For the Discouraged Heart

Isn’t it funny how some days we can feel like we’re on top of the world and that absolutely nothing can tear us down. It’s almost like an invincible feeling. We feel like we could mentor the most broken up person and make them a success! Like we could write a parenting book, and it would finally be the one parenting method out there that would magically work for every single child! (OK…I haven’t felt THAT good since I was a parent of one…haha)

I’m talking about those feel good days in life: Those great moments…the moments when everything is perfect, skies are blue, life is put together, kids are cleaning the house without even being asked. And we think: This is it! I have found the key to having the “put together” life.

But then, the next day. The very. Next. Day…we are completely and unexpectedly shot down. We feel like we need mental help. Like everything is going wrong and we don’t know why. Like we don’t know what happened to our perfect world.

It’s moments like these that we get discouraged. No, not just discouraged, we feel helpless. Lost. Confused.

Hopeless.

At times we even wonder if the good times ever even happened, or if we’re  actually just that crazy that we thought them up like a daydreaming child.

Maybe this is you right now.

Today.

Oh, discouraged one…do I have a message for you!!!

Dear, precious one, you are not alone. In fact, the very thought that you are doing this alone has probably hurt you even more. This thought, that there’s something deeply wrong with you, has just isolated you even more from others than you even thought possible.

But you’re not alone. This happens to the best of us.

This happens to the strong ones. This happens to the “super mom” next to you. This happens to those who look like their lives are perfect, to those who have it “all together”.

This happens to the single and married alike, to the rich and the poor, to the parents and the childless, to those who have the guts to admit it and those who don’t.

True, to some this happens more often. And it can feel like no one possibly could understand the darkness that has plagued you your entire life. To some people, these down times are long seasons…not just lasting a day or two but they stretch into weeks and months, even years.

But they are seasons.

They will come to an end, and joy, pure childlike joy is waiting on the other side.

To some, even reading words the words pure childlike joy will cause pain, because those words try to awaken hope…hope that has been crushed long, long ago. God wants to awaken that hope within you. Will you let him?

Dear discouraged heart, you are not alone.  The moment that you start to believe that lie will be the moment that your hope begins to die.

Take comfort, Broken Soul, in this: There is One who has always walked beside you. He knows how you feel. Exactly how you feel! He sees your deepest pain, your darkest secret, your hidden tears. He has seen your perfect world turn upside and crumble before your eyes. He has seen you lose something that can never be replaced. And He knows it hurts! He has seen the betrayal you’ve experienced, the abuse that you’ve quietly suffered through. He’s seen everyone turn away, until you feel like you’re the only one left. He’s seen it and He cares.

And He says, “Oh dear child, you are not alone. I have never left you. Hold on, for I reward those who keep getting up. There is only one way to lose this race, and that is giving up. Don’t give up! Don’t let go!”

Discouraged One, you are not alone. Keep getting up, even when it feels impossible. Keep holding on, even when almost all hope is gone. He will help you with even this, all you have to do is ask.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

 

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I Just Can’t

One of the biggest mysteries to me when I first got saved was how God could actually change who I was.

I always thought: but isn’t it actually me who is changing myself? Aren’t I the one making the decisions to change?

 I think part of the reason we become so confused about the concept of God changing us, is that we confuse obedience with a legalistic form of trying to attain our own righteousness apart from Christ. Obedience is really quite simple, while attaining our own righteousness is impossible.

On one hand, sometimes God will command us to do something that we can do, it’s just that we don’t really want to. Any example of this is when God prompted me the other week to shut down my Facebook account. Sure, I had about twenty good reasons to listen, from privacy issues, to wasted time…but on the other hand, there were just as many why I didn’t want to do this.

What will become of my blog? I wondered. Most of those who read it are reading it because of Facebook.

His answer? You were never supposed to be writing for them anyways…

Ok, God. I hear you. Loud and clear.

I deactivated the account. Not because Facebook is wrong, but because God saw something that needed to be accomplished in my life away from the spotlight of Facebook.

This is the one aspect: God commands, we obey.

