We Can Be Free

As promised, these are my steps to freedom that I would like to share today.

My last few blog posts have been about my struggles with words which started many years ago. In fact, it started so long ago that I had forgotten how or why or when it began. So I did what I’ve learnt to do when I don’t have the answers: I went to God.

I knew it wasn’t going to be just one conversation, rather many – all addressing the root of my anger, of my hurtful words and my outbursts. So I set aside a whole week of prayer and journalling to spend with God dealing with this character issue.

Day One: God, I journaled, what is the root of my hurtful words? Where did this begin?

I sat in my bed, waiting expectantly in the early morning, for that’s when the house is quiet and motionless. The sun was still hidden from sight although the first edges of the light were slowly beginning to creep up on the horizon.

God speaks when we listen. But it takes time to learn to hear him. Sometimes he’s silent. Sometimes we are too loud. Sometimes there’s a reason he’s not answering – usually because we already know the answer but we don’t want to listen.

However today, my heart was quiet and I was desperate.

And I saw a picture in my mind. It was a memory from when I was a girl. I remember something really bad happening and someone that I respected very much yelling and swearing in anger about it. As a result of that outburst, people paid attention, that person was heard and the problem was dealt with.

A simple memory. One long forgotten. However a lie was planted in my heart that day: Strong and hurtful words are powerful and they can accomplish good.

That was the lie where it all started. Where I let my voice shout and scream hurtful, strong words to gain a false sense of control because I felt that in the end it would accomplish good.

Recognizing the lie is always step one. I quickly scribbled the memory down in my journal, along with a lie I believed. I renounced the lie, and repented before God that I had believed it.

Then I asked God: Can you give me a foundational truth to replace this lie?

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Ah, Yes! Of course! Evil cannot bear good fruit. Evil and darkness do not birth goodness and light. The only way to overcome evil and injustice is with GOOD. This is why revenge will never set the bitter soul free, only forgiveness can do that. I memorized this truth, etching it into my memory like initials carved into concrete.

Day Two: God, how can I change my habits? They are ingrained into my life so deeply. How can I become someone who speaks life?

God: Repent! Choose a day to turn from your sins. Make a list of those who you’ve heard in this way and apologize to them. You will never be perfect, but if you say sorry to each person and start fresh from this day forward, then you won’t have a heap of history to carry on your shoulders. You can look back and say on this day you repented. From then on, all you have to do is apologize each time you say something hurtful or burst out in anger.

I’m too exhausted to ask God for names this day. The thought of the list He might give me is overwhelming. So I pray for strength.

Day Three: OK God. Who do I need to apologize to you?

He gives me a list. It is not exhausting. In fact, it involves mostly family members. I thought it looked too short so I mentioned some other names of people that I’ve had conflict with. God gently tells me that the actions of others I need not taken responsibility for, only the mistakes I have made.

That same day I ask my husband and children for forgiveness, and they are incredible. They forgive me without hesitation.

Day Four: My heart feels lighter God! There’s no more secrets, no more shame. Help me to have the strength to confess to the remaining people.

God: Good. It’s time that you see yourself as loveable again.

These tender and applicable words cause me to melt. I feel lovable. That’s exactly how I feel.

Day Five through Seven- More confessions. The last of them. So much grace shown to me by so many people. God, I feel at peace. Thank you for giving me the strength needed to go through with this.

God: I love watching the captives go free. You are free daughter.

Me: God what now? I am free, how do I keep from getting tangled up in sin again?

God: Dear Child, continue walking beside me. Soak in the truth. Repent when you fall and run back to me, not wasting a second with hiding in shame. Walk with a tender heart beside me and I will lead you into victory. Turn your eyes to the cross and I will purify your mouth.

The steps aren’t set in stone. The conversations will look different for each person. But this is my journey to freedom. This is God completing his work in me.

-It isn’t difficult, yet it’s humbling.

-It isn’t hard, because he’s done the work, but it does take time.

-It doesn’t take a strong person, it only takes a desperate one.

This is what Freedom looks like.

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The Day I Cursed God…And Lost My Voice

At the beginning of this year I lost my voice, for three days. The end.

If I had my way, that would be all there was to the tale. I would stop this post right here and move on. Nope God. I’m not telling them the full story. Obviously I had some sort of cold…right?

Except that I’ve never, not even once lost my voice in my entire life before this. And while my voice was gone, I didn’t have a cold or a runny nose – not even a hint of one. In fact, my throat didn’t even hurt. But my voice was gone. It was so gone that I couldn’t even make those raspy, crackling noises of a teenage boy… I could only whisper. And it hurt to whisper, so I stayed mostly silent.

