Wednesday, 29 February 2012

leap day blackout and dream homes

I remember the thrill of the power going off in my childhood home. We lived on a farm in the country. Blackouts occurred during thunder or winter storms. I liked them best when they happened in the evening. Then the whole house fell silent, and Mom and Dad would get out the kerosene lanterns and candle sticks, and I would start imagining I was Laura in Little House on the Prairie. Going to bed by candlelight was especially thrilling.

So when the power went out today from 2:15pm until 6:15pm today, I knew my kids would love it. Zoe raced out of school, thrilled that the lights had been out for the last hour of school. I took the long way home to avoid the traffic lights, which were out too. The girls giggled all the way, planning the fun things they were going to do now that the power was out.

Why is there this thrill about having the power out?

It seems to make life, or our choices, more simple. It certainly limits them. Shegofa compared it to Afghanistan, where they have electricity in only the rich areas of the city. In other areas, they have power one day, then none the next.

But we depend on it for our food. Sure, for today we could eat sandwiches and things from our powered-off fridge, but heating things up? There's no appliance in our house that could do that - well, maybe the barbeque. And heat? Our gas fireplace in the basement would still work, but that's it.

The winter stew I had planned for supper would have to wait for another evening. Tonight it would be take-out from a grocery store across town that still had power. The table was set with candles and an oil lantern. But just minutes before we sat down, the power came back on, and with it, the buzz of the fridge and the hum of the furnace and the warm air filling the room, and a feeling of warmth. We would not have to shiver under covers tonight.

But in how many homes in our world do they shiver every night? I'm so conscious of this right now. We're in the midst of house-hunting. This time feels much different than when we bought our first house 6 years ago. For this one, it feels like we're playing for keeps. Which puts the pressure on in a different way too. We've had two disappointments - one just this past Monday - where we've put in offers and they've fallen through. Because we're competitive, when someone ELSE gets the house, it seems even better than what we had initially thought. Then we REALLY want it. But I keep thinking of Shegofa's family in Afghanistan - where they have no heat at night, and their winter has been much worse than ours. Where they don't have electricity. Where they haven't ever shopped for their dream home, but just a home. So then I feel selfish for wanting a nicer home.

What does your dream home look like? Mine has a hearth, of course. And space to host others (which our present home seriously lacks). And some older elements. And some natural elements. And a maid.

And you?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

holding the wild: chickadee magic

I have found my new winter love (thanks to a dear friend): feeding chickadees from the palms of our hands. For several summers now, we have loved finding monarch caterpillars and watching them transform to butterflies. Well, this is our way to connect with nature's wild in the cold of winter.

I had heard about this before, but this was my first time doing it: standing frozen still, waiting for a chickadee to bravely land on my hand to feast on seeds.

It was magical. Eden stood with her eyes closed, waiting for a bird to come. I asked her later why she did this. She said, "I was trying to be a tree." Her patience amazed me - hand stretched out, eyes closed. Then when a little bird would come, a smile would creep across that closed-eye face.

Zoe found a quiet place among the trees to stand and wait.

Don't let me fool you, though. These photos do not tell the whole story. They make it look like there was just beauty and magic. But there was wildness too, and not in the nice sense. In the siblings fighting sense. Like "it's MY turn now!" or "You already had one, go over there so that I can get one!" or "I got 8. How many did YOU get?"

Do you see the jealousy in her eyes? It's there.

But what a privilege: to hold the wild, if only for a moment.

chickadee dee dee from Rebecca Seiling on Vimeo.

Song: "Littlest Birds" by The Be Good Tanyas

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

sharing the love on Valentine's day

I loved Valentine's Day as a kid. As a teenager - not so much - the candy grams and roses that could be purchased in the cafeteria and the pressure to coupledom drove me a bit crazy. Made me feel alone some years, rather than loved. And that I should be part of a couple to feel whole, which I thought was dumb.

I've never been a fan of it as a romantic holiday, but celebrating Valentine's Day with my family is just fun - I get my kindergarten teacher hat on and go with the theme - hearts, hearts, everywhere.

The only time I've made meatloaf in the last 2 years is on this special holiday. Do you know why? It's not because my husband loves it, it's because you can cut it into cute heart shapes and put a nice red ketchup heart on top. I wanted to do the mashed potatoes in a heart shape too - on each person's plate - but Derek told me (with his look) that this was going too far.

Zoe's supper face
We had our valentine's supper last night because tonight won't work. After the theme-shaped meatloaf, we passed around construction paper hearts - one for each person. We each thought of something nice to "fill their bucket" and wrote this on the heart. We passed them around one by one and Eden (5 years) said, "I love this!" She got into the writing too, and wrote either "You are fun," "You are funny," or "You are fablis" (fabulous). The two youngest wanted to read their valentines to the rest of us  - they were proud of the words that were shared with them.

We also put hearts on our world map for some of the people that we know who live overseas. This map is by our kitchen table, and it's a reminder to pray/think about these people in various places.

Eden asked Derek to draw a Valentine's picture for me. This is what he drew:

It's an interesting, fictitious wedding proposal picture. Can you see the shiny ring in his hand? He has never been down on one knee to ask me anything. Our proposal went kind of like this: "so, should we get married?" "I think so. What do you think?" "Ya, I think so too." "Ok, well - when?"

