Back When I Hated Gardening

Back when I thought I was Super Mom, I hated gardening. Period.

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I liked fast results. I liked maximum gain with minimal time put in. I liked twice the profit with half the work. And plants don’t grow overnight…

“An utter waste of time!” I thought.

Tilling.

Fertilizing.

Buying topsoil.

Scooping, shoveling, back breaking work.

Spending more money on seeds and plants than I would spend at the grocery store.

Planting.

Watering.

Pulling weeds.

Rocks, Aphids, more watering, more weeds…Ugh. I give up! Not worth it!

Until a couple years ago.

When someone dear gave up on me. When the enemy began to whisper lies: You’re hopeless. You’re not worth it. You’re not worth fighting for. You’re not worth loving. You’re not worth their time!

I then came to my garden to work in silence. And I felt peace.

Why did I start to love gardening?

Because God gently spoke to my heart while I worked. He said, “You are worth caring for! See how you care for this garden? This is how deeply I care for you!” And it became to me the most accurate picture of what God does in our lives: He literally finds a patch of land (our hearts) and slowly begins to work the soil.

Gardens all look different. Some have huge rocks, others are full of clay. Some are overtaken with weeds, others have disease. Some may even have a rattlesnake or two. But God never sees a life where he just throws up his hands and says: “Nope! I give up! This ones just too much work! Not worth it.”

We have infinite value to God. 

Let me say it again: You have immeasurable worth.

You are worth loving.

You are worth saving.

You are worth His time and care.

You are worth it to Him.

And so in my garden, I peacefully work. Often I think the fruit it bears isn’t worth the time. I could probably buy it for less from the store. But then I think of his tenderness and love and I say to myself: “If this garden reminds me of Him, then it’s worth it.”

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A Splash of Color

Many times depression has been explained to be like living in a world void of color, seeing in blacks, greys and whites. For many years, I took this as a metaphorical meaning and believed that depression was a state of emotional darkness in which one simply had to break through and choose to see the colors. I believed this for a huge part of my life and honestly still struggle with thinking this is either partly true or at least has a sliver of truth to it.

This is why it was devastating to me when my doctor diagnosed me with depression just one short month ago.

I sat in his office, surprised and yet not surprised. Numb, yet hopeful. Certain of which paths I was willing to take to healing and which paths I refused to go down.

Strangely, this seemed to me a familiar feeling, and I remembered a long time ago (yet not THAT long) when I sat in an office, feeling very fragile, alone and broken as a young teen. I remember clearly the vulnerability in the diagnosis: “You’re pregnant.”

These situations both similar, yet, different…

“Who…ME?!?” These things only happen to others. People who are careless. People with terrible lives. People with no support. But me?!? I am none of these things!

Yes. Me.

And as question after question was asked, denial was no longer an option.

Have I suffered trauma in the past few years?

Do I struggle with chronic fatigue?

Have you lost an interest in any of the things you love to do?

Do you ever resent your children?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night?

Have you recently wished you were dead or wanted to harm yourself?

Have you felt rejected or a lack of support from your loved ones?

Question after question was asked…and I wondered, has this doctor been reading my blog? Or truly is this how depression feels?

Depression for me isn’t seeing life in grey. It is a deep, pressing sadness that follows me everywhere. It invades my laughter and trickles into my sunshine. It is like a living in a grey world, but with a splash of color that always lasts too short…or always seems just out of reach.

But I see color, that I most definitely do. I see it in my garden, when little green seedlings start to peak out from underneath the wet soil. I see it on my four-year-old’s face as he happily trots along the yard, noticing every flower, every insect, every brightly coloured stone. I see it on my daughter when she rides on her horse like the wind. I see it in my friends, when we laugh and talk together. I see it so, SO clearly.

But it never quite reaches my heart.

When I’m in a social setting, I’m not out there putting on a fake smile – my smile is genuine. My eyes really do light up when I’m happy to see you. I really do find the lamest “dad jokes” funny. But I walk away from these things, pain heavy in my heart…still empty and sad. Unchanged. And I wonder, will life for me ever look the same as it did?

I think back to that first visit to the doctors: bright eyes, young skin, fresh youth. And I look in the mirror: tired eyes, loose skin – with faded purple lines, and an older, experienced face.

No – quite definitely, it will never be quite the same. I will grow through this. I will learn through this. I will be different after this.

