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

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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National Return Your Friend’s Book Day

National Return Your Friend's Book Day

It turns out that all you need to create a National Day is to pick a day on the calendar, announce it and then spread the word.

Announcement: Today is National Return Your Friend’s Book Day.

Admittedly, my motivation for creating this National Day is a last ditch effort to let some of my dear friends know I’m missing precious treasures on my bookshelf that I lent them many months, even years ago. I know where these books belong, their memory lingers in the 1-2″ spaces on my bookshelf. But so much time has passed, there is no easy way to ask for them back.

And as far as I know there’s no statute of limitations for when a borrowed book transfers ownership, but that is too often how we play this dilemma.

I get the shame and embarrassment attached to waiting too long to give a book back. How does one broach the subject after so much time has passed?

I’m embarrassed that I even care. I like to think I’m a generous person and I love to loan out books. I’ve even forgotten many books or to whom I’ve handed them out. But there are a select few I remember and regret letting them pass out of my hands. I have spent time convincing myself that I would have/should have just given those books away anyway. Surely I would have bought those books for my friends. But recently, I admitted to myself that I’d be thrilled if they chose to give them back.

If I care so much about missing books, I should just go and buy them again, right? But there are physical aspects of each book that are surprisingly beloved. I remember that quote on the upper right-hand side that made a real impact – I dog-eared that page. I read that one on our vacation, the perfect souvenir of rest. There is the one I believed in and bought before everyone else did and I didn’t love the new design once it went big. There is the one that was touched my Grandma’s hands that I want it back in my hands. This nostalgia has no added value, I realize, but I can’t rid myself of sentimentalism when it comes to certain books.

Book lovers, you know this!

Confession: I’m an offender too. Writing this little post convinced me to comb my shelves for those books that, simply put, belong to another home.  Here’s the note I wrote accompanying a book I’ve had on my shelf for over three years and am returning by post today. Perhaps you can use it as a template yourself. Change the words in red to suit your own situation.

Dear Alice,

I am returning your book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, which I have held onto for far too long. You felt I should read this book as it is one of your favourites and I could tell you wanted to share in the joy it gave you. I feigned interest at the time, causing you to suggest I borrow your copy. I don’t doubt you wanted our conversation about Self-Talk Starters to continue after I’d read it. I accepted your gesture as a kind offer of friendship and had every intention to follow through on reading it for that reason. The truth is, even though I’m sure I could benefit from the wisdom in this book, it has not captured my attention or time in the way that it has yours. It turns out I prefer to talk to other people.

I would like to return this book to its proper place on your bookshelf. Forgive my thoughtlessness. You have been kind not to mention it, or maybe you couldn’t find the words. I hope my actions won’t stop you from lending it to someone who might need to learn to talk to themselves in the future.

Warmly,

Loreli

Get your books back! Spread the word!

Friendship Collateral

I didn’t know I needed other women.

Yes, I had a mom and sisters and girlfriends and aunts and the rest of it, but I didn’t know I needed them. It wasn’t until we moved to Ghana in 2006, when I saw how the women interacted there. Women were so connected and near to each other, demonstrated physically in how they would sit together or walk together, often touching or holding hands, even in that hot, hot heat.

I was an observer, an outsider, for a long time and that might be a clue as to why I became sensitized to the need. I didn’t have what they had.

At first, all I had were my long, long distance connections back home and friendly smiles and nods to my neighbours. I was the only “Obruni” (foreigner) in the group of women with whom I wished to belong.  And they did their best to welcome me, even though language was a barrier. If they couldn’t talk to me, they would still gesture for me to sit beside them. Those who could speak some English would translate from time to time. The important stuff, like when it was time to stop sitting. Continue reading

40 years to learn

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 that’s when I realized that I am going to be A-OK with 40.

Because (a) I never had this beauty thing down, certainly not in my teens.

Grade 10

Follow along the full #theawkwardyears series on Facebook!

And (b), I was a foolish young woman with regrettable behaviour. It’s taken me 40 years to learn some very important things, things I wouldn’t trade for the world. And they’ve come with age and most often they’ve come via heartache. Strangely, it’s resulted in a gift worth more to me than gold and I wouldn’t give it up for minimized pores or rocking skinny jeans.

At 40, I understand I get to be obnoxious, correct? So indulge me as I share 20 things that took me 40 years to learn. 20 things I didn’t know at 20… because I hadn’t yet had the full experience of it (which can mean doing it the wrong way one or a few times).

