Alright everyone... take in a deep breath... hold it... hold it... hooooold it... and now, let it all out.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Squeeze out just that last little breath and the next breath you take in will fill you with release, more oxygen and a feeling of intention that you have just taken a second to look out for "you".
And that is what Sabbath feels like for me! Oh beloved Sabbath! Do I dare imagine where my mental state would be without you? Do you know what dawned on me not too long ago? When God commanded us to rest on the seventh day (as He did), He sanctified that day... not for Him... but for US! I did not quite understand that at first, but man o man, does it make sense to me now!
I have no doubt that you know the attempts at "rest" when your body is crying out for it only to have the mental background noise kabosh any true rest due to the nagging haunting "to-do's" and "you should be doing..." It's as though Sabbath is a commandment for our brains to stop, allowing us to commune more meaningfully with family and/or friends. It's our PERMISSION to rest!
I did not realize how much noise my brain made until we started observing Sabbath (from sun down on Friday to sundown on Saturday). The mental hubbub gets swept under the rug (or generally tossed out the window!) and I can literally feel the smile growing on my face, my shoulders dropping down (why on earth were they up to my ears in the first place) and peace settling into my soul like a welcomed visitor!
This is actually the first Sabbath our family has had in a couple of months! Not by failure on our parts to TRY to observe it but just due to life in general. With Duane's shift work, he worked for quite a few of those Saturdays and for about four of them, Melina was invited out to be with either family or friends. With me at home alone with all the critters, Sabbath was not feeling "set a part" but just like any other day!
So today, I relish in this opportunity to simply "BE" together... (as I leave my family to stare at my computer screen... the irony is just hitting me now). Duane is usually quite purposeful (taking kids outside) in giving me these chances to connect with you all. You know, there really is something prayerful for me to open my heart and share my thoughts and life events. It brings me great peace and I pray that it can give you something, too!
There is so much to catch up on! For instance, there was my pathetic attempt at honouring Purim a few weeks ago...
Purim is not one of God's appointed times but it is a significant historical event for the Hebrew nation when one of their kind was taken in as Queen at a time when a royal decree was proclaimed to slay all Hebrews (men, women, children) on a certain day. If you have the chance, read the book of Esther (it's a quick read) and be amazed at the "poetic justice" enforced upon the man whose heart served only himself.
Anyways, the holiday is celebrated by feasting (of course) and sharing meals with others, particularly neighbours, the poor, the shut-ins and the widows.
And this is a part where I reveal a weakness or shortcoming of mine. Whether this "instinct" comes from having been a single mother living on very little income, I do not know, but it is one I am in the process of "shedding". What is it, you wonder? (Deep breath) I struggle with GIVING things away to others. Oh I can lend things out, but not without making a mental note of making sure I eventually get it back.
It sucks. It feels selfish, untrusting and just so petty. I literally have a mild panic attack wondering "but what if I will need it?" How silly given the fact that it may be something I have not used in a long time and regardless of the fact that I MIGHT need it someday... the fact remains that someone could use it NOW.
Duane gives of anything and everything he has! His vehicles, his time, his machinery, his tools... anything and everything... no questions asked, no hesitancy on his part. It drove me nuts at first but now it just humbles the bejeebers out of me! Besides, WHAT we have is not by a result of OUR own means!!! Our provisions are just that... provisions! All that we have is thanks to God so in essence, if it comes FROM Him, then it belongs TO Him! If what I have came from Him, why would I ever adopt the notion that is is mine? If someone asks for something, should it therefore not be giving out without a single expectation of having it returned? Shouldn't it be given out as though passing on a GIFT from one to the next?
There are times where this can happen, no problemo. But other times where I find myself making that mental note. Quite frankly, I want to get rid of that reaction. And Purim was presenting a fantastic opportunity to do just that!
One of our next door neighbours (about a five minute walk away), is 93 years old, near blind (yet still shovels her walkway as though no snow has ever fallen) and has been a widow for many, many years. I have been her neighbour for over four years now and not once have I ever walked over to introduce myself, to bring her a meal, or just simply offer her the comfort of knowing I think of her and wish her well. For days, this weighed heavily on my heart. Like an answer to prayer, the weeks leading up to Purim, my readings delved further into its historical significance and hope began to flicker inside my heart as I imagined making a few pots of soup for our dear Mrs. Oliman (whose name I have changed for privacy's sake) and bring them to her in individual servings. I could even make it a Sabbath tradition... bring her some soup and challah bread (when I'd finally get back to making it!).
