Creative Writing

Sometimes I Observe

A writer is often telling a story within their own scene.

Let me paint mine:

Though the forecast called for sun and unbearable heat, it was a cloudy day. The wind felt steady but not chaotic. Just a soft, consistent cool from the humid haze.

I sat, aware of the family beside me speaking overly loud to catch the attention of those around them. Exaggerating stories, ever glancing at their imagined audience. As if those around would care, be impressed, about the tent that collapsed on their holiday and the amazing burgers they made for supper the previous day.

I observe, my heart melts, at the innocent, awkward motions of the younger swimmers, trying desperately to follow the detailed instructions on how to perfect each stroke. They try to correct those crooked legs. Oh, how they try!

It looks exactly the same as before.

Aware of the self conscious woman, who hides her body under the water, even though the water where she stands is knee deep. Who by society’s standards is overweight, but her son smiles at her as if she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever seen.

She’s gorgeous.

Far more so than the tanned, chiseled man across the pool, who stands out – as a movie star would stick out in a soup kitchen. He looks… flawless. He beams his perfect white teeth and flirts shamelessly with the woman beside him.

Though he’s married. I saw his wife here yesterday.

I also notice the corner perv, who stares at his phone as if intently interested in it, but he’s watching the lifeguard through his camera lens.

People.

They’re a funny sort, wherever I go.

All so different. Also, the same.

Sometimes, it’s too hard to see it all. I notice things. I see too much. So I duck my head and close my eyes, I hide behind a book.

I write on my blog.

Sometimes I observe. But usually, I prefer to ignore.

Authenticity · Faith

Jekyll or Hyde?

“Jekyll and Hyde,” he called me.

That I’m like two different people living in one me. The funny thing is that I agree wholeheartedly. I know what he’s talking about.

One side: sweet, caring, and nice.

The other: filled with anger, rejection, and fear.

One side: accepted & loved.

The other: rejected & condemned.

Aren’t we all, really? Jekyll one day. Hyde the next. Trying to stay Jekyll.

Failing miserably.

But the good news? Jesus loves me as Mr. Hyde.

He loves my rejected side. Though people love me when I’m good and hate me when I’m not – Jesus takes me at all times.

He loves both “me’s”.

He has shown me that from day one. Through anger, shame, fear and deepest pain. Through embarrassing panic attacks to awkward moments. Even in full out rebellion.

Though we often turn our faces away from the “Hyde’s” of this world, God doesn’t shrink back. He reaches out his hand and calls them home. Though people reject “Hyde” (he’s horrible and socially awkward and often inappropriate) – God does not.

He tells us this through stories:

Remember the prostitutes? Rahab and Mary Magdeline to name a few…

Remember the government tax thieves? Zacchaeus and Matthew… probably more.

Remember the murderer(s)? Moses (and others)!

Or the adulterous murderer? David.

Or the liars? Isaac, Jacob.

Remember them. And then remember those who slammed stakes through his feet and hands?

“Father, forgive them.” He says.

To top it off, Jesus shares the ultimate story of his love through the parable of the prodigal son. A story of a son who squandered his inheritance, rejecting everything his father had raised him to be.

But the Father.

He waited with open arms for “Hyde” to return.

God loves us. ALL of us.

And he is ever working until I’m all better. Until I’m whole.

Until I’m just one person:

His child.

Faith

A Hard Life Sucks… But it Makes You Real

I’ve shared many of my past struggles on this blog before:

My rebellion in my teens: drinking, parties, being abused by men twice my age and my teenage pregnancy. The responses of those around me, some of which were hurtful and some unbelievably supportive. Finally, getting touched by God’s love in an unforgettable way, turning my life around – leaving the parties, drunkenness and empty friendships behind.

My son being born and becoming deathly ill. Him being hospitalized the first year of his life; the financial struggles, the highs and lows of this season and the support and miracles we experienced.

