The Battle Within and Without

 

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I watched a short video clip recently that left me feeling profoundly motivated and inspired. The video clip was about mascara. True story.

How, I wondered, can a video about mascara possibly be this inspiring? I don’t even wear mascara!

The answer lies in the process that was described. This small group of innovative women wanted to create something that had never before been created: a safe, highly effective, toxin-free mascara. It seems ludicrous to me that this isn’t already the norm, but that is another story.

These women were laughed at.
They were told it wasn’t possible.
They were ridiculed.

The brief description of their story made me think of Noah when God told him to build an ark, nowhere near water. Everyone laughed at him and thought he was nuts. But who was the winner in the end? And so goes this story.

For me, the video struck a chord deep within. I, like many of us, have a strong, persuasive inner voice that says things like “you can’t do this”, “you will be ridiculed”, “this is not a good idea, the outcome isn’t guaranteed”. This voice is my group of mockers, of nay-sayers. This voice keeps me from being all that I want to be, all that I was created to be.

I know that my ultimate desire is to become ALL that God has created me to be. And I believe that this person is courageous and a risk taker, passionate about justice, one who loves far beyond herself, one who says “yes! I will try!”, one who doesn’t just want to make a difference in the world but one who is willing to go for it and take risks to create those changes. Yes, this is who I want to be. And this is the person that this video spoke to.

So here I am. I have joined this movement. I have joined this company whose mission is “to get safe products into the hands of everyone”. Sometimes I am passionately excited and motivated and on board. And sometimes I am terrified and think “what am I doing? I can’t do this”, “I am annoying people” (by talking about the truth?). This voice lies a lot. This I am learning.

I want to be like the women in this video:

To stand when others laugh at me.
To say “yes I can” when they say “you can’t”
To believe that I can be different, and that I can make a difference against all odds.

I have a father who dedicated 8 years teaching overseas, because he believed he could make a difference. He spent the majority of his career inspiring high school students to become more than they thought they could be. He had the patience of Job, and then some. And he succeeded. I still hear from old high school friends about how much they loved my dad as a teacher. That is pretty awesome!

I have a mother who started her own NGO because she saw a need. She, like these women in this video, was playing in the boys club, but she did it anyway, with great success. Her passion has impacted thousands and thousands directly, and continues to impact thousands indirectly through the eye hospital that continues to blossom in Kumasi, Ghana.

I have a husband who has dedicated his life to creating change, training up farmers in remote African villages, working on policies in Parliament, journeying with addicts in our church, our neighborhood and the Ottawa Mission. He is fearless and wise.

With these role models and mentors, I know it is within me to truly go for it and join this mission for change! I long for a future where toxic chemicals are banned, where we can buy products and food without reading every ingredient on the label for fear of what might be held within. I am one person, but I have decided to join a greater movement. I am writing this story because I need to speak the truth to myself, first and foremost. And I am sharing this story because I need accountability. During those times when that nay-saying voice tells me I am being ridiculous and should quit, I need to remember what I have written here. Knowing that I have shared it broadly will help keep me accountable to my own goals.

I want to make a difference, both within, and without.

See the mascara video here:   https://www.facebook.com/BeautycounterbyPascale/

http://www.beautycounter.com/pascalecherry

Take care of your body
This is me in the kayak on the West Coast

Canadians are crazy: A Kiwi perspective

A few days before Christmas our next door neighbor headed south and handed over her home to a couple of Kiwis from New Zealand. This lovely couple arrived in Canada, excited to experience a Canadian winter. I brought over some Christmas cookies in the pouring rain and 15 degree weather on December 22nd…

But then, as it always does in Ottawa, winter arrived with a bang! And we have snow. Lots of snow.

Our Kiwi friends had a lesson in shoveling the driveway and have ventured out for many walks. They are loving the snow and the mild temperatures. But they are seeing some things that are very puzzling.

Question: “We walked by the hill at the park and saw a dad putting his one and half year old on a sled and happily pushed the child down the hill. The child was laughing, then crashed, then cried. And then got up and did it all over again. Is this a Canadian right of passage or something?”

