Thursday, December 31, 2009

I have a huge pot of chili simmering on the stove, and my cup of Earl Grey tea is steeping next to me. My kids are entertaining the neighbourhood children outside... and my husband is at the church preparing this Sunday's sermon.
Am I a product of my upbringing? My dad was a Southwesterner (see: chili), my mom's family is English (see: Earl Grey tea), I grew up in a ministry family (see: kids' hospitality), and we are a 3rd generation preaching family (see: hubby's sermonating).
Much of what I do and why I do it I can accurately attribute to my noble, and sensible upbringing. The values we possess, the goals we try to attain... even the recipes we share.
The family I grew up in - the Williams' - valued Family! Loyalty. Togetherness. Sharing. Hospitality. Radical Faith. (By radical, I mean they actually DID what they professed to believe in!) They also valued Thriftiness, Common Sense, Honesty, Fairness and Self-Education.
And I would dare say I have continued in trying to live that way.
And now, as an adult with half-grown kids of my own... I am facing the new year, new decade with an opportunity to re-examine our direction. Where are we? Why are we here? Where do we want to be? How will we get there?
I could continue doing what I've always done, the way I've always done it... and hope for the best. But after a bit of thought, I realize that our lives need a little fine-tuning. Redirection.
It was a surprise to me to learn that an airplane is off course nearly 80 percent of the time. Much time in the air is spent making minute, but very important direction changes.
So it will be with the King Family.
It's not that I am preparing to throw off everything I've ever learned and embark on an entirely new journey... for we have planned to be where we are doing what we are doing for a long time. Rather, I'd like to fine-tune our journey. Hone in on what is best - most glorifying to God.
(Excuse me while I put the cornbread in the oven.)
We are not in a rut defined by generations past - though we are influenced by them! We are never free from our history - though I choose learn from it! Our ancestors were no fools. They've suffered more, worked harder, accomplished more in their years than I could ever hope to in the years I have left!
And it's their sheer determinism that inspires me. Their values that motivate me. Their faithfulness that drives me.
But I will take the path that God has laid out for me. Carry the torch he's given me. And while I receive a weathered torch carried with worn hands, my light will be to a world that has grown dark because it has forgotten the values of the Greatest Generation... a Generation that loved their God.
But, I'll do it my way. In a home provided by God... with children that God has blessed me with... and age-old family recipes that have my own distinct flavour added to it.
My chili is not made with pinto beans as dad would have liked - but made with the thriftiness that mom would appreciate. The cornbread is a little sweeter. The Earl Grey tea a little darker. The kids have come inside to warm up and play video games (unheard of in my day), and hubby seeks solace when he studies...
God's plan. Our flavour in the recipe.
Hope He likes it!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I expected to talk mere kidneys and ultra-sounds with my South African doctor today. We talked that... and we talked Newtonian Physics versus Quantum Physics and... Jesus.

Our conversation moved quickly... as they always do... from subject to subject. Issue to issue. And, as we discussed pain medication, I expressed my aversion to them - citing a family history of addiction to alcohol and drugs.

The good doctor quizzed me, "In my experience there is always an underlying factor to addiction. Some kind of depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or anxiety. Why are they addicted? Do you know?"

I told him I didn't know. He looked at me... and cocked his head to the side waiting for a better answer. I told him I had just met them this summer, and didn't know their history... but I guessed.

"I suppose there's something to it... perhaps sexual abuse." I lowered my voice. "It's what happened to me. It's why I was removed by the province... when I was six."

A tear surfaced and betrayed me.

I clenched my jaw and willed the threatening tears back to their reservoir. Why was I weeping? I think about this all the time. I'm dealing with it. I had been so matter-of-fact in my approach... my thinking. Why the emotion NOW?

"What did Jesus teach about Quantum Physics?" the doctor asked.

I wiped my tear... and looked at him confused. I struggled to find an answer. I have answers for everything.

"He taught that we live in the physical world, but that the real world is spiritual." Good enough... I didn't know what he was getting at.

The good doctor began to speak...

"The Old Testament was a Newtonian Physics system. What goes up must come down. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' It was good, but not good enough. Not complete. Not until Jesus came."

I had never heard the Old Testament compared to Newtonian Physics before. I wondered what he was getting at.

His voice was kind-hearted, but resolute. "When Jesus came, he did away with all of that." He swept his arms across the air. "Jesus brought Quantum Physics to our lives."

He leaned forward, "You know Quantum Physics, Jennifer?" I nodded.

He answered his own question,"Breaching the Time/Space continuum. Time travel... things that we cannot do now... but will do soon. Things that we struggle to see even with our best imagination. THIS is what Jesus has brought to us. Not 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth', something better, bigger, unimaginable. Complete forgiveness."

He went on to tell me about his President Nelson Mandela... his writings on forgiveness. He shared his passion for African American Gospel music... their songs of slavery and their understanding of true freedom. He explained that my life had been on a wave - a tsunami - but it was 30 years ago... and that it's time to get off that wave and choose a new one... one that would take me where I want to go.

He told me to take off my shackles now. And dance.

The tears began to spill freely, and I was at a loss for words.

