Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Highlight Reels and Behind the Scenes





2015 was a WOW kind of year.  The song “A Life That’s Good”, sung by the Nashville cast (and my favourites Lennon and Maisy below!), has been resonating a lot lately.  This year, there was a LOT of good.  

Like just for example…..


I walked a red carpet with my Juno-nominated husband for the first time.  What a rush that was!  And such pride for my man.  The next day, I felt like I waking from a dream.

I became an aunt again to my precious little Isabel Aleda.  (See left middle pic above.  Isn't she darling?)

I won Blue Jays’ tickets…twice!!  One pair was box seats tickets and I got to watch Drew deliver the game ball to the plate on his 40th birthday weekend in front of 30,000 fans.  I'm convinced it was this act that brought the Jays the luck to have the EPIC year they did!  ;)

I went on the most amazing “first full week with no kids" vacation to Nashville and Virginia with Drew.  A highlight was visiting Washington DC for the first time ever with dear family.
 
Another highlight was playing Elvis’ piano.  (What a CRAZY surreal moment that was!)

I celebrated the gift of Grandma's life of 90 years with over 80 of our family members.

I was given the gift to be able to help 75 families say "farewell" to their loved ones.  


I was graced with the opportunity to share about topics I’m passionate about (like motherhood and the Syrian refugee crisis) TWICE on national television, the latter with my kids and sister which was especially fun!  Check out the links!  

I spent time with family…lots and lots of family.  :)  After celebrating Christmas in Hanover with my Dad's side of the family last month, we got snowed in and had to spend the night unexpectedly.  But it resulted in some AMAZING extra quality family time full of fun games into the wee hours of the night and actually getting the chance to know my cousins better.  I'll never forget the feelings of love and "Wow!  How did I get so blessed to be part of this amazing family!?!?" from that weekend.

There were also ferris wheel rides with my kids at the CNE, Lego and ANOTHER Princess birthday parties for the kids, a US girls' getaway celebrating a dear friend's 40th, weddings and a Manitoulin Island vacation with my sister and family....just to name a few more.






Yes there were MANY highlights..... But there was a lot of grief and tough stuff this year too. 

We had to say “bye for now” to my other grandmother who passed away at 89 years old.    I'll never forget scattering her ashes in the river with my family.  Funerals and graveside services are my business, but nothing prepared me for the grief in that moment. I still miss her very much.

I felt helpless as I watched marriages of friends ending.

I became numb as my news feed felt like it was continuously filling up with stories of attacks and war and crises all over the globe.

I also felt lonely a lot.  And depressed.  Not just my usual “having a low day or couple days” but weeks went by this fall without the heaviness lifting.  I felt like I received a small taste of what my loved ones who struggle with chronic depression go through.  

Back in November, I toyed with the idea of posting the following here on my blog.  I chickened out at the time because it’s pretty raw and personal, but I’m feeling bolder now… mostly because I feel compelled to give you some “behind the scenes” and not just the highlight reel.  





I’ve felt like a caged lion these past few weeks.  An agitated and aggressive lioness that feels trapped where I am, longing to find the answers to where God is leading me next.  I have cried many tears.  I have even raged at God.  I have felt acute pain from isolation and loneliness and yet had zero motivation to connect with God or those around me. 

“I guess I’m just feeling really restless,” I recently told a close friend. 

After listening for a few minutes, she asked me, “Isn’t that kind of part of who you are?  Like I feel like that’s kind of your default setting.  You’re always looking for more, for the next thing."

She’s a good and honest friend.  And as I think about the contents of the many journals I’ve filled over the years, I realize she’s on to something.  

Restlessness.  

It opposes contentment.  

Why is it that I find it so hard to just be where I am?  Words and phrases that have resonated with me over the years include Elizabeth Eliot’s “Wherever you are, be all there” and St. Augustine’s, "I am restless…til I find my rest in You."

There are times when I feel like I’m truly living and breathing these famous sayings, at least for a brief season.  I set my alarm before the kids wake up.  I go to God.  I try to get comfortable with the discomfort of just me, Him and silence.  The “chit chat with God” while I drive or do dishes throughout the day is easier for me.  But it’s always been harder for me to set aside the quiet, more “quality time”.  However, when I make the time, inevitably, he almost always meets me in tangible, experiential ways.  I am blanketed by his peace.  I often hear his timely words deep in my heart.  I weep tears of gratitude.  And then I think (or write in my journal!), “Why has it taken me so long to give my soul what it craves?  YOU!!”   

I am restless until I find my rest in You.  

After these “big revelations” (that I’ve learned about 672 times), I’ll have a few days of the "mountain top” as I used to call it.  But then I guess I coast, living on yesterday’s “manna” instead of feeding on today's.  In my thirst for “connection” or a numbing of the soul, I stay up too late on social media or with my dear pal Netflix, and that makes setting the alarm for 6:00am just too painful.  The days and weeks float on by and I’m back to square one…in the valley.  Or if not in the valley, at least in a place of plateauing….which causes the unsettling and restlessness all over again.

