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His face cringed as yet another splash of 16th century paint dripped mockingly on his tired face.
“I am not in the right place… I am not a painter”. – Michelangelo
Who would have thought these words would come out of this most famous painter’s mouth.
His most famous work of art during the Renaissance in the 16th century, the Sistine Chapel, took him 14 years to complete.(1508-1512).
Along with many laments characterizing his self written poetry of his painting experience, Michelangelo penned these words: “This is torture…” My brain is crushed”… ” every gesture I make is blind and aimless”….”my thoughts are crazy”… “My painting is dead”.
14 years of these laments, torturing his mind. And yet he carried on and created one of the masterpieces of all masterpieces.
At the age of 74, Michelangelo was called to save Saint Peter’s Basilica, himself painting for many of those next 14 years and instructing other painter’s to complete his work the last years before he died at the age of 89.
How often don’t we “lament” over things we know we are called to do in our hearts, and speak to ourselves loudly some of the same poetic words of one of the ultimate Renaissance Masters.
“This is torture… My brain is crushed… Every gesture is blind and aimless… I am not a painter… My painting is dead”.
We think our efforts are futile in our calling and passion because we may have this ever-present dialogue in our minds, perhaps 14 years… or even more.
You may not be the painter of the Sistine Chapel over 400 years ago now, but you may be the painter of the 21st century of encouragement, kindness, love generosity, hope, or even the best literal painter, along with all that looks like in our own unique gifts and Passions.
Do you constantly cringe from the “paint drips”… The feeling that every step you take in your passion is “blind and aimless” and even “dead” as Michelangelo lamented, though his gift was clearly not dead?
Despite these constant thoughts and feelings, Michelangelo went on to paint and oversee the Saint Peter’s Basilica till the day he died at the age of 89.
Take courage… Your thoughts and feelings don’t rule your abilities in your Passions. The world needs them. They are unique to only you on this planet of 7 billion. That fact alone makes your gift /passion priceless.
We can learn from this master painter of the 16th century. No matter or thoughts and feelings about our abilities and Passions.
Let the majestic colors of your unique gifts and Passions color your world with the brightest of the brightest hues only you can give.
But more than that, find your encouragement/ truth from the ONE who is the author of those gifts and Passions.
We may not reach 89 but we will all reach whatever day will be our last.
Make each day count and despite your self talk and discouragement… Keep moving.
The air in the room seemed to pop with fireworks of pungency.
My mouth danced with an array of sensations as my other senses awakened to heights only reserved for these kinds of moments it seemed.
Fresh, bright, green baby Dill.
Every cut of my mom’s trusty serrated knife seemed to release another invisible but instant aroma cloud into the small 70s kitchen.
My heart and mind were instantly happy and my soul danced right along with my happy senses.
Gently but swiftly, my mom scooped up the fresh mound of bright green dill from her trusty well-worn cutting board, and gingerly added it to the already simmering large stock pot of delicious Mennonite soup, filled with other magical, garden fresh ingredients, all preparing to contribute to this wonderful gathering of mouth-watering wonder.
All these ingredients needed to be prepped, cut and cooked to release what only each could release. A potato released potato, dill released dill.
Sitting on the cutting board uncut, unprepped would never bring the desired aromatic soup to its best potential and serve with the aromatic taste intended.
We all have an “aroma”… gift, just waiting to be released to the world. The world needs us to share with it that which only we can contribute; the gift of US that is meant to be shared.
Sometimes that aroma will be released in joyful moments and sometimes in hard ones. Either one can break open what is hidden in each of us.
If we all choose to release our gifts/aroma, and “marry” them together with each other, the world will be a better place… happy hearts, minds and souls… A place of HOPE …
A hundred years from now… will I see what I “see” now?… know what I “know” now?… and still believe what I “believe” now?
A hundred years from now … will I lament over losses and things I couldn’t change here on the planet?… still cry over “spilled milk”?
A hundred years from now... will I remember the Country Rose patterned dishes handed down from generation to generation placed end to end on our 15-foot harvest table?
A hundred years from now… will it matter what array of clothes hung in my closet from season to season, and how many sales I managed to find?…
will the numbers on the scale (the judge), and the size of my clothes still want to dictate my self-worth…? And will the size of my home and everything I spent money on over the years even matter?
A hundred years from now … will the rings on my fingers still symbolize my status and who I am?… Will I still be somebody’s?
A hundred years from now … will I still worry for my children and grandchildren?… will it matter who said what… and who did what?…
A hundred years from now… will I still “live in the moment” day after day, praying for every day to be better than the last in this fallen world walking through this life Journey?
