Monday, September 30, 2013


I am from snow pants and toboggans, from stacks of library books and homemade mac ‘n cheese.

I am from the big house on the corner, filled to the brim with friends and strangers and children always underfoot. I am from crab apple trees and lilac bushes. I am from a red metal swing set and forts in the basement. I am the brave hero and beautiful princess and brilliant police dog from thousands of adventures. I am from Anne Shirley, and Laura Ingalls, and Caddie Woodlawn.

I am from camping trips and bike rides, from going for a drive, with no particular destination in mind. I am from Bill and Barb and the Robson girls. I am from eating ice cream year round and reading into the night. I am from “life isn’t fair” and “God is in charge” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” I am from napping in a slip between morning church and evening service.

I am from eating the crusts after the Breaking of Bread and stealing sugar cubes in the foyer. I am from Pioneer Girls and Awana and Youth Group. I’m from The Meeting, from the Chapel, from full-time ministry, from questions and wrestling and finding my own way to love Jesus.

I am from Calgary and Scotland, roast beef and apple pie. From the old country, from a farm on the prairies, from stories of William Wallace. I am from Los Angeles, from avocado and orange trees, from cousins down the street. I am from family friends and Three Day Meetings, from a man who fell in love with his friend’s little sister, from a 19-year-old woman who moved across the continent for him.

I am from slide shows of family trips, from playing in the attic, from progressive Christmas dinners. I am from the blue Porsche in the garage, built before I was born. I am from walks around the reservoir and climbing the big “H”, from Stampede breakfasts and cowboy hats.

I am from biting my tongue and being the better person. I am from laughing and eating and endless small talk. I am from people who always have room for more, who always have more to give.

So here’s me.

Taking part of the I Am From synchro-blog at She Loves Magazine. You don’t have to be a writer, just follow the template and write your own version of George Ella Lyon’s poem. It’s worth doing.


Monday, September 23, 2013


waitress“Can I get you anything?” she says with a pleasant smile, warm, but professional.

“I’ve got something for you!” you say, with all the giddy certainty of an As-Seen-On-TV salesman. “GOD has given me a picture of you, and I see… I see…” - pause for dramatic effect -“…YOU standing in a high place. You’re… looking out… over the world, or maybe your own life. This is important. This is a message. What does it mean to you?”

“Um…”Wrinkling her brow. Shifting from one foot to another. The smile firmly fixed in place now.

“Maybe you need to change your viewpoint, so you can see more clearly.” 
All eyes are on her now, searching, intense, as if, by simply looking, you might unmask her very soul.

“O…Kay…” She’s freaking out now, but far too polite, too Canadian to break. “Refill?”

You sat in the booth behind us at White Spot. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but at least two of you have loud preachy voices and I heard some familiar churchy buzz words sprinkled liberally throughout the discussion. I cringed a little at the tone of your conversation, but I understood…

I came from that world. Although many of my beliefs have evolved, I still visit from time to time. I used to work for one of the most aggressive evangelical organizations in the world. Once upon a time, I was you.

When the pretty server came to your table, you took her hostage. Not with guns or threats, but with words. Loud, preachy, bizarre words. Especially coming from such a large group of young people. You “prophesied” over her. You “spoke God’s encouragement into her life” while she tried to politely back away. You asked intrusive personal questions. You tag-teamed her. It went on and on.

It wasn’t pleasant, seeing it from the outside. I searched my memory for hints that I had ever acted like this. Thankfully, what I came up with wasn’t nearly so obnoxious or odd. But still… embarrassing.

Didn’t you see? The tense smiles, the nervous laughter, the stiff body language… not just hers, but everyone around you. Didn’t you notice? That you were preventing her from doing her job. That there were tables of people waiting impatiently for her attention. That her manager was shooting angry looks her way. Didn’t you care? That she was incredibly uncomfortable. That everyone nearby was also. That the family behind you was falling apart, both little ones crying as we waited an extra 20 minutes for both the bill and the ice cream they were promised.

Granted, my personal irritation plays a big part here. With our nice family outing descending into chaos, as Dad hauls one out to the van and I encourage the other to stop crying and hold it, just a few more minutes, until I can pay (she didn’t by the way, but I can’t blame her for this potty training fail). I’d take it on the chin if I knew you’d actually done some good in the world. But all you did was offend and alienate a stranger, and cause a crowd of people to shake their heads and turn up their noses in disgust at “those ridiculous Christians.” You made us all look bad.

