42 years to learn

22 truths that took me 42 years to learn… and, by all projections, a lifetime to perfect:

1. Get your sleep, eat well, go for a walk. These are the best first steps to solving what ails you. If nothing else, it puts your mind in a better place to tackle the problem(s).

2. Pay attention to the words of those who stammer, stutter or blush because they are spoken with courage.

3. Embrace your tears. Those who know me know I cry almost daily. One friend has taken to calling me “Tina Tears.” Their involuntary appearance STILL takes me by surprise and, truthfully, sometimes embarrasses me. But I’ve learned to welcome them. I was marked with them in my early 20s when I received Christ. In welcoming these tears, I’ve discovered that they are a good gift. Tears detect beauty, break down walls, open the heart, and speak grace. They adjust my eyes to see what Jesus wants me to see. When your tears make a surprise appearance, acknowledge this good gift.

4. Welcome interruptions. Like tears, most gifts from God are not the things we planned or expected. The things that were/are an interruption in my life: my husband, my kids, my friends, and, well, 42 showed up kind of suddenly…  I can’t rightly say what good thing in my life wasn’t born out of interruption, even the things which initially seemed troubling. So welcome it all as God’s benevolence.

5. Banish offence. I believe it is possible to live a victorious life if we rid ourselves of offence. To qualify the term, I’m referring to when someone insults you either directly or indirectly, whether real or perceived. Root it out with prayer, kill it with kindness, walk through life unscathed and free.

6. Love others by keeping a record of rights. We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that when we keep an account of offences it is unloving behaviour. We like to either hold onto our offences and nurse them and/or throw them at others like a weapon once we’ve accumulated a good number of them. Is it possible to love by keeping track of, placing importance on, and speaking of the good things we see in others? I tried it. Suddenly, my husband is the most interesting man in the world, my kids are angels, I love Monday mornings, I have the best friends a girl could ask for, and I am saying hello to strangers on the street.  Gratitude is the outcome when we keep track of the good things.

7. Practice good gossip. Get caught talking well about other people. (That Karen is so amazing. Bob sure throws a great party. Don’t you just LOVE our pastor? And so on.) Start a new trend in the workplace, build the joy in your home, revitalize your church through good gossip.

8.  Asking for help is an act of generosity. Be specific with your needs and those who love you will thank you that you’ve let them in.

9. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.” Guidelines for life and social media from Romans 12:15-16.

On parenting (teens)

10. “Good for you!” “Use your words,” and “Play nicely” remain solid parenting principles well into the teen years.

11. Your teens actually do want to spend time with you. Force adventures on them, even if they resist. Do things together that make you hold your breath, use your muscles, tempt fate (within reason), laugh out loud. You’ve all just received a shot of perspective and joy. Now repeat.

Cockram Family Adventure

12. You are the boundary your teen needs to push against. Confirm for your teens that their home is a place where are they are safe to wrestle and doubt. Parents, this is Part II of your labour pains. There will be great rejoicing at the end of it.

13.  Parents of teens, you will need to add a sense of humour to your arsenal. No doubt about it, your kids will laugh at you, but if you join in, it means they are laughing with you.  Believe me, they’ll show you just how funny you didn’t know you are!

On marriage

14. Making the bed together is the best first thing to do each day. Bravo, you’ve accomplished something together. Now go, rock this day. It’s the two of you against the world. I also highly recommend unmaking it together at the end of the day, if you catch my drift…

15.  Dissatisfaction is never the other person’s fault, it belongs to you. Once you identify this truth, you can save/build/enjoy your marriage by ending the blame cycle and attending to the necessary changes in your own heart.

16. This one is for the wives. I’ve learned this little tip over time. (Don’t tell J-M, but it works like a charm). Whatever question you want to ask of your husband, ask it three times.  This is what it takes to get: 1) his attention, 2) the jokes out of the way, and 3) his real response. Try it and report back to me. We might be onto something.

17. Lighten up. If I may generalize, I think this is one of the brilliant things a man adds to a marriage – an easy going perspective. Women can place such importance on their deep thoughts and over-processing the minutiae.  If men and women are polar opposites in their thinking, perhaps the truth can be found in the happy medium. Emphasis on the happy.

On Faith

18. Faith is our spiritual muscle we must activate and exercise or else we become ineffective and unproductive. Train like an athlete. Digest good nutrients (truth). Work it off with strength training (service). Don’t get spiritually obese by only taking it in and never putting it to use. Don’t run yourself dry by always serving and never replenishing your reserves. And, just as importantly, rest once a week.

19. Worship God completely. Like, use every part of you – your voice, your strong legs, your wingspan, your thoughts, your heart, your eyes, your touch, your gut – to love and praise him. Discover how he wants to heal and restore every inch of you.

20. Thank God for the activists. They increase our proximity to the heart of God. They help us see and love the poor, the needy, the abandoned, the destitute, the lonely. So next time you see an activist coming, don’t squirm in your EZ chair, receive their good intentions and consider how you might take action with them.

