Monday, 28 December 2015

2015: What perspective taught me

At the tail end of 2014, I gave myself the gift of the word "perspective" for 2015. I needed to live in the knowledge that my reality at the time was a small part of a big picture, my personal world of uncertainty and unemployment was not forever.

I kept that word close to me for 12 months and looking back, I see that I did learn something:

I learned something important about isolating myself.

I am your classic "Type A" personality. Extroverted and drawn to large groups and big experiences. I like to be in charge of those big experiences. I have been called bossy in the past, but I prefer "well-organized leadership".

In 2015 my world became very small. Instead of rubbing shoulders with a few hundred people each week, I interacted with a few dozen. I do see value in pulling back and regrouping for a season, although for me it's not something I could do long-term. There was good that came out of the isolation, but I noticed a trend in my behavior which I didn't like.

The smaller my world became, the more easily offended I was.

I remember growing up as a pastor's kid and going with my dad to visit the elderly and shut-in. The steady stream of complaints coming from some of their mouths surprised me. It was like nothing could be good enough. The world was against them. I didn't understand.

I understand now.

The smaller my world became, the more time I had to focus on the perceived "injustices" the world had thrown at me. I liked people less. I became paranoid. My spirit looked uglier. 

If for no other reason, that is why I need to re-enter the land of the living. I don't like the person I become when my time is primarily spent navel-gazing.

Perspective shows me that this season of my life is part of a bigger picture, but my activities and energy are part of a BIGGER bigger picture.

I want to learn to constructively respond when I need to. 

Sometimes a nose is just a nose and there is nothing you can do about it. There is nothing you need to do about it.  Other times, I need to open my mouth and not just stew with offense.

I have no desire to be a woman who rhymes with ditch, nor do I want to spend hours of negative energy replaying scenarios in my mind.

What I want is not to be taken advantage of.

A large organization appointed me to a position in April. The interview process was long and I poured a lot of time and heart and soul into it. A week after my public introduction, I was told the organization had changed their mind, no other explanation.

Good bye Beckie.

I felt that my reputation and credibility was damaged. What did I do about it? Nothing.

Perspective tells me to love myself well, I need to speak up. Constructively. Not with malice. But with respect for myself and my journey.   

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One more thing - this is something my oldest daughter mentioned at her baptism in June:

Just because it's different, that doesn't mean it can't be good.

I fear change at the best of times, I like my safety and security. It's totally a losing battle. My life is chock full of new. New marriage. New step-son. New career. New house. New financial challenges. New choices. The list goes on and on.

Hope and perspective tell me to look for the good in the different. Look for the good in the change. 

My gift to myself for 2016? Balance.

I want to balance my personal needs with my families needs with my career needs with my villages needs.....something I've never been good at. Yikes.

It's going to be a bumpy ride.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ragout de la Vie (for those who have lost)

A man I went through high school with passed away on Monday. He was my age: mid-forties. He was the first from my grad class to go. We didn’t really know each other any more.  In fact, I hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years.

Still, I am affected. I’m surprised at the level of emotion I feel.

I asked God about it yesterday, I asked Him to show me a picture of what my heart was feeling.

He showed me a picture of my crock-pot.

Hmm, that was unexpected.

As I peered into the slow cooker in my mind’s eye, I saw what appeared to be my mom’s fruit stew. My friends and I called it her “ragout de fruit”. Things always sound fancier in French. We loved the stuff. She made it one month out of the year, in August, when fruit was plentiful. As I held my heart’s gaze into that concoction, something dawned on me.

I saw that life isn’t just one ingredient. It’s not even two ingredients. Life is so much. It’s family and friends and relationships and school and work and fun and horrible stuff and things we can control and things we can’t control. It’s God and nature and beauty and reality and ugliness and simplicity and surprise and the expected. It’s mountain top experiences and the valley of the shadow of death. It’s the overture of birth and the finale of our last breath.

It takes time. A good stew of life (“ragout de la vie” for those of us that like to pretend we live in Europe) doesn’t happen in three to four minutes in the microwave. 

It needs to simmer.

It’s taking all the good and all the not so good and then let it bubble. Bitter fruit. Sweet fruit. Tough fruit. Ripe fruit. They need to sit with each other for a while.

And then flavors start to emerge.

Where there was a single taste, now there is bounty. Where one texture was once on the surface, there is now a greater consistency. The quality of one has become the class of many.

