Brokenness is better than a hallelujah

2015-03-16 19.12.30

God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

She was just a mess, broken pieces, shards of glass. And as she sat on a bridge one fine October day, feet dangling over the water’s edge, all she could think of was how much she hated him. How much he drove her crazy. They would never make it, him and her. They were too different. Too opposite. And he didn’t understand her- what made her tick, what fueled her tank.

God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Months had passed into years, and she had all but given up hope. Things were just too far gone. There was no hope for this situation- they would never get it right. Some things were not meant to be. And they were one of these things: mismatched, unevenly aligned. Two people going in two different directions.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

She had talked about it for quite some time to the one person she trusted the most with these kinds of details. And that person had supported her through it all, but had also stipulated that they believed God was in this marriage, even if the Girl didn’t yet see it. That person said they were praying. They could see the best in this impossible situation. The Girl wasn’t so sure. In spite of her limited faith, the hope that the One Praying had, seemed to do for both of them.

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Besides, it was not due to wrongs that either she or the Man had done to one another in any moral sense that this Great Divide had been created: it was due more to those little hurts that come by way of more intangible situations. From depriving one another love, from holding back. From the cold that grows inside a heart that is turned off love. And in time, little hurts like these can give way to bigger ones: anger, resentment, fear, insecurity, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic and loneliness.

The tears of shame for what’s been done
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

So when she found herself telling him that she wished it was over, wished that she had never even begun, it was almost like the floor had finally given way in a dilapidated old house that had served its purpose one too many years. Everything fell apart.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And while I still don’t know quite what happened, I can say that one day the Girl woke up and there was a change in her heart. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the exact moment, the time and day. But she knew somehow, someway- something had changed. She was different- and so was he. There had been something miraculous happen to bridge the Gap between them, something had toppled the massive walls that had been erected to separate, fortresses made from the strongest of materials. Something had changed between them. They were no longer enemies, at odds with one another. They were friends.

Better than a church bell ringing
Better than a choir singing out, singing out

The Girl and the Boy tentatively adjusted to their new life, lived in freedom from the former chains. Chains that had once held them captive and enslaved to their own self-serving interests were now broken. They were gone. And the Girl and her Boy lived in peace with one another, free to love each other. Free to love themselves. And free to serve one another in love.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

And because they had witnessed nothing short of a miracle, it was right to tell the world. That their broken mess of a marriage had been made into something beautiful. Just like a broken hallelujah from the lips of one breathing their last. Just like a melody from one who has lived to see another day. Their lives were a living testament to grace. Their lips could do nothing less than sing of God’s amazing grace.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

When we share with one another the brutal in our lives, along with the beautiful, we are able to clearly see the truth on which our lives are built. Unashamed and unconcealed. Broken and free. We are unchained melodies.

For we are more than just the pretty details we show one another in social media, more than the cute pictures we post on Facebook, the funny stories we share in our news feeds. We are more than just the casual “I’m fine” that we say so flippantly when asked how we are doing. We are people with real lives, real stories. Real pain. And none of our lives are perfect. None of us has that market cornered yet. We live lives of suffering that can be marked on a continuum that measures the varying degrees. And none can judge the shoes another walks in because we cannot ever know the pain we feel inside. Cannot really know the emptiness of wondering, “Is this all there really is?” This has to be one of the greatest points of despair in a person’s journey: wondering what is the purpose of a pointless life that seems to be heading nowhere. This is grief at its lowest, this is emptiness in its fullest.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Can we believe this truth?
Our lives are better than a beautiful melody sung by angels.
Our tears are better than a hallelujah uttered in church on Sunday morning.
Our cries are better than an Amen.
Our rage is better than apathy.
Our anger is better than indifference.
Our acknowledgement of the brokenness of our lives is better than a hallelujah.

