Snapshots and Memories

As I raise this family of mine, I often hope that the good things will stick. Many times us mothers live in constant worry – as if our children will only remember every single bad thing we ever did and forget all the good times that happened in between.

There was a time when my oldest was small, where every time I would mess up, yell, or react in a wrong way, I would comfort myself with the thought: “Well he’s only two, he won’t remember that.”

Then, “Hey he’s only three, I don’t remember anything from when I was three…maybe he’ll forget it.”

Then four, “He might actually remember this.”

Then Five: “By this age he’ll totally remember…”

And then Six: “He’ll never forget that!”

Somewhere along the way I had become haunted by the thought that every single flaw, every failure would be carefully recorded, stored in their memories and brought out on the inevitable day when they most certainly will all go to years of therapy to undo all my mistakes.

But realistically, our memories don’t work that way.

My own childhood is a mixed-up snapshot, a mostly happy blur of highlights: playing dolls with my sisters, an old horse named Gus who I led around the pasture for many hours, dump runs with my dad, working outside with the whole family and then going afterwards to my grandparents house to swim and eat freezer-burnt Revels (which, by the way, I LOVED because of all the ice on the outside and the middle was yellowish and chrystalized just as I liked it!!), singing with my mom while she rocked me in our old brown rocking chair, random cartoon characters, knitted kittens and KFC at my other Grandma’s house, hockey cards with hard chewing gum in the packs, stories of my Father’s fascinating childhood in Mexico, new batches of kittens every spring, special family vacations, family gatherings with cousins to play with, morning devotions, camping disasters and traumatic news events such as Princess Diana’s death and 9/11.

Were my parents perfect? No.

But do I have a file of horror stories that I need deep healing from? Absolutely not!

In fact, almost every single one of my memories of them are happy ones!!!

Still there’s days where I wonder: Will my kids remember any of the good?

Looking back on pictures of my firstborn has many times filled me with deep regret. Regret because I wanted so badly to be that perfect parent that I wanted HIM to be perfect, so I barely gave him a childhood. Still I was trying my very best then, just as I am now.

“Let’s play a game!” I suddenly said to my children one lazy afternoon as I was thinking such thoughts as these.

I called it “Snapshots and Memories”

“Let’s take turns telling stories of our early memories (good or bad) and see what all comes to mind!”

What’s the worst that can happen?? (Part of me expected the worst.)

I started off the game with a memory from when I was five. My family was moving to a new community and I was so excited, yet sad, simply because I was really worried about missing the opportunity to sleep with our big class bear in kindergarten! Each child got a turn to take the bear home and sleep with it for a night…(ok that’s kind of gross now to think about!!) But my teacher was so kind that I got “randomly picked” the night before my last day at that school. I was thrilled! Now I could move on 😉

Next Bella shared a memory of going to a conference when she was six and being so embarrassed when a boy her age kept following her around telling her he was “in love” with her. She shuddered at the memory! (Oh the problems of being popular everywhere you go lol).

Then Jonas shared a memory of a spicy chip he ate and that I gave him a cold glass of milk afterwards…. (skipping that part about his dad encouraging it and filming as he changed from smug faced to “oh boy, this is HOT!🥵”)

Ok phew! So far so good!

Dallas shared next about going through my spices in the cupboard when I came up asking what he was doing and he kept saying “I’m trying to sell it” when he really meant “smell it”.

Emerson told a random story about monsters chasing him and me spraying them with a fire gun…which I quite enjoyed because I was the hero of that one and it most likely was 100% true…

AND…then the game took a very sharp downhill turn of made up senarios that I’m quite certain never actually took place, ALTHOUGH….the story of our family rocket blasting down Mt. Everest with two day old baby Emerson strapped to it really would be quite the adventure to tell the grandchildren about one day!

Maybe I’ll have to keep that one in the memory book…

As for their “ruined” childhoods, I am now certain that it’s not the actual failures I need to worry about, but the made up ones.

