Faith

A Treasure Worth Searching For

Kids love scavenger hunts.

Or rather, the thought of them

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

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

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

People value the things they work for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A treasure worth searching for?

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

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

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

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

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

I needed the source

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

Nothing can replace that joy.

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

Are we willing to put in the effort? 

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

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Creative Writing

Invisible Pain

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

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

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

Fine then, keep your illusion of safety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We listened. We responded. We acted.

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

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

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

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

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

We’re saving lives, after all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe one day.

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

Family · Loss

A Life Worth Remembering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-A sparkle in his eye

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

-A bright blue can of Pepsi

-A deck of Skip-Bo cards

-A soft heart

-Tears not afraid to fall

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

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

-A trembling hand, writing shaky words

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

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

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

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

Authenticity · Blogging · Faith

The Things I Won’t Write

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

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

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

Or today, a blog post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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