Birthday Gifts


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What is filling my soul this morning, the anniversary of my birth, so long ago;

Well, finding this silly picture that makes me look like a birthday fairy queen, I guess…

And this…grounding me, confirming I know nothing, but…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: 1999), 79.

And this;

  1. relationships that continue to ask of me…and give to me…and the beauty of discovery within the complexity of life with people, these gifts that I will never truly understand and yet there they are, talking, breathing, working, living alongside me and I get to be with them all…
  2. anticipating the arrival of my son, and the intersection of 5 lives over several days…oh the anticipation of all that…
  3. a unexpectedly delicious poem, written by my lover, posted to Facebook.
  4. the dog, coffee, porch, quiet, sunshine, bluebird day, time, space, lingering…
  5. messages of love on social media
  6. challenges and considerations…each day to choose what is important, what is vital, what is life giving, and what adjustments must be made to live with integrity
  7. creative energy…that vast stream of Creator God’s creative DNA that flows and overflows in me with thoughts and ideas and possibilities and just enough courage to try something new…
  8. health, dreams, desires, all those elements that make up a life and are often taken for granted and yet are foundational to living well…
  9. writing, always writing, listening to the inner voice speaking and writing, playing with writing, writing with people, reading and writing, writing, writing, writing…
  10. the audacious pink thread of The Trinity woven through the simple fabric of my life …often hidden, sometimes apparent, but there…oh yes, there!

Gift. Gift. Gift. All gift.

Undeserved. Thankful. Gifts held with the knowledge that this may be for a day, a month, a few more years. Breath held for a few seconds, then breathing, breathing, wondering…what happens next?

Lesley-Anne Evans, July 29, 1962 – ?

 

 

 

Small


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My faith is small, or maybe the way I live my life is small, and ordinary. In small things I find God: his presence, his provision, his orchestration, his glory, his love.

When I recognize God in my life, it usually comes in the form of just enough rice or just enough flour, or sun breaking through cloud before sunset after several days of depressing grey, or a poem just right for the moment, or the colour of a pair of mittens matching a child’s snowsuit I’ve never seen before, or the heart shape of trembling aspen leaves strewn along a creekside pathway. God is in the shade of orange kelp on sand. God is in a small child spinning in a pink tutu. God is. I have come to notice God in all the details.

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I believe my Grandfather taught me to see God in this way. When I was very young, Grandpa walked me around his garden on summer evenings, our hands clasped behind our backs, each flowering shrub like an offering, a miracle he had discovered and wanted me to see. “Look at that” he would say, gazing deep into the centre of a Hibiscus bloom “have you ever seen a design like that?” “Rosa, Spiraea, Forsythia, Weigela, Hydrangea…” he repeated over and over until I knew them. Name these plants, see these small miracles. He was the same about song birds. His curiosity and joy of creation spilled over and captivated me. Little things. Seeing small. Seeing God.

Not that I don’t dream big. I love to dream and drink wine and talk about ideas. Not that I don’t dive into big things, because I do. But the dreams and projects and ideas must quickly settle into a series of little steps to realize the bigger picture. And maybe it’s not the big thing that matters as much as the little things that take place along the way. Usually, that means the people, conversations, conflicts, resolutions, and love. Each little interaction, each small encounter, mattering so much more than any end result. God is in the details of people too, I find.

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My faith is small, and wildflower and honey bee sized. My faith is my search for tracks to hang gallery hardware on the wall and finding them no more and no less than I needed, and my faith is the width of several old doors that now cover windows, in exactly the right width for the openings. My faith is sometimes the size of these three words…”I don’t know”. My faith is the sound of my daughter’s joy that she drove stick shift for the first time over the winding road to the Pacific Rim, and back. Safe. Back. My faith is light and shadow, juxtaposition of words on a sign against audaciousness of spring blooms. God is in each one of these small and sacred things.

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My faith is small.

My faith is small, and simple.

My faith is small, and ordinary.

God is there.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the details.”

God is.

Lesley-Anne

Hush, hush


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Hush, hush

Quiet me, LORD.

