Saturday, December 1, 2012

Virtually Alive



It all started with my daughter asking me to down load an app for my iPhone. She thought it was awesome and wanted to have shared experience with me. What harm could it do I thought? What harm? If  only I  had my future self  with me at the time to kibosh the download and slap me in to reality.Sadly,  future self was nowhere to be found and this app was downloaded  and my virtual life was born. The app is called Virtual Family. A game where, well, where you  have a virtual family, virtual career, and virtual home.
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 If I am to enjoy a game I need it to be an escape, a distraction from the real world and this game was not. I had to virtually make the meals, which took an extraordinary length of time. I had to virtually pick up socks. I had to virtually work in my office.  I had to virtually deal with infertility problems. I had to virtually discipline my children and the funniest part I had to virtually deal with spam email?
 Really? one look at the game and I ought to have said, bye bye you are not for me. Alas, that was not my reality, never did I see the light instead I  choose to see my virtual world in the palm of my hand.

 I attended to my virtual life diligently, making sure my virtual children remain alive, ensuring I work hard enough in the virtual world to attain career advancements and still daily pick up virtual socks. Heaven forbid that I do not pick up those socks!! Yep. I have left the realm of sane and jumped right to crazy.
I sit there on my couch, picking up virtual socks, while (and this is what prompted my blog) quite literally there are a pile of unmatched socks at my feet awaiting sorting.

The real world for those minutes (okay..ashamedly hours) I played rushed by me without notice and continued on without my attention.  I was slowly becoming unaware and removed from my real world.

Now pay attention, because this next bit might just be for me  but I had to include it in my blog. I look at my spiritual life. A life I claim as the most important thing about who I am. A life that I put a great deal of effort into, but so often I fear I might be missing out on the real spiritual experiences. I sit with my journal, and write about experiences I want to collect with God and things I want to live for, from the comfort of my couch. I pray for my real friends but not in their presence. I seek truth in God's word but fail to truly implement it in my real living. I seek God with all my heart on my couch but when I arise I often forget that I need to continue to seek. How can I have such an impressive spiritual walk with God on a couch and such a lackluster walk when I get off the couch? Perhaps I am someone virtually living  but not fully living spiritually. Am I just virtually alive?

Okay, wait just a second. I will never diminish the importance of my "couch time" with God. It is those moments that strengthen me, shape me and remind me of who I am. I know that without those moments I would not have survived. I am not at all reducing the importance of those moments, I am simply pointing out that in my life, perhaps I am not really experiencing all God has in store for me because off the couch I focus on me and not Him. Perhaps, I am living  somewhat of a " virtual" Christian life defined by the dimensions of my couch and the color of the ink I use to scribe my thoughts in my journal.

I think here is the problem, I can comfortably control my behavior and others from the couch. I can comfortably involve myself in loving God's people without being in their presence.  I am really not interacting with them. Interacting would take a different sort of courage, a braver person who has better risk taking skills.

 Just because I am an introvert does not mean I should choose to live my life in the safety of my controlled world. Why not put the pen down and experience all I am writing about in real time. That would be down right scary. That would require more  than I possess. That would most assuredly make me uncomfortable. Here is  the reason why I am not more in real life; I cannot control those around me, and sometimes they make me uncomfortable. There I said it, I like control and planning and living in real life does not let me have enough of it. I am  aware that often my biggest most fulfilling spiritual moments are during my couch time. God calls to be a light in this world, it is hard to do that from your couch. I want my biggest awareness of God to be doing His work, engaging with His people and shining His light brightly when I can only see darkness.  Now that is real living.

I know from here my next steps will be to be more willing to get out there and experience God through all sorts of people and  occasions. I know that  and I am determined I want to do this better. I want this not because it will make my life so much more full , although I know it will. I want to do it because I want to glorify God in all of my life not just during my couch time. I want to know and experience God in all aspects of my world and not be merely virtually alive. I want to be alive in the fullest!

Shine on my friends.. now encourage me to get off my couch and go out and live!
Allie



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Waiting for the Anvil to Drop.

The last weekend of October found me in South Florida, at a Women of Faith conference with some of the most amazing women in my life, but I was flinching. I was flinching because I was waiting for the figurative cartoon anvil to drop from the sky onto my head. It is an anvil that God has used before to catch my attention and get me thinking differently. It is an anvil that leaves quite a mark on my life. It is an anvil that God has to use often on a stubborn, stuck in her own way of thinking kind of girl like me. I knew there was one with my name on it and I was waiting for it to drop, holding my breath and wondering what it would mean when it did.

Traditionally, well traditionally in cartoons, anvils are suspended in air until the unsuspecting  Road Runner, walks under the contraption, after which it is let go by the Coyote and BAM the Coyote has procured  his now flattened dinner. Well, in my life, the anvil is not dropped maliciously but rather intentionally.  Once I have been hit, my world cannot stay the same. I will be forced to change. With God being the Coyote in this rather crude analogy the anvil then has a good purpose but the anvil drop still hits with a huge BAM in my life. 

Case in point; The first Women of Faith event for me was at the end of 2009, during which I knew that my husband was entertaining a call to the Bahamas, one that I was NOT in favor of. I went to the conference with hesitation  no way did I want to hear from God. I was good the way I was thank you very much, no need to move me. I sat in the conference fighting this thought entirely. BAM. God said Allie, at least start to consider this, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
While I would never have been able verbalize this  at the time, it was that weekend, that I began to even contemplate the idea of moving countries, leaving family and friends and giving up my practice. BAM. 

So this year I went, wondering just what I was to hear, what kind of anvil was I going to be hit with, please Lord.. do not let it be that much change again.. please.
 History suggests, okay Allie's history says Anvils come from women's conferences, be aware. Okay I was. But the circumstances that surrounded my group getting there made me very aware that this anvil was going to be big! From Hurricane Sandy causing my Bahamian friends (or the majority of them) to be  unable to travel, to the very strange reasons for plane delays from my Canadian friends to a huge transponder in South Florida blowing up next to me when I was in a restaurant waiting for my group, plunging us and the whole of three blocks into massive darkness. I was left only watching and waiting for something big that was about to drop on my head. I could not even guess what it was.

