About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

After months and months of the cold Manitoba winter and the heaviness of Covid restrictions, I have to say, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel fresh hope that hasn’t been there for a very long time.

I mean, it’s almost spring.

This week, the sun has been out, the birds are chirping and I’ve gotten to reconnect with many people who are very dear to my heart. As the current rules are still quite strict, it has been tricky navigating it all, but I think I have found a semblance of balance and sanity.

A couple days ago our provincial government proposed a few changes to the current restrictions. They say this is the biggest jump in freedoms since our circuit breaker lockdown started back in November. Here’s the list of those that would affect me (there’s a huge list of other proposals that make little to no difference in my current stage of life):

  • Only two designated households allowed to meet, both have to choose each other exclusively.
  • Only groups of ten (plus those living at the household) allowed outside on private residence.
  • Churches open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
  • Businesses, retail, restaurants open at 50% capacity.
  • Sports, swimming pools, libraries, recreation, day camps, gyms, etc. allowed to open in varying capacity.
  • Masks mandatory in all public buildings.

Seeing as one of our only ways to legally see people right now is outdoors, we’ve been having a LOT of outdoor hot tub nights and winter firesides, which I have to say is an entirely new concept to me. I live in Canada; firesides are for summer. However, as long as the wind isn’t strong and the temperatures are close to zero Celsius, I actually have to admit that it has all been quite lovely. This is being said by someone who despises winter. I wish I could live some place warm, by the ocean, but my family is here… So I put up with winter.

I like winter firesides.

Something about the crisp air, the smell of wood and smoke, the heat radiating off of all the faces I love. Pair it with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, it may just become a new hobby of mine. If sitting by a fire can count as a hobby. Maybe it’s because I just miss people so much that I’m willing to put up with the cold. Whatever the case, I have now gotten to visit with my sister’s family, our wonderful neighbors, three seperate groups of friends and our parents.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

On Monday the younger two boys and I were alone for the day and we got to go on a walk. It was so warm, sunny, and peaceful. I even brought my sunglasses. Afterward we came home and enjoyed tea together. Then the boys played outside in their snow castle.

On Tuesday, my youngest boy Emerson turned seven!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember there was one point that I felt like I was going to be pregnant or carrying around a carseat for the rest of my life. Now my baby hardly needs my help anymore! We were going to go celebrate by eating at a restaurant with the family for the first time since September… but unfortunately we were not allowed to sit together, as a family of seven, even though we live in the same house hold. Gah!! Moments like that make me wonder if the government is purposely trying to crush our businesses. I don’t seriously believing that of course, but please, tell me why a large family sitting together at a restaurant will increase the chances of Covid spread, more than a lot of smaller families sitting in the same restaurant?? There is no reasoning behind rules such as these. And whether people realize it or not, a lot of these rules discriminate against larger families. It is technically against regulations for our family to be invited anywhere (even an outdoor fireside), however, a family of five can be invited places. So I’ve been battling through some angry feelings toward the government, who seem to think life should totally stop forever. Over the past year, it was – in fact – their job to hire more workers, build more hospitals and equip our already overtasked healthcare system to handle an increase of patients. But, as always, they prefer to blame this virus on the average citizen that for months were doing their absolute best to follow all the rules, while trying to live life.

Manitoba, Canada has now been in CODE RED lockdown for 16 WEEKS now. We were told around thanksgiving that if we were “good” for another 3 to 4 weeks we could celebrate Christmas! Ha! We’ll be lucky if we’re legally allowed to all see our parents by Easter, which we also missed last year (at which point we were told “there’s always next Easter”). It’s blatant lies like this that make me wonder why anyone is fully trusting the government at this point.

Ahem…

Back to the birthday. We ending up making pizza at home, ate at home, watched a movie at home… well, you get the idea. I’m making it sound bad. We actually had a lot of fun together and ended off the evening with cake, a “hide-and-go-seek” in the dark game, followed by worship with the family. My boy was a trooper, he just smiled and said: “Well at least my birthday wasn’t cancelled!” But this mother’s heart hurt, even though I put on a brave face and smile for him.

Wednesday and Thursday were busy with homeschooling, more walks, a discouraging meeting that I would rather not get into, and a fireside (which got moved into our garage because of the cold and wind.)

Friday I hit a low.

A I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-bedroom-all-day kind of low.

It started as it usually does these days: with the announcement that our government is only making small changes and these will be in effect for 6 more weeks.

Six weeks. This means that code red will continue until April, even though my area now has ZERO cases. IT literally can’t get any better here. I cried. It’s just not fair. It’s not right. I feel completely helpless and hopeless that things will ever change. It’s like my free country has become a communist one. I haven’t seen my whole family together since October. The next time we will possibly be allowed to meet is in April… if they decide to lift restrictions… or, at this rate, more likely it will be June or July, outdoors.

It’s just not right.

Yet kids are allowed to go to day camp… some sports are allowed to resume. Work and school is allowed. But no still no church and still no family, the two most important things to me.

As the day went on, I spent the day asking God: “Why?”

Finally, in the afternoon, I felt his gentle spirit impress upon my heart that these trials are actually his mercy. I am not ready for any kind of persecution, especially not the kind that the Bible warns us will happen in the end days. Lots of things have been exposed in my life through this past year. I have a lot of anger, resentment, impatience and sometimes downright hate in my heart. He doesn’t want to leave me in that state! These things need to be exposed through hardship so that I can move forward and actually grow in kindness, gentleness, love, joy, patience and endurance.

Oh, I just wish I wasn’t so slow to learn! I wish I was more patient through it all!

