Thursday, February 02, 2017

What's saving my life right now?


In the introduction of her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about how she was once invited to speak at a church in Alabama. She asked the priest what he would like her to speak on, and he replied, "Come tell us what's saving your life right now." Taylor says, 

It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground. I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone.... All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on.

Today Modern Mrs. Darcy is having a "What's saving your life?" linkup on her blog. Early February--when the glow of Christmas is past and spring seems a long way off--seems to be a suitable time for this kind of stock-taking, so I thought I'd join in and write about the things that come to mind when I ask myself, "What's saving my life right now?" 

They're not dramatic, earth-shattering things, really; I don't want to give the impression that I'm dangling off the edge of a cliff by my fingernails. But life can be stressful. And we all have things, big and small, that make us feel strengthened, encouraged, and grounded. Here are a few of mine.

1.  Writing poetry. I've found it hard to immerse myself in big writing projects these past few months, but I have been doing quite a bit of work on my poetry. I've been using Tanya Runyan's book How to Write a Poem as a guide to help me generate and revise my poems. Poetry is a slow art that involves a lot of revision and constant tweaking of a word here, a line break there. It's hard to get it just right, but it's a great feeling when it "clicks." To me, writing poetry is the perfect combination of relaxation and hard work.

2. Pizza night. We've been doing this every week for years, usually on Saturday night. When the kids were small it used to be just Richard and me, but now Allison joins us: we eat after Jonathan's gone to bed. We have homemade pizza with dough made in the bread machine, topped with oven-roasted turkey (the kind you get thin-sliced in deli packages; we like this as an alternative to ham), tomatoes, pineapple (actually we keep one quadrant pineapple-free for Allison), and cheese. While we eat we watch one Andy Griffith Show episode; then we have ice cream; then we play a game. When the pizza is in the oven and I start to smell it baking, I just go, "Ahhh." It's such a comforting, cosy routine.

3. Extend-a-Family. Extend-a-Family is a great local organization that provides respite day programs for special-needs kids and adults. Jonathan has been going to their programs for seven or eight years now. He attends their summer camp, Christmas camp, March Break camp, and a couple of Saturday programs a month. This week he's been going to EAF every day because it's high-school exam week, and his school program doesn't run. EAF is a real home-away-from-home for Jonathan, and we're so grateful for it. It's great for him to have something structured to attend when his regular activities are disrupted. At left is a picture of Jonathan with Nick, his best friend from camp.

4. My OneNote notebook in MS Office. I was just thinking the other day how useful this application is. I rely on it particularly for the online course I instruct: I use it at least 10 times a day to keep track of students' marks and progress, make lists of things I want to edit or update in future courses, and file information from various campus sites and services that pertain to my course. In other folders in the notebook I keep recipes, lists of songs I've used when leading my women's study group worship time at church, favourite quotes, cover letters I've written for submissions to literary journals, books people have recommended to me .... and more. There are probably lots of other great notebook programs out there, but this is the one I use. I'd be a lot less organized without it.

  5. Flannel-lined pants. Seriously: I got these pants on sale at Mark's Work Wearhouse and they are so cosy! I walk a lot in winter for exercise, and sometimes I don't want the bulk of snow pants, so these are perfect. They're a little long, so I can turn up the cuff to let the plaid show, Bay City Rollers-style.

6. Taking one day at a time. This may seem like a strange one; it's not like there's any alternative to living one day after another. But as a mindset, it helps me a lot. Just this week Allison was making plans to reactivate her university acceptance after deferring it for one year. She said the prospect made her feel stressed, but I reminded her that going to university is something you do one step at a time, not all at once. And that's true of all of life. I'm a worrier, so I try to live out all the steps in advance and anticipate all the potential problems and their solutions -- but in fact I can only live from one moment to the next. I can only take one step and then another, not all the steps at the same time.  

One of my favourite Bible passages says that God's mercies never fail and are "new every morning." (Lamentations 3:22-23) This encourages me because so often I go to bed feeling discouraged, like I've really blown it -- especially with my kids. But grace is in fresh supply every day; it doesn't drain away at the end of the day, forcing me to scrounge for it tomorrow. When I realize that God's grace is abundant, renewed fresh every day, I can go forward into that day.


What about you? What's saving your life right now?
  






21 comments:

  1. Thanks Jeannie for sharing! I think for me right now whats saving me is - reading (really putting that first over tv and social media), being creative (through my new business), time with friends (trying to get out of my introvert rut and plan more times with friends), and getting up early and going to bed on time (this is very new to me but I love my new morning routine and the quiet of it).

