COVID-19 · Faith · Real Love

Better than Being Right

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of two arguments?

It’s a horrible place to be.

It’s a place I’ve been abiding for the past six months. Maybe even the past year.

And I’m so tired. So, SO tired of trying to get everyone to see eye to eye.

If one would look over my blog for the past year, they would have a hard time labeling where I stand on the “hot topics”.

I mean, I’m vaccinated and think that vaccinations are helping. But I absolutely hate the forced vax-passes and realize that these vaccines aren’t perfect, and they definitely aren’t as effective or long lasting as everyone first hoped. Yet, I wish more people would be open to them, I wish people would ask their doctor the hard questions – instead of turning to social media – and share with their health care provider the fears they have.

I hate lock downs and masks. But I see why they’re sometimes necessary.

I am pro-life. But I had a teenage pregnancy and I sympathize deeply with women who feel alone with no other options. I don’t want to stand in front of clinics and yell at them. I want to take them in, love them, and tell them the four things they desperately need to hear: you are safe, you are loved, you are cared for and you are not alone.

I don’t believe that climate change is a global emergency. But I recycle, I reuse what I can, I hate wasting, and never litter. I will wash one hundred dishes by hand before I use paper plates. Our kids live on hand-me-downs. And once their clothes are too ratty I use them as my rags instead of buying fancy Norwex ones. I use reusable feminine products. Every home we’ve owned, every street we’ve lived down, I try my best to improve by picking up garbage until the ditches and grass look clean and healthy.

I hate the way the government mindlessly blows our hard-earned tax dollars. I can’t believe there’s zero accountability for mindlessly spending billions in other people’s money… But I still pay taxes.

But can you bare with me for just a second while I express my frustration?

I am tired of being in the middle of strong opinionated people, refusing to bend their beliefs.

And I am downright exhausted of both sides bending facts whatever way they please, sometimes in the utmost arrogance. With their fixed mindset, unable to even be reasoned with or show any hint of trying to listen or trying to understand. People are thinking the absolute worst of each other. As if they alone know the truth. And the other side is the enemy. The brainwashed, evil-hearted enemy.

I’m tired of getting stuck in the middle of it.

Like, I’m burnt out, tired.

It’s easy to argue our point when we just know we are right. Boy, is it ever easy. Over the past year I have been completely baffled at times. Never in my lifetime have so many common people spewed out so much knowledge.

They know what’s best for everyone.

They know all the statistics.

They’ve followed all the news stories and Facebook posts and they just know that the post they read or the video they watched was true.

And all this “knowledge” is getting thrown back and forth like poison darts, while underneath the surface, something absolutely heartbreaking is happening: People are withering.

As I was meditating on the verses in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, I found myself deeply yearning for people to see the truth that it held. Sadly, most of our world has lost sight of it. Are you ready for it?

Love is better than being right.

Being right just puffs up our pride. It doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t change anyone. It doesn’t save lives or convince people to do anything that they don’t want to do. All being right does is grow our own ego, which is more likely to push others away than to bring them in.

But love.

Love builds up. It humbly puts aside the arguments and takes a deep look at the person in front of us. It cares enough to set aside what we think we know, so that we can truly listen to and understand the people around us.

Love doesn’t ask: “How can I show this person where they are wrong?”

It wonders, “How can I help this person where they are at?”

This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever help others by using our knowledge, but it does mean that we sometimes need to set aside what we know, in order to love the people we don’t agree with.

In our world, it feels as if I’m literally watching the love of most grow cold. It’s a scary thing. Family members are refusing to see one another because they know they are right. People who once lived and served side by side, are now ripping each other to shreds on social media.

“Those who think they know something do not yet know what they ought to know…”

1 Corinthians 8:2

Let me ask you something: When was the last time you truly listened to “the other side”- and I’m not just talking about Covid debates here, but on all matters where one might disagree?

When was the last time you took an honest look at your own heart when you’re arguing your point? Are you constantly trying to find facts to prove yourself? Are you aware of the people around you, if you are hurting them with your words? Do you care? Are you open to the fact that the “other side” might not be the evil person you are making them out to be, rather, they may have a very good reason to believe what they do?

Maybe you are 100% right, but you’ve had the wrong attitude… are you willing to set aside your own knowledge in order to love and build up those around you? A person who feels loved and cared for is FAR more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Maybe the deeper question is this: Are we open to loving others above being right?