Welcome to my spiritual journey.

So I have some choices to make.  I could look at this pattern in my life and

a) see something to “fix” and continue to strive,

b) choose to accept this as “just the way I am”,

or c) ask God for wisdom and deeper revelation as to the differences between unholy discontentment and holy discontentment. 

Where do I just crave more of his presence? 

Where is there a shifting of life direction that He is leading me in? 

And where/how is he calling me to live the radical, “epic” life I crave, exactly where am I right now?

I actually don’t know the answers.  This isn’t a “I have a clear point to make” kind of post. It’s life “in the meantime”, doing my best to try and find today's manna instead of living off yesterday's and searching for tomorrow's.  

Any other caged lions out there that can relate?



So there you have it.  Some pretty raw and honest thoughts.  Beside the railroad track of the good, there is always the railroad track of the bad whether it's on social media or not.  

In the midst of the darkest periods, I have wrestled with deep questions like "What's the point?"  and "Does any of this matter?"  I have had seasons of my motto being:  "Life is hard. Then you die." or "Everything is meaningless."

Thankfully, I'm currently in a season where I've emerged from the darkness and see a great deal of light around me.  I still have low days and I still have a lot of questions about what the future holds.  

But there are two truths that have emerged through all of this that I will take with me into 2016:
1)  The importance of gratitude and choosing to see all the LIGHT that is in our lives despite how dark it can be. 

I love the backdrop of my phone right now which is a picture of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and this quote:


Some believe it is only great power that hold evil
in check.  But that is not what I have found.
I have found that it is the small everyday deeds
of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay>
Small acts of kindness and love.


2)  And related to the first, as cliche as it sounds, I've learned that love is EVERYTHING and true love never fails.




Two arms around me, heaven to ground me,
and a family that always calls me home, 
Four wheels to get there, enough love to share
and a sweet sweet sweet song


These are some lyrics from the song "A Life That's Good" that I referenced at the beginning.

The emphasis though, I believe, should be the line:  "Enough love to share".  Because it's in the sharing of the love we've been given, not just to our friends and family, but particularly to those who need it most in our world, that we can find true meaning and "live a life that's good".  

P.S.  I don't think we need to pray for "enough love to share".  If we go back to #1 and count our gifts, we'll realize we have it.  (Watch my sister share in an interview here about how we all have SOMETHING.)


I can't end this post without giving a "shout out" to you, God.  You are the ultimate Source of all love that I have been blessed to receive as well as any love I've been graced with the ability to give.  Thanks for never giving up on me and showing me how truly, Your....   



So Happy 2016 everyone!  Through the "highlight reels" and "behind the scenes" moments that will inevitably come, I'm wishing you all a life that's good...




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Mothering From Scratch" - My TV Debut!

My friend and Executive Producer George McEachern walked me out of the studio doors this morning commenting, "It's kind of like an out of body experience, isn't it?"

I totally knew what he was talking about.  Because I had just walked off the set of 100 Huntley Street, Canada's longest running daily television show, for the first time as a guest on the show!

It's funny, I was actually really nervous about it last night as the questions rolled around in my head, stealing my sleep.

What if I fumble over my words?

What if they ask me a question I'm not prepared for, and I blank out?

This was live television!!  There was no room for mistakes!  Shouldn't they have asked me to do a pre-taping of a show before they trusted me to do live TV??

But... I couldn't stay in that place of worry and insecurity.  I just had to get the thoughts OUT (even if it WAS to my half asleep husband beside me), and then I'd have to move on.

Thankfully, eventually I did find Never Never Land, and when I woke up, I chose a new attitude.

I reminded myself what my friend Melissa had told me:  "You're just going to have a conversation with other moms about mothering...except there will be cameras there."  I reminded myself that I didn't have to "put on" any kind of persona, but as cheesy and cliche as it sounds, I just needed to be "me".

Did it feel like a "normal" chat about motherhood with friends?  Yes and no.  I loved how honest we felt we could be with each other for having just met, but of course we were all keenly aware of the fact that we were sharing openly with 1.5 million other viewers.  And that's where the "out of body" experience comes in.  Maybe it's the performer side of me, but I felt a similar "high" that I feel when I get off the stage after speaking at an event.  It's pretty surreal...and exhilarating... and really really FUN!!

Overall I'm just feeling so grateful....  

Thankful for the experience of a new "first" under my belt while gaining some great wisdom from more "seasoned" moms at the same time.

Thankful to Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo for writing Mothering from Scratch.  The concepts were such a great base for our inspiring conversation.  So great to meet you both!  

I'm also grateful for Shelly Calagno, Maggie John, Dr. John Hull and all the Crossroads staff who hosted and welcomed all of us guests so warmly.  

And finally, I just need to give a big shout out and thank you to my dear friends Melissa and George McEachern for inviting me to be part of today's show...  It was a fantastic experience that I learned SO much from.  I'm proud to know you and your amazing family.  xo


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Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Legacy of the Little Things

This conversation happens regularly now.