That was it. No bent knee, no ring. I wanted ankle bracelets instead. That's just the kind of girl I am.

Getting back to this holiday today - for me, it's about sharing the love - the love that's expressed within our family, but also from our family out to others.

Monday, 6 February 2012

modern day prophet

I've been thinking lately about the prophetic voice and who are our modern day prophets.

Well, on Groundhog Day (Feb. 2), I met one.

I know this because she told me so in the waiting room of the contact lens clinic. Anne was seated next to me, quite gregarious and loud with silver-tipped French-manicured nails and purple highlights in her jet black hair. I'd say that Anne could most probably be in her late 50s and could most definitely talk my ears off.

We (she) talked about manners and kids-these-days, how kids need limits, and the legalism of the Catholic church. I mentioned I'm Mennonite. "Oh, well they have too many rules too." Anne is a born-again Christian who met Jesus at her kitchen sink 20 years ago.

She doesn't go to church, though, because she has found that God isn't there.

"Isn't it lonely?" I asked.

"Would you rather be alone or married to a man you don't love?" she responded.

I knew this was a trick question, so I stayed silent.

Anne responded, "We need to eat wheat - that's our daily bread. But people at church are being fed darnel. Do you know what darnel is? It's a weed that looks exactly like wheat, but it has a poison in it that puts people to sleep. When's the last time you saw someone falling asleep in church? It happens ALL THE TIME! That's because they're being fed DARNEL, not wheat."

I pondered this for a moment.

"I'm a modern day prophet," said Anne.

"Oh, is this what you sense your role is?" I asked.

"No. It's what God told me I am." she said.

"So, do you just see someone and sense what you're supposed to say to them?" I asked.

"No. God knows what they need to hear. Not me. I'm just allowing God to work through me. I've been doing it for years. God gives me a message, and I write it on a piece of paper or I tell them."

What's my message, God? I couldn't help but silently pray/ask this just because I'm so darn curious. Never, in one million years, could I have guessed what God's message, through Anne, was going to be.

We moved into little cubicles to wait for the optometry students to see us. But Anne walked back to my cubicle to tell me more. She had to whisper because the students were finishing a lecture in the adjoining lecture hall.

Anne is against infant baptism, baptism by sprinkling, and baptism by immersion in a tub in your church that holds everyone else's germs in it. The only true baptism, she said, is one in a river which washes your sins away to the sea of forgetfulness. I had never heard of this place before.

Anne hates the church but loves spending time with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. She asks God questions, and God answers.

"What kind of questions?" I asked.

"I asked him why is there sex. There's so much evil that comes from it - rape, abuse, you know. Why can't we just spit on our hands and shake them to make a baby?"

"So what did God say?" I asked.

She looked heavenward, triumphant. "She wants to know, God!" Then looking to me, said, "I'm so glad you asked. Do you know that part in the Bible where it talks about Jesus being the groom and the church being like the bride of Christ?" I nodded.

"Well, Jesus is the penis and the church is the vagina." She used hand signals just to make sure I understood.

"When the penis penetrates the vagina and ejaculates, that's the Holy Spirit bringing new life into the church. Isn't that amazing and incredibly beautiful? That's why we have sex!" Her whisper had grown dangerously louder, and I wondered who else was now benefiting from this teaching.

I did a quick scroll through my memory to see if I had heard any "Jesus is the penis" sermons in the past. Nope. None. Here was a new teaching. God? Is that you?

She continued. "Scientists have seen the sperm and the egg connect, and there's a spark of light when that happens. And when one sperm makes contact with the egg, all the other sperm run away. That's like Jesus too! When Jesus is there, all other gods run away."

"That's an interesting analogy," I said.

"It's not an analogy. It's the truth!" she responded. Anne told me that God has to be male for this to work.

"I like to think of God as spirit, as above any gender limitation." I countered.

"Oh Rebecca," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "You have so much to learn." She left for her cubicle.

At that point, students came to examine my eyes. One minute later, Anne returned with a slip of paper that had her name and phone number written on. "I can tell you have a lot of questions, and that you have a lot to learn. Feel free to call me anytime."

Was that my message from God? After my appointment, I literally giggled all the way through the parking lot and on my drive to get my girls from school.

I'd heard of the "Jesus as lover" idea, and it's never really turned me on. But after relaying this story to a few family members, I was told of the long mystical traditions -- Christian, Jewish, Sufi -- where the divine and human join in sexual union. And though I don't quite get it yet, it must have held meaning for more people than just Anne over the ages.

If nothing else, it just totally made my day because I had a lot of material to write about when I got home.

A little quote to leave you with (as if I haven't used enough words already):

"Three things faintly represent heaven: Sabbath, sunshine, and sexual union." Berachot 57b (Talmud)

Friday, 3 February 2012

to everything there is a season

Eden: What are you doing, Mommy?

Me: Pulling out a white hair.

Eden: Oh. So that you won't look exactly like Daddy?

Me: Right.

Seriously, winter. What kind of weather is this? What season is this? 

Just brown with a touch of grey-white. Just like me.