Sunday, 14 October 2018

Beautiful Scars

In order to carve out the cancer, a surgeon recommended the full removal of a breast.  There were many tumours and it was necessary but being left with a 15cm slash where a breast had been wasn't easy.  It didn't feel like a fair trade-off.  Yes, the cancer was gone but so was a precious piece of femininity.  And self-confidence.  I felt like half a woman.  
I tried to find the humour in it.  I talked about being a super-hero called the Mono-Boober.  I said I no longer had to worry about showing cleavage but only cleave.....but there were times when the laughter wasn't enough to shrug away the pain.

The absolute best preparation for my mastectomy surgery was meeting with other breast cancer survivors.  Those who shared vulnerable moments of their lives and journeys with me.  Those who said, "I know how you feel and what it's like.  Me too."  
One friend even offered to show me her scars.
She showed me her scars.
And I felt that if she could do this....wear these scars...than so could I.  
And I moved forward with a strange sense of strength.

Now I am scarred and life has moved on and, in a sense, everyone is over my breast cancer thing.  What you see is a full chest....expertly filled out by the best bean-bag prosthesis money can buy.  But every day, I am startled by the scooped out chest.  It's a scar serving as a constant reminder.  A scar hiding.  A scar that bears witness to a journey.  A plot-line of pain and perseverance.      

I've spent an awful lot of time staring at this scar.  Tracing it.  Trying to see the beautiful that it is:  skin knit back together.  Evidence of a body repairing itself after injury.  A body pulling and putting itself together again.

Scarring is, after all, the most natural part of the healing process.  

A scar says "You're better now but never forget.  I have forever changed you and reshaped you.  And maybe the world will stop noticing or maybe the world never noticed at all because my scars are hidden, but I see.  I notice. I bear witness to your pain."

I've been thinking a lot about scars.  Maybe we should dismiss them less.   Hide them less.  Be less ashamed of the ways they have reformed us.   I've been thinking that maybe we need to see our scars as statements.   Statements of healing.    Of repair and mending.  Statements of a body and a life that's put and pulled back together again.   Statements of hope.

Maybe a scar is a beautiful thing after all.

- B

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Let's Bring Back Boredom....And Call it Another Name!

It's summer-time and in between the seven thousand trips to the beach, camping excursions, biking, hiking, trampoline-jumping, sprinkler-hopping, ice-cream-licking, fishing, baseball, soccer, ball hockey, horse-riding, arguing ....
in between all of that crazy activity -
my kids inevitably get Bored.

I'm really not even sure how that's humanly possible with all that we have going on;
there is so much going on over here in the summer that my family calendar is colour-coded for each child and Every. Single. Day. has something written on it!
I'm really not even sure how my kids find time to be bored.
I'm pretty sure I haven't penciled time in for that sort of business and I certainly have not colour coded it.
So I tried to officially outlaw everything to do with being Bored.  The actual word was chalked up to being a "swear-word" and was shamefully tossed in with all the other banned "bad words".  We began referring to it as the "b-word".  If a child was saying the b-word or beginning to feel the onset of b-ness, I would launch into long lectures of "use your time wisely; and when I was a kid I never got 
b-ed because I was too busy walking everywhere uphill; and if you keep feeling b-ed, I could give you a job to do..." blah blah blah

But lately, I've been doing a little thinking. 
And lately my thoughts have been that perhaps a little Boredom is a little Good.

You see, I have a tendency to fill my kids' days.  Like, right up.  You know, to the brim.
With outings and exciting things and spring cleaning and coffee dates and sports and camps and maybe a volunteer opportunity or two.  And then, popsicles. 
And my kids have grown accustomed to having someone else fill up their time so that there is hardly any time or space left to wedge in any of their own things or thoughts or activities.
But I want them to develop their own thoughts and interests and curiosities because I have seen amazing things happen when kids follow their imaginations.
Amazing things that look a lot like invention.

Like when my one son glued a magnet to the end of a hockey stick so that he could find-and-retrieve coins from underneath candy machines at the local arena.  He scored $5.25 in under-candy-machine- findings that day and a small crowd of awe-struck kids followed him around.  He was pretty much famous.
Or when my friend's son carved and whittled his very own slingshot.  That worked.  We all had to do a lot of ducking at the hike that week.
Or when my daughter sketched, drew, and coloured about a thousand pictures that began to look an awful lot like Art.  Art that was being practiced and perfected with every new drawing.
Or when another friend's daughter made colourful outfits out of socks for her stuffies.  Designer duds outta pairless socks.
Like I said, amazing things that look a lot like invention.

So, this summer: I'm bringing Boredom back and giving it another name. 