I believe… A hundred years from now… the many tears shed over a lifetime will be replaced with tears of joy, and everything I’ve experienced… every tear saved in a bottle by my God will be poured out for all eternity, every drop spilling into life Everlasting with unending joy and laughter.
I believe… A hundred years from now… I will “see” like I’ve never seen before… as clearly as I ever will, and I will smile and nod my head as ALL my many… MANY questions will be answered.
I believe… A hundred years from now… the scale or measuring tape will not measure my worth, as the God of the universe will have deemed me beyond WORTHY… And I will finally believe it… and know it fully…
And my Everlasting crown of righteousness, an absolutely free gift from my God, will all be more than enough adornment for all eternity.
I believe… A hundred years from now… my home will be a promised “Mansion over the hilltop” as the century old hymns tell, prepared just for me… personally by the one who knows us more than anyone ever has or ever will.
I believe… A hundred years from now… the Country Rose china handed down from generation to generation, will be replaced by dishes made of pure gold, placed perfectly at each spot along the longest banquet table ever. A banquet of all banquets promised to all the saints that had accepted His free gift.
And then my heart will overflow at the sight of my family… My children and my children’s children finding their seats, dressed in the finest robes of Heaven as each ones name was printed in gold on each chair.
And finally… A hundred years from now… I will still “live in the moment”, but now with the cares of this Earth behind me, and I will live in much HOPE … the hope of FOREVER… just beginning…
And I will hug my mamas… my grandma… my baby… And so many more…
never ending hugs…
and all that will matter will be that moment I step into a new world…
Each denim square was cut to perfection with my mom’s 1970s gold and silver sewing shears.
It was now the year 2018. The trusty 1970s scissors had cut the squares two decades earlier in hopes of creating a beautiful Jean blanket. A blanket for those sunny Clear Lake days; our annual, coveted, summer trip, lazing on the grass, overlooking the sailboats, beachgoers, and specialty shop browsers.
It truly was an important project to aim to complete, but other things… life, business… got in the way of this and a number of other projects.
My Mom’s intentions were always good like many of us are, but there never seemed enough moments in a day to accomplish all on her mental list.
2018 became the year when the Jean blanket made it to the top of her list, as her very busy days of decades past, had been slowed incredibly due to her health failing rapidly the past 9 months.
The never ending list finally had room at the top for the Jean blanket. Mom’s rapidly failing health swarted all her good intentions… and the blanket stayed… unfinished.
That same year of 2018, April 10th, just three days after mom had passed away… I came upon the large, precisely cut tower of Jean squares, tucked neatly into one corner of the spare bedroom, beside her trusty Bernina sewing machine.
So close to getting done…
The project never did get completed. Her list was always as long as her imagination was, and I’m pretty sure, in her mind, it was going to get done… someday.
But someday never came.
We all have those kinds of projects that keep getting pushed to the bottom of our list. the jean blanket project was a great intention, but not necessarily something that was a “must” to complete in her life.
Each “denim square” needs to be put into place to create/ finish the project( restoration of relationships) and other important things in our lives.
It reminds me of the projects and perhaps relationships in our lives that may have some unfinished business… the “musts” … things that truly matter in the whole scheme of things here on this planet.
We may think we have all the time in the world to get to them, but sometimes… we won’t.
If you are reading this, you obviously still have time to make some needed “projects or people” a priority. Only you will know what that may be… If any.
But I would dare to say we all have some unfinished business.
As I sit here now in 2021, almost two years after mom went to heaven, in the same spare room, my eyes falling on the tall pile of dark blue denim squares once again, still piled as neatly as the last time mom had tackled the project… I am reminded once again to make room on that never-ending list of to do’s, and get to those things that truly matter, the “musts”…
putting together the “denim squares” that will complete the project… relationships… and other important things…
The snow crunched happily under our feet as the almost 0° temperatures and the warmer mid-February south winds, made this winter walk more inviting.
Only acquaintances at best through work, our connections went deep with intermittent moments of greetings and smiling eyes no mask could prevent.
Today, as we enjoyed a lovely winter walk, along with some students, to our favourite local coffee shop, our conversation easily moved to something deeper as we both cradled are steaming coffee shop treats.
The conversation; stories, were filled with times of experienced uncertainty as the shared stories included the diagnosis of a stage 4 brain cancer for a 1 year old beautiful baby sister, and my story of a season of paralysis… GBS, my husband endured about 10 years ago now… Both amazingly in the same seasons.
Our sharing of our stories continued as we talked about the dark valley walked for all involved during those difficult moments.
