Authenticity · Depression · Faith

Waking Up on the Wrong Side… with No Coffee

This morning I woke up feeling angst.

Now, I do struggle with insomnia, but this post isn’t about grumpy mornings where I’ve literally gotten no sleep. Because last night I slept great. Probably got in an eight hour night, which for me is amazing.

I had a great day yesterday. I went to bed content and happy last night.

I woke up sour.

How does that even happen?

Cue about a dozen memes about coffee… which also doesn’t apply, because I don’t particularly love coffee. I mean… I drink it most mornings, because as of turning 30, I forced myself to become an adult.

But this morning, this particular morning, I had it in my mind to drink some coffee with my cream. Yet low and behold, it was GONE!! (Not the coffee, the CREAM) My husband finished the cream.

Now I was even more sour.

But not drinking coffee doesn’t affect me. I am not an addict. I am not an addict. I won’t admit to it. (Still grumbles inwardly about not having coffee.)

Then, to top it off, my daughter asked me a question that annoyed me. On most days it would’ve been an honest, innocent question.

But this morning my body tensed.

She asked this question just to get me mad. My irrational self thought. Why, she was probably scheming from the moment she woke up on how to make me miserable. My husband probably was doing the same.

My four boys were quietly playing downstairs.

I was angry at them. Because, it was too early for them to be playing already. Surely, they had missed doing their chores. I called them up, like a drill sergeant. “Have you boys done ALL your chores?” They nodded. I still didn’t believe them. Didn’t want to believe them. I listed the chores one by one.

Check.

Check.

Check.

Then, feeling like I needed to get them to do something, I made up a new one. They obeyed nicely. Still, I was annoyed. At everyone.

Please tell me, how does this even happen?

As the kids left for school and my husband for work, I was painfully aware that something was off with me, not them.

I went on the treadmill, because if depression has taught me anything, it’s that my body was made to move. I need it for my health. I need it for my sanity. I didn’t feel like running. So I walked. I didn’t feel like walking, so I grumbled while walking. Then I dumbly closed my eyes to pray while I walked.

Of course, I fell. I should’ve been filming the moment, as I would love to watch how stupid that looked. I’m sure that alone would’ve cured any sour feelings inside.

So… you may be wondering, what’s the point of this post? Will I give you another amazing conversation where God told me exactly why I was feeling this way and why? Some grand lesson I learnt? Some attitude change that made all things better?

No. Because there was none.

Me: God, why am I feeling this way?

God:

Nothing. Silent.

This is just as real as my good conversations with him. And you know what? Sometimes there is no good reason other than the fact that life isn’t always sunny. Sometimes the reason comes to me later. Sometimes I never figure it out. Sometimes its a day: A bad morning, waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Sometimes its a full season that lasts years. I’ve had those too. But surely as winter is cold and dark and drags on far too long… spring comes.

I’m learning to wait.

How about you? How are you doing? Are you in a good season right now? A hard one? How do you cope with the difficult days.

Authenticity · Cake Decorating · Faith

Learning through the Little Things

I share a lot about my failures and what I learn from them on my blog.

I don’t do this because I think we should always focus what we’re doing wrong. My purpose in sharing these things, is that many times I think we go through life feeling that we are alone in the many difficult things that happen. We allow these situations (whether actual sins or honest mistakes) to hinder us from growing or trying things again.

In my life, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that we cannot let hard experiences from the past harden us or keep us from trying new things in the future.

This weekend I made a cake for my niece. It was valentines themed, covered in cream cheese icing with white chocolate decorations. I made it pretty simple, so it wasn’t extravagant or anything and when it was finished I was happy with how it turned out.

I had been wanting to try a white chocolate raspberry cake for a long time, so I asked my sister if I could make one for my niece.

I used a DELICIOUS blueberry cake recipe and swapped the blueberries for raspberries, assuming it would still be as moist as always. What I failed to consider is that raspberries don’t add the moisture that blueberries do.

The result? A dry and dense cake.