I'm calling it "Space".

As in....unwritten, unmade, undecided, empty Space that I will NOT fill up with long walks on the beach or an impromptu baseball game at the closest diamond.
I'm calling it "Space"
As untouched script
an untold story
a blank page
and it's all up to my child to do the writing, making, creating, inventing, telling.

I will NOT fill up all my kids' space this summer because I want their Boredom to push them to new limits that look a lot like their own limits and boundaries.
I want them to explore their passions,
pursue their curiosities,
expand upon their interests, and
let their imaginations amble and traipse down new roads of thought.

Sherry Turkle (professor, author, researcher and all-around smart person) writes :
"...the experience of boredom is directly linked to creativity and can signal new learning.  If we remain curious about our boredom, we can use it as a moment to step back and make a new connection..." (pg. 39 "Reclaiming Conversation")

I love the idea of remaining curious about our boredom and that will be the tool to guide my kids when they bring out the b-word this summer.
Remain curious about Boredom.  Ask why said child is feeling bored and what said child plans to do about it.
And be willing to stand back and let said child take the lead.
Fill the page.
Create the invention.
Write the script.
Make the plan.

Would you care to join me, this summer?
Wanna bring back Boredom and call it "Space" instead?

Maybe we can do it over a cup of coffee.

And the next time we hear one of our kids whining out the words, "Mooooom, I'm BORED", we can retort together:
"Baby, you ain't're on the Brink of Innovation!"

Happy Summer.

Friday, 11 May 2018


It's that most wonderful time of the year
when colour bursts forth in full bloom
and wildly paints up that winter-worn-out landscape.
Magnolia tree-branches dip low; heavily laden with pink and white petals
Tulips and daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze*
Boldly hued hyacinths boldly scenting the air,
Red maple leaves tenderly curled and furled,
Pointed sprouts peeking gingerly, a promise of beauty yet to come
And the grass grows into a rich, lush carpet of green.

It's that most wonderful time of year
when you can plunge your fingers deep into the soil
and feel a connectedness that reaches far beyond
and this place called Earth
A connectedness that strings together created with Creator -
an invisible cord and an umbilical tie that binds.

I stepped outside today with four children in tow and four seed packages in hand
I hadn't intended to have a seed package for each child but that's just the way life unfolds
I love to garden but, truthfully, feel like it is just one more
do -
Another task, another job, another entity to feed and water that demands my time and energy
and so I neglect.

But today the gardens beckoned and I knew we could tie in a science lesson, so we headed outdoors
Where the sun beamed brightly likes the iridescent rays of a smile
And the gardens boasted greenery that would continue to grow even without my help, thank you very much.
We cleaned up that garden, grooming, guiding, turning, mulching
unearthing writhing, wriggling worms
but gently so that no worm was hurt in the planting of this garden
or the writing of this blog.
And then we opened our seed packages -
teeny tiny carrot
plump bean
striped mammoth sunflower
rotund sweet pea -
and marveled that each seed was waiting for the perfect time
and place
and conditions
to burst forth into glorious growth.

Once each seed was placed with delicate precision, we tucked it in
blanketing each seed with warm layers of ground
and fed it watery sips.
And now we wait.

At bedtime tonight, I sat at the bedside of one of my sons,
he wrapped arms tightly around my neck and whispered,
"I can't wait to see our plants grow!  Will they be growing tomorrow?"
and I smiled at his exuberance for something that I saw as another
and answered, "No, buddy.  Not tomorrow, but soon.  Very soon!"

I kissed his cheek,
and tucked him in -
blanketing him in warm layers -
and marveled that this child of mine
had been planted in my life.


*a little nod to William Wordsworth here

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Delight and Truth

It was early this morning when I made a great discovery.
Everyone else was sound asleep and there was a shushed stillness to the air.
The weak winter light was curiously peeking through the curtains and I snuggled deep into my fuzzy blanket, Bible cradled in my lap.
During my morning devotions, I made a great discovery.
It was in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes verse 10.  Check it out:

"The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth."    (ESV)

Let me tell ya, this verse stopped me mid-yawn and mid-eye rub.  I felt a shiver run down my spine and whispered into the stillness of the morning, "Whoa..!"  Then I underlined and highlighted that verse so that it now practically YELLS at me ever time my Bible falls open to this passage.  Also, I wrote it down in my notebook because notebooks are the best and they help me collect my favourite thing which is WORDS.

Wonderful, lovely, winsome words.

And it sounds like the writer of Ecclesiastes - King Solomon - was feeling the same way.  He, too, had a thing for words.  He sought "words of delight" and wrote "words of truth". 
Isn't it great to meet people who're passionate about the same things that you are?
"Yes"....said every music-lover, art-lover, word-lover, hockey-lover in the world!