As our walk was nearing its end, both our stories came to a brilliant conclusion as we both shared unexplained miracles that had been declared by doctors in both our stories, and how God had gotten the glory for all that had happened and all that could not be explained.
We had only walked a short time that day, but our hearts were blessed and uplifted in the sharing of the hope we had found in each of our lives in the midst of some very dark moments we had both experienced many years ago.
We may not all have stories that go to these depths, but I would venture to say we all have everyday moments in our lives in which we can share, to give hope to others on their Journey. Hope to take just one more step, one more day… And then another.
We all need Hope.
Today, take some time to reflect on moments in your life where hope of any kind was experience from the heart of God… And dare to share with someone… Anyone… along your journey.
My homemade jeans, sewn lovingly by my mom as she did for many years, sat snuggly on my waist as every piece of clothing usually did in those days.
My everlasting struggle with extra pounds since I had entered into this world, made even my mom’s perfect measurements and skilled sewing sit awkwardly.
It was the dead of winter… and the dreaded “arenaday” had arrived way too soon again for my liking.
Grade 6 would be the beginnings of the cruel years as most were coming into their own identities, moving from the ever accepting early elementary years.
A cloud of cold air hung on my every breath, hitting my lungs hard, perhaps harder that day as it coupled with the anxiety of the unknown… The unknown of who would subtly skate by and hook my skate to plant me face-first on the cold forgiving ice, along with any cutting words to accompany the gesture.
I pointed my toe pic onto the ice, gripping the paint faded chunky door mercilessly, opened to the sprawling mass of ice, betraying my skating skills from the onset.
A rush of wind enveloped my whole being as my worst fears whizzed by my unsteady self.
“Your mom still sews you boys clothes!”
Were the stinging words my ears heard as the hard cold ice came closer and closer to my face as my skate wobbled as it danced the Tango with another as “the bully” rushed by.
And there it was… what my heart had been dreading for days before…“arena day“.
The kindness of my grade 6 teacher wasn’t enough for my young heart in that moment as she led me to the bench for a short break. My bruised shins didn’t hurt nearly as much as my bruised heart.
“Why”… was all I wanted to know. “What had I done”?
Oh, I know my young generous growing body did not fit into the cute little clothes the grade 6 girls of the late 70s enjoyed. But was “that” it?? Really?? And my homemade clothes??
I believe wholeheartedly I was a good person, always wore a smile even though the heartache of these encounters would pave the way far too much for the next four decades.
The diet and exercise that would accompany the next 40 years were cruel task masters in the quest to stop the bullying that would come in many different forms.
But the real bully was always with me… It was me. Yes me… Or so I believed.
Just hear me out.
For decades I tried to control me with weight loss, even when even the biggest boundaries were crossed. So much energy focussed on all my imperfections, much like a bully would do to someone else.
I was my own worst enemy… I was the real bully… or so I thought. My own personal bully when all the other bullies had gone for the day. This bully stayed with me constantly. This bully affected every area of my life for too many years, even the silence of my own thoughts.
I seemed to never escape this relentless bully.
Then one day, not too very long ago, I had had enough of this bully. Other bullies in my life still came and they still crossed my path in different forms, but they became smaller as I dealt with my inner bully.
I was tired… very tired. I had no more strength left in me to face the bullies in my life any longer. I could not change them.
But I could confront my inner bully as I started letting go of all that was not working in my life anymore… or should I say, never really had. It was not pretty. But neither was keeping the real bully around.
I started “cleaning house”.
I brought up “boxes and boxes” of hidden beliefs and lies from the “basement” of my heart. It was a mess, but as I took each “box” out the front door of my heart and loaded it on to the shoulders of my God, never to be brought back again… I started to breathe.
I started replacing those closed boxes with new open boxes that filled my heart with a sweet Aroma of self-acceptance no matter my size, my weight… no matter how many times I had failed in my eyes or others.
Self acceptance… I started to heal… Finally starting to Believe what my God had always said about me since the day I was born.
I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” despite all my shortcomings. No condemnation from the God of the universe. His promise to” never leave me or forsake me”… No matter if the whole world did, left me overwhelmed.
I was a” daughter of the most high King”…. Loved so so much! He says ” he thinks of me every second of every day… day and night, and knows me byname”.
I’m always on his mind! Who could ask for anything more!
He had never seen me as the real bully, even though I had thought it for so many years. He knew the enemy of my soul fed me those lies for so many decades.
He was the real bully.
So many years have passed since those dreaded “arena days”.
I know now who the real bully is.
Not the person behind the knocked skate…. Not the person with the cutting words…. Not even me… It was the enemy of our souls.
