23 September 2017

Five Minute Friday ~ Accept

It is hard to accept criticism.


I think the primary reason is pride. I also think our current world where image means so much and people (myself included) attempt to cultivate their desired image via social media, etc., only feeds that pride and makes it an even greater temptation.

True. Sometimes the criticism is offered with less than altruistic motives. Does that give me the right to not listen, just because the person spoke at least partial truth to me with less than honorable, purely unselfish motives? Ideally, that wouldn't be the situation, but in reality, it is - probably as often as not. So, do I discard those words without personal reflection because I'm disgruntled by the one (or his/her manner) who offered them? 

Then, sometimes criticism it is just offered. 

What do I mean by that? 

Let me explain, for I'm often guilty as charged.

The other day I "criticized" someone in my family, not upset, not angry... just observing something done without reflection that could have been done better and simply hoping to teach a better way. I asked who had put the salad we'd eaten for dinner away in the fridge, without an appropriate cover for the bowl. Said person owned up right away. I replied that the salad needed to be transferred to a better container and the lid put on, or all of the lettuce would wilt.  

Said person, I think, was both a little hurt and mildly offended. After all, said person had taken the initiative to help me with dinner clean-up and all I did was criticize.

True - I could have "done" the criticism better. Actually - no excuses - I should have. 

But I wasn't thinking of it as criticism. I was thinking of it as teaching (and that teaching should have been done better, as well). I'm a teacher and a mom of eight. Teaching comes very naturally to me, almost as naturally as breathing. So when I saw something that should have been done differently, could have been done better, the teacher in me spoke up. 

When others are criticizing me or something I've done, why can't I look at it more like that. More like someone is giving of their time to teach me, to help me become better and put myself into the position of being teachable?

I've recently spent some time reflecting on criticism and what the Bible has to offer on the subject. I think I'll finish with some of those thoughts:

  • Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. (Psalm 141:5)
  • Teach me, and I will keep quiet. Show me what I have done wrong. (Job 6:24)
  • If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. (Proverbs 15:32)
  • People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray. (Proverbs 10:17)
  • Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
  • The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (Proverbs 27:9)
  • Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. (Proverbs 29:1)

19 September 2017

"To die would be an awfully big adventure!"

Or actually, not! At least not according to Mary Michelle.

She prefers the "To live would be an awfully big adventure" version of that quote.

But she is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the toughest little eight-year-olds I know.

Last Saturday, a few of us (Tim, Richelle, Anna, and M&M) decided we wanted to take advantage of our about-to-expire yearly membership to Parks Quebec - which gives our family all the access we could want to the Jacques Cartier National Park.

Early afternoon, we left home for our first adventure in our Matrix (the Toyota kind... no pill swallowing involved!), en route to the Jacques.

Mountains in the distance as we head towards the park.

Another mountain, names for "Les frères Wright" - thus why we want to climb this one too... someday!
Looking for a decent workout, we decided to give one of the difficult trails a try. Anna has been begging us for over three years now to hike to the summit of one of the mountains in the park. We knew it might be a challenge for M&M, but considering we were three more-or-less adults, we figured we could get her up there. And, if the trail proved too difficult, I'd turn around with the half-pint and we'd let Tim and Anna scale the heights. 
  • 6.8 kilometers, one way
  • two primary overlooks
  • the gal at the Discovery Center's words: "If you make the first overlook, keep on going. It is much easier than the first part of the trail."
  • 4:30 in the afternoon
  • 3 large water bottles
  • 4 Kit Kat bars ("For a bit of trail nourishment," says Tim as he purchases the candy.)
We started up the trail. 

I'm telling you, don't mess with this kid!

This was pretty typical of the rockiness of the trail.

KitKat break

Cooling off

Obligatory "Pride Rock" pose, without a Simba, so the water bottle stood in.

It was steep, there were lots of rocks and roots, but we reached the first overlook by 5:30 in the afternoon.

Then, we decided to continue on. After all, that was what the lady had told us. Bad life decision, but more on that later.

The remainder of the trail wasn't as steep, although there were some trickier rocky places to negotiate, especially for our half-pint. 

We knew we were close here!

We could see all the way back down to the Discovery Center!

Taking in the view.

Anna and I arrived about 5 minutes before Tim and M&M.


No time to rest. It was just after 6 pm, and we had a lot of kilometers to cover before dark.

We didn't make it. Even though the upper part of the trail was less steep and physically demanding, the rocks and trail condition made it tricky and it took us as long to get down that part as it had climbing up. On top of that, M&M's shoes were too small - she hadn't mentioned it and I hadn't thought to check prior to leaving the house. Walking down meant her toes were slamming into the end of her shoes every step, and it hurt. (I think she's going to lose a couple of toenails as a result.) By 7:15, it was getting really hard to see, and Tim turned his cell phone flashlight on. Unfortunately, the battery died within 10 minutes.

We still had over 2 km to go before we'd be back to the parking lot, and it was the hardest, steepest parts of the trail with lots of crevices running across the path, sharp turns, and small rock steps that were about half M&M's height. Speaking of her, she was terrified of the prospect of animals. 

