous reasons. This year I’m trying to walk with her, at least to school. I think she would like to walk both ways, but it’s fifty minutes, from the time we leave the house until I get home. I still don’t have the energy to attempt that more than once a day. Maybe by next spring, if life doesn’t go completely sideways on me yet again.

When we leave the house, we pass all kinds of trees with leaves now seriously turning yellow. There are yellow leaves on the front walk as well as up in the tree in the front yard. There are starting to be leaves on the sidewalks and a few in the school yard, although most of the trees on the school grounds are coniferous.

It’s definitely autumn here. Morning fogs (although still containing too much smoke), colourful leaves, back to classes. New routines and still wondering how all the things are going to settle this time.

Be Still and Know

Be Still

Not something I’ve ever been good at, although I’ve gotten somewhat better in recent years.

Overwhelm, confusion, discombobulation

These things I know far too well and I know they serve to make life and decision making harder instead of easier. They sap my energy and cause me to throw my hands up in the air and try to quit.

Because in the overwhelm and confusion and all the crap those dredge up (fear, doubt, struggle) it’s hard to know what to do. I find too many decisions made under these conditions don’t turn out well. Because when I feel like I’m drowning in all this, I start looking for answers externally. And there are all kinds of answers thrown out there. Everyone has a solution to my problems. The problem is, those are their solutions.

It’s in the Stillness

Because when I grow still, when I seek quiet reflection time, I’m reminded that the answers I seek, the solutions I need, aren’t out there at all. All those external solutions aren’t for me. The answers to all the most important questions are inside and it’s only in the Stillness I have the ability to hear them clearly.

Be Still and Know

Sit and breathe and look inside. Sit and breathe and ask all the questions. Sit and breathe and Know the answers aren’t out in the world at all. They’re right there, inside you, waiting for you to stop and sit and breathe and ask.

This is where you learn what’s True for you.

This is where you will find all the Love you could ever need.

This is where you Know what you need to move forward.

And it will be scary and hard and you will want to quit and you won’t want to see or hear or feel. And you will be strongly tempted to give in to all the distractions around you. And then, if you remain still, it will get easier and life will flow far better. The flows will carry you higher and farther. The ebbs won’t freak you out as badly. And all the things you desperately long for will seem less impossible… maybe even feel more real, more achievable.

And you will find it easier to Be Still.

And all those external solutions which aren’t really for you anyway won’t seem nearly so appealing.

End of Summer

It’s just past the middle of August and it’s already feeling like autumn here. There are even yellow leaves all over the ground. Bonus, it’s nice and cool at night.

This is a pleasant change from too hot, too dry, and thoroughly smoked. That’s what most of the summer here has been like, especially in the wake of the wildfires still plaguing my home province. There are still people out of their homes and out of work. Still people who need places to stay. Undoubtedly many of them wondering how they will manage the transition to back to school when they’re so far from home and may not have a home to return to.

It’s weird to go online, especially on Facebook, and see people posting first day of school pictures already. It isn’t anywhere near September yet. The first official day of school here is September sixth. Children here get a bit over two months break. I don’t understand what anyone thinks there is to gain by shortening that time.

My daughter is back home after three weeks (ish) with her grandparents. I still have nearly three weeks (maybe more depending what I hear from her school) before she needs to be ready to go back to school. In the meantime, she’s already started one of her extracurricular classes and should be registered for the other next week.

The Hard Part

Writing isn’t really the hardest part of what I do. I’ve been writing since the primary grades. While writer’s block is very real (despite the claims of those who have obviously never had to deal with it), I’m having less trouble with it than I used to. Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo are wonderful tools for helping me finish manuscripts, although I have finished novels without them. In a good year, I can complete four or more first drafts. (I think I’m at three so far this year, with five months and Nanowrimo to go.)

Editing and rewriting don’t really bother me. Provided I’ve let the first draft sit for a few months/years. I absolutely cannot finish a first draft and then immediately dive into revision work. I will HATE the piece by the end of the second draft (no matter how good/bad it actually is) and never really be happy with the end result. This is also the stage where it would be helpful to have different/more beta readers.

Publishing prep can be kind of fun, depending what I’m doing. Certainly the formatting and proofing stages, with all the little steps to producing a professional looking product are something I enjoy. It helps that I have a checklist which is essentially the same no matter what’s in the works. Although cover design can be frustrating and I too often fall back on Createspace’s extremely limited library of stock images. There’s a joy in getting the cover looking good along with all the inside stuff.

The real hard part is the marketing. The appealing to people to read the published work. The trying to convince them to post ratings and reviews of what they read. I wish I could afford to pay someone to do all that stuff for me. I find it energy sucking… energy I would much prefer to put into any of the three steps listed above.

Family Things

I didn’t post last week because I spent last Thursday on the road, doing the approximately ten hour drive required to get from home to the Okanagan. Because, last Saturday, there was a party to celebrate my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary. And because it’s been nearly two years since I was last able to see most of that side of my family. Fortunately, the wildfires plaguing British Columbia this year weren’t an issue along the route we took.

Being down there, seeing family I haven’t seen in a while, learning things I never knew about my family’s history, visiting with family and old family friends… I wish I had more opportunity than it feels like I have now. I hate living so far away from them. Most of them don’t text or Skype. Telephone is hard for me, for several reasons. If we could see any clear way to do so, we would happily move closer to them.

When I was growing up, family and family history were all around me. Vacations were used to visit relatives and attend family reunions. Family stories were brought up all the time. I wish I could remember more of the stories I have heard. I wish I could’ve heard more from the people these things happened to. I’ve lost four of the six grandparents I knew as a child. The other two are into their 80s and not in the best of health, which was partly why the summer celebration of an anniversary which actually falls between Christmas and New Years.

Heritage is such a huge part of personal identity. Family and family history often serve as a tether… a place to go back to when life gets too overwhelming. It’s what we build on, whether better or worse, when we create our own lives and stories. It influences our perception of ourselves. It influences how we relate to all kinds of aspects of our lives.

I watch my daughter grow and learn and I wonder what she’s learning about the meaning and history of family. She’s grown up surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles (biological and named) and she’s hearing some of the stories, whether she understands them now or not. I think about what I would like her to learn, how to pass values to her, what she will think of it all once she’s old enough to seriously consider what she thinks of it all.

How do I tell my daughter what my life has been like and how it influences the way I’m raising her?

How do I tell my daughter all the things I would like her to know about family and life and her options for the future?

What will my legacy to my daughter be?