My struggles with having five kids so close together, the havoc it reaped on my body and emotional state… the depression, and anxiety that followed.

The church we helped start and suddenly got removed from, though we did our best and fought for reconciliation. All our closest friends, who were dear to us like family, that betrayed us and shunned us as if we had died. The panic attacks that followed this.

The loneliness I’ve felt for much of my adult life.

And some things I have not shared… not because I’m ashamed to, but because there are some things that aren’t just my story to tell and so it’s not my place to publicly write about or share them.

BUT though I have suffered many, many times and sometimes even begged God to take my life, one thing is abundantly clear to me: There was a reason for everything.

God allowed these things to happen to me so that he could answer my prayers from all those years ago, when I first began walking with him. Do you know my biggest prayer as a pregnant teen was?

“God, make me like Jesus.”

And as I was praying one day, 15 years ago, he gave me a picture of his hand coming down from heaven. His finger touched my forehead and he marked me – with a cross. He drew a cross, in the middle of my forehead!

You bet, I was excited. Yet, I had no idea what that picture meant! I just knew that God had done something very significant. But, I had no clue what.

I do now.

The cross means pain. It’s the symbol of the finished work of Jesus.

“It is finished.”

I was just beginning my life… and he already saw my end. And what he was saying to me was: “You’re gonna get the answer to your prayer. But it’s going to come through a lot of trials and pain.

Every trial left a scar. Some physical, but I found the invisible ones were the most painful. Deep bleeding where nobody else could see. But every scar has a lesson. And every lesson has made me just a little more like Jesus.

So what did my teenage rebellion and the grace that I was shown teach me? Do you remember the story in the Bible of a sinful woman? Where is she wet Jesus’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

It taught me to LOVE MUCH. For I experienced the UNBELIEVABLE love and grace of the Jesus – while I was at my worst!

My love for God became real.

What did I learn through watching my son suffer? That God is good, even in the worst situation imaginable. I learnt to trust him, even when I could not understand. I learnt to worship him through the pain and that pain actually brings about the deepest form of connection to God in worship. I learnt that he cared about the smallest requests I had. He heard my every prayer. And I learnt that he still does miracles.

What did I learn through motherhood? Oh, more lessons than I can name here! Humility. Gentleness. That I actually don’t have all of life’s answers. That peaceful love shapes a child’s heart better than requiring “good behaviour”. That I actually need a whole lot of grace myself, probably even more than I give out each day. That children will never do what you expect them to. And that they give the sweetest kisses and the deepest love. That I need to be more like them.

Through depression I learnt empathy. The power of listening. That silence can be the most loving thing to do.

Through rejection I learnt mercy and wisdom. I understood betrayal, and felt like Jesus knew this pain too. I learnt how to forgive… and how to let people go.

You know what I’ve learnt through the “good times” in my life. Where I have no problems and everything seems easy?

NOTHING.

Ok… Other than the fact that money doesn’t bring happiness and there’s only so many good shows on Netflix before it gets old!

So you see, the pain has a point.

I can see why James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Yeah. Those hardships all sucked. I certainly didn’t find them pure joy as I lived them. But it made me exactly who I was praying to be.

I still have a long way to go. Just saying that makes me cringe… I have a lot of trials ahead of me. But I’m convinced that I’ll get through them and come out on the other side with a scar.

Just like Jesus.

Faith

And What is Good?

With all the heaviness what’s going on in the world today, I was reminded of the verse that has many times turned my attitude around and I wanted to share it for whoever may need encouragement today:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

And what is good?

Thankfulness: Seeing what we have and being grateful, rather than seeing what’s lacking and grumbling.

Relationships: People over things. Family over making money. Spending face to face time, instead of wasting life away on screens.

Forgiveness: Choosing to walk away – to let it go – over choosing anger, hate, and bitterness. Over holding on to the hurtful past or mulling over painful memories.

Listening: To individual voices who are trying to yell among a resounding gong of voices trying to be heard. Be the ear in a world full of mouths.