Bearing truth to the messy, complicated in our lives is better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

(It’s better than a hallelujah sometimes)

Words to the song “Better Than A Hallelujah” are written by Amy Grant

Tell Him

2015-02-18 10.38.19

He might not bring you breakfast in bed every morning…but if he starts the coffee maker without asking, he’s a keeper.
He might not leave the sink clean, hang up the towels or remember his dirty socks; but if he has the lunches packed and ready to go- complete with each child’s likes and requests, the guy’s a keeper.
He might not clean up his crumbs, remember to hang the dish towel up to dry or do the laundry- but if the van is scraped and ready to go even before you are in it, you’ve got yourself a true gem.
He might not be a cook, a cleaner, a mopper, a walker or even a super-listener or talker: but when you need him, you know he’ll be there.
He might not be in possession of all of those elusive qualities you once thought you needed. But in time, you have come to realize that it really doesn’t matter: he is exactly what you require. He’s it- your match. And you know now that you really could not do without him, for he is perfectly suited to meet your personality and character. Made to be your other half. You were meant for each other. He and you, you and him.
And although you might not be everything that a person was destined to be either (but, hey! who’s keeping track), he loves you anyway. Loves you for who you are, how you are- exactly the way you are.
Loves you for being YOU.
And because he loves you- it doesn’t matter anymore what might have been. Could have, should have, would have been. All that matters is what it is anyway. What it is right now.
And maybe, like me- you’ve decided that what is yours as a couple is imperfectly perfect. Just the way it happens to be. Even if it might mean that LIFE isn’t perfect- that life isn’t always the way you’d like it.
What matters is the two of you. And what you’ve got is all you’ve ever needed.
Just the way it is.
Go ahead- tell him you love him. Say the words. And while you are at it, tell yourself that whether or not he remembers to throw out the trash/pick his clothes up off the floor/tidy his papers: he’s still your best friend.
Never forget how much you love him.

And chances are, (with this kind of imperfect formula in play),he’ll not forget how very much he loves you back.

Nineteen Years (and counting)

Primitive Valentine Heart Barn Wood Wall by rockriverstitches

In light of Valentine’s Day on the 14th, let’s talk about love after nineteen years. Because, folks- this is what it looks like.

The alarm rings. Or maybe it doesn’t. All depends on whether or not he set it the night before, the alarm clock being located on his side of the bed. I am sandwiched in between Husband on one side and Youngest on the other, she having woken in the middle of the night from a bad dream. I have a kink in my neck, and an aching desire to crawl down deep under the covers and hide; but I instead scoot over the top of my little girl’s sleeping frame and find my way in the dark towards the dimly-lit stairway. I am ever the lone body awake at this hour. Soon the sounds of my feet padding down a wood staircase, the scrape of a kitchen chair, along with the relentless sound of water pelting the shower wall- all will beckon both him and the others to embrace the day.

Because this is what love looks like after nineteen years.

I am in the shower, steaming hot water running just fast enough to keep me from shivering on this -17 degree morning (Husband having purchased a water-saving shower head a few years back). I hear him in the kitchen pouring cold water into the stainless steel coffee pot, the ‘drip-drip’ of scalding water running over a premium dark roast. That coffee is for me- he having given up the stuff on which my life depends a mere two years ago. I will soon smell the fragrantly rich scent of grinds brewing, beckoning me to stop and place movement and voice on hold- even if for but a moment. To savour and breathe deeply of life’s goodness.

Because life is still good nineteen years later.

A text is sent at 10:17 a.m. Daughter has an away-game and has forgotten about it. She needs money for supper. Husband messages to say “I have prep next period, but no cash.” I am scrambling, having left my own classroom with working students to then, minutes later, take the phone call (I will not have yet read that above text): only to find out that Husband is on his way- and do I have a bill for him to snag and then be on his way? Within ten minutes, I meet him in the school corridor. A kindergartener has asked me to zip her coat, but I can see Husband making quick time as he takes long strides toward me. I leave him to complete the stubborn zippering on this little one while I run off down the hall to find my purse. I can hear a female teacher behind me saying something about his prowess at being a jack-of-all-trades. Because he is.

Even all of nineteen years later.