On Friendship

1. Life is meaningless without friendship. Therefore, work to keep the friends you have (especially your family) and be a friend to those who need one.

17877_430546365446_200261_n2. Do not fear conflict. When addressed properly, it has the potential to deepen your friendships.

On Marriage

3. .Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’ve won. I’ve bolded that because this was the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned – which cleansed our marriage – with a fantastic back story of turmoil and tension and those words coming from John-Mark’s mouth toward me. My insistence on being right (and trying to correct what was “wrong” in him) almost tore our marriage apart. It is much preferable to win in marriage than to be “right.”

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4. A nap is often the best remedy for an argument. If you feel grumpy, critical, negative, go to bed already, then we’ll talk. Again, J-M’s words to me.

On Church and Ministry

5. Church can be so very ugly… and breathtakingly beautiful. On this side of eternity, it’s a holy mess. But at its best it’s a foretaste of heaven.

6. The key to loving the church is realizing that we are the church.

7. Hope for everything, expect nothing. Hope keeps you encouraging, challenging, and loving others.  Having no expectations takes the weight off your shoulders and keeps you from taking it personally when others have their own unique journey of faith…

8. Use your gifts. God has equipped believers in a unique way to be a part of the church. How thrilling when you discover that he can use you. Also, let others use their gifts. Sometimes stepping away from ministry so that others can step in is the right decision.

On Faith

9. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.  There is nothing you have done that (a) he doesn’t already know about; (b) he won’t forgive.

10. There’s no more important thing to learn than forgiveness. God has forgiven you, you must forgive others. Walk in it, practice it daily. How about this – PRE-forgive! This is love.

11. We need others on this pilgrim’s progress – the faithful, the hopeful, the charitable – to teach us, to make the load lighter and the journey a joy. To seclude yourself is to weaken your faith.

12. God’s promises are not the mantra of the happy, they’re the lifeline for the suffering.

On Parenting

13. Neglect produces independence. Let me qualify this tongue-in-cheek statement – it’s about life skills. Let’s say that you forget to make your child’s lunch one day, they will most likely choose to make it themselves the following day.  If you don’t pack their favourite PJs for their sleepover party, they’ll want to do it themselves next time. If they run out of underwear because you haven’t yet done the laundry, they may choose to learn. HYPOTHETICALLY of course.

14. Never refuse a request for a hug from your child. Never, never.  You can’t over hug. Drop everything to give the hug. And force hugs on them from time to time, even when they don’t want them.

61911_10152334595785492_1861113051_n15. One’s role as parent has a progression from protector, to teacher, to coach, to friend. Try not to put these in the wrong order.

16. Your example will be the most powerful lesson for your kids, so love well, fight fair and make your bed too.

On Truth

17. In order for truth to be the strongest voice in your head, immerse yourself in it. Preferably daily.

On Work

18. You must put your time in the trenches. The most mundane task, done well, leads to growth and opportunity. Everything is useful.

On Decision-Making

19. Never make a decision based on fear or solely on money. That is for those who feel they have no choice. One’s choices should be life-giving.

AND FINALLY (FOR NOW)

20. Stay curious. It is the remedy to many things, such as boredom, ignorance, and self-consciousness, to name a few.

***

Of course there’s a whole bunch more, like HAVE FUN, READ LOTS, GET REST, TRAVEL, but I’ve got my forties to beat you over the head with them. ;)

And so, believe it or not, despite my ranting, I’ve come to appreciate 40. Not because it’s “fabulous” or “the new 30.” Because it reveals a gift, given through the fine lines and grey hairs. There is great value in them.

Although… I’m still inclined to cover up the evidence.

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Bite-sized wisdom – Part IV

We covered so much in this lesson, there are so many parts, I’ve had to brush up on my Roman numerals. Any more and I’d be forced to break out the Roman Numeral Converter.

Appetizers are a food meant for celebration. They are built for fun. They come bite-sized so you don’t have to think about calories or portions, should you or shouldn’t you, you just think about that taste sensation that enters you mouth and makes you smile. Yes, appie rhymes with happy.

Tanya makes appetizers most often for date nights with her husband, Chris. It’s a lighter late-night fare, when you get the kids fed and put to bed, you don’t want a whole heavy dinner, so appetizers are perfect. And you can feed them to each other. She didn’t say that part, but it’s true. Continue reading