So, that was my great discovery this morning.
Finding someone who loved words and wrote words within God's Word.

I think I will join Solomon in his wise and wonderful quest:  to seek words of delight.....and write words of truth.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Walking Home

I recently purchased a handmade sign and I love it because WORDS are my favourite. 
When I first learned that people were hanging WORDS on their walls, I was all like, "What?!  That is bloody Brilliant!!"  Because it is. 
WORDS on WALLS, people! 
A friend of mine designs these WORD art messages and when I saw this one, I needed to get my grubby grabbers on it.

Behold, the sign:

Gorgeous, isn't it?
It's now adorning a wall in my house and giving that wall all sorts of meaning and depth and such.

And I love this sign because it delivers a beautiful message about our life's journey.
Cuz we're all travelling on this road called Life. 
We are all traipsing, hiking, walking, careening, sailing, running, stumbling, marching, parading, or rambling along on our journey.
Travelling from the cradle to the grave and aren't we are all just walking each other Home? Accompanying each other to our heavenly destination?

Who are you walking with?

I hope you're not travelling alone. 
I drove alone to an unfamiliar destination last week and, let me tell you, it wasn't pretty! 
I got lost.  I had to circle back.  I was almost clipped by a grey pick-up truck whose driver voiced his irritated feelings with a staccato-ed "BEEP BEEP BEEP".  I stopped for directions at a gas station, though, and was assisted by two helpful men.  We worked together, sharing information (Where are you going?  Can I borrow a pen?  How do I get there?) and soon we were all on our way again. 

Travelling is almost always better when done together, isn't it?  I had been so lost and had felt so alone before I stopped for directions.
Travelling together allows you to help one another, to reassure, relocate, regroup, reassess.

This past weekend, I spoke at a women's retreat in Brantford.  There were about 35 women present ranging in age from the late teens to the early 60s and I witnessed some marvellous things there.

I witnessed women travelling through life. 
Mothers with daughters, daughters with mothers.
Sisters and cousins.
Best friends and daughters of best friends.
Grandmothers, aunts, wives, mothers, sisters, nieces.
Teachers, daycare operators, art therapy instructors, social workers, jewelry designers, presenters, musicians, and university students studying statistics or working on their Master's degree. 

I witnessed women howling with laughter, women holding each other in prayer, women crying over and on each other.  Hanging out.  Chatting it out.  Colouring and crafting it out.  Walking, horse-riding, snow-ball fighting, and tobogganing it out.  Laughing it out.  Praying it out. 

I witnessed these women sharing the delights of their days, the devastations of their hearts, the dreams of their futures, and the doldrums that hold them hostage. 

I heard stories of grief and loss, stories of worry and anxiety, stories of illness and divorce.  The setting for these ladies' stories is, after all, This World and This World is a place broken by sin and characterized by suffering. 
Have you noticed that yet?
These ladies have and so have I.  I have stories of grief and worry. 
I'm sure you do too.
And these stories can make us feel pretty lost and pretty alone, can't they?

But listen up; because I'm not done telling you about all that I witnessed last weekend.

Because I didn't just see a room full of women travelling through life.  (Lost and alone).
I witnessed a room full of women travelling through life TOGETHER.

Women holding on to each other to physically support one another as they shared worries about their children.  Women sharing strategies, offering advice, and solidarity.
Women who went along on Every Single Chemo appointment of a friend.  To support and help and to spend every possible moment together.
Women who fiercely stood strong for each other.
Women raising up the next generation of Godly women and coming alongside them in their life and faith journey.
Women encouraging, challenging, supporting, mentoring, reassuring, inspiring, and helping each other.

Women walking through life together.
Women walking each other Home.

It was a beautiful sight to behold.

- BvH

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact 
you are doing."  - 1 Thessalonians 5: 11

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

For the Love of Love

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and we all know what this means:
Loads of delightful, colourfully-wrapped, sinfully-scrumptious chocolate will soon be on sale!  Sweet, delicious, creamy, yummy chocolate.
Sea-salted, caramel-filled, dark or milk chocolate.
I have purchased some of that chocolate (rather reluctantly as it was not on sale yet...) and written up Valentines for my family members so that we can share what we love and appreciate about each other tomorrow.

This is all very lovely but I do admit to helping several children edit their Valentines.
"I love you because you are creepy" was edited to read "I love you because you are fun."
"I think you are a freak" was similarly edited to read "I love your uniqueness."
My Valentines have short sermonettes crammed inside them because why not seize every moment for learning and encouraging, right??