The second one is harder though, because it happens when we recognize that our deeply imbedded habits are not lining up with God’s will for our lives. It’s these habits, these behaviours that we turn to when we’re broken and weak, tired or full of shame. This can include things such as addictions to alcohol, media, food, etc. Or it can be attitudes such as pride, bitterness or shame. It can also be reactions like anger, lying, and gossip.

Now, we can try to stop them (in other words try attain our own righteousness) but usually we just continue to fail and indulge in them all them more. Sometimes, the harder we try to stop them, the worse they seem to get. It’s these things that we are powerless to change without remaining in God. We can not do it. We simply will fail again and again.

We can not change our sinful nature. Only the work of Jesus on the cross can. If we actually think we can change ourselves, we have no business pretending that we need the cross.

A week ago, I had a picture while spending time with Jesus. We often talk about laying our sin and burdens down at the foot of the cross, but the picture I received gave me so much more insight into God’s grace.

Here is the picture: I was sitting on a picnic blanket covered in garbage. Not just wrappers and empty soda bottles, but the real rotten, disgusting garbage – representing my sin. The stench of it stung my nose and the horror of the fact the it was all sitting out like this in the open, where everyone could see it brought me into a panic. I quickly scooped it all up so that it was hidden within the blanket and I held it over my shoulder like a sack, looking desperately for a place to get rid of it. I couldn’t carry the load much longer it was so gross and heavy too. In the distance, I saw the cross and I knew what I had to do. Wearily dragging along my garbage, my sin, I came to Jesus. But instead of setting it at his feet, I lifted the load over my head and placed in on his shoulders. The weight of it pulled on the nails in his hands and he groaned. The garbage leaked through the bags dripping down his back. It was soiling him and causing him excruciating pain.

And it was here that the cross became unbelievably personal: MY SIN CAUSED HIM PAIN. ACTUAL PAIN.

It wasn’t just a casual moment like, “Oh hey Jesus, while you’re taking out the trash for everyone else can you take mine out as well?”

It was very real. Very personal. Very humbling. 

But the picture didn’t stop there. As I look up with shame, Jesus then calls out my name. He looks at me with eyes of love and speaks the words, “I love you, Heather. This is why I came.”

This is the view we must have of the cross. Our sin matters a LOT. It caused him pain. But he wants us to come and bring it to him. That was the whole point of the cross! Not a licence to sin more. Not a reason to cower in shame…but a reason to come and repent, to find true freedom and lasting peace!

He didn’t do this all so we could go on living in darkness like the world, doing whatever we please, but so that we could live in light, for him. ALL for him.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I’ve lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I might gain Christ.” Phillipians 3:7-8

It’s at this point where we cling to him, admitting our absolute inability to do anything good at all. In this state of weakness and clinging to him, God begins to work, which is why this confuses us so much…because God’s works cannot be explained!!! 

That’s why we call them miracles.

Salvation itself is a miracle. The greatest of them all.

We think of raising the dead, in the flesh, as being one of the “big” miracles, but in reality I think that is very easy for God to do. He just has to speak the words and life comes forth. But forgiving our sins?? That came at a great price…he had to give his very life!

It’s this ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts that requires us to cling to him for all we are worth. If we part from the vine, we shrivel up and die. We are fruitless, lifeless, worthless – like a twig snapped off a tree. But when we remain attached to him, we grow, we flourish and we begin to bear fruit.

As much as the world tells me that I can do anything if I just try harder, the cross tells me otherwise.

It says: YOU can’t…but I can. 

 

Dear Seniors: We Need You

After visiting with my grandparents and my husbands grandmother this weekend, my heart was filled with love, compassion and at the same time with shame. Love at how wise, how gentle, how strong, selfless and caring they are. Compassion at how their strength and memory has faded into at times confusion, helplessness and weakness. Shame in how I’ve often forgotten these precious people who have poured SO much into their families. Shame in how little credit I have given them for the hard work they’ve endured, for the godly values they’ve instilled into their children and grandchildren. And I felt remorse at how little help I’ve offered them throughout the years, when they needed it.

They’ve missed me. And I haven’t always been there.

But surprise was mixed into all the feelings above because when I sat down with them and shared moments reminiscing I had the realization that I desperately need them too. Perhaps even more than they need me. This revelation is what brought me to writing this open letter to the beautiful seniors that live among us.