“We know that ‘we all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up, while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Can I give you a challenge today? It’s an extremely difficult one, but one of the most important and rewarding things you could do. I did it myself a few weeks ago and I can tell you it brought so much peace and unity to that relationship.

Find someone who has been difficult for you to love this past year. Maybe someone who was once close to you. Perhaps someone who you had a fall out argument with, or maybe you’ve just slowly gone two separate ways and grown apart. Set in your heart that you will talk with them and not argue. Avoid the controversial topics, if at all possible, but even if they arise – for once – just listen.

Just lovingly listen. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how the relationships in their lives are going. Ask thing if they have felt unheard or uncared for this past year. Just listen to their heart, and then pray out loud for them, if they are comfortable with it.

I believe that if every single believer would do this to just one person in their life, the world could change over night. Because something deeply beautiful happens the we feel heard, loved, safe, and cared for: Our wounds begin to heal and our walls fall down.

COVID-19 · Faith · Loss · Vulnerability

The Things I Miss

I don’t write a lot these days, because I feel like my heart is grieving. It’s hard to share grief sometimes. I’m letting go of more and more things that I love, and today, I’m deeply missing these things:

I miss writing on my blog. The past few months have been a whirlwind of babysitting, homeschooling, respite, leading women’s ministry, driving kids to sports, gardening, canning, etc. Writing here was the first thing to go. After all, it takes up so much effort and time, and seems to have so little reward. Seeing four or five likes and even fewer comments can be disheartening. I’m constantly wondering, is anyone reading these posts anymore? If not, why bother?

But then I ask myself, why did I start in the first place? Was it not for my own emotional healing? Writing heals my heart. It allows me to share the deepest things that I often don’t have the opportunity to say. It helps me process the world around me. It relieves me of the burden that I often carry around. It brings me joy.

I miss running. Especially in fall. Nothing compares to the sweet smell of leaves and the cool breeze that compliments the last warm rays of the sun. I miss having the energy to run and the strength that I had built up over years of keeping it in my routine. I’ve lost it now. Crazy how something like muscle takes so long to build, but dissolves in mere weeks. The lack of motivation to get there again – to retrain my body – it’s disheartening. Running was rewarding but SO much work.

Will I ever get to that place of strength and endurance again?

I miss learning. I wish I could go back to school. For fifteen long years, I have desired this. I want to be a nurse. But life. The kids need my presence. Our finances with the mortgage and the children’s private schooling, and trying to do it all on one income makes money tight sometimes. Them first. Me last. Will I ever get the chance to be what I really wanted to be? Were all these dreams for nothing? Am I to lay them down forever? Or will I one day get my chance?

And then, there are the big things I miss. The things that aren’t just unique to me, but that are effecting everyone around me.

I miss the carefree, pre-covid life. I miss crowds and brushing past people in a busy room. I miss not trying to hide my cough when I sip my coffee too fast. Or singing in church without a mask – where now I feel breathless after every song. I miss the world, where we all seemed a little bit friendlier. Maybe it was because we could see each other smile. Which reminds me, I miss seeing people’s faces. I miss not second guessing every time someone in my family has a runny nose or a minor cough – wondering if we should stay home. I miss assuming that everyone was welcome everywhere, because that was the kind of country I lived in. Where for the most part, our biggest differences were the cars that we drove and clothes that we wore.

I remember a time when hating someone for the choices they made (or did not make) was seen as unacceptable. Tolerance. Ha! When was the last time I heard that word? Certainly not for quite some time.

I miss kindness and unity being more important than political and health opinions. Families refusing to meet together over divisive regulations and restrictions. Churches and family gatherings turning certain people away and calling it “love.”

These are everyday, good people – people who have given their time and care to their community, people who have volunteered and loved on “the least of these” without expecting anything in return. People who would give you the shirt off their own backs. These people are being expected to confirm to the popular beliefs or be shut out of society.

And we are shrugging it off as if it is no big deal.

This is not the world I grew up in. This is not the world I want my kids to grow up in.

But perhaps the greatest thing I’ve missed is the purpose behind it all.

Why I wrote.

Why I ran.

Why I learned.

Why we lived freely.

Why we valued love and kindness.

Because these things brought joy.

Unity.

Family.

Kindness.

Love.

Freedom.

What is life without these things?

I think it’s time we asked ourselves if this past year of “saving lives” has been worth all that we have lost. Great men and women in the past have willingly laid down their lives for these very values. And these past two years we have all too willingly given these things up. For what? For the need for everyone to survive at all costs?

