Tag Archives: pain

Planting bulbs

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For the first time ever, I have planted bulbs in the garden in front of the place I call home. I grew up seeing my mom trundle out into the chilly/dreary/sunny/rainy October weather to dig into the earth and deposit dry, dead-looking little items which she would then cover up and forget about.

And then- wonder of wonders!- on some chilly/dreary/sunny/rainy March day, she would excitedly call me out to see the first little white snow drop or purple crocus. Every single time, my mom was beside-herself-happy to see these little harbingers of spring.

While I always shared in my mom’s excitement, I don’t think I realized the beauty and poignancy of the idea of planting bulbs until doing it myself this afternoon. There I was, in my rain coat, rain pants and rain boots, with a butter knife and big metal spoon (I have yet to invest in a proper trowel… Ha.) I loosened up a little patch of earth, dug twenty little holes, and placed a dry, dead-looking little item into each hole. I covered them up, watered them (to supplement the rain they’re also getting), and went inside.

I will do nothing else except wait, hope and trust that on some March day I will see a wee bit of green popping through the soil, or even the snow (I planted snow crocuses, given to me by… guess who? Yup. Thanks Mom!)

This week has been a heavy one, mostly due to the fact that a number of friends outside The Dale have been struggling with very heavy burdens – acute trauma, loss of relationship, loss of a loved one, scary surgery. I have felt so sad and weary for these friends, and have endeavored to be present to them as I was able.

In the middle of this acute awareness of the heaviness around me and my inability to make things better for my friends, I heard a sermon at Wine Before Breakfast that felt like it was meant for me (you know that feeling?) My friend Andrew Colman was preaching on one of the two parables of the sower, and the parable of the mustard seed. In each case, the Kingdom is compared to the process of plants growing, with little/no human involvement. The sower just sows the seeds, then eventually reaps the harvest. The mustard seed is probably blown by the wind, then grows into a shrub all on its own.

Andrew reminded me/us that the Kingdom will grow, with or without us. We have the great privilege and calling of engaging in Kingdom work, but through these parables God is saying, “if today you cannot till the ground – that’s okay, I’ve got it… If today you can’t shine – that’s okay, I got it… If today you cannot even throw the seeds, Jesus tells us – that’s okay, I got it.”

So this week, when I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of pain in the lives of those around me, God reminded me that, “if today all you can do is plant some bulbs- that’s okay, I got it.”

The Kingdom will come, God’s will will be done.. and in a few months we will be surprised by snow crocuses.

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An advent re-post

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Last year I did a lot of thinking about Advent and Christmas, and wrote a post about it. These thoughts still pretty much sum up how I feel about December, so I thought I’d post it again:

 

I accidentally went to the Dufferin Mall on Black Friday. I should say, I went to the Dufferin Mall to buy Advent candles and a swim cap, and I forgot that it was Black Friday! It was a terrible experience. So many people, so much consumerism, so little peace. I didn’t find any Advent-appropriate candles or a swim cap, but didn’t want the trip to be totally fruitless, so I picked up some cookie cutters to use the following week for a tree-decorating-cooking-baking party with my housemates.

On my walk home I thought about the experience that I had just lived through, and how it fit into my understanding of Christmas. I have always been bothered by the consumerism/materialism that surround Christmas, and find it SO frustrating that we collectively spend billions of dollars on a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, ostensibly to celebrate the arrival of a baby who was born into poverty, became a refugee, and challenged his followers to live simply. I think that giving and receiving meaningful gifts is a lovely thing, I just don’t think that we need to spend SO much money, and I don’t think that buying more stuff should be the focus of Christmas. And yet here I was, walking home having bought cookie cutters because I didn’t want to leave the mall empty-handed!

But then I thought more about my new cookie-cutters. I hope to have them for a long time, and they are tools in the creation not only of home-made cookies, but of memories with my friends. They represent some of the great things about the Christmas season… time spent together, good smells, yummy tastes, beautiful memories. Along the same lines, we, at The Dale, did a bunch of Christmas baking, went caroling, and held a Christmas open-stage, decorated with red, white and green lights. These things (cookies, carols, lights, fun times) don’t need to be linked with the consumerism/materialism of Christmas that I oppose. They also aren’t the “true meaning” of Christmas, but they’re really great! I don’t have to to boycott gingerbread, just because I oppose the mall!

Then I thought about Advent. I never did find Advent candles, but made a makeshift wreath with tea lights and one tall candle in the middle. I did not grow up with liturgy, but went to an Anglican theology school and was introduced to the Church calendar, including Advent. This year I have really fallen in love with Advent’s focus on waiting, longing, aching and hoping for Jesus. Waiting in hope is hard, but it is good. This is a huge part of the Christian life, and I love that in December we sit and dwell in the waiting.  Advent has nothing to do with consumerism, and also has nothing to do with gingerbread. I know there are connections (Jesus is God’s gift to us, so we give each other gifts… We celebrate his coming, which includes feasting), but in my mind these three things (consumerism, gingerbread, etc, and Advent) are distinct aspects of the phenomenon that we call “Christmas”.

And then there is the fact that Christmas is hard, for lots and lots of people. The whole festive-ness of it all brings up pain for many reasons. Families are broken, relationships are strained, loved ones have died, resources are scarce. Christmas is hard for many of my friends at The Dale, for all of these reasons and more. And, as many of you will know all too well, this pain extends beyond the street. Many (maybe even most?) of us struggle at Christmas-time. The pain that we experience is raw and real, and we are in it together. This year I have been learning to dwell in the pain; not minimize it, and not make it more than it is.

So, Christmas is still complicated, but I think I’m okay with that! I have realized that I can be opposed to the consumerism, enjoy the gingerbread, dwell deeply in the hopeful waiting, and work through the pain. Or at least try to!

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