 

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More than Conquerors

In the midst of World War 2, in the middle of a German death camp, a sixty year old woman whispered these words and in them found hope:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword….No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37

Corrie ten Boom faced an impossible and hopeless situation…worse than anything I could possibly imagine. Everything she listed from the scriptures above happened to her.

Death, starvation and evil prevailed.

She stood for hours in the cold, naked and filthy as she watched the women around her get beaten and shot when they could stand no longer.

Her dying sister was mocked and brutally treated by even the nurses in the camp.

And yet, somehow, these very words brought such comfort to her soul that she was able to lift her hands in adoration and face each new day with courage.

I’ve been pondering these very scriptures in Romans 8 for the past few days now and I have come to the conclusion that while these words deeply move me, I will never quite know the depth to which they comforted Corrie until I face the very trials and pain of which they speak.

When I wake up, I am well fed and warm, healthy and clothed and it is SO easy to feel like I can conquer anything. But take even one of these “rights” away, and I become miserable, discouraged, perhaps even angry and bitter.

The true test of our faith comes not when things are good, but when things are hard.

I’ve recently seen two different people: both were pleasant and joyful, both claiming to have faith, both strong and admirable. There was no difference between the two when all was well.

Yet something terrible happened to each one. And here’s when their true colours showed. One of them grew angry, cold, hard and bitter, isolating themselves from the people around them, bullying anyone who tried to reach out and help.

Yet the other person stayed soft, thankful, kind, and gentle…not only this but they continued to even bless, encourage and even help those around them.

Somehow I think God wasn’t surprised.

Many times I look at the world around me and see people who don’t seem to care for God at all and wonder how they have their lives better put together than mine. I ask myself – is there any point?

Ahh, yes. Then I remember that right now, things are quite comfortable.

But a time comes for each person where they are tested to the core of their being. Only through Jesus Christ can we stand against these trials and say we are more than Conquerors.

I have a feeling that someone reading this today is going through such a trial now. My heart breaks for you. I am crying as I write these words, because such hardships can nearly destroy us forever.

But Jesus.

Jesus understands it completely. He was beaten almost to death. He was naked on the cross. He was mocked. He was betrayed. He saw evil reign. Yet he conquered it all!

AND because He conquered all of these things, we can be confident that he will never ever leave us and that through him we are MORE than Conquerors!

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What’s coming will FAR outweigh all the suffering we will experience here. Just like in childbirth, the reward is worth the pain. In fact, ask any mother and she would willingly go through it all over or even worse for her precious bundle. All suffering is forgotten when she receives her prize. I believe it will be the same with our reward in heaven.

Don’t let your troubles destroy you, dear friend. Even as you feel weakened in the flesh, may your spirit grow strong in Christ. Allow yourself to be purified in this time of testing.

 

 

The Hard Days

It’s been hard for me to write lately.

This isn’t an attention seeking post. In fact, for the most part, I’m embarrassed and feel awkward when people know that I’m struggling. But honestly, I’m not doing too good. I can’t parent well. My schedule is all messed up. My house hasn’t had a good cleaning in months. My eating habits are deteriorating, I have no motivation to run. And I still write, but I can’t for the life of me focus enough to write a post that makes sense. It’s like I’m just jumping from topic to topic, trying to make sense of what’s going on inside. So I don’t post anything.

I’ve been so isolated. But I’m not sure that’s the main problem or if it’s just a side effect of everything else going on. The silly thing about isolation is that it’s sort of self inflicted in many cases. I mean, it’s not like there’s no people out there. There’s a lot of people I know, who I could call and connect with…But then again, when we’re together do I actually really connect? Or do I just talk about things that don’t really matter to me?

I guess that’s where I’m at right now. Stuck in the middle of raising a busy family, watching everyone around me buzz around to this event or that one (mostly I just do the driving), all the while I’m just dying for connection.

