Gratitude: A Happy Habit to take up for Lent

At the beginning of Lent, I was chatting with a close friend on the phone and she told me that she and her husband planned to give up guilt for Lent, in favour of gratitude. By this they meant not guilt for actual wrongs done, the natural response to sin and hurting others, but rather shame—the feeling of unworthiness or unlovableness that we can sometimes fall prey to when we make a mistake or fail to prevent something out of our control.

Giving up such negative feelings, and looking for ways to turn difficult situations into opportunities to see the good and give thanks for it struck me as a great idea. So in the spirit of practicing gratitude, I will share a list of blessings I’m grateful for with you right now:

1. When my mother-in-law sent me birthday money this year, I decided to put it towards Kindle Unlimited, and have been enjoying reading lots of books on my iPad when I can’t sleep lately. Tonight I’m reading 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, and the first one they don’t do is indulge in pity parties! So I’ve put away the balloons and party hats, and brought out my gratitude list instead. 🥳

2. Various back aches and late pregnancy cramps made the midwives give me an ultimatum: no more vacuuming or carrying heavy things like the laundry basket to your outdoor laundry room under the stairs. What great things to give up for Lent! 🤣 I’m grateful my husband has taken over the laundry, and that he now has more first hand experience of this charming chore. “Is there more dirty laundry already? I feel like I just did a bunch!” Exactly honey. So it goes.

3. I had a nice outing to the dollar store with my daughter on the way home from ballet class, and bought cute socks for myself and the baby to put in our hospital bag. His have tiny blue stars, and mine say on the soles, “If you can see this, rub my feet.” Thought they might make the nurses laugh.

4. I’m also really grateful for Jenn Dean, a parenting coach from the Families Matter Most podcast. I first saw her speak at on online homeschool conference recently, and found her approach to fostering positive thinking though addressing core beliefs which influence our behaviour so compelling that I’ve started doing some coaching with her on Zoom. She’s great!

Jenn encouraged me to journal and keep track of my thought processes, especially when something goes wrong, so I can be aware of what core belief is affecting my response. Sometimes that belief could actually be a lie, such as “Such and such went wrong because I’m useless and mess up everything.” In this case, awareness of the lie is a necessary step to be freed from it and embrace the truth, which is simply that some days are harder than others, and tomorrow is a chance to try again. I liked this journal and got it for myself.

5. I’m also grateful for the sweet surprises my friends have brought me lately, which are such a tangible sign of their affection and support. Isabela and Claudio brought us pizza buns and homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, Lisa brought us tiny red velvet cupcakes made by a talented coworker, and tonight, Sister Corina brought us Purdy’s chocolates and a fruit topped cheesecake! Yes, this baby is destined to be chubby and cute, and everyone is ensuring their part in that! 🥰

6. I could just keep going, but this list is getting long, so the last one for tonight is my amazing neighbour Lorie, a retired nurse who does professional house cleaning part time. She has been a total Godsend, and has been helping us declutter and clean our house, one room at a time. First, we tackled the garage, and after hiring the great guys from Half-Price Rubbish Removal, we now have so much more space to store things in an organized way. Everything is being sorted and labelled, such a bins of clothes for various kids to grow into. We even strung up a rope in the garage to hang extra or off season coats, so I can see what we have before buying new ones.

Sometimes it’s a struggle emotionally to let someone else help me deal with my mess, but in those moments I’m trying to reframe things. Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get organized on my own cause I’m too sloppy,” I think, “Caring for all my kids and house is a big job, and I’m so grateful to have friends willing to pitch in and help.” Lorie does such and good job, and is so cheerful about it, that we call her our “Fairy Clean Mother,” whose super power is making things sparkle. The kids love her, too, and are inspired to help out more, which is a huge bonus!

Tiny super helper!

What is one thing you are grateful for today?

Ash Wednesday Walk

I captured this moment on a rare early morning walk alone on Ash Wednesday. My luxurious excuse for alone time? A 35 week pregnancy blood test. Yup, living it up here.

But I must say, the peaceful morning bird song and the sight of their feathers illumined from below by early sunrise were a treat. Since my pace right now is best described as moseying, I tried to make the best of it by taking time to notice the beauty above the city streets.

Despite the barren lack of leaves in the trees, tiny signs of spring could also be found at my feet.

After another long pandemic winter, it’s nice to see hints of hope…warmer days coming, brighter days, and new things, like my baby, in about a month!

These brave crocuses in my garden even survived our recent snowfall! So while I feel pretty much ready to wave the white flag and give up—enough winter, enough covid, enough late pregnancy—I’ll try to be brave and keep looking up to find the sun, and looking forward to those precious newborn snuggles, and remembering the reason it will all be worth it come spring.

Cookies and Milk at 3 am

Of course, after admonishing our kids not to wake up too early for Christmas (they once woke up at midnight to open the stockings on the ends of their beds) it would be me, their mom, who woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So silly, as the kids and I had worked so hard to prepare ahead, had finished wrapping and had even stuffed the stockings and stowed them in a box days ago, so I wouldn’t have to burn the midnight oil playing Mrs Clause. Yet I woke up. Was it pregnancy heartburn, excitement, or insomnia?

Whatever it was, I decided Santa’s tradition of the post-midnight snack was a good idea and got up to have an angel sugar cookie and a glass of milk. I’d say I had a snack with Santa, but you’d know from Google Santa Tracker that he was already safely back home in the North Pole by this hour.