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

So I press on: grateful for the hope of spring, prayerful about the current state of this world and certain of God’s goodness.

Faith

Holding on to What we Know

“Only, let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16

Forgetting the Past 

My grandmother was always very proud of her birthplace in Saskatchewan. Though many have mocked its flat and boring landscape, she used to say that it was one of the most beautiful places in the world because there was nothing to block her view of the sunrise. She grew up in a Low-German speaking home. When the children went to school, they learned some English, but still always spoke their native language among their family because it was the only language their mother could speak. Eventually, many of the children grew up and moved further away from home, spreading out to different provinces across Canada. Time went on and they began to have families of their own. My grandmother recalls that one of her sisters spoke only English after she moved away, and as the years went by, she forgot how to speak Low German. She couldn’t even call her own mother and have a conversation, because they couldn’t speak the same language!

“I couldn’t understand how that could be,” I remember my mom saying, “Her first and main language was German until adulthood!” 

When we don’t use the information we know, eventually the mind forgets.

This was both intriguing and shocking to me. I hadn’t even known that it was possible to forget information that you had used daily for so many years! Yet, the same is true for our spiritual walk, is it not? In the book of Philippians, Paul reminds believers to “live up to what you have already attained.” 

He’s saying: “You’ve already done the hard work of learning these lessons – now keep living them out! Don’t forget what you already know. Listen to God’s voice, and abide in him daily. Keep on being kind and generous; remember humility. When God teaches you to fast and pray, keep on doing it! If you don’t, you’ll forget – you’ll lose these precious teachings.”

A Most Important Lesson

As a young mother I still remember one of the most important pieces of advice that was given to me by an older woman. I admired this woman a lot, both for the way she managed her home and how she lived out her faith. I recall asking her where she ever found time to do devotions and have any extra “me-time” in her busy day. 

I’ll never forget her answer.

With a knowing smile, she looked at me and shared her secret, “Being with God, is my ‘me-time’.”

What a profound thought! Spending time with Jesus had become to her a much more rewarding “break” than any bubble bath, novel, or time spent mindlessly scrolling through her phone. It is a secret I’ve kept with me for many years and the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I’ve found it to be true. Spending time at the feet of Jesus is truly the greatest treasure.

Living up to what we Know

Through the many struggles we faced in 2020, so many times I let down my guard. It was so easy to do! All my usual support groups were shut down, online, or postponed. Churches were closed. There was no one to keep me accountable, no one to challenge my faith. Who would care if I missed my morning time with God, or if I skipped an online church service here and there? Who would notice if I read news articles and worried, instead of taking my thoughts to God in prayer?

No one.

And so, many times I found myself starting to let go. I would begin my morning devotions, only to pick up my phone and distract myself, forgetting the sweet feeling of peace in God’s presence. Instead of trying to grow in Jesus, I compared myself to others around me. I began blaming my shortcomings on stress, or the lack of encouragement I felt. The further I travelled down this road, the further discouraged I was becoming.

Finally, one morning, after spending an hour scrolling through depressing news articles and the comments about them, I opened my bible and cried out to God: “Father, I am feeling so lost and depressed. Why do you feel so far away from me in this dark time?” 

The Holy Spirit so gently reminded me that it was always thanksgiving and worship that had brought me into the joy of his presence before. 

Nothing had changed, except my approach.

I was coming into his presence complaining about my life and the problems around me, totally forgetting that I was entering the very throne room of God! Sometimes I hadn’t even tried to meet with him at all, instead, I embraced the distractions around me.

 I had forgotten what I had known to be true for years: Wisdom and peace is only found sitting at the feet of Jesus. God’s perspective is only gained by standing in his council.

How easy it is to tell ourselves: “I just need a break” and then we let ourselves slip into complacency. The soul does not need a rest from God’s council. In fact, sitting at the feet of Jesus is our rest. 

Be Still and Know

There are so many scriptures reminding us of these truths. God obviously knew we would need them spoken to us over and over again so we would not forget.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth.”   Psalm 46:10

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and Resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15 NLT

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:20-30

In this painful time of trouble, don’t forget the peace you’ve found in him when times were good. Remember the comfort you’ve received in his presence! Put down the distractions and come, for he is willing to meet you as you are. Let us bring our pain before him, and let him heal it. Where we’ve stumbled and fallen in the fog of these past months, let us return to him and allow him pick us up and lead us once again. The important thing isn’t to know all the answers. 

It’s to remember what you already know.

“A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.”    Isaiah 42:3-4

COVID-19 · Faith · Family

The Day of Small Things

A Sudden Change

         “‘Mommy! Mommy!’ Her chubby two-year-old hand stretched out towards the familiar church building as we passed it by. ‘Church?’ she asked hopefully.

         ‘Not today honey, maybe next time,’ I soothed from the front seat.

         It had been weeks since she’d been to her favorite weekly outing and she was beginning to cry every time we passed the place that she had come to know and love. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see, but I reminded myself that it was only temporary. 

         ‘Soon we will go back,’ I kept telling her. Yet as the weeks turned into months, we kept passing the vacant building which was once bustling with activity and she began asking less and less.

          ‘No church,’ was always the reply. 

         And then one day she stopped asking. As hard as the tears were to hear, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that she had forgotten. My daughter no longer remembers church.”

A young mother I know shared this situation with me a few months ago and it has run through my mind many times. After almost a year now of closures, how is the next generation going to view faith and community? How are they going to view God? Are they going to realize the importance of gathering, of spurring one another on?

