Authenticity · Depression · Purpose

Five Pieces of Trash

Crazy how life can get us down sometimes, and yet, the simplest act can lift us up. Often for me this “lift” comes in the most unexpected way.

My heart was heavy today.

I don’t know about you, but lately the burdens of the world have been all consuming. I’ve been here before, the only difference is that now it seems like the whole world is carrying these types of burdens daily. And it’s hard to even find anyone who has the time or capacity to help.

Here is my list of burdens, simplified immensely:

  1. A friend is facing the same pain and spiritual abuse from the church leaders that hurt me five years ago.
  2. A little boy I do respite for. A boy with sad eyes that tell the tale of his pain.
  3. The frustration, change, hatred and division that came after Covid.
  4. A group of young moms I care for, but don’t have the capacity to lead on my own anymore.
  5. A complete lack of motivation to finish the year of homeschooling my boys.

Luckily, I can now recognize the symptoms of depression almost as fast as they appear. The hopelessness and lack of motivation and strength is all apart of this. Instead of being paralyzed and confused about it all, like I used to be, I now am in the place where I know the steps to take because I have been here before.

Step one: Reach out for help. I contacted six people in my life. Yes… six. Six, because everyone is busy and I knew that if I only looked to one person, I could easily get discouraged and spiral downward if they didn’t respond. You see, I know this because I’ve been here before. The more support the better. Five out of the six responded. All five said they were praying. Two of them reached out to connect later in the week. One dropped off a coffee for me within the hour and gave me a hug. This confirms three things I need to know when I am down: I am supported. I am cared for. I am loved.

Step two: Walk in the sunshine. The doctor who first diagnosed me with depression four years ago was amazing. I was in pain, I was tired constantly, I was unmotivated and exhausted, and had fallen into an unfeeling sort of state. I thought something terrible was wrong with me and that it had to be something bad. A brain tumour, a rare disease, a demon.

It was depression.

I thank God for the doctor who looked at me simply and said: “Fifteen minutes a day, walking in the sunshine, will give you as much of a boost as taking an antidepressant.” I took his words to heart and over the next four months, quite literally walked myself out of depression. While I walked I memorized scripture.

Today was sunny. The air was crisp, but warm for December. I pulled on a toque and my jacket and I went outside to walk.

Step three: Focus on something other then my pain during the walk. Like a memory verse, or prayer, or nature.

Today it was trash.

Huh? You’re probably asking yourself. Trash??

Yes. Today I was saved by five pieces of trash and a whole lot of prayer.

I saw that first beer can lying there. And something inside me knew I just couldn’t leave it behind. It wasn’t my mess to clean – but it’s my road. I may be helpless in other areas of my life, but this was one thing I could do. And as I picked up that beer can, I realized something remarkable about the weight and the pain of my problems: I was focusing on all the things I couldn’t do and they were all huge. But I am not completely helpless. I can do small things.

As I picked up each small piece of garbage, suddenly each one stood for the bigger issues. Just like my burdens, this trash wasn’t mine. I couldn’t stop the litterers. I can’t stop people from making horrible choices. I can’t fix the worlds problems. But just as I could reach out and pick up the trash, so I could do something in each situation I faced.

One beer can. I can’t fix abusive church leaders. But I can listen. I can empathize. I can offer encouraging words, because I’ve been there.

One piece from a blown out tire. I can’t take away the little boy’s pain. But I can be a mother to him each week he is here. I can open my home as a refuge.

One coffee cup. I can’t change the actions of the world around me. But I can love. I can listen. I can respond kindly to those who see things differently than I do. I can help bring unity to the people around me by choosing not to argue and fight.

One energy drink. I’m not able to be everything to these ladies and I can’t do everything for them that I’d like to. But I can give them what I have: hope. I can offer them community. I can pray for them. I can send an encouraging text. I can offer support when I have the strength to do so.

One can of iced tea. Maybe I can’t handle another six months of homeschooling. But I most certainly can handle one more day. And then another one. I can handle one day at a time.

I came home from my walk. My hands were full and numb from carrying the cold cans. But somehow, my load was exponentially lighter.

I can do something good, even if it is small.

I know somewhere down the road, there is more trash to pick up. Maybe next I’ll bring a bag along with me.

But for today, five pieces of trash were enough.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith · Health

Taking Small Steps Forward

Often I’m amazed at how many parallels there are in our natural world and our spiritual one.

For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to get my body into a healthier state, and it’s caused me to realize that not only have I been neglecting my physical body, but my spiritual one as well. It’s so easy to fall into a state of being physically unfit: Skip a workout here, eat a bit more junk there. It takes far more effort and intentionality to stay healthy.