We make eye contact over supper while the kids banter and squabble and then settle into the regular pattern of being together- that pattern we’ve established over the fourteen plus years in which we’ve been parenting. His eye catches mine when something funny is said, or maybe it was something surprising. His eyebrows slightly raise while a slow smile forms at the corner of his mouth. I smile too. Because it seems we just know why these supper-hour conversations are so precious.

And I admit- I have gotten use to seeing him there, elbows resting on either side of his plate, hands drawn together in a clasp. He is always there- at the head of the table. Solid, dependable, unwavering in his commitment. I grab a bowl of corn and divvy it out to the two at my end and then manoeuvre the remains of the dish toward the other two at his end. He spoons the vegetable onto each plate, making sure the rest of the table gets fed, while I grab a bottle of bar-b-que sauce from the fridge. For those who just can’t do without.

Nineteen years is enough time to know the rhythm and flow.

And there are days when the cords of wood have been dropped off- two truckloads one after the other, days where we make steady time, moving in silence beside one another until the last log is stacked. Days when we pass each other in the kitchen as he heads one way and I go the other. Days where we wonder what we ever did before we had cell phones, texting and e-mail exchange. That’s how it is with us, nineteen years later.

But on most of those days, you’ll find us here, growing hearts. Building our home. Sharing the load in taking turns with homework, piano practicing, dishes and cooking. He, doing the vacuuming each night while I stay on top of the endless laundry. It’s not a glamorous life, but it is ours. And there is a lot to be said for that. It is a life we both know well enough to know that we’ve been given something good. In fact, it’s golden.

Nineteen years and counting.

Because nineteen years of staying in when we felt like backing out, holding on when we sometimes wanted to let go, giving over when we maybe wanted to give up- can make a person appreciate the years that much more. It is just the way of living sometimes. It’s certainly our way. Because for nineteen years, we’ve had time enough to know that we’ve got something beautiful, something worth striving for, committing to.  Something worth cherishing.

Nineteen years is plenty.

I crawl into bed and reach for the light. And beside me already sleeping is the man that stayed by my side through nineteen years of everyday, honest living. Through it all. And while nineteen years might not be a milestone for anyone else, in our books it is long enough to understand what true love entails.

It’s also short enough to wonder what the next nineteen will bring.

Taking care of ourselves

She playfully bats at the little ball of fluff, her baby. Tousling, grooming, cuddling, nursing. But when she sees the need, setting the little kitten free to explore without the ever-present eye of Mama to govern and oversee. Sometimes, she completely appears to abandon, lazing in the sun while her tiny kitten sits alone on the top stair of our steps, wary and uncertain. Is Mama neglectful? I think not.

When mama cat lovingly stretches out languidly on our top step with baby nearby, her tiny offspring responds to her in love. There is no doubt that there is a relationship between the two. But it is one designed to set free so that the younger can one day take care of herself. To never allow for the certainty that the baby will one day be on its own would be a tragedy. True. Everyone needs love- even barn cats. But you rarely see amongst animals any form of helicopter parenting as one often sees in human parenting. Animals seem to know instinctively the balance needed so as to nurture and prepare their offspring for life after the nursery.

Care requires that we respond within a relationship. Within relationships of care, there is always a two-way exchange happening at any given time- a process which can reverse and rearrange at seemingly a moment’s notice. And all because relationships of care are responsive. A caregiver in relationship to another acknowledges a need or a requirement, responds to that need and then allows for caring to occur. This process can be reversed almost immediately, depending on the relationship. The cared-for- in response to the care emitted, can then responsively give care to the other almost immediately.

In thinking about care so much and so often, I am realizing that there are elements of care that we have forgotten. I feel we have forgotten at times how to take care. A local radio personality whom I have listened to over the years often signs off with the phrase, ‘take care of one another today’; from the moment I first heard this phrase, it has stuck with me. How does one take care? And where does care-taking begin?

I would suggest that there are dimensions of caretaking that we must heed. That we have overlooked. The first being our need to take care of ourselves.