Why is it that I can have such a busy day that I haven’t had a second to sit down, but when I come to the end of it there’s just deep sadness – and no one to share it with? My mind is desperately trying to keep it together, but not knowing how much longer I can do it.

How does sadness take over a once joyful life? How do fatigue and loneliness drain the soul so deeply? Why does everyone seem to feel the same way, but no one want to talk about it? How can I achieve true connection again? Was true connection ever there to begin with? Or do I just like to imagine it was there, in the “good old days”??

I don’t have the answers.

But for some reason, maybe just honestly sharing tonight is enough. Maybe I don’t have to end with hope, or some encouraging message. Maybe tonight, for once, it’s just enough for me to say that today, I’m not ok.

And maybe it’s enough for me to just know that somewhere out there, someone else knows exactly what I mean.

Stay Soft

One of the hardest things in life is to stay soft.

People will try to tear you down, indeed, even those closest to you will say hurtful things.

It’s so easy to just say “Fine! I’m done trying. I will no longer engage. I’m just going to go on and act pleasant on the outside while keeping up my walls so that no one can get in, so that no one can hurt me.”

This is not God’s desire for us. This is directly going against his plan. His plan is and always has been to speak truth over us where lies have been planted. His longing is to bring healing to our wounds.

Let me tell you a secret: Building walls may keep more hurt from coming in, but it also traps in the hurt you already have. What if your walls aren’t just keeping hurt out, but also keeping healing out?

It’s only in continuous opening ourselves up to the Father’s love and his view of us that we can get a correct view on others actions towards us and our response to them.

This isn’t a long, preachy post. It’s just a encouraging word: Stay soft, dear friends.

Watch your Labels

Not a dog, not a wolf…all he knows is what he’s not.” Balto

When I was I child, I loved the movie “Balto”. It was based on a true story where a town suffered from a severe epidemic and ran out of medicine for it during a severe snowstorm. Balto, who was half wolf and half dog, didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. The dogs wouldn’t accept him because he was different, they thought he was “wild” and “dangerous”, the people of the town were afraid of him – but he was soft, he was tame and he just wanted to belong.

In the end, his differences and wild instincts are what saved the town. But those differences were only appreciated once he had done something great, once he was famous.

I think we all tend to see differences in a negative light. It’s why we use harsh words in describing people who we think should be more like us. For example, the other day in frustration I said to my kids: “You don’t care about being on time at all!” And in my head I was thinking all the negative things: Lazy, Slow-pokes, Thoughtless, Uncaring, Unconcerned. In reality that’s only my view of them when I’m rushed or in a hurry. On the flip side they could be thinking the opposite of me: Workaholic, Driven, Bossy.

In their eyes, I care too much about being punctual and in my eyes they don’t care enough!

As my week went on, I thought about all the benefits that their laid-back and care-free personalities bring to my life. It brings peace, it brings joy! They are able to notice things that I don’t have time to see. Like a bald eagle, perched on a tree outside. Or a beautiful flower beside the road. They are able to laugh in stressful situations.

What if, just what if, we began to speak words of life over others? What if we focused more on what good each character brings to the world, then what problems they’re causing? The truth is that we need each other and our differences desperately. I need my carefree children to bring joy and calm to my life. They need me to bring order and structure to theirs.

I was thinking of all the negative labels I’ve put on people and of some of the good that comes out of those same traits. As I began to change my thinking I suddenly saw a shift in my perception of those around me. Instead of calling people:

Strange/Weird… I called them Creative.

Defiant… Independent.

Slow… Careful.

Bossy… Leader.

Stubborn… Tenacious.

Perfectionist… Wholehearted.

Self-righteous… Passionate.

Negligent… Easy-going.

Lazy… Relaxed.

Passive… Peaceful.

Cowardly… Cautious.

Simple… Humble.

Frivolous … Joyful.

Bitter… Just.

Hasty… Prompt.

Shrewd… Wise.

Know-it-all… Convicted.

Careless… Fearless.

Callous… Strong.

Emotionless… Reserved.

Emotional… Soft-Hearted.

