Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Friends of ours took a trip recently, and blessed the rest of us land-locked souls by posting the highlights of their journey to social media. 

It was really delightful to follow along, living vicariously through their pictures of beautiful and amazing places and new and wonderful experiences (and food, oh the food!). 

On their last post, they left one golden piece of advice: travel, travel, travel! Words to live by.

But then, the reality of my own life hit me: I have never traveled just for the sake of traveling. (Well, hardly ever...one vacation to PEI when I was twelve, a few Labour Day weekend jaunts to Saint John and a handful of mountain and ocean day trips definitely count, but that's the extent of it.)

I've never even left North America. I've crisscrossed this great country more times than I can count, both by land and by air, but each trip had a purpose, whether we were moving lock, stock and barrel for a new job or getting home for Christmas or performing two hundred and fifty concerts in ten months...there wasn't much time for sightseeing. 

To be perfectly honest, I've never even wanted to travel much until quite recently. (Then I joined a website that posts unbelievably beautiful pictures of Australia...) And even after I had been bitten by the travel bug, I was able to put it off quite comfortably and contentedly. Now I'm wondering why.

I think I know. For me, it's all about beauty - that's what feeds my soul, what gives me joy, what makes my heart sing. And I never have to go far to find it. Beauty is everywhere, everywhere - if you know how to look. 

In the glory of sunrise and sunset; in the eyes of my sons; in the simple intricacy of a spring violet; in joyful birdsong; when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity; in tears of joy; in well-chosen words; in a deep belly laugh and a star-lit sky and the crash of waves on sand. Life is beautiful.

Any maybe it's true that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" - I never really thought about it like that before. Maybe it's less about what we see than how we see it. 

My hope is that I will have a chance to see beauty in other parts of the world someday. I know the experience would be enriching and broadening and altogether delightful. 

But even if I never have the opportunity, I choose to be content. I choose to seek joy right where I am. This is the gift.  

Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful;
for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower.
And thank God for it as a cup of His blessing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Not As Those Who Have No Hope

The world lost a good man yesterday. It was a sudden thing, completely unexpected. It left so many of us stunned, flabbergasted, shocked.

Thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, the news quickly made its way around the globe. Tributes poured in all day, vainly attempting to express the inexpressible - the pain and sorrow and fear and anger and questions that death always brings, co-mingled with gratitude for this life well-lived and joy at the thought of his new, permanent residence.

You know all those syrup-y, overblown accolades that generally appear in obituaries, whether the person to whom they pertain deserves them or not? Well, it would be difficult to exaggerate in this case. This particular man really was one of the most joyful people I've ever known. He was completely head-over-heels for his wife of many years - in fact, he was often teased for celebrating their "week-a-versaries" online. He was a devoted servant of Jesus, having spent over twenty years as a missionary to the children, youth and youth workers of Italy. He had a wonderful voice and played piano beautifully. But he was probably best known for his contagious laugh and completely goofy sense of humour. In typical Baptist style, he loved good food and good fellowship. He was just a really great guy - beloved by all who knew him. For real.

And that's just the general stuff. As for my own story: I've known him since I was very small - we attended the same church and the same Bible camp. He would have been just starting to assume leadership roles as I began elementary school, I think. Our paths crossed many, many times as I was growing up, particularly in all things musical. Even then, what stands out most in my mind is his constant encouragement. He was a born cheerleader.

That's what I will miss most now. Thanks to social media, we reconnected after many years of living in different countries. And this man, on top of his full, full plate of family and friends and ministry and other responsibilities, has been one of my most vocal, constant, dependable sources of feedback and encouragement. As I read the many tributes on his FB page yesterday, I noticed that the man had close to 2000 "friends" listed on his profile. Yet he took the time to read my little blog and follow our ministry and make comments and jokes on my posts... It has been an honour and a privilege to occupy even a teeny space in his life.

I'll miss him. Certainly, his absence will not affect me to the extent that it will affect his dear wife, his sisters, his mother and other family members and close friends. His sudden exit from this sphere will rock their worlds, and rightly so. My heart aches for them. But his departure leaves a little, painful gap in my own world, as well.

