Monthly Musings: September

Is it just me or is this year travelling at warp speed? It’s the end of September and here are a few thoughts for the month.

Spring – The blosCrabapple blossomsoms on my ornamental plum tree are long gone, but the crabapple tree is just starting to bud. A few more days and it should be a cloud of pink.

Friends – I’ve been reminded of the pleasure of time spent with friends. This month I helped friends and family celebrate their birthdays, enjoyed dinner and conversation with a close friend, and began to make a new friend over lunch. Good food with good friends – one of my favourite things.

Books – Do you love books? Choosing books? Reading books? Talking about  books? It wasn’t until I read Emily P. Freeman’s latest blog post asking for book recommendations that I realised that I don’t have enough book conversations in my life. Coincidentally the only book I’ve actually finished this month is Emily’s new book Simply Tuesday: small-moment living in a fast-moving world. September has been an inconsistent reading month for me. I’ve added a number of new books to the reading list but they’re all still works in reading progress.

Here are a couple of quotes from Emily’s book that resonated with me as someone who needs time to process things. Maybe they will resonate with you too.

Productivity skills have helped me meet important deadlines and release unnecessary perfectionism.
The problems come when I foolishly try to apply these same skills to my inner life.
The soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules.


Many people are in a season of speed, a time of movement, of action, and go. But that is not where I usually am. And I cannot wait for the world to stop to embrace my permission for slow.
What part of your personality seems to fight against your own perceived ability to succeed? What might happen if your stopped bullying your personality into submission and instead began to welcome it as a kind friend?
So here’s to you, my fellow slow-processors. Take the long way home. Embrace the silence to consider. Give yourself permission to think, to listen, to be sure.

Writing – And as October is waiting in the wings you may remember that last year I joined the Write 31 Days challenge to write on one topic every day in October. This year I’ve decided to take on the challenge again, and I’ve chosen a topic that’s particularly relevant for me at the moment. Check out the first post of the series tomorrow.


31 Days: Listening – the gift of paying attention

Spider OrchidHave you ever noticed how it feels to have someone listen to you? I mean really listen. It doesn’t really happen all that often, especially in this crazy busy world of distractions. But when someone gives you their full attention, and just listens, that’s a precious moment.

When someone is genuinely interested in you and what you have to say, their attention says that you matter. You have value.

I need to know that I matter, that I have value. So do you. So do we all.

It’s hard to listen really well. To listen without jumping to conclusions or to judgement. To get past the feeling that listening isn’t enough, that I need to share my own anecdote to show that I understand, that I need to provide a solution a friend’s problem, that I should have some useful advice. That I somehow need to fix things, as if they need me to rescue them, as if I’m not already broken myself.

But what if I listened to someone in order to learn? From them. About them. What if I listened – to know them?

How would that change the way I listen?

Would it free me from shouldering a responsibility that is not mine? Would it free me from waiting for ‘my turn’? Would it free me from trying to impress with my own insight or humour? Would it free me to really pay attention and seek to understand a person. Would it allow me to really see them for who they are? To be with them? To love them and care about them?

I think it just might.

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 23 of the series 31 Days to Listen. Visit Write 31 Days to see how other writers are contributing to this challenge.

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Life

My brother Craig and I went through a period when we bought each other jigsaw puzzles for Christmas and birthdays. The best part of the game (for him at least) was to find the most difficult puzzles. One year he gave me a puzzle comprising dozens of goldfish on a blue background. A little challenging? Try it with no straight edges and five extra pieces that look like they belong but don’t actually fit in the puzzle. I was making as much progress as a mouse pushing an elephant uphill until my friend Megan helped me out.

Another puzzle my brother gave me consisted of dozens of emperor penguins, so it’s largely black and white. This one at least had edges. The kicker was that it’s square, double-sided, with the same image printed on the reverse side – and rotated 90 degrees!

Megan and I have also enjoyed putting numerous jigsaw puzzles together, including a puzzle with no picture on the box lid, one almost entirely composed of black animals, and a photo-mosaic map of the world. The map was actually the hardest. It was definitely a two-person puzzle, needing each of us to encourage the other as enthusiasm and energy ebbed and flowed. If I’d just been on my own, I might never have finished it.

Jigsaws have the ability to drive you crazy with frustration and lack of progress, and yet every time you set a piece in the correct location, fitting snug with its neighbours, there’s a sense of satisfaction.

Have you ever noticed how life can seem like a jigsaw puzzle? So many things happen in our lives that we can’t seem to make sense of, that don’t seem to have a place or purpose. We can’t see how they fit together, and there’s no picture on the box showing us exactly what the whole puzzle is supposed to look like.

Sometimes we manage to fit a few pieces together, and we get excited because we think we know what we’re doing now. We think we know what to expect. Until we try to fit the next piece somewhere and discover that we have no clue.

When I started writing this post, I wanted to focus on God as the Master puzzle maker. The one who knows every piece of the puzzle and how it fits together. He knows how beautiful they all are because he designed them with care and love. I wanted to talk about how we can trust him with the pieces of our life even when we don’t understand how they fit together. And I still think that’s true, but something else emerged while I was writing, something else I needed to see. Perhaps you’ve already noticed it?

Puzzles are easier and generally more fun when I tackle them with someone else and not just on my own. When it’s getting tough we help each other out, lift one another up when we’re getting discouraged. That photo mosaic map of the world? At times that got so tough that we’d need to take a break from it. One of us kept going while other had a rest, and soon energy and enthusiasm would return and we’d make some more progress.

And that’s how we’ve been designed to do life – with each other. Each of us helping each other and spurring one another on. We need each other, especially when life hands us the pieces that don’t seem to fit.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

(And Megan, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for the many hours we’ve enjoyed together on those puzzles, and thank you for showing me this truth about life.)

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