A Different Sort of Church

            As we adjust to life in all the ups and downs of 2020, one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face is no longer being able to gather in the ways that we used to.

             Maybe the scene above feels all too familiar for you. Or maybe, for your family, it was a welcome change to be able to watch kids church, sporting your comfiest pjs at the breakfast table, avoiding the usual chaos and rush of Sunday mornings. Whatever the case, we all have to admit that online church is just not the same

            We all miss something about meeting together… whether it is seeing your child make it through kid’s church without your number being called for the very first time, seeing the parking lot packed from end to end with each weekly activity, visiting with friends in the café, listening to an uninterrupted sermon, or missing LIVE worship (let’s face it, worship on a screen is just not the same). As the heartbroken mother above shared about her little girl’s fading desire for church, she brought up some very real and valid concerns many of us parents are facing: Is my child growing up without experiencing the church? Who will teach them about Jesus? Am I enough for them in this season?

            Where do I even start? 

            The church’s strength has always been in working together, becoming the “village” our children need to develop a love and understanding of God and others. But what about when we are apart? Can we still be the body of Christ and raise the next generation to become passionate followers of Jesus? 

We Are the Church

As a mother of five myself, I have to say that this year has been one of the most difficult and stretching years of my entire life. Not only have I had to deal with my own confusing emotions, I have to help my kids navigate these same thoughts and feelings as well. As a routine person, not being about to make concrete plans for the next week, never mind the year – has made me feel like I will lose my mind. Add distance learning to the mix (HELLLOO CHAOS!!) and my capacity for anything else is at zero…

And I’m doing this mostly alone. 

We all are.

Never before have we felt so isolated and far apart when we need each other more than ever before. We hear words like: “we’re all in this together” but it’s really difficult to feel “together” at all. But… we are still the church. We are meant to shine now, more than ever before. We believe this. How do we live it out?

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT) 

            When the Israelites began rebuilding the temple after the exile, it was a pitiful sight at first. Those who remembered the former glory and beauty of their place of worship must’ve felt complete despair at the sight. The task before them was enormous. Their workers were so few.

 Which makes it so incredible when God encouraged them with these words: “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I would dare to say that God is speaking a similar word to parents today. He sees the tears, the struggle and the stress. He sees the overwhelm and the loneliness. He sees the despair of having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. And he’s calling us to remember the small things. God’s not expecting us to rise up in impossible and grand ways. He’s looking for the little things and rejoicing at each act of worship, no matter how small.

Maybe its picking up your little one and telling them once again about the powerful wonders that God performed for his people in slavery. Or about the many miracles Jesus did on earth.

Maybe it’s turning on worship music and dancing around the kitchen, just to lighten the mood.

Maybe it’s taking an afternoon with your kids to make cookies and cards, then going on a drive together to drop them off for someone who is struggling with sickness or loneliness.

Or maybe it’s simply the broken moments. The moments where you fall on your knees, exhausted and at your wits end, begging for God to help you through another day.

Don’t despise these moments, however small. Let the Father, who sees the small things, speak to you. The small beginnings are important, they are valuable and he rejoices over each effort to come to him.

Blogging

Consistent Blogging

I’ve shared in the past how I really struggle with consistency on my blog. Part of this is due to the fact that I’m a homeschooling mother of five, I lead a weekly cell group of ten other women, and I also happen to have other commitments and personal outreach times on the side. But, can I be really honest for a second? Part of it was that I simply hadn’t come to the conclusion that blogging was useful and when I don’t see the point of something, I tend to let that area slide in my life.

This is something I’ve alluded to before, so for those of you who have followed me for a while, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. I haven’t always really known why I’m blogging. It’s something that comes up from time to time and then I reflect and think about quitting. Sometimes it’s because of my lack of followers, or the discouragement of too little feedback. Other times it’s because of my busyness and lack of time. But every single time I do this, I always come to the conclusion that I can’t quit this. I just can’t.

I started this blog back in December 2016.

In those days, I was healing from some very personal and painful church wounds. Writing was my outlet; feedback was my push to keep going. I was on Facebook and Instagram in those days and the majority of my views were from sharing each post on those platforms. In 2019, I felt God calling me to delete my social media accounts (except for this one) and so I did and literally I watched my views plummet and smash into the ground. Feedback consisted of select family members and a handful of likes from strangers. Sometimes I found that I only got feedback if one of my readers took personal offence to something I wrote.

This helped me to develop as a writer. First off, I became extremely sensitive to my audience, realizing that my writing tone was everything. I could literally make a blunt point and hurt those in my life. OR I could choose a different angle, make the exact same point and help others to grow. Knowing this was life changing for me, literally, because I began to realize I could do the same thing in the way I talked to others. I could choose to build up or tear down my readers, not by changing my message, but by changing my tone! Amazing!

Secondly, blogging without the constant fame, likes or feedback made me realize that I loved writing. Period. I always will. For me it’s not about being recognized or about pleasing the crowds. It’s not about money or compliments. It’s not about going viral or one day becoming a best selling author. Sure, those things are great when they happen, but it’s about far more to me.

Writing is about being understood. It’s about expressing my thoughts and ideas in a way that helps those around me to understand me better. It’s about communication. It’s about giving others a window into my heart, to see that there’s more to me than just the person they may see on the outside. This was imperative for my healing process years back, when I felt so misunderstood, misjudged, and chucked aside by people who I thought knew the real me.

