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 · 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.

Canada · Vulnerability

A Fragile World

Coronavirus. I don’t even need to blog about it, because everyone else has.

Schools are shut down for three weeks.

Sport events are too.

Church is cancelled.

Lineups pile outside of doors before the local grocery stores even open.

Isles are packed with people, void of food…

The world pretends to panic, I sit here and write. It seems surreal. I’m in a book; a doomsday movie.

I run… from the insanity. Breathe in the cool country air.

Real panic is still low, I believe.

Why? Because most people are smiling, letting others ahead in line. Shaking their heads in wonder while they make jokes. Texting pictures of line ups and empty shelves. Kindness is still abundant, violence and aggression are low. This tells me it’s not so bad. We are still a people who have plenty, we don’t know what it’s like to go with out. So far we haven’t seen the desperation of Venezuela.

Real fear is at bay.

I’ve succumbed to the pressure of preparing for something… not sure what. Other crazy shoppers emptying the shelves?? We have food to last us a while. We’re fine. I’m fine. I’m not worried.

Should I be worried?

I feel amused and calm.

Calm because it’s not the end. I think we all know it.

Amused because it’s like we’re all rehearsing for the real thing. We’re not so much afraid of the virus, of halting our lives. But we’re afraid of being helpless. Unprepared. So we prepare ourselves for something much bigger, something completely out of our control.

An illusion of control, in a very fragile world. The world hangs in a balance that we don’t even notice from day today. Movement of small, intricate parts:

Work and school.

The stock markets.

Our health.

Border crossings.

Truckers bringing in supplies.

Smallest changes that tip the scale.

We know this isn’t the end. Yet we live in a fragile world which holds on by a thread. What will be the final tug that pulls this civilization apart?

History doesn’t lie: no “kingdom” lasts forever. All eventually come to an end.

And I think instinctively we know this. So we hold on and rehearse just a little while longer. Each year becoming just a little more paranoid. Live as if death stalks behind us.

As I sit here and watch the desperate gain their illusion of power and control, I wonder, if the end finally does come… will we know it?

Or will we casually laugh at another false alarm?

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.

Cake Decorating · Vulnerability

My Love/Hate Relationship with Cakes

So I decorate cakes sometimes. And for the most part I’m happy with how they turn out:

Usually.

But then you get those cakes, where they just turn out the worst. Like today’s cake.

Ugh.

It started out ok. I formed a cute little Dumbo.

And a cute little bow…

And then I thought, hey, I should try a new icing recipe because I am getting tired of the one I usually use.

Now I remember why I hate trying new things!The icing was super soft and would not form a crumb coat. If the cake was covered with fondant, this would’ve not been a problem. But as the customer had ordered a chocolate cake covered with white icing, this was a huge problem!

As you can see there’s already crumbs in my first coat. I count on this crumb coat to harden so that I can do another layer of icing over, therefore not getting any crumbs in the second coat.

Literally one hour later this was the best I could do:

Not smooth at all!!!

Here is my first take on the top of the cake. I was not happy with it at all. The icing is just not smooth enough, plus it was so soft which made my fondant literally sink into the icing. Adding extra icing sugar would’ve made it too sweet so I was stuck! So I tried to redo the top. This is what I ended up with:

I know, I know, it looks okay. And if this was for me I wouldn’t be complaining. But someone is paying for the cake and it definitely wasn’t my best work.

So the lessons I learnt today:

1) Only try new recipes for my own cakes, this way there’s no harm done if they don’t turn out.

2) I don’t do well under pressure (actually, I learn this daily)…

3) It’s ok to post about my mistakes. I could’ve edited this cake picture until it looked perfect, but then, everyone else has a false picture of my reality and honestly, when everyone else is airbrushed we begin to hold ourselves to those unrealistic expectations.

4) I’m tempted to say no to ever making another cake, but I won’t do that. I will try again.

So show your flaws. And when you fail, get back up again.

And please, at the very least, take lots of pictures and blog about it.

Faith · Parenting · Vulnerability

No one is Really Ready for Parenting

When I became a mother at the young age of 18, I clearly remember a very real pressure to prove to everyone around me that I was ready to parent. Now I can’t speak for those who wait until their 30s to first start having kids, but I can tell you from my own experience that I always felt as if someone was watching and even waiting for me to mess up.

As if they had CFS on speed dial and were eager to have the chance to call me in for any mistake I would most certainly make.

Every choice was thought through at least twice.

Every cry was my fault.

Everything I couldn’t afford to provide, I felt the need to justify. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even order a drive-through coffee back then without feeling guilty, as if I should be spending my money more wisely (on baby).

Every feeling of overwhelm was shoved down and pressed into a deep dark pit in my stomach which would only be addressed a decade later as I neared my thirties.

The reason was simple: Teenage mothers get a really bad rap. And I understand this! Often the mother is far too inexperienced, too self-absorbed, far too naive to realize what raising a child all entails. A baby definitely does not just simply mean a cute doll to haul around and a gorgeous Pinterest nursery to create…

Right from day one, the child is a living, breathing, individual being; a little human who hasn’t a clue how to tell you what they need, much less regulate their own emotions or take care of their most basic functions.

Being a young mom, I was painfully aware of this stereotype – so much, that I couldn’t even admit to my very normal feelings of becoming a mother. I couldn’t admit that I was afraid. I couldn’t admit that I needed help or ask for a much needed break. No parent should live with that kind of expectation. Raising children is far too difficult for one person to do alone. I took motherhood all on my own shoulders, lest someone would step into my life and tell me: “I told you so! I knew that you were too young. You never should’ve been allowed to keep your own child. You should’ve given it up to parents who were ready! Parents who are established in their careers, who have a house and can keep their plants alive (heaven knows I can’t!) YOU’RE JUST NOT READY!!!”

