"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Monday, 28 January 2013

On Grieving

Grief has the potential to smack you across the face when you last expect it.  We think we get over things, that we move on and forget, that we're only strong when we've conquered feelings of loss, but it's not true.

This morning started out poorly as I watched last night's tearjerker episode of Downton Abbey, but then I went on to face the day just like any other.  Oddly enough, it was the smallest thing - unclogging my drain with a wrench that my former step-father gave me years ago - that drew a wave of grief and sadness over me.  I don't think I'll ever feel free to share the details of what happened with my step-dad, because it's more my mom's story than mine, but the gist of it is that he was a part of our life for many years, and his leaving us was a drawn-out and messy process.  Despite that, I miss him sometimes.  He stood alongside me and loved me when I was not very lovable.  I grieve that the old closeness with him is gone, even though I know it was best for everyone that he leave.

Dealing with others' reactions has been hardest part of dealing with my step-dad's loss.  So many people talk as though I could just flip a switch and stop loving him.  As though all of the bad that happened had made me forget everything good that came before.  By that way of thinking it is ridiculous to grieve him now, many years later.  On the other hand, feelings often just don't make sense, and to force them into logic is to suppress my own healing.  So on days like this, I let myself cry and grieve, knowing that this, too, shall pass.  Despite what some well-meaning Christians may claim, having the joy of the Lord does not mean I no longer experience sadness.  Rather, I seek to enjoy God's presence in the worst of times.  I am always comforted by John 11:35, when Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, because it shows Christ's humanity.  He knew Lazarus would live, yet he wept for the pain Lazarus had undergone and for the grief his friends were experiencing.  And you and I can weep too when grief overtakes us, knowing Him who shares our burdens and sorrows.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Going Natural

For the past year or so, I've been trying out ways to use more natural and homemade products around our home. I wouldn't exactly call myself a hippie, but I am growing concerned about the amount of chemicals in our houses, and often using homemade products is more cost-effective too.  I know there are people who make nearly everything, and I've seen recipes online for homemade laundry detergent, shampoo, hairspray, etc.  Personally, I don't make anything that's really time-intensive.  I could try making laundry detergent, but with only two of us around, I'm okay buying more expensive natural products as it takes ages to go through a package.  On the other hand, if a product is fairly easy to make at home, why not do that and save ourselves a little exposure to toxins?

Here are some of the homemade products I currently use:

Cleaning:  I am in love with baking soda.  I use it to scrub the bathtub and the stove top and deodorize the basement carpets.  I also pour some into the toilet tank to clean.  It is super-easy and so cheap.  Honestly, I tried a million times to clean the scuff marks in our old condo tub... When I finally tried baking soda, it was a snap.  I also use a mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean the toilet and the kitchen counters.

Conditioner:  I've been out of conditioner for ages, so last week, I finally tried a home-made alternative.  I have a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar and water (1 part vinegar; 4 parts water).  I spray it on my hair after washing, then rinse it out.  One week in, and my hair feels softer than ever.  I'm loving this and will never go back to overpriced store-bought conditioners!

Deodorant:  Occasionally, I get freaked out about aluminum in deodorant, but I don't particularly like most of the natural products sold in stores.  Last year I tried out this recipe and I love it.  It only takes a few minutes to whip up, and it smells great and works well.  The only issue I've found is that the deodorant gets a bit melty in hot weather, so I keep it in the fridge and have a natural alternative for when we're traveling in the summer or to hot places.

Here's a couple of other blog posts with some great natural alternatives.

What about you?  Is going natural a priority for you?  Do you have any tips?  Or, on the other hand, have you tried any homemade products that just did NOT work?

Monday, 21 January 2013

More Cat Adventures

Remember that time when my cat ran away and I got all emotional, then posted a lengthy piece on her eventual reappearance?  Well, Sadie is getting into more adventures lately, and because I'm a crazy cat lady I like cats, I'm sharing them with you, dear readers.

Last night around 1 a.m., I was awakened by strange yowling and moaning noises from the living room.  Being such a caring cat owner, I stayed in bed until I couldn't ignore them any longer.  I found Sadie staring out onto the porch at... another cat!

There was a beautiful grey and white kitty on the porch meowing at us.  He/she stared right at me for quite a while, not running away when I turned on the porch light.  I wasn't sure what to do. Was this a stray who needed food?  I've actually seen this particular cat several times.  Last week, it was carousing in our backyard with a feline friend, and one night last summer, it came onto our porch. Sadie was obviously freaked out by this other cat, but she wouldn't leave the window and yowled when I tried to pet her.

Then, further drama:  Another cat appeared!  This new arrival had long fur and was in the shadows.  It appeared to be the grey and white cats buddy, because they sniffed each others ears.  (So cute!)  At this point, I turned out the lights and the feline visitors departed.  I carried Sadie into our room and tried to calm her down.  The nighttime drama was over.

Here's my issue thought, friends:  Last night was quite cold, and it was not the first time I have seen this cat out in frigid weather.  Neither cat seemed to have a collar to indicate that it was an outdoor cat.  Who lets their pet out overnight in freezing winter weather?  What should I do if this happens again?

Gratuitous cat photo

P.S.  Speaking of ridiculous cat postings, have you seen this video????