21. Trade in Karma for Grace. Jesus paid what you owe. Best deal ever.

Final Word (For Now)

22. Seek after beauty. I have spent the past two years trying to understand what beauty is, where it comes from, where it can be found, who owns it. I can say with great joy that there are very real answers to these important questions. They all lead to a Creator God who decided that beauty is the way in which he would communicate his message of love and truth.  Look for beauty, find God.


Related Post: 40 years to learn

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40 years to learn

2 years ago, I had 20 thoughts that took me 40 years to learn. I’m happy to say they still ring true.

22 more thoughts coming up.

Based on a True Story

There’s less than one week till my 40th birthday. Oh, have I mentioned that already? Well, anyway, it’s on Friday, October 25th. I’ll give you a moment to mark it on your calendar.

I’m making a big deal of it. Since the beginning of the month I’ve been talking about it all over the place, reminding my friends and family daily about this upcoming milestone. Perhaps over-celebrating it will reduce the impact when those big numbers – in Roman numerals that’s XL – actually hit.

Physically, I’m noticing my age. Not just on the surface, like wrinkles and age spots, but functional things like failing eyesight and a chronically sore left knee.

But I’ve recently come to view the aches and pains not as a sign of what’s to come, but as the sign of transition. This is what trade-off feels like. Wisdom for beauty via pang, spasm and twinge. And…

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Thankfulness or Blessing, Which Comes First?

Of course, if I were sitting by a beach, in warm summer temperatures, oh how thankful my little heart would be. I would take a selfie of my feet in the sand by the surf and definitely post to insta. You’d all wish you were me. #blessed

That’s a familiar look of thankfulness.

I’m wishing for that kind of thankfulness this morning, which is the farthest place from where I am.

Continue reading

I believe in the dining room table

This is a post I wrote almost a year ago now about our dining room table, a piece of furniture well-used. It is now situated in a new space at our new place, which feels just right. I have hosted a couple dinners now, just this week the birthday party of one of my best friends, who used the table as a platform for her fantastic sense of humour and stellar story-telling skills. I believe in the dining room table.

Dinner Party with Friends

Based on a True Story

I’m writing this in our dining room at a table, a holy gift.

We purchased this table thanks to the generosity of our Barrie Free Methodist Church family. On our last Sunday there, before we were to head to Toronto, they gave us notes of encouragement and gifts of money as a send-off. We were overwhelmed by this show of love–I wept for three days straight after reading the cards and still get teary when I think of it. We knew instantly that we would use the money for an item that would extend the legacy our church had offered to us over the years – one of love, hospitality, and a sense of home.

This table, upon purchase, was instantly put to good use. Right away, it showed signs of wear and tear as we welcomed guests into our new space and to the table. I always suggest we meet here instead of going out for coffee or tea. Already this table is the…

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Give Yourself Permission – Part II (The thing about it is…)

Give Yourself Permission

The other night over dinner, our family had a conversation about other things (riffing off my last post) people might consider giving themselves permission for.

I explained that these would be things people do or don’t do because of some unnecessary pressure. I asked them to think deeply about something they might suggest people give themselves permission for.

“Fart” and “poo in public” came out of the mouths of certain members of the family. They had a good long belly laugh about this while I waited, arms crossed.

“Family, please. We can do better than this.”

Secretly, I agreed that they should give themselves permission to do these things, but I certainly wasn’t going to.

Which is a good reminder that considering decorum is part of the task. It is important to give yourself permission with regard to how it might affect others. It should not be the exclusion of others’ peace and frame of mind.

If you are a person who is highly relational, giving yourself permission can be a difficult task. Women inherently struggle with this – which is why we do too much all the time.

Giving yourself permission should be necessarily thoughtful, but, ideally, it should give you a freedom that then promotes freedom in others.

Giving yourself permission is about delineating false guilt from real responsibility.

The fam finally came up with one serious submission: Give yourself permission to fail.

Thank you, family, for the fodder on the dinner table and for my blog. I’m proud of you again. Go back to the events of your day.

When we start a new journey or take the step of pursuing our vision of where we believe we should be, we never do this alone. We drag people into it with us. Start a new business, you need customers. Start a new ministry, you need volunteers. Become a missionary, you need supporters. It is your supporters, volunteers and customers that feel like a responsibility, what keeps you tied to your vision, even when the tide changes.

There is a time to let go. Often those people we’ve brought with us are the barometer of our success. Their joining us gives us wings; their leaving deflates us.  They are most often the reason we won’t let ourselves fail (even when the barometer is speaking loudly that you’re already headed there.)

Reconsider that you are accountable to your followers, not responsible for them. There is a difference. As I see it, responsibility means your efforts are about controlling others; accountability means your efforts are about benefitting others.

