A Short Summer, A Long Bucket List and Three Half Finished Novels…

Summer is almost over.

Since when do I literally panic at those words?!? I have a real desire to move somewhere hot for September, October and November and live in denial that it will ever end.

Summer in Canada is ridiculously short, but like most things, that’s what makes it so irresistibly sweet. We bear through a bitter six months of winter – half hibernating, half shriveling away in the arctic air and then after being soaked in the rain for a month or two, we finally can enjoy SUMMER. Children burst out of their homes, not a minute to lose! Playgrounds which were eerily empty and abandoned for the frosty months come to life. White legs stampede to the beaches. We book our holidays months in advance, being sure to make the most of every single second.

For the past two years, my kids and I have made a summer bucket list. It’s nothing crazy, no big life changing events are on the list, but it’s about 25 activities long and therefore, always is a rush to complete.

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This time, however, it isn’t so much the weather change that I am dreading, or even failing to check off every box on our list; it’s the realization that summer is almost gone and with it another year of my failed goal: to finish my first novel.

Oh, by the way, I am writing a book.

Actually three.

Cue the awkward pause as people nod politely and change the subject…

And in many ways I don’t blame themPublishing a novel and making any sort of career out of it, never mind actually becoming a bestselling author is almost like a child claiming they’ll grow up to be a movie star…😏 “Mmmhmmm, sure sweetie, you do that!”

Yet I have had this desire from the moment I could write words on a page and form them into something resembling a sentence.

I remember writing my first story in grade 2. My peers wrote their opening words, the only ones that could possibly be used to start a story at that age: “Once upon a time…” And I knew even then that that didn’t cut it. Already, at age seven, I knew that wasn’t the way to write a book. Not a good one. I still remember my teacher’s surprise when she read my opening line: “The sun shone warmly on little Jessica’s face, her dark hair blowing in the summer breeze…”  I remember her reading it to the class, devouring my writing as if it were a rare exotic treat. I felt gifted, as if I were a prodigy of writing, sure to blow the rest of the world away with my cleverly thought out plots and well-structured sentences. Only to find out in my teens that I actually had a long way to go before I would ever publish my work.

But maybe that’s why I’ve always loved it. It’s challenging, and still relaxing for me. It takes effort, yet is in some ways rather effortless. Not to mention, it is also the only talent I ever remember being noticed for in school.

But the funny thing is, I’ve never finished a full novel.  I’ve had countless ideas, some that eventually fell rather flat, some that took off. Until, well… I got near the end.  Every single time I’ve come close to finishing, I give up.  Eventually, after years of sitting in an unopened file on my computer I click delete.

I don’t really know why. But it’s as if I fear what will happen if I finish. So I finish…then what?

Perhaps, it’s partly because I think it’s childish, this dream to write.  Because writing isn’t a real job, right? More like an eccentric hobby for the most lonely of introverts, those crazy ones, who’ve never quite given up their childish imagination.

But even scarier to me is the thought that keeps plaguing me: If I do in fact finish it, will anyone actually read my book? Will they have any interest? Or will I finally be publicly exposed for the wannabe writer that I really am? Should I just grow up already and let go of my childish dreams?

However this time, I am further than I’ve ever been before. In all three books. And even though I’ve been working on them for months (ok one of them I’ve been working on for years!), I feel like I actually really like my work. I am proud of the writing I’ve done. And I feel like others may like them as well.

So summer, please stay a little longer. Don’t hurry away. Let the days slow down and the workload pause. Let me finish the bucket list. Let me enjoy my kiddos. Let me finish my novels. Ok, maybe just one of them.

Because I really want to know how it ends, and, even more so, if others will enjoy reading it as much as I do.

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A Splash of Color

Many times depression has been explained to be like living in a world void of color, seeing in blacks, greys and whites. For many years, I took this as a metaphorical meaning and believed that depression was a state of emotional darkness in which one simply had to break through and choose to see the colors. I believed this for a huge part of my life and honestly still struggle with thinking this is either partly true or at least has a sliver of truth to it.

This is why it was devastating to me when my doctor diagnosed me with depression just one short month ago.

