Let Me Be One Standing

Travel anywhere on the Internet, and you will come across conversations about opening/closing doors to Syrian refugees. Discussions abound about whether opening doors will bring about an influx of terror, as well as about whether closing doors will negate our sense of social justice and responsibility. These are heavy discussions for difficult times in history. Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Jean Vanier, of L’Arche Daybreak, had this to say about the recent attack on Paris:

“I think this event urges us to follow Jesus humbly, by daring to ask us for small gestures of love and forgiveness. We can begin in our daily lives, being more present to others, so that together we remain standing.”

So then. What do I feel is my calling right now? How can I remain one standing? I think Micah 6:8 sums it up pretty succinctly:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Act Justly: when faces of weary, worn and haggard refugees stream across my Facebook feed, I am reminded again and again that these are people. They have needs and desires. They require air to breathe, the same as do I. They have families and loved ones. They have felt love- feel love. Have been loved. Have known love. In justice, I must show love as well, offering what I have. Even though what I have might be small. It might be as small as a prayer. It might be even as faint as a fleeting thought or as fragile as the whisper of an image striking my mind in quiet, speaking to my soul. But to do justice, I must seek for the best for all human beings across this globe.

Acting justly starts small. If I cannot act justly to those I know and care for, how can I act justly for others in far-flung regions? It starts here. It starts now. It starts with me.

Love Mercy: I must cleave to compassion, strive to be kind, urgently aim toward benevolence. If I have, I must give. If I can share, I must allocate. If I can offer, so I must do. In considering others better than myself, I am showing that I love mercy. In placing others needs above my own, I am showing that I love mercy. In offering my life for the betterment of another life, I am showing mercy.

Our lives are not our own. Do we not believe that we have a Father that protects us? Is He not bigger than terror? Are we not held in the hollow of His hand? Whom shall I fear?

Chris Tomlin has so beautifully written the following words:

You hear me when I call, You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light
Whom shall I fear?
You crush the enemy, Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield, Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies, Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies, Is always by my side

Walk Humbly: when we refrain from extending ourselves, there can be issues of pride involved. But so can they become intertwined in our motives when we give. We must continuously contend for humility in all aspects of our life. If we have been chastened, accept and move forward. If we have been convicted, act on our convictions. If we feel strongly, question the motive that has brought about the feeling. If we do not feel strongly, we can then ask ourselves: why not? In humility, we are made more in His image. We are more of what we could be. More of what we should be.

I ask each of us—myself included—when considering what our role is in the unfolding story of world history (whether that be a story told close to home or farther abroad: what would Jesus do?

Let it be what I would do too.

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How To Really Get Along With People

How to really get along with people? Well, I think it starts with seeing the best in people. Starts with finding the good. That is: it all starts with adopting a kind view to the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives. So someone messed up? Look for the plausible reasons why so as to provide a reasonable explanation. Someone offended you? Try to understand why you feel the offense. So someone said something, did something to cause you frustration? Ask them why. But be kind about it. Direct, honest questions do not nullify kindness and understanding.

She wanted to react. It would have been so easy. It was in her right, was it not? She was slighted, offended. Hurt. And did this not happen time and time again? She deserved to feel angry.

Right?

Wrong.

According to Mikey D. of Feel Happiness, there are three basic social skills that can be adopted to make it easier to help us see the best in people. In his own words:

1. Slow Down And Be Curious About Others

Don’t rush into making judgments about other people.
Take your time and gather some information about them first.
You should enter your interactions with an open mind, curious to find the positive attributes that the other person possesses.
Wouldn’t you prefer to be interacting with a person who you actually like?
In order to see the good in other people, you need to look for it.
This takes both patience and a curious mind that is ready to accept the good attributes of others.

2. Look Them In The Eyes

This used to be a huge problem for me, and I wasn’t even aware of it for years.
As soon as I started making stronger eye contact with people, the world opened up to me. It was like I had been blind and could suddenly see.
Eye contact is an important part of your social skills toolkit for countless reasons. It is practically a prerequisite for finding the positives in other people.
When you look someone in the eyes, you stay focused on that person rather than the multitude of distractions in your head and in your environment.
Not only that, but it helps you build a connection with that person. You’d better believe that will help you see them in a more positive light.