So I waited. In the conference I literally was holding my breath when a new speaker took the  stage, I thought for sure this was it but the anvil never dropped.It was not until mid way through the second  and last day of the conference that I began to realize what was happening. 

My fearless group leader and awesome friend Diana!
I realized that the anvil this time was not in the form of a giant cartoon metal object that was going to drastically change my life direction, this time it was in the form of a gentle whisper from God. Reminding me, I was his, telling me of his love for me. Reinforcing in me a faith so deep I cannot find the words to accurately write about it. 
It was a resonating of my heart to His; that was the anvil. Not the pulsating ache of a life to be drastically  altered. What joy that was, what peace. I had  struggled since the move to Nassau with keeping Joy and there is was, God reminding me I had it. 

Meeting the woman whose music heals my heart! Mandisa!



Gentle whispers are harder to hear. The roar of the crowd distracted  me. The circumstances that tried to prevent all of us from being there distracted me and made me look for a  giant message waiting to plummet downwards towards me at impossible speeds. But this anvil, was found in God's quite but powerful whisper. It was one that was only noticed when I found stillness midst the roaring crowd of the conference. 

Life lesson? even people like me who tend to take on life at breakneck speed need to stop and listen for the quiet whisper from the One who has your life in His hands. It is in those moments when you hear His whisper that your soul will resonate with His and you will know that you are loved. Stop looking for huge anvil messages, the most power ones are often waiting for you in the quite moments of life.


Shine on my friends and if you sense an anvil is heading your way, don't duck He knows what he is doing!
Allie

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kind of a big deal.


  I once had a shirt that said "I'm kind of a big deal" written on the front. I wish I still had it because for once wearing it would not feel like a stretch. This past month I have been doing my "Book the Author" event at schools around Nassau. Let me tell you, these readings have been a sincere highlight for me and the way the children have responded to me have indeed made me feel like I was kind of a big deal! 

Don't worry, I am not tooting my horn in this blog. Trust me, I still have to drive my own dented car, return home to cook dinner and my clothes are only washed when  I meet them  in the laundry room with soap in hand. So no need to bring me back to reality, I am well versed in the everyday life. But for  a few moments at a time when I am reading to the students I do feel like a bit of a rock star! But more than that, I love it because I am doing something  I was created to do and I sincerely do not want to take the credit for what God has done in my life.

The children when they approached me after the reading often want to meet me and speak with me, remember the only competition I have in that moment is  for them to return to math class so yeah, I am the runaway favorite.  Instead of standing there telling all about how awesome I am, because in the moment I think they would believe anything I say,  I purposely try to  turn the tables on them. 

 I will often encourage them to write their own story, take risks with things they want to see done in their lives and mostly remind them that their story counts. In the end I hope  they go away not just meeting an author but feeling encouraged and inspired to write their own story because everyone has a story to tell, everyone. 

There is one particular moment that took place after I was finished a reading that I want to relate to you, not just because it was perhaps one of the sweetest moments but I think there is a grander tale to learn from all of this. I had just finished reading to a group of near 300 students when I notice a beautiful boy in grade 2 waiting just to my side until the crowds had thinned. I turned to him and crouched down. I shook his hand and asked him his name. He told me and then drew closer to me and said, in a bold but quiet voice," would you like to see my illustrations?" He looked down, hoping but not counting on a positive answer from me. "Of course" I said, " I would love to!" You cannot imagine his smile.

 I stood back up and asked him to show me, when I was promptly grabbed and turned to the opposite direction by another waiting student who assumed that my rising was the sign that I was done this conversation and began asking me about 5 questions at once. It was during this time I lost sight of my budding illustrator. 10 minutes passed and I assumed he had been whisked away with his class and I had lost my chance to speak with him again. I started to pack up my materials and thanked the librarian for such a great opportunity when she pointed me to the door where my little illustrator was waiting. Not just waiting, but patiently waiting and holding the door open for me to follow him. He must have been there the full 10 minutes since we spoke. 

I approached him and said I was glad to still see him as I thought I had lost him. "No",  he replied "I was just waiting for you to come and see my drawings, they are in the classroom."  I asked him to show the way. I felt like Alice in Wonderland trying to follow the excited rabbit, down the corridors he went and around corners, I often lost sight of him only to turn the corner and see him waiting for me.We finally arrived at the classroom, where he went straight to his desk to get his drawings. He handed them carefully to me for inspection. I could feel his eyes boring a hole through mine as he studied me studying his illustrations. 

"You did these all by yourself?" I asked. He grinned and  proudly told me yes. "They are excellent" I said, "just excellent". We talked about how he came up with the ideas, and what others he had drawn that currently were not available to show (meaning they were at his house). When we finished I asked him again how old he was, he replied 8. I told him then when he is done college in about 13 years he needs to look me up so we can do a book together, I will write it and he will illustrate it.  It was a special moment. This young boy felt so appreciated, so worthy of attention, so important, in the end he felt like he was kind of a big deal. 

Let me bring this long example to a bigger meaning. We were all born with a purpose, all of us. All of us have  a story, have something to show that is uniquely ours, it is a gift that we have been given to use for a greater purpose.  Let others see them, let yourself see them but most of all let the One who gave you your gifts and talents see you shine a light in this world through them. 