I sat in his office, surprised and yet not surprised. Numb, yet hopeful. Certain of which paths I was willing to take to healing and which paths I refused to go down.

Strangely, this seemed to me a familiar feeling, and I remembered a long time ago (yet not THAT long) when I sat in an office, feeling very fragile, alone and broken as a young teen. I remember clearly the vulnerability in the diagnosis: “You’re pregnant.”

These situations both similar, yet, different…

“Who…ME?!?” These things only happen to others. People who are careless. People with terrible lives. People with no support. But me?!? I am none of these things!

Yes. Me.

And as question after question was asked, denial was no longer an option.

Have I suffered trauma in the past few years?

Do I struggle with chronic fatigue?

Have you lost an interest in any of the things you love to do?

Do you ever resent your children?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night?

Have you recently wished you were dead or wanted to harm yourself?

Have you felt rejected or a lack of support from your loved ones?

Question after question was asked…and I wondered, has this doctor been reading my blog? Or truly is this how depression feels?

Depression for me isn’t seeing life in grey. It is a deep, pressing sadness that follows me everywhere. It invades my laughter and trickles into my sunshine. It is like a living in a grey world, but with a splash of color that always lasts too short…or always seems just out of reach.

But I see color, that I most definitely do. I see it in my garden, when little green seedlings start to peak out from underneath the wet soil. I see it on my four-year-old’s face as he happily trots along the yard, noticing every flower, every insect, every brightly coloured stone. I see it on my daughter when she rides on her horse like the wind. I see it in my friends, when we laugh and talk together. I see it so, SO clearly.

But it never quite reaches my heart.

When I’m in a social setting, I’m not out there putting on a fake smile – my smile is genuine. My eyes really do light up when I’m happy to see you. I really do find the lamest “dad jokes” funny. But I walk away from these things, pain heavy in my heart…still empty and sad. Unchanged. And I wonder, will life for me ever look the same as it did?

I think back to that first visit to the doctors: bright eyes, young skin, fresh youth. And I look in the mirror: tired eyes, loose skin – with faded purple lines, and an older, experienced face.

No – quite definitely, it will never be quite the same. I will grow through this. I will learn through this. I will be different after this.

Looking back to the ways I changed after that first doctors appointment, I smile, knowing that while the outside changes weren’t quite so pleasant…the inside ones, in my heart, were quite remarkable.

It is hopeful then, that this season may produce the same results.

Down Unfamiliar Paths

I’m not writing here much these days.

Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly I think it’s out of disappointment.

I started writing because of a dream I had one night: A dream of going back to school and becoming a journalist. A dream of doing what I’ve always loved – writing. At the time I had the dream, college was extremely unlikely and out of my reach. It actually still is.

So I started this blog.

The purpose of this blog?

-To grow in my ability to write.

-To gain feedback.

-To encourage others in the midst of trials.

-To speak about my pain to an unknown group of people, because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone.

I wrote to give a fresh perspective, a godly view.

But as I left Facebook and eventually Instagram, I slowly lost more and more feedback and followers. I lost people who actually cared about what I had to say and I wound up with a handful of people who would give small bits of feedback, mostly of whom were strangers. I literally know five people who read my blog. And although I have almost 100 followers, those numbers really mean nothing. Many of the wordpress writers have one goal in mind: To gain more followers and if liking my posts and following my blog gains them a follow, they do it.

So really, I thought I had left social media, only to find myself on another form of it.

Blogging has become for me a lonely place, a reminder of the way the world is changing and a painful reminder to me of how there are already too many writers in the world.

There’s no room for another one.

So…is this me saying “good-bye” to blogging?

Perhaps.

Or maybe just putting it aside for a while as I desperately try to find a use and a purpose for my love of writing. Not one that just gains another “like” on social media – I am SO tired of “likes”! I want to write in such a way that inspires people, challenges them and makes a positive difference in the world.