There was quiet in the room for just a moment. My mind was swimming.

The doctor returned to his duty and wrote up a prescription and explained it to me. We set up appointments for referrals as I pulled a tissue from a tiny box.

My tears continued uninterrupted for the next hour as I headed home. Not sobbing, just a quiet cascade of sorrow mixed with gratitude.

The good South African Doctor has begun a healing process of my heart and soul. His prescription? Jesus. The treatment? Forgiveness. The prognosis? Good.


Friday, November 20, 2009

I was going over some math homework with my son. He was frustrated that he was making simple mistakes in his math, and it cost him the right answer.
"In math, you don't get points for trying, you only get points for getting the right answer." I told him.
My mind immediately went to some missionary training I had when I was a youth. The director taught that you must get ALL of your doctrine 100% correct ALL of the time, or you'd not make it to heaven.
He used the following illustration:
"Suppose you're at a train station at lunch time, and your train leaves at 12:25pm. You look up at the clock and you see that the clock says it's 6:00pm. You know without a doubt that the clock is wrong, and begin searching for a new one." (He was alluding to false doctrines that are OBVIOUSLY wrong - how easy it is to discern and not be lead to hell in THAT handbasket.)
"But, let's suppose that the clock is only a few minutes off. It's four minutes slow. You may be inclined to trust that clock... but end up missing the train!"
(His illustration was meant to keep us alert to even the smallest error, lest we miss heaven due to a mistake.)
I took issue with that and challenged him in my very idealistic, naive 17 year old passionate way. We agreed to disagree.
But, all these years later... I wonder. Where's the grace, forgiveness and mercy in that? How can I possibly know ALL the correct doctrine ALL the time? Little old me? Is there room for God's mercy in my flawed understanding?
The scriptures say there is:

"Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, though faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. So you you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him." (Galatians 3:24-26 NLT)

There's comfort in his grace.

And if my understanding of doctrine is as flawed as my understanding of mathematics... I'm grateful for that grace.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I was lamenting to a new friend today about how badly I miss my old friends. How I love what I've got here, but starting over can be so hard.
And... it seems as time passes, I have forgotten how good those friendships really were. Time and distance have altered my memory...
I figured they'd moved on. Life just kept going and as my presence faded, my value as a friend faded too.
Today I read a friends' blog... and I don't know how I missed it before... but in it she expressed her sincere appreciation for me. She was generous with her words. So thoughtful and kind. It touched me...
And I wept.
I forgot that people miss me as much as I miss them.
I forgot that people mean as much to me as I do to them.
I forgot.
But now I remember.
And I won't forget again.
And now... as I'm making new friendships... I can know... that they are real... even if they're temporary. And I need to BE real, and unreserved.
So that I can have good old friends... now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How much of my life is lived in fear?
You'd be surprised to know...
I'm afraid to speak my mind, in person and online... because I'm afraid my husband will lose his job if I do.
I'm afraid to tackle tasks... even mundane ones... if I can't do it perfectly.
I'm afraid to confront some that I love... out of fear of losing their affections.
I'm afraid to love the friends I have... in case I let them down.
And... this fear... it's purpose? I suppose it's to prevent disaster.
But disaster's already here. I've created the very thing I was afraid of: loss.
My ministry suffers - I'm not the "smile and nod" type. I haven't been genuine.
My household suffers - tasks undone, events passed, moments neglected and tensions mounting.
And my friends... become distant as the wall seems to be a permanent one.

So no fear.

What I lose is what needs to be lost. Any life lived under the stormy cloud of fear is a life that hasn't lived to it's fullest glory...

It seems the clouds are parting...


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Every now and again I find myself caught up in a rather heated political debate. I rather enjoy the discussion... but afterward wonder if I've stepped on toes.
Some have called me a bulldog.
But I prefer "spirited" or "passionate"... ya know?!

Monday, September 28, 2009

So, a lot has happened:
School has started up again.
My oldest son is in private boarding school a thousand miles away.
I met my bio mom.
Stuff like that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's time to start writing again. There's so much going on... and sometimes I just need a place to let loose and express myself.