Oh the feeling in my heart was incredible! Finally, I could use our provisions (provided by God) and share them with those He has trusted in our care!
A few days went by and we suddenly received a call from Mrs. Oliman's grand-daughter. She was rather upset asking us to please run over to make sure her grandmother was okay. She had been trying to reach her since the night before with no luck.
And what does my guilt do? "See? If you had just been a present neighbour, this would not be happening!"
"Duane! I am going with you! I want to make sure she's okay, too. And I owe her an apology."
So off we went, nervous and scared at the moment that was impending. Duane banged loudly on the door (as she is losing her hearing, too) and we heard shuffling within. (sigh of relief). She opened the door and I proclaimed "MRS OLIMAN! I AM YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR, RITA, AND I WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE FOR NOT COMING OVER TO MEET YOU BEFORE NOW."
Now I have heard some tales about this woman and I am sure you can imagine how "feisty" this woman must be given the fact that she is living fully independently (on a farmstead) at ninety-three years of age. I think part of the reason I had not come to meet her was because I was afraid! (Boy, I am sure doing a fine job of painting a lovely image of my weaknesses today).
She looked at me (or slightly passed me as her eyes do not work) as we both stood there for a moment... my thoughts: did I say that loud enough? Should I hug her? Is she contemplating calling the cops? Suddenly her stern look relaxed as she said "Oh... come, I give you coffee."
As we sat at her table, Duane looked over at me with a warning look and hand gesture of "do NOT drink the coffee!" I looked angrily at him hoping he could read my mind of do NOT make gestures around a blind woman! And besides, I also wondered how much that "sixth sense" could come into play here, too! Regardless, given the debt I felt towards this woman, I would have accepted a cup of fermented fish heads! Thankfully, it was instant coffee instead.
It fascinated me to watch her manoeuvre around her kitchen so effortlessly despite being blind. She called me over to the cutlery drawer and said "Here. You put how much coffee you want in your cup"
I looked down at the fork she offered me and said "Okay, but I might be here for a while."
She grabbed it back, put it directly in front of her eyes and said "Oh... I get you a spoon."
Before long, we were sitting at her table with a package of cookies before us. Would you believe she said that she was happy to finally meet me and that she had often debated walking over but was worried she would get hit by a vehicle? (And cue the tears of guilt)
No, I did not actually start to cry but I did reach out to touch her shoulder and say, "I am glad you did not put yourself at risk... again, I should have been here sooner."
And then I asked "Mrs. Oliman, do you like noisy children?"
"Yes, I LOVE them."
"Good, because I happen to have a few of them and I would like to bring them to meet you."
"Yes, yes!! I would LOVE that. I will play with them!"
By then, her granddaughter had arrived proclaiming "GRANDMA! You scared the crap out of me!!" So I got to meet her granddaughter as well. At Mrs. Oliman's previous comment of wanting the kids to come over, her granddaughter leaned over and said "Good luck with that one... it is a minefield around here!"
Sure enough, i finally began to look around and noticed the plethora of porcelain decorations everywhere. Yikes, hopefully Mrs. Oliman is better at parting with earthly belongings than I am!!
(nervous laugh of shame)
We left and I was that much more determined to step out of my lovely world of intentions and step into the world of ACTION. Oh trust me, in my pretty world of good intentions, I am such a wonderful person! In the world of following through with action? Not so good. Okay, okay... I suck!
But along came Purim! Finally, an opportunity to take out those brand new casserole dishes we got for our wedding nearly five years ago (yes, I really am aware at how ugly a picture of myself I am painting here but I vow to be honest with you all... and myself) and decided I would make a few casseroles and bring them to surrounding neighbours (two in particular who appear to be struggling with paying their bills). It is time to let them know that I am here for them in any way that I can be, that I think of them and that I want nourishment for them... and a casserole dish!
(Cue Mega-Nice-Mom of grandiose - and unrealistic - dreams)
And then I can make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and bring a jar to ALL our neighbours on our road! And Melina and I can bake two separate kinds of cookies and have a lovely plate of cookies, too! Oh, and the kids can do craft time and make lovely "Happy Purim" cards! Oh it will be a happy Purim for EVERYONE! And the world will hold hands and sing Kumbaya... all will be good!
Told you my world of intentions was real perdy.
