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!

Advertisements

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.

 

An Open Letter to Those who Gossip

To Those Who Slander Others,

I wish I had the courage to speak this way to your face, but I’m a coward, so I hide behind a screen and write. I avoid confrontation like it’s the plague and if you knew what I’ve been through the past few years, I’m sure you’d understand why.

There’s very few people, if any, who change when they’re confronted – even less people who choose to walk in humility when they know they’re wrong and those who show sincere remorse and repentance without shifting the blame are almost non-existent. Change takes humility and repentance. It takes eyes that recognize what we’ve done and it takes a heart that truly feels the pain of our actions. To change, one needs to stop making excuses for their behaviour. They have to be grieved at the hurt they’ve caused and yearn to make things right.

Today I was grieved for you. For me. For what you spoke. For what I heard and listened to. For the words that were spoken with little thought of whom they affected. For my failure to stop what was being said. I felt burdened because I froze up, my gentle attempts at changing the subject were ignored and I couldn’t bring myself to say stop. I didn’t know how to.

I hate gossip.

There is nothing more divisive, more hurtful, more untrustworthy to do than to indulge in it, especially for our own entertainment.

Words destroy.

The wreckage they leave behind is worse than an unsuspected land mine. They kill friendships and ruin families. Make no mistake, I do not pretend to be above it. In fact, it’s why I can’t look into your face and tell you to stop. Because at one point or another, I’m positive I’ve said something hurtful that I shouldn’t have about others. And I hate that I’m not innocent of this, for maybe if I was, I could be bold in standing up for those now being mercilessly attacked by your words.

I’ve struggled with gossip, but I have realized that the best way to overcome gossip is to avoid the people who delight in it. And so I have. I avoid shallow people who talk of nothing but others. Who whisper about each other as they leave the room. They are repulsive to me!

But then there’s you.

I’m not willing to cut you out of my life because of what you mean to me, but I ache – oh I ache – when we’re together, for your words are so hurtful, so full bitterness and spite. You seem completely unconcerned about who they may affect. You slander strangers and loved ones alike. You are merciless in your assessment of those around you.

And I wonder, do you even love people?Are you capable of caring for them? Or do you just think that you do?

And when I leave the room, just what kinds of terrible things are said about me? Do you pick apart my life, my church, my faith, my parenting? Do you tell others callously about what I share with you in confidence? Do you gossip about my children, their characters and struggles, when I’ve opened up about them, in good faith, with you?

Do you mock my choices, my past sins, my current failures, instead of praying for them?

Without hesitation, my guess is, you do.

Oh, if you would only realize what gossip of this sort does to relationships! It hurts them beyond measure! THEY may never find out what you have said, but they will KNOW that you are speaking of them.

Just as I know.

Because over time gossip becomes a character trait. Those who indulge in it cease to even hear the way they sound. They forget it is even wrong and shamelessly bulldoze those around them to the ground with their words.

We cannot grow, when we are meddling in the personal lives of others. When we are focusing on the sins of those around us, our own character stays unchecked, and we lack any motivation to change ourselves.

When my children are around you, I wish to cover their ears so they may not hear the verbal vomit that comes out. They are in shock, you know, when they hear the way you speak. Their little fresh minds are taking everything in, and your words are shaping their opinions of the people you speak of.

So this is my plea, to you whom I love: Please end the gossip. Be grieved by it! Be disgusted by the way it sounds when it rolls off your tongue. Feel the pain of those who are affected by it. And then repent – with tears and regret!

Finally, care enough to change.

I don’t have any threats that aren’t self-fulfilled consequences of gossip. I most certainly will not open up if I do not trust you. I most certainly won’t join in, so our conversations will be short and awkward. I may try to change the subject or suggest a solution. Or maybe, I will one day find the courage to interrupt your rantings about others and ask you to your face if what you’re sharing about them is loving.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not true, it is not self-seeking, it is not equal easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Oh to build up those around us! That is my heart’s desire! And often, how miserably I fail! How often I speak before I think! How often I hear the slander of others within my own thoughts, and how sick I feel when I hear it on my own tongue.

If ceasing to gossip leaves me with nothing else to say, then so be it; silence is more peaceful anyways!

Dear, dear loved one, who gossips: Please, change. If not for your own sake then for mine, for I am so weak, and may very well stumble in your company. Please think of my children, who right now speak mostly well of others. Think about the many innocent victims this crime brings to the ground.