Finally, I have improved leaps and bounds in my writing over the past four years and I give credit to this blog and to the many other bloggers and writers I’ve met in the process. Five years ago, before starting my blog, I was writing a fiction book and I thought it was just so good. A few months ago, I read through it again and had to shake my head at how boring it was! Blogging has given me profound insight into what others want to read and what keeps them reading. I know what keeps me reading to the end of each post, so I try to incorporate those things into my posts as well. It has also helped me to learn how to proof-read. I hate proof-reading… I’d FAR rather just post instantly. Yet, proofreading is absolutely essential to writing well.

These thoughts have brought me to the conclusion that I want to continue be a part of a writing community even though I don’t know exactly what that will all look like in the future. I know this will probably be a long process involving many little steps on my part, however, I believe the only way to truly start something is to jump in and take a step. For now, my first step is simply just going to be consistency:

  • Sunday’s will be my posting day.
  • Monday’s & Wednesday’s will be my reading others blogs/feedback days.

We’ll see where it leads.

As always, thanks for sticking with me on this journey.

-Heather Dawn

Canada · COVID-19 · Faith · Family

Good Surprises

“Oh great,” I thought, “More bad news to pass on to my already discouraged family.”

 It was a couple weeks into November 2020. I waited most of the day, dreading the thought of telling them that more restrictions were being made… once again. Upon hearing the news of schools being shut down again, my son burst into tears of frustration: “It’s like the month of bad surprises!” 

The thing is, he wasn’t wrong.

There were so many disappointments and we were all having an extremely difficult time navigating all of it. Our grandmother had died. Our family of seven had all gotten COVID-19. Schools were closed. Life was once again grinding to a halt. We were all stuck at home all the time. And this had just been the past month! Hadn’t we tried again and again to “make the best of it?” 

There was just nothing to look forward to anymore.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was tempted to wallow in my grief, but I’d been in that pit of depression before, a place so dark that life seems to fade into a black and white blur. It is in this desperate place that I called out to God: “Father, I need a plan to lift my family out of this. Please, give me the gift of creativity; ideas to bring joy to our family. I need something that will brighten our cold, dark winter nights, so that next few months aren’t just filled with disappointments for my kids.”

What about a month of good surprises?

The idea took root and began to grow.

Yes! That was it! We could, within the walls of our own home, create an atmosphere of anticipation each day of the month, with a new surprise to look forward to every evening. Sort of like a twist on the typical advent calendar, it would be a bit of work on my part, but, with proper planning I knew we could pull it off!

Now I was excited. As fast as I could, I grabbed my day planner and made a rough sketch of the month:

There were games nights, worship nights, and nights to “get out” and drive around, looking at Christmas lights or simply blessing others. There were activities for me (like ice cream sundae night) and some purely for the kids (games in the dark and “make up our own recipes” …as I shudder… SO. MUCH. SUGAR.)

By the time I had finished filling in the calendar, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was, in many ways, so simple – but I knew it would brighten our evenings. Here’s a list of a few of the “good surprises” our family enjoyed at home:

25 Good Surprises

1. We had a create our own recipes competition. Everyone in the family grabbed ingredients to make a small portion of their own creative treat! The evening ended with us rating each other’s creation on a scale of 1 – 10. First of all, my oldest son created the funniest recipe. He called it “Dr. D” – I’ll leave the ingredients to your imagination. (And not to brag or anything… but I won 😁)

2. Grabbing bags of popcorn, we got in the van for a tour of Christmas lights. Complete with Christmas dubstep music. It was a blast! Except for vacuuming up the popcorn from the backseats later on… not so fun.

3. One night we pulled out old home videos and watched them together. We had many laughs and my heart nearly burst when I watched the cute videos from their toddler years. So adorable! 🥰 Then each person wrote a note to a grandparent, thanking them for some of the fun memories we’ve had with them. (This ended up being one of my favourite evenings!)

4. Family games in the dark night. There’s nothing like running full speed into the wall as you get chased in the dark. These nights are sure to get everyone excited. If you’re like our family and like some added intensity, put on a soundtrack from Lord of the Rings and bingo, you’ll have kids so terrified that no one will want to venture into the basement. “Sardines” and “No Bears Out Tonight” are our favorite!

5. Skating on our backyard rink has been a highlight this winter. Our family is seven total, so we don’t make an even split for a team… almost makes me wish we had just one more… 😉Thawing our feet in the hot tub afterwards completed the fun.

6. We skipped a few days of school to go sledding at a hill nearby. Sometimes it was just us, but sometimes we met up with friends. The fresh air did us well.

7. Family worship night! Dad grabs a guitar, Isaiah a drum, Bella plays the piano and we sang our hearts out. There’s nothing quite like worship to lift a discouraged soul.

8. Christmas Coloring contest. Print out a Christmas picture to color and everyone colors their absolute best! Then we each pick our top two favourites and the one with the most votes win (Dad won this one!)

9. Family card or board game night. (Our current favorites are Dixit, Wizard, Jenga and Settlers of Catan)

10. A day in the wilderness with friends. Okay, this one creeped me out a bit. We were in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, off trail and our kids were running every where. It was a bit terrifying for me at first and I prayed they wouldn’t get lost. However, once we settled in and made a fire in a ravine I settled down. The kids took their sleds down random hills. Of course, we brought hot chocolate and hand warmers. The adults chatted and snuggled in our blankets around the fire. Snacks were passed around. The peace and stillness of the forest was amazing.

11. Facetime call nights with the grandparents or family. I’m getting tired of so much stuff online, but it is always wonderful to see the smiling faces of the people we love.

12. Make and decorate sugar cookies. Yes, kids always add far too much icing… and if you give them anything else to decorate with (smarties, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc) it gets WAY out of hand.