I know this is an extremely unpopular view – I’ve heard all the arguments.

Yet I can’t help but ask myself, when did we start believing that we could control sickness?

When did we start blaming people for spreading viruses? This is a new thing. In the past it was always seen as unpreventable. Unavoidable. It brought people together to care – sadly, and to mourn.

Now we call people who leave their house with a cough “selfish”and we rain judgment down on them. Bizarrely enough, we even feel anger toward healthy people. Our society loses their minds over a mask worn incorrectly, or a person who feels uncomfortable with getting vaccinated. I’ve seen the cold hearted comments all over social media that they deserve to die of Covid, or lose their jobs or that they don’t deserve to enjoy the luxuries of restaurants, museums, movie theatres, and concerts.

How did we get here so fast?

I miss the world I used to live in. When kindness came before fear. When we could agree to disagree.

The monster of division looms over my nation, spurred on by my own political leaders. It’s being echoed loud and clear by the media: Do as we say or lose everything. Conform to our beliefs or be shut out. Shun all those who do not comply. It creeps into people’s hearts and minds until they think this attitude is normal. Acceptable even.

We don’t even see what we’ve become. And the worst part is that I don’t see an end.

Unless, of course, we remember.

And we all begin to miss the things we’ve lost… enough to do something about it.

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?

COVID-19 · Faith · Family

The Day of Small Things

A Sudden Change

         “‘Mommy! Mommy!’ Her chubby two-year-old hand stretched out towards the familiar church building as we passed it by. ‘Church?’ she asked hopefully.

         ‘Not today honey, maybe next time,’ I soothed from the front seat.

         It had been weeks since she’d been to her favorite weekly outing and she was beginning to cry every time we passed the place that she had come to know and love. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see, but I reminded myself that it was only temporary. 

         ‘Soon we will go back,’ I kept telling her. Yet as the weeks turned into months, we kept passing the vacant building which was once bustling with activity and she began asking less and less.

          ‘No church,’ was always the reply. 

         And then one day she stopped asking. As hard as the tears were to hear, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that she had forgotten. My daughter no longer remembers church.”

A young mother I know shared this situation with me a few months ago and it has run through my mind many times. After almost a year now of closures, how is the next generation going to view faith and community? How are they going to view God? Are they going to realize the importance of gathering, of spurring one another on?

A Different Sort of Church

            As we adjust to life in all the ups and downs of 2020, one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face is no longer being able to gather in the ways that we used to.

             Maybe the scene above feels all too familiar for you. Or maybe, for your family, it was a welcome change to be able to watch kids church, sporting your comfiest pjs at the breakfast table, avoiding the usual chaos and rush of Sunday mornings. Whatever the case, we all have to admit that online church is just not the same

            We all miss something about meeting together… whether it is seeing your child make it through kid’s church without your number being called for the very first time, seeing the parking lot packed from end to end with each weekly activity, visiting with friends in the café, listening to an uninterrupted sermon, or missing LIVE worship (let’s face it, worship on a screen is just not the same). As the heartbroken mother above shared about her little girl’s fading desire for church, she brought up some very real and valid concerns many of us parents are facing: Is my child growing up without experiencing the church? Who will teach them about Jesus? Am I enough for them in this season?

            Where do I even start? 

            The church’s strength has always been in working together, becoming the “village” our children need to develop a love and understanding of God and others. But what about when we are apart? Can we still be the body of Christ and raise the next generation to become passionate followers of Jesus? 

We Are the Church

As a mother of five myself, I have to say that this year has been one of the most difficult and stretching years of my entire life. Not only have I had to deal with my own confusing emotions, I have to help my kids navigate these same thoughts and feelings as well. As a routine person, not being about to make concrete plans for the next week, never mind the year – has made me feel like I will lose my mind. Add distance learning to the mix (HELLLOO CHAOS!!) and my capacity for anything else is at zero…

And I’m doing this mostly alone. 

We all are.

Never before have we felt so isolated and far apart when we need each other more than ever before. We hear words like: “we’re all in this together” but it’s really difficult to feel “together” at all. But… we are still the church. We are meant to shine now, more than ever before. We believe this. How do we live it out?

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT) 

            When the Israelites began rebuilding the temple after the exile, it was a pitiful sight at first. Those who remembered the former glory and beauty of their place of worship must’ve felt complete despair at the sight. The task before them was enormous. Their workers were so few.

