Today

I went to a funeral yesterday. A co-worker. Four years younger than me. Cancer.

She is gone.

I am still here.

A miracle.

Life is fragile, not just for her or me – for all of us. Those who are sick and those who are not can be taken at any time. Control is an illusion – something best surrendered to God, who is permanent and strong forever.

Although I sometimes live as though visible things are all-important, they aren’t. They are fleeting. We live here now, so concrete things matter, but it’s the unseen things that matter more. Faith is worth a bit of discipline. A strong spirit is worth some effort. These things will last.

Something else hits home when the mother of three children, one still in elementary school, dies. Each moment we have is a gift. Each routine day is precious.

Today I can hear chickadees outside. My heart beats properly. There is homemade bread on the counter. I will see the face of a loved one soon – a familiar face framed by a nest of morning-hair. There are daisies growing in the ditch beside our street.

Life, tomorrow, is not a given.

Live today as if it’s your last.

What We Carry

What do you carry?

I mean, really carry?

In polite conversation, with a stranger, I might say that I work and I cook. You might tell me about your job, or your chores. When I ask what you carry, though, this isn’t what I mean.

What heavy things linger from your past? Are there unseen burdens that tire you as you cycle through a normal day? Love brings joy, but it also brings pain. What do you carry?

I just read a book by a man who loved a little girl until she died, at age seven. As the end drew near, the little girl needed more and more care. She wanted the man to stay home. Care for her. He said he had to work. Had a job. She said, “Your job is carrying me.”

He thought about this a lot. He wrote about it:

The more you weakened, the more you needed me to transport you even across the room, the more I realized the wisdom of your words. Your job is carrying me…

What we carry defines who we are.

And the effort we make is our legacy.

I had to stop reading, for a while, after that bit.

I know what I carry. I wonder about you. What do you carry? What invisible things do you hold each day? I like those lines, because they acknowledge that there is more to you and me than meets the eye. We carry things that are heavy. We don’t have to. We could drop them. Leave them. But we don’t. We carry them.

And the effort we make – day in and day out – that is our legacy.

Don’t give up.

You aren’t alone, as you lift burdens that seem unusually hard. You are surrounded by others who also struggle. Let’s spur one another on. The effort we make is our legacy.

A Trip With Holly

This past week, for the first time in my life, I ate brussel sprouts. It’s all because of a trip to Tobermory.


We left in the rain and arrived, after a few hours of driving, to a moody island in what some would call Northern Ontario (officially, it’s still Southern Ontario – you need to go an hour further to hit The North.)

As a family we’ve learned that although we like to visit tourist attractions, we like even more to leave them behind. Staying on an quiet island in a tiny inn was charming and peaceful. No one else was there. It rained three of four days.

Day One

Since my husband did all the driving, I had some energy and was ready to explore. Across from our inn were the ruins of an old lumber mill.

Day Two

Who sleeps well away from home?

We got up (really, really) early and walked through the early morning mist.

With some dietary restrictions in our family, finding food wasn’t straightforward. Eventually we ended up at the Green Door Cafe, where my daughter ordered brussel sprouts as us parents wrinkled our noses. They were surprisingly tasty.

Down the road from the inn, I found a quaint flower garden. Green balls destined to unfurl into poppies grew beside allium in full pop. Every garden has glory moment, and that moment, for this garden, was now. The garden wasn’t in a yard, as most are; it sat near the road on the edge of an uninhabited lot, bordered by pines on two sides and running down to the marsh-like water at the back. A potting shed was the only structure in sight.

Day Three

Our third day began with the gift of a beautiful sunrise.

… and continued with a visit to the local sweet shop, library, and Flowerpot Island (known for its unusual rock formations).

You can see what I stole some time to do while others were hiking or sleeping…

I believe that time away can teach us many things, giving us the chance to appreciate those we are with and those we meet, allowing us to find a quiet place within ourselves as we take a break from the routine, and offering us a new glimpse of normal life as we return and have the chance to feel new gratitude for daily blessings and new resolve to embrace some of that breaking-away-from-routine zest for life that feels so natural on vacation.

Thanks for joining me!


Sweet Spot – The Eye of the Storm

“Wherever we are always accepted and never alone, never abandoned, our deepest dreams can come true – even in the midst of nightmares.” (Ann Voskamp – Waymaker)

In a paragraph about addiction and loss, death, betrayal and rejection, Ann Voskamp writes about dreams coming true. We expect our lives to be easy roads, she muses, maybe because the screens in our lives say, subtly or directly, that a product or a person can make things perfect.

