the real work :: a guest post

Manda is a chocolate connoisseur who treads ground as a runner on Canadian soil to keep the calories down. She is passionate about women walking in their God-given beauty and freedom in Christ. Well aware that sanctification is a life long process, she walks daily by the grace of God. This 30 year old, fun-loving Jesus chick, married her husband at just 19 years old. She is the mother to two daughters, Anna (9) and Paige (6), and blogs daily about her own imperfections, personal struggles, faith, and victories at There is a Time.

We walked the streets of Jasper in May. Our little family get-away. Snow-topped mountain peeks hedge this National Park. The air a bit crisp. The sun bright. Our little beauties skipped ahead, full of vigor, as my husband and I made conversation along the way. As we strolled in step, he made mention of the street cleaner. “Look,” he motioned, “That’s wonderful. He’s doing such a good job.”

“Yes he is . . . and you noticed.”

I continually encourage this man of mine. I tell him he makes a difference everyday in the lives of his family, his co-workers, his friends. He provides well. He loves extravagant. He serves wholeheartedly. I truly think he is an incredible man.

In the mundane of everyday, I know he questions if he is doing enough. I get it. I wonder if I am enough or if I am doing enough. All. The. Time. Am I making the most of my life? Am I making a difference? Is there something else I could be doing? Should be doing?

As we looked at this man who was a stranger, my husband broke with emotion. Gratitude and contentment simultaneously showed up on his face. I could tell my words touched something deep.

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several weeks ago, I printed this quote and had it framed. I took it with me to my husband’s office: a little hope sealed behind glass and an ivory matte. I placed it on his desk, for him to read, to view, to be uplifted. Daily or anytime he needed that reminder, it would be there. For his eyes to read and his heart to believe.

No matter what the job. Small or Large. No matter how big or insignificant a job may seem, we can do it with excellence. We can make a difference.

We never spoke a word to the man who was picking up garbage. As he leaned down to grab scraps of paper and trash that people tossed away, he was creating a clean, blissful atmosphere within this little town. He probably goes about his days without much recognition or thanks. Not much notice.

He gave us more then a tidy sidewalk to stroll on, that day. He gave us a picture of true greatness. Distinction. A street sweeper who did his job well.

when a non-dog lover gets one

If you are a person who loves dogs, you probably won’t understand what I’m about to say. And you will desperately try for all kinds of ways to convince me of things. But in the same way that you say people who do not love the dogs just can’t understand, I will tell you that people who love the dogs won’t get me.

The First Night

I sit still in my bed, 3:30am; I’m aware of the little furry body in the crate near the door. I can’t believe I’ve let this thing into my house, into my haven, my balanced home that functions for people. I scratch my leg, then my neck and thoughts of fleas overwhelm me so much that I have to get up. He’s an animal! In my house! The voice teases me loud while I try to reason with it, how American people get dogs. And I’m an American person. Why am not loving this dog?

Because he is a dog. And I am not a person who loves the dogs. I have no compartment for  dog care, no experience for what to do with one. I have never had a dog and I’ve never, ever wanted one. There are no dog-loving pathways in my brain, no memories of dogs past, no times of longing for a dog friend. I feel un-qualified and nervous, like there are dog rules that I don’t know about yet. I also feel distinctly un-patriotic and wonder if people would protest in front of my house if only they knew.

Now before you call the Humane Society, my husband knows about the dogs. He has had the dogs and loves the dogs. And he lives here and I love him, so it works out. In fact, we’ve been married for nine years and there is a laugh I’ve never heard until now. It is the happy dog laugh. And it makes me love him even more. The man, not the dog. But maybe the dog a little.

In preparation for this puppy, I’ve read the Dog Whisperer, and everything he says makes sense. But what if I’m not a person who can do that? I’m not sure anyone realizes how anxious I feel in my bones, how afraid I am to do something wrong, how I both desperately want the dog to like me and also wish he would go away.

And it occurs to me at 4am how the Creator has things he wants to teach me about his creation. For a quick moment, I am thankful for the dog, for the things I am already learning about myself and my unwillingness to trust the process. I am prone to fear, to worry, to dread and the manipulation of outcomes. My first instinct is to resist change and then when it comes, to grieve and worry and sit in my fear.

I have never wanted to change my personality more than I want to in this moment. How I wish I were more laid-back, more open, more free. The last time I felt this type of uneasiness was when we brought babies home from the hospital. And that was something I prepared for, longed for, wanted and still, the anxiety and responsibility weighed heavy.