Today being the first day of a brand new year, I choose to believe what my God says about me in the midst of the ever-present bullies of this world influence by the real bully.
Not them… Not me…
But the true enemy of our souls… The real bully who is already defeated by the One who loves us the most.
Our God willingly gives us Hope to let go of the lies that have held us bound for too many years by the enemy of our hearts…
She gently placed the needle of the arm of the 1960s record player on to the 33 vinyl record of Dennis day and Jack Benny crooning the likes of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
The steady subtle cracking accompanied each each song… a simple familiar normal of the 70s era. It was a beautiful normal.
My grandma settled into grandpa’s gold patterned, corner rocker after she finished the nightly Christmas week routine of plugging in the multicolored lights that lit up the vintage teardrop ornaments, along with the traditional silver tinsel and gold garland of the era.
The multicolored lights hung perfectly by my grandma’s silhouette in the dark of the evening, just outside the living room, shining beautifully as they danced in all their colours on the freshly fallen snow.
It was a magical time in my child’s heart… compared to nothing else.
My sleepover bed was made with so much love always by my grandma on the living room mattress, covered end-to-end with her always fresh smelling floral bedding from her special hall closet where all Grandma’s treasures came from.
She lovingly and securely tucked my young self in to the ever so soft, grandma’s house aroma bedding.
The farmhouse living room was shrouded in the darkness of the evening except for the sparkle of the christmas tree lights and those dancing there colours on the freshly fallen snow just outside the living room window.
My grandma’s grand Christmas cactus was filled with beautiful pink blooms to the point of hanging low… A testament to her loving care.
My grandma mischievously hinted in the direction of the tree, alluding that the perfectly and immaculately wrapped silver and gold presents could be mine. 2…3…5! 5 presents!! My young heart could hardly contain my excitement.
Some big, some small, but one stood stoically tucked in the back of the tree, safely under the boughs of the beautifully decorated tree.
Could it be??
Could it possibly be the coveted long-haired Crissy doll I had wanted for so long from the iconic Eaton’s department store in the big city just an hour down the road?
I could only dream.
Soon after, the subtle hints of Christmas gifts gave way to my grandma rocking gently back and forth, looking off into the distance as she went back in time, telling of Christmas Eve in her youth, and of the magic that happened in their own home with everyone playing instruments, from the fiddles to the banjos, echoing through the home with their favourite traditional Christmas songs.
She stared off in the moment as if she was reliving it all over again.
Her stories took on their own magic as my little sleepy eyes got heavier and heavier, drifting off with magical memories of Christmas past… The sixties record player still crooning Jack Benny and Doris Day… “Oh Holy Night”.
Morning would usher in my most favourite day of the year, then as a child and still many decades later.
Christmas Eve had finally arrived.
The day was filled with much excitement as the traditions of “Peppernuts”, traditional shortbread cookies and my mom’s famous fruitcake, along with many other baked goodies graced a large beautiful cookie platter, arranged with much love and care always.
The sounds of the “Ray Connick singers” and “Harry Belafonte” crooned happily from Mom and Dad’s record player in the large country living room.
Red and white stockings, Handmade by mom, hung from the real brick fireplace for us to enjoy as we drifted off to sleep in our blankets we had dragged from our beds.
Our whole small family… nestled by the warm crackling fire my dad had stoked just before we fell into our dreams of Christmas.
We drifted off to the sparkles of the tree my mom always decorated with homemade decorations. Turquoise satin blue round baubles with sparkling jewels. Each of our first letters of each of our names spelled out.
My decoration with my letter now lives in my Christmas tree many decades later.
The time had arrived for the Christmas Candlelight concert in our small farming town small Church.
Christmas carols the likes of “We light a Thousand Candles bright” and of course the ever wonderful “The star”, rang through the walls of the small country Church.
I sat mesmerised, sitting securely beside my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa in the hard church bench, dressed in my cherry red Christmas dress my mom had lovingly sewn as she did every year.
“For unto us a child is born”… the Christmas story from the book of Luke took center stage as the choir sang their last song of the night.
And just before our moms and dads took us little children home for Christmas Eve, the “tutjes” (little brown paper bags) filled with oranges peanuts, a candy cane, a few hard red, white and green striped candies and of course a chocolate or two arrived from the church.
The hustle and bustle of the little children clamoring for their “tutjes” was quite a sight to see and a highlight for my young self. I clutched my little brown bag close to my heart as I stomped alongside my mom and dad through the deep snow that had fallen, with my favourite boots that year, filling with cold fresh snow with every step.
But I did not care.
I was off to grandma’s and Grandpa’s…. and it was Christmas Eve.