This is a lie.

Suffering, says Ann, doesn’t mean you’re cursed; suffering means you’re human.

She is right, I think. Suffering is more common than we think.

If we grip the illusion we adopted at the beginning – or the story someone gave us – that life should be a thrilling backdrop as we, the heroines, wow the world with our beauty, poise, energy and intelligence, we are going to collide with disappointment.

The mundane unfolding of an average life, touched here and there with pain, does not have to be horrible.

Let’s loosen our grip on the notions that hold us hostage as we scramble after (or sadly lament the absence of) the perfect life, body, family or career. Let’s lift our gaze to the overlooked nooks and the underappreciated places in our every day lives.

I know I’ve said it before, but I want to tell you again. You are not alone. You are loved. You are wanted. You will never be abandoned.

The struggle reminds us that we are not Home. That’s okay.

His love makes it possible to live well away from Home.

My Etsy Shop

Who knew that a Christmas gift from my husband could lead to this? A shop? Me? Making paintings at the kitchen table, then wrapping them with care and mailing them out… out… into the world! So fun.

I shared with you, a while back, how much the discovery of painting meant to me. There are so few things I can do when my heart isn’t beating right or when I’m exhausted. Those things that I CAN do pass the time, but that’s about it.

Staining paper with colour is FUN. I just love it. And I can do it every day. This is amazing. I am still in shock about it. It’s not just surprising to have discovered a hobby that I enjoy so much and am capable of doing, but just as astounding is the surprise of seeing that some of my paintings are admired and desired by others.

I would just love it if you would take a look at my shop. Tell me if you like something. Commission a pet portrait. Hang a Holly original in your home (but only if you see something you like!)

Here is a link to my Etsy shop.

And here is a link to my Instagram (be patient with me – I really don’t know what I’m doing on Instagram… this social media stuff is very new to me.)

Smash That Mirror!

Do you obsess over selfies and photos and the image that stares back at you when you use the bathroom? Or maybe it’s the opposite… you never take selfies, make sure you’re the one holding the camera for group shots and you look as little as possible at any mirror you pass.

We want love. There’s no denying it.

And those who are beautiful get love – that’s the message I’ve been soaking in since I was a girl as little as the one in the photo at the start of this post.

That’s why, when I came across this paragraph in Shannon Popkin’s book Comparison Girl, I was kind of surprised.

“… God, who loves me, uses things like group photos to develop my humility. Each time I’m confronted with flaws in a photo, in the mirror, or on the scale, it’s a new opportunity to humble myself and say, “God, I trust you. You see me as your treasure, and I trust your eyes more than mine or anyone else’s.”

I assumed that the answer to my insecurity would be LOVE. God’s love. I expected the author to reassure me by underscoring God’s love for me. Instead, I was hit hard by the line: God, I trust you.

She’s so right. For me, it’s not about doubting God’s love for me. It’s fear about everything else. Will other people despise or overlook me as I age? What are the implications of wrinkles and age spots and scars and other flaws in a world of you-have-value-if-you-look-good?

God, I trust you.

When you look at yourself in a photo or in the mirror, are you like me? Do fears… some loud and some subtle, stir in your mind?

This week, when that happens, take a deep breath, quiet your soul, and say: God, I trust you.


BONUS – TRUE STORY


Have you ever done something ridiculous to avoid being seen in a less than ideal state? I have.

I was fifteen and fed up with hanging around high school after classes – every day we had to wait about forty minutes before the school buses showed up. One day, last class was cancelled and I decided I was NOT going to stick around for two hours. I had legs. I would walk home.

I walked down rural roads for about an hour, then entered suburbia and made my way past countless homes. My hair was thoroughly windblown, my skin sunburned. I felt exhausted and I needed a bathroom.

Mom worked at a church on my route, so I snuck into this familiar building to use the facilities. Mom wasn’t there and this was way before cell phones. I couldn’t call for a ride. Still, I knew the pastor whose car sat out front and I figured he could drive me the rest of the way home. I was SO TIRED. I’d been walking for about two hours.

When I saw myself in the mirror, I changed my mind. I looked like a blond hurricane. Rather than let anyone see me like that, I walked another hour.

Three hours.

11.6 kilometres.

I could have allowed a willing soul to rescue me, save me some trouble… but pride and insecurity drove me to keep going on my own. Avoid people. Refuse help.

Vanity.

Fear.

I chuckle now and shake my head. I’d never do something like that now. And neither would you. We’re more mature than that!

Aren’t we?


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