Three full days to listen to others speak.  Three days to realize how many things I can accomplish without using words. Three days to think about how much I take talking for granted, how often I’ve used my voice for evil rather than good.

Three days to consider what happened the day before my silence.

The day before… was a windy one. The snow blew across our driveway in a big three foot drift. My husband had specifically done something that I had asked him not to and I was furious at him. In fact, because of my anger, I decided enough was enough, that I was going to drive away for the afternoon and leave him with the kids while I went out and did whatever I wanted for once. I grabbed my purse, stormed onto the van and backed out of my garage door only to get stuck in the drift that I hadn’t thought of looking for. Furious, that I was now trapped, I got out of the van and began to kick at the snow around my back tires….Maybe if I move forward and take a speed, I’ll make it out. So I drive forward and then hammer the van into reverse and try to barrel through the drift, but my bald, all-season tires are no match for the deep white fluff that surrounds them.

I am now a prisoner in a snow drift.

Then, oh God, no, please no! Who should peek out of the window, but the grinning face of none other than my beloved husband, who I’m so desperately trying to escape.

I feel like a child. An immature, angry, helpless child, stuck in my own mess. I beg God not to let him come out and help me. That would be too much, too embarrassing …humiliating actually. But, of course, he calls out to me from our front door already with his jacket on, beaming at me as if he’s greatly amused at my anger: “Need some help??”

I shout back that “NO, I do NOT” – but we both know I do. And he begins putting on his boots and grabbing for the shovel as angry tears pour down my face.

 I mean to pray, but what comes out of my mouth are a string of curses directed at God. How dare he humiliate me so in my anger! How dare he put me in this humble position after what was done to me! I sit sulking in my van as Ryan patiently digs me out of the snow bank. Without a word, I drive forward and park in the garage. I walk straight into the house and disappear into my room for the next couple hours, crying myself to sleep. I feel foolish when I wake up that evening, but don’t quite understand the magnitude of everything that happened until the next day when I wake up and try to speak…

Not a single sound comes out. Not one word.

At first I’m simply confused. I’ve never lost my voice before, and here, I can’t even squeak! I try again to clear my throat but this doesn’t even make a sound. Panic fills me as the harder I try to talk, the more I wonder if I will ever make another sound again! And it’s a Sunday, the day that I’m supposed to go to church and worship! How can this be?!?

Finally, to my relief, I realize that when I gently whisper, I can still make a sound. But it is only then that I realize why my voice is gone as memories of my careless, thoughtless words to an all-powerful God fill my mind. I hear a voice in my head which speaks loud and clear: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I realize the mercy of my all-powerful God. He could’ve struck me dead the moment I decided to speak to Him as if he were someone that was put there just to serve me. He could’ve put me in my place in fierce anger and he would’ve been fully justified in doing so.

But he chose to gently take away my voice.

He was lovingly disciplining me as a a Father would a child, not lashing out at me as an enemy, which shows me, not only can God do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, but he really does discipline for our good.

Also, He has a pretty funny sense of humour. “Fine, my angry, childish daughter, if you will speak to me that way, then no longer will you speak!”

Three days of silence does a lot to calm an angry heart and to open the ears of a child who doesn’t want to listen. It’s humbling. It got my attention.

Fast forward four months.

God’s still teaching me about my hurtful words, he’s given me so much grace, showing me and guiding me through. God really doesn’t leave us if we truly desire to walk in his ways. Next post, I want to share with you the steps he’s given me to lead me to freedom from using hurtful words. I believe these steps are a tool that can be used not just to control our tongue, but to walking in freedom from every kind of harmful habit or addiction. Until then, know this: that God is absolutely faithful…even when we are faithless. He disciplines us only because he loves us so dearly. Sit on that truth today.

He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get your attention.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Love always,

Heather.

 

A Wise Woman and A Foolish One

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down…” Proverbs 14:1

I watched as a three year old boy carefully laid each cardboard brick down onto the floor. He held each piece as steady as his pudgy little hands could, and carefully he built up his wall. The bricks were becoming more unstable as the wall grew, but he continued to build the wall higher and higher until it reached way up above his head and he had to stand on tip toes to touch the very top. His eyes sparkled in pride at his creation as another child clumsily teetered towards the wall to admire the masterpiece. The other child reached her arm out and with one light little touch that wall that had been so carefully laid, piece by piece, all came crashing down.