Where there was singularity there is now something that no one has ever created before.

There is life.

God assured me that although my former classmate’s stew had not had his threescore and ten to cook away, his life was full of first-rate ingredients. He had had just enough time so his own ragout de la vie tasted exactly how it was supposed to taste.

And I could smile, put the lid back on the slow cooker in my mind’s eye and exhale.

Bonne manger mon ami. (Good eating, my friend)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years. I have five kids and they are the sun, moon and stars to me. I love them with every fiber of my being.

But I’m tired.

For 18 years I’ve woken up prematurely - I call it a “stirring” - and seldom receive eight full hours of sleep.

This is a (partial) list of blessed reasons why. Most nights I experience at least one stirring. You may have a similar list, read on…

1.     The 10:00 “just as I’ve climbed into bed” request. You know it as well as I do, “Mom, can I go over to Hannah’s house after school? And can I have $10.00 for pizza? And then could you drive us to the mall once you get off work?”
2.     The 11:25 “I’m in a deep sleep now” mind-numbing concern. “Mom, we were watching this documentary about rodents at school and apparently they can climb up into washrooms through sewer pipes. I really have to go to the bathroom but I’m afraid a rat is going to be in the toilet, can you come check?”
3.      The 12:15 worry. “Jennifer and I want to stand beside each other for our class pictures because we’re going to wear these cute matching tops but what if the teacher doesn’t let us? And what if we don’t look good beside another person? We’ve been planning this all year. Can you phone the school?”
4.      The 01:00 wonder text. The buzzing of my iPhone reveals the questioning of one of my teenagers: “Mom, I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about the rocks in our neighbors yard. I need to make an Inukshuk for my Humanities class. Do you think I could use their rocks? Would they mind?”
5.      The 05:20 appeal for a dream interpretation. “Mom, I had a nightmare where I went to church with no pants on. This is not good. I can’t play piano on Sunday, it’s some sort of sign…..”
6.     The 05:58 call for cleanup. “Mom, I just woke up and there was macaroni in my bed. I think I threw up. Can you clean it?”
7.      The 06:10 Bathroom Break. Okay, nowadays those are more for me than for my kids.

By 7:00am I usually find myself vertical and in the kitchen. I clutch a large cup of coffee and pour in just enough cream to remind me of the sand on a beach somewhere pleasant. I grab hold of my spoon, start stirring, and thank the Lord for the gift of my children. They have taught me more than I’ve taught them.

Someday the house will be quiet and I’ll sleep.
There will be no stirring. Not even from a mouse.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

High School Reunion: Post Mortem

Five days ago I flew back home to Manitoba. I go back every year or so, but this time was different. I brought my new husband of one-and-a-half years (his first time in any of the prairie provinces) and we were going to my high school reunion.

I was excited leading up to it. I could hardly wait to see my friends again. The last reunion we had was 18 years ago. I was pregnant with my oldest son......

....and I was married to someone else.

My spouse chauffeured me to the gathering (my Mom in the passenger seat and me in the back) and I became overwhelmed with emotion. "Am I going to have have to explain to everyone what happened? Are people going to look at me with judgement in their eyes? Am I going to have to answer a thousand questions?"

I surprised myself. I thought I had long since grieved all I needed to around my first marriage. I have been given the gift of a new life with a wonderful man. He was here beside me, holding my hand. Why do I feel like bursting into tears?

I didn't have much time to process what was going on for me. And it didn't take long before someone mentioned to me "all I had gone through" and my eyes started welling up with tears.

I was furious with myself. I did not come all this way to cry.

Learning #1 - processing my divorce with my British Columbia friends when it happened was great. They helped me do a thorough job. But I still needed to process further with my childhood friends, who knew both of us. For some reason, it was significant.

Once I got my emotions under control I had a great time. There were about 100 of us. It felt like no time had passed. Those I was nervous about seeing again were wonderful and life giving and gave me no weird vibes. Yay for no weird vibes.

I laughed until I thought tears would run down my legs. The stories we told were sweet. We remembered those whose journeys ended prematurely. Our hugs were warm and genuine.

And they loved my husband, Jarrett, quickly conscripting him to BBQ duty.

Once the reunion ended the "after party" began which was almost greater than the event itself. Not  because there were more stories and laughs and memories, but because the level of honesty and vulnerability could almost be described as sacred.