Looking back to the ways I changed after that first doctors appointment, I smile, knowing that while the outside changes weren’t quite so pleasant…the inside ones, in my heart, were quite remarkable.

It is hopeful then, that this season may produce the same results.

Down Unfamiliar Paths

I’m not writing here much these days.

Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly I think it’s out of disappointment.

I started writing because of a dream I had one night: A dream of going back to school and becoming a journalist. A dream of doing what I’ve always loved – writing. At the time I had the dream, college was extremely unlikely and out of my reach. It actually still is.

So I started this blog.

The purpose of this blog?

-To grow in my ability to write.

-To gain feedback.

-To encourage others in the midst of trials.

-To speak about my pain to an unknown group of people, because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone.

I wrote to give a fresh perspective, a godly view.

But as I left Facebook and eventually Instagram, I slowly lost more and more feedback and followers. I lost people who actually cared about what I had to say and I wound up with a handful of people who would give small bits of feedback, mostly of whom were strangers. I literally know five people who read my blog. And although I have almost 100 followers, those numbers really mean nothing. Many of the wordpress writers have one goal in mind: To gain more followers and if liking my posts and following my blog gains them a follow, they do it.

So really, I thought I had left social media, only to find myself on another form of it.

Blogging has become for me a lonely place, a reminder of the way the world is changing and a painful reminder to me of how there are already too many writers in the world.

There’s no room for another one.

So…is this me saying “good-bye” to blogging?

Perhaps.

Or maybe just putting it aside for a while as I desperately try to find a use and a purpose for my love of writing. Not one that just gains another “like” on social media – I am SO tired of “likes”! I want to write in such a way that inspires people, challenges them and makes a positive difference in the world.

 

I realize I’m walking around rather blindly on this road of writing. I’m not quite sure exactly how one publishes a book, or how they even get it to the shelves. I don’t even know any writers. Do they have support? Do they have people who care about what they write? Or did they start off like me? With people around them who don’t care for books and no one to ask about these things…

So I travel this path, in the middle of writing a book, unsure if anything will come out of it or if it will too end up with my discouragement and lack of interest. Will anyone really want to read it? Will they be honest with me about it? Can I take their honesty? Or will it crush me? I don’t want to have people “pity-read” my book and I definitely don’t want those around me to feel obligated to pick it up. So to be brutally honest, I’m actually too embarrassed to even share it.

How exactly do you share something as personal as a book? Will anyone even care or will they just absently comment: “Oh, that’s nice!”

Now, there are definitely people who have sincerely encouraged me. And I want to thank you if you are one of them. If you are one who has truly read and enjoyed this blog, from the bottom of my heart: Thank-you. Your encouragement means a lot to me! More than you could possibly know. You are probably one of the few I have already mentioned my book to. And hey, maybe the next time I’m on here, I’ll be announcing my best-selling, award winning book 🙂

Or maybe I’ll simply announce that I’ve finished it.

Or maybe I’ll be sharing my sob story of my flop of a book.

More likely, I’ll just be back one day, ready to write again with a new passion for blogging.

I’m sure I’ll be back eventually.

That’s the thing about unfamiliar paths, you never really know what you will find at the end, until you try it out. 

Love always, Heather

Public School Didn’t Prepare Me for Life… My Parents Did

“How in the world do you expect your children to function out in the world once they leave the bubble you’ve created for them?”

This is honestly a statement that was said to me a few years back.

And to be honest…it stung.

One of the most common questions I hear as a homeschooler is how am I preparing my children for the “real” world. From topics of socialization to missed opportunities, there are literally hundreds of different opinions on whether homeschooling has benefit, or if it actually hinders children from real life.

Let me tell you something that may shock you:  The public school system did not prepare me for real life.

Not for my real life.

There I said it….it is out. I can breathe.

This is not to say that the public school system didn’t help me out, or that homeschooling would’ve helped me more. I’m just simply stating that the things I learned in school didn’t prepare me for being a stay at home mom of five kids.  Being involved in extra curricular activities didn’t prep me for my day to day tasks either.

Yet, I see parents everywhere trying to rush from dance, to piano lessons, to the tutors house, to hockey practice, to swimming lessons, and to everything and anything else in between. To prepare their children for everything that they might ever want to be.

But there’s some things very few parents pay any attention to at all.

Character.

Work Ethic.

Responsiblity.

Commitment.

Compassion for the less fortunate.

