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

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

Reporting from the trenches

I confessed to my friend Christa (see the Heirloom Tomato Sauce post), over a dinner neither of us cooked, that I was afraid I was out-of-touch. “I’ve come to believe that in some ways I’ve created my own reality for the past seven years. From ministry roles to owning small businesses, everything has been my doing and I’m not sure I totally know what real life looks like anymore.”

This may have sounded like false humility as I processed out loud with her all the “my  doings,” but I was speaking specifically about relating to others. I’m glad Christa tilted her head in the way she does and asked me to explain what I meant.

I was wondering whether I was an effective voice to and for the every day woman, who doesn’t have the same opportunities I’ve had. Do I truly understand the woman who has a boss to serve and bills to pay and a dress code to follow? What about the woman who does shift work and has limited sick days and co-workers and a policy and procedures manual? Do I know her story? I used to know her well. I used to speak her language. I used to be her.

By the grace of God, he had me on a trajectory that took me out of the “work force” into the “mission field.” This is what my brother-in-law refers to as the “Africa phase” as we inevitably bring up a story from our “stint in Ghana” in conversation.

Since then, since the “Africa phase,” since having my reality SHAKEN and AWAKENED, I sought to bring what I’d learned through the experience into my life and the life of my family. In business, I never wanted it to be about the money. In ministry, the message was pared down to putting God and people first. In my family life, slowing down and simplifying was an imperative for our soul survival.

My experience changed me, does this God-gift of truth not have the power to change others through my testimony?

It is not a good sign when someone responds with:

  • Easy for you to say
  • Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go to Africa
  • Yah, but you have freakishly well-behaved kids
  • Must be nice to be married to a pastor

Since that conversation with Christa, there appeared a crack in my blessed reality and what I had, up till then, speculated about became a factor. My North American business was suffering from my “African phase” mindset – I was mostly volunteering my time and more interested in making friends than a living wage. My husband asked me to get a job. 

The story from there is one that is months long with many connecting dots resulting in God answering my prayers very specifically to find me work.

I am a working woman now.

Which already means fewer coffee dates, less time on social media, zero time to write or dust… Haha! about the dust.

Strangely I’m not quite ready to share this whole story of answered prayer, and you know I love to share… even though it isn’t “easy for me to say,” has nothing to do with Africa. My pastor husband’s “lack of faith” (in quotes!) was the impetus for it, and my kids, well they’re teens now… Therefore, I should have your rapt attention! But no, this answer to prayer is a new page to be written, not yet the story to be told.

When I got the job, of course I told Christa and then I told her that I was worried about it. Would I be able to keep up? Would this be too quick, too big a change? How was I going to go every day to the same place, to the same job, day after day? And could I give up the spice of life I was accustomed to? Was I even capable of what was being asked of me?

“Oh don’t worry,” she said, “Knowing you, you’ll find a way to be all PASSIONATE about it.” She did not roll her eyes at all, something on the ceiling caught her attention.

Three weeks in, I will say this, I have a boss and co-workers and a job description that is so great I sometimes forget it’s work. I’m so sorry, but I AM passionate about it!

But I have ventured back into the reality of alarm clocks and bed times, of which I am currently truant. And my husband (and friends) have a new reality too. I’m not as available. I use a daytimer now to sneak in quick lunch dates here and there. J-M has quickly learned not to talk to me after 10 because, regardless of the fact that I’m sitting beside him on the couch, maybe even typing on this laptop, I’m already asleep.

One last thought before I move into REM. I would hate for you to think that this is like glamping (which our women’s ministry is, by the way, undertaking in a couple weeks’ time… which is still too close to camping for my liking). I am not working to scuff up the appearance of luxury with a little dirt. Trading my favourite pasttimes to work for a living is not my first choice – is it anyone’s? But I do believe, that it is my ultimate choice because it is orchestrated by God.

To those of you who know this existence well (I suspect there are many of you), to you who are in the trenches, perhaps living paycheque to paycheque, possibly dealing with demeaning bosses or bad morale or low pay day-in and day-out. What sustains you? What helps you to stay centred in the reality of Christ?

We need to hear from you.

Operation: Recipe Swap Status Update

It may seem like my Operation: Recipe Swap (herein “ORS”) posts have been lagging.  This is true.  I have many excusesreasons.  This  hierarchy of concerns has been on my mind, showed up in my shoulders and possibly affected my immune system.  How have I dealt with these priorities, the grandest of which is a half-finished Wesleyan theology paper due at the end of the month?  I’ve effectively procrastinated myself down to the lowest determinant on my TO DO list.

I find myself polishing my mirrors and plucking my eyebrows a lot lately in order to avoid finishing the things of utmost importance.   This means that hardly anything of intermediate value gets attended to.  But I’m working my way up! My windows are so clean, I am now forced to blog. I’ll finish the paper… tomorrow. Continue reading

For the wives

There is a thought-provoking blog post by Lara Ortberg Turner about the “role” of pastor’s wives, Let Pastor’s Wives Do Their Own Thing, in reaction to the new TLC reality TV show Sisterhood, about wives of mega-church pastors in Atlanta, who call themselves “First Ladies.”

Sisterhood

In the trailer, one of the First Ladies says, “When you’re married to a pastor, you’re held to a higher standard.”  And yet, Turner proffers, “It is an antiquated and strange notion to view a woman as an extension of her husband’s occupation. Yet for some reason, we insist on doing this with pastor’s wives.” Continue reading

Let’s start with Gary Thomas

I recently had the opportunity to present a workshop to a women’s group based on Gary Thomas‘ book, Sacred Pathways.  Have you heard about this book? Really? Have I not talked your ear off about it?

OK, so the premise of the book is that, in the same way that we have personality types and spiritual gifts, there are worship temperaments that help us relate to God and understand how to love him with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  What I love even more than the freedom this book gives us to explore our own “worship styles” (and we’re not talking music here, we’re talking about how we study, pray, spend time with God) is being able to understand others and how THEY relate to God.  Heaven forbid – seriously, Heaven, strike me down should I suppress the worship of God by another. And yet… and yet, this is the tragic tale of many who have either been discouraged by others to worship freely or have pointed the finger and diminished someone else’s worship. Continue reading

I gave myself a promotion

I had registered a new business the day I unregistered from Big Village back in February, but it was just this weekend that I pressed PUBLISH on the site and made it known that I’d be jumping back in the game of looking for customers.  I’m an entrepreneur once more.  How appropriate since its Small Business Week in Canada!  I’m inclined to thank Canada, or more specifically BDC, for the grand welcome.

My new business is called Your Biggest Fan. I offer social media services to small businesses and artists. Continue reading