What to say...?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My fingers are stained with various paint colours. Cerulean Blue, Black, Lime Green. I suppose I paint when I need time to think and at the same time find it necessary to keep my hands busy.
The finished product looks somewhat like a backdrop for one of Tim Burton's movies. I didn't intend for it to... but I let the piece move in it's own direction.
In the meantime there was so much to think about... so much to write about.
My mind is brimming with past conversations, conflicts, worries and troubles.
If I could just get my mind to turn off. Always thinking... always wondering. Always conversing with God... always pondering things to great for me.
I suppose - like life - the painting didn't turn out the way I planned... the way I wanted other people to see it... but it did reflect the condition of my spirit.
The question is: Will I let people see it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So, I'm up painting tonight.
No particular reason.
Or so I thought.
I had a grand idea. I'd already finished one painting (see above), and was going to do another. Earlier today, I'd sketched in the final details of the second of two frog paintings and even outlined the artwork.
But, when it came time to paint the second one, I was struggling. I messed up so many times. Paint was too thick here. It wasn't blending there. I tried different mediums - water, blending gel... different brushes. Nothing worked.
So, I did what most artists do on a white canvas background. I used white paint as my "eraser". Very carefully, I dipped in a tiny brush and painted around my newly and beautifully sketched artwork. My mistakes were in the background, and needed to be erased. The white went on smoothly in the larger areas... but as I neared the sketched and inked work... my hands shook and I spilled over the lines. I didn't like it, but I continued. I spilled more. I was frustrated... but I continued. Using different brushes and angles, I desperately tried to cover all of my mistakes.
It was no use. The white paint was now piling up and making a textured line around the artwork. Not what I had intended.
Then... my mind cleared.
"You gotta do what God does with you, Jen - a complete do-over."
Reluctantly, I picked up a fat brush, dunked it in white paint, and painted broad strokes across the small canvas. I deliberately went over my sketched and inked work (the frog). And... there was peace.
All of the mistakes I had made were gone. In an instant. And, all of my "saving it" was for nothing.
A complete do-over. The areas that were riddled with mistakes were now clear. The outline is still barely visible underneath the new white coat. Something I can finally work with!
Isn't that how it is with us?
We make mistakes. Several of them in a row. Hoards of them.
Then, with everything we have, we attempt to clean it all up ourselves. We struggle, we research and try new methods, we try new angles at the same old problems. And... in the end, we get the same, ugly results.

God wants to do a do-over with me, with all of us. He wants to use the broad, wonderful brush of forgiveness... a fresh start.

I'm grateful for this midnight lesson. God is good.

My white frog is drying now. And my blog is posted.

Ever wonder what goes on late at night in Jen's dining room? Now you know...

God's giving her painting lessons.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When I was little, dad used to recite poems at the dinner table. This was one of my favourites...
Love and miss you, dad.

The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert William Service, 1874 - 1958
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee,
where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam
'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold
seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way
that 'he'd sooner live in hell.'

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way
over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze
till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one
to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight
in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead
were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and 'Cap', says he,
'I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you
won't refuse my last request.'

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no;
then he says with a sort of moan:
'It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold,
till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread
of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you swear that, foul or fair,
you'll cremate my last remains.'

A pal's last need is a thing to heed,
so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn;
but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all
that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death,
and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid,
because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
'You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you,
to cremate those last remains.'

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,
and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb,
in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight,
while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows --
Oh God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay
seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent
and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing,
and it harkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
it was called the 'Alice May'.
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then 'Here', said I, with a sudden cry,
'is my cre-ma-tor-eum'.

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor,
and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around,
and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared --
such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal,
and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like
to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow
I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about
ere I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said:
'I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked';
. . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
and said: 'Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear,
you'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
it's the first time I've been warm.'

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"I have the pleasure of..."
There was some hesitation.
"... sharing his bed." She finished the sentence, and continued "I get to lay next to him every night."

Friday night we were invited to a friend's 40th birthday party. My friend had just come back from a surprise trip to Paris with her husband - and her dearest friends were throwing her a party when she returned. The house was filled with all sorts of people - younger and hip. Older and refined. Middle aged and friendly. No children. The liquor bar was busy, the exquisite food table was not. The music was drowned out by friendly chatter.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted, glasses placed into our hands and introduced to lovely people. A middle aged, handsome man chatted with Derek. I joined the conversation.
Paul was a good friend of the birthday girl. He had done all the tile work in both this house and their Lake House. He was a construction kind of guy. Down to earth. Likeable.
A young lady walked up beside him, and Paul introduced her.
"This is Ashlee."
She was young. Barely in her twenties. Probably his daughter.
We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I learned that she was an interior designer. She'd grown up in Singapore and was well traveled. She fidgeted and touched her hair as we spoke.
Derek asked - "So, how do you know Paul?" gesturing to the stone-worker.
"I have the pleasure of..." she looked down and then up at my eyes again "sharing his bed". She forced a smile and struggled to find words. "I get to lay next to him every night."
Was she his girlfriend? Is that what she was getting at? He probably hadn't made it official, but was enjoying all the benefits of having a doting young woman at his disposal.
I didn't let the words hang in the air long. It was already uncomfortable. I smiled, touched her arm and moved on to other conversation.

But, those words hung with me after the party was over. The awkwardness for her at that moment. She had settled. I could sense the disappointment and the difficulty in finding a label for their relationship.

Some people say they don't need commitment or labels for their relationships. But I really don't believe that. I believe every man and every woman really want something significant. True connection. Something more than just physical. We all want soul-satisfying relationships. Ashlee did. I could see it in her eyes.

This couple had settled for something less. They're playing a sort of Russian Roulette of the heart. Risky business. And all for what? Bragging rights? They'd been unconventional. But at what cost?

I think the price is more than she can afford. And, in that moment - when she looked down - she was aware of it. I think we all were.


Friday, January 09, 2009

In an effort to be "really real", I must take a new stance on several things:
Blogging - be authentic - let the readers read it and make up their own minds.
Friends - seriously - you only have a few real ones. Nourish those. Forget the rest. (It's not like they're gonna DIE without you!)
Image - you are what you are. Your body, your home, your thoughts. Quit hiding!