Hush, hush.
Your love transcends
my dialect of anxious fears,
soothes my flesh
with tender words
that still my trembling,
quiets my questioning lips,
stammering, and striving,
reveals your truth is
there, there, and here.

Hush, hush.
You teach me to practice
a foreign tongue
of sighs and weeping,
soul speak,
communion
of broken bodies
and body water
turned to holy wine.

Hush, hush,
in bare footed remembrance,
my shoes removed from road weary feet.

LORD, God,
consume me within your radiant presence,
my spirit burns in silence.

 

Seriously, ladybugs?


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If I were to ask God for a significant recurring insect in my life, it would certainly not be a ladybug. Something more exotic perhaps, like a praying mantis, but not scary like a wasp or millipede. Nothing precious or pretty, nothing commonplace, please God. Let it be something with a bit of an edge to it, like the insect world’s version of a raptor, a hawk or falcon of the insect kingdom. But a ladybug? Shiny red, polka-dotted, embarrassingly cute… oh God, why that particular choice?

And, as if it weren’t bad enough to have had a ten year history (here and again, here) of encounters with these little red creatures, God continues to place them in my path. And I continue to notice. Either I find them or they find me, and it’s usually at a time when something significant is happening in my life that…poof… there they are again!

Still, they always come unexpected, and cause a sharp intake of breath that I hope is at least partially spiritually significant. These bugs hijack me, beg the question “Why?” (like most other things in my life) and have me asking, “What God, what are you saying in this, what would you have me learn in this?” And sometimes, I end up smiling, like there’s a private joke between me and the Almighty. So maybe I have come to terms with them as my significant bug species? I have not, nor will I ever, get a ladybug tattoo or wear representational jewellery. I have yet to witness any cool ladybug t’shirts. Those darn bugs keep showing up, and I keep wondering what they really mean?

Last weekend, 7th floor apartment in Vancouver, B.C. and I’m there with my young adult son helping him nest, watching him put together IKEA bookshelves and bed frame and it gets a little stuffy in the small studio and I go and open the sliding door to the balcony and there, in the track of the door frame…yes, you guessed it…ladybugs…3 dead ladybugs. Why? I have no idea. I’m not an expert in ladybug flight patterns, but 7 floors up seemed pretty high to me, let alone a little bug with translucent wings. And they were dead, again, dead and dried up. But this time there was no voice saying a word. Silence. There they were, and there I was. They were dead. I am alive. And these days I’ve taken to flying more. My son is leaving home, and I am still alive, still standing. Big changes, still standing. Big changes, still flying. Maybe that was it, more of a comparative analysis this time around? Was that it God? I don’t know.

And then this, again, these words,

Coincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

I’m choosing hand, and I’m beginning to see humour in it, how God might be enjoying a belly laugh when his kid (me) stops everything she is doing, everything she finds so vitally important, in the presence of this blatantly red yet miniscule stop sign! Yeah, maybe that’s it, it’s an attention getting thing. Whenever I get a little too hung up in my own way, my own pain, my inward focus, my work ethic, my sadness that my son has grown up and away, my, my, my… Oh my… then God says…

…consider this…

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothes [or whatever else…you choose what fills in the blank]? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

Stop, observe, consider. Maybe that’s it. About seeing.

Lesley-Anne

Dem Bones, Dem Bones ~ Of Bugs and Bones, Part 2.


Dry-BonesCoincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

The following year, after my first encounter with a ladybug at Seton House of Prayer, I returned to the retreat centre for what was becoming my spiritual practice of solitude and silence. I left the busyness of my daily routine, and, for a day, invited God into the silence, into the inner room of my heart. I have not yet found my journal from that visit to confirm the precise date, but my experience that day remains indelibly etched into my psyche.

In planning my time of solitude, I gathered my journal and pen, my Bible, spiritual books I was currently reading, my camera, some lunch, some layers in case the weather turned, a plain wooden box with an inscription, “Buddy ~ Forever Faithful, Forever At Rest,” and Buddy’s old collar. I carried a painful weight of loss. Buddy, my companion and muse, my gorgeous German Short Haired Pointer, had died not long before. I was not moving past his void in my life, and I thought I might be able to bring Buddy to Seton House, release his ashes there, and in that find some release for my deep sadness, find some solace from the God who again felt so distant to me.