3. Smile At Them

Usually, they will smile back.
And when they do, you immediately have good things about them (nice smile, friendly, positive attitude, etc.). That was easy.
Smiling puts you in a good mood, and will make the other person like you more.
When you feel good, it is far easier to see the good in others. And if they like you, they are more inclined to show you the positive aspects of them.
Smiling greases the wheels of this whole process.
By neglecting to smile when you talk to other people, you give up one of the easiest things you can do to help you see the good in others and have a positive interaction with them.

Thanks Mikey D. But, it all sounds so simple. Of course, we all know: it takes practice. Practice making the connection, practice keeping the connection and practice maintaining the connection. But is it worth it? You bet it is. Not only in terms of the ways we interact and connect with others, but also in terms of how we view ourselves.

The more we see the best in ourselves, the more we will see the best in the others with whom we share our lives.

And that’s as good a reason as any to get started.

Right here, right now.

To Tell My Story

Our life story—varied and diverse as sand grains on a wide-open sea shore. As vastly distinct as one individual crystalline snowflake. As precious as a ring made from the purest 24-karat gold. As valued and prized as a sparkling diamond to a gem-cutter. Our stories are so treasured and cherished to the Father. And in His eyes, our stories are worth telling. Are worth being shared one with another. Story after story after story.

Do we believe this truth?
“My Story”
If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go
And if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up
And if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine
— Mike Weaver

Sometimes we err in thinking that no one else could relate to the stories we might tell. These stories, we believe, are too rough, too complicated, too messy and chaotic. We err in thinking sometimes that these stories might be, on the opposite end of the spectrum— too simple, too plain. Nothing fancy. Just boring day-to-day. Or perhaps, we’ve come to think that our story is too full of details that no one would ever understand. They are too exhaustive and too fraught with connections that would derail our lives if those stories ever were told.

What is holding us back from telling our story?

Rachael Freed says, “From a legacy perspective, we tell our stories for ourselves and as a gift to future generations. How does telling our stories benefit us? We need to know and express our own stories. Difficulties arise not because we have a story, perhaps a very sad or painful story, but because we become attached to our stories and make them an essential part of our very selves.”

In sharing our stories, we come to realize, that while unique: we are not alone. While our stories are peculiar and particular to our own situation, they have connection to those around us. Not to take anything away from the uniqueness of the life they represent, but to add dimension and depth to our living because we share it with one another.

Solomon, the wisest human to ever live said in Ecclesiastes, “…there is no new thing under the sun.” No new story, just new people experiencing the stories from different vantage points and seeing with different perspectives. And yet: Jeremiah the prophet was told, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” The life that lives that story- each story that ever HAS been told and that ever WILL be told, is completely and wholly precious. Each life: unique, sacred and set apart for some greater purpose.

What life have you been given to live?
And are you living that life? Are you sharing your story?

If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

I am rushing through an enormous airport; rushing, because I realize that I have precious little time to make connecting flights and then to get through customs. Rushing so as to arrive intact and certified, where I need to be.

I am “that kind of rushing”.

I do not know yet that they have lost my luggage, that it was left behind. Do not know yet that they will be initiating the flight sequence before I arrive at the Gate. I don’t yet know that the loudspeaker will be calling my name as I buckle my shoes in Customs, in a distant part of a vast airport, don’t know that they will be stating that this is my last call to report for a flight I might not make. I don’t yet know that I will have to run for what will feel like miles with bags banging the sides of my legs. I don’t know what it will feel like to have all eyes on me as I am the final passenger to board a small plane headed for a place I have never before visited.

I don’t know all this yet.

But here is what I know.

I know that when I left the plane that brought me from PEI to Toronto, the first person I saw was a man named Gerard Gaudet. And he is husband to a woman named Corrie Gaudet. And Corrie is a woman who encourages me like no other, a woman who builds me up in spirit and in hope. And she, dear Corrie, has told me that she will be praying for me on this trip. That she will pray for me as I am traveling. Her, and many many others. So, when I see Gerard, I remember this, and it is a comfort.

It is a hope.

And perhaps that little physical reminder of ‘God With Us’ is what it took me to get from one end of the airport to the other, I do not know. Might never know.

But this I know for sure: to tell my stories is to share my hope. To tell my stories is to share my faith in life, in love and in living. Yes, to tell my story is to tell of Him.