It was almost exactly one year ago when I first heard the term “Covid-19″… that was just before it hit my world. At first, it was the distant “coronavirus” that seemed like nothing more than another repeat of the “SARS” or “H1N1″scare. I never expected it to effect me. I never thought that it would reach my country. And never in my wildest dreams would I have expected it to be here to stay.

None of us did.

As I look back over the past year, I realize that it took over so much of my emotional, mental and physical capacity and head space. I noticed my motivation to keep myself healthy – physically and spiritually – completely tanked as I became fixated on all the changes around me. Eventually, expecting change and disappointment became normal. Being adaptable was essential – and it’s where I put most of my energy into: Returning to homeschooling five kids overnight, cancelling all future plans, learning to meet with and lead my small group over Zoom.

Adaptable we’ve become, but it seems like all I’ve been doing for the past year. I find myself tired; burnt out, even. I’ve been physically trying to compensate for this fatigue by filling much of my extra time with unproductive activities, stuff that requires little to no effort. Logically this doesn’t make sense, of course, because if I’m going to run a marathon and do well, I have to take care of myself.

But here I find myself in that place where I’ve been running so hard for so long that I am in survival mode. In my few moments of free head space, I’m filling my mind and body with so much junk that I just find myself too full to eat a decent meal.

Something has to go.

I am hitting a wall and I just can’t run off of this cheap fuel anymore. I need the good stuff. I need the protein, the veggies; the word of God, prayer and fellowship with believers. I can’t keep grabbing for the granola bar to tie me over anymore, my body won’t let me.

So, I take small steps:

First Step: Two weeks ago I decided to give up processed sugar/junk food for 40 days during the Lent season.

Second step: Making wiser choses in what I eat… choosing a salad instead of a pizza. Grabbing fruit instead of chips.

Third step: Picking up my Bible instead of my phone when I wake up. Praying instead of complaining or worrying.

Fourth Step: This past week I decided to get back into running; just three days a week for half an hour.

Small steps I can handle, one choice at a time.

And today, I got pushed to take another small, but important step for accountability on how I’m spending my time: Being present with my family, instead of hiding away in my room to be alone. I need to learn how to be in community again, instead of pushing people away.

Today was a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. It was the first time I’ve been to church since November 1st and even in my current exhausted state, I was ecstatic! Online “church” isn’t church to me. It’s watching a sermon.

Church is the people. My spiritual family. My second home.

Today marks the beginning of another step towards health: Meeting with other believers to worship our incredible God. It’s just one more step of healing from the isolation of this year… Fellowship. We need each other. If anything has shown us that, it has had to be this past year. As my community begins to heal and take small steps to open up, I want to heal personally and open up as well.

One small step at a time.

Have you been taking any steps lately?

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.

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.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

I admit I’ve been quieter this past month. It seems like all I think to write about is that “thing” we all seem stuck on, and quite simply, I’m just tired of talking about “it”.

But we’re approaching 2021, so I believe an update on my life is fitting.

Some exciting news: I’ve been asked to help out the families in our church by contributing regularly to the family ministry blog in the New Year.

Our church is going through some very difficult times, as are many, and I believe supporting families in this way is incredibly important now. Especially since we haven’t been allowed to meet in person much of 2020. As a result, most of my efforts in writing these days are being poured into future blog posts on the topics of parenting, families, leading our children, bringing them to Jesus, having joy in our homes, etc.

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

However, I’ll admit, emotionally I just feel drained with this.

How is one to support and encourage these young women over a Zoom call, when all they need is a morning out with other women and someone else to hold their baby for just a couple minutes?

How do you comfort someone from afar when they just need a hug and to be prayed over?

How do you assure these precious women that they can keep going and raise children in these uncertain times?

It’s so very difficult.

Are my long distance messages and those few words over video chats doing anything? Is it worth the effort? So as I approach the New Year I’m crying out to God for an olive branch; a small sign to see that this year of separation, of long distance relationships and of far too many Zoom calls is coming to an end.

I hate Zoom.

I wish I were bold enough to say that I would never use it again. But, then, I realize that God has used even Zoom in this troubling time.

A sad piece of news to end the year: My only remaining grandmother is now in the hospital.

And my heart mourns that I haven’t seen her for almost a year. A few months ago we started having weekly phone calls which I SO enjoyed. Our last call was rushed and I promised to call her soon.

Now she is isolated and I have no way to reach her; to tell her that I am praying for her. A full year of “protecting” her by staying away. Of keeping her “safe” in isolation.

