Thursday, 28 February 2013

the guilt thing...

 I struggle with which way to go.  Always.  So many choices...and saying yes to one good thing almost always means saying no to another. Guilt follows.

I was so excited to know that a friend of mine was moving into my neighbourhood.  I drive past her house at least twice a day, yet the last time I saw her was just before Christmas.  Daily, I think how I really must call her, or at least stop by with a little note and tulips to let her know I care.  Couldn't I at least arrange a short walk or a quick cup of tea?  But no, I rush right past.  I have many neighbours I would love to spend time with.  I remind myself what a poor friend I am --echoed voices from the past, of friends who have been hurt because I didn't give enough.  I wasn't there enough.  I didn't call enough. 

My head spins.

I try to step back a bit and look at it again.

But there are people to love and pray for, projects to be involved with, volunteer positions to fill, sports to get to, classes to take, meetings to attend, calendars to arrange, cheques to write, books to read, neighbors to have for dinner, photo albums to create, kids to snuggle and read with, piles to sort, walls to paint, grout to re-apply, corners to clean, out-grown clothes/shoes/bikes/skates/skies to be replaced, friends to keep in touch with, coaches to please, bottles to return, a husband to make love with, appointments to schedule and show up on-time for.....and as the list of good things grows, THE WEIGHT OF IT ALL GETS HEAVIER AND HEAVIER.  



When I'm forgetting to "think on whatever things are true," I look around me and see competence everywhere.  Women who appear capable of doing it all and then some.  I see fit bodies, healthy meals on the table, kids in every sport, and attendance at every school council meeting.  So much value placed on so many things.  Where does everyone find the energy to do it all?  My 100% doesn't seem to be enough when it's divided so many ways.  

Is there anyone out there who feels as tired as I do?  Is there anyone else asking "what is all this for?"  (As soon as these words hit the page, guilty voice kicks in with:  "What a whiner!  You don't even have a job!! Why did you even go to university?  What do you do ALL day?  Don't you know how privileged you are?") 

Yes.  But still, I am tired. 

 I long for a simpler life.  I long for quiet -time to think and pray and create and just BE...and let my family just be.  I'm not keeping up.

I love watching my kids dance, ski, mountain bike, play hockey, volleyball, basketball, soccer, piano....and I'm proud of them. I want them to achieve, be active and enjoy opportunities that their friends enjoy.  I know these are "the best days of our life."  But I'm exhausted from the running.  And warts!!  Have I mentioned those nasty things yet?  I've been making appointments since spring to try and get rid of a wart on one child's toe.  I don't have time for warts!  Don't even get me started on orthodontics for three children!!!

A few days have passed since I wrote the words above.  I've had a chance to rest, to enjoy a little fresh air while cross country skiing with my son's grade 8 class, and clear my head a little. I've turned around and enjoyed a completely different view altogether.
this was the same evening sky as pictures above - but just 90 northwest - another perspective altogether.
The truth is, I was tempted to scrap this post altogether when I read it again.  It just sounds so self-centered and pathetic when I consider the huge brokenness and heartache in our world.  

And yet, it's where I am at right now.  I feel tugged and pulled by the dichotomy in my own soul.  I care so very much about the world out there, and never want to be complacent about the suffering.  I want to be active, to do what I can to heal the hurts and alleviate the injustice.  Yet too, I feel the magnetic pull to my family life....the world of which I am the hub and my kids are the various spokes that join up with my husband -the wheel ( what a wheel!  Haha, sorry Lance!) who holds us all together, supports us  and bears the weight of our lives together.  

If I am exhausted and grumpy, my family suffers.  If I haven't found a way to operate from a place of peace and calm, my family life can get spinning right out of control.  If I don't have clarity about what choices to make in order to ensure that we are all going in the right direction together, our family can come right apart at the center.

