On Jesus and Indoctrinating Your Children

An open letter/blog to any parent considering sending their child to Bible camp…

When the camp director asks me to speak for a week at camp this summer I am totally surprised. How did my name come up? And why would they want me to speak? My first inclination is to say no; partly because of the time it will take to prepare and partly because I don’t feel like I’m a good fit–you know, the rah-rah preacher raising the chapel roof. It’s not that I don’t identify with the core beliefs of the camp, but I’ve never been comfortable selling Christianity. In general, I can smell a sales pitch from a mile away and feel violated when someone targets me as a potential client, whether they’re pushing a political view, Tupperware or the Watch Tower. It all makes me want to run the other direction.

While on the phone with director, asking him about details, I’m also thinking about conversations I’ve had with multiple parents and their distaste for Bible camp. Particularly the emotionally-charged services where vulnerable children, many away from home for the first time, are subjected to religious manipulation. Now I was being asked to be a major player in this? To stand at the front of the chapel, preaching to the sunburned, mosquito-bitten, hyper children who come for a week of fun but go home indoctrinated?


I’m driving with 4 other teenagers in my car and listening to their animated conversation.

“She told me I was going to hell on judgement day! Can you believe that?”

A burst of laughter erupts in the back seat.

“Yeah, it’s just a bunch of rules. Outdated and boring.”

“I once had to say the Hail Mary, like, 59 times. I hated it!”

“Religion is so repulsive,” says another.

More laughter.

My hands grip the steering wheel and I bite my lip. I can see there has been a terrible misunderstanding. The programs, curriculum, traditions, institutions and well-meaning followers are eclipsing their centre, their very heart. Which is what happens when people see Christianity instead of Jesus. A religion, instead of a person.

Soon the conversation skips to another topic, but my insides ache while I process my unspoken response:

Have you read the book of Matthew lately? Or even just chapters 5, 6 and 7?

Have you watched him turn water into wine? Water to wine! Not the other way around.

Have you listened to his stories of mustard seeds and outcasts and rebel sons who return home?

Have you seen him bend low to draw in the dirt to save a desperate woman?

Did you hear his whisper at the cross, his compassion for the criminal hanging beside him?

You can complain all you want to me about religion and I will probably agree with most of it. But show me Jesus and I come undone.


I decide I will speak at camp. Every hour I spend drafting and researching, I get more excited. I still couldn’t care less whether your children go to church every Sunday or have never sat in a pew. Whether they Muslim or Christian, cynics or charismatics. I’m not in the business of selling Christianity, nor of converting, convincing or conniving. That is impossible. And as absurd as forcing someone to feel the rhythm of a song, gape at the northern lights or fall in love with a person.

You can sell things or even ideas, but you don’t sell people; you introduce people, you connect people, or maybe even match-make people. So dear parents, don’t worry about me indoctrinating your children. I’m not the least bit interested in that. My only agenda is to show them Jesus. And, if you’ve ever heard music, looked at the night sky, or felt the spark of romance, you’ll understand that most of this has nothing to do with me anyway.





Breath in Our Lungs

It’s easier for me to see God in retrospect. Maybe I’m too full of myself in the present moment. Or maybe the present is too ordinary, or too painful, and I’m too blinded to see Beauty. But whether I realize it or not, every moment is holy, infused with Life itself. Even Vivi’s wobbly steps, to the last gasps of the dying, are fueled by the God “who made the world and all things in it… He Himself gives to all people life and breath.”* This is the song all around me but I don’t always hear it. Today I’m singing along.

It’s your breath
in our lungs
and we pour out our praise to You only**

My sister shows me a picture of her friend’s newborn baby, her perfect face framed by swaddling blankets. Looking at the photo, I wouldn’t know she has skeletal dysplasia, that her lungs will never develop, and that as soon as she was born her parents wondered when she might die. After preparing themselves for the possibility of a stillbirth, or perhaps meeting their daughter for only a few minutes, they are thankful for 30 hours with her. For thirty hours of a beating heart. Thirty hours of inhales. Thirty precious hours of exhales.

It’s your breath
in our lungs
and we pour out our praise to You only

The gravel road winds through poplar groves, swamp, then spruce trees, and finally an open vista of the valley. Goldenrod decorates the ditches flanked by swaths of canola. I am running alone, waiting for my family to catch me on their bikes, when I turn around and see the bear. It’s big, black, and looks smooth to touch. It’s also about 200 meters away which makes it all the more beautiful. Seconds later a cub bounds after the mama. I wait to be sure I won’t miss another cub and to confirm they aren’t moving in my direction. Soon the rest of my clan catches up and passes me. Grandma and Grandpa lead the pilgrimage down the mountain. Cousins switch bikes. Uncles add stragglers to their loads. After ten miles we wheel, and limp, into Tim and Kristalyn’s driveway. Alive. Sore, but alive.