It got me thinking how very unusual we are. We bundle our kids up and send them out to play in the freezing cold, snow, sleet, hail. “Hey kids! A storm! Everybody get dressed and out you go!!”

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Yesterday I was taking our kids sledding along with some other neighbor kids. We bumped into our Kiwi friends who were just returning from a first attempt at snow shoeing in the park. Comment: “Wow. Snow shoeing really requires a different set of muscles doesn’t it?”. Yep! Says I. Wanna come sledding with us now? You can’t visit Canada without sledding. Let me grab our Crazy Carpets so you can have a true Canadian sledding experience!

They are very eager so they readily agreed and came along with us. After a quick demonstration they hopped on and were sledding like pros, feet up high to avoid impediments to speed, spinning around backwards, flipping over. Standard sledding form when one is using a Crazy Carpet.

They then noticed that all the kids had moved over to a different spot so they went off to explore this potentially better hill. When I caught up with them they were watching with looks of mild concern. Aren’t you going to try it?, ask I. Response: “That drop is VERTICAL!” So…you aren’t going to try it? “Um. NO. We will go back over to the other hill.” Okay, enjoy the bunny hill. In truth, the kids (all aged 6-9) were careening with glee down a hill that, in the summer, is actually a rock cliff. Yes, I guess it is vertical. But I am Canadian. It didn’t seem odd to be letting my 5 year old plunge down it backwards. Is that weird?

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Yesterday I was out back with my kids and we were building short sledding track down the large piles of snow. One track ended at the brick wall of the house. Another track took you through the narrow gate to the front yard (or, into the gate door if you didn’t steer right). A third track ended at the base of the large oak tree. Crashing into stuff is fun, isn’t it? I was kind of glad our Kiwi friends weren’t watching.

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This morning our family headed over to the local rink to begin the process of packing down the snow in preparation for the first round of flooding with the fire hose. Our neighbor (not the Kiwis!) rented a couple of those big drums that you fill with water and roll over ground to level it. We dragged those over the snow to pack it down. The kids took turns. My brain was thinking that perhaps our Kiwi friends might think it a bit odd to hitch up ones children to large drums of water and ask them to pull it across the snow. It is even more fun when they help with the fire hose and get all iced up!

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We brought our Kiwi friends to a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party and they got to experience some proper down home French Canadian chansons a répondre. We sang “Chevaliers de la Table Ronde”. Anyone know it? It is a hard core drinking song. I shared that it was one of my favorite childhood songs; my dad used to sing it to me as a bedtime lullaby. A lot of people laughed. Hmmm…

I guess we Canadians are a strange lot! But we are fun and we are friendly and we are adventurous!And our Kiwi friends will get a true Canadian experience with crazy people like us living next door, inviting them to everything. And they are yes people, so they will really have a good time! I can’t wait to take them skating on the canal in minus 30 degree weather so they can experience frostbite (and maybe a Beaver Tail to make it all worth it!)

Introducing Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus

Let me start by introducing you to  (from left to right) Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus:

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These 3 characters have been in our lives for about 2 years now, when a family friend outgrew them and offered them to our daughter, who was approaching 3 at the time. She immediately named them Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus. All 3 of them are girls, though Michael is often referred to as “he” (when I double checked on Michael’s gender, my little one informed me: “of course he is a girl because boys don’t wear dresses”). Baby Jesus is also a girl on this stage.

My last post was about the world of play, and I again stand in awe and wonder at the imagination of children. These porcelain dolls are “supposed” to sit on a shelf and collect dust, as far as the rules of such things are concerned. The dolls each came with stands that have long since been lost. I could have said “no” to playing with them this way because this was not what these dolls are for. According to who? Instead, I allowed my children (and myself) to step out of the box and onto a stage that has frankly been incredibly entertaining over the past two years since these characters arrived in our lives.

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You can see that poor Michael has come upon some hard times. She now has a prosthetic leg; my son has explained that the wire sticking out of her leg is the prosthesis. I haven’t questioned her ability to walk with this highly unusual prosthetic attachment. Had Michael spent her life on her stand, gathering dust on a shelf I am quite certain her legs would be intact. Michael also has the misfortune of frequently being without clothing. Yet Michael seems just fine and she always plays an active role in the play that ensues when she and her cohort emerge.