My dad’s 66 “Merc”, Malibu blue in colour, pointed down the snow packed gravel road heading to the most magical night of my young life.
As my dad’s “Merc” rounded the curve of the farm’s long driveway, visions of years past of “pluma mouse” (cold fruit soup), nice cold Mandarin oranges from grandpa’s cold cellar, peanuts, hard striped candy, chocolate, ripple chips with French onion dip, and Mountain Dew in green vintage glasses accompanied my Christmas favourite… “halva”… a Christmas staple on Grandpa and Grandma’s Christmas table.
All was set around candle light in the small farmhouse kitchen…. I’m “there” as I write this.
Finally, grandma’s perfectly wrapped gifts made their way into my arms.
The carollers dressed in their winter parkas and snow boots, singing their traditional standards just out the front living room window in the glow of grandpa’s multicolored lights, were a beautiful sight and sound to my little eyes and ears. But the corners of grandmas beautifully wrapped presents were calling my name louder and louder as my fingers anxiously pulled on it.
A beautiful pink ceramic jewellery box, made lovingly by my grandma, contained the most beautiful delicate gold necklace with a floating heart as was popular that year.
As I opened my gifts eagerly one by one I finally came to the coveted large beautifully wrapped present standing quietly in the back of the magical Christmas tree, stoically waiting for my little fingers to open it.
I could only hope.
My little pudgy fingers worked quickly as I peeled back the layers of beautiful wrapping.
And there it was.
The long-haired Crissy doll my heart had yearned for all year! My young heart could hardly be contained.
Another Christmas Eve had come and had fulfilled all my little heart’s desires…. It was perfect.
Now, many decades later, my growing family of 17, children and grandchildren, experience pieces of these wonderful childhood memories.
The colourful lights, some vintage decorations that graced my mom and my Grandma and Grandpa’s tree so many decades ago, the peanuts, oranges, candy and my mom’s favourite fruit cake. Shortbread, cherry topped, halva… and much more.
And of course the best of all…. just being together with all those that I loved so dearly. That really was the greatest gift of all… then and now.
Grandma cookie making and decorating with the littles and of course the sounds of the season with the likes of Ray Conniff, Doris Day and Jack Benny, croon late into the night after all are fast asleep as the musical tastes have changed through the decades for my family from a different era.
The small farmhouse table in the farmhouse kitchen has been replaced with a 15 foot handmade Harvest wooden table, filled end-to-end with my precious family in the year 2020.
Many beautiful people of those childhood memories have celebrated many Christmases in heaven by now.
I miss them dearly.
Yet I look forward to the day I can celebrate the Christmas of all Christmases together with them in that forever home prepared for us by our loving God and his Son.
“For unto us a child is born…” the hope of all eternity….
I sat my Christmas mug of peppermint mocha on the ledge of my cozy reading chair facing my large sunbathed window.
The overfilled bird feeders just outside the window were the centre of a flurry of many different kinds and colours of birds… feathered friends coming and going at will, side-by-side enjoying their bird feeder treats.
Sometimes 2… sometimes 4… sometimes too many to count, seemingly coming from far and wide as the vast malibu blue sky accommodated.
A pair of beautiful majestic Golden Eagles completed the picture as they swooped freely across the open yard…. their large wings gliding effortlessly, soaring higher and higher anywhere they pleased in the vast open sky.
My heart envied the sense of freedom these familiar feathered guests enjoyed.
My time at my window brought me back to a cherished memory in my childhood when my grandmother would lovingly surround my childhood atmosphere with music and song.
A line from a childhood favourite tucked lovingly in my memories that she used to sing to me in her gentle sweet voice was…
” God sees the little Sparrow fall it meets His tender view… if God so loved the little birds… I know He loves me too.”
These birds were doing everything but falling this day, but it reminded me that He had a tender view of even the tiny birds, and if that were true, how much more does He have us in His tender view, especially in this time of a world full of uncertainty.
Our world in this seemingly long season, may have us move about less freely, but the wings of our heart’s can never be stilled if we remember Who’s got us and Who we’ve got.
Our hearts are not bound and can soar as freely as the birds when we stretch wide our heart’s “feathers of freedom” like the eagles as they soar.
Stretch them into the lives of others no matter how far our arms are from the ones we hold so dear. Freedom is always present when we choose to stretch our heart wide in limitless prayers of Hope that transcends every boundary as far as the East is from the West.
Prayers for the healing of this world and so much more as we turn our faces upward… and let the Everlasting Light of Him who loves us most, bathe our hearts…
as we stretch our heart feathers of ultimate freedom.