 Which makes it so incredible when God encouraged them with these words: “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I would dare to say that God is speaking a similar word to parents today. He sees the tears, the struggle and the stress. He sees the overwhelm and the loneliness. He sees the despair of having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. And he’s calling us to remember the small things. God’s not expecting us to rise up in impossible and grand ways. He’s looking for the little things and rejoicing at each act of worship, no matter how small.

Maybe its picking up your little one and telling them once again about the powerful wonders that God performed for his people in slavery. Or about the many miracles Jesus did on earth.

Maybe it’s turning on worship music and dancing around the kitchen, just to lighten the mood.

Maybe it’s taking an afternoon with your kids to make cookies and cards, then going on a drive together to drop them off for someone who is struggling with sickness or loneliness.

Or maybe it’s simply the broken moments. The moments where you fall on your knees, exhausted and at your wits end, begging for God to help you through another day.

Don’t despise these moments, however small. Let the Father, who sees the small things, speak to you. The small beginnings are important, they are valuable and he rejoices over each effort to come to him.

Canada · COVID-19 · Faith · Family

Good Surprises

“Oh great,” I thought, “More bad news to pass on to my already discouraged family.”

 It was a couple weeks into November 2020. I waited most of the day, dreading the thought of telling them that more restrictions were being made… once again. Upon hearing the news of schools being shut down again, my son burst into tears of frustration: “It’s like the month of bad surprises!” 

The thing is, he wasn’t wrong.

There were so many disappointments and we were all having an extremely difficult time navigating all of it. Our grandmother had died. Our family of seven had all gotten COVID-19. Schools were closed. Life was once again grinding to a halt. We were all stuck at home all the time. And this had just been the past month! Hadn’t we tried again and again to “make the best of it?” 

There was just nothing to look forward to anymore.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was tempted to wallow in my grief, but I’d been in that pit of depression before, a place so dark that life seems to fade into a black and white blur. It is in this desperate place that I called out to God: “Father, I need a plan to lift my family out of this. Please, give me the gift of creativity; ideas to bring joy to our family. I need something that will brighten our cold, dark winter nights, so that next few months aren’t just filled with disappointments for my kids.”

What about a month of good surprises?

The idea took root and began to grow.

Yes! That was it! We could, within the walls of our own home, create an atmosphere of anticipation each day of the month, with a new surprise to look forward to every evening. Sort of like a twist on the typical advent calendar, it would be a bit of work on my part, but, with proper planning I knew we could pull it off!

Now I was excited. As fast as I could, I grabbed my day planner and made a rough sketch of the month:

There were games nights, worship nights, and nights to “get out” and drive around, looking at Christmas lights or simply blessing others. There were activities for me (like ice cream sundae night) and some purely for the kids (games in the dark and “make up our own recipes” …as I shudder… SO. MUCH. SUGAR.)

By the time I had finished filling in the calendar, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was, in many ways, so simple – but I knew it would brighten our evenings. Here’s a list of a few of the “good surprises” our family enjoyed at home:

25 Good Surprises

1. We had a create our own recipes competition. Everyone in the family grabbed ingredients to make a small portion of their own creative treat! The evening ended with us rating each other’s creation on a scale of 1 – 10. First of all, my oldest son created the funniest recipe. He called it “Dr. D” – I’ll leave the ingredients to your imagination. (And not to brag or anything… but I won 😁)

2. Grabbing bags of popcorn, we got in the van for a tour of Christmas lights. Complete with Christmas dubstep music. It was a blast! Except for vacuuming up the popcorn from the backseats later on… not so fun.

3. One night we pulled out old home videos and watched them together. We had many laughs and my heart nearly burst when I watched the cute videos from their toddler years. So adorable! 🥰 Then each person wrote a note to a grandparent, thanking them for some of the fun memories we’ve had with them. (This ended up being one of my favourite evenings!)

4. Family games in the dark night. There’s nothing like running full speed into the wall as you get chased in the dark. These nights are sure to get everyone excited. If you’re like our family and like some added intensity, put on a soundtrack from Lord of the Rings and bingo, you’ll have kids so terrified that no one will want to venture into the basement. “Sardines” and “No Bears Out Tonight” are our favorite!

5. Skating on our backyard rink has been a highlight this winter. Our family is seven total, so we don’t make an even split for a team… almost makes me wish we had just one more… 😉Thawing our feet in the hot tub afterwards completed the fun.