 

Dear Seniors,

We need you. A lot.

I need you. My eyes fill with tears as I write this.

I am a young Mother. I have the energy that you probably wish you still had. I am in good health, while yours may be starting to fail you. And I’m well aware that many days you just wish you could have the energy, clarity and youth that I still possess. You may be wondering what I could possibly need from you. Maybe you already know what you have to offer, but you have been so forgotten, so pushed to the side, that you no longer feel like anyone’s willing to listen.

If this is you, I’m so so sorry.

The very fact that I have to write this at all, speaks volumes on how much my generation has failed you.

How much I’ve failed you.

When you slowly lose the abilities to do the very things you trained your children to do, when your once strong back gives way, when your once sturdy hands begin to shake, it is then that we seemingly put you into a separate home, to be cared for by strangers and we forget you. I’ve forgotten you. And the sad thing is, that not only has this hurt you, it has hurt my generation as well.

Because we need each other. 

Right now I am in the busiest season of my life: Parenting. Parenting, as you may remember, has it’s ups and downs. It is a beautiful season that flies by all too quickly, you tell me.

And I know you’re right.

I need to hear these reminders because you’ve been here too once, in my stage of life. You once were also swarmed by little children and endless tasks. And in your wisdom you whisper: Enjoy it. Soak it all in. It will soon be over.

You speak words like this to me and I need them, because although you have been in my stage of life, I have never been in yours. You understand what it’s like to see children leave your home, one by one. You understand what it’s like to look back and feel regrets. You understand, looking back, what was important and what wasn’t so important. You understand what makes a marriage last, and what damages one beyond repair. You understand that people are more important than things. You understand that money can’t buy you everything and everything one day fades away into nothing. And I need you to remind me of these things, because when you do, I take these words to heart.

It’s because of words such as these that when my fifth child was born, I wanted to enjoy every moment of his growing up. And at first, this was easy. But as time rolled on, he began to cry and cry. This was a very difficult time for me. He screamed everywhere I would bring him. For almost two years I was unable to meet with people and carry on a full conversation or even participate in a church service. As a result of being so isolated, I was becoming more and more worn down. I felt frazzled everywhere I went. But more than that, I felt alone. So very alone. Sometimes all I wanted was just someone to sit beside me during a service so I could feel like I was a part of the body of Christ as well.

That is, until Mr. Steve.

Many seniors come to a place where they realize that they do not have the energy they used to (even some middle aged folks feel this way). They feel that they are not as fun or as capable as the younger generation to do service, so silently they step back from ministry, feeling like they’ve “done their time” and that they are doing everyone a favour by staying out of the way.

But not Mr. Steve…this sweet older man stepped out and decided to volunteer in the kids ministry at church. And not in just any area either…he braved out the 3s room. That’s right. He was surrounded by approximately 50 toddlers EVERY Sunday morning.

Let me tell you about this kind, gentle man, who realized that his serving time was not “done” but that he had MUCH to offer these precious children.

Mr. Steve wasn’t as “fun” as many of the other helpers. He wasn’t quick on his feet, or as energetic. He had his own way of doing things. But when Emerson came in screaming Sunday after Sunday, Mr. Steve did something that changed everything for me. He gently took my boy, flailing limbs and all, and spent one on one time with him. Every Sunday He would patiently hold, talk to, and play with Emerson, until Emerson would settle down and me and my husband could go into the service. Pretty soon Emerson became Mr. Steve’s “boy”. They would play puzzles and trains together. Mr. Steve would bring his own puzzles from home to give to Emerson as gifts. They developed a very special connection. Mr. Steve didn’t talk much, but his consistent and quiet presence was just what Emerson needed.

Some people may shrug and say, “no big deal! It’s just babysitting!”

Ummm…No. It wasn’t just babysitting.

Mr. Steve’s act of service literally changed everything for our family. Emerson began to enjoy church. He began to see it as a place of warmth and love, not of discouragement and tears. Yes, he still cried most Sundays when we dropped him off, but he settled down quickly. And no matter how sad he felt when we dropped him off, he always had the biggest smile when we picked him up from kids church.