I watched as the little builder’s face turned from a lighthearted smile to uncontrolled rage and he wound up his tiny body to go for the tackle. Quickly, I stepped in between the pair. Keeping my voice calm and gentle, I held the little angry hulk in my arms until finally, the rage dissolved into what it really was: sadness and disappointment. As I comforted the little boy, he asked something absolutely profound: “Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?”

The question took me aback. I had no answer for the boy.

Why are things that way?

A man works years to build up a company, pouring in his time, sweat, his money and his sanity, only to find out that by the time he’s reached his peak, something newer and trendier has taken his product’s place and he files for bankruptcy.

A family spends years and years working on the farm only to have a disease tear through the entire herd, or prices take a dive, and all is lost.

A teenager spends almost all of his high school years making wise choices and getting good grades, but decides to go to that one party where he is offered a drug which leads to forty years of helpless addiction.

A couple invests twenty-five years into marriage, and one partners falls into infidelity breaking down all those years of trust.

A politician could be honest a hundred times and lie only once, but the trust for him would be forever lost.

Life’s just so fragile isn’t it?

I think of how many bricks I’ve carefully laid; sleepless nights, patient mothering, waking up to feed, to change, to rock, to sing, to love.

The many days of wiping noses and mouths and dirty hands, the endless meals, the mountains of laundry, the “to do” lists that could stretch across the country.

I think of the long days of homeschooling; of planning lessons, carefully teaching, leading hundreds of family devotions. Of the discipling and the comforting, the encouraging words at just the right moment.

Or even the self sacrifice of giving up that new area rug I was looking at so that my daughter can go to horse lessons or the new shoes I wanted so that my sons can play soccer. Not to mention the driving around to these events when all I really want is to just spend one measely hour soaking in the tub.

Yet, I often think of the proverb above and wonder how many times I’ve so carelessly torn down everything in one heated moment, that I’ve spent the past 13 years trying to build. How easy it is to utter hurtful and careless words:

What’s the matter with you guys? You don’t know how to do anything. You just sit around and play all day while I work!

I wish that you would just leave me alone already so I could have a moment of peace!

Why did you do that?!? You have no clue how much you embarrassed me tonight! That was really stupid!

Can you go away? I’m busy here!

It’s hard to write down these things.

It’s really hard.

Knowing that I’ve said them. Knowing that they can’t be taken back. Knowing how much they hurt to hear.

Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 

Thinking about these things can bring about a sense of hopelessness. If words can’t be taken back, then what’s the point? How can one change the past? Ahh.. but that’s not the point, is it?

The past cannot be changed, my friend, but the future can be! It is never too late!

If every action is like laying another brick, we must also remember to fill in the cracks with grace, for grace is the mortar that holds it all together. None of us are perfect, not one, but how I hate when people say this and then go on as if everything they’ve done is OK!

It’s not OK to hurt people.

It’s not OK to treat people with disrespect and contempt.

But the truth is that you and I will never be perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect brings about ugly fruit of its own. Perfectionism will never bring about a strong house simply because it’s foundation is built on one’s own works rather than the works of Jesus.

 Perfectionism is Satan’s counterfeit to the work of God on the cross.

Repentance and trusting in Jesus’s work on the cross is the only way to build up a house that will last.

The Cross alone is our real righteousness. It brings about a change in us that we cannot explain or take credit for. Perfectionism breeds judgementalism and self righteousness. The Cross brings true humility and wisdom.

I’ve been having a hard time writing recently. There’s something going on in my heart that is different from anything I’ve felt in the past. I’ve been recognizing a lot of lies I’ve believed about what it looks like to live righteously and be bold, brave, zealous and honest. I’d compare it to learning how to stay in the middle of a narrow bridge with deep crashing waves on either side.

On one side of the bridge is perfectionism – that need to do everything perfect in order to follow God wholeheartedly. This kind of living is in the flesh, as it sees perfection as something that is humanly attainable. One who gets too close to the edge will find themselves drowning in pride, unhappiness, judgmentalism, condemnation, bitterness and many other things that go hand and hand.

However, equally dangerous is the other side of the bridge which is complacency. That attitude that says I’ll never be perfect so why try. Or that God’s grace is enough for all my sins so it doesn’t matter what I do. One who falls into this side will be overtaken be selfishness, debauchery, gossip, greed, and wickedness.