6. We skipped a few days of school to go sledding at a hill nearby. Sometimes it was just us, but sometimes we met up with friends. The fresh air did us well.

7. Family worship night! Dad grabs a guitar, Isaiah a drum, Bella plays the piano and we sang our hearts out. There’s nothing quite like worship to lift a discouraged soul.

8. Christmas Coloring contest. Print out a Christmas picture to color and everyone colors their absolute best! Then we each pick our top two favourites and the one with the most votes win (Dad won this one!)

9. Family card or board game night. (Our current favorites are Dixit, Wizard, Jenga and Settlers of Catan)

10. A day in the wilderness with friends. Okay, this one creeped me out a bit. We were in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, off trail and our kids were running every where. It was a bit terrifying for me at first and I prayed they wouldn’t get lost. However, once we settled in and made a fire in a ravine I settled down. The kids took their sleds down random hills. Of course, we brought hot chocolate and hand warmers. The adults chatted and snuggled in our blankets around the fire. Snacks were passed around. The peace and stillness of the forest was amazing.

11. Facetime call nights with the grandparents or family. I’m getting tired of so much stuff online, but it is always wonderful to see the smiling faces of the people we love.

12. Make and decorate sugar cookies. Yes, kids always add far too much icing… and if you give them anything else to decorate with (smarties, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc) it gets WAY out of hand.

13. We went on a few outdoor walks, followed by hot chocolate and snacks of course.

14. Winter fireside night in our backyard. We actually started the fire with flint and steel! I felt like a true survivalist. And then I went inside to make hot chocolate with my electric kettle, because it’s too much work to boil water over a fire. LOL!

15. Ice cream sundae night! We had dozens of toppings to choose from and could each choose THREE ONLY because, let’s face it, my kids would’ve put on every topping if allowed. My favourite toppings are caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt!

16. Family movie night with popcorn and Nibs. We have now started doing a movie night each Friday and we take turns picking a movie. IF anyones complains about the choice, they miss their next turn to chose. Finally, no more arguing about what to watch!

17. Family snow ball fight. (Which ended in a real fight! Surprise, surprise.)

18. We played “Wink Murder” and “Mafia” which is quite morbid now that I think of it, but we have a great time guessing the murderer. It’s amazing how convincing some of our kids can be when they are claiming their “innocence”…

19. Decorate a gingerbread house. (More candy… there’s a theme here.)

20. We picked up pizza one night and dropped one off for our parents as well and had a quick front door visit.

21. Random acts of kindness night! We picked up 3 dozen donuts and delivered them to some of our friends/family we missed so we could see their faces for a bit. The kids came home so happy (but it was a lot of driving!)

22. Sleepover by the Christmas tree. Probably the best and worst thing ever. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your rest. We fell asleep listening to Adventures in Odyssey together around midnight. In the middle of the night the couch felt like I was sleeping on rocks. My back still hurts. And we all woke up at 5am. This will most likely never happen again.

23. On Christmas Day, my husband led us in some Christmas Carols on his guitar and then we read the Christmas Story. Afterwards we ate our traditional family Christmas brunch and opened presents.

24. We had a fancy candle light dinner one night. Complete with a four course meal, the fancy table cloth, and mandatory table manners (yes, with a family that has four boys, table manners is a special event!)

25. I planned a Minute to Win It Game Night. Again lots of work to put together, but it was so much fun! A few of our favourite games include “Mad Dog” and “Dizzy Mummy”. We also laughed pretty hard at “Junk in the Trunk”.

 Yes, it’s a month into 2021 and we’re still mostly at home. However, we’ve been doing our best to be at peace with where we’re at.

Best of all: I have seen the joy returning to our family.

They have something each day to look forward to and for that I pray with a thankful heart: “Jesus, THANK YOU, for the gift of creativity. You know it doesn’t come naturally to me… Thank you for bringing joy back into our home.”

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 · 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.

Canada · COVID-19

A World Turned Upside Down

It’s been almost a month since I wrote about my negative COVID test and about the struggles of grief I was going through. A lot has happened since then, and I have started writing about it many times, only to stop and delete it all. Then I try again and after a few paragraphs I hit delete once more.

Is it writers block?

Is it overwhelm?

Or maybe, I’m just done trying to make sense of the chaos around me.

A few weeks back, I was sick with an unknown burning skin issue (which resolved itself without a diagnosis) but not before I went to get help because I began experiencing chest pains. So after isolating for over a week, I went to our local hospital (which at the time was completely overwhelmed with COVID patients) where I believe I caught COVID-19 on top of everything as a result.