Because while sports may keep you fit, and school may prepare you for your career, it doesn’t account for the most important values in life: God, family, and our responsibility to others.

There’s a push out there to drive children to dream big. From as young as three we ask them such huge, life driving questions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

As if they were capable of making that decision…still it’s cute to hear their answers!

But…can I just say that it’s a shame that we focus so much on career when a far more important question would be to ask, “what kind of person would you like to be?” And if they want to get married, “what kind of person do they want to spend their entire life with?”

Happiness doesn’t come from money or careers, we all know this, yet we raise our children to believe that those are the most important life goals. My question is why?

Why do we do this?

You know what brings misery? Marrying a miserable person. Going through life without a thought for anyone else. Riches without friends to share them with. Working endless hours just to watch the numbers in your bank account go up.

And yet we push and push our children to a single goal: Dream big and follow your dreams!

But…what if they’re like me?

What if they are like the millions of women around the world like me? What if they just want to stay home and raise a family?

What good does all of your rushing around do then?

And maybe it comes down to an even bigger question: What if they are content with raising a family, being a stay at home parent? Will they have let you down?

It’s not a waste, dear friends, to just raise a family. It’s a gift. A tremendous gift to the world; to raise up people who know they are loved.

There’s SO more to being a parent than just driving from place to place, and putting food on the table.

Now, do I have to homeschool to raise my kids well?

Of course not!

But it sure allows me more time to do so!

Let me ask you, if your children are at school eight hours a day, then at extra curricular activities for 2-3 more hours each evening…When do you have the time to teach them how to work? When do they do chores?

When do they learn about the importance of volunteering, or how to care for the less fortunate, or think about the needs of others?

When do you have the time to do devotions with them, memorize scripture with them, pray with them?

When do they have time to ask you questions about life, about morals, about sex?

When do they have time to just “be still”?

Are we so afraid of silence? Are we that afraid of stopping our lives and just letting kids play creative, made-up games?

Parenting well takes time…lots of it!

So going back to the first question that was asked: “How will my children function in the world?”

I except that they will be godly, hardworking, respectful, responsible and unselfish individuals, which quite notably, is rare in the world today.

But will they “fit in” with the rest of the world? Looking at millennials today… Nah, that’s not too high on my priority list.

 

Rebuilding the Bridge

Oh my heart.

I’ve been reading so many articles lately, of people I’ve never met, who have become like friends. Broken people. Hurting people. People who have been mistreated and rejected by the world.

And my heart literally breaks for them.

I thought my story was unique. That no one else had experienced what I had experienced.

I was wrong.

My story, isn’t something I want to flaunt. I’m not ashamed of it, but I do want to protect those I love.

So here I am, once again, struggling.  Struggling to know what to share, how much to share. Struggling because I know I have found freedom from the deepest, darkest pain. And I desperately want to lead others to this freedom.

My testimony is this:

I followed the “typical” teenage path, got caught up in the socialization of school, rather than the work. Insecure as I was, I tried to impress others by partying, being obnoxious and carefree, lying about who I was, and by doing things I knew I ought to stay away from. I got caught in a very bad place. From being suspended from school because of drinking to being careless sexually…I made heartbreaking, life-devastating choices.

Choices that lead me to the night God heard me and literally set me free.

It was dark, I knew only one person at the party. I was lonely as ever and I prayed while looking at the stars on that clear, August night. I prayed for God to save me. Then, I drank one very large drink and don’t remember much else. Two men, a lot older than myself, slept with me.

I was broken, but acted tough, like it made no difference.

It was at this time I met her. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call her Anna, though those who know my full story will know quite well who she is, because she was so instrumental in my life.

The gentleness and compassion in her voice is something I’ll never forget. Her sincere heart of care, she saw things in me that no-one else did. And she loved me. I could tell from the moment I met her, I wasn’t just some charity case, some feel-good project, she truly cared for me. She said that I was beautiful. That I was tenderhearted. She gently and carefully showed me the care of Christ.

And one day she got me to pray, and I experienced God’s love for myself. I knew he was real that day and I chose that day to leave my life of emptiness behind.

I became a child of God.

My boyfriend, who soon became my husband, formed a similar relationship with Anna’s husband, whom I’ll call Paul. During the next ten years a beautiful friendship/mentorship formed. Paul and Anna guided me and my husband through life. She prayed for me when I felt down. She listened when I cried, and gave really good advice. When my firstborn was deathly ill in the hospital, she and her husband visited me faithfully.