It’s your breath
in our lungs
and we pour out our praise to You only

I’m loading the dishwasher and sweating. Stan is pounding up and down the stairs to his tool room; he is a man on a mission. But it’s the wrong one. According to me, he should finish installing a screen door so I can get some cross-breeze in this place. Instead, he’s building a bee hive.

“Would you be alright if I duct-taped some screen up?” I ask. Stan can tell I’m not just trying to be creative and answers as if I’d been nagging him all morning. Which, in my mind, I had been.

“Well what do you want me to do, Woman? Put up a screen door or capture you some feral bees?”

My sweat glands scream Are you kidding? while I say,Capture feral bees of course,” knowing Stan sees right through me.

A few days later he brings home a souvenir from his mission: a piece of honeycomb. We offer dessert to anyone who stops by, which means dipping fingers into the honey puddle or chewing on a piece of comb and letting sweetness gush into your mouth. Parts of the comb are capped brood which we get to see hatch in our kitchen. Stan studies the perfect hexagonal artwork in between google searches on bees and wild hives.




It’s your breath
in our lungs
and we pour out our praise to You only

Last week Vivian learned two important survival skills: walking and killing mosquitoes. I’m not sure which is more helpful or more entertaining to watch. When she comes back from toddling outside she re-enacts what happens by slapping her head and making serious guttural sounds. She will tell dramatic stories about the winged predators on demand. You just have to crouch down to eye-level and whisper the trigger: mosquitoes.


It’s your breath in our lungs

My sister Tara and her kids visit us. We bake, swim, cook, clean, yell at our kids, cook, clean, walk, read to our kids, supervise sales of all kinds (garlic, baking, and ice cream to name a few), bike, hike, and cook and clean some more. Occasionally we manage coherent conversation. One night, after all the kids are asleep I’m reminded she has a life of her own I ask her questions about her friends, church, and future plans. I wonder why we are only getting to this now, when they’ve been here for two weeks already, and then I remember. The children. Mainly the two smallest shysters who take turns loving and hating each other. Eli alternates between offering her his soother and charging at her; Vivian screams and pinches then ducks in towards his neck while he hugs her. They are learning about the push and pull of relationship.


It’s your breath
in our lungs
and we pour out our praise to You only

The cancer has grown back. It’s in his esophagus, bones, lymph nodes and spread to his lungs and liver. This is not fair. Not how the game is supposed to go. It makes scared and sad just to write it.

Still. It’s your breath in our lungs…

We’re listening to Joni Mitchell and the girls are trying to sing along but it sounds terrible. I’m drafting this post with one hand and eating hot nachos with the other. I look up from my paper and say, “I don’t care what happens tonight except that you have to get your butts in bed by 8:00.” I’m determined to stick to my guns on this one. That is, until Stan gets his guitar out and starts figuring out a Civil Wars song. Susanna slides her fingers up and down her violin until she lands on the harmony. Her eyes get big when she surprises herself with the right notes. A nervous smile turns into a wince when the chords turn sour. We press play on the youtube video over and over again, straining to hear all the notes and who sings what. Belén sings along, even when we want her to stop. We shush her; gesture wildly at the screen; and glare. Nothing works. Her voice floats on top of the recorded music. We shoot more dirty looks her way. She cups her hands around her mouth and resorts to humming. She can’t stop singing.


…And we pour out our praise to You only

It’s your breath in our lungs. It’s in every creative impulse, song we sing, and story we tell. It’s in every ordinary conversation, and every milestone reached. It’s the trace of you in every bee, bear and bone in our body. In every mother’s desperate cry, and even every cancerous cell. It’s your sustaining power. It’s your breath in our lungs, and we pour out our praise, pour out our praise to You only.

*Read Acts 17:22-30

**Listen to All Sons and Daughters sing their song here.

A letter to the One in Charge

To the One in Charge,

I’ve started this letter four times already and nothing seems quite right. It should be easy–I pray to you everyday–but it’s not. It’s hard. Maybe because my reason for writing isn’t easy either. Of course, if you are who you say you are, you know exactly why I’m writing which makes this a seemingly pointless exercise, but then, if you are who you say you are, things like this, like me writing on a scrap of paper to ask you for something, can change things.

