1

Pruning the Branches

Mj7V8XkOQLqVOyeXxixu_fierari-boardedwindows

 

Beginnings.

That’s what spring feels like to me. When you can see the ugly brown snow melting away, and the mottled grass starts to show. It used to be as a little girl  – I knew that spring was here when my Mom would get the axe out, and start chopping the ice that lined our front sidewalk. Even the air seem to smell like spring, and no I don’t think they’ll ever bottle it, though no doubt they’ll keep trying. The birds chirp, crocuses push their heads up through the snow, and thoughts and sights of tulips and daffodils are everywhere.

Spring is a time of gift giving.

A time when everything is new and increasing. Just thinking about it, it’s this great metaphor to signify that I am indeed growing! I am idling in spring, picking wildflowers in one hand, and somehow I’m holding burrs in the other. I can’t do one without the other. I may be showing wholeness, but it also reminds me of the hard trek it has taken me to get where I am going. It has been a prickly journey thus far…

I’ve spoken about how it good to be in the valley, but sometimes it’s nice to take a holiday, and travel up to the hill country. The weather is warmer, the breezes are ample and easy, and the sweet fragrances of life are generous.

In the last week, I’ve had three people after hearing everything that God has done, remark that he’s been doing a lot in my life. He has. Though most of what he has been working on probably has been a work in progress for the last 10-15 years( and longer!), and whatever has been healed in the vineyard of my life is going to have a really good year. All the branches that have has been pruned has allowed and cleared the way for a new area of branches to finally gain strength to break out on their own.

My sister is similar to my Mom in many ways, and I used to say jokingly, I was a fluke because I don’t have those same qualities. While I have remained in the same area/city as my Mom, my sister left around the same time that I entered the Catholic Church, probably a little earlier. Over a month ago, I wrote a post about my Mom, and wrote about her simplicity, well my sister isn’t quite a carbon copy, but so much of what they do usually makes me think of either one. It was having this knowledge that led me to an understanding of how my sister had probably been able to forgive my Dad in his inability to father her when she was growing up a lot earlier than I was.

I tend to process ‘events’ in my life longer and deeper depending on the emotional impact it had on me. While there were parts of me that understood, that forgave him for the reasons he was not able to meet my needs as little girl and adult. Still, there were emotions that I held onto because one I knew what I needed but I was unable to give them to the Lord. There was an ache that had punctured my heart so deeply that it needed to heal before I could breathe in the Holy Spirit, and know without doubt that I am whole.

I want truth and I want beauty, and it is hard to come by those two things. Beauty is truth and the truth from that is beautiful, but in reality, it is easy to mimic what is real. Truth and confusion often sit on the same shelf in our lives and in the world. I have struggled to separate from the past, and allowed it to integrate itself into what is now my present, and indeed, it is truly a gift that I have been given.photo-1447958374760-1ce70cf11ee3

Advertisements
2

Surprise!

summer-garden-dinner-eating-large

Yep, it was surprise all right.

September 11th was my 40th birthday, the birthday I did not want to come. I had moaned and groaned all about it in my head to the Lord. I  was worried about turning 40, like maybe I would turn into a pumpkin?

Nah, it didn’t happen.

So I had my birthday party all planned for my two guests. My Mom ordered this chocolate cake – icing, drizzle and cake – all chocolate! For dinner I had thin crust pizza at a restaurant called Za’s Za’s Pizza, and I ordered Cajun Cowboy – it was delicious. I have this thing for chocolate, so much so that my supervisor made the comment to her two placement students that she’s never met anyone so obsessed with chocolate. This was after I had offered to bring in the brownies I had made the night before. I had cut myself a whole row of brownies that morning about 5 a.m., and it was about three hours later I was still very wired. Caffeine does wonders for some but not for me.

I could post a article on caffeine, but I would rather talk about my big surprise.