In my own life things changed as well. I could breathe again. Instead of struggling on my own trying to survive the lonely days, I felt refreshed. I was encouraged. I felt like I was a part of Christ’s body, rather than alone on an island. I was strengthened to become the Mother my children needed me to be. It was for only an hour and a half every week, but that little bit of time was all I needed. I was spiritually renewed and I came back able to pour into others (I now also help out in the 3s room)!

All because of one senior who cared.

Dear precious seniors: You MATTER.

Maybe you physically are unable to do something as ambitious as Mr. Steve…but there are LOTS of things you can still do. Because we need you. My children need you. I need you.

I need your wisdom, your advice about marriage, about faith, about the lessons you’ve learnt. Your knowledge and years of experience are like treasure, worth far more than money can buy.

My children need your friendship, your gentle touch, your patient care.

I need your encouragement and your prayers.

We need to see you and remember that life is short, that our busy days will too one day slow down, this reminder in itself brings wisdom and insight.

We need you to remind us that when all is said in done, the only thing that will matter to us is who’s lives we touched, not how fancy our house was, or how stylish our clothes were…not whether we could afford a brand new car or whether we drove an old clunker. None of those things will matter at all, rather one question will remain: Have I been faithful to do my best?

So please, PLEASE, don’t check out. Don’t see yourself as “past your time” or “inconvenient”. Don’t fade out of our lives. Keep calling to talk or to arrange visits. Forgive us when we seem like we’ve forgotten you in our busy schedules. Be patient with us if we forget to visit. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need you. In fact, quite the opposite, it probably means that we need you to remind us all the more to slow down and take time for the people in our lives. Because people like YOU change lives.

I know, because you changed mine.

 

 

When the World Around Me Crumbles

Today, Dear Friends, I feel sad.

I call you, my readers, friends. Because it’s you who I write to, not to “my blog”. Not that I know who you are, or how many of you will even read this. I never know. Sometimes it’s thousands, the next time it’s twelve. Strangers approach me and know precise details of my life. They tell me how amazed they are by some of the things I’ve gone through. They tell me they are encouraged by my writings. They tell me I have many talents. But what they don’t seem to know is how very, very weak I am.

The past couple years I’ve been so sensitive, not just to what happens to me, but to the very things which happen around me.

I see and old picture of myself and cry. Who is that girl?

I hear a story of someones heartache and I weep. I know their pain.

I hear about the struggles of the elderly and my heart goes out to them. How difficult it is to grow old.

I read a line of a poem that speaks deeper than its words. Tears flow freely.

And sometimes I literally am like: “STOP!!! Just stop being such an emotional wreck and pull yourself together!!”

But I don’t stop.

I keep feeling all this pain because I know the moment I shut myself down to what I’m feeling, that is the very moment I’ve ceased to heal the wounds which have been afflicted. I’m supposed to be in this season of pain. Only God knows how long. But it is where I’m supposed to be, because I can’t move on until God does. He’s here. And He won’t move until I’m ready.

My world, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs…everything I built up for the last ten years crumbled in an instant. I was left on a deserted beach with my family among the rubble that was once everything that I knew about me. Gone are my multitasking abilities, I am so limited throughout the day. Slowly, step by step, I found myself in the same place I was ten years ago, with nothing to stand on but Jesus.

How humiliating. How humbling. How naked.

And I’m crying, maybe because of wounds…but mostly because I just don’t know how this all happened. I had thought I was building my house on the rock. I had thought I was strong, trusting in him every step of the way. But it turns out that I was just trusting in my own abilities, in my own way of doing things, in my strong leaders and my godly friends. And yet…

I see him among the rubble. Here he is!

Precious Jesus. Waiting for me to see that it was all temporary. Waiting for me to realize my absolute dependancy on him. Waiting for me to look to him and say, “You are God and I am man.”

And through all the deep recesses of pain within my heart, there is absolutely nothing, NO ONE who can comfort, but him. His words are the only comfort my soul receives. His presence is the only place that feels right, that makes me forget that a piece of me is missing.

When the world around me crumbles, I have but ONE.

Only One.

His name is Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5

 

I Just Don’t Have Time!!!

I miss summer today.