Yesterday Judy was preparing for her wedding. She got on her white wedding dress and her wedding hat. My littlest one spent close to 30 minutes in quiet chatter with Judy, preparing her for the big event. Today, big brother donned his shirt and tie and, with an ornate soup ladle in hand, became the pastor who performed the wedding ceremony. Baby Jesus had a baby sitter for the event, but Michael was in attendance. I am unclear who Judy was marrying as there didn’t seem to be an additional party, but this was quite irrelevant to the game so I kept my “the way it should be” mouth shut. And I watched. And I listened. And I was so blessed by the beauty and the wonder of quietly observing, unnoticed.

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It appeared to me that Baby Jesus’ baby sitter was a much younger baby (who is being introduced to Judy and Baby Jesus above). But again, I zipped it and watched, amused.

And occasionally, Creulle deVil would show up and cause trouble. And the “pastor” would quickly morph into a dalmation and chase her off.

(Aside: the “pastor” is currently waiting for me to help him create a dalmation costume.)

Life with young children can often feel like living in a dream sequence. The stories change so abruptly that I can hardly keep up (and usually don’t, which is met with “Mommy! We aren’t playing THAT game anymore!” – oh. apparently mommy is a bit slow…)

But it IS a dream sequence that feels like a dream come true. A beautiful dream of active children with active imaginations. And lifelong learning to let go of how things “should” be. Living outside the box as often as I can remember to step out. Living in a new freedom that comes from childlike imagination.

And as I watch and listen to them, I remember. I remember the stories that were so vividly real to me as a 5 year old, an 8 year old, an 11 year old. Those moments were exciting and felt as real as anything could at the time. So I remember to be quiet and allow Baby Jesus to be a porcelain doll in a floral dress with an infant babysitter, and Michael to have a nub of wire as a prosthetic leg, and my boy to be a pastor turned dalmation who presides at weddings with a soup ladle, and Judy to have a wedding where she marries nobody in particular.

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And it is sweet to live out of the box. I am learning to step out of this box more and more, and I am finding great freedom in it. Once again, my children have been the vessel for teaching me some important lessons. We need to see our children, really SEE them. We need to step out of the boxes that confine us unnecessarily. We need to live in freedom and learn from all of the unlikely people that God has placed in our lives to teach us. When I remain open to strange possibilities, I am amazed at what I learn. Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”

And now I am going to learn how to make a dalmation costume with my first born. I can’t wait to see what new characters emerge on the stage today!

Postscript: Here is the outcome of the dalmation costume. Everything is learning! In this case I learned, yet again, to keep it simple and stay out of the way, allowing my boy to create something that he is excited about (whether it looks like a dalmation or a spotted mummy…he is happy and thinks he looks just like Pongo!). When I interfere we are both frustrated and he doesn’t learn. When I butt out and act as a “sous chef” of costume design, we are both happy and we both learn!

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“Le merveilleux monde du jeu” – Why I need to play!

2015-01-16_13-27-55_731Children know how to play. They live in a magical world full of whimsy and wonder. They live free from reality. Free from time.
I want to live in that world!
Really.

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Somewhere along the way we lose the ability to play. Responsibility takes over and we lose the wonder.
But we NEED to play. We need whimsy.

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I watch my children with utmost fascination, often reminded by their fantasy worlds of times when I too lived in that wonderful place. A place where anything is possible and dreams are real, where a stuffed rabbit is a alive and a cardboard steering wheel actually drives me places, where building blocks present a serious business of constructing a wall and where trees and forests are magical kingdoms alive with gnomes and fairies.

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Why do we lose those places as adults?
(Apart from the reality of knowing that living there would lead to our confinement to the psychiatry ward I mean…)
Seriously?
Children have a gift that we adults need to learn to tap into!
Yes, we need to be responsible and live in reality. But why does this have to be a case of “either/or”? I am sure there is a way it can be “both/and”.
How do I live as a responsible adult AND enjoy whimsy and play? I can play some, but I know beyond a doubt that playing more would benefit my soul – and by proxy, would benefit my family.