I’m not speaking about the exception to the rules here. I’m definitely NOT saying that bad character should be treated as good. But this isn’t about hurtful characters. This is about negatively labeling people who have been made the way they are to enrich our lives.

This week start with yourself. Address some of the negative labels that have been spoken over you (maybe even in your own head).

I’m not weak, I’m tender. I’m not insecure, I’m flexible. I’m not a perfectionist, I am wholehearted. I am not bitter, I yearn for justice.

I am more than the labels given to me.

I Just Need those I Love to Love me in Return

“I don’t ask for perfection, or to be understood. I don’t need people to sympathize with me, or to say the right thing. I just need those I love to love me in return.”

These are the words I wrote in my journal on a dark day as I battled with depression. It’s one thing to battle with difficult thoughts and feelings, but it’s completely another fight altogether to truly believe that no one really cares.

Every person has a deep need to be loved.

Rejection cuts deeper and leaves more scars than any other pain we can ever endure. It makes us feel unlovable – like we are not worth caring for.

In a society where our deepest talks are about movies and sporting events, where our closest connections to others are online, and where the only person who really listens is the one you’re paying to council you, is it at all a surprise that so many feel hopeless? Is it really that big of a shock that so many are depressed?

So how can we learn to be friends who don’t just hang out when things are good, but who hang in there when they aren’t? How can we show real love and loyalty to our friends, in a day and age where love means sex and loyalty is what we feel for our coffee brand? I came up with ten ideas that have been helpful to me, hopefully they can encourage others to reach out and be there for each other.

  1. Be available – I find it very sad that we have time for so many “things” yet so little time for people. I have time to check my Facebook each morning and evening (some even have time to engage in endless comment wars about politics). I have time to pick up my coffee on the way to every social event or outing. I have time to do my makeup and hair, go to the gym, watch my favourite shows on netflix, browse thrift shops and other stores for knickknacks I really don’t need. But we don’t have time for PEOPLE. Making time for the people in your life is the greatest gift you can give them. Saying no to other things can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that every “yes”‘we give to another commitment, is actually a “no” to the people already in our lives.
  2. Learn to ask: “Are you OK?”  Sometimes it’s awkward to start up a serious conversation, I get it. But in order to really care for each other, we just have to get past those uncomfortable feelings and just care for each other. Be sensitive in the timing of this, no one likes a downer or to be put on the spot in front of a group. But the fact is that most of us don’t even know who around us is struggling! How are we to reach out if we never bother to ask?
  3. Listen more than talkI’m terrible at this. When someone is sharing, it’s so easy to cut in trying to relate to what they’re saying! Relating to each other is important, but when someone is sharing about their struggles, sometimes it’s best just to listen and say nothing at all. There usually isn’t the perfect thing to say, but realize that it’s your presence – just being there and listening – that is usually what’s needed the most.
  4. Forgive!!! People who are hurting, will say hurtful things… Forgive them and love them anyways. Try to see the deep need behind the hurtful behaviour and you will find yourself feeling compassion rather than anger or judgement.
  5. Be Sensitive- If now’s not the time to share your “solutions” to their problems or to point out their wrongful attitude on an issue, be compassionate enough to hold your tongue.  There may be times that it’s appropriate to give advice or to gently offer correction, but be sensitive to your timing!  If your friend is opening up about his/her struggles, remember that they are most likely just looking for support and a listening ear, not a know-it-all answer (this one I learnt the hard way🤦🏼‍♀️). If they are having an emotional breakdown, now’s not the time to tell them how their actions look!!  Respond in an understanding and calming way, so they will not feel isolated or attacked.  Most likely their body is already in Flight, Fight or Freeze mode. Their mind is telling them that there is an emergency and their body is acting accordingly. So the best way to support and bring them back, is to calmly and gently speak to them.
  6. Pay Attention- Look for any warning signs that this situation may be beyond your ability to deal with. Don’t be afraid to get help if it’s too much! If your friend is talking of suicide, or harming themselves/others bring them into the hospital or call a crisis centre. You may just save their life!
  7. Don’t Gossip- Look, I understand that listening is important. But letting your friend go on and on, gossiping about someone has hurt them is not going to help them! In fact, it is just going to drive the hurt in deeper. If it is an abusive situation, they absolutely need to talk about it and you need to encourage them to get help. Otherwise encourage them to share their hurt/feelings, without slandering the people in their lives! Draw their focus away from the person who hurt them, onto the lies that they may be believing as a result of the hurt that was caused. Then speak truth to them! Ex: “They may have told you that you are ________…but it’s not true!! I know that because __________!”
  8. Be Intentional- Being a good friend doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional practice! Being intentional means going beyond what’s required of you.  It means taking the time to care for others, even before they’ve asked. It means caring for needs that your friend may not even realize they have!
  9. Follow Up- One of most touching things we can do for a friend is to follow up with what they’ve already shared with us.  Sometimes we have heartfelt conversations, but then we go on with life and forget all about the struggles our loved ones are going through. It is so important to remember to check in.  For example, if a friend shared with you that she’s going for counseling, follow up! Ask her how it went, ask her if it’s helping. If they share their struggles in parenting, ask how it’s going, if they’ve found a solution to the issues they faced!  It’s not that difficult to do, but it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it!
  10. Help them out Practically- Do for them what you appreciate done for you. It’s that simple! If you wish you could get a day off once in a while, offer to watch your friends kids for the day so she can have one. Do you feel loved when someone stops in with your favorite coffee? Bring him one! Some days do you just need someone to sit by you and give you a shoulder to cry on? Be that person for someone else.