 

I realize I’m walking around rather blindly on this road of writing. I’m not quite sure exactly how one publishes a book, or how they even get it to the shelves. I don’t even know any writers. Do they have support? Do they have people who care about what they write? Or did they start off like me? With people around them who don’t care for books and no one to ask about these things…

So I travel this path, in the middle of writing a book, unsure if anything will come out of it or if it will too end up with my discouragement and lack of interest. Will anyone really want to read it? Will they be honest with me about it? Can I take their honesty? Or will it crush me? I don’t want to have people “pity-read” my book and I definitely don’t want those around me to feel obligated to pick it up. So to be brutally honest, I’m actually too embarrassed to even share it.

How exactly do you share something as personal as a book? Will anyone even care or will they just absently comment: “Oh, that’s nice!”

Now, there are definitely people who have sincerely encouraged me. And I want to thank you if you are one of them. If you are one who has truly read and enjoyed this blog, from the bottom of my heart: Thank-you. Your encouragement means a lot to me! More than you could possibly know. You are probably one of the few I have already mentioned my book to. And hey, maybe the next time I’m on here, I’ll be announcing my best-selling, award winning book 🙂

Or maybe I’ll simply announce that I’ve finished it.

Or maybe I’ll be sharing my sob story of my flop of a book.

More likely, I’ll just be back one day, ready to write again with a new passion for blogging.

I’m sure I’ll be back eventually.

That’s the thing about unfamiliar paths, you never really know what you will find at the end, until you try it out. 

Love always, Heather

Welcome Here

I’ve noticed that recently more people are stopping by…it’s great to have you! I’m glad you’ve decided to join me.

If you’re looking for a flashy person or a celebrity type figure, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place!

I’m quite an ordinary person: a Christain stay at home mother of five precious kiddos, a wife to an amazing man, a homeschooler, a cake decorator, and a wanna be writer, who lives where winter lasts FAR too long 🙂

By now, many of you will have noticed that my blog isn’t consistently about anything in particular. It doesn’t have a set format, theme or topic. My blog actually came about after a dream I had one night about becoming a writer. This dream stuck in my heart long after I woke up and I realized it was a God-given desire; one that I would pursue as God opened doors for me.

This space is simply meant to be an encouragement for the Christian, but more than that, it was meant to be an honest picture of how life looks.

Many times, I post about the positives in life: Mothering, Christianity, Homeschooling, Things God is teaching me…but other times you’ll notice that I post vague and somewhat depressing pieces: poems and entries that reflect the dark situations and feelings I struggle with. My reason for this isn’t so that I can get my readers to feel sorry for me, or even so that I can “vent”.

It’s because my desire in blogging is to be raw and honest, authentic and real. You can think of it sort of like reading a modern day Psalm: you will get glimpses of my joy, happiness and worship of God, but also pictures of struggles, hardships and pain. Too often it’s tempting to just post the good things, and leave the bad stuff for my journal entries, but this just isn’t real. It gives the false picture that after becoming a Christain, everything is just “great”.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we always walk through life showing others our good sides, rather we show people our true selves so that GOD gets the glory.

My prayer is everyone that visits this place will come to know that Christianity isn’t a neat picture of perfect people with put together lives, rather Christians are ordinary people, with sometimes messy lives.

The point is that whatever is going on in my life, whether good or bad, I will trust God. In my joys, I will praise him and in my hardships I will cling to him.

Either way we worship and trust him because we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

May you find this to be a safe place to be encouraged, to cry, to share, and above all, to gain a true perspective of how God works through ordinary, normal lives, like mine.

Welcome here 🙂

 

 

A Messy Christmas

I did it!

I got my first piece published in a newspaper!

And I almost didn’t even notice, because they got my name wrong on the front cover….but hidden away in the paper, there it was!

My first published story.

Now, I’m well aware that my small city paper is no New York Times, but it still feels like a first step. Like a milestone for writing. Almost exactly one year ago, I started this blog, not knowing where it would take me, not even planning to share it at first with anyone (thanks to my sister-in-law, Andrea’s encouragement I did) and now I’ve taken one more baby step. And it feels good.

This is my story, which I submitted into the local newspaper, The Carillon, for the Christmas writing contest. It placed third out of who knows how many entires (hopefully more than three, LOL).