Yet here I am with a dog in my sunroom, my pretty sunroom made for people. He chews and he gallops and sleeps on my floor like he belongs here. He is an animal and he lives in my house. Houses are not for animals, they are for people, right? And then I remember how I love the people in my house, and how very much my people wanted a dog. And I remember the whispered, prayer of surrender: I’m willing, Lord. Bring the right one, Lord. I know he gives good gifts. I know he longs to provide, even in this. And so I trust even in the midst of my anxiety. I walk the dog, I feed the dog, I even laugh at the dog. It is work, this loving. It does not come natural for me. But really, no love is real without work.

The Second, Third, Fourth & Fifth Night

But all that I said before? That was before the puppy magic. I did not know about the puppy magic. I can’t guarantee I will like your dog. In fact, I probably won’t. But after that first night, something seemed to click, like this little dog has somehow brought an organic rhythm and connection to our family. So dog people? I kind of get it. And non-dog people? I promise I won’t write about this dog anymore. At least, not much. And Finn? Welcome home, buddy. You may have been abandoned by your last owners, but you will not be abandoned by us.

to linger on a tuesday

Goodbyes are not my favorite. Which is why, when the end of summer comes around, I tend to want to rush through it and get out my fall candles and sweaters. Because if I linger too long in the endings, it makes it harder for me to transition to the beginnings.

It’s the same reason why, on the last day of vacation, I want to pack the car the night before and hit the road first thing. There will be no visiting the beach just one more time. There will be no last minute ice cream cones. There is us and there is the car and there is on-our-way-home. Because to linger is to be sad. I don’t like that.

But this summer is different. There is one full week left, and I’ve yet to pull out the pumpkin spice candles. There isn’t a hint of packing away the bathing suits. There is sitting by the pool and slow mornings and jammies ’til noon. There is lots of jumping in just one more time, over and over again.

I’d like to think Tuesday has something to do with this embracing, but it could also be because this is the first true summer break we’ve had now that my kids are school-age. I know the rush that is about to begin. And so I linger.

What are you lingering over today? The guidelines for Tuesdays Unwrapped are here. In summary, link up with the permalink to your unwrapped post, or your link will be deleted. I would also ask, as a courtesy, that you would please link back here to Chatting at the Sky by either using the button or a text link somewhere in your post. Thank you.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

on thin places

As much as I have enjoyed the guest posters who have shared this space with me, I am so glad to be back. Thank you for supporting the guest- posting women, and thank you as well to those of you who have submitted your fine writing. It has been my pleasure to host you.

Sometime last week, this came in the mail. If you haven’t read this post about how I saw Mary DeMuth at She Speaks and didn’t get her to sign my book, you may not know the sigificance of this. But Mary read the post and offered to send me my very own signed copy of her memoir. And she didn’t only offer, she actually did it. I smiled all the way from the mailbox.

I have more to say, but ironically, I won’t be saying it here. I am guest posting over at Mary DeMuth’s site today and sharing about a thin place in my life. Join me there and tell Mary hello?

P.S. Now, I have two copies of Thin Places. Does anyone want my first copy? Leave a comment and I’ll draw a name and send it to you!

on loving :: a guest post

Linda has been married to her high school sweetheart for 43 years and is in the midst of the lovely season of life that includes Grandchildren. She enjoys time spent with her family, quilting, knitting, writing, playing the piano and Bible Study. To learn more about Linda, visit her at Linda’s Patchwork Quilt. Her voice is calming and sweet. I know you’ll enjoy her.

Before we can even get the car doors open they are there, spilling out of the house with cries of “Papa!  Grandma!”  I bend over to grab a little one in my arms, reach up for a hug from a grandson who seems to have grown six inches in the past few weeks, and caress the cheeks of a beautiful granddaughter. Everyone is talking at once as we make our way into the house. There is so much they all want to share. I feel like the most loved, important person in the world.

Try as I will, I cannot make time slow down during these visits. How I long to make a few days stretch into weeks. We play and laugh and talk. I lean in close to hear their hearts – the things that are deeper than words. I carry a camera in my hand wherever we go, trying to capture the moments. I know from experience how quickly they slip through our fingers.

We walk slowly to the car when the visit is over  – one last quick catch, promises to come again soon, hugs and one more hug. The car doors close, and it is time to go. They stand in the driveway, waving until we are out of sight. I miss them before we reach the end of their sub-division. They are so precious to me.

I think about a Father who feels the same way about me. He loves me unconditionally and longs to spend time with me. He wants to hear my heart and share my joys and sorrows. He is never too busy. He has all the time in the world.

But what of me? Do I make Him feel loved and cherished? Do I look forward to hearing what He has to say or has prayer become more like a duty?  Do I rest in His presence without counting the minutes – my mind already on the next thing I must do?

Surely He is deserving of so much more. I want Him to feel the way I feel when my grandchildren run to greet me. I want to give Him one of those hugs my grandson gives – the kind that make me wonder if my ribs might actually crack! I want to love Him with my whole heart, and I want Him to know it.