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I drove to Seton House, unpacked my car, and moved into the Poustinia for the day, alone, with Buddy.

By now my solitude practice had widened to include several ways of contemplative and prayerful being, the stations of the cross, several walks with niches and statues of saints, a lovely woodland altar where one day I came upon a doe resting, a labyrinth, and a small chapel at the top of the property. I quietened myself in the Poustinia, fed by the views of my natural surroundings, read some scripture, prayed, journaled, and then took a walk to the chapel.

I felt broken, empty, so placing my body prostrate on the floor of the old chapel felt right to me, to lay myself down in a response of surrender to God and to my feelings, there, in an old wooden chapel, with a plain altar, and embraced by the forest beyond. I lay myself down. And when I opened my eyes and looked around me, I saw dozens of dead ladybugs.

My sharp intake of breath, as in the next thought vicious words drove into my mind;

This is you, Lesley-Anne! Dead. Empty. Dried up like these dead ladybugs. You are not worthy of flight. You are not who you thought you were. Rise up… I don’t think so. You aren’t going anywhere.

No, no, I cried. Tears, running down my face. No, that’s a lie! God does not speak this way. I am not dead or dried up. I am sad, mourning, and that does not disqualify me from anything. I recognized the darkness, the lies of the enemy of my soul. Thank you God that I recognized who spoke.

But I was shaken. I quickly left the chapel, made my way back to the Poustinia, as these thoughts, jumbled but memories of a certain story came to my mind;

And God took his servant to a mighty valley, full of dry bones, and he asked the man, can these bones live? (My own paraphrase and just enough to send me back to my bible with hunger to learn how God can make dead things live.)

For the next two hours I poured…poured over the scripture verses I found in the book of Ezekiel, poured out my deep anguish and despair over the death of my sweet dog, and the death of my spirit because of his loss. And I felt God asking me the same questions as were asked the prophet of old, And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! And in me a shift, a realization, a revelation, something opening me to the answer within my pain. God knew how he might take my loss and turn it from death to life again. So I prayed it out, anguished out a surrender of whatever was going to come from my pain, and I thanked him for my dog, for the love I had experienced, and I thanked him that he could make my dry, broken, mourning bones live again.

And then, my time was over, and I packed up my things, and I went back down the mountain, with everything I took up. And the plain wooden box with the ashes of my precious Buddy remain unreleased, instead gathered, to my bedside table.

And change comes, and life comes, more pain, more loss, more dry bones transformed.

My journey continues, and the mystery of ladybugs returns from time to time,

chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand?” “You can decide for yourself if…[these events] together have meaning or are only interesting but ultimately random coincidence of events. If you decide they do have meaning this does not imply you know what that meaning is.” John Terpstra ~ Skin Boat

Like last week…but that’s another story.

On the way,

Lesley-Anne

P.S. If you missed Part 1 of this story, see Of Bugs and Bones, Part 1.

Navigating and staying afloat


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skin boats (Photo credit: 50mm-traveller)

It’s summer. Yup. And that means change and adaptation and realignment for me. I wrote about it here. And now I’ll share a wee bit more here.

I’ve been in a slump since Easters (reference to one of my fav. movies Nacho Libre). I sang in the choir, walked out of the church with a ceiling and walls, and couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t go back. I tried to figure out why. I made up excuses. I was dejected. Apart from a place I’ve been involved with for 20 years, I felt no compelling force drawing me back. I checked out an edgy inner city church. And when nobody there met my entirely unexplainable criteria, I knew I wouldn’t go back there either. I attended to soul care, read the Book, and engaged in spiritual conversations and activities and poetry. But no church.

There’s another book I read recently called Skin Boat, by John Terpstra (An interview with the author, here). A refreshing book about navigating faith (get this book!!!). Like my own faith journey, the author experiences questions without answers, a sense of belonging some days followed by lingering feelings of marginalization and confusion. His journey is shifting and liquid, and of searching for and finding enough to return for. As Terpstra says,

“I have heard everything there is to say about the place, for and against; both its necessity and its redundancy. Have felt it all, in my bones.”