Learning #2 - sitting with dear friends you have known 40 years and hearing hard, disappointing, disillusioning stories is profound and can only be described as a gift: a "treasure in dark places". Not one of us is living the life we thought we would. We hold each other not with judgement but rather with grace and acceptance. This is as close to koinonia as I think we're going to see this side of eternity.

The next day there were more get-togethers. More honesty. More tears (from me, of course.)

Learning #3 - you can ask shockingly honest questions to people with whom you have a long history. And it's ok. Even if you haven't seen them for a really long time. They will more than likely tell you the truth. And you will understand.

Jarrett and I stayed at my mom's house. I looked around her apartment, literally stuffed full of memories, I noticed pictures on the walls, on the fridge, on the mirrors, on the side tables. Some of those pictures were me as a young bride, my Dad, my first husband, and others who aren't in our life anymore.

Learning #4 - it is really smart to keep those memories active. Keep those pictures up. Don't forget the good times. Just because people aren't in our lives, (for whatever reason) it doesn't mean they never were. And that is what makes our time on this earth so rich.

It would be great if it wasn't 18 years until our next reunion. Just saying.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

High School Reunion Edition

I’m going to my high school reunion this weekend.

It’s been 28 years since I graduated. Considering I was 17 when that happened, when you include my undergrad and graduate studies I’ve still easily spent more time out of school then in it.

But I can’t wait to go back. I have such a pull back to my hometown. Many of these people I haven’t seen for over 20 years. Even now, why do I feel like I know them so well? Why will the stories we tell continue to be so funny? Why will be tease the same people about the same things?

These school age roots must go down pretty deep.

I think one of the reasons was that I went to a really small private school for those years. We knew each other inside and out. We noticed when people got a haircut or a black eye or broke up with someone. It was big news. Because it was all the news we had.

A couple of times a year we would travel to a competitive “convention” in a different province or state. I still remember how the bathroom smelled at a church we stayed at in Saskatoon. I remember Shirley getting mad at me for talking about some encouragement notes from her mom in her suitcase that were meant for her sisters.  I remember some of the questions our “Reach for the Top” team had. I remember each inconvenient time I got my period.

How can this be? I don’t even remember what I had for supper last night.

Not everyone loved our school. It was very conservative and full of rules. For me half of the fun was seeing how many rules I could break without getting caught. We weren’t allowed any “non-Christian” music at school, and one day I had an Abba tape in my gym bag. One of the older girls took it to our principal who in turn called my dad. My dad told our principal (who I do love) that Abba was a great group and I was more than welcome to listen to them.  Go Dad.

Some people won’t come out this weekend because they are still hurt from the effects of that sometime harsh environment. I understand that. We will miss them.

There are those who we went to school with that won’t be coming this weekend because they aren’t with us anymore. Cancer takes its toll on the just and the unjust. We grieve and remember them.

There are those that I am scared to death might show up. They hurt and humiliated me. But I don’t think I was the only one they hurt and humiliated. I’m hoping they didn’t get an invitation.

As for now, I wonder what I’m going to wear. I’m thankful that my mom is making potato salad so I don’t have to cart an appetizer three provinces over. I wonder what people are going to look like. I don’t think I’ve aged that well, hopefully the same holds true for everyone else. J

I’m counting the hours until I hear the same stories retold. People holding hands under blankets on the bus, Kim always being late for school even though she only lived 10 feet away, Mr. Weslake’s eye exercises.

The stories make us who we are.

And we are great.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Beckie Evans: Parts Unknown

I’ve recently become a business owner.

This scares me.

All my working life I’ve chosen to work for others. Frankly, that seemed a lot easier than doing something on my own. But time goes on and circumstances happen and opportunities emerge and here I am, the owner of my own music studio.

If ever there were a business for me to open, this would be it. I’ve made somewhat of a living teaching piano since I was 17, so I know what I’m doing. I’ve just never had to worry about generating students, possibly disappointing teachers who come on board, and potentially falling on my face.

I regularly give myself the big “risk” pep talk. But when standing face to face with risk, it would be nice to have a cushy guaranteed check in your bank account every two weeks. That’s a luxury I no longer have.

What I do have is opportunity. And I’m scared.

What if I’m not great at generating students? What if I can’t retain them? What if I my new business doesn’t give me enough money to feed my family or pay the bills?

