And where is our inspiration
When all the heroes are are gone?
Hey kids, could we be the ones?
Everything I have to talk about concerning my past month or so fits fairly neatly into a full circle of ideas that I have been considering about my way of life. All my time with friends and family, going on vacation, and considering my mood, attitude, and ways and directions I need to grow while improving my home and life - all these things relate back to a number of ideas that I have been cultivating and I think I am finally coming to a real understanding of. I was kind of waiting to write this post until I came to a point on those ideas, and until something crystallized for me, because there's some really important content here that I want to share with those around me about ways I have been changing my heart and my life's direction to be more in line with the person I really want to be.
Lately everything seems like part of a bigger picture to me.
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
My lovely garden, once beautifully rototilled into black, excellent soil that our rototiller-operator said was some of the best soil he'd ever seen, is incredibly weed-riddled. We planted seeds, and those seeds grew, but good soil grows weeds just as well. And we can't keep up with the weeds. For every useful, strong, excellent food-yielding plant in my garden, a dozen weeds grow strong and tall. Some of the weeds grow along the ground, creeping over the beautiful soil and turning it green - and sharp. They grew slowly, and we said, tomorrow we'll weed, if we have the energy. When there's enough wind to keep the mosquitos at bay. When we have friends over. When we're alone. And today, though we've pulled hundreds of weeds, thousands remain. They keep our good plants from growing as strong and tall as we hoped for. We planted the garden with way too much space between the rows - too much work - and also way too little - not enough room to kneel or sit in the middle of our plots. We did an inexperienced job - but the garden grew anyway. We will have vegetables galore before this is over. But not the best ones. Sometimes this is how I feel life is for me, especially marriage. I do a pretty good job of making a life for myself. My vegetable-ducks and marriage vows seem like they are all in a row. But I don't necessarily know what I'm doing. I don't necessarily realize how our decisions affect our future - because few decisions are ever quite my decision by myself anymore. I'm trying to tackle the weeds that are filling up my life and choking out the things I have planned, but it often seems like a losing battle. On the other hand, if I spent a whole day out there, and I fought through the pain of stooping to weed, and I brought out the wheelbarrow and filled it to the brim, I could probably weed a third of that yard to spotless. If I had help, maybe we could do the whole yard. Maybe I'd come out of it all sunburnt, bug-bitten, sore, and exhausted to tears, but I betcha it would be worth it. I bet that I would be so proud of that yard. I'm trying to find it in me to do that for the garden - I have been for weeks. One day soon though, I really, really hope, I will go out there and make that happen. I will be proud. I will do it because I committed to it, not because I felt capable. Because it had to be done to ensure a harvest of good vegetables.
Such is life. Such is marriage.
And the sun will shine
on this heart of mine
and I realise
Who cannot live without
come apart without it
One of the things that covers my marriage in weeds is money. The preoccupation with money and how it affects us and our lives has crowded out pretty much all the good things in my marriage. Slowly but surely it has grown up in our garden until we can barely see the sun, and kept us from growing the things we want. Intimacy. Simplicity. Relationships. Joy.
Somehow, somewhere along the line of my life as I became a grownup and had to take on responsibilities about these things, my balance shifted dangerously. The scales of my trust went from balancing towards God's provision and faithfulness, and tipped slowly towards taking care of myself and worrying constantly over money. God's faithfulness remained, of course, and even through my doubts, he took care of me. The troubling thing is that the scales were never fully balanced towards the only trustworthy One. But I am pitching stuff off the wrong side of the scale one idea at a time, and I'm finally starting to see where it all goes.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name
It wasn't that I stopped trusting in God. It was that I just started trusting money more. It failed me, over and over, while God provided. I spent money on things I felt I needed. I pursued it. I worried about it and spent more and more of my mental energies on ensuring that my budget shouldn't go into the red, but it did, over and over again. And whenever I finally, desperately turned to God for help with my life, my life got better. It wasn't that we had more money - no, in fact, that's not been particularly connected to contentment or happiness for me, or I would argue, for most people. Rich folks die disillusioned and without hope all the time.
At some point I realized that money, things, food, entertainment, and work were growing up over the true vegetables of my life. And I was shocked. I had thought they were the plants. I had tended them with great care. Here I was watering my weeds and I never even realized that's what they were.
With all of our fashion
We're still incomplete
The God of redemption
Could break our routine
A few weeks ago, Paul and I went to Edmonton for our first of two consecutive weekends of much-needed summer vacation. I had one session I needed to shoot in Edmonton that weekend - my super-epic armoured engagement session - and it was a great opportunity for us to go do some things we never actually had the opportunity to do while we actually lived in Edmonton - namely, go to BodyWorlds and Fort Edmonton Park.