The uncharitable part of me assumes that you’re enamoured with the sound of your own voice; that you’re showing off, intentionally or unconsciously. If I give you the benefit of the doubt, then you really did want to encourage her. I remember my own burning desire to truly please God and help others, channelled into the same pushy ethos; strong enough, even, to override polite Canadian reserve.

Whether it was pseudo-spiritual posturing or legitimate reaching out, you didn’t love your neighbour well. As you walked out of the restaurant with us, I saw you congratulate each other, certain that you had forced some sort of revelation on that poor girl. I could have shaken you, every one of you.

That’s not what it’s about. You need to REPRESENT. Not just me, though I follow the same God in my own way. Not just your particular brand of Jesus. But the Man himself. The man who said the highest commandment, next to loving God, was to love others.

Love. No agenda. No disrespect. No selfishness.

I hope, at least, that you left a heck of a tip.

So here’s me, a recovering evangelical. I’m sorry for all the ways we make people uncomfortable. I’m sorry if I’ve ever done that to you. We mean well, we really do. Please forgive us.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The downside to 11-year-old slumber parties is clear – a very big mess, very little sleep and the very real danger of permanent hearing damage. If you have not experienced the extraordinary pitch and volume of excited pre-teen babble… well then, I’m happy for you.

On the upside, it’s a fascinating peek into the mind of children-becoming-women. I mostly hung out in the background at my daughter’s first sleepover party, as per her strict instructions. And if I happened to lurk in the hallway listening from time to time, who’s to know? After all, it is my house.

It’s a lot like I remember. A lot more OMG and iPod usage than I’d like, but the silliness and the shrieking and the inhuman levels of energy ring a bell. The enthusiasm of childhood intersecting with the concerns of growing up.

The birthday girl wanted a “fancy dinner,” so she and all her guests dressed up, then big sister played waitress and Mom played chef and somehow everyone got fed. There were candles and flowers and the good china and the good white tablecloth. It’s possible that more food ended up in the “wine” glasses than in their stomachs, but they weren’t complaining.

After cheesy party games, presents, a movie, pranking poor big sister and several hours of whispering (until Mean Mom made an appearance at 2:30 am), they managed to get a few hours of REM in.

Enough, apparently, that the next morning they found a few minutes to wax philosophical. They even asked me to weigh in on the conversation. I think the question had originally been asked in jest, but the discussion seemed pretty serious for pajama clad partiers.

If you had to choose,
one or the other for the rest of your life,
would you rather be pretty or smart?

On the surface, it’s a simple conversation starter. Like, what kind of superpower would you choose? Or where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Fluffy and unimportant. But in this day and age, for a group of young women just discovering who they are, it’s a serious question.

What’s most important to you? Who do you want to be? Why?

Of course, this is a rhetorical argument – we don’t have to choose, though it may seem like it sometimes (but that’s a blog for another day). And on some level, our physical appearance and natural intelligence is not within our control. We are who we are.

Accepting that is the first step to contentment. Still, we can nurture and enhance both our mind and our look. With limited resources, we tend to focus more on one or the other.

Our priorities and values, especially as women, can be largely determined by our devotion to either appearance or substance. It affects how we see ourselves and others. It affects our goals and our dreams and our sense of purpose. It affects how we spend our time and our money and our lives.

I gave the girls the “Mom Answer” they expected. Of course, I’d rather be smart. That’s what I was supposed to say.

Afterwards I wondered… is it really true? I mean, I definitely want to be pretty. I’d love to have movie-star good looks and wear size 2 and fend off drooling hoards of admirers. Who wouldn’t? But would I trade the power of my mind, the things I know and have experienced, my connection with God, my common sense, and my hard-won slivers of wisdom for that? Even just a little bit?

Never. Not for all the pretty in the world. I wouldn’t lessen myself that way.

Yet, women do that all the time. We live in a world that tells girls, in thousands of different ways, that their value lies in how they look and what they weigh and how well they can attract a man. Sometimes we even slap a “feminist” label on it and call that power. But real power isn’t being noticed or shaking your ass – real power is being confident, unique and strong in a way that is MORE than skin deep. The world doesn’t need more pretty women, it needs more smart ones.

Without time to prepare, I didn’t offer the eloquent, inspiring comments I would’ve liked. I said something about looks being temporary. That I need intelligence to understand and enjoy the world. That I want to do something good and important and make the world a better place, not just decorate it.