So here I go.

We need you here.

I don’t mean that in a rhetorical sense. I mean we need you here. Right here. In this town, in early November, in a very real way. I mean I have a dear friend who is facing something so unexpected, so ugly and scary, that I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. Except that I do. I wish it was happening to someone else so she and I could talk about it together in passing, while trading kids or over lunch, and shake our heads while reminding ourselves that life is fragile. Then we’d move on to the weather and our plans for the weekend and forget.

I’d like to forget about this but I can’t, and I know my friend never will. Even though denial seems like the best option now, while my brain stumbles around the information and my head pounds in rebellion, I know this is not something we can wake up from, that will disappear, or even be made right. Unless, of course, you step in. Because although I’m not sure what I believe right now, I don’t see any other option besides some holy intervention.

So what exactly do I want you to do?

I want you to show up.

To show up like you did for Elijah. Surely you remember the time you sent flames to lick the wet wood your prophet had doused with water? Did his heart tremble when he called on you to do the impossible; to light a fire when there was not even a spark, only a trench full of water around a dripping altar? And what did the others think–those who had spent hours calling on other deities, dancing and even slashing themselves in the frenzy, without an answer? As they looked on, watching Elijah put you to the test, did he whisper, quivering with doubt, or shout his demands? “Answer me, O Lord, answer me so that these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

If you can cause fire to fall from the sky and a frantic crowd to fall in worship, surely you can do something here. Something that would reverse, undo, and transform. Like a healing. I’m whispering and shouting at the same time now. Whispering because it seems impossible; shouting because I mean it. I’m pleading for action. A miracle to mystify physicians and family is what I really want, but if you’re not going to renew sinew and bone then pour out your power just the same and do a mighty work with soul and spirit. Redeem something from this ugly mess of multiplying cells. Because if sunsets and babies’ breath are the only signs of you then this prayer isn’t worth anything. If we can only feel you in the lovely why should anyone turn to you in the ugly?

But you seem to be in the business of showing up in the middle of ugliness, like the filth of a stable and a violent execution. I can’t know this for sure though, that you birthed yourself into a real, live infant and bled on a cross, because I wasn’t around two thousand years ago. It’s only what I’ve read and what I’ve been taught. And believe me, it’s easy enough to doubt all of it. But when I start at square one and evaluate the alternatives I come back empty-handed and humbled. What are the chances any of us ended up here to question you in the first place? How else could we shake our fists at you, ignore you, or yearn for you on this freckle of earth in the face of the exploding universe if you didn’t put us here? In other words, you started all this so you better finish it. You started something when you created us from nothing. You started something when you took your first breath through the lungs of a newborn. You started something when you died. And you started something when you knit together the one for whom I’m praying. So I’ll wait for you. I will wait for the big finish. Knowing, hoping, doubting, and believing all at the same time, you’ve showed up.


A Patchwork Post: Scraps from an ordinary week

Nothing proves neighbourliness like a lion’s head rolling off. After the massacre, acquaintances and coworkers approached me with concern, wondering who was responsible for such a thing. When I told them our household was accountable they almost seemed relieved, as if we were having another unspoken conversation. Yes that’s right, we live in a place where people wouldn’t dare vandalize a snow sculpture…and isn’t it a fine little town?

The girls had been planning to destroy the sculpture for months. They finally waged war against winter, rallying forces with Jack, Ainsly, and their mom, Shelly. When Belén cried out, “I call the machete,” and Susanna yelled, “Dibs on the saw,” in front of our company I was glad for a friend like Shelly. She didn’t blink an eye.


Ready to fight with warrior paint


Unfortunately, the task was harder than they anticipated…


Stan had to make a notch in the neck so the girls could fell the massive head with their barbed-wire saw.

Shelly also didn’t blink an eye when I told her what we’d be having for dinner. I’d been experimenting with a gluten-free sourdough recipe I’d left on my counter for 4 days and was hopeful that this time would finally be the time–when the stars would align and I’d discover the traditional, wheaty-tasting sourdough I was after. (Gluten-free bakers have a lot in common with gamblers or gold diggers.) I should’ve known how it would all play out; I’ve been doing this for about 10 years–getting my hopes up and then seeing them crumble, quite literally, before my eyes.

When I piled the cracked, oblong rocks (aka my sourdough baguettes) on the table Shelly said, “Oh, I see you’ve made pocket buns.” Pocket buns, a term coined by her husband, are the kind of rolls you can put in your pocket, and after a full day of hunting in the woods, take out of your pocket and observe no change. The pocket buns will look just the same, and as hard, as they went in. Regrettably, I foresee the title, Pocket buns, getting a lot of use around here.