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Find love. Hold onto it.

image retrieved from http://www.hortondoors.com

We were walking out behind them as they sauntered along ahead of us, traveling through the automatic sliding hospital doors, into the mid-day sunlight. He was holding her arm with the left hand, her black and white toile purse snugly tucked underneath his right. She had a cane, but he had her. He stopped to look for traffic, gently fielding the view. She stood by his side, a pillar of strength, in spite of her limp. And while it was easy to see that they were certainly on in years, as evidenced by their grey hairs and weathered skin, their love told a story that transcended time. It was timeless, that story.

There was just something about those two that caught my eye.

Dear Daughters, while you are all still so young, with so much of life ahead of you waiting to be discovered, there is still something you must consider in the prime of your youth. Something that must be contemplated and then carefully taken into account. Please don’t get me wrong: I am not there yet, not ready for you to fly the nest. Not ready for the surge of emotion that accompanies young love. For I am still so protective of my babies and their naive innocence. Still so protective of you, my girls, so much so that I need to find just the right words to say this to you now.

Girls, find someone who will cherish you.

Make the love of your life the one who seeks to live his life with you as his love. Don’t settle for halfway, second best, good enough. Set your standards high. Make him reach for you.  Reach back to him, but be sure you are looking at one another eye-to-eye.

Make the love of your life the one who listens to you with his whole heart, with all his love. Don’t tell yourself that this is a negotiable. Believe that you are worth it. See yourself as someone of superb value, someone worth listening to.

And make the love of your life the one who shares with you his love. Shares his dreams and hopes, along with his sorrows and disappointment. Regard yourself as the complementary piece that balances his life. And see that he regards in you the very same ideals.

The wisdom of established love is exquisite. It is a rare and beautiful thing to find that kind of love and keep it until death parts. A rare and beautiful thing to actually cherish that love, even in the living years. These years of life are hard and they will try you. Find first the One who will cherish you above all others, and in doing so, finding love that will last your whole life long will be that much easier.

Find love. Hold onto it. And never let it go.

My wish as your mother is that you Three one day find yourselves standing hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm with the Love of your life. Maybe you will be at the curb supporting yourself with a cane, while he tenderly cradles your purse under one arm. Maybe your story has a different ending. Whatever the outcome, may you always find yourself together.

Holding onto each other.

A Letter to My Children About Alan and Galib Kurdi

My Own Precious Four,

The air felt chill and brisk as I headed to the local dairy bar with ‘two in tow,’ for one last treat before school officially begins on Tuesday. One had an English Toffee Milkshake and the other tried her luck with the Nutty Chocolate Dip. We watched the server hold the decadent cone of cold, creamy ice cream smothered in nuts and dripping, rich chocolate upside down, so as to let the excess drip off into the bowl underneath. It came to you with a hardened shell of chocolate shellac. Prime real estate for little girls with eyes bigger than their tummies.

We drove home contented tonight, bellies full, hearts tender.

Did you know on the other side of the world there lived two little boys, who up until mere days ago, craved as their favorite treat a half a banana? Their father would purchase one banana which he would split between the pair. One half for Alan and the other for Galib. Perhaps, my loves, they ate it like candy — just like you with your creamy dairy bar treats.

We came into our house, shivering with the temperature drop of dusk and flicked a switch. Behold! Light flooded the kitchen, welcoming and warm. One of you played with toys we had earlier retrieved from the basement…toys which we should really get rid of (through one method or another) as your toy bins and cubbies overflow with trinkets and gadgets galore. But you pleaded for them to stay, and I acquiesced. You spent a lovely half hour chatting with your newfound furry friends, who had been beforehand lonesome for company due to all that time spent waiting for you in the dark recesses of our bottom level.

Did you know that Galib, who was five, would have done just about anything to get his heart’s desire: a shiny, new bike. He just recently asked his aunt: “Auntie, can you buy me a bicycle?,” because all he ever wanted was to run and play and explore like all the other kids. Having extra would never even have registered in Galib’s mind. Because having just one would surely have been more than he could imagine.

I went back down to the basement after making steaming cups of tea for your Daddy and I…with one more saved for your older brother. One of you asked for sips of my fragrant brew (flavoured with sugar and milk), stating that it was “mmmm…my favorite kind”. I savoured mine while sorting through all our extras in the basement that we plan to sell in the yard sale tomorrow. I had you try on skates that were too small until we found just the right fit from our burgeoning stash saved for figure skating lessons upcoming in October. We placed the near dozen extra pairs in a bin. Because we just don’t need them anymore.