One little girl looked at me, then said, quite sadly,

“But then you’d be ugly.”

There was a pause then, before other conversations intruded and crepes wanted flipping and sleeping bags needed folding and the party carried on.

I carried that sad comment with me all day. And I wondered about the nature of ugly, about the world we live in and the world we’re making.

If a girl chooses smart. If she chooses substance. Could that, ever, be ugly?

So here’s my answer girls: don’t pick pretty. Pick smart. Even better, pick kind or brave or outstanding. Because there’s nothing uglier than a pretty face with nothing behind it.


Monday, September 9, 2013


You are here
says the map.
So I find my bearing.
A plan to hold.
Destination nearing,
I’m feeling bold.


You are here
says the map.
I squint my eyes and peer
at ruts below.
No finish line, not here.
Miles left to go.

You are here
says the map.
And though I’ve come so far,
not much has changed.
Where you go, there you are,
the ’you’ remains.

You are here
says the map.
Not where I was before.
Or where I’ll be.
Here. Now. No less. No more.
Ever, always, entirely me.

Life is for living,
Not doing or going or getting or having,






I am here.
That’s enough.

So here’s me, remembering my One Word for the year. Today.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013


As I sat in my Children’s Literature class this summer, there were only two people my age in the room – another student and the professor herself (though she’s younger than me also). It’s a common situation when you fall under the “mature student” title.

There is one moment that has stuck with me from that course. We were discussing one of my favourite books: Little Women. It’s the classic story of 4 sisters growing up during the Civil War. This book was the “Harry Potter-like” MUST READ of the early 19th Century. Since it was first published in 1868, it has NEVER gone out of print. Surprisingly, even for this day and age, only a couple of us had read it before.


It was not well received by the class.

Nothing happens.

It’s boring.

I kept waiting for the story to start.

It’s sappy and sentimental.

It’s not real. Life just isn’t like that.

What’s the point?

The complaints were sadly reminiscent of my own daughters’ less-than-thrilled reaction to the book. And my sisters. And several of my friends.

Naturally, I bristle and feel personally wounded by these “attacks” on my pet prose… every time.

Rationally, I know that others don’t sink into the warm comfort of nostalgia as they read it, or filter the stories and characters through their own somewhat old-fashioned upbringing. My experience with this book is my own and cannot be duplicated. I know that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” “different strokes for different folks,” and all those “to each their own” clichés apply here. But it still feels personal.

I’ve read Little Men about 30 times (at least once a year since I was 10). Even more than the much more popular prequel, THIS is a story that caught my imagination. Here was the type of parent I wanted to be. Here was the type of life I wanted to lead. In many ways, it’s my ideal.

Maybe it’s not sexy or exciting, but it’s a good story, a very real story. Much like these books, in my life…

Not much happens from day-to-day.

The focus is on the mundane, the details, the people closest to me, and my, very slow, character development.

Most of my stories are small and ordinary, but they make me who I am.

Sappy and sentimental works better than cynical and self-absorbed.

Under all the complexities, regardless of context, life still boils down to a few close relationships and trying to find my place in the world.

The point is this: there is poetry in the everyday, we just have to see it.

I completely understand the appeal of the dramatic, the fantastic and the amazing. Don’t we all wish life could be so exciting? Science fiction is usually my first choice of reading material, but I always come back to Anne Shirley and Elizabeth Bennett and, yes, the March sisters.

Domestic realism in literature isn’t what it used to be. I honestly don’t mind the grittier storylines and darker undertones. There’s something relatable about it, something that rings true. Sometimes we need to tell our own stories this way too. Raw and real, without neat, predictable endings, without resolution – the story in process, too messy to make for pretty bedtime tales.

But there are times when we need to hear the best truths in our own story, to mine the highest ideals from our daily grind, to filter reality through faith, to find the sentimental spin… because these are the stories that give us hope and fill us with purpose and show us the inestimable worth of our day-to-day.

So I will tell my sweet, sentimental tales without apology, to others and to myself. It’s not my only truth, but it’s the best one. Every time I do, I’m better for it.

I like to think that my classmates simply haven’t grown into Little Women yet. They weren’t raised on it like I was. But as they set up households and build families and settle into familiar ruts, perhaps they too will learn to appreciate the subtle appeal of everyday beauty.

So here’s me, happy to report that my 13-yr-old listened to Little Women on tape last year and LOVED it.