I was enjoying my very chocolate cake, when I guess someone knocked on the door. I didn’t hear it but Jolene did, and she got up to answer it. She called me over because it seem that there was someone at the door for me. I had no idea who could be at the door, despite the fact that it was my birthday. So I walked to the door, and lo and behold, my sister Serena stood on the other side. I think she said, “Surprise,” I gave her a hug, and well the rest of the evening kind of blurred from there on. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great evening, but it was so unexpected and the rest of the weekend just kind of swirled into one revolving door of memories. What I couldn’t get over was how good she looked. She had her hair in a short bob, and it looked fantastic on her. I was just wowed by how good she looked.

I remember when I made plans to visit my sister when she lived in Calgary, AB and how bad things turned out, as opposed to the way we had hoped. At least they didn’t turn out well for me, and I literally was counting the days until I went back home. I don’t know what happened because I thought it was a foot in the right direction. We fought and when we didn’t, we didn’t speak to one another. It was just a bad scene. I wanted a relationship with my sister and I had no idea how to go about it. Well fast forward about 15 years, and voila! My mom always reminds me of when I started sending Serena a card of encouragement, or one of love every month. I then had the nerve to suggest to my Mom she do the same. I knew she didn’t like the idea at first, but the Holy Spirit warmed her up to the idea, and before I knew it, she was sending my sister cards too. It didn’t happen overnight, but the relationship that I shared collectively with my sister and Mom has gained a strong foundation once  again.

When I go looking for a picture for the post, I usually have something in mind, but finding the right one for this post was tricky. I wanted to find something that not only said surprise, but also expressed the different turns a surprise can take. The coals look cool, but they’re not. I wanted to acknowledge that even though my sister’s visit was a huge blessing to me. I had a hard time trusting my sister because she unlike me, she expressed herself quite well.

0

Everything I Have is Yours.

 

abcfbca1

For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. Ps ~50:9

 

In the parable of the prodigal son, I have always identified with the older brother. At first, I didn’t know why, and even a few years ago, my sister made the comment that she had always felt that I was the older sibling. I felt vindicated, when she made that remark because it confirmed what I had always felt. It wasn’t because I was always telling her what to do – no, it was quite the opposite.

I am reading a book called, Unbound by Neal Lozano, that I am reading with a friend, and at the end of each chapter, we discuss what was impressed upon us. So far, I have finished reading up to chapter three. In this chapter, Lozano speaks about the story of the Prodigal Son, and his perspective on this parable. The Spirit was able to show me things I had never considered or been open to before.

The parable aptly demonstrates the Fathers love for his children who have gone missing, and who have left His pasture to pursue their own passions. The younger son knew what he was doing in leaving to do what he desired. He wanted to exercise his independence from his father, but living a life apart from the Father, he found didn’t fill his cravings the way he had hoped, but realizes he is empty without his Father.

Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard the music and dancing, and he called one the servants asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. Luke ~15:25-28 NRV

Pride doesn’t like celebrating anything that doesn’t put itself first. I was convinced that the Lord didn’t see me the way I wanted to be seen. As part of His family, I am called to rejoice in my brother and sisters victories in Christ. Instead, I was stuck in bitterness, control, fear, etc. All I could see growing up were the gifts that others had, but I refused to acknowledge the gifts He had graciously given me. The graces He was waiting for me to open up and discover but wasn’t because of my inability to receive His love. Part of this may have been that my earthly father never invited me experience life; he was content to watch from the sidelines. He refused to open his heart to receive, but in doing so, I learnt that it was good way of pushing the things aside I wanted away until I didn’t think they mattered to me anymore.

His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ Luke ~15:28-30

Rejection. Jealousy. I thought had prepared me for life, but I had only gained the ability to hide in my anger and fear. The Father called out to me, but I didn’t know how to respond to His love that he lavished on me as a child and now as an adult. Learning about the amount of control l had allowed in my life has shown me how many times I haven’t done His will because I was busy doing my own. As a result, many of my past choices came from a place of anger – venomous anger deep inside of me. All the while I believed that I was trying to be obedient, but I was probably being (without wanting to) disobedient. I didn’t understand why it always seem to rain on my parade, but I had already created an image of what I thought my heavenly father was doing to me.