Loyal friends are hard to find, but the best way of finding them, is being one yourself.

I’m sure there are many other ways to be a faithful friend! Do you have other ideas on how to show love and loyalty to those around you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Sharing without Shaming

For a few months now, God has really been speaking to me about being trustworthy, and what it looks like to be a trustworthy woman. One of the struggles that is repeatedly highlighted for me is the importance of being trustworthy not just to peoples faces, but behind their backs as well.

Years ago, in high school, I didn’t think twice about what I said, and about whom.  I just simply didn’t care enough about anyone other than myself to even notice who was hurt by my words. Many of my high school friends were also gossip friends and drinking friends. They were like me: consumed with instant gratification and selfish desires. None of us really cared for one another, we were just there when it benefited ourselves.

When I became a Christain, I let go of many friendships. Not because I was now better than them or because they weren’t good enough for me! Not at all! I had to leave these friendships because I could not change who I was without changing who I was with. No longer could I be close friends with people who had absolutely nothing in common with me!  They laughed at sin, drank way too much alcohol, slandered others mercilessly and indulged in sexual sin, pornography and the like!  And being close friends with these people was tearing me down. So I had to disconnect from them.

One of the challenges of having a blog is wanting to be open and personal without hurting anyone in my life. This can be difficult for many reasons. First of all, it’s hard simply because of the fact that living openly means being honest about everything. The good AND the bad. There are many situations in my life that have repeated themselves over and over again. For example, I’ve been hurt by many people in many different ways. The challenge in writing about the lessons I’ve learned in these times is to describe them in such a way that it leaves the reader guessing about the specifics, all the while making the message behind the lessons crystal clear.

In order to do this, I first have to describe the situation in such a way that it can be related to a number of different experiences in my life.  I purposely change details and time frames, not to be misleading, but to be vague and respectful of others privacy.

With only two or three exceptions, (and now today will be another exception) this is how I have written my blog. My blog started out as a tool for me to heal from a very unique and painful situation in my life. I had nowhere to turn and felt utterly alone and rejected. Writing helped me process my thoughts and feelings in such a way that I could heal. Because of this, some of my very early posts were indeed about a situation that was very specific, but I remained quite vague, not mentioning names or places throughout any of it. Only those very close to me would have known exactly what I was talking about. Other than those specific posts, my writings aren’t focused on specific events or people, rather specific topics!