So while I’m up, I thought I’d take this quiet moment chance to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, despite everything, and a lot of hope for better things to come in 2021. Thank you so much to all our family and friends who supported us from afar this year, as we went through the pandemic, and through the illness and loss of my Dad, Bob, to cancer. Your loving words, encouragement, cards, flowers or food dropped at our door have meant a lot.

Shortly after my Dad passed away, in the morning of November 9th, it began snowing, which is rare on the rainy coast. “Mum, Mum,” said the kids with excitement, “Grandpa is sending us snow from Heaven with Josephine!” It’s amazing how positive and resilient kids can be in the face of loss. Here are a few pictures from our house, where we have tried to find all the joy and sparkle we can this Advent.

May God in his humble nearness at Christmas surround you with blessings and give you the eyes to see them, so the little hidden miracles of each day can shine and bring you hope.

Lots of love from all the Eastlands here at Just East of Crazy Land! Thanks for being here, making me feel less alone as I eat cookies and milk at 3 am, and await the sparkly madness of Christmas morning with 7 kids! ✨🌲✨🎁✨🌲✨

A Tiny Piece of Night Sky

Right now I don’t wear mourning black

because as I told the kids before the funeral,

Grandpa loved the bright colours of gardens

and flowers in the sunshine,

so dress for him.

But I do wear around my neck

a black necklace studded with tiny stars

—piece of night sky stolen by faeries—

to remind myself in all dark moments

to seek the sparkle.

It’s not a bright, dawn-rosy piece of Heaven

but a scrap of far-off night sky,

piercingly cold and beautiful,

the kind you look up at in silence

longing for the things that do not perish.

My heart thumps near my necklace,

aching to burst forth from my chest

and reach this forever with you,

beating its warm little drum

to the echoes of eternity.

Just When

Just when the weight

became crushing

and I no longer knew what to do

to make anything better at all,

and the pain was becoming too much

for you to bear

and me to see,

it lifted.

Just when words failed me

and I was running out of songs to sing you

while I massaged your aching back

or gently washed your face,

a comforter came

who spoke such words of consolation

that he drew from your own aching heart

words of hope.

Just when I cried out that I could not carry on,

could no longer bear

these birth pangs of your transition

into a new and deeper life,

the pain ceased—

a gentle day came

and you slipped out of this world

sweetly, like a baby in sleep.

Just when I felt so inadequate

to bring you any closer to peace,

everyone’s prayers kicked in

and suddenly lifted you,

as I’d promised,

straight up to Heaven

in a hot air balloon

filled with love.

Once upon a pregnancy…an old poem unearthed

Earlier this week, while trying to recover my homeschool room from the storm that was unsupervised making of thanksgiving posters and crafts, and involved strewing crayons and paper all over the floor, I discovered an old poem I had written years ago, in a beat up spiral notebook. I thought it had been lost forever, and regretted it as I could only remember the first metaphor in it, and wanted to know the rest.

The poem was written early my fourth pregnancy, which followed rapidly on the heels of my third, and writing this poem was part of my trying to wrestle through my mixed emotions I had at the time. Funny how blessings come in disguise…despite my misgivings, this little baby girl turned out to be my most gentle, sweet, affectionate and undemanding child. Her siblings have said this themselves, in all honesty. We are all blessed by her quiet kindness. Here she is a toddler…now she is 9!

Without further ado, here is the old poem from my notebook, long before my blogging days began. I’ll transcribe it above the photos, so you don’t have to try to decipher my scrawl.

Winter Tree

I am like a winter tree

laid bare, stripped, naked,

exhausted—

yet secretly bursting with spring,

life swelling through my bare windswept skin.

I feel at once empty and ravenous

as a winter wolf or a nursing bear

emerging after a winter of sleep…

Yet inside me is a miniature universe,

a tiny piece of the puzzle of humanity,

forming rapidly in the dark warmth

of my womb.

I feel like a shipwrecked treasure chest

washed up on shore,

a waterlogged vessel filled with diamonds,

waiting to sparkle for the first time in the sun.

Inside me, a heart the size of a pea

is beating its way toward laughter, sorrow and love.

A matter of months,

and beauty will be born again.

Making Our Own Headlines

My mom sent me this lovely little story from Facebook recently, and then my mother-in-law called to read me the same thing. I thought it captured both the stress and hope of these difficult times beautifully.

I found it really inspiring. As we each write the story of our own lives, it makes sense to write our headlines, too…so we can focus on the things that matter to us and make our days meaningful. So here are a few headlines of my own:

Toddler takes walk and is delighted by flowers, hugs a rose.

Proud kids learn to make sushi at home: take that, take-out!

Neighbours share bread and laughter over their fence, feel less alone.

Baby with dangerous condition born safely and survives operation, parents rejoice.

Woman reconnects with dear friend after 3 months, makes her day.

Family transforms ugly concrete backyard into beautiful courtyard garden using old furniture and garden pots given by their neighbour.

What beautiful story are you writing with your life today?

To think of one thing you are grateful for is enough, but feel most welcome to share one of your life’s headlines in the comments below!

Back-Alley Beauty

In this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

I’ve been choking on silence

not knowing what to say

I felt that it was a time

for only words weighty with wisdom

words of solemn importance

and sorrow

But maybe in this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

it is precisely the time

to celebrate every bit of happiness

the day affords

To rejoice in each little buttercup

and bouquet of back-alley beauty

my children clutch in eager hands

and bring me while I cook dinner

And to wish and pray

with all my strength

many such simple pleasures

and calm moments of sweetness

upon each precious person

who walks the face of this earth