At first I felt terrible! Of course my mind went to all my past failures and I began to wallow in those familiar thoughts: that “I was losing my knack for cakes” and that “I would never bake for other people again!!”

What I failed to realize is that trying new things (like the last time I did) doesn’t always work out. There are in fact, many new things I tried this time that worked out really well!

I made up a new filling, that I will definitely be using again. It tasted amazing! I added raspberries, strawberries, melted white chocolate, cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla and I beat it together. Then I beat (in a separate bowl) whipped cream, adding no sugar or flavouring to it. Once it was totally whipped, I stirred the two together.

Oh. My. Word.

The result was heavenly!

But… going back to my terrible feeling about the cake. I had wasted about $20 and four hours of my time.

I felt so much shame that I just wanted to quit.

But as I’ve been doing a lot lately, I took these feelings to Jesus in the most simple and practical way because He Cares.

He actually cares! So often we don’t go to him with these feelings and we instead hide them deep inside. We make ourselves promises such as, “I’m never doing this again!” and those harmful promises hinder our future.

So I went to him. Here’s a simple conversation we had:

Me: Today I tried my best on a cake and it really didn’t turn out. So disappointing! Father, do I need to just stop making cakes for people? This seems to happen far too often! I feel so stupid when my best work fails.

God: How would you feel if you purchased something that didn’t quite turn out?

Me: Honestly, I hate spending money on homemade things. So I’d be pretty disappointed.

God: Disappointed enough to hold it against the person who made it? Or to make a big deal and not pay for it?

Me: No. I just probably wouldn’t order again from that person.

God: You always have options Heather! What do you want to do? You have two choices:

1) Say nothing and collect the money, taking the chance that (the person) won’t order from you again.

2) Charge nothing and tell her that her honesty helped you learn important baking lesson for the future. You will be remembered for your integrity and probably ordered from again. It’s your choice! Do you want to do use this experience to grow your skill as a baker and your integrity? Or would you rather stop doing something that you have an obvious talent for?

Me: Wow I never saw it that way! That sounds so simple. Thanks for listening Jesus.

Sometimes simple wisdom seems complicated in the moment.

How often do we miss the peace God has for us by stressing about things we could have simply talked to him about? How often in the past have I shut myself off to a simple lesson because I’m so busy wallowing in shame?

I think it’s best said in the simplicity of the age old song:

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear,
And what a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit!
Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Jesus, help us to do this. Even in the little things.
Authenticity · Faith · Wisdom

My Wise Friend

It occurred to me recently that I’m really not that wise.

Profound. I know. But really, this isn’t just another grab at false humility. This is me fully admitting that I often can be quite foolish, as hasty people quite often are.

I like to speak my mind. Act quickly. Think later.

In fact, as I was pondering this this morning I realized that I don’t remember a single time I have had a wise thought on my own. Not once! Isn’t that incredible? I’m full of quick solutions, snap judgements and replies.

But you know what? I spend a lot of time with a very wise person. Why anyone so wise would hang around so constantly with one so foolish, I don’t know. All I know is that He sits patiently with me every morning. He listens carefully as I pour out all my complaints and judgements.

He nods.

He has compassion.

He understands.

And then he speaks. And oh! When he speaks, how he makes me see it all so differently. How he shows me true wisdom. HIS wisdom. And amazingly enough, even though my perception is more often than not wrong, he gently loves me through it all.

Never making me feel stupid.

Never discounting my feelings.

I have so much to learn from this friend of mine, this true friend, who cares AND speaks truth.

Sometimes, I spend enough time with him that I begin to hear his words coming out of my mouth. And I think to myself. “Wow. That sounded really wise!” But that’s the thing about having a wise friend.

The more you hang around with wisdom, the more wise you seem.

And then – of course, being the fool that I am, I begin to kid myself into thinking this wisdom is all actually mine, only to realize all to soon that I’m still just that silly, little presumptuous girl without him.