I was so optimistic I even took this picture before they went in the oven to document my impending success.

Susanna had a friend sleep over at our house for the very first time this weekend. She decorated the whole house in advance, taping ribbons to the walls and strewing other bric-a-brac around our living room. When her friend, Kirsi, arrived Susanna led her to a homemade pinata–constructed feverishly, only minutes before, with a cardboard box and masking tape. After the whole thing collapsed, Kirsi pawed through the shredded newspaper for treasures and found a lonely pack of gum.

“It’s half-eaten,” she observed while holding it up to Susanna.

Stan, having just retired the broomstick after the event, responded cheerfully for Susanna’s sake, “But it isn’t pre-chewed now, is it?”

I’ve read a few books lately I’d enthusiastically recommend to the right kind of reader. The first is The Hundred-Foot Journey and if you are interested in cooking, India, or France, this novel will be like a birthday present for you. And I am the child who hands over the present and wants to you to open it RIGHT NOW and tell me how much you love it. But don’t read it too fast… the author’s choice words and sensual descriptions are too rich to gobble down quickly. Another one is Pastrix, a spiritual memoir which will either offend or delight. Then, Stan suggested ordering this book for the girls, which entertains them in short bursts. Tonight, at the dinner table, after Susanna involuntarily growled at the back of her throat trying to eat my soup, I read this quote about a degustateur from the book:

Julia Rogers is a taste educator whose specialty is cheese. If you offered her a piece, she might say: “In this cheese, you can taste brown butter and nuts.” Or: “This cheese smells of ripe cream and melted butter, with just a hint of white mushrooms and earth.” … Julia believes kids are the perfect taste education students. “Kids are especially good at this because they don’t have any preconceptions about what food tastes like,” she says. “Kids don’t hesitate to say it smells like crushed rocks or it smells like poo!”

I continued reading how tasters describe sensations and smells using images unrelated to food and it somehow got us through the meal. Susanna closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on the qualities she was tasting. She borrowed “the wet spot in the basement” from the book, but then came up with “the broth tastes like wet construction paper and the scent of pine needles” all on her own. I was impressed with the pine needle comment because I did add rosemary salt for seasoning!

Lastly, we continue to pray for our niece, Lucy. I am amazed at the strength and faith of her parents, especially when I get cranky about it all. Just lately, after talking about the situation, I protested to no one in particular, “Why do we keep praying? What does God need from us? Hundreds and thousands of the same prayers? Can’t He just do something? Now?” I felt testy, ignorant, and impatient at the same time, as if I could thrash around with God like Jacob did–a story I love from Genesis 32 where Jacob is renamed “Israel” or “one who has struggled with God… and overcome.”

Belén and Susanna looked up at me and Stan took them both on his lap. After a moment Stan said, “God doesn’t want us to quit. He wants to change us. And Philip and Anne… and Lucy.”

And so we prayed again for change. For all of us.

Thanks for reading through the patches of our week,


A Startling Empathy

When I was a little girl I learned to be careful when my mom had migraine headaches. If I thought too much about her pounding head I would soon have a headache of my own, so I trained myself to pretend to listen whenever I was informed she had a migraine and would ask her how she felt while purposefully ignoring her answer. I had an empathy problem and it wasn’t that I needed to cultivate more. Rather, I had too much and couldn’t manage it.


Belén and Susanna preparing a winter solstice breakfast.


The “sunny” menu: egg yolks, pinapple, mandarin oranges, and yellow yoghurt


Even now, when I think about Ruth or Lucy my psyche starts to reel under a weight I cannot bear. Ruth, a beautiful new bride, is expecting her first child. She also has an untreatable brain tumor and is undergoing radiation to buy her enough time so she can deliver her baby… and see the face of the child that will most likely never know her mother. Sometimes, when I picture my sister-in-law, Anne, holding Lucy’s fevered body and and wiping her kissable cheeks after she throws up, I want to curl up into a ball–as if rolling into the fetal position will dismiss the reality of chemotherapy and pain.