Kindness: Above being “right”.

Humility: Is always the better way.

And above all LOVE. Which is more important than faith, tongues and knowledge!! (1 Corinthians 13).

Dear friends, “Do not be overcome by evil.

And surely now more than ever before, it feels like we are being overcome!!!

BUT overcome evil with good.”

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

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.

Authenticity · Cake Decorating · Faith

Learning through the Little Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

The result? A dry and dense cake.

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

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

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

Oh. My. Word.

The result was heavenly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes simple wisdom seems complicated in the moment.

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

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

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

Quick Thoughts

This post will be short, as I have so little time these days, but rest assured, I’m still writing. I’m just mostly working on my book and putting thoughts too private to share in my journal.

However, I’m in a good place these days.

Sometimes I worry about those who go silent online, so I just figured I should say something about my recent silence. This is just for a season… I really want to get my book finished.

To be honest, I have four books going at once. One is almost done. Two are half done. The fourth is just barely started. They are all so different from each other. They are geared to different audiences, age groups, and written for entirely different reasons. I do this so I can keep writing. So that when I’m in a magical world sort of mood, I can write. When I’m in a spiritual moment, I can write. When I am thinking of political and culturally relevant matters, I write. When my heart is heavy, I write. When I’m feeling silly, I write.

No matter how I feel, there’s a book to be written.

So, you can see why I’ve been quiet here lately. I apologize to those who’ve missed me. Regular posting and reading others blogs will resume in a month or two. I do miss those I’ve connected with on WordPress.

Keep writing, your words matter. And your perseverance inspires many. We need each other desperately. Thanks for sticking around.

Love Always,

Heather

Faith · Running

I’m so Glad I Ran

I didn’t want to run.

It was the first day in three weeks that I had a morning free. There was nothing on my schedule: Just me and my laptop, working on a book that has taken me far too long to edit.

But there it was… my reminder that rings three times a week, encouraging me to run.

So I did. I ran even though I would’ve rather done almost anything else. Give me five baskets full of laundry and I would’ve rather washed and neatly folded them today. I will scrub toilets. I will wipe snotty noses. Just don’t make me run.

Now before you wonder what is wrong with me, you must understand that I usually look forward to running, especially in summer when I can leave the confines of my treadmill and breathe the fresh air. I love to race down our gravel roads and see the world around me. Often, I see birds, deer or squirrels. I once saw a coyote from a distance in the field. I see sunsets and sunrises. I see golden fields and tall stalks of corn in perfectly straight rows. On those days, I love my home. I love my country. I love running.

But this time, I hated it.

I hated the way my knees hurt when I started moving. The stale basement air. The loud motor of the treadmill and the boring white wall that I stare at for minute after long minute.

But I need to run. I know all to well the depression that awaits when I begin to skip days. Running is a discipline and although it’s good for my body, it’s so much more than that. It reminds me of the other things that we often neglect because it’s just “too hard”. Devotions. Marriage. Parenting. Health. Church. Housework. Friendships.

So, I ran. But instead of focusing on the drywall in front of me, I put on music and I ended up weeping as I ran to these precious words by Hillsong Young & Free:

FIRST LOVE

VERSE 1
This is all I want
That the love I have for You
Doesn’t fade along with youth
Can You help with that

The reason that I ask
I’ve seen far too many friends
Walk away and not come back
I want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 1
I won’t wash away
Like branches in rain
I’d rather be kindling in the light

CHORUS 1
Set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

VERSE 2
This is all I pray
Over everything I ask
That my friends one day come back
Can You help with that

God I know You can
‘Cause the fire won’t mean a thing
If it ends right here with me
You want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 2
The river runs fast
But You wait at the banks
And pull us like driftwood from the wild

CHORUS 2
So set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

Amen Jesus. “I want to love you more as life goes on.” Father, this is my hearts desire for your people.

I’m so glad I ran. But what’s more, I’m so glad it turned into worship.