Yes I wore a mask.

Yes I stayed 6 ft apart from others in the room.

But, nevertheless, I caught COVID-19.

I began showing symptoms of the dreaded coronavirus just two days after my negative test results came in, so I went in for a second test (although I already knew it’d be positive.) And it was.

My whole family got sick. All of us showed various symptoms, from fatigue, to fevers and body aches, to rashes, to sore eyes, to headaches, vomiting and coughs. It was bizarre in that sense. Most flus that go through our family, carry the same symptoms. With COVID-19, we reacted quite differently. We are now all recovered and done our isolation period.

But that’s not why I’m struggling to write.

My post titled “When COVID-19 Becomes Real” got a lot of views. A lot – meaning almost 5,000 views. My usual posts get about 45-75 views. The rare post gets 100-500. I even had our local news station do an interview with me.

Everyone seemed to want to hear my ER experience as “proof” of the seriousness of COVID and the need for restrictions.

However, my reason for writing that post wasn’t to “convince” anyone of anything. It was a personal account of my experience in an overwhelmed hospital and my sudden snap back to reality that COVID-19 wasn’t just a faraway problem in some other place as it has felt like for so long.

It is here and it is real.

I saw overwhelmed staff. I saw patients getting transferred. I saw a full waiting room of many people who had been waiting for hours without anyone to help them.

So what do I think about all this?

COVID-19 is complicated.

Yet we all talk as if we know the answers. I hear strong opinions from just about everyone and I’m tired of the division. Seriously, can we not just work together to beat this thing??

Are extreme restrictions harmful? Absolutely.

Are some restrictions necessary to keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed? Yes, I believe they are.

But here we have the great divide.

Some say: “Let the virus rip through… People will die, just rip off the bandaid and get it over with.”

Others: “Lockdown everything for as long as it takes.”

Is there really no middle ground here?

Listen, NO ONE wants people to die from COVID-19. And NO ONE is happy about losing our freedoms.

Restrictions in Manitoba, Canada have gotten really bad. Life is not great; it’s actually very hard. The rules are stifling. They take much of the joy out of our days. I absolutely hate them.

– No gatherings are allowed, not even one person allowed to visit us. This includes even outdoor meetings at a person’s residence. Christmas is no exception.

– Churches are closed.

– Our school division is back to distance learning. Which means 6+ hours of screens for my kids A DAY.

– Parks, restaurants, libraries, and non essential businesses are closed.

– Masks are mandatory inside every building.

– Even buying non essential items in store is forbidden.

These rules were discussed and made by people who regularly interact with others, because they have “essential” jobs (side note…Can you imagine being told that your livelihood is unnecessary to the world??) and do not really understand the immense pain that these restrictions are causing so many. For those who aren’t working, whether they’ve lost their jobs because they are deemed “unessential” or whether they are seniors, or stay-at-home moms, such as myself, this isolation is unbearable.

We were made to be with people.

What the working leaders and doctors don’t understand is “unnecessary socializing” – seen by them as “selfish” and “short-sighted” is actually EXTREMELY NECESSARY for those who don’t work outside of the home.

In fact, solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered by the United Nations to be a form of torture.

Numerous studies have been done on this very subject. According to Wikipedia: “Research indicates that the psychological effects of solitary confinement may encompass “anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis.” A main issue with isolating prisoners who are known to have mental illnesses is that it prevents the inmates from ever possibly recovering. Instead, many “mentally ill prisoners decompensate in isolation, requiring crisis care or psychiatric hospitalization.”

For many, work is a social interaction.

My husband was at home for two weeks while we had Covid. During those long days, he said time had stopped for him. He grew more withdrawn. I could see he was withering. After two weeks of this he seemed almost like a different person.

Last week he was clear to go back to work and he was grinning ear to ear. He could leave and interact with co-workers again. He said that little interactions with others kept him going. Life seemed to move at a faster pace again.

What’s my point? He was only home for two weeks.

I’ve been home for five.

How do you think I feel?

Yet, you may say, “How can you feel this way? Didn’t your last post say that you are now taking this seriously? Didn’t you say that you now understand the restrictions? Didn’t you say there was a good reason for them?”

Yes, I did.

But understanding the heart behind these rules and regulations, doesn’t make me like them or even agree with them all. It doesn’t magically make all the answers and solutions clear. It doesn’t make me feel any less lonely or frustrated.