13. We went on a few outdoor walks, followed by hot chocolate and snacks of course.

14. Winter fireside night in our backyard. We actually started the fire with flint and steel! I felt like a true survivalist. And then I went inside to make hot chocolate with my electric kettle, because it’s too much work to boil water over a fire. LOL!

15. Ice cream sundae night! We had dozens of toppings to choose from and could each choose THREE ONLY because, let’s face it, my kids would’ve put on every topping if allowed. My favourite toppings are caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt!

16. Family movie night with popcorn and Nibs. We have now started doing a movie night each Friday and we take turns picking a movie. IF anyones complains about the choice, they miss their next turn to chose. Finally, no more arguing about what to watch!

17. Family snow ball fight. (Which ended in a real fight! Surprise, surprise.)

18. We played “Wink Murder” and “Mafia” which is quite morbid now that I think of it, but we have a great time guessing the murderer. It’s amazing how convincing some of our kids can be when they are claiming their “innocence”…

19. Decorate a gingerbread house. (More candy… there’s a theme here.)

20. We picked up pizza one night and dropped one off for our parents as well and had a quick front door visit.

21. Random acts of kindness night! We picked up 3 dozen donuts and delivered them to some of our friends/family we missed so we could see their faces for a bit. The kids came home so happy (but it was a lot of driving!)

22. Sleepover by the Christmas tree. Probably the best and worst thing ever. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your rest. We fell asleep listening to Adventures in Odyssey together around midnight. In the middle of the night the couch felt like I was sleeping on rocks. My back still hurts. And we all woke up at 5am. This will most likely never happen again.

23. On Christmas Day, my husband led us in some Christmas Carols on his guitar and then we read the Christmas Story. Afterwards we ate our traditional family Christmas brunch and opened presents.

24. We had a fancy candle light dinner one night. Complete with a four course meal, the fancy table cloth, and mandatory table manners (yes, with a family that has four boys, table manners is a special event!)

25. I planned a Minute to Win It Game Night. Again lots of work to put together, but it was so much fun! A few of our favourite games include “Mad Dog” and “Dizzy Mummy”. We also laughed pretty hard at “Junk in the Trunk”.

 Yes, it’s a month into 2021 and we’re still mostly at home. However, we’ve been doing our best to be at peace with where we’re at.

Best of all: I have seen the joy returning to our family.

They have something each day to look forward to and for that I pray with a thankful heart: “Jesus, THANK YOU, for the gift of creativity. You know it doesn’t come naturally to me… Thank you for bringing joy back into our home.”

Faith

A Treasure Worth Searching For

Kids love scavenger hunts.

Or rather, the thought of them

It’s a curious thing really, the excitement they seem to have when the search is announced. The eyes that twinkle just thinking of the treasure that is waiting to be found. I chuckle to myself remembering the times I’ve put together these “hunts” and the time I took planning them. How I carefully wrote out each clue that cleverly rhymed on a homemade piece of antique looking paper. Or the money I spent putting together a prize for the end. Little did I know that such hunts require a certain level of maturity.

 Imagine my surprise when after all that work, the joy was so short-lived! Five minutes later, the tears would come because the clues weren’t easy enough. Each hint required time and thought to find the next one. This was supposed to be a part of the fun, but I found out rather quickly that my kids hadn’t been expecting to put any effort into it. They were so eager for the prize that they wanted me to just show them the next place to look! 

They had been expecting an instant treat and this was taking too long.

People value the things they work for.

This is why the child who has been handed everything for free, often takes it for granted. 

My husband paid his own way through college and could often tell who was paying for their own education simply by how hard they worked in class. He witnessed many young adults squandering their chance at a degree, simply because they didn’t have to pay for it. Many would be wasting valuable class time playing games on their laptop as the professor spoke! On the flip side, he noted that the students who really wanted to be there and had paid for it themselves realized the worth of it and tried their very best. 

A few years back, I observed this very principle in my children. My oldest son found it fun to smash into things with his bike. He also loved to drift his bike by slamming on the brakes while he was speeding down the driveway. This wore down the brakes and the tires. Despite our many reminders, he often left his bike out on the driveway or in the rain and rarely remembered to lock it up when he rode it to school.

One day, after almost hitting his bike while backing out of the garage, I told him that if this bike would break before he out grew it, he would be buying his own. 

The very next day, he left it on the driveway and my husband drove over it. Oh, the tears that came! We heard all his complaints: “It was just not fair. It was all Dad’s fault! He would never make enough money in his life to buy another one!” 

I remember questioning myself, wondering if I was perhaps being a bit too hard on the boy. After all, he was only ten! 

It was difficult lesson for sure, but what happened next was worth the struggle. My son started saving up for his new bike. He asked for jobs around the house. He asked to mow the lawn. He worked hard in the garden, ever so slowly saving his money, and by the end of summer he had enough! He proudly bought his very own bike.

The best part? Never once did I have to remind him to lock it up, or put it back in its place in the shed. He had learnt to care for his bike because he now realised the value of it.

A treasure worth searching for?

 “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding – indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”                   Proverbs 2:1-5

As I think back to the many scavenger hunts and the lessons I’ve learned about hard work bringing value to the things I receive in life, I wonder if this is partly the key to some of our struggles with dry devotions. We so often try to fit God into a five-minute timeslot through reading a devotional written by someone else who took the time and effort to look for us! We want the quick, no-work-needed benefit of a “verse of the day” or a “one-minute devo” but we never take the time to actually seek out God and his wisdom for ourselves.