At about this point, we tried to see if we could phone the park rangers and ask someone to bring us a legit flashlight. That was when we discovered that the paper with the number had been left in the car (but the Kit Kats made it!). Even worse, we had no phone service even though we had been able to make a call just a little bit higher up the mountain. 

Anna took the lead. I held/helped/lifted/carried M&M. Tim held my phone with just the LED light up so that we could see... a tiny bit. And little by little, we worked our way down the mountain, in the dark. Anna sang silly songs (she's good at that). Here's our favorite, sung to the tune of Veggie Tales' "Keep Walking," with slightly modified lyrics. 

Keep walking! Better watch out for that rock!
Keep walking! Will this trail ever stop!
It's plain to see that our brains are very small
To go walking down a mountain in the dark!

Amazingly (God is very gracious to us, often in the midst of our stupidity), my phone was at 57% battery when we started using it. When we finally reached the parking lot and our car, it was at 51%. Before we'd driven the 16 km to exit the park, it had crashed to 35%. We saw and heard no animals. No one was seriously hurt... just a few stubbed toes, M&M's poor toenails, a twisted ankle and very sore muscles.

Lessons learned/a few observations made:
  1. Always bring a flashlight with fresh batteries when you go hiking, regardless.
  2. Matches and a flare gun might not be a bad idea either.
  3. Make sure someone knows what trail you are hiking.
  4. Realistically assess the situation and don't depend on the information of young gals standing behind desks. In other words, use common sense.
  5. All of those Bible verses about blind leading the blind took were much more powerful.
  6. The brightness of an LED light reflected off a white metallic trail marker is astonishing.
  7. Going down can be much more work than going up.
  8. There are strength and security in numbers - I'm so glad we were four and not just one or two.
  9. What was scary to me wasn't necessarily scary to others. M&M was terrified of the prospect of animals. Tim was afraid the battery would die on my phone. I was afraid for our kids back home if we would have had to find a place to stay the night because, without the LED light, it would have been impossible to continue down the mountain without serious injury. Anna was afraid she'd run out of songs to sing.
Perhaps the most striking observation... which, interestingly, was more or less echoed the next day at church in one of our discussion groups: When we are surrounded by profound darkness, even the dimmest of lights has great potential to illuminate, encourage and be even more brightly reflected.

Once we reached the parking lot, we found three tracks shoved under the windshield wipers of our car - a clear reminder that while Quebec may seem a spiritually dark place, God's light is present and is making a difference.

04 September 2017

Five Minute Friday ~ Neighbor{hoods} and Community

I've spent the majority of my Labor Day Weekend out wandering around several different neighborhoods...  My sore and tired back and legs attest to that fact every time I try to move! My littlest littler would agree, as she was hoofin' it along right beside me - at least most of the time! We were busy helping friends distribute door hanger advertisements, and for their participation, our kids earn a little bit of cash they'll use to help finance basketball participation this school year.

Showing off her blue "raspberry" tongue - from the Slurpy she earned because of her great attitude, even though this weekend consisted of a LOT of hard work and effort.

Then, the one day in our long weekend when I wasn't supervising M&M's child labor efforts, hubby and I decided to go exploring in our new neighborhood. Please note the elevation change: down 53 m, up 70 m - one way. We had to do the reverse returning home, over a round trip distance of just shy of km.

We jokingly (?) wondered if we'd stumbled through a secret wardrobe and tripped into Narnia...

We live in a beautiful neighborhood that is part of a truly lovely city. We even mentioned it as we were walking: sometimes we feel the need to pinch ourselves to make sure we aren't dreaming. 

Just down the road and around the corner, an easy walk from chez nous (i.e. our house) is a hair stylist who has her salon in the basement of her home. Tori has a new hair cut (one of the ladies in the school office told her she was "just a tiny bit of a rebel" with her new do)  that requires regular maintenance and so we stopped in the other day to see if it was something they could do. We made appointments for both Tori and me. I had mine the other day and the gal did a fabulous job - at least she did what I asked. She cut it so that I could make it look like the photo AND so that it also still looks passable even on those days (actually most days) I don't have time to style it. I know that for a fact because after I supervised M&M the other day, we went swimming in the pool for a few minutes and then went out to see a super cool performance. I did NOTHING to my hair, literally. Like I ran my fingers through it, finger parted and didn't touch it again. The result?

In all my walking time the past three days, however, I've been thinking: We can land in wonderful neighborhoods and thank God for placing us there. However, the ball is then in our court. He leaves it up to us to start building community - finding things we have in common with our neighbors and using those commonalities to nurture relationships. 

And we are getting some of those opportunities: the hairdresser, our neighborly neighbor who came over late one night to let us know that our pool was overflowing (and apologized profusely for disturbing me late in the evening, but he and his wife had been so impressed with our little girls and their willingness to do do semi-polar plunges just because they loved the pool), the lady who walks her dog down our street and her dog looks a lot like our Monty, the kids who are playing at the park at the end of our street, others who frequent the "leave a book, take a book" mini-library just on the other side of the golf course, our neighbor who has gardens to die for and I wonder if he'd be willing to give us a few tips for next summer...

But it takes a little courage, a little gumption and a willingness to be more extroverted than I am normally, to listen to the Spirit and to know when to try and open my mouth to start those initial conversations.


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