May your relationships grow stronger, deeper as you learn to keep hurtful words away from your mouth. May your conversations become fruitful and life-giving. May they be seasoned with the joy and love of the Father. May they become uplifting and full of goodness. And as you begin to trust yourself, you will begin to once again believe the best in those around you. You will be able to see them as our Father in Heaven sees them, with fresh, new eyes.

If you felt this speaking to you at all, now is the time to change, dear friend.

Sincerely,

A Woman Learning to Speak Life

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Challenge

Today’s post is a fun one! It is in response to a challenge from one of my fellow bloggers. Stephen and his family live in Ireland and he writes one of the most honest blogs I’ve ever read! He is also on the tail end of writing a novel and he runs marathons! Check out his blog at https://fracturedfaithblog.com

The Challenge? To write a short story (Or flash fiction piece) based on a discarded receipt he found, while wandering the stores of Belfast. This particular person purchased a peeler, and two prepared fruit cups. Interesting combo. Here’s my take on what happened:

That One Stinkin’, Waste of My Time, Rotten Apple

It all started with that one rotten apple. And my kid of course. I swear, this kid is going to make me loose my mind (or quite possibly a limb for that matter).

We have pop tarts for crying out loud! But what does the two-year-old want?

“Apo! Apo!”

Try to get him to eat something healthy any other day and it gets chucked across the room… anything we don’t have time for, I guess!

OK…maybe it started a little earlier than the apple.

I wake to a horn beeping loudly outside my apartment. Groggily opening my eyes, panick sets in as I realize I slept in an hour later than anticipated. Great. I had precisely fifteen minutes to get out of bed, throw our clothes on, eat, drop the kid off at daycare and be at work. As a single mom to the world most stubborn two year old IN THE WORLD, this is definitely NOT happening.

I should’ve used my better sense and just called in sick, but I like a good challenge, so why not give it a shot?

First step? Wake the beast. Before he can even get the second eye open he’s asking for cartoons. Fine. Cheap babysitting, so I can get ready. I’m dressed, hair done, make up done in three minutes flat. What can I say? I’ve had practice. Now for the hard part.

I pick up his favourite T-shirt, a pair of jeans and some socks. I don’t want any struggles today. He takes one glance at my selection as I approach him, promptly removes his thumb from his mouth and says, “No.”

No??? I roll my eyes. I want to shake the kid.

Instead I respond, “Then you pick your shirt sweetie.”

Thumb comes out again: “No.”

Oh for crying out loud! I glance at the time. We have now have eight minutes to go. I’m out of breath by the time I come back, holding at least a dozen selections of outfits. Surely one of them…

He proceeds to pick up each one and throw them on the floor. This takes two minutes. Finally…are you kidding me? He picks the one I brought in the first place!

Whatever! We have to go. I change him in a record breaking 35 seconds.

I pull out a pop tart for him to munch on the way. He spies the package in my and and begins shaking his head. No buddy! Not now…Please no!

“Apo” he points to one of the apples on our counter. Fine. I pick it up and hand it to him.

“We got to go now bud! Come on!”

Suddenly he holds it out. What now??

“Ucky peel! Ucky peel.”

Seriously. Who raised this kid? Don’t answer that.

I look all over. Where is that peeler? Today of all days!! I now have one minute to get on the car. Finally I grab a knife, it’s a dull one but it’ll have to do. I begin to peel at lightening speeds, we are going to make…it.

I see it before I feel it. My knuckle is half gone. Blood is everywhere. On the knife. On the counter. On that one, stinkin’, waste-of-my-time, rotten apple.

I stumble hastily around the kitchen, looking for something to stop the blood. A box of tissues. Perfect. I wrap my hand in 20 of them. The blood is just pouring through. My kitchen looks like a scene from a Stephen King novel. As best I can, I cast up my hand in more tissues and quickly seal the masterpiece with…with what?

I desperately felt around with my good hand in a drawer filled with odds and ends. Finally, I find the duct tape. Wrapping and cutting my with my left hand certainly isn’t a walk in the park but I do my best. And hey, on the bright side, I now have an excuse for being late. I watch as the tissue around my hand begins to turn red… This will definitely need a visit to the ER.

After another painful two minutes (literally) I coax my favourite (and least favourite at the moment) kiddo onto the car. I now just need to drop him off at daycare and get to the ER.

“I’m hungry!” Comes the cry from the backseat.

Right.