There is an underlying assumption that we need to take care of one another in life, but in order to do this, we first need to learn the secret of taking care of ourselves. In taking care of ourselves, we need to learn to listen to our bodies, listen to our hearts. We have all heard of the spoken rule, given by flight attendants on airlines, to put on your own mask on first prior to helping your children or other dependents. I am convinced in my own life that the growth and development of care woven throughout my life experiences has been a direct result of my learned ability to care for myself, self-care guided for me by faith through the direction of a loving Father. For years, I looked to others to care for me. Why weren’t they doing what I thought was the basic of all human responses- caring? Why were people not responding to my needs? And why wasn’t I feeling loved and looked after? Why was I feeling so bereft? These feelings of a deficit in care followed me into my marriage, leaving me looking to a husband to fulfil the role of caretaker, a tremendous responsibility considering he was not even the one who had left me feeling unloved and uncared for in the first place. That was baggage I had brought into our marriage- a composite of my difficult years of schooling, my years in the public eye as a pastor’s kid and the other personal experiences of my life that directly impacted me in very private ways. We cannot first expect others to care for us if we have not learned how to care for ourselves. And I am convinced that many, many problems in marriages could be avoided if we first were able to redirect our need for care back to ourselves- as well as if we could start to see that the ways people express care, initiate care, offer care, interpret care and understand care: are different. Different. Not bad, worse, inferior or poorer: just different. Maybe we need to start by seeing the best in what another human being is offering us, starting with our partners.

I would never, ever wish the message I am conveying to be one in which we reduce the responsibility we have toward others. My life is rich because I have learned to care for others. I believe that the transformation in my life has been one in which, with God’s guiding hand, I was able to take something that was painful and difficult and see the good in it. I think this is the reason I am now able to responsively express care to others: there has been a miracle in my life. But I would never want to overstep the responsibility I have been given to care for myself in all of this. That was a first step in this process- understanding the needs in my life and slowly taking measures to meet those needs one by one through loving myself. Through accepting myself. Unconditionally. I had to learn to love myself so as to love others. And I cannot personally underestimate my faith in Jesus and my Abbba Father in this process- as I have come to understand I have a Father who loves me intimately and expressly, I can now love myself as an expression of His love. I am free to love the others in my life as I now know how much I am loved myself.

And this is the very essence of care: freedom to love and responsively give to oneself and the others in one’s life. Freely, wholly, purely.

All because of love.

{A post} In which I rant about supper…

I cannot put two coherent thoughts together tonight.


Tired, disillusioned. Exhausted. Teary.

So bear with me. I may be on a rant.

Youngest Daughter and Oldest Daughter, within thirty seconds of one another asked me these two questions:

“I wish I could have a baby sister to play with after school…?” (because living in a circus apparently just isn’t enough fun for her)

“Mom, where is the hydrogen peroxide?” (because blond is the new brown—and she already used up my lemon juice on Sunday)

Be still my weary soul. I think I might be experiencing the onset of heart palpitations.  And possibly a fever.

Tonight, I made the decision: I will no longer be cooking (supper) in this house. That is, cooking supper tomorrow. Well, that’s a start anyway. That decision made after producing hockey puck-like biscuits and stinky fish chowder which I decided I would not be eating about 2.5 minutes after I had added the last ingredient. Husband is now looking for recipes. No reasonable dish containing hamburger will be refused.

I found myself this evening reheating the following and calling it supper:

*Two leftover plates of pork chops (one of which Second Youngest refused to eat on the weekend when she thought she had the flu).
*A huge dish of rice (which we barely scraped the surface of yesterday at lunch)
*A dish with exactly four miniscule slices of bar-b-q sausage in it, along with millions of red onions and green peppers. Yummo.
*Two garlic chicken cutlets (which I incidentally pulled out of the freezer, so they really don’t count in this list)
*One bowl of corn, and a smaller bowl of green beans
*Along with one fresh bowl of fish chowder which Youngest thought she wanted but took one taste of and realized otherwise.
Oh. And all that served with a generous plateful of hockey pucks, and a side of butter and jam to wash it all down with. That lessened the blow.


