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

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.

204 months – a gushing birthday letter to my 17 year old

Dear Mallory,

For 17 years we’ve been your parents. Man, we parents really lose it during the teen years, don’t we? We used to be super attentive and excited about your little pinky twitching. We used to laugh – even cheer – at your flatulence! How times have changed. We used to tell anyone within earshot about your latest developments, like when you FINALLY rolled over at 8 months (too many people heard about how you really liked to sit as a baby), how your first word was “watch” at 9 months (how did your little mouth wrap around such an obscure reference), how you got most of your other words all mixed up and backwards, like “phone-miker” instead of “microphone” or “beltseat” instead of “seatbelt,” many of which have found a permanent place in our familial vernacular.

We actually used to make appointments with our friends to show you off. Ha! They thought we were there to visit with them, but we just wanted to show them what you were up to. I don’t even know if they rolled their eyes at us because I was too busy looking at you.

We were nuts about you and everyone knew it.

Here’s the thing – we’re still nuts about you, so at what point did we stop celebrating your milestones?

Mallory at 204 months old

Think about it. Now, at 204 months, you’re  walking across full rooms without help. You’re walking to the bus stop,  you’re walking to school. You’re walking, walking all the time and we never mention it all. It’s got to be disappointing that we don’t notice all that walking you’re doing.

You don’t just say “watch” anymore, you say mouthfuls of words! You’re talking not only to people, but on devices too! You’re expressing emotion and voicing opinions. You’re using your words ! Why aren’t we celebrating this?

Let’s talk about how you no longer just sit and roll over. You play SPORTS. Your father and I hardly know what sports are.  Here you are tapping into these latent skills and excelling! You got 98% in P.E. last year.  How’s that even possible, are you an Olympian? You’re on the volleyball and badminton teams and you were on the BOYS BASEBALL TEAM last year. At 204 months, you are showing up your immobile kin and you’re showing up society. Barriers, inherited and societal, are to be overcome! Good for you, 204 month old!

What about the driving! We put a steering wheel in your hands and told you to press go with your right foot, and stop with your right foot again–no, that’s the gas, yes, that’s the brake–and you didn’t look back, except to check your mirrors. I watch you take it all so seriously and try not to inhale too quickly when you’re taking the corner wide. You’re DOING THIS. You’re transporting us to A & B [somewhat] safely. How do you exist?

Mallory Driver

Truthfully, you’re not even overly keen on driving, other than to recognize that it’s probably a helpful tool should you want to leave the city. But you love being in the city. You navigate the transit system like nobody I know. You don’t even stick to the subway lines, you’re on buses and streetcars, alighting and transferring left, right and centre. A week or so ago, you did more touring of Toronto in one day than I have done in my lifetime. You tell me it’s easy – you just need fare and the TTC app and the city is your oyster. But just because you make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is! Don’t negate the fearlessness and aptitude required to tame the Red Rocket like you do. You are a super hero.

Mallory in the city

If the goal of parenting is to move one’s children towards independence, we realistically stopped parenting you at month 40.

You have delighted us consistently over the last 204 months.

Mallory Sign 1

But I want to be clear about this. Our delight may look like it’s about what you do, but it’s actually about who you are.  All those cheers for your baby flatulence weren’t because we hoped you’d win Fastest Farter in the West, but because it showed us that you were healthy and functioning properly. We’d hardly care about that 98% in gym except it reveals something about your character and how you like to challenge yourself.

If our love were dependent on what you do, how would we handle that time you got 27% on a test or the way you have totally forgotten how to make your bed over the past couple of years. Even those things reveal something (as you explain that for all the sleeping you’re doing in this season of life, it makes almost zero sense to make a bed).

If I were to encapsulate who we see you becoming, who God intended you to be, what comes most to mind as your enter your 205th month and 18th year, I see you as an adventurer and lover of life. You are very willing to try new things and even seek out new experiences. Truly, and now is the time to say it, I credit you for making every single one of our moves – even the one to Ghana – a joy. To see the world through your eyes, to watch how you embrace the challenges, well, you help us all adjust and probably curbed a freakout or two.

At 204 months, you find yourself in yet another new home. While I’ve been tempted to grieve the change, you’re excited about living in a high-rise – a community of a couple thousand people in one building. You’ve already invited your friends over and went on a mission to find out where the heck the gym was and discovered that the penthouse floor is really just the same as our floor only at the top. You’re learning, learning, always learning. I want to celebrate that – that as long as you’re curious about the world around you, you will continue to grow and develop. New things every month – this is life you live and we celebrate.