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

It is with a cautious approach that I state these things. But if I were to be truly honest with those around me, I would say it simply: I disagree that we are protecting seniors in all this. I think it’s wrong that we are not giving them the choice whether they want to keep on seeing their loved ones in their final years on earth.

They should have that choice.

However pro choice seems to only apply to woman who want to end another’s life instead of sacrificing nine months of theirs. And the irony hits me that we’ve all had to put a “nine month” pause on in 2020 for the sake of “life” – A much more inconvenient and painful pause than any pregnancy, I may add.

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

But my voice seems to be unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. I have felt for years that care homes are no place for our beloved parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends.

They deserve to live with family.

I feel this as strongly as I feel orphans need a home and not an orphanage: A place to belong and be loved. A place to be apart of something bigger. To contribute and to be given much in return.

This year has opened my eyes up to this more than ever before. So much so, that I’m looking at my future path with a very different set of eyes: What do I need to do now, so that I can be in a place to care for the elderly in years to come?

What skills do I need to learn? Should I pursue a nursing degree? Are there legalities that would prevent me from doing this? What other obstacles may I face as I consider these things?

And so, I turn my face to my Father, and say:

“Lord, in 2021, may your will be done. In me. In your church. In the world. Our systems may fail us, many hearts may grow cold even as others are being purified through the trials, but my eyes will stay trained on you – the One who holds it all together. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God holds it all together… and because of that I have hope.

No, I don’t believe 2021 will hold all the relief from 2020 that so many are dreaming of. As a matter of fact, I think it may be an even harder year.

BUT if God is allowing this, I know it’s for a good reason.

Hearts are being revealed as they are: Innocence is all the more sweet. Kindness shines a bit brighter. Friendships are all the more precious in such dark times.

Humanity is so fragile that a simple virus could cause such calamity.

Many voices are screaming to be heard. People are watching the world events carefully, wondering what this is all coming to. Some think the world is forever changed. Others seem naively hopeful that by summer life will be back to normal. The “tolerant” are more intolerant than ever before, ready and more than willing to destroy anyone who thinks differently then they.

Evil seems more evil. Good seems more pure. The words of the book of Daniel come to mind: “…many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Something Changed

Something has changed.

It was a slow change. From childhood when I was adored, to that awkward stage in between cuteness and puberty. Then again in youth (when I was the center of the world… and quite possibly the universe), until I became a young mom, who people wanted to help. And EVERYONE is eager to help a teen mom. (No, I’m not being sarcastic, this is my experience.)

I mean there were sometimes when I actually yearned to have some independence!!

Now I’m thirty-two.

Faith-filled. Strong. Steady.

But, somehow, more alone then I’ve ever been before. For where there once were people and mentors to guide me, there is a void. A big, empty chasm so deep I can’t see to the bottom. Where there once were mothers who poured into me… now I am the mother, pouring out. Teachers were filling me with knowledge, now I am that teacher filling others.

A funny change, when one becomes grown. A sad change, to do so much on our own. But a necessary step, I suppose. Independence certainly isn’t what I imagined it would be, back when I dreamed of the days it would be mine.

Being mentored.

Who would’ve thought that something children so often take for granted, would become something so precious to me in my older years. For now I truly see how it is the people who showed love and care, who sat with me when I was alone, who offered comforting words of wisdom, who lent a hand when it was needed and gave much needed parenting advice… those are the people who I now think of as I try to live and love those around me.

But there has been a shift these past few years. Where I once mourned and wished to find a mentor, I am now finding the positives in the lonely place I am. Not that I would refuse advice or an older woman’s input, but I am comfortable and at peace being on my own.

When I was in my 20s there were a few women that I would often call for help, or for prayer if I needed anything. But to be suddenly alone, with no one to ask, that was unexpected for me and threw me into a very raw season where I felt completely paralyzed to do anything. I felt helpless!

Until I realized that I have many mentors, they may just look different than they once did.

Each book I open, a new mentor speaks. Some who lived centuries ago, others who are my age. Some who went through the worst trials I could imagine and came through victorious. Some who lived through famines and wars and came through stronger. Some who died for what they believed in, others who were tortured until almost dead. Those who lost husbands or children. Those who lived a lonely life, unloved.

These mentors speak to me. They share wisdom. They share correction. They give perspective.

And best of all, I can take or leave their advice and they don’t know any different. I can take the time to meditate on their stories and assess if what they say is applicable for me. It’s wonderful. It’s freeing. I am becoming “me” without being swayed this way or that to please people or try to impress those I admire.

I am becoming quieter, as I listen to these mentors. Where I used to feel that the world needed another “truthful voice” – I now realize that it needs far more someone to listen. I used to want to be known, now I yearn to know those who are unknown and alone.