We utilized the amazing resource of CouchSurfing and stayed with a couple and their three young kids in Edmonton - crazy enough, we found out that they used to go to the same church as we did! I also found a book in the bookshelf headboard of our guest bedroom while I was at their place that really challenged me. It talked about the worship of money. I felt heavy, reading parts of it. I told Paul I felt like we worshipped money like the ancients worshipped gods saying, "I'll do anything, just don't crush us." It was a sobering moment for us both as we considered the impact it's had on our lives for the last several years.
Is there nothing left now?
Nothing left to sing
Are there any left who haven't
kissed the enemy?
The gentleman we were staying with is an academic specializing in human geography and theology, and he was in the middle of writing a paper on how we as Western society worship money, technology, and science. Just like people used to worship Baal. We rely on them, we pray that they will fix our problems, we hang our hopes on them and what they can do for us. We put them first in our lives. In short, they are a religion all their own. I have thought quite a bit about this idea in the ensuing weeks and I am finding it fits quite neatly into the world around me. I see it everywhere now. Most of all in myself. As Christian, how do I respond to my own worship of money? Knowing that often, worry is worship, I feel a call to find calm and contentment through some new avenues. I continued to think about this over the coming weeks...
Your skin, your skin and bones
Turning into something beautiful
You know, for you I'd bleed myself dry
For you I'd bleed myself dry
While in Edmonton, we went to BodyWorlds, and I looked at the intricacies of the human being, the incredible variety of structures and physical forms that make up our bodies, from tiny bones inside the ear to muscles and bones. I considered how I felt the first time I saw the BodyWorlds show, wanting to respond by taking better care of my body - the home of my consciousness and soul. I was inspired again - not in a guilty way, but with awe and respect for the body. Paul and I went through the exhibit at very different speeds - and I had to leave a bit early to go to my session, leaving him there to soak in the exhibit, which he thoroughly enjoyed, especially after learning so much about anatomy for school and work in the past few years. I realized I had come a long way since that first show. I eat better, make more of an effort to be active and to sleep (not enough on that last point - especially considering I write this at nearly 3am - but I am trying) and I am paying attention to the needs of my body far more than I have at any time before this, with the notable exception of my months at Emma Lake. I've come a long way in marriage too, to be able to allow Paul to see the exhibit as his speed and me at mine and talk about it afterwards without feeling as much pressure to completely match pace - or letting it go when I do feel it.
I know something is broken, and I'm trying to fix it
Trying to repair it any way I can
I've had a mantra lately that's been serving me pretty well. "No good can come of it." Whenever I think being honest with someone - especially Paul - could be hurtful I remind myself that sometimes no good can come of it. Whenever I feel obligated to do something for some reason - like keep perfect pace with Paul at an exhibit even though I had stopped enjoying it at the slow speed he was going, I realized that clinging to my initial idea wasn't going to have a good end - no good could come of it. It's becoming a fairly accurate measure of a lot of things. Brutal honesty about how I feel about my marriage on a bad day? No good can come of it. Telling friends things they're not ready to hear? No good can come of it. Beating myself up over not going to sleep earlier? No good can come of it - it certainly hasn't helped me to go to bed earlier so far. So you see, it's a good mantra. It's working well for me and helping me to make good choices.
Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Our trip to Fort Edmonton Park was also very rewarding, and seeing a room in a fort the size of my office shared by three families started me on some consideration of a few very important points about modern living, consumerism, capitalism, and the nature of happiness. Most of the homes and churches we saw from the early days of the city of Edmonton were built by the people who used them with pride and sweat and community. People came to be the only providers of a particular service. A jeweller, a baker, a carpenter - men whose identity and value were intertwined in a pretty good way. Life was simpler. More dangerous, more wild, more about the outside world. It was a world when you sent letters across the world by finding out when the next steamer boat was going to cross the ocean. A world where people were separated by circumstances for hope of a better life. Here I was, smack dab in the middle of that better life that my ancestors came here for, whining about my first world problems. Perspective is a valuable commodity.
We are not infinite
We are not permanent
Nothing is immediate
We're so confident
In our accomplishments
Look at our decadence
I came home from that awesome road trip with my awesome husband with a lot of great thoughts about my life. And it only got better. That same week my friend Kori contacted me to say that one forgotten passport, like the one lost lamb, the one thing left behind, can change all your plans. She's been working several hours away from Saskatoon and in a rush to leave for summer holidays including a trip to Jamaica and B.C. she left her passport on a shelf by her front door. Cue a 5 hour trip to get it back - one which she invited me along on, and having once before invited her on a trip for the sake of a road trip, I consented to come. We talked and laughed and I sincerely enjoyed spending some significant time with her, a joy I hadn't had much of this past year as she's been working out of town. It made me really happy after what hadn't been the greatest day. I made a mental note to set aside more time for friendships, even when I'm busy. No good can come of cloistering myself. I don't function well when I do that.
I care deeply about people. Relationships, and the ideas that flourish inside them more than anything are what make me happy. The strangest thing about happiness is that pursuing it is often the last way to find it.
You're throwing your love across
my impossible space
You've created me
So take me out of me into a
new way to be human