 We want to be handed an instantaneous word on a platter – and then we are disappointed when it doesn’t touch us in the way we thought it would! But Jesus never promised us a path of minimal effort, instead he spoke plainly:

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”                                                   Matthew 7:7-8

As I think about this, I smile, for in his wisdom, God didn’t just hand us these treasures. He knew that the only way we would learn to truly value his wisdom was if we had to search for it. And indeed, the most precious moments I’ve had in God’s word are when I’ve spent time calling out to him and searching desperatelyfor his wisdom. Those moments where I needed to hear from God and no ‘second-hand’ word would do! 

I needed the source

Oh, the JOY that’s mine when it happens! God speaks and reveals his word to my heart, a word that is meant just for me in that moment. 

Nothing can replace that joy.

 No quick verse or devotional can compare with a personal word, given straight from the source. My friends, this is a treasure worth searching for! 

Are we willing to put in the effort? 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”                                                                                Matthew 13:44-46

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Creative Writing

Invisible Pain

An invisible destruction fills the land. Immeasurable pain; unseen, unheard.

“Where?” you ask, “Where? I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. I’m fine, tucked away. Hidden away in my rabbit hole. I don’t need anybody. Me and my own are fine, we’re safe. We’re comfortable.”

“As a matter of fact,” some even say, “I’ll be fine if things never go back to the way they were.”

Fine then, keep your illusion of safety.

You “heroes” at home, a self-given title for those consumed with the daily case count, lives lived in terror and fear. Not only for them, but also a good excuse for the selfish, for those whose only care is for their own. Those who still have a job, and a neat little family. Who keep telling themselves that they are doing the right thing: saving lives.

And maybe they are. At least, the ones that are visible to the eye.

But do you see the others? The thousands upon thousands of others? The billions of stories, unheard, and locked away. Those stories that are hidden in rows upon rows of neighbours and country-sides, shut off, behind closed doors?

While you watch your Netflix shows and get lost in an increasingly virtual world, while you listen to daily death counts for strangers, and support restrictions that have little to no effect on your own life, I will tell you what I see in reality. Their cries are getting louder and I can ignore their voices no longer. Theirs is an unheard reality of a side that has been, at times, unjustly labelled “covidiots” or “selfish” or “covid deniers.”

There is a reality that we have collectively begun to ignore: The reality that human suffering and pain exists beyond this virus.

This pain doesn’t neatly fit into the convenient narrative of ‘lockdown to stay safe’, so our world has simply shut it out.

We hear daily of the deaths, of the numerous cases, of the overwhelmed hospitals, and tired hospital staff. We’ve heard of the Covid long-haulers, who suffer for months with symptoms which have drained their youth. Their lives ruined. We’ve heard their pain and their pain caused a beautiful thing: Compassion.

We listened. We responded. We acted.

In the name of this very same compassion that was shown, can we now take a moment, just a moment, and listen to the stories of the unheard? The stories of the lives that have been hurt more by the measures to protect than the virus itself?

A brand new mother, what a beautiful thing. A new life to be celebrated. The little one, he has her nose and a dark head of hair. A precious little thing. Yet in her quiet house, she weeps with her child, forgotten by the world. A world that has gone on living without her: No baby showers. No visitors exclaiming over her new prize. Those experiences were stolen from her. No assistance with the enormous task set before her. No reprieve from the many changes that seem so new and foreign. Just one sleepless night after the next, no playgroups or outings. The only one to hold her child. Her makeup bag sits on the shelf, forgotten; objects of a past life that seems so very far away. The summer dress she bought a year ago hangs in her closet unworn. Who is she? She’s forgotten the woman she once was. Her husband leaves for work with a smile, and inwardly she resents him. His life goes on as always. What about hers?

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

A new widow weeps in grief. The man she committed herself to for nearly seventy years passed on alone. All alone in a hospital room that she was not allowed to enter. Her room, also, is in lockdown. She must go on alone. She must mourn alone, mourn that she was not able to be by his side in those final moments. Mourn that her life could end the same. Hour after lonely hour crawls by. If only, she could feel the support of her family and friends during this loss. He was a man who was loved dearly. A funeral of five. He deserved so much more. Shut off from the world, no one to see or hear or feel her pain. No one to hold her and say: this is not right.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

We’re saving lives, after all.

He worked at the cinema for twenty-two years. Then suddenly, without warning, his livelihood is gone. Now, what he worked at joyfully for all those years is classified in a category. A category labelled “non-essential” by those who ironically labelled themselves “essential”. Our world boasts equality, a tier system gone… how funny to find out that it was alive and well all along. All it took was tragedy to rear it’s ugly head. Is he important to the world? The smiles of his customers once told him he was, and his heart aches at the memories that his building held: those awkward first dates, a young teen scrapes his quarters together to pay for her popcorn. Crowds of Harry Potter enthusiasts, excitingly waiting hours in line, all dressed up in their costumes. An elderly couple shuffling slowly along hand-in-hand, to watch an age-old love story that couldn’t rival their own. For a time, hope remains that the season will end. Hope is a fragile thing. Soon it fades into a blur of endless government assistance checks, re-run Netflix shows, and unpaid bills. The bottle he once battled with calls to him, and he inclines. With churches gone, his support crumbled before his eyes. Family visits deemed illegal, he’s on his own. A dangerous thing for a recovering alcoholic. So he pours himself drink after drink, the only thing left to ease the pain.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

One year of school left. Just one short year before he becomes a man and enters the real world. At once, his future is snatched away as life closes down. Sent home to work, with no real support. Grades start slipping, as he mindlessly sits in front of his screen. A screen meant to teach him. Teach him what, exactly? Does it matter anymore? Home alone with his thoughts day after day, while his mom rushes to work and his dad leaves for the office. They have purpose, something to get up for. He doesn’t. Life on devices isn’t as easy as it seems. The web is dark. His thoughts torment him. Day after day, his friendships fade. The loneliness and boredom is unbearable. But the lack of purpose has stolen his future. Finally, he can’t take the pain any longer and in a heartbreaking act of desperation, he ends it all.