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.’ Luke~15:31

More than ever, I am discovering He is always with me. No matter the situation. Instead of pushing away his affections for me, I am trying to be genuine towards them – welcoming them into my heart. It wasn’t with open arms in the beginning, but through plenty of stumbling and fumbling, I am standing taller in my knowledge of His dynamic presence in me. Not everything we want and what He wants to give us is the same. Most of what He wants to give me is not what I would expect, or when I want it. I am truly starting to live in the life that I think and hope speaks more of Him and less of me.

It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this brother was dead and is alive; he was lost, and is found. Luke ~15:32

 

0

Finding My Sister

two little girl's playing doctorOften, I am asked if I am close to my sister, and I usually pause because I would like to say yes. Reality is I am not. However, it doesn’t diminish the hope that stems to bring our ties closer together, and work on a relationship where the roots were deeply planted long ago.

Unbeknownst to me, my sister wanted to come up for my birthday this coming September. She planned on surprising me(and my parents) by coming into town on the weekend closest to my birthdate. I haven’t seen my sister in over four years.

Growing up with my sister was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde experience; I wanted to be close to her but at the same time I did my best to stay lost when her temper flared up. We didn’t have any common interests. I wanted to hang out with her and I did but it didn’t seem to foster the feeling of being close. I realize now that part of my problem was I was afraid of her. I had zero ability to communicate with her; I didn’t know I had my own opinions. I just did as she told me. I knew she loved me, but sometimes it was her reactions that scared me and somehow it led me to believing I had let her down.

I looked up to my sister, but I didn’t grasp this until  I found out she had shoplifted. She was around 15-16 years old at the time, and a fire lit in me that wouldn’t blow out until I had my chance to  express my opinions to her. A quiet rage fumed in me; aiding me to realize that my sister wasn’t perfect but up until that time – she was perfect in her imperfections. Memories of what I said to her exactly are foggy, but she said afterwards that my words stung more than what my Mom had to say to her.

It’s a funny thing to think back, and recognize that I had encased her in a glass with snow falling all around as she slowly turned around on my pedestal.

I was 14 years old when my parents officially separated and later divorced.tumblr_n3ttt5vKzl1st5lhmo1_1280 Just like parenting, there is no instruction book on how to survive a divorce. A staff person from Madonna House articulated it for me that divorce is a death of a family. No doubt about it, the family that had been my foundation swirled down the rabbits hole. My sister was 17 years old at the time and a year later she moved out on her own. That’s when I think she started to fade, and in all honesty I didn’t know who this person I called my sister was anymore.

My life became detached from her because we were both angry at each other and at situations we had no control of in our lives for various reasons. Even when I became Catholic, I hoped she would be a part of it, but she never appeared. It was hard to understand why she wouldn’t want to come because growing up I had shared my life with her whether I wanted to or not. Not having her there seem to cement even further the fact that she wanted to distance herself.

When my sister moved out across the country that was when I realized it wasn’t just miles that separated us, but we were divided in heart as well. Before she left things had not been in our favour. Words dangled all around us, but they were left unsaid, and feelings hurt were hidden. Our pride was bent and out-of-place, and the desire to stay connected was misplaced. Of course, I loved my sister, but circumstances led me to wonder if I liked the person she had become.

Bluntly, I realized no, I didn’t like her, but my love for her held despite my mistrust and anger at her. For a year, my sister did not communicate with us.

I don’t remember what inspired me to start sending cards but I have to attribute it to the Holy Spirit. Each month I would send a card that either told her I loved her or encouraged her or both. Together with my mom who was sending her cards as well, my sister slowly began to respond to us.