A Messy Christmas by: Heather Bergen

This year it will be perfect! I thought, as I put the last few packages under the tree. Finally, this year I was going to be able to make Christmas look just a little bit like the Christmas’ we read about in all those heart-warming Christmas tales! Decorations hung around the house, most of them new. Mountains of presents are stacked underneath the sparkling tree, each carefully wrapped in brightly coloured paper, ribbons shining on top of them. The usually empty box that sits in the corner of our kitchen (my husband tells me it’s a refrigerator and that people put food in it) was packed so full of meats, cheeses, egg nog and other mouth-watering dishes that there’s no possible way my small army of children will ever finish it all.

Perfect.

I think back to our humble beginnings, just ten years earlier. It was our first Christmas together. I was with child at the tender age of seventeen, a child myself really. Not yet showing, but feeling so small – so lost in a world where everyone around me seemed to have their futures figured out. I couldn’t afford the paper to wrap a gift, never mind something worth giving…but that year the story of a young, unwed teenager, in a stable, pregnant with the Messiah reached my heart in a brand new way. My eyes twinkled with the youth that I possessed. The hope within me was so bright, so fresh…sweetly naive.

Fast forward one year. My eyes still young, but red from crying, stared out of the hospital window at the large, dancing snowflakes falling to the ground like big pieces of confetti. A tear slips down my cheek. How can this possibly be my sons first Christmas? We should have been starting our own traditions, setting up our first tree, maybe with one of those cute “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments hanging in the center. I should have been buying him new stuffed bears, musical mobiles or maybe rattles with flashing lights.

But instead, there is nothing.

We’ve been here, at the Children’s Hospital for over two months. No one is certain how much longer until he is better. None of the doctors even know what exactly is wrong. We’re waiting. Waiting for answers. Waiting to continue our lives together. Turning to face my baby boy, I hold out my hand to grasp the chubby little fingers on his. His large, blue eyes look back at me and once again he pulls away, expecting that I’m just looking for a finger to poke. My heart sinks. He no longer lets me hold his hand. Every couple hours, more blood is drawn from those tiny fingers to make sure that his levels are okay. The tips of them are covered with little cuts. I close my eyes and wonder: Will he make it? Will we ever walk out of these hospital doors and be a family again?

Another year passes! We’re finally together!! All four of us. My husband and our two children. My little boy, now a healthy eighteen-month old and his brand new baby sister! Each of them receives just a small toy. After all we’ve been through, there’s no money for much else. But we’re together this year and it’s all that matters. I’m filled with warmth and gratitude.

Year after year goes through my mind. Most of the time, we were just holding on week by week. Decor? There was no money for that. Fancy meals? Nor those. Just a small gift or two each. Nothing more. But finally! This was the year! We were in a new house, Ryan had a new job. I could pay for all the things on our lists and more! Surely this would be the most special week, the best Christmas ever!

My five children are tucked into their beds when I hear it…there’s no mistaking THAT sound. Someone is throwing up.

I groan.

Are you kidding me?!? Not tonight! Not THIS year! Not just one…but three little children are up all night. I spend Christmas Eve scrubbing rugs and doing laundry – load after load after LOAD! And then I get sick too. Throughout the whole week we all take our turns – a full six-day span before this family of seven is healthy again. The food in the fridge goes uneaten. the sweet oranges on the counter turn green. The new toys lie untouched in the corner, bringing little comfort to this sickly family. And once again bitter tears fall.

Why?!? It’s just not fair! Why did this have to ruin our first real Christmas?

Slowly a strange feeling comes over me and it dawned on me: What was the first real Christmas? It surely wasn’t neat and tidy, was it? And it dawned on me: This was the reason for Christmas. We are so weak and helpless, consumed by our own desires, and if our plans don’t work out, we cry and complain.

Yet Jesus.

He saw our pain, our helplessness, our sicknesses and our junk and he came. Not just to be a baby, but to show us that there’s so much more. He came to heal our hearts, and give us new desires that will never disappoint. He came to give us joy through the hard times. He came to die and forgive. Christmas wasn’t meant to be a neat, pretty picture. It was a messy painful story, full of people with ruined plans. But it is also glorious. It is all our hope.