(Not so much.)

So, I have hung up the proverbial apron.
This Chicky’s done (like dinner).
Your turn, my Sweet Chefsky.
Cannot WAIT to smell the sweet aromas wafting to my nostrils as I await my meal, from where I fold and stack patiently: the laundry room.
Or maybe I will just be snoring on the couch under a pile of children. Who knows? Decisions, decisions…

Let the good times roll.

Turning Ten…For the Fourth Time

I turn ten for the fourth time tomorrow.

That’s the big 4-0 to the rest of the world. As in, four decades.  Bless it.  I still can’t believe it. So cliche, I know, but until you’ve arrived, you will never fully appreciate how much your youthful brain is still telling you you’re not a day past 25. Seriously. The other day at school, I told my students that my Husband was planning a surprise for me, and one little guy who has taken to giving me engulfing bear hugs about five times a day looked at me incredulously and said, “You have a HUSBAND????????”

Which is to say (or, what I think he meant): “Your youthful appearance defies that you be old enough for such adult behaviour.” Something akin to that thought.


I am not dealing well with this “going past the thirties” birthday business, so thankfully Husband skipped the Over the Hill party and booked a weekend getaway instead.

Good call.

Except.  Now I feel like the comraderie would have helped- what with the onset of depression and all.  Feel free to message me with tips, if you have already reached this milestone. Every little bit of moral support I can muster helps. We need each other, Seniors. Or at least I do- for emotional reinforcement. And the odd back-rub or two.

Husband told me last night that he wasn’t going to lie: “Getting old is not that much fun.”

Thanks sweetie.  That’s just what a girl needs to hear from her OLDER spouse.

However, I do have to give him props for this: planning a semi-surprise for his wife and not letting her in on the secret. That is, not letting her in on the secret until Thursday.  Just three short nights ago, I was at this very instant (or close to it- who’s keeping track) walking hand in hand toward the setting sun, with Husband by my side, as we lazily travelled along the boardwalk at Peake’s Key. Kid-less. That’s “walking sans kidlets”, for those who are not yet fluent in this language. It all seems like a vague and hazy dream right about now.

I half wonder if it was.

Earlier that day, we had packed the van to the gills, dropped off one child’s stuff at Black Grammie’s house. Packed for another to go to across the road. And then packed snacks, games and more stuff for the other two to go to Charlottetown for the night to White Grammie’s house.

It is a lot of work to get away, people. And age has nothing to do with it…

Thankfully, Hubbie remembered this tedious fact and gave me a forty-eight hour heads up. So, it was with exhaustion and anticipation, we made the trek to Dundee Arms Inn in historic Charlottetown. Meanwhile, all that packing wore me out.  I won’t lie: I had a short catnap en route.

I am forty, hello.

At exactly 5:30 p.m., as we pulled out of my parent’s driveway, Husband looked at me and said with a smile, “It’s officially the weekend!”
And so it was. A beautiful weekend, complete with a lovely quiet supper with delicious food and a beautiful room furnished with antiques and an ornate four poster canopy bed. Such a luxury, this weekend getaway. Dearly needed and much appreciated.

And now it’s over. OVER.

I am back to reality once again, only three short nights later. Dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen waiting to be washed. Crud on the floor to be wiped up. Laundry waiting impatiently to be washed and folded. Children needing baths and stories and tuck-ins. Floors to be vacuumed and on and on the list goes.

Because life goes on.

It always does somehow.

Those moments we want to last? They sadly come to a close. As much as we try to hold on to them, they dissolve and fade into our memory. Leaving us with a sentimental feeling as a lasting token of their occurrence. Wondering if they truly ever really happened after all.
As much as we try, life just keeps forging forward.

And don’t we just wish we could, at times, press the pause button? Maybe not for every moment of the day, but certainly for some of them. Life is just moving past us too quickly.
I for one can hardly keep up.

And now that I am forty years old, I think time will speed by even faster.
It can seem just so discouraging, at times.