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    1. Hey Amy! Thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about reading instead of TV and social media -- so much more meaningful and thought-provoking. And I TOTALLY understand the introvert rut thing. I get so much out of being with people (like our group for example) when I do it -- but my instinct is always to withdraw. As an introvert I need my alone time, but it's not the only thing I need, and I have to remember that. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  2. Thanks for this Jeannie!! I love the simple, but enjoyable ones you shared, like Pizza night! What is seriously saving my life right now: Worship music; Peanutbutter banana smoothies; Friday night movies with my hubby; the Word of God; Prayer; Fellowship with other women are my top ones!

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    1. That sounds good, Melinda. Peanut butter banana smoothies sound so good; I've never had one! And the movie nights sound great too. What did you watch together most recently?

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  3. Yes to flannel lined pants! They are absolutely a life saver in the Minnesota winter!

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    1. I can imagine! I'm in Kingston, Ontario, in the relatively balmy south from you. :-) I recently read Addie Zierman's Night Driving (have you read that one? it's really good) and it was the Minnesota winter that caused her to take her 2 little kids on a 2-week road trip to Florida (on her own). Maybe she should have tried flannel lined pants first....

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  4. I love cozy, comfy routines and I rely heavily on OneNote at work, too! Your thoughts on Lamentations are so warm and inviting, exactly what we need in this stretch of winter. Thanks for sharing.

    What's saving my life right now: https://rachelforrest.me/2017/02/02/saving-me-right-now/

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    1. Hi Rachel - am eager to see your list too, because I always enjoy what you write! Thanks for coming by to read and comment.

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  5. Thanks, Jeannie. Pizza night reminds me of you and the great times we had going to the gym together while our husbands played squash and ending the evening with pizza. Seems like a life time ago! Going for a run or walk in the woods saves my life.

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    1. Hi Lori - yes, I remember those carefree days. :-) Something made me think of Robo-Chick the other day!! Remember she'd play that Cotton Eyed Joe song? CRAZY SCARY!! :-D

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  6. I love your number 6. I've been striving to practice that too as my husband is about to join the military and will be gone for 9 weeks. Keeping my focus on today helps lessen the anxiety.
    I linked up with MMD too (http://www.thebamblog.com/whats-saving-my-life-right-now/)! This was such a fun and life-giving exercise. I enjoyed your list!

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    1. Just read your post and commented, Brittany. Thanks so much for visiting here and leaving a comment. I hope things go well when your husband is gone.

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    2. Thank you! (And thanks for visiting my blog! so nice to meet new blogging friends)

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  7. What a great post Jeannie! Here is my list:
    Knitting for my grandson due in May❤️
    Playing scrabble with my hubby after dinner on the iPad
    Drinking David's Tea after dinner...choosing which kind is the hardest part because we have so many kinds to choose from!
    Reading funny tweets every night to my hubby...I call them our "laugh devotions" because there is nothing like laughing for 15 minutes every night before you fall asleep 🤣
    Reading books!
    Oh... and having 🥓 bacon every Saturday morning!

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    1. That is such a great list, Jamie. I totally agree with you on the laughing part!

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  8. I loved your post. Flannel lined pants are a big thing for my husband this winter. You wouldn't think you needed those in Arizona, but oh boy you do when you are a mile high. Number 6 is a big winner for me too. My husband has been dealing with a lot of work issues and we have been praying on it daily and each day God gives him enough strength.
    Have a great weekend Jeannie. I have never been to the particular link up at Modern Mrs Darcy, but I may check it out. You shared it well. :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly - I appreciate hearing from you again (I didn't do FMF this week because of doing this "What's saving your life" post, but I really enjoy the FMF tradition too.) Well, that's really interesting about the flannel pants; if I ever go to Arizona (it's becoming a huge vacation spot for other Ontarians I know),I will be sure to bring them along. :-)

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  9. Flannel lined pants for the win, Jeannie!

    And while I'm not a fan of Barbara Brown Taylor's theology, I am a fan of her word craft. That excerpt you used at the top immediately allowed me to see what she got from the priest that night.

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    1. Yes, I think she's a wonderful writer. Sweeping the dusty china off the table -- that's perfect! I don't necessarily agree with her conclusions about Christianity either -- but I like the kinds of questions she asks, and I like the way she finds value and spiritual significance in the mundane things of life.

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  10. What a beautiful post, Jeannie. Your pizza night makes me smile. Sounds lovely. And living one day at a time. Yes, I need to do more of that. Had kind of a stressful weekend, and I'd have to say that this morning, God's Word is saving my life! Hope, encouragement, strength. It's all there. :)

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    1. I'm glad to hear that, Betsy -- not that you had a stressful weekend, but that you're finding encouragement from God. It's amazing, isn't it, how God speaks to us through those words. They never fail us - because He never does. Thanks for reading and commenting, and I hope your week goes really well.

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