Monday, 14 January 2013

Resolutions, Intentions, and Planning for a New Year

I'm not huge on making new year's resolutions. For much of my life, my resolutions typically involved health and weight-loss... even at those times when I really didn't need to lose weight. Moreover, these resolutions were generally abandoned a few weeks into the year. With this not-so-excellent track record, I've become wary of making resolutions. On the other hand, I am a big fan of goal-setting and looking ahead. This has become a bit more important for me now that I am married and have a house and have realized that I can no longer put things into the category of “I'll do that LATER when I'm grown up/settled/etc.” Life seems to be moving faster and faster as I get older. If I want to learn something or get into a new habit, I really should be doing it now, especially if it's something that will benefit my faith journey, my marriage, or my future children.

This has led me to think more deeply about what I want to achieve this year. I can think of lots of things that I should be changing, but which ones are most important? Instead of making one-off resolutions, I want to think about where I want to be in 2014, and make resolutions to help get me there. One of my university friends has a more comprehensive and far-sighted attitude to looking into the new year. She sets out both goals and intentions. The goals are things that are achievable by her own strength. (N.B. “Achievable” does not imply that they are easy!) Obviously, I know that all things are done through God and His strength, but the general idea is that a goal is something I can do without relying someone or something to be involved. For example, I could make a goal to run a marathon this year. I know I can do this, because I've run a half-marathon before, and if I pushed, could do more. This could be derailed by injury or illness, but otherwise, I could do it (although I have no plans to). An intention is something you want to do, but even if you do everything possible, it still might not happen. For example, you may want to get a new job this year, or to pregnant, or to make new friends. You can do things to help make your intention a reality, but you can't make it happen on your own.

After some thinking and praying, I wrote down a few goals and intentions for the year ahead, and I made a resolutions to do with each of them. I won't tell them all, because some are more personal, but I'll share one goal and one intention.

Goal: To grow in faith this year. I wrote this as a goal, although I suppose it's also an intention because God needs to take part in it. Nevertheless, I know that when my faith walk is not strong, it's usually because I have been lazy in prayer and Bible reading, and I know that the Word says if I draw near to God, He will draw near to me.

Action: Journaling. I used to journal alllllll the time, to pour out all my thoughts into volumes of notebooks, but since getting married, my journal entries have been woefully sparse. Writing in a journal does not make me holy, of course, but I find it helpful to be intentional about writing down what I am learning and keeping track of my prayer requests, etc. I love looking back on old journals and being reminded of what God did in my life during that time period. This year, I have resolved to journal at least once per week.

Intention: To make new friends and strengthen existing friendships. I've written a couple of times about how it's been difficult to make friends. After reading one of my previous posts, a friend suggested I check out the book MWF Seeking BFF, which relates one woman's experiences trying to make friends in a new city. The author also adds a lot of research on friendship, what makes people click, etc. It was an interesting read, and one thing I took out of it is that in this stage of life, making friends takes effort. The author put herself out there and consistently tried to meet with new people and then to follow-up on good matches. The book reminded me that I cannot continue to do almost nothing, and then lament that I haven't made any friends.

Action: Put myself out there more. Ask potential friends out for coffee. Invite people over (even though they might see how messy our house is). Get better at staying in touch with my current friends. We'll see how this goes...

As you all know, another of my resolutions is to read more books about marriage, and try to apply what I've learned. I've picked up the Timothy Keller book and am excited to share about it in the future.

So what about you? Do you have a resolution or goal for this year?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

New Year, New Couch

Time for a completely frivolous post! I've been meaning to post something more substantial about the new year, but this week has been super-hectic, so deeper thoughts will have to wait.

Today our new couch arrived, the first brand new couch of my adult life. I can't wait to start really setting up the living room, which has been in a holding pattern while we figured out our seating situation. The old red couch, which is actually HALF of a sectional that once belonged to Gil's friend, will go to the basement where it will match with our yellow walls. I am so happy to feel like I am halfway to having a grown-up living room... Just in time for when I host my Bible study group next Thursday.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

True Love...

We had a guest speaker at church to give the sermon today. He spoke about healing in marriage, and he made one statement that really stood out to me: “True love is defined when you're hurt.”

It's easy to love your spouse when things are going well, when he's just suggested going out to dinner so neither of you has to cook, when she's woken up early to make you coffee before work, etc. Those are the moments when you post, “I have the BEST husband” as your facebook status. It's harder to be loving when your spouse has hurt you, or even when you're feeling hurt by someone else. That is when you are tempted to retreat or react, rather than responding with love. Husbands are called to love their wives EVEN when they're being unloving, and wives are called to respect their husbands EVEN when they're making mistakes that could cause our respect to dwindle.  True love chooses to love and respect, even when the temptation is not to.

These aren't earth-shattering or brand new ideas, but I guess it cemented something I already knew and have experienced. A few months after Gil and I started dating, I remember being really really angry at him about something. He was driving in from Toronto, and I was fuming while I waited for him to arrive, imagining all the things I would say to him when he finally got there. All of a sudden, I was struck by the fact that it was later in the evening and he likely hadn't eaten dinner... and maybe lunch as well. I fought with myself, knowing I should make something for him to eat, but not wanting to because I was so mad. In the end, I boiled some frozen Chinese dumplings, and in the end, I basically handed him the bowl when he arrived, right before I told him all the reasons I was upset. Needless to say, he was a bit perplexed! Still, I think it helped him realized that even though I was angry, I still cared about him deeply. Unfortunately, there have been many other angry moments, when I definitely have not been that loving.

On that note, it's official that I will start out my marriage book reading with Timothy and Cathy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. It's on hold for me at the library and should be available soon. I'm looking forward to reading it and posting some of my thoughts. Thanks to everyone who voted!

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 
 Romans 12:17-21