I love how you love God, openly wrestling with deep questions without losing your trust in him. You teach me, young one! The way you love others, deeply, loyally and how you think big, important thoughts that the world needs to hear… how am I so privileged to sit at the table or on the couch or by your bed, your only audience, to hear from you? Sometimes I’m afraid to talk because it means you’ll stop. These are golden moments.

Your Daddy and I have many secret conversations (we’ve cut down on the appointments with friends to brag about you) where we actually get giddy about how precious you are.. Our hearts burst or hurt in the rhythm of your own joy or pain. We see you becoming that girl, that young woman God made you to be.  This birthday, my only advice to you is to keep going!  You’re doing it, you’re WALKING!

And we’re celebrating!

Mallory Selfie

Happy Birthday, Mallory!

Love, Mommy

P.S. Have I mentioned how you can laugh at yourself.

Mallory 204 Months Old

Behind the scenes photo…

Mallory Behind the Scenes 1

Literally, “behind” the scenes.

The power of a hug

A Facebook status repost from last week in honour of National Hugging Day

High stress in the Cockram family tonight. Girls have big projects due yesterday and I’m revamping my talk for Saturday for the 50th time. And here we are when everything is due, between the three of us, we can’t understand the instructions, can’t find a stapler, the printer ink runs out, we’re in each other’s way, the hands on the clock move faster, the phones are ringing and beeping, and no one has the emotional resources to help each other.

Between us we’re quivery chinned or frantic in the eyes and all feeling slightly car sick. I stopped speaking in full sentences a long time ago because, do I have to?

Then Fifi walks by and accidentally gives me a hug, because hugging is a habit to her. She didn’t mean to, though, and pulls away to return to her stress. But that tiny act of reaching out is contagious and she comes back when I call her and we promise to get it together.

Hugs, so cute and so powerful, one of the biggest reminders of what’s important and one of the best ways to say “you’re important.”

Where’s J-M in the midst of all this? Out getting printer ink of course and it’s taking him a really, really long time. He’s a smart man to know just when to leave. But he’s missing out on these hugs. Now look at me, I’m smiling and getting my kids ice water and giving them kisses on the forehead.

I’m going to talk about hugs on Saturday instead of beauty maybe. Everything is going to be just fine.

Parenting Teens – Spare Me a Word or Two

She tosses the permission form at me across the table. She’s filled the form out completely, except for the signature line. I figure out quickly, that part is for me.

“What’s this all about?” I ask, even though I could see clearly that her Grade 11 law class is going for a visit to the court house. Hey, I work in law! This is my scene! Maybe I could tell her about the ins and outs of starting a lawsuit, some of the behind-the-scenes details they surely will leave out of the official tour. Who wouldn’t want extra information – she could use it to impress her friends!

“Trip,” she mumbles.

“One word?? You can only squeak out A word?”

A trip,” she enunciates. Oh, and I get it as quickly as spotted that signature line. She’s avoiding the conversation I want to unleash on her.

“Good. Two words, much better. Just for that, I am so blogging about you.”

And since my threat made a compact laugh escape her mouth, in addition to her two wordlets, I’m following through, which is a parenting essential, even in these silent teen years.

So tempted right now to mark YES to volunteer for this trip.

Diary of a First Day

Today is a first for 75% of our family. J-M starts his job, girls start high school… I was scheduled to start work, but with a last minute change of mind, I decided tomorrow would be better. So I would be available should the girls need me. They do still need me, you know.

Yesterday the family talked about how today would go. These kinds of plans and negotiations set the bar for the rest of the year, right? We think grandly and optimistically at the beginning of the school year, with our new notebooks, outfits, and lease on life. Start right. We discussed the details of who would use the shower and when, what time we would leave, how Daddy would drop us all off, and then I would show the girls how to take the bus home. 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.”


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.


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.


Going Old-School, Heirloom Spaghetti Sauce

My friend Christa said she would be thrilled to teach me a recipe and how about the whole family come over on a Sunday afternoon!  The girls can cook while the boys watch football.  Which is like blowing off the dust on the sexology file,  How Men and Women Should Spend their Sundays.   Hey, why not?  This could be *retro fun!

For those of you who know Christa, you probably think of her as a gentle soul, calm and patient, the perfect temperament for teaching a novice to cook.  As I’ve gotten to know Christa, however, what others might mistake for a shy demeanor is actually really, really good listening skills.  I was looking forward to being in her company and listening to her this time.  This Sunday, the roles would be reversed in more ways than one! Continue reading