A special solstice treat: candles in the snow fort. Can you see their frosty hair? It was a chilly evening at -26 but they stayed outside for about an hour and a half


A few years ago I visited a friend who was admitted to the psychiatric ward of our hospital, known as the Pine Unit to locals. Hospitals freak me out at the best of times (one reason I opted for a home-birth) but this visit really threw me for a loop. I held tightly to Susanna as we wound our way through halls reverberating with moans and incoherent shouts. By the time we got to Carol’s* room I felt nauseated and busied myself by taping Susanna’s artwork to her wall. When I sat down beside Carol’s bed and grabbed her hand it was as much for my comfort as it was hers. Carol tried to carry on a conversation but her words came out in gibberish and we soon lapsed into silence while I stroked her arm and tried to make some up-beat comments for Susanna’s sake.

Now I wish I’d never gone to the Pine Unit at all. Since then I’ve had a few run-ins with my own mental fragility and despite realizing anxiety is as a prevalent as the common cold, in my more pessimistic moments I’m sure I’m destined for long-term psychiatric care. As you might guess, picturing myself mute and vegetal in the Pine Unit doesn’t do much for my sense of well-being. Like I said, the psychiatric ward is definitely off-limits; I’m not willing to sacrifice my health to offer my company to it’s occupants no matter how sympathetic I feel.

And this is where God and I part ways. Because while I set boundaries to protect myself from unwieldy compassion; God is pouring herself into someone else’s darkest hour. Though I sputter and nearly drown in my own empathy; God burrowed himself into the womb of a teenage girl 2000 years ago so he could drink our pain with us. And whether you think the whole Christmas story is legend or historical fact, the narrative is startling. That the fearsome life-force of creation chose to marinate in amniotic fluid, feel disappointment, get dirty feet, and bleed, is crazy…and it also befits his name, “Emmanuel” or God with us.

The phrase God with us sounds a lot like God is for us and reminds me of a battle cry to rally the troops. But given the circumstances of Jesus’ birth…. the hay, the manure, his unprepared parents; and life… rooting for the underdog, his unexpected agenda of dying instead of taking political power; any jubilant military associations are misplaced. I don’t think the phrase is meant to imply victory but to speak to those who suffer in some way. And though I stumble awkwardly with my own empathy, the Christmas story climaxes with God not only feeling for us, but actually becoming one of us. Unlike me, He commits to and embodies his empathy, as deliberate as a uterine contraction, and as real as a mother’s urge to push.


How can that be anything but startling? Especially for someone like me, who, if I can help it, won’t be going back to the Pine Unit…

Thankful for Christmas,


*name changed

“What kind of people bug you?”

She asked me the question and I answered her without hesitating. It was one of many questions that made up the hour long interview,* and while I talked she scribbled notes, stopping only to fire the next question. I could’ve responded to her prompt by listing qualities such as disorganized, inconsistent, and frequently late, but she’d already heard about my weaknesses so I said the first thing that came to mind.

“People who are dogmatic.”

What I meant by “dogmatic” was not someone who is opinionated, passionate, or sincerely convinced by something. I was referring to the kind of people who are all of those things plus unwilling to consider, or understand, why anyone might not agree with them. I love visiting with people who think differently than I do and I think spirited debates are a wonderful way to enjoy another’s company. When it stops being fun–when it becomes an argument going nowhere–is when I can tell the other person has never thoughtfully challenged his or her suppositions. Because I’m convinced that almost every controversial issue has supporters on both sides who are smart and kind, and that if you listen long enough to an individual from either camp, you might find some small truth worth considering.

This doesn’t mean I only want to hang around with spineless people who can’t make up their minds about anything; I just like hanging out with people who try to figure out why everyone hasn’t come to the same conclusion they have.

Kind of like these two authors…

I read both of them this fall (I’m not quite finished All natural) and admire the curiosity and desire to understand, instead of a must-win-the-argument mentality, of both authors. Keller’s book, The Reason for God, is less even-handed than the other one–he doesn’t spend as much time exploring both sides, but he’s consistently respectful. His tone, in general, is Many thoughtful people think differently than I do and this is why, but here’s what makes sense to me. All natural is written by a skeptic who grew up diaper-less with hippy parents, but who still wonders if it pays to buy organic bananas. If you like either of these books, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be interested in the other–they’re written in such different arenas–but maybe one of them will make your holiday reading list.

So, there’s the complete answer to her interview question. Now, what kind of people bother you most? It’s something interesting to consider, and can even be inspiring, if you’re on the lookout for people who display the opposite trait…

Oh, and the next time you see me getting riled up in a discussion, feel free to remind me of this post!


*We’ve applied to volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters… hence the thorough interview.