As I've written this, I've been writing in the past tense, as is proper when writing of the deceased. But it just feels wrong. And I'm thinking that it's because he's not past, he's incredibly present! Maybe more so than he has ever been - present in the presence of God. Maybe it's okay, then, to speak of him as if he still lives because he does! In a more real and alive way then ever before, in fact!

I am so grateful for the hope of Heaven. The older I get, the more friendly and welcome the notion becomes. I even get Homesick sometimes. It will be so good to go Home. But I used to be afraid. Not of Heaven itself, but of the inherent unfamiliarity. However good Heaven might be, it remains unknown to us in the here and now.

One of the most beautiful and helpful passages about Heaven in literature can be found in the pages of Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery. Anne is comforting Ruby, who has just acknowledged her swiftly-approaching death and accompanying terror of what was to come:

I think, perhaps, we have very mistaken ideas about Heaven, what it is and what it holds for us. I don't think it can be so very different from life here as most people seem to think. I believe we'll just go on living, a good deal as we live here - and be ourselves just the same - only it will be easier to be good and to follow the highest. All the hindrances and perplexities will be taken away, and we shall see clearly.

We will grieve and mourn, cry and question, wonder and wait. 

But we will not lose hope. 

~We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.~ 
Hebrews 6:19

Friday, April 15, 2016

When You Just Can't Seem to Get Out of Your Own Way

Here's the situation. A couple of years ago, I took a leap and joined up with a direct sales company. (Notably, this wasn't my first forage into the direct sales world. In fact, I'd been down that same road no less than three times before.) I did a few shows, earned some free product and some welcome cash, retained a few customers. Then, circumstances beyond my control dictated that I take a little-less-than-a-year's break. So I did.

Well, that break is now over, by nearly a month. I'm free again to pursue this path if I so choose. And it's a good path! I actually believe in this company; improving health and caring for the Earth are very good goals that I can endorse whole-heartedly. I actually use these products - pretty much daily - and love them! It's a mission I can really get behind, along with an incredibly supportive, empowering team that graciously offers every tool I could ever need to succeed. It offers the potential to significantly increase our earning power and can be done alongside of caring for my family and moving forward in ministry. "Yahoo"s all around!

Yet here I sit - frozen, stagnant. Oh, I've been engaged in prep work for weeks; I've attended training seminars and team meetings; I've been fully equipped and encouraged in every way. But I'm terrified. Absolutely terrified.

I'm so afraid to fail that I cannot move forward. My next step is to reach out to people, share how these products and this company have improved my life and how it can improve theirs, too. Simple, right?

There's so much at work under the surface here that I'm just beginning to see. One thing about me: my biggest fear is having people not like me, particularly through any action/inaction on my part. I have ALWAYS gone way out of my way to avoid confrontation; I run screaming at the slightest approach of conflict. It breaks my heart to think that I've hurt or disappointed or even annoyed someone, or put someone out or asked something of them that has made them uncomfortable in any way, shape or form. (For me, asking someone to support my business definitely falls under this category.)

It's silly, really. I know it is. I mean, most people who know me like me (or at the very least, haven't indicated otherwise). I'm sure there are a few out there who could do without me - that's gotta hold true for everyone, right? (Except maybe for my upline in this business - she's seriously the people-y-ist people person I've ever met!) And in a way, that's kind of the point - generally speaking, in this direct sales stuff, people are buying you as much as they're purchasing product, if not more so.

And that's what sticks in my gullet - the thought of someone "buying" me. I have made great strides towards loving and accepting myself for whom I am (and am not) over the past few years. I can see for myself that I've come a long way. But I guess I still don't feel that my customers would be getting their money's worth :)

The other bit to this puzzle is my lesser-but-still-significant fear of success. A lazy person at heart, I'm afraid (and yet I hope at the same time!) that this will take off and I'll have lots of homes/lives to help change and lots of presentations to do and lots of customers with which to build relationships...

So that's it! I woke up this morning filled with a vague, unidentified dread. It has now been identified. Now it can be worked through and dealt with and perhaps even conquered. May it be so.

(to be continued...)