The change was slow. The change is deep.

It’s a letting go kind of change, and a change of embracing a new sort of perspective: It’s not about me.

It’s not about me.

I used to say those words and believe that I was living them. But now I know that I am just beginning to understand them.

So I ask, my readers, what are you learning lately? Has there been a change in you? A shift? Do you long for a mentor? Someone to depend on? Or do you love independence?

I truly want to know. Because these days, the best part of my blog, it’s not the stuff that I write (who cares about that 😂)… it’s the people I meet.

Authenticity · Faith

Jekyll or Hyde?

“Jekyll and Hyde,” he called me.

That I’m like two different people living in one me. The funny thing is that I agree wholeheartedly. I know what he’s talking about.

One side: sweet, caring, and nice.

The other: filled with anger, rejection, and fear.

One side: accepted & loved.

The other: rejected & condemned.

Aren’t we all, really? Jekyll one day. Hyde the next. Trying to stay Jekyll.

Failing miserably.

But the good news? Jesus loves me as Mr. Hyde.

He loves my rejected side. Though people love me when I’m good and hate me when I’m not – Jesus takes me at all times.

He loves both “me’s”.

He has shown me that from day one. Through anger, shame, fear and deepest pain. Through embarrassing panic attacks to awkward moments. Even in full out rebellion.

Though we often turn our faces away from the “Hyde’s” of this world, God doesn’t shrink back. He reaches out his hand and calls them home. Though people reject “Hyde” (he’s horrible and socially awkward and often inappropriate) – God does not.

He tells us this through stories:

Remember the prostitutes? Rahab and Mary Magdeline to name a few…

Remember the government tax thieves? Zacchaeus and Matthew… probably more.

Remember the murderer(s)? Moses (and others)!

Or the adulterous murderer? David.

Or the liars? Isaac, Jacob.

Remember them. And then remember those who slammed stakes through his feet and hands?

“Father, forgive them.” He says.

To top it off, Jesus shares the ultimate story of his love through the parable of the prodigal son. A story of a son who squandered his inheritance, rejecting everything his father had raised him to be.

But the Father.

He waited with open arms for “Hyde” to return.

God loves us. ALL of us.

And he is ever working until I’m all better. Until I’m whole.

Until I’m just one person:

His child.

Authenticity · Faith

The Small Things

This week is my “rest” week. (If a mother can ever call any week rest while homeschooling five children). As in, I literally worked myself to getting an infection last week and now my body needs to recover. This week, I’m forced to slow down. Sleep longer. Just maintain the home, rather than improve it.

No worries, this is a welcome change. Next week the projects will resume and I will again get to create a list of sorts.

My exhaustion has me wondering if every mother is feeling the lack of mental space to keep a blog running these days, or whatever other hobbies they may have. Having my kids around 24/7 with no sport or music programs, no public school, no church events or parties for the past three months was, in some ways, a welcome break from the normally busy schedule. But if you’re slightly introverted like me, any people, even your own children whom you love will drain all energy for other things.

Is anyone else out there, like me? Completely mentally drained?

Last week I shared that I haven’t found energy for reading, writing, running or other hobbies because of projects. But with more thought, I think it’s also been draining to have my kids around without any breaks. I feel rather uninspired to write about anything.

Now if you’ve followed my blog of any amount of time, you would know that I’ve homeschooled for seven years prior to this year (this was my “break” from homeschooling year… LOL!!! But apparently I’m not allowed to stop homeschooling.) I’ve already had my kids home for much of their lives, however, this has been different. It’s that kind of situation where they have nothing else.

Just home.

Just me and their Dad.

They’re bored. I’m never bored. I’m too busy homeschooling, gardening, cooking and cleaning to feel out of sorts. But I’m trying to sympathize and hang out with them. When I’m tired of being their entertainer, I find them chores to do. And though life is slowly returning to normal, there is an unusual amount of white space on their calendar where their lives are concerned.

I’ve been spending money to help with the boredom… we renovated the bathroom, we purchased a dirt bike and a hot tub this month, plus tons of extra supplies for our pool. The hard-earned/slowly saved money was originally supposed to go to our first ever HUGE summer vacation, but since the borders are closed, we are bringing the fun home.

Someday, we will travel. This year we make the best of our situation. On the bright side, the hot tub will hopefully last us for years to come… vacations come and go so quickly.

Alright… now to deeper matters:

Yesterday, my husband asked me a question. It’s a question I’ve always hated, but I humoured him and answered it anyways.

If you were given a million dollars, what would you do with it?