PS. For those of you more interested in the weather than philosophy: Our cold snap is over! The mercury has climbed to new heights… but not before we went ice-fishing on Sunday. We spent the day on the lake (wearing three pairs of pants under our ski-pants) defying the chill, and at one point defying geography, after the kids suggested playing hide and seek. Imagine a 35-mile-long lake covered in ice and snow. Now imagine 5 kids in colourful snowsuits trying to hide.

“Polar Bear”, a game where adults attack small children and send them sprawling to the snow, turned out to be a much better alternative. 🙂

Dragonflies and Spruce Tips


Spruce tips on the tree

The mosquitoes clog my view of the evening sky as I wade through buzzing clouds to get to my back door. I keep my eyes shut and mouth closed to avoid swallowing or blinking them in. A few days later, just when the infestation seems unmanageable, we step into our backyard and hordes of dragonflies lift off. Again, I can barely walk the length of our yard without being pelted by bugs, but this time I don’t mind. In an apocalyptic surge, the dragonflies are consuming mosquitoes by the thousands.


I  harvested these last week–they’re best in the bud stage when they’re still mostly covered with the brown papery things. If you live south of 60 degrees you’ll probably have to wait til next year.


Fresh ground spruce tips in the food processor


Spruce tip salt: Mix 1 (or 2) parts ground-up spruce tips with 1 part coarse salt. Let dry in a pan for a few days and bottle. The flavour is part citrus–part woodsy, and it adds great taste to pasta, and potatoes. I’m saving a jar to season the fish we hope to catch this summer!


Spruce tip jelly… there are recipes for this all over the internet. If you make it, be sure not to over-boil the syrup after you add the pectin (no more than a couple minutes)–there’s nothing worse than tacky jelly. My girls love this stuff. It’s esp. good on toast with goat cheese.

Even though this cycle of carnage happens every year I’m always surprised by it. I also know it’ll continue throughout the summer: as the dragonflies get fat and clean up the mosquitoes we’ll see less and less of the dragonflies, until finally, the mosquito population rebounds and reaches a biological tipping point. Then, once again, the dragonflies will swoop in to maintain the balance. Usually two minutes before we go insane, clawing at our bitten bodies.

It’s amazing, and comforting, that things like this repeat themselves every year. It’s the same with the wild daisies that bloom on my birthday, the spruce trees blushing with their new green tips, or the ice-covered lakes melting into huge swimming pools.

beach day 2013-4

Some friends and I took our kids out of school last week to scamper up sand dunes.

beach day 2013-2

The ice had only been off the lake for about a month, but the kids spent most of their afternoon in the water.

No matter how much I anticipate these seasonal markers, they always knock me off my feet. I guess our winters are long enough that summer can trick us into thinking she’ll never come. But when she finally does, it’s fast and furious–and makes me want to throw my head back and whoop, like a one-year old playing peek-a-boo. Just as the baby cackles in delight when his parents reappear, I’m astonished and grateful when our hemisphere tilts towards the sun’s warmth once again.

…Which brings me to a quote I’d been searching for for years, until I saw it on Lisa’s blog last week:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

-GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy



Have a wonderful summer solstice this weekend!

Wishing you all big appetites for beauty… and monotony,


Ps. I feel I didn’t get enough in about the spruce tips…Did you know they’re one of the easiest things to forage? That they’re good for soothing sore throats and colds? That they’re analgesic, anti-fungal and anti-microbial? That the tips can be dried and saved for yummy winter teas. or made into skin cremes and salves?… Okay, now I feel better.

What happened during Lent

We’re eating Easter dinner when Uncle Ken looks across the table and asks me a question.

“So Tricia, I was wondering how your decision to give up the internet until noon went?”

I pass the pile of mashed potatoes to my right and wonder how I should answer. I’m glad he’s asked the question (it means someone else besides my mother has been reading my blog) and that he’s sincerely interested, but I’m not entirely happy with my answer. I would love to humbly describe how consistent and disciplined I was through Lent; how I blazed through all 40 days with unwavering commitment. Instead I fumble awkwardly saying something like I tried my best and I made it most of the time to 10:30 am without checking my email or blog…

As far as strictly observing lent, I failed. But in spite of my weak resolve, or maybe because of my weak resolve, I learned a few things. Perhaps failing is the point of Lent.

I learned that my impulse to reach for the mouse and hear the clacking of the keyboard is stronger than I thought it was.

I learned that checking emails isn’t as life changing as I think it will be. The mornings I spent at home writing were the worst. Checking my clock every ten minutes to see if I could finally open my email built anticipation with every passing moment. When the time finally came I would eagerly type my password only to be greeted with subject lines that read Don’t miss the next West Jet promotion! or Your inbox is 99% full. In a slump of disappointment I would close it and wonder what I had been waiting for in the first place. What kind of news was I hoping to find? How fulfilling could a digital message be?