I remember a sermon I heard 10 or so years ago. The pastor said we don’t need to worry about finances because God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and it’s up to him to supply what we need. I suppose. But it is quite uncomfortable.

Maybe that’s it. I am uncomfortable. I want security and stability. Instead, I have opportunity and risk. I want to be able to go to the store and buy what I want for supper. Instead, I’ll probably need to keep looking through the sale flyers. I want to know how I’m going to pay my bills weeks in advance. Instead, I get to plan how I’m going to pay my bills weeks in advance.

I still flirt with different employment websites, imagining myself behind a desk, sipping on Starbucks, wearing my latest fashions I purchased full price from The Bay.

Doesn’t God know I have more than enough character? I’ve been through more in this lifetime than most people go through in 70+ years. I like who I’ve become. But I really don’t need more challenges.

I feel like I’m at the checkout stand in the store of life and God is behind the till, asking me if I’d like to make a donation to yet another worthy cause.

No thanks, not today. The cost is too high.

But actually I don’t have much of a choice. Because here I am. This is happening. I’m in labor, but instead of birthing a baby I’m birthing a new career.

I’d much prefer one that’s safe, secure, and carries no financial risk.  It seems so nice, so comfortable. I don’t understand why God doesn’t see things my way.

God just whispered something in my ear. And I laugh because it’s true. He said, “If you had that life, you wouldn’t need me.”

True. I wouldn’t.

So instead of comfort and stability, I again walk hand in hand to parts unknown with the creator of the universe. I don’t know what’s around each bend and I don’t really know how to plan, but from what I recall, he can probably plan for me. And when I phrase it like that it doesn’t seem so bad.

I just wish I could use his credit card if I need to.

Monday, 27 July 2015

That terrifying first shred of acceptance

I’ve been traumatized three times in my life. Really traumatized.

The first: my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and died 3 ½ weeks later.

The second: my first marriage ended.

The third: I got laid off from a lovely, wonderful position I was not “done” with.

The first two were, of course, not immediate. Even though the time from my dad’s diagnosis to his death was less than a month, I had sensed he would die when I was in my early thirties since I was a young girl. I can’t explain it. I just knew.  It didn’t make the news that “he’s dying now” any easier. I scoured my Bible for every verse about healing. There were many, but one hit me like a ton of bricks. It was Psalm 139:16. “Your eyes saw my body even before it was formed. You planned how many days I would live. You wrote down the number of them in your book before I had lived through even one of them.”

That was it. Instead of praying my dad would be healed, I prayed he would LIVE EVERY DAY God wrote for him to live. My journey through the Kubler-Ross grief cycle came to an abrupt stop at acceptance.

A parent’s death is never easy, but I found such peace with that verse. I couldn’t argue with God over that one.

I fought with every fiber of my being against the ending of my first marriage. I was fighting for my kids. I was fighting for “the dream”. I was fighting for the institution itself. I claimed: the power of prayer, the blood of Jesus, every promise in the scriptures whether they applied or not. I had people come to my house and pray over our bed. Nothing changed. Finally one day I got an email from my counselor who just laid it out. “He has chosen to live a life which does not include you.” There it was in black and white. I could not argue. It was the end. The idea of acceptance was no longer an option. It was just the way it was.

I fought so long for my marriage, it was terrifying to think of stopping. It had consumed my energy for 15 years. I had no idea what I could replace the fighting with.

The last one was as immediate as it was shocking. I left for work one sunny September morning with a long list of “to-do’s”, and returned home less than 15 minutes later, spending the rest of the day throwing up. Acceptance around this one has been hard to come across. I’m not sure why but maybe it’s because I had no warning and couldn’t prepare myself. Maybe it’s because God has been very, very quiet since then. 

I couldn’t see life in that situation. Only rejection.

Last week I got a Facebook message. It was from someone I had not expected to hear from. They were letting me know about an opportunity and wondered if I might like to be involved. My first thought was, “Shit” because the position is messy and controversial and there are no easy answers.

It is perfect for me.

What terrifies me the most about accepting horrible things that happen is the idea (maybe self-imposed) that if I’m not grieving or fighting it must mean I don’t care about them.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

Today I’m choosing to think it means there is life for me beyond death, beyond disappointment, beyond failure.

I did learn something.