Person:  So what is it that you do exactly?

Me:  I’m a Funeral Celebrant.  I help families put together personalized and meaningful funerals for their loved ones.

Person:
 Oh!  *insert confused or disturbed look*  So you’re like a minister?

Me:  No, I’m not an ordained minister, but yes, I care for families and officiate at funerals like ministers do.  The families I serve are usually not interested in the traditional, religious ceremonies often performed by ministers; they’re looking for an alternative way to celebrate their loved one’s life.  My services include spending a couple of hours with the family in their home.  I listen to their vision for the service as well as the stories and memories surrounding their loved one.  I make recommendations on various components (music, speakers, poetry, slideshow, etc) that they may want included.  Then I go home and spend 6-10 hours putting it all together and writing a personalized service, weaving the themes of their loved one’s life throughout, helping them say “goodbye” in a meaningful way.

Person:  Wow, I could never do that.  Isn’t it depressing being around death all the time?

Me:  Yes, it’s sad, but I actually find it a very fulfilling and rewarding career.  Plus when you’re being smacked in the face with death on a regular basis, you learn so much about life and how you want to live it.


Yes I have learned a lot in these last 9 months of officiating at almost 50 funerals, but there’s a couple of ideas that I keep coming back to.

Life is short.  Each day is a gift. There is so much beauty in the simple things.  And it’s those little things that make for great legacies.

My Grandma James and her glazed buns.

 
My mom and kids enjoying the simplicity of fun in the sand.

When I sit with families, yes, they do talk about all the amazing things their loved one accomplished.  But the promotions, degrees and how many foundations they started don’t usually get as much airtime at the funeral as you’d think.

Most of the time, they talk more about the simple things.

 I’ve sat with a daughter who described how her mom used to make roses out of orange peels.

I remember how the woman’s eyes filled with tears when she told me how she’d never forget her Dad grabbing her to dance in the middle of the restaurant.

There was the daughter who couldn’t stop talking about how much she’s going to miss Dad’s hugs.

The young Mom was numb as she talked about how she won’t eat a Sunday dinner without thinking about how her little girl used to always insist on them.

I’ll never forget the quiet way the teenage boys told me that they’ll miss playing Apples to Apples with their Mom.
 
Sunday dinners.  Hugs.  Dances.  Orange roses.  Apples to Apples.  Our lives could be made up of 1000 of these little gifts each day – if we’d only make the time for them.


Nail Painting


But then there’s LIFE, right?  All that vies for our attention screams louder than the simple pleasures.  Sometimes we get stuck.  We miss the beauty of the forest for the individual trees that are overwhelming.  We can feel powerless or frustrated in one area of our life and it can overshadow everything.
I woke up yesterday determined to have an amazing day and within 30 minutes, I found myself getting overly frustrated with my 6-year-old son who kept forgetting his lines for his presentation that day.  One minute I’m teaching him how grateful he should be that he gets to go to school and the next I’m killing his love of learning with my overbearing frustration with his forgetfulness, something that of course is the last thing he needs to help him remember.





I wanted a new “fresh start”, and it wasn’t even 9:00am yet!


I’ve always said I want to “change the world”, and make it a better place.  I’ve thought about how I want my influence to be widespread and how I want to leave a big legacy behind so THEN my life will have been worth something.

I wish I could tell you that now that I’m a Celebrant and staring at death all the time, it’s made me grab life by the horns and pack the purpose into every single day!  But I’m still pretty ordinary.  I still raise my voice at my kids.  I still have too many days that slip away from me with very little meaning or purpose attached to them.

HOWEVER.


I no longer believe that our value comes from the legacy we will one day have.  Our legacies are valuable because they are attached to US.  We have been given so many gifts – our relationships, our work and our places of learning.  But most importantly, we’ve been given the beauty and the uniqueness that is US.  I’m slowly learning how to shift my perspective to see that the legacy I leave won’t be significant because it includes things like Sunday
dinners and roses made from orange peels….because that’s not ME.



My legacy will be great because of the way my son will recall that more presentation practices were met with my patience and encouragement than those that were not.  It will be great because my daughter will remember the way that cleaning sometimes got postponed for the “monster game” or for tickle fights or doing nails.  It will be valuable because I take the time to sincerely listen to grieving families as they tell me about the legacy they’ve been left with.  It will be significant because I help them start to heal by paying tribute to their loved one in a meaningful way.




Christal Earle
Are you curious as to how to leave the legacy YOU were meant to?  Do you feel like sometimes you’re missing the forest of your brilliance for the trees that are making you feel “stuck”?  I have.

However, as I have worked with my coach, Christal Earle, we have focused on identifying my true goals, on pulling out my potential and most of all, helping me gain perspective on the legacy I want to leave.

Who in your life is walking with you and calling you to a higher place?  You are worth it!



(Originally posted on October 2, 2014 is on the blog of Christal Earle:  The Resonant Life.)