Not because of the weather or the season, for I LOVE fall, it’s my favourite season! But today I miss summer because it’s my slow season. All of the other seasons are filled with busy days packed full of events and activities from morning until night, but not summer.

I know that many do not feel as I do, as summers are full for some people: full of holidays, of travel, of camping, and other planned activities…

However, for a homeschooling mom who does very little travelling, summers are like taking a long, deep breath. In summer I move slower. My mornings are relatively quieter and unhurried. My “to do” lists are also shorter and with my mornings free, there is actually a possibility that I may complete them! There are free days too…days to go to the park, play with the children, and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

But come fall, my time is gone.

Homeschool begins, and in comes CHAOS!! There’s always some work for me to do or some place for me to be. My outdoor time is limited to frantically picking the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits, gathering fallen branches and debris thrown about by the wind, picking up jackets and toys left lying around the yard and other work-like activities.

Gone are the heartwarming childhood memories of fall… of raking leaves and jumping in piles, I don’t have time for THAT when there’s canning to do, school to finish and cleaning to attempt to catch up on.

But…Autumn! Autumn with its stunning beauty is still there. The freshly fallen leaves carry the same sweet smell. The air holds the same crisp, coolness. The harvest moon is just as big and golden as always, but the beauty of the colours around me are noticed in short glimpses, always with a hint of sadness in my heart: I wish that I could just enjoy these days.

 

Today I read a poem called “October” by my favourite poet, Robert Frost, and my eyes filled with tears, because for me, it captured the very essence of this beauty slipping away:
October.jpg
“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Slow the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!”
(This isn’t the full poem)
I don’t know what it is about poetry that speaks to me so deeply, but it just does. I am the type that can hardly get through a fast paced novel without skipping pages, because I get impatient to get to the “good parts”.
Poetry, on the other hand, causes me to slow down. I soak in every word, so I won’t miss the meaning of the poem. Rushing through poetry is as pointless as running through an art museum, you miss the significance of the beauty around you.
And then it hits me: Rushing through life is as pointless as rushing through poetry. The meaning is completely lost when we speed through the days.
Maybe this is why we look back on childhood with such fondness, because children just move at a slower pace than us adults. The meaning of life for my children is NOT getting school work done and…they obviously DON’T rush through it! They take their time in everything they do. Whether the job is to sort laundry, clean up the toys or to rake leaves, it seems as if I always have to get them back on task as they always seem to want to stop the work to have their fun…like when it’s time to clean up lego: suddenly they build an entire city with the pieces!!! Not very efficient, but definitely more fun than putting it into bins.
But for me, stopping to just have fun does not come so naturally anymore. I’m completely burdened by the tasks of the day and I forget that the meaning of my existence has nothing to do with having a clean house. Life will not come crashing down if my tomatoes freeze, or if I decide to not can any more pasta sauce. The meaning of life is not for my kids to be the perfect piano player, or the best readers, or the neatest writer. If I forget to bring the garbage out on time and I miss the garbage truck, if I’m late for my meeting and get annoyed stares as I enter the room, life goes on!! Very little has changed other then my stress levels and my attitude about life.
Work. Money. Careers. School. Success. The world acts as if these things are the meaning of life. But in reality, they do little else than to fill our short slot of time here on earth.
So what then? If meaning isn’t found in these things, then is everything we do a waste?
Only if we make it a waste.
Only if we speed through each of our daily tasks, without ever pausing to find the purpose in them.
Honestly, I don’t have time to write this. I don’t need to write this. I have a hundred other things that would be more useful to me right now. But I am writing anyways. Because it’s in doing things that we don’t have time for, when we realize what is important in life. Don’t know what I mean? Think of this:
I don’t really have time to snuggle my children each morning, but when they come to me, I stop, sit down and hold them in my arms. In stopping my busy activities for the morning, my children know and realize they are precious. They are important. They matter. So I can view it as a waste of time, because it’s not on my “list” or I can stop and realize that they are more important than the list.
I don’t have lots of  time to go out with friends or fit in coffee dates. And taking time to meet new people, this definitely isn’t on my “to do” list…these things MAKE work. They don’t accomplish a task, building relationships takes time, lots of time. But communication and strong friendships are signs of an emotionally healthy person. Why? Because these things have MEANING.
You know what I REALLY don’t have time for? Disciplining my children.
Because BELIEVE me, THAT is NEVER on my list of things to do. Rather, it usually interrupts my lists…which results in me yelling, or putting them in a corner, or, if I’m very exhausted, giving in.
But you know what brings meaning to discipline? When it becomes more than just trying to get correct behaviour. When bad behaviour simply becomes a tool for measuring how your child is doing and discipline becomes rather an opportunity to meet the needs and form the character of the child. It’s only when I stop just dealing with bad behaviour and begin seeing the need behind the ugly actions, where I find meaning to what discipline is all about.
How about time for devotions?
This is a difficult one for many of us! Especially in my earlier days of parenting, when a good nights sleep was getting 3 hours in a row. When my children woke up before I did. When naps were necessary for survival!!! Certainly I was exempt from this one! I didn’t even have time to shower most days!!!
A few years ago, during a conference, God got a hold of my heart in this area. I began to spend an hour or more a day in his presence. The result changed me completely. Before this, five minutes a day was my goal. Because devotions, like so many other things in my life at that time, was just another item on my checklist.
Now, I always cringe inwardly when I read devotional titles like: “Five minutes with God…for Busy Moms”. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending five minutes reading a cute devotional, it’s rather the thought behind it that bothers me.
Was Christianity meant to be a five minute time slot on our to do lists? Really? When you read the Bible, is that the feeling you get from Jesus’ disciples? Or the apostle Paul? Or King David who wrote Psalm 63:1-6:

“You God are my God, earnestly I seek you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,and in your name I will lift up my hands.

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”

These verses tell us that our walk with God was meant to be something more! Our time with God was never meant to be something shoved into a five minute slot in our day! In the Bible, NOWHERE does it talk about carving in a chunk of time for God.
Ever.
Rather, it’s his very presence that continually fills us and gives us meaning, moment by moment, day by day, for life!
It’s only in doing those things that we feel like we don’t have time for, that we realize what is important in life.
I don’t have this all figured out.
My days right now are crazy and full and hectic. Sometimes my times with God are cut short by children that need me, sometimes they feel dry because I’m distracted by everything around me. Sometimes my lists just get in the way of me being able to stop and find the enjoyment in the little things. Sometimes the clock is my enemy. Sometimes my own plans are my enemy. Sometimes the way I think things need to be done is actually just making things miserable for me and everybody else around me!
But today, I’m choosing to remember what matters, because allowing myself time to relax brings meaning to life.
Spontaneous field trips that have little educational value?!? Yes please!!
Random coffee dates?? Bring it on!
Skip another school event to soak in God’s presence? Definitely.
Paper plates and fast food? Sure, why not!
Breathing in the last few nice days of fall? Absolutely.
And if it means smashing the clock and ripping up the “lists” so be it! Life is far too short to let another beautiful autumn day pass me by.

Looking Different than the World

There are many times when I’ve realized my blog is just going to have to be different.

I love to write about many different areas of life. However, one struggle that I think most writers have is exactly where to draw the line. When does openness and authenticity lead to airing too much of our (or our loved one’s) dirty laundry? For the past few years I’ve gone through a difficult trial, where I’m struggling with certain people who seem to be against me. Writing often helps me cope and work through my feelings, but honestly, it means that many, MANY of my posts get deleted. Not because they’re poorly written or uninteresting…not at all! I’m sure one day I’ll be able to write about these struggles and encourage many who are walking down a similar road. But often my passion about a topic, or my sharing of a situation leads me to give up too many details and has the potential to hurt those whom I’ve been hurt by. It’s like I want to scream my story out to the world, a story that right now I can’t properly tell. Some days I write and end up in a complete mess of words that will benefit no one.

And then God gently nudges me back; back to the reason I started this blog.

It’s not a place to vent. It’s not a place to accuse. It’s not a platform to stand and share my woes, so that people can feel sorry for me!

The purpose of my blog is simply this: I want to be a light in a world full of darkness. I want to be a quiet voice of truth among thousands of angry screams. I want to call people back, out of the way the world deals with hardships, and into God’s way; the way that leads to TRUE peace. 

