Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

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My Computer REALLY Hates Me

It sat there.

Mocking me.

Daring me to try again.

And I did. I naively did.

Our pictures…gone… Cute videos of our family growing up are lost too.

Oh, the joys of this digital age. Sometimes I love it, other times I hate it.

All I have are the albums I’ve made and the few favourites that I happened to save on a USB (that is, assuming it’s not fried as well).

Ahh, that feeling of helplessness and despair, knowing you probably could’ve taken better measures to safeguard these priceless memories, these irreplaceable snapshots in time, only to take it seriously too late. And then there’s also the frustration of staring at my almost finished novel. Thankfully it is still saved but I’m unable to do anything but read it until my writing programs are reinstalled and computer is working properly again.

Writing a book is a very personal thing. It’s intimidating, difficult, frustrating, lonely and sometimes even embarrassing. When I mention to people that I’m writing a novel, I feel sort of like a child who is telling the world that someday they’re going to be a NHL player.

Oh, that’s cute.

Yet I go to the library and can’t help but stare at the hundred of shelves filled with every kind of literature and feel encouraged.

Others – millions of others, have gone before me and prevailed. They had a story to share and they did it. Now it sits on the shelf, proudly boasting its accomplishment.

Yes it’s true some are worn from years of being loved by all. Some are ancient and forgotten. Some are displayed front and center – the best-sellers, and some sit in the corner waiting to be read…

But they’ve all been written. They’ve all been finished and all of them, every last one, was loved enough by somebody to make it to the shelves.

So I wait and try ever so carefully to do nothing which may upset my fragile FryMac further and cause more damage to the precious files it holds within.

I wait.

Knowing that soon my time to write will come again and that one day, my book too will be on a shelf (or perhaps many).

More Than a Building

I have a vision of a worship service that feels like a family gathering – a group that looks forward to meeting together, serving together, eating potluck meals together after singing and praying together.

A small, intimate like body of believers that live like Jesus lived.

Where the old are respected and teach the young, and the young are appreciated by the old.

Where the hearts of the fathers are turned to their children, and the children are turned to their fathers.

Where children are seen as a welcome addition to the church, rather than a burden to be dragged along.

Where the youth are the spark, not the dead.

Where the most hardened criminal is welcomed, loved and changed.

Where church means more than a building with brick walls, great big sound systems, fancy lights, and a large pulpit.

Call me a dreamer. Call me old fashioned. Tell me it’s not possible.

I will see it. I promise you.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures and Other Stuff Parents Don’t Want to Talk About

Sometimes what we have to talk about, isn’t what we want to talk about.

I’m currently homeschooling my four youngest children and life is busy, frustrating, amazing and often chaotic.

Being their only teacher, I am constantly aware of the huge responsibility on my shoulders to teach them enough. I not only need to teach them academics, but social responsibility, manners, character and faith! That’s a heavy load! And it often overwhelms me!

What was once a challenge having one or two children to teach, has overtime become an impossible responsibility with five kids. But being convinced that this is the best way, I trudge wearily on, albeit, blindly at times.

This is part of my reason for taking a break from homeschooling next year. To re-establish my passion for doing my best to raise up these precious kids. They are the next generation; the future. However my decision to take a break from homeschooling wasn’t made lightly. My oldest son has been in public school for three years now and I’ve seen the tremendous pressures and temptations that come from public school life.

I realize now, that I have to prepare all my children for the first time they will view porn.

What?!? You may choke out. You’re preparing them to view it?

Yes. Unless your head is completely buried in the sand, you have to be willing to admit that it’s no longer a matter of if they will see it, but when.

“When” came sooner than I had hoped for my oldest child. But thankfully, before he formed a habit out of sneaking off and viewing the filth, God spoke to me gently and told me it was time to order this book:

To be clear, I do not believe in having a one time “birds and the bees” talk with children. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Conversations need to be had regularly, in an age appropriate way with children from young on, for them to become comfortable enough to talk openly about these things. When I gave this to my older boy, it was followed by prayer and intentional conversation, making it a great tool for us. Again, these books are not meant to replace actual heart-to-heart discussions!! They are simply an easier starting point (especially for someone like me who came from a very conservative background where these things were not talked about.)

My son read this book and said that it was so eye opening to him, and gave him such good, practical ways to reject porn, that he is convinced it saved him from an addiction to pornography.

This is HUGE, parents!

I had no idea that he had seen anything of the sort, in fact, when I first handed him this book he denied knowing what porn was because he had been so ashamed of what he had seen. Later though, he was able to open up and share his heart, as the book is so gentle and allows children to see that they don’t need to be ashamed of telling an adult, in fact, that is one of the steps encouraged!