In all the chaos I forgot to feed the boy. I look around me. Drive through? Nope, none close by. Then I spot it: The Tesco express.

I don’t even bother to blink. The car behind me slams on its horn. But I don’t care. I am a woman on a mission. I pull directly in front of the store and put on the four ways…no time to park, my bandages are now leaking. Slinging my child over my shoulder like a sack of flour, I march into the store.

Just my luck. Prepared fruit right at the side. I grab two cases one for me and the little tyke. Then I march to the check out. On display as I move to the line is the deal of the week. Of course it’s a peeler. I shake my head, chuckling to myself as I add it to my purchase.

The cashier looks at my blood soaked wrappings, and then her eyes slowly drift to the peeler. As if maybe she shouldn’t let me through.

“Just don’t ask.” I say.

 

Skeletons at a Buffet- A Reflection on the Summer Prayer Challenge

I love camping.

I hate camping for too long.

Presently, I smell like a mix of campfire, dirty dishrag, wet dog and human body odour. My lower back cramps and aches as I adjust to life without a pillow top mattress and goose down pillows. Instead of my usual devotional palace, I am sitting in a crowded bed, with a mug of terrible tasting coffee in hand, grasped by a finger which was sliced open and wrapped tightly in bandages (the consequence of groping around in the darkness and finding a razor instead of my flashlight.) My body is feeling the effects of living through seven nights of restless, short nights. In fact, before I hid myself in this cramped but quiet space, it was more dangerous to come across my path than any of the creatures you may find out here in the wild. I am irritable when my body feels uncomfortable.

And yet, now as I rest with Jesus, the comfort in my soul overflows. For this summer I have learnt the secret to thankfulness.

And it’s easy: Ungratefulness comes from staring at my problems. A heart of gratitude comes from staring at God.

It’s really that simple.

It’s as though I was stuck in this depressive state because I really did have a load of very real, very heavy burdens. It was a load far too heavy for me to carry and now and then, when I find myself picking it up again, I wonder how in the world it didn’t altogether crush me.

We weren’t meant to carry these things; we were meant to walk with God, to stare at him like the father he is and simply, trusting like a child watch him as he saves the day. Over and over and over again.

Helpless, but completely trusting, exactly like a child.

Some of you may think that I’m over simplifying things, I would respond that maybe we are so stressed and overwhelmed because we over complicate things.

Bad things happen to good people.  According to God‘s word, this shouldn’t surprise us…yet it does! Time and time again it causes us to question God’s love, God’s goodness.

Perhaps, instead of asking ourselves: “Why is God allowing this to happen?”  We should be asking God: “What are you trying to teach me through this situation?”

I’m starting to see that God allows these trials not for us just to survive but to shape us, to grow us for OUR good. Hebrews 2:10 says that through suffering, Jesus became a perfect leader! If Jesus, who is without sin, needed to suffer, how much more do we need suffering to learn!

But how do we learn what God is trying to teach us instead of being crushed underneath the weight of our trials? It’s all about the gift of the Holy Spirit and Prayer.

Picture a starving man who has survived outside of a buffet restaurant by digging through the dumpsters and finding scraps of leftovers to gourge on.

One day the owner of the buffet notices him and stops him. “Come!” The owner calls to him, “Come and eat all you could ever want! For free! All I ask is that you work for me, here at the buffet, and bring others in to eat!”

The skeleton comes in to dine for a while, but soon forgets about this offer and goes back to digging through dumpsters, only going in once and a while to eat when the hunger pains get overwhelming.

This is essentially how we treat Christ. Here we are, tired and half starved. We know that something’s not right yet we continue to feed on our garbage over and over again: worry, planning, stress, coping mechanisms and bad habits to drown out our sorrows, addictions, media and entertainment to distract our anxious minds…But we refuse to go to the buffet. We refuse to eat the real food! We refuse to ask God for peace which he longs to give us! We forget the times in the past where God has filled us fuller than we could ever imagine.

Some of us may not eat out of the dumpsters, but we rely on others to bring us their leftovers. They’ve spent the time in God’s presence and we live off of the crumbs they bring back to us.

Why not go for ourselves to meet with God?

It’s all right here. Look to Christ and worship. See the magnitude of who he is! Read his word in wonder! Remember what he has done in the past. Remember that he is not in the business of bringing us comfort and wealth, but in shaping us to look like him. Don’t just come when you’re starving, come daily to eat. He longs to provide for your needs. Ask him the hard questions. Trust in his answers.