Sadly too many Christain find themselves in one of the two camps. Either nothing is ok or everything is. I myself have been on both sides, and by God’s grace, he’s yanked me back to the middle through hardships and warnings.

But here’s what I’m learning: I can’t be perfect, but I can apologize. And I can change. Everyday I have a choice; am I going to build up or tear down? That is my honor and duty as a mother and wife. And what a high calling it is having such power and responsibility in my home!

May I learn to never despise that calling.

And a word specifically for women:

I felt God’s encouraging heart towards wives and mothers while reading Proverbs 14:1. What an incredible opportunity that we so often grudgingly bear. We have the power to build our home in such a way that it stands strong or falls to the ground! God has given this power into the hands of women. You have the power within you to build up your family strong for life or tear them down, this is a difficult but hugely rewarding mission! Do not take it lightly, dear friend.

What They Don’t See

They see me run.

But they don’t see the struggle,

fierce determination,

deep hurt,

raw pain,

rejection,

and anger unleashed.

Ten more minutes.

Why is it that the last ten are the hardest?

My breaths become deeper,

The pain is a reminder of what I’m fighting for.

Nine.

They don’t ask, so I don’t tell.

When they don’t know, all must be well.

Keep to myself, nobody gets hurt.

Eight.

I tried so hard,

A wanna be person.

Driven. Focused. Self sufficient.

Unimportant.

Seven.

No cheerleaders here.

Pressing on on my own,

Fighting my battles with tears.

Six.

Maybe if I try just one more time,

Would they see my soft heart?

Or despise my persistence.

See my deep longing?

Or loathe my existence.

Five.

Half over.

I heard of a man who knew all the Psalms,

So it became my mission to know them all.

Quote my verses some more.

I know ever so many, but no clue what for.

Four.

I paid all my bills not a second to late,

Gave all my tithes,

Opened my gates.

Three.

I forgave all my foes,

But they haunt me at night.

Why continue pursue me when I gave up the fight?

Two.

Learning a language.

But why bother, just to speak it alone?

Writing a book,

But if no one cares, what am I writing for?

One.

One more minute of striving for this,

Why do I bother?

Driven to conquer sadness,

Through sadness.

Done.

I’ve conquered this run.

I’ve won the struggle.

Left depression behind.

The next day to find.

Tomorrow I start it all over again.

Waiting for the day, my running can end.

A Homeschool Pause

Today I want to share something that is going to be incredibly life changing for me this coming year. As many of you know, I am currently homeschooling four of my five children – and now, after my sixth year of homeschooling, I am going to take year seven to pause and reflect.

Thats right! My five precious children will be strapping on their backpacks, and lining up like little ducklings to face “real school” 😜 this fall! (For those of you who don’t get my reference to “real school” I mean public school, although you fellow homeschoolers will know exactly what I’m mean!!) Watch out everyone…the Bergen’s are coming!!

I have known our plans for a couple months now but just recently have begun to share the news and I must say, it’s very interesting to see all the different reactions that have come from this decision…

I’ve had it all from, “Are you sure you want to send your kids to Public School?!?” (Spoken like I’m sending them away to some evil war camp) to “Wow! Good for you! Won’t that be nice to have an empty house and all that free time?” to “Oh finally you’ve come to your senses! Are you going to be normal get a real job now?”

Ok. I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. None of those things were actually said to me, but I’ve had many conversations that give me each of the vibes above and I’m quite sure that none of them are what I’m actually feeling.

So let me answer these questions for those of you who are too polite to ask them in the first place:

1) Yes, I am quite sure that for this year, our five children are going to attend school together. One of the reasons I am sure of this is that for the past few years I have felt very split up as a family, having one child in public school and the rest at home. I have comforted myself by the fact that we would be split up anyway if they were all in school (as in my youngest was still to young for kindergarten so he’d be at home with me.) This year is the first and only year that my children will ever be able to attend the same public school altogether. This brings me so much joy and excitement – the thought that my five kids can experience school life together; bus rides, assemblies, family days, etc. I also am confident that even though yes, there will be some negative influences in their lives, the school is a very good one with wonderful teachers. I also am prepared to clear our evening schedules as much as possible so that I have time to spend with our children each evening.

2) No I don’t expect a break. I don’t even expect an easier year. I don’t expect calm days of doing whatever I want. I just don’t! Helping five kids adjust to public school after homeschooling will take a lot of correspondence with the teachers, a lot of patient evenings helping with homework, a lot of volunteer hours so that my children can see that I still value their education and work environment, a lot of healthy lunch planning, ALOT of papers brought home (found in crumpled balls at the bottom of their school bags – along with…”Eewww!!! What’s that?!?”), and to top it off a lot of driving around and planning for the future!