Yes, it is important that you put your money where your mouth is. You must consider who you are leading and to where you are leading them. But when it isn’t working out – or it has worked out and now it’s not – there is a time to give yourself permission to stop and learn the lessons that have come from your attempts.

Our true responsibility is to listen well.

This is the beauty of faith in Christ. Believers don’t have to continually assess the risks and benefits when we follow him in simple obedience. Our striving is only to hear from the Holy Spirit. He carries the burden and ours is light. When his voice is loudest, the weight is lifted and our failures (every last one of them) are redeemed.

Our failures can actually clarify our vision; we see purpose beyond the success of our dreams. Our ultimate goal is his will realized, because he makes beautiful things out of dust.

The vision was never just for you; the lesson wasn’t either.

This might be time for a new vision, that says to others, “learn something incredibly valuable from my mistakes.”


I’ve known pure and utter failure. I have discovered that devastating defeat is almost always a disguise for good and necessary change . On the other end of it, having moved past failure in many forms, I no longer fear it, but embrace the lessons that come with it. Those lessons are: pray to the Father, reach out to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, walk humbly, and take others with you, through the failures too.

Others may perceive the Spirit’s whisperings in your ear, the result of his guidance, to be failures, but know that he is taking you on a path of rich experience and joy that will bring you to a place of deep gratitude and worship. 

Give yourself permission to fail. And some time after that, give yourself permission to celebrate your failures.

Give Yourself Permission – Part I

Give Yourself Permission

Today, I want to give you permission to give yourself permission to:

1. Not round up to the nearest dollar when pumping gas. I don’t actually know why this is a thing. Surely filling the tank to the tippy-top with $0.37 extra gas does not get us additional mileage of any significance. In fact, the time and mental energy we waste through this exercise is of way more value than hitting point-zero-zero at the pump. When we go to a restaurant we don’t ask the waiter to round up our bill with a few more mashed potatoes, do we? “Just a bit more, a little bit more, just a smidgen, ooh–and now you’ve added too much, darn it.”  No, give yourself permission to stop when the pump stops, pay the attendant, and drive to your destination.

Unless you get great joy from rounding up, in which case, I say carry on.

2.  Stop reading the book you’re not enjoying. It is fair to say that some books require time to get into. When a book doesn’t resonate right away, it is often worth pushing through to find the gem at the centre. But sometimes it is just not working for you no matter how hard you try or how many times you re-read those pages. Maybe it’s time to put that book down for good and take the pressure to read it off your shoulders.

My personal rule is to give a book the Three-Chapter-Try. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, it’s not for me. I’ve also closed a book forever after three sentences. Be guilt-free about this.

3. Go on a vacation with your spouse without your kids. Why haven’t you done this yet? It’s the best thing in the world once you get over the initial worry or wishing the kids were with you. (Husbands, give your wives a day or two to settle in the first time you try this.) On your kid-free vacation, you will face your spouse, look at him/her in the eyes again and remember that you’re in this together and actually so in love. You’d forgotten for a moment because you’ve been so busy with the kids.

If you’re worried that your kids will be upset, I can tell you they’ll actually love it even if they whine a little because they’ll love the effect. Kids are crazy-thrilled when their parents are in love. They are stressed that you’re arguing and they are sad when there is tension. They pretend to be grossed out when you kiss, but do it anyway. I’m telling you, they’re giggling while they say “ew.”

Make this a regular thing.

4. Book NOTHING in your calendar. This is for those of us who are victims of our own busy-ness. To those of you who said yes because Tuesday was free and now you desperately wish Tuesday was free because Wednesday through Monday are filled to the brim. Get out your calendar, consider your immediate future, and write NOTHING in regular intervals. With marker if you’re a hard copy fan. Develop a wish list of breaks, find your rhythm. You can do this.

Now, when you’re over-booking yourself this fall, as you tend to do, making plans, scheduling meetings, promising phone calls, you’ll see NOTHING in there, bright and bold. (If you’re brave enough, tell the other party involved that you CAN’T that Tuesday, you’re busy doing NOTHING.) You will so look forward to that date! I’ve got NOTHING planned in my calendar for the very near future. I’m giddy just thinking about NOTHING!

5. Admit you don’t know. In a world pressuring you to pick sides, it’s OK not to know. It’s OK that you want to spend time and consider all sides without jumping on or off bandwagons. It’s even admirable. You don’t need to share an article, you don’t need to stand on a soapbox, you don’t need to find someone to be horrified at to show you stand for something. You don’t need to busy yourself gathering up evidence to prove a point you’re not sure about. You actually probably know as much as everyone else.  But your admitting you don’t know helps the rest of us understand that there are nuances and complexities to these things. We’re too busy dumbing things down into one-line slogans and memes to notice. You’re doing us all a service by admitting you don’t know yet. So be unabashed about it and maybe more of us will feel free to admit we’re not sure either. That’s where true dialogue begins.