It doesn’t stop the feelings that this isn’t a world I want to live in anymore.

I don’t want to write this post, because admitting the truth scares me: I just don’t know what’s right anymore.

Why are so many people pretending that they know the way?

We got mildly sick with Covid-19. Most people I know who’ve gotten it have been mildly sick.

Is it worth all this pain to shut everything down?

BUT… I also know a few who have died that were previously healthy and could’ve lived many more years… and it breaks my heart. They could still be alive.

I’ve heard of the stress of nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers – some who I know personally – who are working tirelessly to take care of the sick. Their frustration and tears are real.

So, if I don’t have the answers, why am I writing?

What am I trying to say?

Right now, really extreme decisions are being made with ONLY one thing being considered: How to keep COVID-19 numbers down.

How did we get to this point? Are there not so many things to consider other than just the numbers in a pandemic?

– What about the alarming rate of declining mental health in our most vulnerable people?

-How about the millions of deaths caused not by COVID-19, but directly as a result of restrictionsThe World Food Programme has warned that an extra 265 million people could be at risk of starvation because of the restrictions.

That’s 263.5 MILLON MORE people STARVING right now than those who’ve died of COVID.

Why are we not talking about those staggering numbers? And since when have we cared about these types of numbers? Since they’ve been shoved in our faces headline after headline? If we really cared about the lives of the vulnerable, why didn’t we stop the world before to help the EIGHT AND A HALF MILLION people who’ve starved to death this year alone?

Is it because this new problem hits a little too close to home??

– What about suicide deaths or drug overdoses?

– What about many, many small businesses that will not recover?

– How about the billions of dollars that the Canadian government has spent on the pandemic… but won’t disclose where it has gone?

– Or what about the complete disregard for children that live in abusive home environments where they are forced to now quarantine – possibility alone and abused without being seen or heard?

– Or what about completely irresponsible distance learning program which sets up students as young as grade 7 to be online and unsupervised at home, while the amount of children involved in online trafficking has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Not to mention the devastating porn addictions in young children who are being left alone for hours on these devices.

These are valid questions, but they are all being drowned out in the world’s chant of insanity: “COVID-19! COVID-19! COVID-19”

Tell me why.

Why don’t these other things matter?

Why are these hundreds of millions or even billions of other voices silenced?

Please, tell me. Why is COVID now the only thing that matters now?? Does anyone know?

All this pain is not adding up.

I’ll wait for my answers. You’ll know where to find me.

Locked up in my fancy, lonely, prison… called home.

Canada · Christmas · COVID-19

The Things I Cry Over

One thing that has shocked me lately are my tears.

They just don’t make sense.

This week I have gone through alot. We all have. Most people either know someone sick, hospitalized or dead from COVID-19. Or someone about to crack mentally from all the restrictions. We are all maxed out: Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Even the kids.

I have gotten no answers about my health, although right now my pain is almost gone. I literally checked for my COVID-19 test results every minute for three days straight until at last the news came:

Yay! My family is free to go to school and work again. Though I am still stuck home because I have nothing essential to do outside of the house.

Now, one would think it not possible, but here in Manitoba further restrictions have been made. Deaths are happening everyday and so I understand why… but I still don’t agree with it all.

Not being allowed to have one person over? Or shop for Christmas gifts. Not being able to go to my dear husband’s grandma’s funeral (not even a drive by funeral) because they are restricted to five people?

My husband’s sweet grandma died this week (not from COVID), but though there was pain in my heart, not one tear fell. Later that day, we tried to set up the Christmas tree. It looked ugly and the lights were broken.

I bawled.

Why?

I chatted with some friends, and they shared some very painful struggles. Unimaginable situations are happening all around the world. Really hard things. Mental health issues, financial strain, separation from loved ones, marriage struggles.

Yet no tears fell.

This morning our coffee maker broke. I wept as if I lost a dear friend.

Why is it that I am crying over insignificant, replaceable, material things – but my tears don’t come over the things that really break my heart?

I think, perhaps, because it’s easier.

My mind knows the problem when the Christmas tree lights don’t work. What it doesn’t know, is how to sort out all my feelings with the sickness, the stress and the world being shut down.

Holidays are approaching, but Christmas is the furthest thing from my mind. All gatherings have been cancelled. There will be no Christmas programs, or sleigh rides. Local stores are no longer allowed to sell non-essential goods, for we are trying to keep shopping numbers down. So no walking through the isles with Christmas music in the background, shopping for presents.