The little boy, my budding illustrator is figuring out he shines greatly, not just through his ability to draw but through his willingness to show himself truly. Did you notice he waited  to be able to show me, that took a lot of patience for an 8 year old. But he knew it was important to bring his drawings and his new friend Allie together  so he waited. We as adults do not wait very well, even more noticeably we do not wait well when we are feeling vulnerable. So instead of waiting to shine, we deny we can and move away so to avoid disappointment should  others not approve. This boy, waited despite protests from his friends that he was needed on the playground, despite  teachers asking him what he was doing, he waited because he knew his gift needed to be seen, that there was a part of him that could shine and he was determined. It was this determination that made the moment even more special, more rock star like, and because of it this boy shone greatly.

 Don't ever deny that you were created to shine. You are not just kind of a big deal, you are a big deal whether you know it or not.  Never stop looking for that purpose and never stop shining God's light into this world through the gifts he has given you.

Shine on my Rock star friends.. you are brilliant..even if you do not know it yet.

Allie

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A First Reading and Perhaps a First Telling.




Yesterday was amazing. I had the privilege of reading my book I Can't Sleep at St. Andrews International School of the Bahamas. I originally thought I would be reading to year 2 children but when I arrived I realized I was mistaken and I was booked to read to the year 4 children. How perfect I thought because the protagonist in my book is a little boy in grade 4! 

I cannot put into words, which is strange for me, how amazing was this first reading of my book. So instead I will give you a few highlights. 

First, the children, were amazing. They were so well behaved and intent on taking in all that was talked about and considering it was three classes worth of year 4 students that is a great feat!

Secondly, they loved the story. I loved seeing their faces and hearing their little giggles at some of the illustrations and wording of the book. I think it was a hit!

Thirdly, I think the lesson of my book was understood. We discussed what it was like to be worried and that it is a normal thing to experience. My goal was to normalize that we will all experience worry at some point in our life but that the trick was to keep it to the proper size and not let it take over.

Lastly, and this is my favourite part, these children asked some amazing questions and made amazing comments. These questions were varied and all interesting  but I wanted to share the one common statement that came up time and time again. I will call it, the telling.

Once the event was over, as it had taken place in the library  they children went about their business to find a book to check out for the week. I found my self surrounded by eager children that wanted to speak to me. More than a few times, the child I was speaking with asked me if it was okay to tell me their worry. "Can I tell you my worry?" they would speak in hushed tones. I was honoured that they felt comfortable enough to tell me one of their worries. They disclosed worries about tests, athletic endeavors, friendship concerns and ill relatives.  By their telling, they brought me into their world even if only for 10 seconds, to share the load of their worry.

What did I take away from this? We need to tell more, we need to not let ideas about what the world will think of us, stop us from admitting we have concerns or worries. By telling, we admit we do not have all the answers. By telling we share the load of our world with someone who is ready to listen and care. I was reminded today by a wonderful group of year 4 students that telling to someone who cares is an vital part of how to live life successfully.
Shine on my friends!





Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Now!!

 I have a devotional reading book entitled Jesus Calling; written by Sarah Young.  I find it quite unbelievable that almost every time I read  it I feel like it was written just for me, the very theme I  find myself struggling with is usually the very theme upon which Sarah Young is commenting.  Today was no different, with a list of all the things I needed to do on my "day off" today quite literally by my side but still buzzing in my head I sat down to spend a few moments reading, praying and thinking.  Sarah Young's words jumped at me  and like a cartoon anvil awaiting the cartoon cat which never misses it's target these words hit hard. "Fantasizing about future happiness will never bring fulfillment, because fantasy is unreality." "Bring your moments to ME, and I will fill them with vibrant Joy. Now is the time to rejoice in My presence!"


     I was caught, list in hand, thinking fulfillment would happen once I was able to cross off all my things to do. I was challenged to stop and remember God's presence in the NOW and stop fantasizing about the future where things were done. Really if this is my fantasy I think I need to get out more! But seriously most of us will spend the majority of our day in contemplation of things completed and dreaming of future happiness when things seem more manageable.

With journal in hand I began my prayer as I sough God's guidance as to how to best learn to live in the now. Below is my journal entry if it of use to you make it your prayer, if not make your own.

Lord
Let me give my moments to you, let me rejoice in the Now. No matter what Now is, let me rejoice in the now because you are with me. Let me not miss out on awesome moments with you because I am looking too far ahead or insist on keeping my eyes focused on the past. You are everywhere but the only place I can experience you fully is in the now. NOW. I know you are both behind me and before me in time but my limited  human brain can only let me experience you now.
It is the now that fuels the future, seeing, experiencing your fullness now gives me hope, gives me strength for what.. not tomorrow but for the now. Strength provided for the now, for what you want me to do Now.
You do not expect me to use my gifts of now tomorrow, you expect me to use it now. You will provide tomorrow's  grace when I need it, tomorrow. Let me try not to store up, hide away or hoard the gift of now. Let me live fully in it. Let me live freely in it and when tomorrow comes and my next now is given, let me rejoice again. You are and will always be to the very end of the ages with me. Now, let me go out knowing the gift of Now is the very presence of my King.

Shine on my friends,
Allie

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ham and Cheese family!

2 of the 3 MacPhail's  represented at Ham and Cheese night!

Upon deciding we needed a family night, we, the MacPhail family headed out to the movies and then to a relatively unimpressive restaurant, just to be with one another in an uninterrupted way. We had a blast laughing through out Ice Age 4. The only argument was when we accused each other of hogging the popcorn, but we pushed through and shared appropriately. 

There was a a beautiful song during the end credits entitled We Are. I have included the lyrics below, which I think quite describes us. One of the characters new to this sequel was Syd's antiquated sloth grandmother who is somewhat senile and often nonsensical. During the closing song all the characters take a turn singing the line "we are family", when grandma comes on screen she messes up the line and sings, "we are ham and cheese". The line gets quite a laugh from those who remain to watch the end credits. Although she is corrected, she keeps singing ham and cheese instead of family. At then end, she harmonizes just fine with all the others who are singing the correct line. 