No one will notice anyways, he thinks, they’ve already forgotten I exist.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend they don’t exist.

Just four stories, out of millions. Human sacrifices, for a better cause. Shield your eyes, watch the News, try to ignore the reality of the other side of pain.

These restrictions are good. These restrictions are good?!?

History books will tell the tales, with perfect hindsight: What we did right – more likely -what we did wrong. Ever judging the actions and motives of a world that didn’t know better. But will they tell the stories? Will they reveal the true darkness and pain of the generation that lived when families were separated, when non-Covid deaths didn’t count, when love was redefined? Will we ever hear the stories?

Maybe one day.

But, in the meantime, let’s pretend they don’t exist.

Family · Loss

A Life Worth Remembering

I used to wonder how it would feel to observe my own funeral. How many people would be there to mourn? Would they be sad? Would they be relieved? What kinds of things would they say about me?

What would I be remembered for? My fancy cakes? My blog with a handful of readers? My lame jokes?

And now, I see the funerals of 2020 and 2021.

Five people allowed. Masks, which cover our faces. No hugs permitted.

And I am suddenly glad that the departed don’t have to watch from above. Would they wonder if they were loved? Would they even know how much they are missed? Would they understand that it pains us inside, to say goodbye like this?

My grandpa passed away last week, at the age of 92. As the restrictions are still quite tight here in Manitoba, Canada, my biggest prayer was that we would be able to honour the memory of this very loved man in a way that did justice to his life; a life well-lived.

It looks like these prayers are being answered and my heart is filled with peace, even as I mourn the loss of this very special man.

I got the privilege of putting together a video of our family giving tributes about Grandpa. It was touching to see a large family (he had five children, like we do) with so many different hobbies, careers and personalities all sharing about what “Dad” or “Grandpa” meant to them.

As I wrote mine, I found it hard to sum up all that this amazing man meant to me in just a short, one-minute paragraph. So, of course, I turn here to expand my thoughts. Surely, a one minute tribute doesn’t do justice to how I feel about my grandpa.

“Grandpa Reimer” as I called him, was always very special to me, and I don’t think that I can properly put into words everything I felt for him. I remember my Grandpa from young on, as a man who cared deeply for me. I can still close my eyes and see him jumping up from his chair, with energy beyond his years, rushing to help me with my school projects. He, like myself, loved history and books. He had shelves full of them, many old ones too, including an 800 year old Bible.

Unlike most other grandfathers I knew, my Grandpa was a “techie”. He loved new technology and was somewhat of an inventor himself. I was always impressed with his innovation and willingness to try new things, which most other people his age either feared or rejected altogether. He also collected antiques. I remember his juke box, also a phonograph. I remember his old phone which dialled with a crank and had a long earpiece attached by a cord.

He collected so many odds and ends. I loved looking through his spoon collection, his stamps, his hockey cards and licence plates.

I remember caring so much about what he thought of me. I wanted so badly for him to be proud of me.

Family was a priority for Grandpa Reimer. This was evident in the way that he spent his time and money. I remember often showing up at his house on Sundays. If it was hot, we would swim in my grandparents in-ground swimming pool.

I went on two very memorable trips as a child, which I could very well say are the clearest and best memories of my childhood… you guessed it, he was the one who took us on them. He rode right along on the rides in Disney Land. He dragged us along to flea markets, always searching for new treasures… an old record, a valuable newspaper, a book.

My Grandpa was a man of such diversity himself. He loved music, I remember him playing the accordion at our family gatherings. He was a turkey farmer and a grain farmer. He loved hockey and game shows.

No he was not perfect. He struggled emotionally with anxiety in ways that make me feel all the more love and tenderness for him. I’m sure, like I’ve seen in myself, at times this great storehouse of emotions has hurt or even manipulated the people around him. But the important thing is, he knew this about himself. He would often exclaim, with depth in his eyes, “How God must love us, that he would save a sinner like me!”

If I have inherited even an ounce of his passion, faith, wisdom, authenticity, and gifts, I would be blessed.

My love for Grandpa goes far beyond these few experiences, reaching to feelings expressed in fragments, rather than full thoughts:

-A sparkle in his eye

– The imprint of his body in his favourite spot on the blue couch

-A bright blue can of Pepsi

-A deck of Skip-Bo cards

-A soft heart

-Tears not afraid to fall

-His thumb held up as he says to me with a grin, “Right on!”

-His body curled up, almost childlike, in the hospital bed as he slept.

-A trembling hand, writing shaky words

-His voice as we sang hymns, still remembering all the words

On our last real visit almost a year ago, before Covid restrictions came into effect, I picked up a joke book on his table to read to him. He warned me: “It isn’t very funny,” but I proceeded to read the jokes anyways. Turned out, he was right. As I turned to leave, for my rushed lunch break was over, little knowing that it would be the final one… he grabbed my hand and said: “Thank you for coming.”

I smiled and flippantly said, “I was happy to come! See you again soon!”

Sorry that it was so much longer than I imagined, Grandpa. But I am confident I will see you again.