That happened this last weekend. A few times. I became overconfident in my own ability to read people and situations and I make many wrong assumptions. We so often do that don’t we?

We think: Oh, I know, this is why that person acts that way.

And we assume, mostly wrong things. Then we pass on our false ideas to others, who in turn slander and assume. It’s such a vicious cycle and once started, there’s only one way to stop it.

Spending time with my wise friend.

I dig myself into such enormous pits that you’d think by now, either I would have already learned how to stop digging them, or that my wise friend would’ve LONG given up on pulling me out of them by now.

But, alas, he comes. He stares down at me with a sweet smile on his face.

“Oh Heather. Are you stuck again?”

“Yes, Jesus.”

He chuckles, “This is quite the hole you’ve dug.”

Tears streak my face, my head hangs in shame, “I know Jesus. I’m so very sorry.” The tears spill over into the dust below.

He reaches out his hand. I take it immediately. I’ve been here before, and I know it’s the only way out. No use trying to beat myself up by trying to get out of this on my own. That just prolongs the shame and agony. Still, as I grab his hand, I can’t quite get myself to meet his eyes.

“Can we talk about it Heather?”

“Jesus. I was doing so well! Where did I go wrong?”

He gently lifts my chin with his hand, turning my face towards his. His eyes hold no judgement, only gentle love. “You stopped abiding, dear girl. You thought you knew, but you forgot to ask me.”

“You’re right! I’m so sorry.” I let myself fall into his forgiving arms.

“I know.”

Of course he does.

Authenticity · Faith

Breaking Point

Sit down. Breathe.

The first morning to rest in weeks. Well, maybe just a bit of rest, there’s a lot of catch up to do.

Oh, what to do? What to do with this extra hour of time. An hour of quiet. An hour of alone time.

Should I read?

Sleep?

Go for a quick run on the treadmill? It’s been over a week since I last could run. Since I last had the time. The strength.

Weddings and long flus do that you know. My house was a place of bustling activities for the past week. So many people. Wonderful people. But a house full of 14 wonderful people, still holds the chaotic mess of the McCallister family from Home Alone.

Yup that was our place. Add a wedding and the flu to whatever you’re imagining. Harry and Marv didn’t even dare stop by. Our house was too much for even them. 

Oh and I almost forgot…there was a wedding cake order that I had to make in the mix. A large one:

Where was I going with this?

Right. Alone time. Rest.

That was supposed to be this morning.

Then the phone rings. My son, who was already sick last week with the flu, just threw up at school.

Morning of rest… OVER.

This is an honest look at Motherhood. An exhaustion that goes beyond exhaustion.

Reality: I don’t get a break. I am Mom.

Also Reality: This is why I need Jesus everyday.

Every. Single. Day.

This past week was impossible for me. If anything, it showed me how human I truly am.

I can’t do it all.

I really can’t! I need help. When I’m up at night holding buckets in front of kids, when I’m up early in the morning doing laundry, when I’m up late after everyone else is gone to bed, baking and decorating wedding cakes & cleaning up the mess that’s left behind, I am not enough.

In fact my character shows it. I become snappy. I become focussed on things rather than people. I grow bitter and bossy. For crying out loud, I quit a card game with my family because I was losing. Immature much??

My normal capacity to handle stress was gone.

Put me in any one of these situations: Host. Wedding. Cake Decorator. Sick family… and I can do it.

I can handle anything. (Or so I think)

But put me in all of the situations at once and I break.

Everyone has a breaking point. This was mine.

I am human.

I am weak.

The inside yuck comes out, and surprise, surprise, I’m just as short tempered, grumpy, and controlling as anybody else.

It gives me a lot of grace, to think this way. Because what is this trial compared to so many others have gone through and are going through right now?

Oh, that I would have eyes to see this! We are all just humans, struggling along in our weakness. We actually cannot do anything.

BUT…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

All things.

Not some things. All things.

As I sit now, resting, with my hand in his. I believe it. Because he never said that I have to do everything perfectly. I just need to hold his hand in mine and stay soft through it all.