I cared for her too, listened to her and prayed for her as well. When she experienced loss, I brought her food. She was often lonely and I felt for her in this.

She was the one person who always understood me…until the day came when she didn’t.

What can destroy a deep friendship like that? A hurtful word? Miscommunication? Gossip? An outburst of anger? Cruel misjudgement?

In my opinion it is none of the above, although they do hurt a friendship, a deep friendship is ultimately built on endurance, commitment, loyalty, forgiveness and the ability to see the best in others when they’re at their worst. Unwillingness to change or forgive, that is ultimately what destroys all relationships in life.

When I went through a dark depression a year after having my fifth child, Anna did not recognize it as such, and to be honest, nor did I at first. I was confused, having never felt such despair and loneliness before. I desperately needed help, physically, mentally, spiritually. I mostly kept it to myself, but once in I while I would give little glimpses to her to reveal what I was going through.

She sensed that things were changing too. Things were just different between us. By the time we started talking about these changes that were happening, Anna was convinced that I was dealing with deep bitterness, that I was trying to hide it and lie about it and that I was being deceived by the devil. Strong accusations for sure. But since I didn’t know what I was going through, I couldn’t quite explain why I knew she was wrong, all I could say was “no, I wasn’t holding anything against anyone.”

Paul and Anna began to have meetings with us, at first to help us, but really what they became were interrogations. They would bring before me everything that they thought I was doing wrong and I would apologize for somethings (such as wrongful attitudes and gossip) and defend myself in others (as in, I would not repent for lying when I had not lied).

Unfortunately, Paul and Anna were also our church leaders, and we were forced to resign from our involvement in the church, as they felt like we weren’t walking in true freedom. Soon after, we were also told to repent of these issues and submit to their leadership, or leave the church. This was done without any meeting with the rest of the church leadership.

We had to leave the church, I had no choice. I longed to make things right, but to pretend I was guilty of sins that I was not? That was too far. I could not do it. Our very best friends were in that church. They were all called up and told to no longer welcome us to their bible study. They submitted to their leadership and I was crushed. I longed for someone to defend us, for someone to fight for our case.

But no one spoke up. They all stayed silent.

I lost my mentors, my church and my best friends all within a few months. Only my family and my husband stood by my side.

Meanwhile, I was still  going through depression, which had only intensified with the situation. I was so confused. Here my loving mentors were saying disturbing things: Calling me a snake in the church. Saying I was bitter and vindictive. Saying I was living by works and not by faith. Telling me that my apologies were covering up my unwillingness to repent…were they right? Could this really be the source of my struggles?Part of me wanted them to just be right, so I could make amends and be happy again. I longed to have things back to the way they used to be. I was willing to do anything for reconciliation.

But in my heart I knew that they had misunderstood me so deeply, that they were now just following the trail of lies, ultimately believing the worst about my motives and my actions.

Forgiveness for those who felt they were righteously doing God’s will…could I ever let go of what they had done? Trusting people after such betrayal…is it possible?

Sorting through all my feelings and coming to a place where I could see things through God’s eyes wasn’t at all simple. I read A LOT about forgiveness. The Bible is full of stories of forgiveness, from Joseph to David to Jesus Christ himself. Another gem of a book I found on forgiveness, that aided to my healing, was called “The bait of Satan” by John Bevere. 

Here’s the conclusion that I’ve come to: It is impossible to forgive someone when you let your mind think the worst of them. BUT when you begin to humbly let God show you how he feels about those who have hurt you and choose to think the best of them, ALL things are possible.

I can not make people see my heart through God’s eyes. I can not force them to love me, forgive me, believe me or even like me, but I CAN chose to do so for them.

It no longer became a struggle of who is right and wrong…Rather could I be humble enough to stop trying to figure it out and forgive them either way? If Paul and Anna were right about me, then what right do I have to hate them? They were trying to help me, risking their own reputation in the process. That is love! If they were wrong about me, then I felt deep compassion and sorrow for them. How sad to feel like you are doing the work of God, only to find out in the end that you were working against him! But in all, whether they’re right or wrong, I can only say that I believe they were trying their best to do what they felt was right, with the knowledge and tools that they had.

After many tears, much heartache, many angry outbursts, and times when I wrongfully spoke against them…I can truly say that I’m sorry for the ways I have hurt Paul and Anna, even the ones that I may be blinded to.