And I guess, for me, it came down to what I felt in my bones this morning when I woke up. Today I chose to go because I wanted to be with my husband, sit together on a wooden pew. With anxiety and angst and dragging of feet, I pried open my fingers and received a crumb of bread from God’s table. (I didn’t go looking for bread, yet I was given enough to appease my hunger). It’s personal, what happened. But there were tears and words and nodding of heads and something inside of me realizing the reasons for staying away were far smaller than the reasons to be part of what is “church”.

Terpstra writes as both poet and cabinetmaker: “I have thought: the reason I persist is for what is being made.”

This morning I felt a seed of persistence sprouting within the soil of sadness I had allowed to gather in me. And a hint of what is possible, what is being made, should I continue to choose this place. I felt the embrace of arms, looked into eyes, listened to words that I scribbled down madly so as not to forget. The music lifted. The tears cleansed. And the seed continues to grow…

As described in this Can Lit interview, Terpstra asks himself why he keeps being part of this wayward and suffering and paradoxical institution, he responds, “this is the only place I know where time and eternity meet on a regular basis.” 

Today, I was at the meeting place.

SDG, Lesley-Anne

A surrendered life


Seems I’m a master of melancholy and melodrama and start ups, but not necessarily finishes. At least that’s what the voice in my head says as I sit at my laptop and consider putting into words what may or may not be 100% true for me, 100% of the time.

I’m often tormented in my thought life around how I live vs how I should live. While I hunger for real relationships and depth and breadth of conversations,  I withdraw from my close friends and let the phone ring and texts go unanswered. I hide. Sometimes I don’t check my phone at all. For hours, for days.

Oh, I want to do good. I want to be good. I’m just not very good at being good. I want to love. And I don’t know how to do that in a sustained way. Sometimes I am absolutely unloving. I shared some thoughts on this place of living in the tension of wanting one thing and doing another HERE. But there is more…

Thankfully, this Sunday’s talk (at the church with walls and a roof at Springfield and Spall) is about a way of finding release from living in torment/angst/tension/legalism and living in the freedom of non-performance and  without condemnation (you know, those voices in your head saying awful things about you).

Romans 8 is all about living in the gracious, wide open spaces of spirit focus, spirit life, where I can stop should-ing and could-ing on myself, stop questioning my every move and every pause, and simply walk ahead into whatever God has for me. Believing God will go before me. Believing there is a way to walk somewhat blindly into something you know nothing of, yet do because… it’s intriguing, drawing, compelling, offering more than what simply is the mundane superficiality of life, most days.

This way involves SURRENDER, and I don’t entirely understand what that means in a practical, rubber hits the road, type of way. I want to know. I want to live a SURRENDERED life.

On Sunday morning, after the talk part, we are each given a piece of red paper (blood red, valentine red), and invited to write down something we feel we might leave, deal with, acknowledge before God, something standing between us and the simple and profound way of spirit surrendered living.  And I know what it is, right away. I scribble down not good enough, and take my red paper up to the communion table, to the shredder provided, and push that paper in, and listen while the machine pulls apart the words I’ve been living. I surrender these words to the shredder… and at that moment, surrender to God…

Not good enoughnot good enough… not good enough.

And then I gently take a small piece of bread and a tiny cup of wine in my hand, and go back to my seat, and silently pray to, in the words of John Terpstra, “the one who won us over,” who says with his last breath, I am enough. His life for my freedom. His life for my spirit surrendered life. Jesus, who turns it all upside down and asks me to stop keeping score for myself and everyone else. Jesus who wants me to empty myself of me so he can fill me with something better. I say these words without knowing what they truly mean. What this really looks like in my real life.

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Boy with cross (Photo credit: Eileen Delhi)

I will be thinking on this for a while. I want to live this simple yet profound truth. Not to be great. Not even to be good. But to take the focus off me entirely, and put it back on the one who won me over. I wonder if I can really do it? Can anyone really do it?

Can I capture the wonder of a simple crumb of bread and wash of wine, surrender what hinders, carry significance into Lent, find sustenance enough for a new way of living?

Are you with me… is it possible?

SDG, Lesley-Anne