About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

After months and months of the cold Manitoba winter and the heaviness of Covid restrictions, I have to say, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel fresh hope that hasn’t been there for a very long time.

I mean, it’s almost spring.

This week, the sun has been out, the birds are chirping and I’ve gotten to reconnect with many people who are very dear to my heart. As the current rules are still quite strict, it has been tricky navigating it all, but I think I have found a semblance of balance and sanity.

A couple days ago our provincial government proposed a few changes to the current restrictions. They say this is the biggest jump in freedoms since our circuit breaker lockdown started back in November. Here’s the list of those that would affect me (there’s a huge list of other proposals that make little to no difference in my current stage of life):

  • Only two designated households allowed to meet, both have to choose each other exclusively.
  • Only groups of ten (plus those living at the household) allowed outside on private residence.
  • Churches open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
  • Businesses, retail, restaurants open at 50% capacity.
  • Sports, swimming pools, libraries, recreation, day camps, gyms, etc. allowed to open in varying capacity.
  • Masks mandatory in all public buildings.

Seeing as one of our only ways to legally see people right now is outdoors, we’ve been having a LOT of outdoor hot tub nights and winter firesides, which I have to say is an entirely new concept to me. I live in Canada; firesides are for summer. However, as long as the wind isn’t strong and the temperatures are close to zero Celsius, I actually have to admit that it has all been quite lovely. This is being said by someone who despises winter. I wish I could live some place warm, by the ocean, but my family is here… So I put up with winter.

I like winter firesides.

Something about the crisp air, the smell of wood and smoke, the heat radiating off of all the faces I love. Pair it with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, it may just become a new hobby of mine. If sitting by a fire can count as a hobby. Maybe it’s because I just miss people so much that I’m willing to put up with the cold. Whatever the case, I have now gotten to visit with my sister’s family, our wonderful neighbors, three seperate groups of friends and our parents.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

On Monday the younger two boys and I were alone for the day and we got to go on a walk. It was so warm, sunny, and peaceful. I even brought my sunglasses. Afterward we came home and enjoyed tea together. Then the boys played outside in their snow castle.

On Tuesday, my youngest boy Emerson turned seven!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember there was one point that I felt like I was going to be pregnant or carrying around a carseat for the rest of my life. Now my baby hardly needs my help anymore! We were going to go celebrate by eating at a restaurant with the family for the first time since September… but unfortunately we were not allowed to sit together, as a family of seven, even though we live in the same house hold. Gah!! Moments like that make me wonder if the government is purposely trying to crush our businesses. I don’t seriously believing that of course, but please, tell me why a large family sitting together at a restaurant will increase the chances of Covid spread, more than a lot of smaller families sitting in the same restaurant?? There is no reasoning behind rules such as these. And whether people realize it or not, a lot of these rules discriminate against larger families. It is technically against regulations for our family to be invited anywhere (even an outdoor fireside), however, a family of five can be invited places. So I’ve been battling through some angry feelings toward the government, who seem to think life should totally stop forever. Over the past year, it was – in fact – their job to hire more workers, build more hospitals and equip our already overtasked healthcare system to handle an increase of patients. But, as always, they prefer to blame this virus on the average citizen that for months were doing their absolute best to follow all the rules, while trying to live life.

Manitoba, Canada has now been in CODE RED lockdown for 16 WEEKS now. We were told around thanksgiving that if we were “good” for another 3 to 4 weeks we could celebrate Christmas! Ha! We’ll be lucky if we’re legally allowed to all see our parents by Easter, which we also missed last year (at which point we were told “there’s always next Easter”). It’s blatant lies like this that make me wonder why anyone is fully trusting the government at this point.

Ahem…

Back to the birthday. We ending up making pizza at home, ate at home, watched a movie at home… well, you get the idea. I’m making it sound bad. We actually had a lot of fun together and ended off the evening with cake, a “hide-and-go-seek” in the dark game, followed by worship with the family. My boy was a trooper, he just smiled and said: “Well at least my birthday wasn’t cancelled!” But this mother’s heart hurt, even though I put on a brave face and smile for him.

Wednesday and Thursday were busy with homeschooling, more walks, a discouraging meeting that I would rather not get into, and a fireside (which got moved into our garage because of the cold and wind.)

Friday I hit a low.

A I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-bedroom-all-day kind of low.

It started as it usually does these days: with the announcement that our government is only making small changes and these will be in effect for 6 more weeks.

Six weeks. This means that code red will continue until April, even though my area now has ZERO cases. IT literally can’t get any better here. I cried. It’s just not fair. It’s not right. I feel completely helpless and hopeless that things will ever change. It’s like my free country has become a communist one. I haven’t seen my whole family together since October. The next time we will possibly be allowed to meet is in April… if they decide to lift restrictions… or, at this rate, more likely it will be June or July, outdoors.

It’s just not right.

Yet kids are allowed to go to day camp… some sports are allowed to resume. Work and school is allowed. But no still no church and still no family, the two most important things to me.

As the day went on, I spent the day asking God: “Why?”