When I fall, all he asks is me to reach out again and get back up.

That I can do.

If this is what keeps me humble, if this is what keeps my heart soft towards others, then Jesus, I thank you for it. Bring me to my breaking point over and over so that I learn to truly rely on you. Then I will truly do all things in your strength and not my own.

Authenticity · Blogging

Blogging Popularity

I was naive when I started blogging.

Early on, when I still was in the Facebook world, I got a lot of views. In fact, sometimes hundreds of views a day. I figured that starting off with such popularity was a sure ticket to my success. After all, my writing was still pretty rocky at first. I had a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make. Nevertheless, deep down, I truly believed one of my posts would one day go viral and I would have an easy path to becoming a famous writer.

Call me a quitter.

Call me a pessimist.

Call me impatient.

But I’m loosing all desire to blog for numbers.

In fact, new followers mean very little to me. Unless, of course, I get to know them through their blogs and comments. In that case, there’s nothing that delights me more than a person who actually reads and responds thoughtfully to my posts. I love reading the posts of these authors as they seem to have a depth that much of the blogging world is missing.

So the question is why, in a mostly positive community of writers, would I feel a lack of passion and drive to keep growing my readers?

I guess you can say I’m realizing a lot about WordPress. Somethings are good. Some are not so good.

Good, like for instance, I have never once had a negative comment on one of my posts. In fact, I believe every single comment on WordPress has been encouraging, uplifting and positive. It’s as if this world of blogging still believes in the magical words we used to all try to live by: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I definitely can’t say the same for the comments I got on Facebook.

But there are still some things that are frustrating to me. Am I wrong in noticing that the people with the most followers on WordPress aren’t the best writers? They are merely the writers with the most quantity? Multiple, mindless posts a day, just to gain more, more, and more followers.

As a lover of good writing, this saddens me.

There also seem to be far too many people who scroll down and follow everyone, just to gain more followers themselves. Who click “like” on every post without reading a single one. It makes me feel as if all my readers have hidden motivates, only reading and commenting to boost their own popularity.

It’s kind of a depressing thought. I don’t really want a part in that side of blogging. So the question is why am I still posting on WordPress?

Because I love writing.

I want to grow in my abilities.

I want to make connections through my writing.

I wish to receive feedback.

And I long to encourage others as well.

I’m not here to become famous. I’m just here to write.

Today, I needed to remind myself of this again. And I wonder if possibly, someone else out there needed the reminder too.

Authenticity

I’m Really Bad at Small Talk

I love meeting new people. It fascinates me how no two humans are alike. Each person has their own likes, dislikes, talents, quirks and remarkable backstory.

But, here’s the problem: usually in order to make a successful first impression, one has to be good at a practice commonly referred to as “small talk.”

And I’m terrible at it.

I make even old friends squirm awkwardly when I meet up with them in the grocery store by saying the dreaded: “Hi. How are you?”

It’s inevitable. I’ll say it. Because it’s the thing to say in passing. Meanwhile, I know how useless the question is, because no one can properly answer it in the ten second amount of time allotted for such a meetup. And for heavens sake, if you’re having a terrible day, you have to lie through your teeth or utter a disheartened “Well… I’m ok.”

I’ve tried the small talk about weather routine, which I cringe at as well. Because who really cares about how cold the day is or how much snow we got? It’s November in Canada for crying out loud, what else would one expect to see??

Or maybe I feel in my introverted type mood and I see someone I really do like. I usually just smile, genuinely meeting their eyes and comment how nice it is to see them.

(Commence the awkward silence as we both rummage through our mind bank of typical small talk questions to ask, none of which we feel like divulging into at the moment.)

Still we want to make a good impression with the people we admire…

How about saying, “How was your week?”

There’s nothing conversationally worse than trying to remember details about your week, especially when you can barely remember what you had for breakfast this morning, then assess them into categories of “good” or “bad”, balancing them out on a scale so you can properly acknowledge whether the week indeed was “good” or “bad”. All within an allotted time of ten seconds so there isn’t too long of a pause.