The last two weeks of the prayer challenge were spent hidden away from the social media side of it, because I need this for me. I long for this to become so much more than just ten weeks of prayer; for it to turn into a year, a decade, a lifetime prayer challenge! No longer a skeleton bent on survival, but a healthy thriving individual able to bring others to the buffet.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” Revelation 22:17

Summer Prayer Challenge – Week 8

This week, I feel something shifting in my heart. It’s that struggle again…This was no easy challenge for me. I am tired of posting. My insomnia has returned this past week, which means my early quiet times with God are usually cut quite short. My prayers are scattered throughout the day, often interrupted by our busy schedule or children’s needs.

For those of you thinking I must be someone super spiritual, or amazing to pull this one off, trust me: I am NOT super anything. 

I am simply determined.

And desperate.

And somewhat needy.

What I long for is a touch from God. Without soaking in his love each day, I feel empty. I naturally become someone who works and works and works, yet find myself unsatisfied and wondering if I am doing enough. Wondering: Am I enough?

Last week, I found social media was draining me. I was exhausted and saddened at the hours I was throwing away, and while some of those hours spent online have been super productive; encouraging, connecting and building others up…other hours were spent not so wisely…checking out “likes”, getting sucked in to reading the comment wars on other posts.

SOOOO, I took a break. A glorious break from the pressure of daily posts.

And I’m back again for this next weeks challenge. Did I mention only three weeks left? Summer passed by so CRAZY fast!!

Please, please, PLEASE, above all, soak in God’s love. Thank him for his blessings. Remind yourself of all his benefits. Remind yourself of his goodness. These prayer lists are just lists without connection. Prayer becomes tiring, burdensome even, without true friendship. Oh God, if I could ask you for one thing this week for everyone reading this, it would be that they would experience you this week. May they encounter your deep, unfailing love, which is poured out on us regardless of what we have done. You loved us enough to come and die, while we were still your enemies. In fact, you knew all along that we would turn on your son and kill him. But still, you came in love.

That, is true love. That is the kind of God we serve. That is the One we long to meet with when we come to pray.

Pray for your family next. Your spouse. Your children. Your parents. Pray for brothers or sisters. Anyone God puts on your heart.

Then pray each day for the following:

Monday: Our pastors and their families – Previously I have mentioned how there is tremendous pressure on them and their families to “have it all together”. What a difficult burden to bear! Pray for our leaders to be free of this unreasonable expectation of perfection. Pray for them to be able to be open and vulnerable. Pray for close friendships, for people to walk beside them and be forgiving and gracious to their faults. Pray for purity in their lives, for them to have a fear of the Lord and walk in humility before Him. Pray for protection over your pastor and their family, as the devil would like nothing more than to see your leader fall.  Pray for them to speak the truth of God boldly, and to not fear what people think of them, but to care more about what God thinks. Pray for their marriages, for their family time, for their children. Pray for them to have wisdom in each situation, and to have a Shepherd’s heart for people.

Tuesday- The Global Church – This week I want to pray for a group of churches we often write off as hopeless. We see their crowds, we see through the “feel-good” messages and we shake our heads in disgust.

But Jesus LOVES them.

He LOVES his church, even lukewarm/seeker-friendly ones. And he weeps for them as they shut His truth out of their lives.

Last week I read this verse in Hebrews 1:3- “He holds everything together with his powerful Word.” Think about that for a minute. That means EVERYTHING is held together by the truth: His Word. It’s no wonder then, as we see churches erasing the “offensive” parts of God’s word, that they begin to fall apart. They become corrupt and sinful. They can not survive without God’s Word. It holds all things together. This is why societies that get rid of God, who become proud and discard his word as unnecessary eventually collapse. They all end in ruin. We don’t want him in our courts, in our laws, in our politics, or in our schools…and yet His Word is what holds it all together!! Pray along these lines today.

Wednesday: Mental Health – God’s Truth vs. Satan’s Lies: Satan is the father of lies. When we are at our weakest, he knows when and how to attack us. He knows exactly how to speak a devastating lie to our souls when we are already about to fall. Struggles with mental health are in the mind. This is why I believe those living with a mental illness are the most susceptible to believing these lies. I have found the ONLY way to fight back against such lies (which can even be spoken through words others have said to us), is to combat them with God’s truth. Pray that we would learn to hear his TRUTH! How life giving it is when someone who has believed the lie: “I’m unlovable” hears the TRUTH: “You are absolutely, entirely, and perfectly LOVED.” OR someone who has heard: “I’m not worth caring for,” hears God speak over them: “You are worth FAR more than any precious gold or diamonds!” How about the lie, “I don’t belong.” It has no power when God says, “You belong to Me!” Pray that we would speak God’s truth over those lies. Pray that those living with mental illness would be able to hear and accept God’s truth spoken over them.