Now another thing about me is that I love a good, convicting message. It is often through sermons, articles or books that we are challenged in our ways of thinking and living and we are encouraged to change for the best.

Have you ever been in a service, where the preacher seems to be speaking directly to you? Where you sit back in your seat and you wonder how he could’ve possibly known EXACTLY what you were going through? Or sometimes you wonder if maybe the preacher actually heard about what you did last week and prepared his message accordingly? I know I sure have!

But in reality, many others in the audience were feeling the same as I did, and the message was equally for the whole congregation! That direct feeling is not the preacher speaking to you, but actually the Holy Spirit! And let me tell you, this is why I love blogs!  Because I can’t boldly speak to individual people about common struggles like lust or gossip or attitudes, judging others or repentance, without having them feel personally attacked or judged in the process. The method of talking to an audience of people is completely different, for we all struggle with these things and I’m not talking to any one person. So I can be as hard and as direct as I like!

A few weeks ago I already knew that I was going to write a post about gossip, but I wanted it to have a great impact. Not just merely suggesting that “we shouldn’t gossip, it’s not nice” but I wanted it to be taken seriously, to make it feel personal! So in order to accomplish this I wrote “An Open Letter to Those who Gossip“. As I wrote it, I thought of so many situations where I’ve gossiped, where I literally used to get my kids to leave the room so that I could gossip. I thought of the cruel way I talked back in high school, and about more recent encounters with gossip among friends and family, when I have tried my best to change the conversation and felt rather helpless in knowing how to stop it.

As I read through the letter I had written, I was satisfied: It was to the point, it was tough on gossip, even harder on those who don’t think twice about it and it was applicable to so many different people, myself included (or so I thought). I posted the article and for even more “punch” I wrote: “If you read this post and think it could be written about you, please, take it personally.” I wanted to make sure the message would be taken seriously!!

Imagine my shock when a few hours later, a loved one commented: “This post was written about me…and I’m deeply sorry…”

Woah! What?!? …perhaps my writing style was a little too effective??

I wasn’t sure how to answer, because re-reading the post through her eyes I could see why she would’ve felt that way. How horrifying it must feel to think an entire article is written about your sins!

I wept when I realized that she felt this way because never would I so carelessly, publicly shame someone I love. Public shaming is another topic that I feel passionate about and I was actually in the midst of writing about an entire blog post on the subject! And now to think that someone had felt that I picked them specifically out to make an example of, was horrifying to me. Now, I got the chance to reassure this woman that I was not singling her out in any way, but public shaming is so completely against what I believe that I felt the need to write this just in case there’s anyone else out there who’s felt that I’m referring to your particular struggles when I’m writing.

I want to make one thing VERY clear: I am not in the business of shaming people!

If you make a mistake, or say something hurtful, if you spend far too much time on social media or your iPhone, if you gossip or lie to me or yell at your kids, if you watch the wrong movies or fail to invite me to your birthday party, I will NEVER publicly shame my friends and loved ones. Period.

No one is perfect and I do not feel the need to point out or write about every mistake I see before me. I may someday write about these things, but it doesn’t mean that I even have you on my mind as I’m writing. You, my friends, can absolutely be 100% yourself, without fearing being featured on my next blog post as a “good, juicy topic”.

That is a promise.

This is all part of me learning to be a trustworthy woman! So to anyone who has ever felt picked on or singled out while reading my blog, please, PLEASE take this as my deepest apology to you. I am SO sorry for causing you hurt or pain in this way. I hope to continue to grow and mature in my writing, and this may be one of those lessons for me. I appreciate each and every one of you who takes the time to read my blog or to share something I’ve written or to stop and comment. You are my biggest fans and your encouragement means so much to me!

I will keep moving forward, speaking truth, to the best of my abilities and hopefully becoming more gentle and loving in the process.

Thanks again.

Love Always, Heather.