But before we get carried away discussing chocolate and what-sort-of-message-to-include-in-a-Valentine, let's chat for a while about love.
You know, because that's what all this fuss is about anyway.
Hearts and insanely expensive flowers and chocolate as token expressions of love.

And yet, the best expressions of love that I've found are not those on the shelves at the local  shopping mart but, rather, those that imitate the God of love.

The best expressions are:

A love that is lavish.  I love this word.  If you have had a conversation with me recently, you've heard me say this already and I apologize (lavishly) for the redundancy.  Lavish means sumptuously or elaborate.  It's love that doesn't hold back or allow itself to exist on conditions.  It's a love that flows and cascades down and all around.

A love that listens.  Ever needed to talk but been shut down?  Ever wanted to share a story but your listeners changed the topic or refused to hear you out?  That hurts, right?  Love listens even  if the topic of conversation is not a comfortable one.

A love that is gracious and forgiving.  A love that extends and bestows. 

A love that rejoices with those who rejoice, that mourns with those who mourn, that laughs raucously with those who laugh raucously, that lends a hand to those who are cast down.

A love that is patient and kind.  Gentle and compassionate without understanding.  A love that is fiercely protective and as all-encompassing as the best hug ever!

A love that puts another before one's self.

And that's the kinda love I want to celebrate.
Not just tomorrow - on Valentine's Day - but every day.


"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. 
 It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at 
wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, 
hopes all things, endures all things.  |Love never ends..."  
-1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

This is Personal.

So, here we are teetering on the brink of new beginnings.   It's the last day of 2017 and soon we'll be counting down the seconds to a brand new year.  2018.  It'll take a while for that to roll off the tongue, won't it? 

This morning - while one child yanked out a loose tooth, another upturned every laundry basket in the house searching for pants-without-holes and two others fought over emptying the dishwasher - I flipped through my purple pocket Bible.  I wanted to read through Psalm 18.  You see, we have this tradition in our house when there is a birthday.  It's a tradition that happens alongside devouring cake and singing Happy Birthday.  As a family, we read through the numbered Psalm that corresponds with the birthday person's new age.  So, if a child is turning 4, we read Psalm 4 together.  In light of this tradition and in preparation for a new year, I read Psalm 18.  Call it searching for a slice of calm in the midst of crazy chaos!

The din died down as the words pulled me in; immediately the Word-Nerd inside me sat up and took notice of several patterns. 

"Egads", thought I, "check out the overwhelming number of first-person pronouns in the psalm". 

The words "I", "me" and "my" are mentioned at least 93 times!  The other main character is God.  Me and God.  God and me. 

"This is personal," I thought.

He's not a distant relative who visits several times a year and then Skypes a few other times.  Sends a text or two in between.  He's not some random guy that you've only heard stories about and seen pictures of.  He's not a celebrity whose weirdo life story is plastered on the cover of grocery store magazines.  He is much much more.

He is MY God. 
He is MY rock.  He is MY fortress.  My shield.  My deliverer.  My stronghold.  He hears ME when I cry out in fear, loneliness, weakness, frustration, sadness, anger, anxiety.  He hears me and he responds and reacts to my cries.
Whoa, does He respond!  There are about nine verses smack in the middle of Psalm 18 where there is a complete absence of the pronouns "me", "I" and "my".  These are the verses describing God's reaction to me crying out to Him and this is not the reaction of a passive, passive-aggressive or inactive God.  These are verses filled with Activity!  God's reaction to me crying out is one filled with movement; there is "reeling", "rocking", "quaking", "thundering", "scattering" and "flashing" and then the foundations of the world are laid bare.  This is a God who made all things and can strip them all away.   

This is MY God. 
He is my support and guide.  He lightens up my darkness, rescues me from things that entangle, overwhelm and encompass me.  He equips me and trains me and makes me strong.  This is the take-home stuff of Psalm 18, people.  Run along and give it a read!
This MY God.  I have a relationship with him that is just between me and Him.  Him and me.  I'm the weaker one, by the way, but when He's at my back I am so so strong.  Like biceps bulging strong!
Like, bring-it-on-world-I-can-take-you strong!
Like, I can BE BOLD and BE COURAGEOUS strong!

He is MY God.
And He can be YOUR God too because he's big and mighty and strong enough to go around.     

Today we are teetering on the brink of new beginnings.  2018 is only a few hours away.  Get ready to count down the hours, minutes and seconds.  Moisten those lips for Happy-New-Year smooches and lean into the very best embrace of all.
Lean into the love of a God who wants to get personal with you.
You and God.
God and You.

Happy 2018!

- BvH

"I love you, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies."  
- Psalm 18: 1-3