3) And lastly, no, I’m not going to finally be normal. I will continue to be my weird self, no “real” job in my near future, AND my hopes are to continue homeschooling at least two of my boys the following fall.

So, you may be wondering…why the change? Will one year off be worth all the paperwork, adjustments, etc. of public school? Why not just keep the two boys at home and start a new normal?

To answer that I would refer back to the first answer I gave: But they’ll all be together!

And I also will add that these last couple years my homeschooling hasn’t been at its finest. I’ve still been committed to giving my kids an excellent education, but I’ve really resorted to doing the bare minimum and even that lacks creativity. Quite simply, I’ve lost my former spark and zeal for homeschooling.

So instead of viewing this year as a rest, I’m focusing on using my year “off” to reassess some of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. Creative teaching and planning takes time, lots of time and to continue for a couple more years I’m simply setting aside this year as a gage of where we are at. I’ll be answering a lot of questions. Is my heart still in it? Do the benefits of it outweigh the inconvenience? What is our long-term goal, and how is homeschooling accomplishing it? How has homeschooling been beneficial to my older kids? Have they been able to adjust to life among their peers? And so on. You get the picture.

So that’s my big news for today! How about you?

Do you homeschool? A former homeschooler? Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment? If so, how did it turn out for you?

Participation Awards

Chess has been the board game of choice in our home lately. I’ve never been great at chess – no, let’s be honest, I’m really terrible at the game. Whenever I finally think I’ve got a brilliant scheme to get the upper hand, some pawn comes out of nowhere and kills my queen. And puts me in check mate. In the first five minutes.

When I first started teaching my kids, I took no mercy. Every chance I got, I pulled out my best strategies and made a good show out of it. I took great pleasure in my victories!

Finally, I had worthy opponents to my skill level!

Years have passed since I introduced the game to my offspring. I can’t remember the last time I’ve won against my oldest, or my nine year old for that matter…. My daughter, like me, isn’t the most skilled at this game – but, then again, is it really a necessary life skill?

However, I’ve still secretly revelled in my ability to win the game against my youngest two boys. I mean, they’re smart kids. But alas, the inevitable day came early last week when my seven year old beat me. In approximately ten moves.

Humiliated and desperate to redeem myself, I challenged my five year old to a match. Surely I could recover gracefully through a sure victory!

I grinned from ear to ear as I pulled out the best of tricks I could think of….but then…oops! I didn’t see his Knight there! And again! What?? That Rook came out of nowhere!

As the game wore on my smug smile slowly faded and I realized just how bad I really am at the game. I’m far too focused on one area and I forget to watch the whole board and all the intricate pieces which make different moves. I make wrong assumptions based on what I would do and low and behold, half an hour later I had lost the only shred of chess-playing dignity I had left: I officially lost to a preschooler (who was snickering at me and saying: “easy-peasy!”)

And then, just when I thought I couldn’t stoop any lower, my snarky eleven year old daughter comes into the room with this:

25DEAC4B-8E50-4244-B3D6-71D910C48472

A participation award!!!

Oh the humiliation! Oh the embarrassment!

My only comforting thought was that I was, in fact, the one who taught him to play chess in the first place. In fact, I’m really his only teacher thus far. So he had most likely learned his skills from me right??

I’ll leave you to judge whether that’s a good thing or a bad one.

A Parents Call to Pray

I’ve been all over God’s word today… Deuteronomy, Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Proverbs… and you know what I see throughout it all? The same loving, gracious God, gently calling and beckoning his people to walk in his ways and teach his ways to the next generation.

And the realization hit me: I can teach my children, but it is God alone who can save their hearts.

God alone can grow the seeds that I’ve so earnestly planted. God alone can hold their hearts and win their love and devotion. This is why my prayers are so important. For what my teaching is powerless to do, my prayers CAN do! I don’t want God to just have their outward obedience! I want him to have their hearts to the very core!

Dear parent, do you feel helpless for where your family is at? Pray!

Do you feel like all your efforts in teaching your children were in vain? Pray!

Have your children rejected your teachings? Pray!

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for He grants sleep to those he love. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in ones youth.”

Psalm 127:1-4

Surely the Lord answers our prayers in accordance with his will. And we know from scripture it is his will that NONE should perish, but that all will come to repentance.