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There are many studies out right now that suggest that our children are over scheduled and pushed to learn to much too soon. These studies all look at the benefits of play and free, unstructured time. Our culture is beginning to impose its crazed need to achieve on our children. Put them in school earlier, longer. Teach them more, sooner. Schedule them in as many extra curricular activities as possible. Give them a leg up on all the rest! Or so we think. We are all guilty to a degree.

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But as I sit and watch my children play, revelling in their imaginary world, I know this matters. I know this teaches. I know this feeds. Not just them, but me too.
I am not suggesting that I need to play with wooden blocks and stuffed animals, but I DO need to engage more regularly in a more age appropriate version of play (not that there is anything wrong with enjoying building block towers with my children). I admit that I love coloring as much (or possibly even more) than the average 5 year old, but taking it to the adult version of acrylic paints or pencil portraits takes it to a whole new level: from mindless coloring and enjoyment of making pretty pictures to a soul feeding focused moment of perfect mental escape into paints and color and creating – something my adult child needs!

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And as I wander around this children’s museum and watch in wonder as my children engage for hours on end in imaginary lives, I snap photo after photo. And they ask “why?” Can I answer that my soul needs to capture these moments as reminders to myself to play, to create, to wonder? That I am freezing frames so I can write later, creating stories of my own? Adult musings that look nothing like the wildly imaginative space cats stories nor those of hippos in tutus and dancing octopi, the stories I live in when I live in my children’s worlds.

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I love spending time in play with my children. And, I am learning more and more how much I (and all adults) also need to play. I am not big on new year’s resolutions, and in fact, as of this moment hadn’t given them a moment’s thought. However, I think that this year I need to remember to play more. Both physical play outdoors – hockey and sledding and sking – and also mental play – drawing and photos and writing and singing. And these need to be valid priorities. Why do we need to validate play as adults? Children need to play. This is a given. Adults need to play. This is not a given.
But it should be!

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I think we would all smile more and be a whole lot healthier and happier if we all just played more!

So off I go! See you at the playground.

My Broken Hallelujah

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As I sat in the huge cathedral, drinking in the Glory, listening to the story of a life lived in faith, a new life in heaven, a life gone from earth, the song came to mind: Broken Hallelujah. I have only known the Leonard Cohen version of the song and have just discovered that there are a number of completely different versions of this song. They all speak to the broken offerings we bring to God. The tone of each version appears similar in its desperation. I am not desperate. In fact, I am feeling very held. Yet I still bring my broken Hallelujah.

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This Christmas and New Year’s season has been one fraught with medical emergencies and flus and fevers. Three trips to emergency in the course of four days, one surgery, one EKG, tests for malaria and Ebola, adverse drug reactions and confusion, one funeral, one child vomiting, a family fraught with fevers. The days have passed in a surreal fashion, low on sleep and high on stress and strain.

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Yet through it all, there has always been hope and God and faith. The lyrics from Mandisa’s Broken Hallelujah describe the sentiment well:

Yet I trust in this moment
You are with me somehow
And you’ve always been faithful
So Lord, even now
When all that I can sing
is a broken Hallelujah
When my offering
is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
will rise from these ruins
and I will worship you
and give you thanks
even when my only praise
is a broken Hallelujah

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So today out of the ashes of exhaustion and a household of sickness I offer up my broken Hallelujah’s! God has been with me through each moment of this past week even when I have felt like the white ball on the pool table, bouncing from crisis to crisis with never enough hands to attend to all in need. Yet we managed. And still it continues, and time is so limited and all I want to do with my miniscule bit of extra energy is write and praise and sing Hallelujah!

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Why am I taking pictures of ice outside windows and of cathedral after funeral and paper flowers made as a get well offering? Because these are my broken Hallelujah’s. These speak to me of the One who holds me through all of this. And it is to Him alone that I give my praise.

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2015-01-04_13-31-25_753 Thank you Lord for all of your offerings of beauty in the midst of the ashes of this week.