And I forgive them.

So much so, that when their names come up, my heart is full of joy because of the ten good years we had with them. For the ten years of wisdom we gained from knowing them. I am glad I knew them. I remember the good. I remember their passion and love for God.

Forgiveness is like building a bridge to those who have hurt us and extending a hand, welcoming them back to friendship with us when they are ready.

However, one thing that we often forget is that building a bridge of forgiveness doesn’t guarantee that people will cross it, it merely gives them a chance to. And we are not accountable for the actions of others.

Much to my disappointment Paul and Anna have chosen, so far, not to cross that bridge. Then again, the moral of the story is that they don’t need to. Ever. I can still find overflowing joy and peace in the fact that my heart is right with God.

And I can find joy in the blessings he has given us during the past two painful years: A new church that I love with my whole heart, new friends (more than I have ever had in my adult life before) and new mentors who have gone through similar trials and come through victorious.

Simply put, building a bridge is difficult. It takes time. Sometimes you have to stop everything and start all over. But through forgiving, God has brought me to hope again…not in people. Not in things. But in Christ alone, all my hope is found.

For me, that’s a first.

Today I felt Like a Failure

Welcome to Parenting 101: I tried my best and I failed.

One of the first lessons when raising little human beings, is that doing your best isn’t ever enough. You can spend 100 percent of your day unselfishly loving, serving, cleaning, cooking and teaching and there’s always, ALWAYS someone (or perhaps many) who are going to think it’s not good enough.

I remember reading an open letter to moms a couple of months ago titled “You Are Enough.” It spoke to discouraged mothers about how their love and efforts were enough. Honestly, posts such as this fill my heart with hope. They’re touching. They’re encouraging. When I read them, my eyes fill with tears. I try to convince myself that they’re true and I’m inspired to keep going.

But the truth is, I really don’t believe them.

Because never, have I ever been enough for my family or my kids. 

Not even on my good days.

Not even on the days where I manage to keep my cool from morning till night.

I’m not creative enough.

My food isn’t healthy enough…(and if it is, it doesn’t taste good enough.)

I’m not joyful enough.

I’m not fair enough.

My motives aren’t pure enough.

I don’t have enough time.

I can’t clean enough….(And man, do I EVER clean. All. Day. Long.)

I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not loving enough.

My apologies aren’t sincere enough.

I’m not encouraging enough.

My faith isn’t real enough.

I am NOT enough.

Reading through this list, I realize that none of these feelings or thoughts are unique to just me. These are the real thoughts and feelings that us mom’s struggle with daily. “You Are Enough” would’ve never gone viral if women didn’t have a deep desire to hear those very words.

It’s a wonder to me that any mom even makes it through motherhood.  Is there a place more lonely? Is there a position in life that take as much blame?  Are the consequences of failure higher in any other occupation?

To mess up, literally harms your own offspring. The cost of failure affects the very ones you love the most: your own precious children.

I’m sorry, are these thoughts too heavy for today? It’s just the kind of day I’m having.

I woke up this morning, bright and early. Our family had just had spring break, so I felt refreshed and ready to teach. I planned fun activities, lots of breaks, snacks and rewards. It was tons of work for me, but meant to be a relaxing day for the kids as there was very little real work involved.

Before noon, my best efforts had failed and two children were crying in their rooms. I tried to gently correct my son in his behaviour and it completely backfired. My boy told me that he felt like a jerk who always ruined everyone’s fun and that he was a horrible son.

My heart was devastated.

Here, I was pouring in time, care, love, and creativity. My absolute best efforts. Yet the day ended in tears and my son was struggling with condemnation.

Where did I go wrong? Why am I such a failure?

Motherhood sure is hard.

I honestly feel like I could end this post right here. But it’s not the end. Because the one thing that sets me apart from those who don’t believe in God, is HOPE.

Hope that things will get better.

Hope that God sees my heart.

Hope that he will take my best effort’s, and bear fruit from them.

Hope that when all is said and done, it will be enough.

But the devil knows where to hit us and when. And today I was really struck down. Today I felt like quitting. Like throwing my hands in the air and giving up.

But, HOPE.

Hope keeps me going.

I have long given up hope that I am enough, but I still believe with all my heart that Christ is. He will make up for my failures, for my bad days, for my lack of abilities.

In Christ alone, my hope is found.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33