With tears full of joy running down my face and a heart so full it could explode, I whispered, “Thank you Jesus, you never let me settle for all that Christmas fluff. You made sure that I got to experience the real Christmas once again…messiness and all!”

 

And The Years Flew By

This past summer I took a break from social media; from posting on my blog to Instagram to Facebook. I also deleted all the games on my phone. Here’s what I found: All my missing time.

Okay, so maybe all the extra time also had to do with taking a break from homeschooling, BUT, I had time to do my work, time to relax, time for devotions, and time to have friends over for dinner. I made a wedding cake, I learnt some Spanish, and I memorized 3 full chapters of the bible, plus some other verses as well! I had time to be with my kids; I taught them how to enjoy work and they taught me how fun being a mom can be. We got to make a summer bucket list together and we almost completed our whole list! We went camping. I hosted some out of town relatives for a couple weeks. I planted and actually took care of a garden.

Despite all of this, I still had time to sit and think! I thought about how much time my phone took of my life (I honestly never want to hear the full tally of the hours I’ve spent on it!) I thought about how I’m half done raising my oldest three kids. I thought about the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve done right. Mostly though, I thought about how short life is and what a gift our time on earth is.

Time is a gift. A precious gift. Each moment spent can never be gained back! This means every person who pauses to send me an encouraging text, or who takes time to have coffee with me is giving me a tremendous blessing: their time.

I suppose none of us in the early years of parenting really know what to do with the elderly who stop us with our new babies, gaze into their faces and dreamily say, “Enjoy this stage because the years fly by!” I mean, we think we know what they mean, and we nod in agreement, but in our hearts the days still sometimes crawl by; the endless checklists cause us to hustle about from morning until night and lets face it, the sleepless nights seem even longer. Sometimes we just think to ourselves: “I know it’s true, I do, but right now I just wish I was out of this stage.”

It reminds me of a lady at church who smiled at me, shifting in my seat uncomfortably at the end of my first pregnancy. Her little kids were crawling all over the pew around her and she said, “Just enjoy the peace while you still can!” Then about eight years later, that same lady watched me as I juggled my five kids around me trying in vain to keep them quiet and she looked at me with older, wiser eyes and said, “Enjoy the busyness, my kids don’t even want to sit with me anymore!” And I smiled to myself and thought about the irony of her statement.

Of course us humans do that, wish for the quiet when we’re busy and long for the busy when it’s quiet.

I’m turning 30 next year, about one third of my life is over…and I’m reminded of an old Psalm:

“Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks to our busy culture, rarely, if ever do we stop and take time to number our days. We pack our schedules full of sports, school, work, church activities, volunteering, social engagements, but when it’s all said and done, do we spend time on what matters in our lives?

When I’m old and most of my life is behind me, I want to be able to look back on the way I’ve spent my time and have no regrets. I want to pour more of my life into people, rather than things. Sometimes, it just takes a break from “things” to realize how much time we gave to them. Sometimes, it takes a break from the “likes” to realize how little we actually need them.

Oh that my generation would see the slap in the face it is to everyone around us when we continuously choose to pine away hours of time! We sit down face to face with each other, yet spend more time on our phones than with each other. It’s actually ridiculous, that one would prefer to stare at a screen over watching their baby’s first giggles, or joining them in picking that fresh bouquet of wildflowers. And our wasted time is a loss not only to our children, but also to the elderly who sit by themselves day after day, to our friends who struggle with depression yet feel completely alone because we are “too busy” to listen to them ourselves.

So why am I here, you may ask. If blogging and social media are such a huge waste of time, then why don’t I just stop complaining about it and delete it!

To be completely honest, I thought about it …but then I remembered something, something my generation often forgets about, a little something known as self control. Social Media, games, Netflix, blogs…these things aren’t the enemy. They aren’t bad. We don’t need to delete our accounts or block them out! Facebook and WordPress are nothing more than tools. If used wisely and correctly, they can help communication, they can keep us in touch with those we would forget otherwise. But if used incorrectly they become harmful and sometimes even deadly to us and our relationships.