I learned that starting my day with stillness instead of search engines makes a difference. Like re-setting a cheap watch or tuning a violin, my perspective seems to need frequent upkeep. If I let it go unchecked everything starts to spiral inwards until all I can think about is the little universe of Tricia: the salsa fermenting in my cupboard, the next job I have at school, our summer plans, the unwritten chapter of my book, who I will invite for supper, the shirt I need to buy for my daughter… The more my world shrinks, the more suffocated I feel. But it’s a drowsy suffocation; like sucking in fumes inside a closed garage.

Somehow being still and reading the story of Jesus or prophecies told to a tribe in the Middle East provides release. It opens the garage door a little. Before I am totally inebriated with myself I read a verse, pray for someone, or sit quietly to listen and my narrow world of self begins to expand. It’s a slow, creaky process and not nearly as dramatic as I would like. But it’s a start. A crack to let in the Light and fresh air. I read the following passage yesterday, and I think it helps to explain what I’m trying to say.

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you have have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the riches of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live
(Isaiah 55 1-3)

Thanks for asking the question Ken…


PS. Here are more pictures of our week with family in Indiana:

Grandma taught both girls how to sew on their own!

Grandma taught both girls how to sew on their own!

...and they actually produced wearable skirts (with a little extra help)

They actually produced wearable skirts (with a little extra help)

Susie, me, and Belén (with her homemade skirt) rollerskating. We decided tying roller skates was much better than freezing our fingers at the outdoor rinks where we live.

Susie, me, and Belén (with her homemade skirt) rollerskating. We decided tying roller skates was much better than freezing our fingers at the outdoor rinks where we live.

Belén, cousin Simon, and Aunty Anne working on the eggs

Belén, cousin Simon (pondering the meaning of life), and Aunty Anne working on the eggs

Easter eggs, decorated with white crayon before getting dipped in colour.

Susanna’s favourite moment with cousin Lucy

Aunty Anne finally gets a chance to hold her own baby!

And of course, cutting wood…

blog g chop

Grandpa going strong!


Wasn’t surviving junior high once, enough?

“She’s not invited??”
Kelly shakes her head, and I can almost see her wince.
“And all the other girls can go?” I say, trying not to sound like a whiny teenager.
“I know. It sucks,” Kelly replies.
I laugh it off lightly and say something like that’s life or it happens to all of us, but I can feel my insides start to curdle.

As soon as I get the chance, I tell Stan the bad news: there’s a party and it’s going to be great and all my daughter’s friends are going… but she’s not invited. I’m grateful another mom gave me the heads-up before my daughter comes home with the news. Days before she finds out, I start planning something extra special to make up for her disappointment: a family sleepover.

For the rest of  the week the girls excitedly discuss the sleepover, which basically boils down to our family sleeping in our house–the way we’ve done for the past eight years or so– with a few twists. There will be a supper out, a movie with popcorn, and the girls can sleep in the guest bed and stay up talking as late as they want. Originally, I was planning to spend the evening with some other women, but I call to cancel. If this sounds to you like a lame attempt by a desperate mother to fix things, you’re absolutely right.

One of the craziest parts of this little drama is not my daughter’s reaction, but the reminder that I have to grow up all over again. Honestly, wasn’t surviving junior high once, bad enough?

I tend to be overly optimistic about the future, and having children has proved to be no exception. Somehow, in an idealistic corner of my mind, I imagine my girls will breeze through life unscathed. Not only will they be the prettiest, most popular, smartest, most athletic, most musical, kindest, and wisest of all girls everywhere, but everyone will be in unanimous agreement with this. Somehow, I secretly hope they will escape the life the rest of the world gets trapped into. A life including pimples, stringy hair, lost games, bombed performances, crumpled tests, and lonely nights. A life that cultivates empathy.

I know, I know. Empathy is right up there with poetry, as far as evidence for a Master Designer. (Really, what is the evolutionary advantage of feeling deep down in your gut for someone else, especially strangers that don’t carry your genetic material?) But sometimes I feel like empathy is over-rated. It stinkin’ hurts.

I remember my dad’s eyes when I suffered my first heartbreak. He looked so sympathetic I almost forgot my own thwarted romance and started to feel sorry for him instead. It struck me that my story pained him just as much, possibly even more, than it pained me. An unfathomable idea for an 18-year-old daughter; clear as an absent invitation for a 35-year-old mother.