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After the crash

Some things are hard to talk about, even when we don’t think that is so.

Seven months ago I was involved in a car crash that totaled our car and left me with a significant concussion. I was unable to look at screens (computer, TV, phone) for about 4 months and told myself that once I could write, that I would blog about the experience of my accident.

I haven’t. But I want to…sort of.

Life events impact us in ways that often hit deeper than our awareness. What is impacting me that is preventing me from writing about this in a public forum? I feel like I need to write before I can fully move on. I have other blogs that I want to write but feel unable to write them until I write this. So, without a full understanding, I write…

The car that hit me came out of nowhere, swerving around 3 lanes of stopped traffic that were kindly waving me through. He was speeding, fast. I saw the hit and my heart sank.

Then nothing.

Then my children in the back and then panic. Were they hurt?

I could barely focus but I turned around and looked at them. My son asked “what was that loud noise?!” My daughter started to cry. I tried to remain conscious. Strangers rushed in and asked lots of questions. Apparently my children were okay. I had an arm in the back on them, vision blurry, head throbbing, stomach churning.

Then sirens and the sounds of my son “MOMMY!!! A fire truck!!! MOMMY!!! An ambulance!!!”

Yes son, they are coming for us. Inside I felt a rush of relief. They asked me questions that I couldn’t answer: “which direction were you travelling?” Uuumm…which way am I facing? The car that hit us spun us into a 2nd vehicle (didn’t know that until I was in the ER) and I didn’t have a clue where I was or which direction the car was facing.

The specific details from there don’t really matter. All that mattered was that my children were safe and they were being carefully attended by the wonderful First Responders. They put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back of the ambulance, giving my son the important job of carrying my back pack and my daughter the equally important task of carrying my wallet. They understood kids! They both told their dad later, with great pride, how they had helped.

My son barely stopped talking long enough to breath over the excitement of being in the back of an ambulance. I focused on my daughter, who remained mute, and on remaining conscious without vomiting. The paramedics attended to them beautifully, making them funny face balloons out of medical gloves and chatting them up.2014-05-14_17-39-43_172

They explained all the equipment and they gently explained what they were doing to me. They all chuckled at my son’s incredible capacity to talk! My daughter suddenly recovered and joined the discussion. When we finally arrived at the hospital, the paramedics offered the kids a tour of the ambulance bay and the front of the ambulance. These are two kids who don’t take quickly to strangers at the best of times, let alone in moments of extreme duress, so I was both shocked and relieved when they happily went off with the paramedics while I was wheeled into the ER.

When they returned one of the paramedics brought them some juice and cheese and crackers, noting that it was approaching suppertime. Wow. And then my daughter produced some princess stickers and informed me that a fire fighter had given them to her at the scene of the accident. Wow.

My gratitude to those first responders is enormous! I finally wrote a letter of thanks to them just a few days ago. Again, why the long delay?

So now I live my life “after the crash”. I live with a knowledge that today might not have been. That my children might not have bounced back so easily. That life might have been radically different. But angels were watching over our car that day. I believe that with all my heart. Yes, we crashed, but we were all okay. And 7 months later I am 95% healed from the concussion. That is quick and miraculous!

My first blog a year ago talked about the power of words. I think that putting this experience into words is the next (perhaps last?) step to healing. The experience will forever be with me. The images will never be gone. The memory of my 6 year old son telling me “the steering wheel blew apart and a big balloon came out” will never, ever fade.

And so with gratitude, I write. I share the words, though the words don’t even come close to expressing the emotions. But words matter.

And now I am free to continue to write, after the crash.

 

The whole earth is filled with His glory

What do you do when things are uncertain?
When the fragility of life takes on new meaning?
When there are no answers, where do you turn?

The Glory.

Today I have spent many astonished hours recognizing the blinding reality that the whole earth is filled with His glory! My heart is buoyed by the beauty.

Look around and drink in the Glory with gratitude.
Therein lies peace.

(click on the image to enlarge if you wish)

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Amazing what we see when we stop and look closely at our surroundings.

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