Thursday: Idols – Sports/Entertainment – Pray today, that we would not live to be entertained, but that we would live ONLY for Jesus. It’s so easy to waste hours in front of a screen. It’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars on sporting events or even for our children’s teams… what if, we spent this much time and effort on Christ? Let’s be honest here! Think about it.

I’m not calling sports or entertainment evil, but picture for a moment how different our lives would look if instead of running to two soccer practises and a game each week, then crashing on the couch for two hours and watching some mind numbing show, we would spend those hours meeting with Jesus, memorizing his word, praying for others, and serving. What if we turned off the screen and actually talked with our families? What if we visited the sick? What if we stopped watching shows that glorify the very evil that Jesus died for? How different would our relationships be? Pray that we would turn from anything that takes precedence over Christ in our lives. Pray that we would desire that which can truly satisfy. Pray that we would come and drink the living water. Confess today the ways that you have failed in this area. Pray for us to use these things, not as a way of filling ourselves but as further opportunities to enjoy life in Christ.

Friday: Our government – We Need a Law: Sanctity of Life/Caring for the Forgotten – Right now, in my country it is legal to kill a human being. In fact, it is paid for, by the people through taxes. This is astounding to me. One one hand, a window washing company in Winnipeg made headlines for breaking a birds nest off a building. It wasn’t a rare or special nest. It didn’t hold an endangered species. It was an ordinary birds nest. The people liked watching those eggs and were outraged when the nest was destroyed. They called for apologies, for the people to boycott the company. Because of birds eggs. But tear an unborn baby from it’s mother’s womb, limb from limb, and somehow all these people shrug and say: “But who am I to judge…Woman’s rights!”

THIS IS NOT OK. It’s not ok. It’s not ok that unborn crows are more dear to us than unborn children.

Now let’s talk about Euthanasia for a second…

From a CBC article: As of October 2017, More than 2,000 Canadians have ended their lives legally with the help of a doctor. According to the latest report from Health Canada, there were 1,982 medically assisted deaths in the one-year period after it became legal in June 2016. There have been another 167 in Quebec since it was legalized in that province in December 2015, the report said. The total has been rising faster, with 803 assisted deaths in the first six months after it became legal nationally and 1,179 in the following six months from January to June 2017. That marks a 47 per cent increase. 

And we sigh and say: “Well, it’s their choice!”

You know why we don’t fight to save these precious souls? Because we do not care about them. It is much easier, cheaper and efficient to just kill the unwanted, the suffering. Caring for those who can’t care for themselves is FAR too big of a burden for us to bear.

And most of these subjects are taboo, even in Christain circles. What can we do about our country’s complete disregard for the sanity of life?!? PRAY. It’s time to pray. Pray that God would soften our hardened hearts. Pray that God would open up our blinded eyes. Pray that he would make all our self deceiving lies fall hopelessly short in the light of the TRUTH. May we begin to care about people, created in his image, enough to care for them to the end. Even in suffering. May we give them a death with dignity by tending in love to their needs, rather than shoving them into hospitals or nursing homes and forgetting them. Pray that the church would begin to take in unwanted children by the hundreds, by the thousands, so that every argument about “too many in foster care” would fall short. Pray that we would love the unloved, that we would want the unwanted. Pray that we would value life. May we see each and every person as precious in God’s sight.

Saturday: Outreach– You Can’t See Poverty if Your Gate’s too High One thing that often stops us from reaching out to those in need is failing to step out in the world. It feels so safe to find the best neighbourhood to live in. It feels safe to surround ourselves with Christain friends. It feels safe to stay in the better, more well-to-do areas of town. Now what I’m not suggesting is to go out and be careless…but really, should we be shutting out all the people God really wants us to be bringing in? I sometimes go months in my comfortable little life without coming across (or taking time to see) someone in need. Jesus gave his LIFE for us, can we not go out of our way to at least bless them in some way? Jesus came to seek and FIND the lost. Pray that we, the church would be willing to go and find the lost, instead of waiting for them to come to us.

