Category Archives: Lifestyle

Nameless: The downside of privacy

A few weeks ago I posted this photo of a mailbox. I speculated about groundhogs snoozing abed under the snow.

A country mailbox with no name written on it.
The mailbox with no name.

But I really took this picture about a year ago, not thinking about groundhogs at all. I took it while on a drive with my mother on the country roads around my hometown. As we drove, I was struck by something: the mailboxes had no names written on them.

In my youth, every mailbox at the end of every country drive bore the name of the homeowner. The letters might be scrawled crookedly, or the stick-on kind you find at the hardware store, or beautiful script, but they were there. During country drives you would pass by and say, “Oh, there’s the Miller place,” or “The McLaughlins live there.”

No more.

The namelessness feels like a dent in community. Something that used to be open now closed.

Protecting our privacy is good, they say. Still, the need for it makes me sad. Nameless, if you will.

Groundhog Day: Start from where you are

When we run a race, do we start at the finish line?

Of course not. We begin at the starting line, run every step (maybe walk a few), and cover all the ground in between.

Why do we want to start at the finish line in other areas of our lives? And why do we expect other people to be standing at the finish line before they have run the race?

Parents do this all the time. Children pass through difficult phase after difficult phase, with parents wishing each phase away:

  • “When will this baby ever (take a bottle . . . sleep through the night . . . wean from the breast . . .)?”
  • “When will my toddler ever (potty train . . . stop throwing temper tantrums . . . give up the soother . . .)?”
  • “When will my child ever (stop crying every day at school . . . learn to read . . . stop sucking her thumb . . .)?”
  • “When will my teenager ever (do his homework on time . . . clean up that pigsty of a room . . . stop doing drugs . . .)?”

We want our children to be perfect, fully formed people without letting them run the race.

We adults have unrealistic expectations of ourselves too. We want to be in some other better place instead of where we are.

Whether it’s losing ten pounds, playing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano, finishing a jigsaw puzzle, or writing a book, we can’t start at the finish line. We have to run the race, go through the process.

I’m thinking about this on Groundhog Day.

This is a picture of a groundhog in summer – not in winter in Ottawa, Canada, where I live.

No respectable groundhog is showing his face around here any time soon.

I LOVE the movie (it might be my favourite of all time), but the day? What a ridiculous idea. We can’t skip over winter to get to spring. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER NO MATTER WHAT! This is Canada, for goodness sake. Nature has to run the race.

We can’t start at finish line. That’s the theme of the movie. Settle in. Take steps over and over. You’ll get there.

All the groundhogs in this field are snoozing under the snow.

Up, down and all around

During the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom Around the World events. Since we can’t travel, we are sharing photos of trips we have made in the past.

Next week, I’ll be the presenter, talking about my Habitat for Humanity trip to Bolivia, so I’ve been preparing. The process of sifting through old photos reminded me of a conversation I had about El Cristo de la Concordia, the huge statue of Jesus built on a mountaintop overlooking the city of Cochabamba.

GUIDE: El Cristo de le Concordia is the second tallest statue of Christ in the world. It’s even bigger than the one in Rio de Janeiro, although that one is on a higher mountain. If it’s on a high mountain, it’s closer to God.

ME: That’s only if you believe that God is up there. (I point to the sky) I think that God is a-a-all around, and here (I place a hand on my heart), and in you (I point to his heart), and everywhere (I spread my arms wide).

GUIDE: (looking concerned and a greatly alarmed) No! No! He is up there. (He points to the sky.)

I immediately let the topic drop. The guide was not ready to let go of the “old man in the sky” version of God, and I wasn’t about to push it. He found comfort in believing that there is a great power watching over us. It was what was he needed.

I’m more comforted to feel that the Great Power is not separate and apart from me, and that it lies within us all. I find that to be a more tenable position in hard times, because then there’s no questioning or pointing fingers at a force outside of ourselves.

Also, up, down and all around includes everyone, no matter where they are on the crazy journey with spirit.

That’s an idea that can Zoom around the World.

“The kingdom of God is within you.” —Luke 17:21.

Love anyway

In our house, we count down to Christmas by lighting candles on the Advent wreath—one every Sunday before Christmas.

The fourth candle is the LOVE candle.

No matter what you believe, the Christmas story, and the stories of man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, are about LOVE.

An unmarried woman gets pregnant? Love her anyway. A child is born out of wedlock? Love him anyway. A man is disenfranchised from society? Eat with him and love him anyway. A woman has a communicable disease? Walk with her and love her anyway. Someone wants to learn or play or work even though it’s a holy day? Teach them, laugh with them or help them and love them anyway.

This holiday season—no matter what or how you celebrate—love anyway.

Widely, madly, indiscriminately.

13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13

This year, the best way we can show love is by keeping ourselves, our families and friends safe.

Sometimes we show the greatest love by staying away. With faith, and hope, we will abide, even when apart.


Joy, because the first Christmas gifts were not reciprocal

Nativity scene

It did not happen like this:

Joseph: Mary, the wise men are on their way, and they’re all carrying something.

Mary: Carrying something? What could that be?

Joseph: I’m not sure, but one of them has something shiny. I think it’s gold.

Mary: Gold! Oh, no! But I didn’t get anything for them. Do we have something under the manger we can wrap up quickly?

You know the scenario: Someone you don’t usually exchange gifts with appears before you with a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. She beams with joy, because she has found the perfect thing. She saw it, thought of you and knew that you had to have it.

Do you receive the gift with unqualified gratitude? Or do you think, “Oh, no! I don’t have anything for her”?

We don’t know what exactly happened that first Christmas, but I like to I imagine that, if gifts were brought to the new baby, Mary and Joseph received everything with grace and gratitude. To do otherwise would have deprived the wise visitors of the joy of giving.

This Christmas, when someone beams with joy as they present you that perfect something bought out of love, receive it with unqualified joy and gratitude.

The joy of giving doesn’t depend on the joy of receiving.

Advent Wreath with candles for Hope, Peace and Joy lit.

The peace of lowered expectations

We are in a different kind of December. We can’t fill up our calendars with festive parties every weekend.

It’s strange, but you have to admit, you’re feeling more rested, and you have more time to do everything you want to do.

Maybe you won’t be making the drive to a family Christmas gathering. Maybe it will be the first time you miss it.

It’s sad, but you have to admit, it will save you a lot of stress. Christmas will be more peaceful.

The cookie exchange, the group of friends that gets together every year, the Santa pub crawl will all have to wait.

Those are tough sacrifices, but you have to admit, it will be nice to not have to bake so much, and it will be easier to stick to a healthful diet.

We are forced to let go of events, rituals, traditions. Some of them we happily set free; others we will miss terribly.

No matter what, there is breathing room in those lowered expectations.

Peace.

Advent wreath with Hope and Peace candles lit