Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Listening. A gift?

"...the greatest gift you can ever give someone is the gift of your own time..." - unknown

Recently I've been challenged that I need to learn to listen better.  Too often I'm quick to speak instead of being quick to listen.  Giving someone your time - a listening ear, can be a huge gift.   Especially in a noisy world.  Here's what caught my attention in one of the books I'm reading right now:
"Time.  Listening.  A gift.... It's true of any person who lends (their) ear to another individual.  And we are in that position every day - the opportunity to envelop ourselves in someone else's conversation, to suppress the clamour of our own thoughts and schedule, to focus our full attention on other people, giving them an offering of the rarest kind.  The gift of ourselves.  The gift of our time.  The gift of listening.  Think of it.  When was the last time somebody really listened to you?  Not the last time you talked but the last time you felt you were really heard.  It's highly probable that these two occasions were not one and the same.  You may not even be able to easily recall a recent moment when you experienced that special sense of knowing that someone was all there, all yours, intent on hearing what you had to say.  But once you transport yourself back to that time, seeing the attentive eyes of that other person, you'll be looking into the face of someone you deeply appreciate, someone who truly knows how to make a person feel valued and accepted, loved and affirmed.  Why?  That's just what the gift of listening does.... Most of the time we're so focused on ourselves and preoccupied with our own feelings, every occasion becomes ultimately about us and how we're being affected.  We're parsing what the other person is saying, interpreting as we go, trying to fix whatever problem (they're) presenting, jumping in at every possible opening with our own attempts to turn the attention back to us, our experiences, and our opinions.  Even if we have good intentions, even when we try really hard to make ourselves listen, we have a hard time keeping it up for long.  And every time our focus lags, we translate to the other person a disinterest not only in what (they're) talking about but in (them) as a person.  Truly, what we say by not listening says a lot." - Priscilla Shirer

I'm totally guilty of this and it's a quality in myself that I don't like and want to learn to change.  Sometimes we can be listening but not really hearing.  And that includes spiritually too - too busy or too distracted to truly hear what God is saying to us.  I'm reminded of when Jesus tells people "he who has ears to hear let him hear" knowing that we need to be reminded!  In learning to truly hear, we can become a better follower of Jesus, a more loving wife/husband, a more helpful friend, and a more productive worker/employee... what a huge difference such a seemingly small thing can make!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Library of our Life... so far!

Well, this week finds us starting to pack our things to leave - and it feels a little bit surreal!  We don't move back to England for a few months yet, but we're shipping a crate of most of the items we want to send. We have limited space and that of course means no space to waste on things like bubble wrap or those cool foam peanut things!  Instead, I've been using clothes, towels and bedding to cushion our treasures.  I have to laugh to myself as I carefully pad out a picture frame with my bright red Canada mittens, gently wrap a sugar bowl up in a pashmina and layer up a lantern in a pair of jeans.  Yep, I'm getting creative!

The whole process is bitter-sweet.  We're excited for things to come, but sad to leave friends behind.  Looking forward to making new memories, and re-living old ones at the same time, some great, some, not-so-great.  As I sort through some of the books we've accumulated over the last year, it kind of paints a telling picture: "Real Marriage", "Marriage takes more than Love," several health books and papers on Adrenal Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue and finally Lyme's Disease (too many to mention), and even one or two baby-planning books.  I can't say that those don't bring a few tears, because they do.  I guess some things stay only just below the surface for a while...

What I do know though is that as I listened to a golden oldie on my iPod this week, these words rang true: "Nobody told me, this road would be easy, but I don't believe He's brought me this far to leave me."

With love from across the water 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A little day trip ... and some life lessons!

Yesterday we were able to get off this little island and onto another one - Salt Spring Island - for a little day trip.  It was so nice to be able to take time to be away for the day, explore new places and just enjoy being together.  It seems like we haven't been able to do too much of that since we got married and my health went down hill.  That just made us enjoy and appreciate it all the more!  It feels like that kind of day is a milestone - a day trip without my needing to sit down to rest every five minutes, a walk where I can keep up with Ken instead of going at a snails pace, sitting in a warm room without feeling like I'm going to pass out... milestones!  Small ones, but for me they're huge!  

This past year I'm learning to appreciate different things in life than I did before.  There's things that I've taken for granted and there's also things that I've put too much value in that really don't matter.  This has been a good time for me to re-evaluate life and gain some new perspective.  I value faith, family and friends more than ever, and the rest doesn't seem as important.

I'm reading through 1 Peter at the moment and for a small book of the Bible it has some big, hard-hitting truth!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you."  1 Peter 1:3

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may result in praise and glory and honour..._ 1 Peter 6&7

"All flesh is like grass and all it's beauty like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever" 1 Peter 1:23 (Isaiah 40:6,8)
Lots of things don't last and can't be depended on - beauty, money, a "smooth-sailing life", even health... and, well life itself.  When life gets rocked by illness, or death or financial worries or difficulty of some other kind, how amazing to know the hope and Life that is in Him who is forever.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

More than it seems..

Being thankful seems to be a theme of the year for me so far.  Ken and I had been listening to a podcast recently about 2 guys who for years have been kicking the norm of setting new years resolutions.  Instead, they take time to think and pray about what one word God would have them live by that year... a resolution of sorts.  So one year for them it was "Simplify" for example.  That word then seeps into everything you do.  I thought it was a great idea, and so, already a couple of months into the year, I prayed about one word that God would have me think on and live by this year.  Not surprisingly it was something He's already been working on: "thanks"... I guess He didn't need me to get with the programme before He could begin!?  It had already begun with reading the book 1000 gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  Maybe you've heard of it?  If not, I recommend it, it's brilliant!  Shortly after reading it I decided to start my own journal chronicling 1000 gifts. 

" thanks for one thousand things is ultimately an invitation to slow time down with weight of full attention.  I am attentive, aware, accepting the whole of the moment, weighing it down with me all here." - A.Voskamp

Not only does it make you appreciate God's gifts that might otherwise slip by, it's nurturing in me a new heart, a heart that is thankful.  It's easy to complain and grumble; that comes to us  naturally doesn't it?  But giving thanks, that's a conscious effort.  I think it's worth it!

picture by A.Voskamp

When I got married, my Mum gave to me a book that she had been writing about me since birth.  She's made notes on all the firsts - first hair cut, first word, first pair of shoes, right through to first car, first job... first husband... just kidding!  Last night I was reading some of it, and mostly I'm just scanning for those laugh-out-loud funny things I said during my years from 2-6!  And I came across this one:

"28th January, 1992

Tonight in the bath Victoria was playing away as usual and suddenly stopped and said, "Mummy, can I just say a little prayer here in the bath?"  I said "Yes, of course you can" and wondered what she was thinking.  She just shut her eyes and said, "Thank you Jesus for my Daddy and Mummy and Little Sister.  Amen"  She really surprised me..."

I think I could learn a thing or two from my 3 year old self; the simplicity of being thankful.  Child-like faith.