I hate this question because it stirs up unhealthy pride/greed in people. I feel it in myself. Because there’s two ways to answer: I either list all the things I’ve wished for in my life but could never afford, or I act all spiritual and generously give it to those in need. I didn’t want to answer the question, and I told him so, to which he replied: “You are such a ‘Debbie-downer’, it’s just a fun question that reveals a lot about a person’s interests.”

So fine. I answered it.

  1. I want to go back to school to become a nurse.
  2. I would pay off our mortgage.
  3. I would hire someone to give me a magazine perfect yard and finish off our projects because I love to host family and friends.
  4. I would consider adopting two children (of course, HE would have to agree with that one haha).
  5. I would give 10% or more of it away, because I have found that giving brings me FAR more joy than spending money on myself.

He was surprised. He honestly thought I would travel the world. But as much as I DO like travelling, I don’t like being a tourist. Meaning, I love the places, and the people. Not so much the luxury. Whenever I am served by others, either in restaurants or on a resort, my mind wanders to the verse:

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

And I feel guilty. Because I know very well I’m not here on this earth to be waited on. I’m here for the very people who are serving me. To care for them. To show them kindness and bring them joy. Ultimately to show them the love of the Father.

Maybe I am a Debbie Downer.

Yet… I just want to live with purpose! And purpose means radical, right?!?

Hmm… but often, it’s not. The longer I live, the more I am learning that a fulfilling life starts with the small things. In fact, the small things are very often more important than the big things.

How do I treat those who serve me?

How do I treat my own family?

How am I talking to the people around me? With respect?

Yesterday Ryan asked me a question and I said nothing because I wanted to think about my answer for a bit. Which was very unlike me, if you know me at all. I respond first and think later. But an hour later, after I had carefully thought through my feelings and reasons for them, I responded gently, without picking a fight.

He smiled and said, “I respect that, you know. When you think about it and respond thoughtfully. Now I can understand your feelings about it and I’m good with doing things your way.”

And I’m like, “Wow! Why haven’t I done that before?!?”

So… small things. That’s what will make me a loving person. Not the big “save the world” attitude that I so often push myself to have.

A small thing: we ordered limestone to build a pad for the hot tube and pool, but my family scheduled a visit during the time I had planned to work on it. At first I found myself getting so worked up. Why did it have to be that particular day? Why not a better time? But, I took a breath and I pushed off my schedule to “window” visit my elderly grandpa. He beamed when he saw us all there. I cried half of the time. It was SO worth it.

Such a small thing, but it made the world of a difference to him.

Life Lesson: I don’t have to be everyone’s hero. I just need to love in the little moments. Pause to think before I speak. Switch my schedule around to make room for someone else’s.

THIS is true greatness.

 

 

 

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Grieving what we’ve Lost

We’ve lost some difficult things.

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up our kids in an hour and pull them mysteriously into the van. They would blink their eyes in confusion at the suitcases and surprise packages around them. We would then tell them the news:

We are going on a SURPRISE family trip!

There were packages to open along the way: a new iPad. Blank comic books. Candy and travel games.

They would scream in excitement and awe that we had surprised them. The next six days would be driving, restaurant meals, family visits, and water park rides.

BUT… today I mourn because instead, I wake up to a completely different day: Ryan’s alarm going off for work. I will wake up and make breakfast, homeschool the kids and then try to keep them joyful for the rest of the day. Surprise travel gifts and the iPad were opened a week ago, now used for school work.

My kids don’t know about the trip, thank goodness we decided to surprise them. It’s just one less disappointment they have to face.

Still, my daughter was discouraged yesterday. Deeply discouraged. As an optimist at heart, I did what I could to be upbeat and see the blessings. But mainly, I just listened because there wasn’t much to say: I am sad too.

I shared what I was sad about… I’m mourning the normalcy of life, as we all are.

I was sad, because I did my hair and makeup to go get the groceries this week. I cry, because I’m sick of people on screens. I cry, because there’s no hopeful message… just experts repeatedly saying: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

I long for an end date. We all do.

I’m mourning family gatherings, church events, and meeting with people. I’m mourning date nights with my husband and visiting my grandparents.

I shared as we put together a puzzle.

We went on a walk, the air was crisp. She shared her heart, her tears. As we walked, she visibly brightened. The sun started setting. The fields were beautiful with the spring water glistening in them. Then we came back home and gathered the family for a drive. Picking up some drive thru iced cream and drove around until dark, looking at some of the beautiful homes people live in.

My youngest pipes up from the back: “When I grow up I will find the biggest house and choose that one.”

We laughed at the innocent comment and came home FULL. The grieving had allowed small glimpses of joy to set in. The grieving allowed us to move on.

So friends: grieve. Then keep going.