Authenticity · Blogging · Faith

The Things I Won’t Write

I love quiet, dark mornings when the house is silent and my family sleeps in late. It is my resting place, my time to do what I love: read & write.

I start off with devotions, sitting in the council of my Heavenly Father, who I once only read about, but now have grown to know and love. I journal my thoughts and some scripture that touched me, then say a few prayers.

Afterwards I write other things. Sometimes I send personal notes and encouraging messages to people around me. Other times I write another page or chapter of my book.

Or today, a blog post.

2021, as every year for me, starts a chapter of something new. It’s not looking much different in terms of freedom or peace than 2020 did, but I always appreciate new beginnings for myself. I love the chance to start fresh.

I honestly considered shutting down my blog this year, especially since it had lately taken on such a political tone, but I thought about it more and can’t get myself to delete it. I have learned to appreciate the people in the blogging world. WordPress has become a sort of haven among some very dark social media and I truly do love the people.

I have met so many writers here. Some with similar stories to mine. Some very different. I have met people halfway across the world that felt like sisters. I have even met people close by who I now know in person.

It is a wonderful thing, to have friends that appreciate words as much as I do.

But today, as I look forward to 2021, I am committing to one thing for this blog: I will not be another voice that brings such depression as to only focus on the restrictions, the turmoil, and the negative world around me. I am not going to speak of that thing which seems to consume us all. I just don’t want to be that place anymore. We get enough of the doom and gloom by reading our daily news and the argumentative comments that follow.

In 2021, I want to be an uplifting voice, however small that voice may be.

So if you need a more cheerful place than the news and the constant noise of all the different opinions – please, stick around. I’m sure this world isn’t getting any better, but there are still so many good people in it and I’m not waving my white flag just yet.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

I admit I’ve been quieter this past month. It seems like all I think to write about is that “thing” we all seem stuck on, and quite simply, I’m just tired of talking about “it”.

But we’re approaching 2021, so I believe an update on my life is fitting.

Some exciting news: I’ve been asked to help out the families in our church by contributing regularly to the family ministry blog in the New Year.

Our church is going through some very difficult times, as are many, and I believe supporting families in this way is incredibly important now. Especially since we haven’t been allowed to meet in person much of 2020. As a result, most of my efforts in writing these days are being poured into future blog posts on the topics of parenting, families, leading our children, bringing them to Jesus, having joy in our homes, etc.

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

However, I’ll admit, emotionally I just feel drained with this.

How is one to support and encourage these young women over a Zoom call, when all they need is a morning out with other women and someone else to hold their baby for just a couple minutes?

How do you comfort someone from afar when they just need a hug and to be prayed over?

How do you assure these precious women that they can keep going and raise children in these uncertain times?

It’s so very difficult.

Are my long distance messages and those few words over video chats doing anything? Is it worth the effort? So as I approach the New Year I’m crying out to God for an olive branch; a small sign to see that this year of separation, of long distance relationships and of far too many Zoom calls is coming to an end.

I hate Zoom.

I wish I were bold enough to say that I would never use it again. But, then, I realize that God has used even Zoom in this troubling time.

A sad piece of news to end the year: My only remaining grandmother is now in the hospital.

And my heart mourns that I haven’t seen her for almost a year. A few months ago we started having weekly phone calls which I SO enjoyed. Our last call was rushed and I promised to call her soon.

Now she is isolated and I have no way to reach her; to tell her that I am praying for her. A full year of “protecting” her by staying away. Of keeping her “safe” in isolation.

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

It is with a cautious approach that I state these things. But if I were to be truly honest with those around me, I would say it simply: I disagree that we are protecting seniors in all this. I think it’s wrong that we are not giving them the choice whether they want to keep on seeing their loved ones in their final years on earth.

They should have that choice.

However pro choice seems to only apply to woman who want to end another’s life instead of sacrificing nine months of theirs. And the irony hits me that we’ve all had to put a “nine month” pause on in 2020 for the sake of “life” – A much more inconvenient and painful pause than any pregnancy, I may add.

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

But my voice seems to be unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. I have felt for years that care homes are no place for our beloved parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends.

They deserve to live with family.

I feel this as strongly as I feel orphans need a home and not an orphanage: A place to belong and be loved. A place to be apart of something bigger. To contribute and to be given much in return.

This year has opened my eyes up to this more than ever before. So much so, that I’m looking at my future path with a very different set of eyes: What do I need to do now, so that I can be in a place to care for the elderly in years to come?

What skills do I need to learn? Should I pursue a nursing degree? Are there legalities that would prevent me from doing this? What other obstacles may I face as I consider these things?

And so, I turn my face to my Father, and say:

“Lord, in 2021, may your will be done. In me. In your church. In the world. Our systems may fail us, many hearts may grow cold even as others are being purified through the trials, but my eyes will stay trained on you – the One who holds it all together. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God holds it all together… and because of that I have hope.

No, I don’t believe 2021 will hold all the relief from 2020 that so many are dreaming of. As a matter of fact, I think it may be an even harder year.

BUT if God is allowing this, I know it’s for a good reason.

Hearts are being revealed as they are: Innocence is all the more sweet. Kindness shines a bit brighter. Friendships are all the more precious in such dark times.

Humanity is so fragile that a simple virus could cause such calamity.

Many voices are screaming to be heard. People are watching the world events carefully, wondering what this is all coming to. Some think the world is forever changed. Others seem naively hopeful that by summer life will be back to normal. The “tolerant” are more intolerant than ever before, ready and more than willing to destroy anyone who thinks differently then they.

Evil seems more evil. Good seems more pure. The words of the book of Daniel come to mind: “…many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.