It becomes more obvious to me every day, especially now that my shoulders fit nicely beneath the arms of my eldest son as we hug and his heavy footsteps down the stairs always make me think it's his dad, that family life as we now know it will soon be changing drastically.  I don't want any more regrets than necessary....I don't want to look back and wish that we'd shared more meals, or had more hot tubs together, or that I'd laced my own skates more and joined the kids out on our backyard rink, or gave more back-rubs and had longer snuggles and prayers at bed time.  These simple things are the first things to go when we're too busy, too exhausted, too irritated.  But they are also the brush stokes, each a different color and shape, that create the most amazing portrait of family life.  What am I sacrificing when teetering on the edge?

So I revert to chocolate!!  :)  Really.  I found one left over from Valentines and I sit here (right before supper time) unwrapping an "irresistibly smooth" Lindor chocolate and popping it into my mouth.  (more guilt!!)  After all, aren't all the world's problems solved with chocolate?

Thanks for reading and please forgive the rant!!  xoxo

words and text copyright © Melody Armstrong 2013 

Monday, 25 February 2013

full stop.

a glimpse of green surrounded by deep, white powder
There are a lot of stop signs along my travels and I confess,  I've been rolling right through them lately (figuratively, of course!  Well.....??).   After all, I don't have time for a complete stop.   I slow right down, of course, and look all directions before proceeding, but my wheels still keep turning.

Not today.  This morning I come to a full stop.  After a weekend absolutely filled to overflowing with activity,  I am finally obeying the stop sign -- the one posted to keep me from a serious collision.

I say "no" to my zoomba class this morning (sorry Chantal, in all your zoomba gorgeousness!) and I opt instead for a quiet start, a calmer rhythm, a soulful search.  This is a luxury on a Monday morning, to be sure, but one too easily ignored in favour of a mind-numbing pursuit of the endless "to do's" and a plethora of obligations waiting to be fulfilled.

Instead, I head for the woods....the place where I can really hear all the sounds that make up "quiet"...where I can still find green in the middle of winter (and for those of you who spend winter in Alberta, you understanding my longing for green right now).  It's the place where I can stretch right out and lay on soft, mossy slopes beneath old, creaking pine trees....and the place where I can be alone with God and bushy, red-tailed squirrels (and possibly cougars, but I try not to think about that!)

I cut across the ridge this morning and follow a path the deer have made down into the forest.  It's gorgeous down in there.  It's a world unto itself and I walk respectfully.  I don't have a photo because sometimes even taking photos can be a way for me to keep going - to avoid stopping.  No electronics today.  Full stop.  The only things in my pockets are the unusually red rock I pick up on my way in, and the heart-shaped rock I spot on my way out.  Otherwise, my hands are free.  Like my heart.
moss and rock i brought home from my walk
The woods are a place of quiet --a full kind of quiet, and after navigating around bushes, under branches, over fallen trees and down the mossy slopes, I find the perfect place to hunker down.  The perfect place to be still, to observe, to listen.  

I crush some pine needles between my fingers, releasing their fragrance so I can breathe in the awakening scent that reminds me of childhood camping trips.  I smile as I watch a little red squirrel chattering away on a nearby tree.  Like me, that little creature moves at lightning speed most of the time, but his movements seem so random.  Up there, across here, around that and back to the same starting place again.  Like me, he seems to be in frantic motion but not really going anywhere.  The other day I tallied up the hours I spent driving in my vehicle, chasing from one activity to the other, and realized that although I'd spent nearly 3 hours driving, I never got further than 20 minutes from my own front door.

  I'm going so fast but it feels like I'm getting nowhere with nothing to show for it all.  My heart has been heavy with questions lately. I wonder if I am missing it.  What if, in all of my busyness, I am racing right past the very things that I value and cherish the most:  God, my husband, my children, my family  and friends?  What if I'm not treasuring these fleeting family moments the way I should?  What if I'm not spending enough time teaching my children about faith in God, or more importantly, modelling a life of faith walked close with God? What if my husband and I are so focused on our kids and their busy lives that we are forgetting to nourish our own relationship - to be prepared for the next season of open spaces that the two of us will have to find meaningful ways to fill?  What if I've missed the beauty of this daily life we live together because I've been too focused on how to make it better, richer, fuller, more purposeful?