And you know what? They would’ve been right about that last part.

Because I wasn’t ready. Not for a second.

I wasn’t ready to give up sleep; to eat cold meals for the next year because the baby needed to be fed.

I wasn’t ready for the postpartum pain women experience after childbirth. I had no idea that for the next month I would have trouble standing without fainting and dread every bathroom break.

I had no idea of the pain I would experience while breastfeeding, or the loneliness of being the only one who was able to meet that need for my baby.

I had no idea of the absolute love and protectiveness I would feel when someone else would hold my baby in a position I knew he didn’t like or wrap him up too warmly.

I didn’t know the absolute terror I would feel as he lay with needles and cords from every limb while he spent almost a year in the hospital awaiting a diagnosis to why he was so sick.

I just wasn’t ready.

But neither is any parent, really.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of bumping into some new parents in their thirties. As I asked them how they were doing, they smiled and responded in awe of how nothing had prepared them for both the joys and the struggles they were facing and with a slight smile the man said, “It’s crazy how such a tiny person can completely change everything in your life!”

And it struck me: These feelings are normal! They didn’t just happen to me because I was too young.

Oh, that I would’ve realized that years ago!

I’m now 31 years old, with 5 kids. You could say that I have some experience…

And yet I still don’t feel ready in so many ways.

I’m not ready to stay calm, when my kid rages out of control.

I’m not ready to give up the things I love so that I can replace yet another worn out pair of shoes.

I’m not ready to navigate the teenage emotions and schedules, much less ready for my oldest to get his drivers in a couple more years.

But parenting never was meant to be about being ready. It’s about doing the right thing, even when you’re not ready. It’s about being the bigger person and admitting your mistakes (and you will make MANY). It’s about grace and second chances, for your kids, for yourself.

It’s about recognizing that everyone else around you was also not really ready, but yet, somehow, are doing it – and doing it well. Because what you really need to become a great parent is selflessness, love, persistence and a whole lot of people to walk beside you.

 

Vulnerability

Raw Post Ahead

For the past few months I’ve been struggling a lot with feelings of inadequacy. I feel like I just don’t measure up, like I’m mostly a disappointment to those around me and actually many times I wonder if those closest to me even like me.

And writing a blog when I feel this way? Yuck.

I mean, there’s {almost} nothing worse than reading post after post of an insecure individual, fishing for compliments and for others to validate them. In fact the only reason I am up to writing today is because finally I feel a bit better, as if things may be looking up for me. Often, when I feel this way I begin to drift away on my latest social media platform of choice, this time it being WordPress. I don’t want to be that whiny blog no one reads so I instinctively want to fade out before my followers do. I feel that familiar longing to do my knee-jerk reaction and “delete the account”…to crawl back deeper into my hole.

Being forgotten is often less painful than being noticed for the wrong reasons.

This blog hasn’t been super rewarding for me. As of now, I have a handful of people who actually read what I write. Mostly strangers.

I began this blog after having a dream that awakened a desire in me to write again. Writing for me has been therapeutic for as far back as I can remember. It’s a balm on my wounds. It takes the deepest pain, the most utter confusion, the darkest fear, the greatest joy and put words to it all. Suddenly that painful, dark thought doesn’t seem so frightening anymore when it’s been put into language. It’s been named and therefore, it can be understood.

There is nothing as beautiful as when emotion is transformed into words that make sense of it all. Make it musical and even more dimension is added; you can almost touch it. Poetry is the combination of our thoughts and feelings, finally released in a rhythmic form that expresses the inexpressible; a miracle that hits the page.

I never intended to write for fame or to be noticed.

I never started so that I could become the next top blog or because I expected my writing to make me an overnight millionare.

I started so that I could practice and improve my skills as a writer while sharing my unique story and lessons I’ve learnt along the way. I wrote to share my faith, to encourage, and, quite honestly, to write about some things that I couldn’t dare say out loud. Using my blog in this latter way has caused unintended conflict and I’ve had to delete a couple of posts in the past that brought pain to certain people in my life (one particular post was taken personally when it was addressing how tired I was of gossip). Since that particular post was written, I’ve felt an unaddressed strain in a couple relationships which resulted in me losing that first zeal I had for writing. No post is worth losing relationships over, no matter how well-meaning it is.

And on that point lies the reason why I feel like quitting: If I, a writer, can’t clearly get my point across and am so misunderstood, then maybe I’m not such a good writer after all.

Many times I approach the keyboard, clicking out my heart-felt words…

Only to delete.

Out of fear. Who will I hurt this time? Who will read into my intentions wrongly this time? Do I really come across that harsh? Am I that oblivious to my actions? Am I completely lacking self-awareness? Oh, when did these relationships become so painful, so delicately breakable that I feel like tucking myself into a corner and giving up? When did walking on egg-shells become a daily practice for me?

However I look at this though, no matter what lens I use, I always know that there is someone else out there who knows exactly what I’m feeling. They understand my words perfectly. And so I continue to write:

For it’s the only way I know how to navigate my feelings.

It’s the only way I know to ease my troubled thoughts.

I share,

Because I am not alone.

Somewhere out there is another soul:

Who feels forgotten and alone,

Who is painfully insecure,

Whose blog makes the ‘Sega Dreamcast’ look like a success…

And for some reason, that’s enough to keep me hammering on these keys, knowing that persistence may be the only thing I have left.

I keep writing because of how it helps me.

I keep running, because it teaches me endurance.

I keep working because the results are rewarding.

I keep loving because real love never fails.

I keep on giving, because one day I’ll see the fruit.

I keep learning Spanish because it’s been my dream since I was a little girl to speak it.

I keep praying because there’s a lot of impossible things that I am still waiting for.

I may be called a lot of things… but least they can’t call me a quitter.