Authenticity · Faith

The Art of Being Real

Just kidding.

There’s no art.

There’s no secrets.

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

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

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

But, for heavens sake, be honest.

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

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

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

There are just people.

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

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

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

I’ll stick to being me.

In my beautiful country house.

On my not so beautiful country yard.

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

In my broken, but determined faith.

Eating my bacon cheese burgers and poutine.

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

Because this is real.

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

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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.

Fitness · Health · Running

Run

Lost in thoughts that swirl like the wind around me, the steady rhythm of my feet keeps the time. The world around moves slowly, as if I’m in some different place entirely – a world far different from mine.

Golden fields stretch out far as the eye can see. Chaos fades into peaceful breaths, left alone to my thoughts and steps. Sometimes in silence, sometimes singing with each gasping breath. Sometimes yelling to the dog because she’s off in the field, nowhere near my side.

Beside me, my dog comes alive. It’s the favourite part of her day. Just us, going nowhere for no reason. When does that happen?

Most days, just before evening.

The sun begins to set.

The stifling heat of summer gives way to the cool of the fall. Leaves turn warm colors as the air grows colder each day. Red, brown, yellow and orange. The perfect skyline bouquet.

Run.

As my breaths become sharper, and my knees begin to ache, I change the tempo and taper my speed. The rhythm is slower, but perfectly in tune with the world around me which is also preparing for rest. My favourite shoes begin to rub and pinch in the all wrong places. The skin beneath my arm feels tender. A sword pierces my side.

But I do not stop.

Perseverance is par for the course. Runners know persistence, they are tenacious and among the stubborn on this Earth.

Because what would we do without this?

Trade real beauty and peace for a screen? Trade true emotional rest for a sitcom or show, that wearies the mind and troubles the soul? Or rush from one event to the next…still running, but without taking a breath. Or make wearisome conversation when all that you crave is stillness and to be alone?

No.

I run. To nowhere at all.

For the Joy. In the pain. Finding God. Shutting out hate. For the peace. For my health. This keeps me sane.

To remind myself that I’m still here, and I still matter.

Keep running.

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.

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Summer Prayer Challenge: Week One

Ok time to be honest about this ten week Summer Prayer Challenge: I couldn’t be more unsure of what I’m doing.

I’m actually terrified of what I got myself into.

I don’t mean prayer. I absolutely am 100% sure that I want to grow in my prayer life. I want to know God like a close friend. That is my deepest desire right now. I am desperate to see God work in my life. I hunger to know God in a way I’ve never known him before, to see things and people through HIS eyes and not my own. I’ve quite honestly realized that I’m a very average person, and not even a very good one. If I don’t have the power and love of God behind my words and my actions then they will amount to very little. I’m desperate to wake up and actually make a difference in the world. Prayer is my ONLY hope to make any positive change – of this I have become convinced.

But this social media challenge…it’s not me.

I don’t want to come across as some spiritual superstar, or as if I’m flaunting my prayer life online. That’s literally the furthest thought from my mind.

I’m simply beginning. Which means I’m decades behind many of you.

I’m also flaky on social media at best. I like to be on it for a while and then I turn it off completely and love being away from it. So I honestly don’t know if I can do this…if I can post regularly, if I’ll have the zeal, charisma and passion to keep going…I mean, I’m struggling with depression for crying out loud! How can I encourage others to pray?

Also, being open and honest about my prayer life online, in front of dozens if not hundreds of people whom I may or may not know, some who are probably far more experienced in prayer than I am, it scares me.

And yet, it’s not about me.

It literally comes down to a stirring I had in my heart last week when I decided to pray all summer like I never had before. Something moved my heart to invite others along on this journey. Anyone who has this same desire, really. Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, whether you’ve been praying for hours a day or if you’re also just beginning: It is time for the church to seek God like never before.

And if this encourages even ONE person to pray, then it’s worth the time spent. 

Today’s prayer items are firstly: THANKSGIVING. Turn your focus off of your list and onto Jesus. Spend a couple minutes thanking Jesus for his provision, his goodness, his forgiveness, his blessings in your life. Don’t just say the words. FEEL them. Where would you be without these things? What would become of you if it hadn’t been for the Cross? Spend time in worship.