I realize too, that I have come to the woods to forage (just like my hyper little squirrel friend). I am in search of seeds, long buried beneath a winter landscape.  I am in search of nourishment.  I am in search of green.

I think I have come to the right place.  It may just be possible that my life is surrounded by all that I am searching for but it's not until I STOP that I can see it.

Definitely more on this later.... but now, it's off to piano lessons.

Photos and text Copyright © 2013 Melody Armstrong

Thursday, 14 February 2013

armfuls of love to you...happy valentines!

My living room hardwood......transformed into one massive carpet of love in shades of pink and red. 140 handmade Valentines Cards later......I witnessed in complete amazement as the Grade 5/6 kids from church passed out their Valentines cards, roses and chocolates to the eager seniors at the retirement home.   I don't know if I've ever seen faces glow like that - not just the seniors, but the kids.  It was a wonder!  We called the event "Spread the Love" and let me tell you, that's just what happened.  

As I watched all this loving and caring, all this youth and age, all this giving and receiving and giving again, I realized that you can't "add" love.  LOVE ONLY MULTIPLIES.  It multiplies for everyone who gives it, for everyone who receives it, for everyone who witnesses it and chooses to enter in.  

And so to each of you today...I send you love.  May it multiply in your life as you give and receive it.  May your soul be filled to the brim and then filled even more till you overflow with it.

And.....may you know that you are pursued by Love today:

"I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."    (Jeremiah 31:3)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

girlfriends...what a love we share!

(I've been playing with photoshop and my old keepsakes--from the "big hair" days!!  Love you, Myrn!!)
It's a miraculous thing, you know, this love between girlfriends.  I've been thinking about you lately (EACH of you) --wishing we could have some crazy long hours alone together to talk and laugh and cry and share our hearts till 2:00 in the morning.  Oh, the days we could do that!! So many of you have loved me long...and hard...and faithful.  You have walked "five hundred miles" with me and I KNOW you will never stop.  What a rare and priceless treasure is friendship like this. 

You have chosen to look past my failures and YOU ADORE ME.  How can that be?  I am safe with you.  You always see and believe my heart and my good intentions.  I don't have to explain myself.  Your love for me is fierce and strong and warm.  You are a soft place to land when I fall--- and I do, a lot.  You are a refuge in life's torrential downpours....and so much prettier than umbrellas. (I never did like umbrellas.)

I love the way we really know each other.  With just one look we know that now is not a good time to talk, or that we better get talking, now!  Of course, talking isn't usually necessary because we somehow just get it.  We can read it in each other's eyes.  When we're apart (in distance and/or in time) all it takes is a certain tone of voice over the phone and we know that we've got to get there, right now!  And we do -- even if it's physically impossible, we find way to be there somehow.

This love we share DOES impose.  It does ask for help. It does LEAN - hard sometimes.  I know I can call you and say "do you still love me?" and you always know what I'm really asking: "am I still loveable?"  And of course, I know you will say "YES!!" and you'll say it in a hundred ways.  You'll say it just the way I need to hear it in that moment.  You'll find that perfect way you have of reminding me who I am and what my gift is to this world.  That's what you think I am - a gift!   And......I'll believe you.  I'll soak up your love and faith in me till I'm full again, and courageous enough to spill love out to others again.  

And the ugliness (inside or out) never notice, or if you do, you look right past it.  Make-up or au natural, sweet or not, you always see the good, the lovely, the funny, the strength, the beauty.  How do you always manage to see the beauty in me, especially when I can't see it myself? 