And please, don’t get me started on how much I hate “icebreakers”. As if telling you my favorite kind of pizza will really warm either of us up.

I like bacon pizza.

No, maybe I wasn’t meant to be good at the practise of small talk…

But ask me my life story and I’ll open up.

Ask me about the book I’m writing and I’ll talk your ear off. How about discussing why Canada likes to add a “u” in to spell colour or favourite, when it looked perfectly fine without the “u”.

Color. Favorite. So much better. I would risk failing a spelling test just so that I could drop the “u”.

Or let’s discuss issues that matter, like why so many people have kids when they don’t want to be around them. Or what the purpose is behind suffering. And what exactly is the point of getting up each morning to repeat the same routine over and over again. Or if there’s a God and how we can know if we’ve found the right one.

Then, I have things to say. Because deep down, I know these topics are sincere. They’re meaningful. So I care to answer them.

But ask me about my plans for the evening and I’ll freeze up like a glacier.

My plans are to fold laundry.

Anyone else out there who hates small talk? Any ideas on making it less awkward?

Authenticity · Self Worth

An Invisible Child

I grew up feeling invisible; always longing to be noticed. The truth was, I was good at almost everything I did. But I was never the best. Being good was just “normal.” Boring even. Being the best, that was valuable.

“Well who cares?” You may say, “There’s only one winner after all.” True enough.

For some, who are noticed all too often, it’s even seen as a curse. Or an annoyance. I remember a boy in my class who won literally every track and field event. The other kids watched in envy as he carried around the stack of red, first place ribbons. And he couldn’t have cared less about them. I remember him ripping those precious ribbons into tiny pieces of thread, as I watched with pain in my heart, wishing he would’ve dropped one accidentally so that I could have just one.

Just once.

And then there were those dreaded award ceremonies. There was never such a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach as at award ceremonies.

Breath in. Breath out. Hold that breath. Maybe this year…

“This award is for the child who has the highest mark in mathematics.”

Oh! I’m good at that. Maybe this time… Oh. Her again. 

“For the best female athlete…” Nope.

“For the most outgoing person…” Nope.

“For the most outstanding musician…” Nope.

“For the model student…” AAANND Nope. 

And we watch as Mr and Miss Popular/Smarty Pants go up again and again for three, four, five awards. Yet year after year the message comes ringing out loud and clear:

I am invisible.

Worthless.

My best is not enough.

I am not enough.

The hurt only compacted when the popularity lists came out in the yearbook: Best Eyes. Nope. Best Hair. Nope. Best Voice. Nope. Best Butt. Nope. Best Personality. Nope. 

Best Dressed. Oh, good heavens. Double Nope. With a capital N. Bolded and Underlined please.

Those lists, were actually a joke, as the same girl every guy had a crush on would be written down in every single category. As if she was the perfect woman.

Oh, there was that one year I won “Best Nose”. It was the big class joke because my nose was crooked. Everyone thought that one was hilarious.

Except me. 

But I laughed anyway to hide the pain inside.

The reality is, most of us grow up and we have already told ourselves a long time ago: “I will never be anything important. That girl will do great things. Not me.” And we carry this burden on our shoulders for most of our lives, believing we are nobody’s. That we are the sum of our talents which is obviously nothing at all.

But then I became a mother and my perception changed forever.

Because people, I thought my children were the best, because they are the best. But no one else saw it! Except for one child. One child wins the awards. One child seems to have all the talents. One child seems “most likely to succeed”. How interesting then, that this child’s value to me is the same as the four others. When I think about each single child I feel such love and pride for them that I think I may burst. Not because of what they can or can’t do, but because they are unique. They are one of a kind. Were one of them to die, they could never be replaced. There would be no one who could fill their exact shoes. Not because they win all the awards, but because they are who they are.

That is value.

Oh, if each of us would only see ourselves through the eyes of a Mother. There is so much value in each person. Incredible value. For being the one and only you, who no one else can be!