Did you know that Little Alan, who was three, wore little black shoes? That he favoured red t-shirts and shorts on the last voyage he would ever take? Did you know that his eyes sparkled when he smiled? That he was so loved…just like you are, my loves. Just like you are.

It is quiet now. The children all settled, candles both blown out. But I can still smell the aromatic scent of “good cheer, golden apples and spice” laden heavy in the air of our kitchen. It is almost stifling, this sweetness and beauty. It smothers my senses. For in my heart I know that there are others for whom good cheer will not be reality. Not now. Perhaps not ever.

There are precious others in this world who have never seen “a good life at all” nor will they this side of eternity.

We have so much. And yet we understand the bounty of that ‘much’, so very little.

My dear Children, do you know how loved you are? And did you know that because you are so loved, you must also love others? Must love them with that same intensity with which you have received? Love requires we watch and listen. Love requires sometimes we cry. It also demands action. We must love, for we are loved ourselves. We must care because we have known care in ways that defy understanding.

We know love. We must find it within our hearts to also give it, one small act of hope and justice at a time.

My dear Four: Alan and Galib are gone, their souls departed. But we have their footsteps to trace. These tiny tracks leave a legacy of love. A legacy of hope and possibility. For Alan and Galib are Love’s Ambassadors. And so are we, my loves. So are we.

I love you so. So then, I say to you: “Love one another.

Always and Forever,

Your Mama

Wonderings

I wonder—what the world would be like if we were only able to see the best in the people around us. If we could just see through to the good that lies within.

Wonder what it would be like if we were truly able to forgive. Truly able to let go. Able to release and then move on.

I would love to understand what it means to really love someone— love done flawlessly. Perfectly and whole.

I wonder— what it feels like to live life free of resentment. Free of offense and insult.

Wonder what it would be like to have no enemies, no rivals, opponents or adversaries.

What would my life be like if I was able to deeply understand other people and their story? Able to know why they are the way they are, know what makes them tick. Would it make me a more caring, compassionate person?

I wonder what it feels like to desire nothing. To feel secure, content and grateful for exactly what I have been given.

I wonder what it feels like to be free from pride, arrogance, anger, rage, disappointment, fear.

I wonder.
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Recently, I witnessed a breakdown in a relationship that brought pain to those involved. Someone had been emotionally hurt and wounded within a circle of connection due to an offense instigated by another individual, a transgression which occurred many years previous. That one injury, when spoken of, led to confession of many more offenses felt by those involved, all serving to complicate things by bringing extraneous issues and ‘wrongs done’ into the story not connected to the original problem.

Things quickly became very messy, and the ripple effect of this experience was quite troubling. Not only were the individuals directly involved affronted; many others not even connected to the original problem quickly began to take sides. This sadly is so typical of the human experience—in our fragility, we are so easily wounded. So easily are we divided.

Vanier (1998) suggests another way, a path journeyed with consciousness, if you will. He maintains that we have freedom to orientate our lives in one direction or another. He states that “this freedom can lead us into anguish and a fear of becoming, or it can lead us into growth and new life” (Vanier , 1998, p. 3). For me, the new life Vanier speaks of has been a way of seeing differently. A way of understanding differently. Of knowing differently. Of experiencing differently. It is thus a spiritual awareness of who I am in relation to God and the various others that come across my path. For in becoming human, and recognizing both my weaknesses as well as my strengths, I am coming to see that I am not the only one entitled to care. There are people with whom I share this human experience, for whom I must care; further, these fellow beings I exist and grow alongside in this process of becoming are deserving of my care by virtue of their own humanness. Understanding this enables me to consciously see that this way of living is the only way for me, in which to grow and become all I was meant to be.

Vanier (1998) puts it another way, stating that becoming human implies that we must both “be someone, to have cultivated our gifts, and also (to) be open to others, to look at them not with a feeling of superiority but with eyes of respect” (p. 3). Becoming human, for Vanier (1998), is a process of becoming wise with love. I too desire this form of compassionate wisdom.