You are girlfriends.  You laugh and cry, dream and hope, trust and obey (and sometimes rebel) with me.  You remember where we've come from........oh, such a long way.  You've witnessed the way I've fumbled through life's uncharted territories (we still do it together) -- with me swearing AND praying, sometimes in the same breath.  And it's okay, because I've never had to impress you or try to be someone I'm not. Thank you for letting me be me.  Thank you for helping me be a better version of me because you won't let me stay the same.  You stretch and push me.  I love that. I LOVE YOU!

Thank you for loving me through the risks I insist on taking. You've even watched me take a few too many - because I wouldn't listen.  It's that wild side of me that will always be my "thorn in the flesh" or my shining beauty, depending on the day. But you LOVE me anyway.

All the joys, sorrows, tear-gushing laughs, questions, pains, heart breaks,'ve been there to share it all with me.  You know me.  You know that I love to twirl & dance in meadows, get dolled up for parties, never take my makeup off at night and always wake with my eyes smudged black, LOVE nature and art and poetry, I'm a romantic at heart, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I can't resist going anywhere that says "no trespassing" know my weird quirks and fabulously wonderful qualities :)  YOU KNOW ME.  What a wonderful thing it is to be known and loved.  THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

My mom used to say "to have a friend, be a friend."  Well, I must have done something right because YOU -- MY GIRLFRIENDS-- are my wealth and my treasure.  You never cease to amaze me with your beauty.  True, deep beauty.  You warm my heart with your smiles, laughs, insights and presence.  You truly reflect the love of God in my life...over and over again.  You are imperfect perfection!  (thank goodness....otherwise "I might have to hate you!")

I once wrote a line in a song that makes me think of you: "if I could take a thousand stars and place them in your arms...."   Do you know that there is no bouquet of flowers (or stars) that would ever express the gratitude I have for YOU?  You are JOY to me.  I will cherish you FOREVER.  And I promise-- even "pinky swear" (for those of you that go back far enough) that I will stand by your side and love you the best way I know how.  Forever.

Thank you.  A million X a million.  
(love, 1/2 x m+m, 44/45 = forever!!)  


Monday, 4 February 2013

hi friends...are my posts arriving to you?

it looks like  I'm having some blog, would a few of you that have subscribed to my blog mind letting me know IF/WHEN you receive this post.  

Would you also check to see if you received a post on Feb 1st or yesterday, Feb 3rd and let me know.

By the way...I went through a bunch of old letters yesterday and was amazed at all the stamps and postmarks from around the world.  They look so cool. 

I forgot how much I loved seeing someone's familiar handwriting - so unique and artistic each of us!!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

new beginnings

The gift of every sunrise is the invitation to begin again.    

will you
say "yes?"

In the midst of our morning rush...I kept peeking out the window and watching this sunrise expanding.  I didn't really "have time" to be awed and amazed.  (After all, didn't I have three lunches to make, the clock to watch, cereal bowls to rinse and peacekeeping duties over the usual sibling squabbles?)  But the lights and clouds were transforming before my eyes. It would all be over soon.  I didn't want to miss the show.


And so, even though it was 8:01 and the bus would be zooming by in 2 minutes....even though I didn't know if the kids' teeth were properly brushed, even though lunches were still on the counter... even though, even though, even though.....I called all three to come and be amazed at the beauty. 


I'm not sure what circumstances each of you are facing today.  I know that some of you, dear ones, are weary, right down to the very core of your being.  I know that for some of you, just getting out of bed and facing a new day requires more courage and energy than you think you have.  I know that most of you are needed - and it's so hard to be needed when you feel like you have nothing to give.  To all of you, I send this glorious invitation - a glimpse of light and promise of hope.  And May God's tender words echo through you soul today:
"Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion, comfort all her mounds of ruins.  I'll transform her dead ground into Eden her moonscape into the garden of God, a place filled with exuberance and laughter, thankful voices and melodic songs."(Isaiah 51:5-6 The Message Bible)  

photos and text © melody armstrong 2013 (unless otherwise cited)