Secondly, pray for individual family members…each individual by name, starting with your spouse (if you have one). Thank God for them. Pray about your deepest concerns for them. For example, one of my children is struggling with angry outbursts and I’m seeking God for heavenly wisdom and eyes to see the root of what is going on in his heart. I’m begging for wisdom. Ask God if you are holding any offences against them. Don’t rush this. Spend time listening attentively and write down any thoughts, verses or pictures which come to your mind.

These two things will become your daily prayers before we unite in the third “weekly items.”

Today, as it’s Monday, let’s focus on praying for our home church pastors. Pastors in a way have a never ending job. There is tremendous pressure on them and their families to “have it all together” as they quite literally are like a showcase for the church they lead. This burden, is FAR too heavy a weight for a person to bear. Many leaders feel incredibly lonely because of this, yet at the same time they also feel overwhelmed with the needs of their congregation. I realize some of us have leaders that we look up to, others have leaders that we struggle to respect. But here’s the thing:

We are all human. We ALL mess up. We ALL say stupid things we regret.

Today let’s decide in our hearts to be very gracious towards our pastors. Decide to protect their reputation by refusing to gossip. If you are harbouring any hurt feelings or anger towards your leaders, now is the time to forgive them. Ask God to show you HIS heart towards them. And now pray. Pray for purity in their lives, for hunger for them. For him/her to have a close spiritual walk with God, to spend time with God daily. Pray for protection over your pastor and their family, as the devil would like nothing more than to see your leader fall. Pray for his/her health. Pray for them to speak the truth of God boldly, and to not water the message of the gospel down to gain popularity. Pray for their marriage, for their family time, for their children. Pray for them to have wisdom in each situation, and to keep a heart that is tender/merciful towards their flock.

If you want you can also ask God to show you something you can do this week to bless them. These are just ideas to get you going…keep praying until you feel your heart overflow with love and compassion for your leader. Bless them!

This will most likely be my only prayer blog post for the week. If you want to see the list for the whole week, check out my previous post: Summer Prayer Challenge or get daily updates by following me on Instagram as everysmallvoice or Facebook as Heather Bergen.

Thanks for joining me in this journey! And please! If you see any encouraging changes as a result of these prayers, or have an amazing/uplifting story to share, or even if you are just deciding pray for the first time, let me know in the comments or email me! I’d love to hear from you!

Love always, Heather

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Finding Peace in Anxiety

Something I share very little about is how severely I’ve dealt with anxiety in these last few years. I really don’t like talking about it, partly because I’m embarrassed about it…it makes me feel weak, and taunts me that if I was a better person, a better Christian, I wouldn’t struggle with such things. But another reason I resist talking about it is because I don’t want to become one who sits about moping and complaining about my problems, which, compared to the rest of the worlds, are very small.

I have food to eat. I have a house to live in. My physical needs are more than met. I have a supportive and loving husband. My family is healthy. I live in a safe and free country. I have loving parents and family members who live near to me. I have an incredible church. I am cared for, listened to, I am loved.

And then I shake my head because why in the world do I still struggle with panic attacks?!?

Why do I wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, my stomach twisted into a knot? Why? Why do I have no control over it? Why can I not get a grip? And the answer is very simple:

Anxiety is a lot like drowning in your own mind, which is very similar to physical drowning. Yelling “stop it” to a drowning person will not save them, for they can not “stop it”. In the same way saying to a person with anxiety “just think about good things” doesn’t help, because maybe they aren’t thinking about anything! And even if they are, you can not just “think good thoughts” to get rid of anxiety.

It cannot be controlled in the mind just because it begins in the mind, for something is happening inside that seems to affect the whole body. I’m not writing about lingering on bad thoughts or sulking. Anxiety isn’t just having fear or worry. Those things can very much be controlled, because as soon as you can put a finger on the issues that are being worried about, you can deal with them at the root.

No, anxiety is a deep, sinking feeling that something is very, very wrong and the more you try to figure out what that something is, the more you begin to feel that it is everything. Everything is wrong. And I cannot fix everything. And so begins an attack.