Such a contrast to today’s parenting: “I’d rather not know…” or the famous “my kid’s a good kid, they would never do that!”

They’re almost all good kids!!! Are you seriously suggesting that only “bad” people view porn? Only terrible criminals?!? Then you are about to get your world view turned upside down…here’s some startling statistics for you:

Net Nanny reports that only 3% of teenage boys and 17% of girls have never seen online pornography.

According to Google Analytics, pornography searches increase by 4,700% when kids are out of school for the summer.

In 2015, Childline conducted a survey of 700 pre-teens/teens. They found that one in five reported seeing pornographic images that upset them. Furthermore, 12% of those surveyed admitted to taking part in a sexually explicit video.

Peter Liver, director of Childline, states, “We know from the young people who contact ChildLine that viewing porn is a part of everyday life, and our poll shows that one in five 12 to 13-year-olds thinks that watching porn is normal behavior.”

As a parent, these facts not only shock me, they upset me.

Yet all around me I see children as young as 6 who have full access to their own personal iPad and YouTube channels without any parental monitoring. This isn’t just foolish parenting, it’s dangerous and in my opinion, neglectful.

Where are the parents who still care about their children’s innocence? Why are we turning a blind eye to these harmful behaviours and addictions?

In a way, I understand actually. It’s difficult to start up the conversations. I really don’t enjoy the pressure or the start of them as I feel uncomfortable too. It’s much easier to just ignore the silent killer that’s lurking behind every screen. We know it’s there. It’s just easier to not think about it.

It’s easier to do nothing at all.

But the truth is, I’m usually much more uncomfortable than my children are to talk about these things. And in fact as I begin these conversations, I’m always amazed at how well received they are. At how open and honest my kids are. And for that matter, I have never once come out of a sex-conversation with them thinking “Well that was awkward! I’m glad that’s over.”

Not once. In fact, I’m already seeing the fruit from being open. It is so important!

Not long ago, I opened the Bible at the breakfast table to the stares and yawns of all my five children. It was clear, no one really wanted me to read. They were sleepy, they were bored and they just wanted to leave the table… everything in me at that moment wanted to shut the Bible, and just stop! Forget the devotions and get on with my long “to do” list for the day.

But instead, I took a deep breath and I read a verse, just one verse, and explained what it meant. I tried to get the kids involved in the conversation, but again I was met with blank stares. It took 5 minutes and it was over.

Useless! I thought. Why do I even bother?

Later that evening, my son came into my room. He looked at me with tears in his eyes confessing that he had google searched something inappropriate and was about to click on the link, when the verse that I had shared that morning popped into his head:if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

He told me that he was sorry and that he wouldn’t do it again. He asked me to forgive him. I was SO unbelievably proud and not at all upset. I hugged him and thanked him for telling me.

He had been listening. It wasn’t useless! What 10-year-old boy tells his mom such things? Only a child who is secure in their parents love, who has understood the consequences of hidden sin and been taught the dangers of pornography.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. Teach them while you have the chance. It does matter! And these children of mine are living-proof.

My Favorites: Faith, Family, Fitness, Food, Forgiveness, Freedom, and Friends

No this isn’t the “F” section in the dictionary, nor am I playing a random game of blog scategories…

These are seven “F’s” I came up with to describe my life and the things I’m passionate about. With pictures even!

Faith – My Faith is something I take seriously. I almost lost my way as a teen. The danger and carelessness I lived in almost destroyed me. When I met Jesus Christ and experienced his love for the first time, everything changed: That thick book of His that once bored me to tears became my all time favorite. I treasured it as my most precious possession. God became my rock, my hiding place and ever since I chose to follow God, I’ve had stability and love. I’ve gone through a lot of difficult seasons… but I have peace in my trials and joy even in the hard times.

Family – My first son was born when I was just 18 years old. He became my purpose, my reason to change. Fast forward 13 years…I have a husband and five kids. Yes. Yes it is crazy…My life revolves around feeding them, caring for them, teaching them, loving them, and driving them around. And don’t kid yourselves, in no way is this a one way street… I get just as much love and life lessons in return.

Fitness– I began running a year ago after being diagnosed with depression (which I had struggled with for years without having a name for the darkness I was feeling). I contribute my well-being mostly to God’s healing work in my heart and to what running has done for my mental health. Today I am doing better than I have in many years and I’m passionate about staying active. And recently, I even got my husband to join me 🙂

Food– I love food. Baking mostly. Trend Gluten-free diets have no appeal to me. No thank you! I not only bake for my family, but for weddings and other social gatherings as well. Cakes and cupcakes are my specialty 🙂 I love trying new recipes and am a firm believer that food shouldn’t just look good, but taste delicious as well.