Ice Age, from its beginning speaks to what family can be like. A bunch of misfits who find a place to belong and call their own. Even in Ice Age 4, after 3 movies of solidifying the original misfit family, Syd, Manny and Diego continue to include those who are really not allowed by societies rules to fit into what is considered normal. Ice Age has created what I am now calling the ham and cheese families of the world. 

This message of finding your place speaks volumes to me. In a world where I often feel inadequate, too small, and ill-equipped to belong I find my own ham and cheese family right there beside me supporting and loving me as I am. Amazing isn't it.

I have to tell you, my ham and cheese family does not stop with the three MacPhails. I am part of a much larger inadequate, inadequate and imperfect family, God's. God did not call us into his family because we are typical or ordinary, he calls us into his family because he wants us how He created us; imperfect and ill-equipped, He gives us what is needed to shine for Him, we need not even try to bring that ourselves. We, God's family, are the perfect ham and cheese family, we might look different, and we might act different, but we have found a place to belong and friends, there is nothing..nothing greater than knowing where you belong. 



We are  By Keke Palmer

We are, we are
Not your ordinary fami-mily
But we can all agree that
We are, we are
Close as close can be

So it don’t matter what it looks like
We look perfect to me
We got every kind of lover
We’re so lucky indeed
They can keep on talking
It don’t matter to me cause
We are, we are family

We are are are are (We are are)
We are are are are (We are are)
We are are are are (We are are)
We are, we are family, family, family
We are, we are family

So what?
We don’t look, we don’t act
We don’t walk, we don’t talk
Like you do
So what?
If we hang just a hang and no shame
We both do what we want to

Cause we come from everywhere
Searching for ones to care
Somehow we found it here
We found us a home

We are, we are
Not your ordinary fami-mily
But we can all agree that
We are, we are
Close as close can be

So it don’t matter what it looks like
We look perfect to me
We got every kind of lover
We’re so lucky indeed
They can keep on talking
It don’t matter to me cause
We are, we are family

Ok, so the links in our chains makes us strange
But really they make us stronger
And no one would replace not a thing
Mother or father
Cause we…

Cause we come from everywhere
Searching for ones to care
Somehow we found it here
We found us a home

We are, we are
Not your ordinary fami-mily
But we can all agree that
We are, we are
Close as close can be

So it don’t matter what it looks like
We look perfect to me
We got every kind of lover
We’re so lucky indeed
They can keep on talking
It don’t matter to me cause
We are, we are family

(Family)
(We are, we are)
We are, we are family

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I wrote a book!

I wrote a book!

Very rarely will I shout out my accomplishments; but in a blog it is not so much a shout but more of a sentence with emphasis. My absence on the blog has been felt dearly in my heart these past few months. The time usually spent on my weekly blog was ousted by the push to finalize my first book and get it into print. I do not regret the time spent on this push but I did dearly miss my blogging. Today, I happily introduce my new book and just as joyfully reconnect with my blog.

I Can't Sleep 

I wrote this book about 4 years ago, I wrote it all in one sitting during one night at my cottage in Arden Ontario when, you guessed it I could not sleep. Often when I Can't Sleep I will get up and journal, read scripture and pray. When I Can't Sleep it is usually due to the current anxieties of my day, real or otherwise, beginning to take over and filling my mind with thoughts and images that are far bigger than they really need to be.

My main character, laying wide awake in his darkened room.
The night I wrote this book my anxieties were really not that different than other time, it was a typical sleepless night.What was atypical was that after my time of journalling and praying I realized how out of control my anxieties had gotten. To quote many including my mother my brain had "created a mountain out of a mole hill" growing my restlessness into anxiety. Examining the Allie made mountain that night exposed the unnatural growth of my anxieties and brought them back to manageable size. The phrase "I Can't Sleep" repeated in my head as I made of list of my worries. The line; I can' t sleep because (fill in the blank)  monopolized the pages of my journal, some of them actually were quite humorous due to the exaggerated size of them.  I started laughing at my mind's ability to make my reality so absurd. As I laughed at myself, the idea for this book hit. I stayed up longer than I needed to to write it, but as dawn drew near I had in my hands the first draft of I Can't Sleep. 

A starfish nightlight, a favorite of mine
I loved the story from the start but as I worked with the amazing illustrator Jace McKinney and watched it visually take shape, I grew to love it even more. The little boy in the story is not just for kids, he represents all of us at one time or another  as we let our worries take up larger room in our head than they need to. I hope you enjoy this book and I would love feedback when you have time.




How to get this book
Canadian and US customers: can visit www.alliemacphail.com/#turtlebackpublishing
and order your copy(s) for delivery. Be sure to indicate if you want your book signed or personalized!
Nassau residents: You can contact me at turtlebackpublishing@live.com for a signed or personalized copy. Also, you can visit the following stores in Nassau who are currently carrying the book, more stores will be added shortly!

Exaggerated worries take different shapes
Bahama Art and Handicraft
Nassau Stationers

Book Synopsis
Follow the creative mind of a fourth grade boy as he struggles to fall asleep.  Friends and family have given him advice but it does not work. What ever will he do? How will he ever sleep with all of these worries? Will he ever get out of the fourth grade? Never fear! Mom and Dad hear their son’s struggle and come to save the night with an ingenious plan that helps their son find a sense of confidence as he learns to better handle his worries and troubles.
Included in this book is a letter to parents from the author, Allie MacPhail. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Allie recognizes that our worries can sometimes get the better of us causing, among other things, sleepless nights. Creatively written, and beautifully illustrated, this entertaining book demonstrates one method parents can use to help their children have a good night sleep.
a few scenes from the book

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Surprise is brewing!

Shhh!! I am planning a surprise! I cannot tell you yet what it is as I do not want to chance it being ruined. I will tell you all about it after, I promise. Just a few more days I promise I have some time to kill while I  restlessly await the next stage of my surprise plan, so I figured lets use that energy to blog. Blogging makes me feel I am telling the world about my plans without ruining the surprise!