Now sometimes what helps with anxiety is staying busy, which works great during the daytime, because when our minds our preoccupied with other things, they tend to not overthink the feelings inside. But most of my anxiety happens at night.

Many reputable resources tell you to lie down and breathe deeply to calm an anxiety attack…ummm duh, I was sleeping, that’s exactly WHAT I was doing.

Then next suggestion is medication and to be honest, I just don’t want to go there. This is not to say it is wrong! Not AT ALL! I do not in any way look down on those who turn to anxiety medicine, in fact, I very much understand them and rejoice with them as they find healing and are able to once again handle life. However, I am not yet at the place where I am ready to go down that road because I  am not totally convinced that my anxiety is to do with imbalances in my body. I want to be sure that it is before I begin taking such prescriptions.

Sometimes I believe that my anxiety is actually a spiritual attack, which brings me to sharing about my anxiety attack a couple nights ago:

I was lying in bed, it was 2am, and I woke up with that familiar heavy knot in my stomach. Then, a sudden thought came across my mind about something that had happened during the day and I began to feel that this issue was all out of my control and that it quite literally would put an end to my family, it would ruin my marriage, it would destroy my children. And if that were true, yes, PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON!!!

But the word feel is key!

This couldn’t be won with reason, because I knew that my thoughts were ridiculous, I KNEW it, but in my emotions they felt real and I could not get a grasp on what was going on inside of me. Half an hour of torment went by when suddenly I realized how helpless I was to fight this battle on my own. It was then that I cried out to God, pleading with him to help me, to calm me, to give me peace. Suddenly the thought came to me: “Get up, go downstairs, and start journaling to God about how you feel.” (I don’t actually believe that it was my own thought, rather it was God speaking to my heart.)

So that is what I did. For the next fifteen minutes, I wrote down all my worries, my fears, my thoughts and it wasn’t helping me AT ALL. In fact, it was causing me to think of more and more things so that eventually I filled three full pages of my journal with worries. And suddenly, there was that quiet voice again, “Now ask me to speak into these problems.”

So I wrote: “Father please! Hear me now! I need a word from you! I need you to tell me that I can let go of control, that you’ve got this!  Please Jesus, speak! For I am desperate and listening!

And here is what I heard:

God: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart! You have been born for this very time, this very place! You are right where I want you. Don’t be troubled, little sheep, for I am with you – you will not be overcome.  I will rescue you Heather. Just watch me!”

I am aware that not everybody believes that God still speaks today. And that some believe God just speaks through his word.  And then there’s some people that believe he can speak, but fail to believe when he speaks, thinking that it was maybe their own thoughts. They doubt it was really God!

But I can tell you without a doubt, God speaks today and God speaks personally.

My words, my thoughts do NOT bring me peace. They are powerless against my anxiety, in fact they sometimes make things worse. But in hearing God speak these words over me, I felt peace.

And then I asked God how he saw me right then, in that moment.

God: I see you as tired and worried about many things. But only one thing is needed.  Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  When you were afraid, trust in me. You can trust me Heather, I will take care of you. I will not desert you. I am here.

Warmth and peace filled my heart. And then I walked back up the stairs to my room, scared my daughter half to death (she was using the bathroom and just saw a shadow coming slowly up the stairs LOL), lay down, and peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Unbelievable. God had brought me from panic to peace.

Friends, this I know to be true: One word from God can do more healing, bring more comfort and restore far more than a thousand words from those around us. But are we listening? Are we asking? When we hear, are we believing?

Listening for God’s voice used to confuse me and worry me, but it doesn’t anymore because I’ve learned not to doubt when I hear him. It’s really quite simple; I just ask him to speak, and wait. Often a word, a thought or a picture will come to my head. If it doesn’t conflict with the Bible, I believe it is from God (for God’s word is the foundation for God speaking to us.) I also hold it with open hands because I am human and make mistakes, so we need to be SO humble in all of this. Many have been hurt when pride is combined with “listening” to God. We MUST stay humble and know God’s word if we want to hear God’s voice.

Right now, the church is suffering. Many saints are tired and weary. Pastors are burning out. Families in the church are fighting. Churches are splitting. People are hurting others and holding onto hurts.  God LONGS to speak to us, he longs to renew us.

