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When Duty Becomes a Friend

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Megan Follows as Anne Shirley and Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert in Anne of Green Gables

Megan Follows as Anne Shirley and Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert in Kevin Sullivan’s “Anne of Green Gables”

How sadly things had changed since she had sat there the night after coming home! Then she had been full of hope and joy and the future had looked rosy with promise. Anne felt as if she had lived years since then, but before she went to bed there was a smile on her lips and peace in her heart. She had looked her duty courageously in the face and found it a friend–as duty ever is when we meet it frankly. – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

At this moment in the story, not long after Matthew’s death, Anne decides not to go to college in favour of staying home to take over the work of running Green Gables, thereby also saving Marilla’s eyesight.

That last part of the quote, about finding duty a “friend,” makes perfect sense to me after having made a similar decision to stay home as a caregiver for my Dad a few years ago.

It certainly came at a cost. I was in grad school, and delayed graduation meant taking on a significant amount of added student debt, not to mention losing a year of income at a new job. It also meant my husband and I delaying our plans to have a family, which might not seem like a big deal until you read about the risks of having children in your late 30s.

But one morning when I was with Dad, as I felt the sting of my circumstances, I also felt deeply privileged to be there for him at this vulnerable time in his life, especially after everything he had done for me over the years.

In that moment, and afterwards, I considered my duty a friend. And although I still feel the sting of that sacrifice, I’ve never regretted my decision.

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What I’m Into: March 2013

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1. Approving Mommy's latest book splurge, 2. healthy dinners, 3. first signs of spring.

1. Approving Mommy’s latest book splurge, 2. healthy dinners, 3. first signs of spring.

books i read

I haven’t finished a single book lately, despite having started several. It’s one reason I decided last month to take an indefinite break from my most active (read: addicting) social media sites.

I spent part of this addiction scanning news feeds for faith-related blogs and articles, sometimes spending whole days staying on top of news and trends. The “too much of a good thing” mantra applies here. I’m still figuring out how to squeeze this passion of mine into more realistic boundaries.

The other piece of the problem was keeping up with friends. It felt disconcerting to realize how quickly time slipped by while I absorbed the minutia of their interests. Too much of it was unremarkable and forgettable. I doubted whether it was worth the time.

So I announced my sabbatical and committed to nurturing our friendships in more lasting ways. After the announcement I still struggled with the decision, but the fact that I had made it public helped write it in stone. I resolved to step back from these online communities once I saved any personal information I want to keep. Once that was done, there was nothing left to do but click ‘deactivate.’

The first couple days felt strangely lonely yet exhilarating, sad yet freeing. I missed all the voices chattering at me at once, and I also didn’t. But most of all I soaked in the silence and knew it was right for me at this point in time.

I also noticed an almost immediate effect on my social life. Whether by e-mail, phone or grabbing coffee together, I found it easier to focus on the other person in the conversation, to remember how much they mattered not only to me but to God, the one who created us for authentic relationships. Contact with friends deepened and became more intentional. I no longer skimmed the surface of their lives with a hundred other distractions competing for my attention.

With a big chunk of cyber clutter out of the way, I was free to spend time with my books — something I’d become too comfortable talking about doing rather than actually doing. I had spent the last few months buying more books than usual, browsing Amazon reviews, placing orders and playing with my collections at LibraryThing and Goodreads.

My “To Read” list swelled, bookshelves sagged, and as I write this I count 22 books on my nightstand– all started, none finished. Looking back, my obsession with books must have been a message I was sending myself: JUST READ ALREADY.

Which brings me to…

what i’m reading

Grace Based Parenting: Set Your Family Free by Dr. Tim Kimmel – My husband and I are working through this one together, absorbing it slowly, point by point. It’s one we’ve both looked forward to for a while now.

Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life by Dr. John Stott – A short, quotable booklet.

When Jesus Wept (The Jerusalem Chronicles) by Brock & Bodie Thoene – New from two favourite fiction authors, it’s a story told in the voice of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.

What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters by Philip Yancey

Good Reasoning Matters!: A Constructive Approach to Critical Thinking by Leo A. Groarke, Linda Fisher

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Part of my reading goal is to have at least one classic on the go at all times. I started Jane Eyre two Christmases ago at work during long, utterly dead spans of time when the holidays had brought everything to a standstill. I look forward to finally finishing it.

The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament by Nancy Guthrie

Reading with my son: Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

what i’m watching

Star Trek: Voyager reruns – It’s my husband’s first time through the series, and my second.

Grimm – Growing up in German-speaking Europe with Grimm’s fairytales as part of the culture, it’s partly nostalgia compelling me to watch. It’s also the fun of hearing actors pronounce long German words.

Watching with my son: Animal Sounds Song by KidsTV123 and The Duck Song by Bryant Oden

music to my ears

Baroque Favourites by Liona Boyd

Mozart by the Elysium String Quartet and Friends

Debussy for Daydreaming

For the boy: Big Bird Sings and Bert & Ernie’s Greatest Hits by Sesame Street, and Ein Männlein steht im Walde – Die schönsten alten Kinderlieder (Vol. 1) by Rundfunk-Kinderchor Berlin

what’s got me in raptures

Family walks, books in my mailbox and the first signs of spring in our otherwise grey-brown city

Winter evening board games, healthy dinners and relationships God is gradually healing

Baby’s firsts, belly laughs and scrunchy-nosed smiles

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf, Apple Crisp, No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake and looking forward to Paska (Mennonite sweet bread made for Easter — or in my case, post-Easter)

What’s got you thinking, reading, and in raptures this month?

Linking up to What I’m Into at HopefulLeigh

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