I have been planning this surprise, with help, for easily 6 months now. I still cannot believe I have kept it in so well. I have told a chosen few. Some of whom are assisting with the plan some of whom are friends who keep my secret well hidden for me!


This surprise is really for someone else, sure I will enjoy it too, okay I will enjoy it a lot, but it truly began for someone else's enjoyment! For months I have pictured this person at the big reveal, the moment that they  are aware that they were the focus of a 6 month long planning period. I have pictured their face, their words their smile.. Yes it will be great, I am so excited to see this happen. It was anticipating their response that made me keep this a secret. It would not be as perfect if they new ahead of time, it would not be the right time in their life, nor would it be as enjoyed.


God does these kinds of things too. He has plans for us. Plans that have been in place since before we were born. So often I have begged with Him to let me in on the plan, pleaded my case that it would be better for me to know ahead of time. Whatever the situation was, big or small, God knew when to reveal it to me. It was always perfect. As I look back and laugh at the impatience I had (and still have) I wonder when I will learn. I need to remember that God has  a plan, one that is perfectly timed, lovingly crafted and will be undoubtedly impeccably executed. 


As I reflect on  my surprise for this person I cannot help but wonder all the things God has in store for me. I wonder if He eagerly anticipates my future reactions with as much anticipation as I have for my big reveal. In all things I need to remember, He has me. He has always had me in his plans. I trust that whatever they are and whenever they are revealed I can and will see all the reasoning behind the timing of the plans being revealed.


Shine on my friends and waiting trust.. God has you in mind!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Even new traditions can be revised

New tradition, a phrase without much logic. How can something be a tradition if it is new? Not sure but that is what I am choosing to use to describe what Anya and I have begun. A new tradition has taken shape
in the life of my daughter and I. Whenever she feels like things at school are a bit much or a tad confusing Anya requests a squishy time with me. It is a time, just for the two of us, right before bed when the world gets set aside and we can just talk. It is not very frequent but when it happens it is so beautiful. I let Anya be the director of our squishy time, when it happens and what we talk about. My heart overflows with joy as we sit in her dimmed room and I am privileged to hear the beautiful heart of an almost 10 year talk about her worries, thoughts and philosophies of life.

The time is called squishy time because we each hold a squishy toy, like the ones I have in my office when I work with my clients. Holding these in our hands is a symbol that we can talk about whatever we want and have a really good chance at being heard. It means any frustrations between each other during the day, for example this evening when I asked three times before she put something away,  or when I was a little on edge with her, is forgotten. Squishy time, means you will be heard, you will be loved for whatever you can bring. It is a beautiful new tradition in our lives.

Tonight, Anya and I had a squishy time. I on the bean bag, she on her bed. The lights were dimmed and we settled in to our comfy talk positions. Anya started the conversation when we were suddenly interrupted. Snickers, our amazingly "special" potcake entered the room. We had forgotten to shut the door. I snapped my fingers and pointed out, this was a time for Anya and I, we needed  no distractions during our squishy time.  Snickers backed slowly out of the room and took off down the hall. I did not feel very badly but I did feel some guilt. Snickers has special attention needs and they were not being met all because I did not want anything to interrupt our new squishy time tradition.

Anya and I got into the heart of the matter and I was about to speak when something caught my eye. Snickers had returned. Normally Snickers barges in and jumps on whoever is available to cuddle, this time Snickers remained at the door waiting for an invitation to come in. As I looked further, both Anya and I melted at the same time. Snickers had brought her chew toy to the door and when we made eye contact she dropped the toy at the opening of the door, tilted her head and looked longingly at the the two of us. This might sound crazy but it was like she was saying, can I have some squishy time too, I brought the mandatory toy! Anya and I paused to admire the scene that was out of any Hollywood movie, our conversation not broken, just on hold . Anya invited Snickers in and  as she did Snickers bent down, picked up her toy and trotted to Anya's bed to take her spot in the cue for sharing your heart.

It was a quick  but a very sweet and memorable moment. Usually nothing interrupts Anya and I during our squishy talk but tonight even with our tradition being a new one we decided to revise the rules to meet the need of our very sweet and needy potcake.

 I would like to take this moment to tell you that I am still sane and that  Snickers did not go in to a lengthy diatribe on the perils of being at home all day with out a human, but Snickers did  watch Anya and I intently as we connected deeply on the issue that both of us were undeniably human. Snickers, like Anya, like myself, like you; sought connection. We revised the rules to our new tradition of squishy time to accommodate the needs of another. It was different but it still worked.

Here is today's take home. Rethink your traditions, whether they are old or new, rethink them to make sure they are still meeting the needs for which they were created. Perhaps, there is a need for a revision  to the practice of these traditions to let others find benefit.  Don't get stuck in ways that have always been, you never know what they can become if you let them.

Shine on my friends and my your traditions feel ever new!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Paint: A fresh coat of lies.

 Anya, my daughter has been  wanting to have her room updated for a long time now. We moved into a furnished house when we moved to Nassau and we are grateful for that, however as we ourselves did not pick out the furnishings it lacks, how you say, a MacPhail touch. So since my parents were in town for two weeks and Anya was off school. We decided this weekend was the time to begin the transformation of Anya's room, into something she could call her own. We decided to proceed with the biggest decor impact on the room and paint.

I love painting, I mean I really love painting. It feels so fresh and clean like a new start for a room. The idea and the process of painting is somewhat transformative. Bringing something new and exciting to something old,worn and tired.  I am not sure why I have waited until now, almost two years into our life here in Nassau to paint, whatever the reason for my delay, my excitement was palpable. Excited to hold a paint brush for the first time in at least 3 years, we got started.