I was thinking about this thought the other day- about wanting time to slow down- and my thoughts wandered to some precious loved ones I hold dear. Loved ones who have suffered in various ways and through difficult circumstances. And I realized that for some, time  has been very long. Drawn out. Difficult to bear with and challenging to stay through.

For some, time has been short.  Abbreviated.  Time has quickly come to a close.

For time is only fast and full when we are enjoying and really appreciating  the circumstances of our lives. It’s extremely slow, and at times can even be short when we are not.

For those of us who are finding time is slipping away. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Take pleasure from that time and don’t try to squander it. Time is here for us to use. It’s ours for the taking. We need to make every effort to use our time to benefit the life we’ve been made to live.
And for those of us who wish for time to move a little faster: take heart. This time we’ve been given will soon move us to new horizons. The difficulties of this life and the pain of the here and now: this too shall pass. Time is still here for you who wish it away- it is here for the taking. Make every effort to use the time you’ve been given to benefit the life you’ve been made to live. All too soon, this present here and now will be gone.

We can never get this moment back again.  These moments- they are fragile.  Precious.  Take pleasure in them.
And neither should we want to live them over- there is just too much time in the present here and now to enjoy. To live and experience. To wonder and revel in. And there is always time enough to dream about our hoped for tomorrows.

A dear friend reminded me tonight: we don’t need to dread growing older.  It is a gift that many are unable to enjoy and experience.  So turning forty for the first time is a new pleasure I will revel in.

And I think I just might make this fifth decade of my life the one I cherish most.

Thin emotions and rich grace

It’s been a thin week. A week of emotions rising quickly to the surface. A week of highs and lows. A week of frustrations, disappointments and in-betweens. And I find myself walking thin ice. Holding fragile feelings in shaky hands. Stepping on eggshells. Living life holding on, two hands grasping for something secure while always searching for steady ground on which to stand.

And I wonder sometimes, is it really grace which is needed? And does that rich grace come wrapped up in a cloak of forgiveness? In garments of compassion? Is it veiled or is it starkly visible? Elusive graces are so hard to hold in shaky hands.  But I am grateful tonight that mercy comes in so many different forms.  Both tender and tough. It’s face surprises each time it is encountered.  And yet. It’s always just what I need, showing up at the very hour I need it to come.

Tender mercy, tough love.

He reached for me last night. It was the smallest of gestures, a hand on the shoulder. But I came undone. And all the pent up stress, all the anger- came flowing out of me like a surge of water through a broken dam. I felt like I could finally breathe again. Felt tension release through tightened shoulders. I felt release. And although it was just the smallest of offerings, it was enough.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  A gesture.

We spend our whole lives waiting for justice, for the balance to level. When what we really need to do is come undone. To find ourselves emptied. Off kilter a bit. So that we can be brought back to fragile equilibrium.  Emptied. Of all pride and anger and egotism and fear. So that we can then be filled again: with Love. Filled to overflowing. Allowing ourselves the sacred mystery that is the laying down- of one’s own desires and sense of fairness.  Emptied, so as to experience the fullness of grace that is offered in bountiful compassion. We can only share in this sweet offering by laying down our armaments. Setting aside our armor. Stripped of all that is covering that which is authentic to our true selves. So that we can finally be seen for the rare beauty that is the wild and messy underneath it all.

We are stripped bare and covered back up again with a garment of gorgeous grace.

It’s never easy to receive, that kind of rich grace that is so desired. So sought after. We covet it- and want to earn it.  At times, we wish to make someone else earn it. We want it to cost something- it is dear. So precious. And yet, grace that costs is never truly grace. It is corrupted in its price. Grace must be offered without conditions.  Freely.  Undeserved, it is liberally given. And then, accepted in love.

He reached for me last night- across the chasm, and I felt the ice begin to thaw. The ground beneath my feet gave way yet again. And I fell into the arms of love.

Unfettered. Broken. Yet wholly complete. Undone, but still intact.

Grace has that kind of way with me.