Starting over again was slow and gradual, a steady path to regaining some kind of resemblance of what I grew up surrounded in. For me, family was my mom and my sister, we did everything together, it’s what I remember the most. She was part of the memories imprinted from my childhood. Even though they are limited due to my depression, I have come to rely on her memories to help me put pieces together that have been stolen from me.

Time always shows us the way; it’s the process that gets in our file0001568639492path. Circumstances have taught me how much my sister does know me. It’s a surprise because I didn’t think she was paying attention to who I was becoming. Her care and diligence is a sweet balm.  In other ways, she is still learning about the other parts of me but she’s a willing student. She is attentive to the delicate fibers that are woven deeply inside of me.

Maybe the definition of being close can stand to be altered. Healing broken parts that did not know how to speak for themselves, to be transformed into the love that we needed most. I am seeing a woman, my sister that I always knew was there, but I didn’t know if she would ever have the courage to emerge and flourish into the person I knew she was made to be.

0

Childhood: Sweet and Secret

tumblr_mzgz2dmpvq1st5lhmo1_1280

 

I used to have a bicycle. It had a pink and white basket and a banana shaped seat. I used to ride up and down the street that my backyard looked onto. I love baskets for bikes, cigar boxes, and anything that would allow me to stow my stuff . Things that were important to me at that age would find its way into these secret places. I know if I were reminded of what I put in, I would probably cringe at the contents and shake my head, silly girl!

We had neighbours on Gordon Street, the street I lived on, and Ella Street, my backyard street. I suspect the reason we knew so many people was of my Mom’s doing. My Bubi once remarked to her, “Is there anyone you don’t know?” All you had to do was sit with her on the front porch, almost everyone who passed by would get some kind of acknowledgement from her.

I love this picture as the sun is setting especially with the square basket positioned at the back. My mom had a similar bike but her wicker carrier was round and in the front. She would use her bicycle all the time to drive to the ‘corner store,’ which was actually a 5-10 minute ride. We had an actual store on the corner, but she didn’t think they were friendly, and oh, the bread wasn’t to her liking either. She like fresh bread, the kind you can squeeze.

Still in elementary school, my sister and I would pool our money together and go to the ‘corner store’ that didn’t sell fresh bread. There we would buy (somewhat stale) candies. We would hungrily eat the sugar goodness before we reached home. The house rule was we could only have sweets on Friday and Saturday.

The bicycle in the picture gives off a decidedly bohemian appearance that make me think it was probably taken somewhere in Europe. That’s my guess. I would love to know what’s inside of the carrier. Maybe a puppy? For some reason, I am not a  bike riding person, but if I was, I would ride this kind of style with a wicker basket positioned behind me.

As a girl, I pretended that an invisible camera followed me wherever I went. My own personal documentary being filmed everyday of my life. In my head, I kept up a conversation with the invisible filmmaker. As an adult, I would tell people this is what I did and believed, and I was simply given weird looks. God was following me around and would listen to me repeatedly tell the same story in my mind.

As I think back on when I was a little girl, I can see how the Holy Spirit permeated into my knowing. I didn’t know His name(s) but I was aware of His presence. In many ways, that is where my ability to pray came into being. My desire to be alone, and wait for him to make Himself known in my heart. He always came with hope; an emotion I had no experience with, and was too much for me at the time. He was the flame in my heart. Unfortunately, I was already too harsh with myself. His love was always full of strength. I didn’t know that the hope he offered to me was mine for the taking. It was a gift.

Even with all the pain, I can still remember the innocence and freedom of living in a place that physically didn’t exist. Living in a world that is purely the work of your imagination and construct. No mistakes are made because this world is yours.  Then one day, or one moment at a time, you start to leave this safe realm. Pieces of you slip away because an imagination is considered silly. Mostly, I just wanted to grow up and become an adult, whatever that meant to the little girl I was. I was given ideals, but when ‘it’ became real, it was nothing like I thought.