Personally, I have come to this juncture in my life with great difficulty, traveling paths both tenderly and (at times) abrasively cultivated by the many supports which lift and hold me. A steadfast faith in God, the good parents given to me, my loving husband, dearly cherished family, those wise mentors who have nurtured me, good literature, steady, caring relationships, my professional work, an education founded in the liberal arts—all these have been among the guiding lights in my life leading me forward on a path of understanding, pointing me to an understanding knowledge of why care is essential to the human experience. Include with this, the unique set of circumstances, preferences, traits and beliefs that make me uniquely who I am: this is why I care. I care because I am human. And I am coming to care more even as I become who I was humanly meant to be, a process realized through living out each of life’s little and monumental moments. I now comprehend: becoming human is all I have ever wanted to be.

I am becoming human in my interactions with my own person-hood, making gains at understanding myself better and caring for myself in more intentional ways. I am becoming human in my interactions with my family, seeing the value in each person I have always loved, whom I love a little more deeply each day I am given breath and life to experience. I am coming to see the joy in sacrifice, the value in surrender. This is part of my calling, part of loving another human being. I am becoming human in my interactions with my students—seeing the meaning in instilling an ethic of care in both my classroom and places of influence. I am becoming human in the ways in which I perceive the world. In the ways in which I understand the human beings with whom I share this planet. I am becoming human in the ways in which I care about both the material and non-material world of which I inhabit.

I am becoming human through my understanding and appreciation of difference, of ideas, of values, of morality, of spirituality. Becoming human through cultivating an appreciation of all that contributes to my human experience.

I am becoming human. And this aspiration is what I believe I have always hoped to be. A person who is living her life to the fullest. A person caring for those around her with joy and passion, maintaining an inner peace and fulfillment from a life of service that defies finite understanding. A person at peace with who she was, who she is and who she eventually will be. A person anticipating her future becoming—even while she appreciates the person she is today.

Vanier’s (1998) words provide a closing thought: “peace will come through dialogue, through trust and respect for others who are different, through inner strength and a spirituality of love, patience, humility, and forgiveness” (p. 4). This kind of peace surrounds those who know what it is they desire to become in this life. It is the very air they breathe.

In this great adventure of becoming human, I am finding peace through caring. In the process, I am becoming all I was ever meant to be.

My Father’s Daughter

When I'm at my best, I am my father's daughter.

I have been blessed to know some amazing dads in my lifetime- some whose families I was born into and others to whose families I was invited.

I am forever grateful for my dad, Mark Bredin, whose love and loyal support and constant prayer means so much to me each and every day. I love you, Dad. I am glad I live close enough to visit you often. Thank you for being my dad.

Forever grateful as well for two amazing grandfather’s who were also dads themselves. Grampies have the amazing gift of loving on their grandkids like no other adult figure can. Theirs’ is the role of just pure joyful affection, minus all the hard work of child-rearing, disciplining, care-giving, chauffeuring and all the other mundane things parents have to do that complicates life so much. Grandparents are such special people, and I am so grateful for my two wonderful grampies, Mark Bredin Senior and Charles MacLean. While they now live in Heaven, I take comfort in knowing that I will someday see them both again.

I am so honored as well to have been invited to be part of a family filled with wonderful dads. When Brian Gard asked me to marry him nineteen years ago, little did I know how much I would come to admire and appreciate his relationship with his dad, Harold Gard. Brian’s relationship with his dad was so close and connected all through the years. Harold was Brian’s mentor and best friend. And so, I learned a lot about a father’s love for his son by watching Brian and his dad interact over the years. We have missed Harold’s presence tremendously this Father’s Day 2015. Someday soon, we will meet again, Grampie Gard…someday soon.

And then there’s my Husband Brian. Dad to four beautiful children. The man for whom we celebrate every Father’s Day with a full-course breakfast meal… just because he deserves it. How do I begin talking about the best father for her children a woman could ever dream of asking for? Brian is patient and kind and thoughtful and involved. I cannot thank him enough for being so perfect for the role God gave him in our lives: our Daddy.

But when I think about fathers and Father’s Day and that constant One to whom I know will never cease to abide with me. Who will always fight for me. Stay by me. Holding me, eternally: I can’t help but say thank you from a grateful heart to the Father I know who is above all. For my Father is this:

Always faithful.
Always true.
Always kind.
Always loving.
Always patient.
Always available.
Always just.
Always there.

Perfect.

And it is my desire in this life to be just like my Father- as close as a girl could come. Walking in His shadow so as to reflect the image I see. Emulating the One who loves me best. Loving others in some of the very same ways that He loves me.

Because truly when I am at my best, I am my Father’s daughter.

I always will be His daughter.