Purim was finally here and Duane was gone all day in a meeting and then off to work a night shift so it was me and the five kids. For some reason, I thought it would be smart to start this whole "project Purim" when the kids would go down for nap in the afternoon. Stupidly thinking that Anika might want to partake in the baking part, I let her stay up... which meant Ethan had to stay up (darn those puppy dog eyes and his pleading to stay up with Anika!). Alright, so I figured I would put a movie on in the living room with pillows and blankets so that Ethan would eventually fall asleep.
Next, I told Melina to choose one of the two cookie recipes. "Mina, keep it simple... something quick and easy but delicious."
I had chosen cowboy cookies and she opted for some strange "healthy" recipe out of my "healthy cooking book"... not a place I would have looked for a yummy cookie recipe... but hey, I gave her my criteria and I trusted her.
Next was "make a list of the ingredients we'll need for both recipes and I'll run to the store quick to get them." Off I went into the nearest town. It wasn't until I started grabbing plain yogurt that I started questioning the recipe Melina chose. But there was no time for questions... we had to bake these cookies and make a spaghetti sauce in time to drive up and down our road to about ten families with a meal, desserts, homemade cards and a friendly introduction!
Got back, had to nurse Sivana, then it was change diapers (including Isabel's).. oops, forgot about getting Izzy her water and setting up her feeding... and did Ethan poop again? Naps did NOT happen so we were ambushed by crying fits and meltdowns. And shoot, how would we distribute all these things? Do I just leave Isabel, Anika, Ethan and Sivana in the van still running while Melina and I run to these people's doors bearing gifts? It takes about forty-five minutes to dress & load all the kids... we are quickly running out of time! And will this be well received or am I just going to freak out the neighbours?
We got one batch of cookies made.. phew! Spaghetti sauce was well on its way. Then it was time to tackle "Melina's" cookie recipe.
Good grief! I should have definitely doubled checked!! Mix flour, cut in butter, add yogurt, form dough, roll into ball, REFRIGERATE FOR THIRTY MINUTES (are you kidding me?), then cut into sections, roll out each section.... oh and then it's create inner mixture via food processor, add to individually rolled out pieces, ROLL each piece, then CUT into 1/4 inch slices (which caused each piece to unravel... so in essense it was 'cut each piece, re-stuff it then re-roll it"... ARGH... lay on cookie sheet, bake for... get this... THIRTY MINUTES, turning over once half way through!!! Cripes!!! I doubled this blasted batch!! We are not going to be done making these before nine o'clock at night!!!
The kids are screaming around us, I am barking orders at Melina who is now looking ready to pack her bags and hitch hike her way to "anywhere but here!" and the sauce burned to the bottom while I was trying to make these horrific nightmarish "cookies"! The kitchen is an absolute battle zone of allergens, the kids are now colouring on themselves rather than the Happy Purim cards and someone is now knocking at the door....
Are you kidding me?? (And this is why I live happily in my world of good intentions!!)
By the end of the day, we finally ate our supper around 8:00 pm, the kids were fit to be tied (napless and hungry), Isabel was crying to have her movie restarted, Sivana was an hour past her bedtime, Melina was in tears feeling guilty for the horrific disaster that was "the cookies" and I was nearly crying myself from feeling like I cannot get anything right!!
Happy Purim, everybody!!!
So there you have it, folks, I have successfully revealed to you that I am a hoarder who struggles sharing unconditionally what is not even hers, I yell at my fifteen year old daughter for picking a cookie recipe that I should have double checked, I do not visit elderly neighbours or bring them soup until it is nearly too late, and I thrive cowardly in my world of intentions because I let the real world of action overwhelm me. Any of you want to be my best friend?? (sad laugh)
Oh the work that is needed in my heart makes me sad some days. But those are the humbling moments that remind me never to judge anyone else... to never point out the fleck in someone else's eye due to the monumental log in my own! And as I struggle to be the person I WANT to be, it reminds me to love everyone else for being on that same journey. None of us are perfect... and I think that's what I like most about it... I get to love you from the bottom of my heart (and all its own faults) for simply "being".
God bless you all out there. May this find you laughing at the very challenges in your own life that stretch you and force you to grow... and may you love yourself unconditionally in that process... because SOMEBODY does! And that in my perfect world of returning emails promptly (or at all!) and/or phone calls, I have sought each of you out to hug you and thank you for being here by the sheer will of God! I humbly love you!!