Are we willing to be still and listen?

Or will we keep trying to do it on our own?

God, help us to listen to your voice in humility. Help us to learn from you, for you long to give us rest! Thank you for speaking to your people. Thank you for bringing me peace.

 

 

 

 

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Highs, Lows and Frozen Toes

Ahhh February… the month that always goes by the fastest but feels the longest. This month was a crazy one in our homeschooling family of seven. Commence photo journal!

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On the upside, we’ve had many pleasant days: quiet afternoons reading books, random coffee times with our wonderful neighbors, family days building extravagant snow forts (wood stove included) and playing “to bean to bean” with the kiddos (our youngests made up version of Bonanza), brunch outings with great friends, skating with Emerson for the very first time, movie nights, and a last minute surprise date that brought joy to my heart!

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Homeschool has relaxed quite a bit from our push in fall. We are on schedule and lazy about our days. My tight grip on what “needs” to get done has lightened. The complaints of the kids are met with grace and a lightened load. School often looks goofy and unprofessional, like this:

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We have also spent many extra hours in front of screens, which I plan to put an end to by the end of the month! (But they are so cute, huddled together, wasting all sorts of precious time…hey at least there’s no fighting!!)

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And another highlight, my BABY turned 4!!! Where has the time gone?!? I still remember having 2 in diapers while trying to homeschool and deal with a VERY demanding toddler! Now those sleepless nights and physically draining days are over!! But oh, I sometimes miss having a baby in the house!

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On the difficult side, we dealt with sickness (one kid had the flu and another had a intense case of food poisoning, which thankfully, no one else was affected by) two terrible migraines which lasted for days, a lot of boredom and kids out of sorts, terribly cold days, struggles with a dear friend, and just all around sadness for disappointments that have happened in the last few years.

There has been ALOT of time spent this month figuring out how to navigate through this unfamiliar situation we are in. This, of course, brought about a lot of self reflection, a lot of prayer and flipping through old, long forgotten journals.

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There is so much treasure there, in reading back about how God has worked in the past! There are so many trials that God brings about in our lives to shape us, so many people who come in and out of our lives at just the right time in different seasons, and looking back, EVERYTHING has God’s finger print all over it!

Its also quite humorous to me that I have a certain picture of who I am and who I used to be, and I often look back with fondness on those early years of motherhood and marriage, thinking that everything was easier, that I was probably a much better person back then.

And then I actually go and read in my journal about such times and the funny thing is I am shocked to read about the terrible mistakes I made…and, how yes, God is changing me after all! It’s just so slow a process, that I forget who I was a decade ago. A person who struggled intensely with anger and lying, with an unfaithful heart, with gossip, with self righteousness, with immaturity and outbursts. And I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief because God is in the business of shaping my heart. God is in fact, through the fights, the tears and the struggles, shaping all of us. Whether it’s letting go of my control, or whether it’s encouraging gentleness and patience with each other.

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Examples of this? Emerson wanted to help make his cupcake toppers, and this year I actually let him!!! Previously, I would’ve absolutely not even thought of allowing such thing, because I am the cake decorator. Bella wanted to do something in Language Arts other than going over the difference between nouns, pronouns, verbs and proverbs… which by this point in the year is getting dreadfully boring, so we simply shut the books and allowed room for creativity. She decided to make a horse encyclopedia. Perfect. Art, ELA, copywork and handwriting practice all done in one project that she loves. Jonas followed suit and made a cheetah encyclopedia.

I’m learning what matters, and what doesn’t. It hasn’t been easy, but the kids can be kids, without needing to feel anxious when they are less than perfect. They are free to live KNOWING that they are loved, flaws and all.

This February I have also been a part of a parenting course which is another step in shaping the way I view children and respond to them. And oh, if I could start Motherhood all over, knowing what I know now! How I regret how harsh I was during my first three children’s early years! But even in this, there is grace…children are so forgiving.

So that was my past month.

It was stressful, it was joyful, it was hard, it was fulfilling, it is LIFE. And I’m praying every day, “Oh God, help me to slow down and enjoy it. Help me to not take this chaos for granted. Help me to remember to love deeply through it all.