You are irreplaceable. 

I am irreplaceable. It took a long time to heal enough to say those words aloud. But, I finally believe them and I will continue to believe them, regardless of what awards I do or do not win. We are more than our abilities. We are more than our skin. We are more than our best features.

And thank heavens, I’m more than my “Best Nose”.

 

Authenticity · Faith · Vulnerability

Exterior Walls

We put up exteriors daily. As if we don’t care about what people think.

As if I don’t care.

As if I don’t notice the likes, the comments or the lack-there-of. As if I’m stronger than those who need to be told every day that they are valuable in someway. As if I don’t need to hear the words of people confirming me and the things I do.

Deep down we just want to be understood, desperately, pathetically.

Humanly.

Listen, as much as you fight it and act like you are above such longings, if you’re human, those feelings are there.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

To the world, you may look confident. Or you may look hopeless. You may look like someone who has it all together or you’re falling apart at every turn. You may even give a phony smile, and say some cliche things. Or you may spew every careless thought that comes from your mouth in hopes of being real and bold.

But whoever you are… you hate it. Because deep down, we all know that that’s not what it’s about, is it?

As if one kind of wrong is better than the other.

Thank God, you are worth more than than your feelings tell you.

Can I just say something here?

Maybe we are all more alike than we want to admit. Maybe I’m just like that too-faced, self-righteous, rich snob we all avoid. That hypocrite in the church pews. That political maniac who rants day and night on social media, believing that those who are on the other side are the enemy. Or the “tolerant” crowd who are tolerant of everyone… except for those who are intolerant.

Maybe, that drunk homeless man, who reeks of alcohol, sitting on the side of the road asking “food” money, is just like me inside.

In fact, I’m convinced of it.

Pride tells me I’m better than all of the above, but there’s one thing that tells me I’m not.

The Cross.

Because on that cross, Jesus gave his life as much for the hypocrite, as for the drunkard, as for the bitter-old-soul who can’t forgive.

Think you’re better? Then maybe the cross isn’t for you.

…Or maybe, it’s especially for you. Because, friends, the ground at the bottom of the cross is equal. And not one of us deserved it.

Authenticity · Faith

The Art of Being Real

Just kidding.

There’s no art.

There’s no secrets.

It comes with realizing that people will pretty much think what they will of you and what you pretend to be (or not be) with have little effect on their opinions of you. Whether you’re honest or not, people will think what they’re inclined to think.

In fact, I would go as far to say that what people say about others, reflects their own heart more than anything else.

I’m not saying that everyone should be a total jerk and it doesn’t matter. Don’t be ridiculous. Be nice. Be kind. Chose to sometimes just close your mouth if you have nothing nice to say.

But, for heavens sake, be honest.

For if someone speaks really well of you, they are most certainly a person who tries to see the best in others because, let’s face it, most things people do are really not that outstanding.

And if people speak negatively about you, then they are most likely an insecure person who feeds on negativity. They like putting others down because it makes them feel better about their own lives.

When you stop to see people, I mean – really see them – you begin to realize that there’s not really that many terrible people out there.

There are just people.

Having good days. Having bad days. Trying to do their best with the cards they’ve been dealt.

And sometimes they’re pretty awful cards. These people are trying to swim while they’re drowning and all the while keeping up with the Joneses, who are also keeping the Joneses beside them…

And being real, is a simple step of saying, “Hey, you and I are really just not cut out to live the lifestyle of Mr & Mrs Jones…and that’s Ok. I’m fine with just being me. And you’re pretty great too.

I’ll stick to being me.

In my beautiful country house.

On my not so beautiful country yard.

In my mom body (when did that start to be an insult?)

In my broken, but determined faith.

Eating my bacon cheese burgers and poutine.

Writing a blog to no one in particular about life in my large, crazy, beautiful family.

Because this is real.

And I really, really like it. Perhaps, others will like it too. And together we can be enjoy how beautiful differences really are.