Anya's room is fairly small, with two large windows and a large closet, making painting very quick work.  Anya, my dad and I finished the room in just over an hour. With the first coat applied, we stood back and admired.  The colour was beautiful, and the room even without decorative touches and furniture was showing a bold new personality. But. time forces even the most impatient person, me, to wait. Nothing could be done until the first coat was dry. Determining that the next coat, if needed was to be put on the wall the next day, I closed the door of Anya's room and left the drying process alone.  Every few hours I would peek in, and admire. My fresh paint bliss however did not last long. Every time I went in to inspect and admire the room, I would notice a new imperfection. I choose not to be discouraged and determined that a second coat would fix all the things wrong with the walls.

The second coat of paint was applied, and the imperfections noted the day before were covered. The room looked amazing! Again, the drying period was imposed and we waited, busily planning how to arrange furniture and items belonging in Anya's room. Later I went back in for the final inspection, standing back the room looked amazing! The colour was perfect and Anya was thrilled. Excellent job I said to everyone, we all nodded and went to work  moving furniture.  As I moved closer to the walls my eyes would catch the occasional imperfection. Choosing not to dwell on it, as I had no more paint anyway, I tried to put the lack of perfection out of my mind. but just as I was able to do so with one wall, the next wall  would expose yet another mark of imperfection to me. I begin to get a irritated, how could a room go from perfect to less than just but getting  a closer look? Determined to not let this bother me too much I began to see if I could place furniture in front of the offensive marks as a way to hide it. Most I could, some I could not.I then started planning how to hang pictures in such a way as to disguise my flawed walls.

Now it is the day after and while there is still some work left to do, Anya's room is almost done. I have had some time to think about my frustrations with the  walls. It was not the painting, necessarily that was flawed it was the walls. The walls themselves had damage unseen to us before we painted. Painting just exposed it to the naked eye. Paint will only cover things, it cannot repair things.  A fresh coat of paint, has no restorative qualities it merely masks things it is put on. In one sense, painting lies.It tells us that an outside of something once changed, changes everything. that is simply not true. In order to truly change something we need the inside, the basic make up, the very foundation of something to be change. Then and only then can a lasting true change can be effected.

I confess, and I know I am not alone, that when I need a change, when I try to hide my imperfections from myself and from others, it is the outside I try to change first. I change my style, my diet, my exercise routine or other habits in my  life. All of these might be a good thing, but if I were to be completely honest, they do nothing but mask my inner imperfections, my deep insecurities and my longing to be more than I am. Paint lies, diet lies, clothing lies.

I am so thankful that God, the God who created me and has a purpose for me, already knows of my imperfections. I am so thankful that no matter how hard I try to deny or hide my flaws, God loves me with them and that if he desires them changed in my life, He has the power to change my very foundation. God alone is the transformative agent in my life, not my clothes, not my habits not my diet.

I will continue to paint, I love it. But I will be more patient and forgiving with the outcome. I will continue to exercise, eat right (most times) and aim for better ways to be in this world, but I will not depend upon those externals to change me, I will seek God and God alone to make the foundation of who I am what He desires.

So friends, paint on but do not expect your paint to shine on for ever. Let your very heart, your very being , the way God made you to be, let that part of you be your brilliant shine!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oblivious

Bruno, one of our dogs has been written about in detail already, so he most likely needs no introduction to you. However, he might need an explanation. Bruno is our outside dog. He is not allowed to come inside our home as he is a very efficient hunter of lizards, frogs, birds and cats. Yes, cats. He almost did in our beautiful black cat Sylvester when she escaped outside, after which we labelled him as our outside dog and never again tried to bring him in. His instincts for survival were taught by 7 or so years on the hard Bahamian streets. These instincts  will never leave him, he is a hunter.  Bruno loves being our yard dog, he protects us and loves us back like no dog I have ever met. Bruno, in a word, with the exception of his taste for living creatures, rocks!

A few weeks ago I was sitting out at dusk with him enjoying the beautiful Bahamian evening. He would sit by me and nudge into my leg asking for more and more affection. Bruno saw I was not going anyway so decided to take a break from me to get a drink. He nosily slurped away and was drinking such a long time I looked over. It was then that I saw it, a frog in his second bowl  of water. Bruno had no clue the frog was there, instead he just slurped away at this first bowl, enjoying the fresh water. The frog on the other hand knew Bruno was there and had flattened himself against the bottom of the dish then later onto the side of the dish, praying (I think frogs can pray) that Bruno did not see him.

Bruno was oblivious, not even once did this frog shape catch his attention, which is strange  because like I mentioned earlier, Bruno is a hunter and protector, nothing gets by him, usually.
I nervously laughed out loud, as I knew that frog had no chance if Bruno spotted him. So I stood up and went next to Bruno. I went slowly to not startle the frog to its most certain demise should it decide to hop. From my vantage point I was able to gain these pictures and still Bruno remained oblivious to what would have been a fabulous night time snack for him.

What made me laugh with Bruno was that this: there stood a trained and expert hunter,  drinking without any notion that his next meal was right beside  him. He really should have seen this opportunity. I could almost guarantee, had he still been on the streets of Nassau and that close to a frog he would not have missed out.

I am sure we have all at one time or another been oblivious to something amazing. Perhaps someone told you after the fact that you missed something. Perhaps you realized your oblivion on your own, but just too late to do anything about it.  We as humans are highly in tune to finding opportunities with which to satisfy our wants and needs. Whether your next meal, a great conversation with a friend or that beautiful walk on a beach, we are often in the process of looking for that next bit of satisfaction. But guess what, most of us walk around oblivious of what God offers us. So while we are desperately seeking contentment in our lives we often overlook or fail to even realize that the greatest means to met our human desire for joy is just waiting for us to take it.