But our week wasn’t just about being left out. Hardly. In fact, it culminated with a birthday of our own…

Susanna helping prepare the birthday lunch

Susanna helping prepare the birthday lunch

These strawberries were thrown into a backpack and jostled around for a few kilometres, at -20C, before they made their debut.

These strawberries were thrown into a backpack and jostled around for a few kilometres, at -20C, before they made their debut.

There’s something about arriving at an empty shack in the woods with an open door and a crackling fire that makes you feel lucky, even if you knew it was going to be there all along.

There's something about arriving at an empty shack in the woods, with and open door and a crackling fire that makes you feel lucky, even if you knew it was going to be there all along. Here Susann is signing the guest book beside our friend, William.

Susanna is signing the guest book beside our friend, William.

Happy Birthday dear Daddy... (In case you were concerned, the strawberries made it just fine.)

Happy Birthday dear Daddy… (In case you were concerned, the strawberries made it just fine.)

This puppy followed us all afternoon, making Belén very happy.

This puppy followed us all afternoon, making Belén very happy.

Our friend Shanon, heading for home, with two of the kids in front.

Our friend Shanon, heading for home, with all three kids in front.

William and Susanna

William and Susanna

Have a great week. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much,


“I’m never going to have my First Communion…”

“The thing is, mom, I’m never going to have my First Communion.”

We’re in the middle of a rushed breakfast, and haven’t been talking at all, until Belén interrupts the slurpy silence.

Belén holds her cereal spoon in mid-air and looks up to see if I understand the gravity of the situation. I stop brushing Susanna’s hair.

“Do you want to take communion at the school?”  I wonder if she feels left out when her classmates line up in front of her, tipping their heads back with open mouths to receive the body and the blood. All she gets is a wave of the hand and a blessing.

“I can’t, Mom! I need my First Communion! And I need to show pictures of it! And I think I even have to talk with the priest, or something.”

“Well, you have had communion in our church. Maybe you should tell the teacher that.”

She looks at me in a way that says Come on, Mom. She knows, as well as I do, that any communion she’s had doesn’t count.

“Yeah,” I agree with the expression on her face, “Churches can be funny that way. The people who run them decide what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do it, and if anyone doesn’t do it the same way… well, then… they’re out.”

Belén asks her next question with total confidence, trusting me for the correct answer:  “Which one is right? What church does God like the most?”

I know there are many thoughtful and sincere parents who hope to foster a tolerant world view in their children by “letting them choose for themselves”. I wonder, though, if this really works. Is it possible for these little creatures, who seem to crave cut-and-dried answers, to kick back throughout their childhood and wait until they have collected enough evidence to “choose for themselves”? Or do they sponge up all the cues and existential explanations they can get, along the way to their so-called “own decision”?

“Mmm… Well I’m not sure what to say, except that I know God is not Catholic. And he’s not Baptist, or Mennonite, or Alliance either, ” I say, listing some of the churches in our town. I go on to talk about how all of this division is distracting and misses the points and makes God sad–when Belén interrupts me with a good bit of common sense.

“Well, we can’t ALL meet in the same church. There wouldn’t be room!”

With that comment, the road of logic in my mind makes a hair-pin turn. She’s right. We can’t all fit in the very same church. And maybe this is okay, and doesn’t “make God very sad” after all. As far as I can tell, from bush-whacking through the boreal forest, or a even a handful of pencil crayons, the Creator is absolutely giddy with diversity.

A package, containing these pencil crayons (and holder) arrived in our mail box not long ago.  Thanks Aunty Janelle, the go on like butter.

A package, containing these pencil crayons (and holder), arrived in our mail box recently. Thanks Janelle, they go on like butter!

Our conversation ends as abruptly as it began and I go back to braiding Susanna’s hair.

Perhaps I have an over-inflated mother ego, but I think I’ve got quite a bit of influence on these two little lives and can’t pretend other wise. It appears they have quite a bit of influence on someone else too; their mother.


Some January pictures: we went skiing yesterday and LOVED the spike in the temperature.



Many of the steeper runs hadn’t been groomed; there was powder up to my knees in spots. I had a feeling it was supposed to be exhilarating, but I felt clumsy and old trying to maneuver my way down… so we kept to the handful of runs that were semi-packed.

Our front yard is pocked with forts and specialty stores that sell pine cones.

Our front yard is pocked with forts and specialty stores that sell pine cones.

Only four more January days left!