Sadly, we live in a world where public shaming and Facebook “rants” that tear others down is the norm; where sarcastic memes and rude comments seem to have taken over people’s thoughts and emotions. True, biblical, and godly ways seem to be long forgotten, and the absence of them have left an aching void, a void we try so desperately to fill with more Facebook rants and memes.

When “Sarah” has family issues and “asks for advice” on Facebook, what she’s really looking for is not a godly solution, rather what she wants is a mob-like group to gather around her, taking “her side” and justifying the hate that rages within. I sometimes wonder if true godly advice were given, how many people would turn and ruthlessly attack the soul who cared enough to provide loving truth, rather then just feeding the longing for pity. We’d call them insensitive…or worse.

These viral hate-filled rants, they are the cancer of Facebook.

In them we assassinate the characters of those we’ve never met…but the irony is that we don’t really care to know the truth. We just love to feed our thirst for revenge. And the victim? We don’t really care about them either, they’re usually forgotten anyways before we even finish scrolling to the next item on our news feed.

Every day it seems, like another “victim” of the world brings their story public, conveniently leaving out some key details, resulting a viral one-sided video where thousands rally against an enemy they’ve never met, calling for their end. Do we ever stop to consider what this actually does to the person who carries the weight of this condemnation for the rest of their life? Do we stop to consider that maybe, the story was twisted and now the true victim is the one we’ve just slaughtered with our careless words, while we go on with our day forgetting it all. A person who may lie awake at night, worrying about who may recognize him on the street, who wonders if his life will ever be the same.

Even if the story is true, does one mistake caught on video warrant the shaming and slander it receives? Think about your worst moment…you wouldn’t want it shared online, for thousands of people to view and comment on, would you?

I wonder, how are our times any different then the stoning or public executions of the past? We love to do this; wag our fingers at the mistakes of the old days, the “uneducated” past, all the while living completely callous to what our culture does every single day!

It is so easy to get caught up in it! How easy it is to get caught up into thinking: “If only, I could get justice, if only they would pay for the way they hurt me, if only people would see who they really are…THEN I’d be at peace!”

Can I just tell you from experience, this doesn’t work? It really doesn’t! All the revenge, all the gossip and all the “venting” in the world has never succeeded in bringing a lasting peace. In fact, these things make it WORSE. The longer we focus on making everything fair for ourselves, the unhappier and unhappier we become, until we are consumed with blaming our every misfortune, our every bad choice on the one who has hurt us. Oh the number of people who have walked down the path of bitterness, never to return, and even after they have gotten the justice they pursued, there is no joy; just a deeply damaged soul crying: “If I’ve finally gotten all I ever hoped for, then why do I still feel empty?”

The most unhappy souls I meet, are those who are focused on getting what they rightfully deserve (or what they think they rightfully deserve).

Dear friends, there’s only One who right all the wrongs. There’s only One who can bring beauty from ashes. There’s only One who can take the broken pieces of your soul and mend them back together. His name is Jesus. And he calls us to forgive. A thousand times over we are to forgive. And sometimes when the damage done to us is so bad, so deep and so repeated, we feel like Jesus is asking far too much of us.

And sometimes when I feel this way, I cry out: “God why do you ask SO much of us? Does this person really deserve my forgiveness again?!?”

And the gracious, most understanding, answer comes echoing back: “Dear Child, that’s the beauty of forgiveness…it’s completely undeserved.”

In a world that is constantly screaming: “Give me what I deserve”, may we, the church, rise up and show the bitter world around us a better way, one that brings lasting freedom and peace: Forgiveness.

 

Why am I doing this?!?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

Like going to the gym.

Or getting up in the morning.

Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.

Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.

For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.

Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!

And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?” 

I honestly don’t even know!!

Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”

Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.

And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.

So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.

To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?

To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?

I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.

To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀

To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!

To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???

To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!

To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!

As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?

But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:

Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.

The problem here was with my own heart. 

Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.

So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?

Partially because I’m crazy.

Partially because I’m weird.

But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.

I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.

Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.

Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children. 

If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.

But first, make sure you rest.

Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.

Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.

Watch the kids playing.

Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.

Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.

Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.