Perhaps we are duller than we ought to be. Perhaps attempting to satisfy our joy needs with temporary remedies have deadened our instincts to pick the one that will eternally satisfy. I really cannot say why we overlook God's gifts, I just know that we do. Well let me speak for myself, I know I do, and all too often.
So for me, this lesson should remind me to drink deeply but at the right source.

Sine on my friends!
Allie

p.s the frog lives!! he was gently poured out on to the grass away from Bruno. I believe that he is actually the  same frog that now lives next to the propane tank of the BBQ. Apparently he is both stealth like and fire retardant!

Monday, February 20, 2012

When a stick is just a stick



Yoshi, our newest potcake loves sticks. He is the only one of our dogs that actually like sticks. He will seek them out, he will run around with them and he will put them in a "secret" hiding spot to stock pile for what seems like an apparently nearing Apocalypse.

I was admiring Yoshi for his simplicity in life. He was quite mellow this afternoon until he found his stick, then the playful puppy broke loose and Yoshi was galloping around the yard. If I translated his muttering correctly, he was saying "look what I can do, I got a stick and I can run and I can jump with my stick!" He actually looked braver and was far more bold than when we was  a stick-less dog. With his stick, Yoshi looked invincible, running closer to the fence where the very large and intimidating neighbor dogs were lazing in the sun. Normally he waits for Bruno and Snickers to flank him during the evening meet and greet but not today, Yoshi and his stick were flying solo and feeling cool.

While carrying his stick he also took a spin around the huge tree in our yard, again he does this but far more cautiously when he is stick-less, but give him a stick and he can do anything.. or so he thinks.
At the right comedic moment, when Yoshi was rounding the great tree, a bird flew up from the twigs near the bottom of the tree. Yoshi startled so greatly he dropped his stick and sprinted back to my side. Again if my translation skills were at their best I am fairly sure he dropped a few unmentionable words out of fear and humbly leaned in for a cuddle. As he looked up to me with his big eyes even bigger with adrenaline, "Sometimes" I said to Yoshi, "a stick is just a stick. It does not make you braver, or cooler or tougher. You are just a dog carrying a stick. Yoshi, you are brave and cool without that stick, now go and see to that bird problem of ours." He blinked twice indicating he appreciated the love but leaned even harder into me looking for safety.

 Yoshi was not going anywhere near that bird. Now I would have laughed if the bird had been building a nest and in its mouth was actually a stick, now that would have been funny, but I refuse to create scenarios just for entertainment and the bird was just a bird, popping up from looking for bugs.

We kind of do the same things too. We get stuff, accomplish things and achieve lofty goals and when we do we often feel braver, more cool and run around with more bravado than we normally do. This is a good thing, most of the time. Be proud of what happens in your life you most likely worked hard for it but sometimes you got to let your stick just be a stick. Yoshi looked as though his stick was a fierce weapon, a sword of courage when really it was just a stick and proved to be useless against those terrifying ground doves in our yard. Do not take refuge in your sticks, stuff or accomplishments, most often they will not be helpful against what you face. Look to the One who gives you strength and who allowed you to find your sticks. He is the one where you can find refuge from scary velociraptor sized ground doves.
Shine on my friends

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vote for Bruno!! He is helping raise money for Baark!!!





"BRUNO"
Vote


Bruno is so grateful for the life he has found but is worried about all the other unwanted, hungry and abused animals here in The Bahamas. So Bruno-the amazing, is trying to raise money for Baark!  Baark! stands for the Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness. BAARK! has two main objectives: 1) Immediately improve conditions and treatment of animals at the pound and rescue all potentially adoptable animals. 2) Dramatically increase public awareness and funding for spay & neuter programs in order to reduce the numbers of stray and unwanted animals in The Bahamas. A quick vote by you helps raise money for their work.
Please take a moment and vote!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Swarmed

Today at church I was swarmed. I normally shy away from crowds but today, I devoured the delicious feeling of being known and loved. I wish I had someone take a picture so I could show you but I was too in the moment to think of that, and really to stop and take a picture would have ruined the moment.

I was swarmed by about 8 teens girls from a local orphanage here in Nassau. This orphanage has decided to make St.Andrews Kirk their church home, and the church could not be more thrilled and me, well I am on the moon just thinking about it.

In 2011 I had the honor of leading 2 different girls groups for this Home for Children and I got to know some of the most beautiful young ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet. During those hours together I shared stories, helped them share their stories and encouraged them to remember to live like they are loved. That no matter what they have been through, they matter and they are loved. I tell you, those groups have remained one of the highlights of my time here in Nassau.

So back to today. I  saw the girls come in and sit just across from me as my pew was full. We all waved excitedly at one another and then settled into worship. Once the last note of the last song was sung and the choir had left their loft, the girls ran over even before I could stand and the swarming began!! I think I was having about 5 conversations at once. My arms were full from the multitude of hugs and I was beaming.

The conversation quickly went to their dating life. I asked them (semi jokingly) if there was anyone I needed to beat up for them. They know I am their biggest fans and will go to war to make sure they are treated well. They answered no, but smiled and told me that they were figuring out how to take dating slow and give more attention to who they were as an individual not just in a relationship. I smiled as they took a page right out of my "dating lecture" I give to all my girls. Lesson heard and received!.

Then one of the girls, in all seriousness turned to me, put a hand on my shoulder and asked, How is your husband treating you? Tables turned. My smile was huge, and my heart was bursting. I chuckled a little at such a question. They were caring about me, and since I always ask about their relationships, it only fit that they asked me about mine. I was so touched, I smiled and told them that just the other day Bryn quoted a Bruno Mars song for me and that it was just what I needed that day. They all said ahhh in unison and smiled, as did I!

Their bus was about to leave so I walked them to the steps towards their bus, one on each side of me, all of us still talking excitedly. It was so amazing!