We have no plans for the foreseeable future. Nothing to look forward to. The day to day toil of trying to help my kids process their complicated emotions, while pushing my own aside has me on edge.

I’m stuck at home, when I’d rather be anywhere else.

It all doesn’t make sense.

But a broken coffee maker, that my mind can grasp.

I’m sure the professionals out there would have a highly sophisticated term or explanation for these random tears of mine.

I just call it grief.

COVID-19

When COVID-19 becomes Real

In the current crisis, I’ll admit, I’ve been sceptical about what is true and what is not.

I’ve been searching for truth and it seems on either side it has been skewed… either by angry and fearful people wanting to shut down the world and hide away until COVID-19 “disappears” or the other extreme of anti maskers calling this a “plandemic” thinking that this is some crazy power grab by the government.

Well as one who enjoys my freedoms, and as one who hates wearing masks, and who also cares about the economy – especially small businesses- I have to share this, I just have to. For there are far too many people are taking one side or the other – and now I see both.

COVID-19 is real.

And those who think this is nothing, need to see what I just saw. Not to stir up fear, for the media is doing a fine job of that, but to be snapped back to reality: that this is actually serious. And it’s not just affecting the elderly.

I’m not afraid of it but last night, it personally affected me and I got a tiny glimpse into the way it affects the healthcare system when people don’t mind the rules.

Our area has been relaxed, it has felt almost normal compared to the rest of the world and in many ways, it was a breath of fresh air to me. Until now.

We have hit code red in Manitoba, and we entered the “circuit breaker” lockdown on Thursday. I disagreed with the extreme measures that were being taken. I thought that the people should be careful and reasonable, but that the government had no place to tell us that we couldn’t have social gatherings. I still don’t like it… but now I do see why it’s being done. On top of the outbreak in Manitoba, I live in a city with a small town feel and COVID-19 has hit unsustainable numbers. We currently have 2X the rate of COVID than Winnipeg does. And our hospital can’t handle it.

Enter my sudden illness. 

Not Covid-19, but something else, and possibly more serious for someone in their early 30s. I do not see doctors easily. In fact, as I called in for my appointment (because clinics are shut down), I realized that I hadn’t been seen for almost 3 years now. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been to the emergency room for myself. After 3 different calls, and 3 different opinions later, I decided to go in to emergency to get checked out because two of the nurses had stated emphatically that it was essential I get seen ASAP. Also I am in a lot of pain.

So I entered the ER and I have never seen, in Canada, what I saw yesterday. There were so many, many SICK people, too many to be seen. Some had been there for 8 hours or more, in the waiting room, because all the beds were full. I’m sure at the sound of the hacking in the room and the feverish faces that half of them had Covid-19. (For the first time ever, I was glad for my mask.) And no, not all of them were elderly. At least two of them were 50 or younger. 

After sitting there for THREE HOURS, I finally got checked in by a nurse. In the meantime, no one from the waiting room had gotten called in to see a doctor, because the rooms were full. A few ambulances came – bringing in more patients struggling breathe and obviously those people were getting care, but it looked like they were the only ones being seen. It suddenly became clear to me that I would be sitting there all night unless I was bad enough to need an ambulance myself. And that’s when I realized that we are in trouble.

The one hero nurse that was working at the front desk looked so tired. I heard her say that they were severely understaffed and that it was only getting worse each day. People were anxious, people were complaining, one man was moaning in the corner from the moment I came in until I left, never getting seen.

That’s right, I left. 

After four hours I got bloodwork done and still had not seen a doctor, not even one walking around. I was in too much pain to sit in a chair any longer and I personally didn’t want to catch COVID on top of my other issues, so I got up and told them to call me with the results from my tests, then hobbled out. I decided that if I got too bad in the night, we would just have to go in by ambulance because that is the only way I would be getting seen.

This, my friends, is why we are isolating. So that our healthcare workers don’t burn out. So that the system doesn’t fail. Because, yeah, maybe only the weak and elderly are dying from Covid-19, and maybe to the young and healthy that doesn’t matter. But I am young (32) and I was healthy, and now I need to be seen by a doctor but I can’t. Because the hospitals are full. So please, don’t wait until your area gets this bad. There is a reason for the restrictions. I hate them. I hate this whole situation. But I’m now taking this seriously… maybe too late.

To our healthcare workers: I’m praying for you. Thank you for all you are doing. Please keep going, we need you.