Forgiveness– A few years ago I nearly had my heart ripped out in one of the most painful, heart-wrenching experiences of my life. My trusted friends, mentors and church leaders sent me and my family away, ignoring our messages, our love, and our extension of reconciliation over and over again. It was messy, it was humiliating, it was terrible and I was so hurt. But God brought me to the place where I learnt to forgive, not just in word but in action. Forgiveness means responding in love when others lash out at you or misjudge you. Forgiveness means returning kindness for hatred, blessings for curses. It’s letting go of our “right” to feel insulted and making the decision to step out of that dark dungeon called bitterness. It’s a beautiful thing.

And it also brings me to my next point which is…

Freedom– I have found freedom! Not through obeying the law in my flesh…this brings judgementalism and legalism, but through the cross and precious blood of Jesus. He gave his life for me, I now have the opportunity to daily give mine to him. This is true freedom. No guilt in life because I’m forgiven! No fear in death because he has conquered!!

Friends– This brings me to my last and final word: Friends!! Oh has God ever been good to me, for what I lost three years ago, God has multiplied fourfold! I am overwhelmed with the amount of people in my life who I can call up for coffee or invite down. Being someone who never has had many close friendships, I can say with confidence that I have more people in my life who care for me than I ever have before. Who knew that God could take such heartache and turn it for my good! Out of that season, came some shuffling and switching and now I have had the opportunity to meet a ton of great people!

How about you? What are your words? What describes your life right now?

The Dreaded Month of May

Ahh….May.

The month of spring and growth. The month of celebrations and birthdays. The month of warmer, longer days, of beautiful sunsets and green grass. The month of sports, warm days and cool, comfortable evenings. The month I was born.

You may be wondering by this point if you misread the title of this post. I assure you, you did not. And the party crasher of those blissful would-be moments is….my schedule. My busy, lose-your-mind-completely, schedule where I resemble a frazzled mom who lives off two showers a month and whatever crumbs I manage to scrape off the floor of my van on my way to the next practice, recital or…who knows where I’m headed next but I count on my kids to wildly shout from the backseat if I turn in the wrong direction.

Gone are the early motherhood days where I sat on the couch beside my husband, wondering who we should call to get together with and show off our new baby to. Gone are the days when I made healthy freezer meals a month in advance so I could put supper in the slow cooker when I got up and stroll about the day in my pjs, book in hand. (This is where you roll your eyes at me, because I am now making up memories that don’t exist in my adult life…freezer meals?? Ha! I’m lucky if I get supper on the table each day!)

I kid you not, I just left mid-post to clean up the barf of not just one but two boys who are feeling sick. I’ll spare you the scene I just witnessed as I don’t want to loose all of my followers in one post, but let’s just say that my husband told me that if I wasn’t around to clean up that mess, he would’ve lit a match and walked away. True story.

Deep breaths. Deep Breaths.

Where was I going with this post again? Oh yeah. May is terrible. And hectic. But every year I look forward this crazy month until I’m in it…then I hold my breath until is over. Today is the last day and I can now triumphantly say, “Yes! I made it! It’s the last day of May!”

Hold that thought, clean up duty calls again…

Is it June yet?!?

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Such a question has been all too common in my life.

When others like me, I must be likeable. When they hate me, I must be a difficult person to love. When they compliment my talents, I must be admirable. When they insult me, I am worthless.

Or am I more than the sum of what others think of me?

When I feel happy, I must be successful. When I feel down, a miserable failure. When encouraged, I am bright-eyed and promising, the next moment discouragement makes me a hopeless case.

Who am I? Certainly more than what I’m feeling from moment to moment!

Yet it’s a question that haunts me and in my most honest moments I’ll admit that the fact that I’m asking the question in itself shows the depths of my insecurities and wavering character.

I’ve been reading a lot of biographies lately. I’m inspired by the stories of real people who’ve walked before me.

My current selection is Bonhoeffer.

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Living during the times of World War I & II, this book tells the life story of a German pastor who stood up to the warped society of his day, becoming a spy and eventually a martyr. Real hero material right?

What won my heart was his poem, written in captivity that echoed the words that have become commonplace in my journals and poems. In fact reading his words, I felt like I had stepped into my own story:

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How can two different people from two totally different times become so connected by three simple words: Who Am I?

That is the frailty of humanity. We grasp at strings to find something, anything to define ourselves by. But as I think these things over, a hint of a smile creeps to my lips. And I can’t help but wonder if God has a of a sense humour, knowing this about us. Didn’t he introduce himself to the Israelites as “I AM”? He doesn’t need to add anything to his title because he just is.

I may not know who I am, but I know the I AM, maybe that’s enough.