I was reflecting on the way home how  the girls were so excited to see me and to be there with me . But then realized that it was myself that was probably the more excited one! I thought they would have been thrilled for me to have acknowledged them and ask about them but it was me that was thrilled to see care come my way. It is an amazing feeling; knowing you building into others lives. I seriously love doing that and believe God has given me many opportunities to do so, but when that relationship shifts a bit and you are the one who is not just doing the caring but now is one who is  is cared about  there is a whole new dimension to the relationship. There is a mutual respect and love that just blows my mind. God has shown me today that it is not just amazing to care about others in your life but that it is also amazing to be cared for in return.

Being so often a caregiver I fear I forget to let others care for me in return. I fear I even do this with God, not intentionally but I so often want to show God my love and show others my love for God that I rarely sit with him and let His love into my life in an intentional way. I am so grateful for my girls today, they not only showed me love they taught me that I need to accept it too!
shine on my friends!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Angry Bird T shirt makes girl popular!


Here is a  self portrait from Tuesday. I took this after recognizing that I was getting more attention than  I usually do, all because I was wearing my new Angry bird shirt. I knew this would turn into a blog so in search of truth and armed with just an iPhone I attempted to capture my an image of my then more popular self and the said angry bird shirt at the focus of all this fuss.
  The day started like any other, I did a great pool work out with my friends, got dressed and headed to the food store to get some essentials. I had not given my wardrobe much thought, I always grab a t shirt and shorts without much thought and pray they match somewhat. I walked in the store as usual, grabbed my cart and started to fill it. I made my way through the produce aisle without much notice but when I went down the dairy aisle I heard one of the stock boys say..OOO angry birds.. cool!! He looks a me, smiles, gives a thumbs up and carries on. I was confused at first but then realized I was wearing my new angry bird t shirt, I smiled, said thanks and carried on. It happen again in the cereal aisle, the pet care aisle and the frozen food section. Most of those who noticed were employees at the store that I had seen around before and often said hello to but these interactions were on a new level, actually, I felt like I was on a new level. I was cool!

Later that day I went to Anya's school for pick up, it was there the real popularity started. In almost every hallway I was told I had a cool shirt, was told that some kid likes Angry birds too or I was asked where did I get such a great shirt. Seriously by the time I made in back to the car with Anya in tow, I am sure my t shirt was commented on about 10 times. That is a lot of interaction or a quiet girl like me who tries to get in and get out without much notice.

Later on at the pool for Anya's practice I had to walk through a bigger crowd than normal to get to the pool, there was a sporting event happening on the field adjacent to us. I actually saw one girl pull her almost seated mom out of the car and say, nay, yell to her mom. "That, as she pointed, that is an angry bird shirt!"
I saw groups of teen girls comment and nod in conclusion my shirt rocked. I heard boys holler out and point at the angry bird shirt and watched  little kids stare then move closer to me to see the shirt closer.  More people said something to me than I can ever recall in my life. For that 3 minute walk, I was a celebrity!

 I got thinking, I walk this path to the pool nearly 3 times a week, I am at the grocery store with the same frequency, and I am at Anya's school so often I cannot count. Does wearing a shirt corresponding with the pop culture of the moment really make me that much more approachable?  Perhaps some how my t shirt made me easier to relate to and approach.

So to recap so far, people somehow felt more comfortable with me when I wore my angry bird t shirt. So what was stopping them from saying hi before? I do not think I changed much else about me that day, I had my usual  I-do -not- care hair style going on, a shocking lack of make up and my old flip flops worn by days in the sand. The only difference was my new shirt. (yes I leave a very boring fashion life..no comments yet please) back to the question what was different? I like to think I am friendly but this shirt got me thinking. Perhaps people need something in common to break the silence, a shared joke, a shared hobby, or shared experience. Some how angry birds bridged that gap with others for me, interesting. Most of us in life are just looking for others to relate to, to feel like someone else can understand them or gets them. To feel better understood is a huge deal, it counts for a  lot in peoples lives. Angry birds might have just been a game for someone or a new t shirt for me but on Tuesday, it became a launching point for many many conversations and interactions.

God did the same thing you know, no he did not wear an angry bird shirt, although that kind of makes me smile to think about it.  But he knew we find Him hard to relate to. We are mere mortals full of imperfections trying to relate to an all powerful, non human holy God. Talk about barriers, how are we suppose to even try. So what did God do? No he did not wear an angry bird shirt, but he did make himself more relatable. He bridged the gap, broke the barriers between Himself and us by coming to walk among us. He lived with us, He ate with us, He died for us, all so that we might have an opportunity to relate to a Holy and awesome God.

The cool thing, is that God did not change anything about Himself, Jesus, was God just in human form. He did not fake humanness much like we sometime fake friendliness. Jesus did not walk among as just for PR sake, he walked among us because He loved us and wanted to get to know us. Amazing if you think about it. God in human flesh, making himself available and approachable to us because he wants us to know him better. He, unlike me and my accidental angry bird shirt wear, did all of this on purpose with the intention to interact and let us know He gets us. Awesome!

Just something to think about
Shine on my friends

p.s I would be remiss to not mention my fantastic BFF Jen who brought this shirt for me from Canada. Jen, you have always made me feel loved but thanks to your amazing fashion sense, I feel popular!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012, live undeniably as His!

Happy New Year to my readers, friends and family!

I am so very much looking forward to 2012
I am excited about what I am to learn this year, what I am to do this year and How I am to grow this year.
I will delight in the renewal of old connections, the establishing of new connections and the joy of my current connections.
I will not be tempted to create resolutions today, too many are broken in a week, and most forgotten with in a month. 
I will however, determine to live each day for what it is, God given. 
 I will try to not get carried away with my own created plans and learn to wait upon the Lord to see where He would have me. 
I do hope that daily, I reflect upon the joys of knowing Christ and daily I remember to be thankful and honoring with my thoughts and actions.
I hope, that this year I live  in the knowledge that God's love for me is completely, unalterably, and undeniably real.

Happy 2012 everyone!!