CHALLENGE: Go out of your way to find someone in need and bless them. You can do this anonymously or in person! Ex: Drive around a poorer area of your city until you actually fins a homeless person, or a beggar bless. Make blessing bags and handout or give them a gift card. Anonymously drop a gift card/package on a struggling families doorstep or mailbox. Find someone who has been going through a difficult time and drop off a meal.

Sunday: God’s Healing Presence in our Walls – Pray today that God would heal our congregations. There is so much pain, so much hurt, so much loneliness and struggle. Pray that God would move powerfully so we may be healed from our pain. So we would let go of our sins, our bitterness, our burdens, our worries, our grudges and find freedom and great joy in him!!!

Thank you for joining with me in another week of prayer. May God bless you richly!

Love always, Heather

A Short Summer, A Long Bucket List and Three Half Finished Novels…

Summer is almost over.

Since when do I literally panic at those words?!? I have a real desire to move somewhere hot for September, October and November and live in denial that it will ever end.

Summer in Canada is ridiculously short, but like most things, that’s what makes it so irresistibly sweet. We bear through a bitter six months of winter – half hibernating, half shriveling away in the arctic air and then after being soaked in the rain for a month or two, we finally can enjoy SUMMER. Children burst out of their homes, not a minute to lose! Playgrounds which were eerily empty and abandoned for the frosty months come to life. White legs stampede to the beaches. We book our holidays months in advance, being sure to make the most of every single second.

For the past two years, my kids and I have made a summer bucket list. It’s nothing crazy, no big life changing events are on the list, but it’s about 25 activities long and therefore, always is a rush to complete.

42A2E69B-8D67-418F-A77D-E33B39D0DC73

This time, however, it isn’t so much the weather change that I am dreading, or even failing to check off every box on our list; it’s the realization that summer is almost gone and with it another year of my failed goal: to finish my first novel.

Oh, by the way, I am writing a book.

Actually three.

Cue the awkward pause as people nod politely and change the subject…

And in many ways I don’t blame themPublishing a novel and making any sort of career out of it, never mind actually becoming a bestselling author is almost like a child claiming they’ll grow up to be a movie star…😏 “Mmmhmmm, sure sweetie, you do that!”

Yet I have had this desire from the moment I could write words on a page and form them into something resembling a sentence.

I remember writing my first story in grade 2. My peers wrote their opening words, the only ones that could possibly be used to start a story at that age: “Once upon a time…” And I knew even then that that didn’t cut it. Already, at age seven, I knew that wasn’t the way to write a book. Not a good one. I still remember my teacher’s surprise when she read my opening line: “The sun shone warmly on little Jessica’s face, her dark hair blowing in the summer breeze…”  I remember her reading it to the class, devouring my writing as if it were a rare exotic treat. I felt gifted, as if I were a prodigy of writing, sure to blow the rest of the world away with my cleverly thought out plots and well-structured sentences. Only to find out in my teens that I actually had a long way to go before I would ever publish my work.

But maybe that’s why I’ve always loved it. It’s challenging, and still relaxing for me. It takes effort, yet is in some ways rather effortless. Not to mention, it is also the only talent I ever remember being noticed for in school.

But the funny thing is, I’ve never finished a full novel.  I’ve had countless ideas, some that eventually fell rather flat, some that took off. Until, well… I got near the end.  Every single time I’ve come close to finishing, I give up.  Eventually, after years of sitting in an unopened file on my computer I click delete.

I don’t really know why. But it’s as if I fear what will happen if I finish. So I finish…then what?

Perhaps, it’s partly because I think it’s childish, this dream to write.  Because writing isn’t a real job, right? More like an eccentric hobby for the most lonely of introverts, those crazy ones, who’ve never quite given up their childish imagination.

But even scarier to me is the thought that keeps plaguing me: If I do in fact finish it, will anyone actually read my book? Will they have any interest? Or will I finally be publicly exposed for the wannabe writer that I really am? Should I just grow up already and let go of my childish dreams?

However this time, I am further than I’ve ever been before. In all three books. And even though I’ve been working on them for months (ok one of them I’ve been working on for years!), I feel like I actually really like my work. I am proud of the writing I’ve done. And I feel like others may like them as well.

So summer, please stay a little longer. Don’t hurry away. Let the days slow down and the workload pause. Let me finish the bucket list. Let me enjoy my kiddos. Let me finish my novels. Ok, maybe just one of them.

Because I really want to know how it ends, and, even more so, if others will enjoy reading it as much as I do.