My break from it all taught me how much I’ve been misusing these tools. My misuse of them led me to frustration in parenting, lack of energy and time and the false sense of acceptance from the likes I’ve received. Blogging helps me put my thoughts into words, it improves my writing skills…but I don’t need to spend any time watching the stats, because really, knowing how many people are reading my writing doesn’t help me improve. Facebook helps me to share moments of my life with others and to share in the joy of others special moments, but I don’t need to check it fifty times a day!

I’m grateful for my time off this summer. I’ll never regret it. It taught me an important lesson: I still have time to change.

Time that is ticking.

My years of raising children are literally flying by and I, for one, don’t want to miss one more precious second!

A Dream and a Blog

For years I’ve loved writing. Writing to me is a way that we take the experiences of the day, the emotions in our hearts, the thoughts in our minds and put them together into words, so that other people may get a picture of the world through our eyes.

When I was eight, it was short stories of unwanted children, which expressed a deep sadness and never ending feeling of unwantedness that I held in my heart. In my teens it was poems, which I wrote for my assignments, but they all held those deep, deep emotions and thoughts that we would never dare share with another. I shared my depression, suicidal thoughts and heartbreak, hidden behind the lives of fictional characters or flowery  words. In this, I discovered how writing helped me understand myself and that it actually helped me cope with my situations and feelings.

I had never thought of writing as a career choice, I was far more interested in the “lucrative careers” that the school system seemed to put on a pedestal. I always thought though, that someday, I would publish some of my poems or write a novel.

At the beginning of grade 12, when most of those grand decisions for our futures are made, I discovered I was pregnant. At the time, it didn’t feel like a crisis. As an easy-going seventeen year old, I just shrugged and thought, “Well I guess I know what my future holds, I’m going to be a mother!” And from that point on, I made all my decisions around this one question: What will be best for me and my child? I wanted to graduate, but it was no longer important to me. I didn’t see how it would be any use in my future, which was now motherhood. I decided to finish all my courses the first semester in school and to then work full time at my job so that I could recieve maternity leave and stay at home with my child for the first year of motherhood. After the first semester, I only needed one more credit to graduate, but I put my diploma out of my mind. I really had so many other things to focus on at that time.

As I wrestled through the next season of life, writing took a different role in my life… journaling. Occasionally I was asked to speak at an event about my teen pregnancy and then I would get to share my story, which was about the only place I shared my written work with others.

About three years later, I was pregnant with my third child and I had a dream. Now I’m not the kind of person to think that every dream means something or that I need to do what my dreams tell me to. If I did that I would most likely wake up and rob a bank, and then spend the following days running from cops, who would suddenly turn into the most terrifying bear you’ve ever seen in your life. Really. Most dreams make absolutely no sense. But I had a dream where I received my high school diploma. I woke up and wept. It seemed like a piece of my life that had been long forgotten, yet here, in the dark of the night I was crying about something I didn’t even know I had really cared about. And sitting alone in the dark, I decided right then and there that I was going to graduate before my next baby was born. The very next day I made the arrangements to earn my final credit. A few weeks before my third child made his arrival, I went to my old high school and my principal handed me my diploma.

For the next seven years I continued to  journal. And then, a few nights ago I had another dream. It held the same sense of loss that seemed to awaken a longing within me that I never knew I had. In my dream, I was going to college and majoring in journalism. When I woke up, I was reminded so clearly of the first time this had happened to me and how joyful I had been to receive my diploma. The ache I had felt before returned, so I immediately (in the middle of the night), got up and started looking into colleges nearby and what they had to offer. When it became clear to me that it would still be three years or so before I would be able to go back to school, I decided that I needed to sharpen up my writing skills while I waited. Thus, I decided to start this blog, even though I’ve never considered doing anything like this before. And I think the hardest part of starting a blog for me has been this introduction, since I much prefer to just write those things on my heart that seem to flow. But there’s my story on how this blog came to be. I hope you enjoy it.