Finally, in the afternoon, I felt his gentle spirit impress upon my heart that these trials are actually his mercy. I am not ready for any kind of persecution, especially not the kind that the Bible warns us will happen in the end days. Lots of things have been exposed in my life through this past year. I have a lot of anger, resentment, impatience and sometimes downright hate in my heart. He doesn’t want to leave me in that state! These things need to be exposed through hardship so that I can move forward and actually grow in kindness, gentleness, love, joy, patience and endurance.

Oh, I just wish I wasn’t so slow to learn! I wish I was more patient through it all!

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

So I press on: grateful for the hope of spring, prayerful about the current state of this world and certain of God’s goodness.

Canada · COVID-19 · Faith · Family

Good Surprises

“Oh great,” I thought, “More bad news to pass on to my already discouraged family.”

 It was a couple weeks into November 2020. I waited most of the day, dreading the thought of telling them that more restrictions were being made… once again. Upon hearing the news of schools being shut down again, my son burst into tears of frustration: “It’s like the month of bad surprises!” 

The thing is, he wasn’t wrong.

There were so many disappointments and we were all having an extremely difficult time navigating all of it. Our grandmother had died. Our family of seven had all gotten COVID-19. Schools were closed. Life was once again grinding to a halt. We were all stuck at home all the time. And this had just been the past month! Hadn’t we tried again and again to “make the best of it?” 

There was just nothing to look forward to anymore.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was tempted to wallow in my grief, but I’d been in that pit of depression before, a place so dark that life seems to fade into a black and white blur. It is in this desperate place that I called out to God: “Father, I need a plan to lift my family out of this. Please, give me the gift of creativity; ideas to bring joy to our family. I need something that will brighten our cold, dark winter nights, so that next few months aren’t just filled with disappointments for my kids.”

What about a month of good surprises?

The idea took root and began to grow.

Yes! That was it! We could, within the walls of our own home, create an atmosphere of anticipation each day of the month, with a new surprise to look forward to every evening. Sort of like a twist on the typical advent calendar, it would be a bit of work on my part, but, with proper planning I knew we could pull it off!

Now I was excited. As fast as I could, I grabbed my day planner and made a rough sketch of the month:

There were games nights, worship nights, and nights to “get out” and drive around, looking at Christmas lights or simply blessing others. There were activities for me (like ice cream sundae night) and some purely for the kids (games in the dark and “make up our own recipes” …as I shudder… SO. MUCH. SUGAR.)

By the time I had finished filling in the calendar, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was, in many ways, so simple – but I knew it would brighten our evenings. Here’s a list of a few of the “good surprises” our family enjoyed at home:

25 Good Surprises

1. We had a create our own recipes competition. Everyone in the family grabbed ingredients to make a small portion of their own creative treat! The evening ended with us rating each other’s creation on a scale of 1 – 10. First of all, my oldest son created the funniest recipe. He called it “Dr. D” – I’ll leave the ingredients to your imagination. (And not to brag or anything… but I won 😁)

2. Grabbing bags of popcorn, we got in the van for a tour of Christmas lights. Complete with Christmas dubstep music. It was a blast! Except for vacuuming up the popcorn from the backseats later on… not so fun.

3. One night we pulled out old home videos and watched them together. We had many laughs and my heart nearly burst when I watched the cute videos from their toddler years. So adorable! 🥰 Then each person wrote a note to a grandparent, thanking them for some of the fun memories we’ve had with them. (This ended up being one of my favourite evenings!)

4. Family games in the dark night. There’s nothing like running full speed into the wall as you get chased in the dark. These nights are sure to get everyone excited. If you’re like our family and like some added intensity, put on a soundtrack from Lord of the Rings and bingo, you’ll have kids so terrified that no one will want to venture into the basement. “Sardines” and “No Bears Out Tonight” are our favorite!

5. Skating on our backyard rink has been a highlight this winter. Our family is seven total, so we don’t make an even split for a team… almost makes me wish we had just one more… 😉Thawing our feet in the hot tub afterwards completed the fun.

6. We skipped a few days of school to go sledding at a hill nearby. Sometimes it was just us, but sometimes we met up with friends. The fresh air did us well.

7. Family worship night! Dad grabs a guitar, Isaiah a drum, Bella plays the piano and we sang our hearts out. There’s nothing quite like worship to lift a discouraged soul.

8. Christmas Coloring contest. Print out a Christmas picture to color and everyone colors their absolute best! Then we each pick our top two favourites and the one with the most votes win (Dad won this one!)

9. Family card or board game night. (Our current favorites are Dixit, Wizard, Jenga and Settlers of Catan)

10. A day in the wilderness with friends. Okay, this one creeped me out a bit. We were in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, off trail and our kids were running every where. It was a bit terrifying for me at first and I prayed they wouldn’t get lost. However, once we settled in and made a fire in a ravine I settled down. The kids took their sleds down random hills. Of course, we brought hot chocolate and hand warmers. The adults chatted and snuggled in our blankets around the fire. Snacks were passed around. The peace and stillness of the forest was amazing.

11. Facetime call nights with the grandparents or family. I’m getting tired of so much stuff online, but it is always wonderful to see the smiling faces of the people we love.

12. Make and decorate sugar cookies. Yes, kids always add far too much icing… and if you give them anything else to decorate with (smarties, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc) it gets WAY out of hand.

13. We went on a few outdoor walks, followed by hot chocolate and snacks of course.

14. Winter fireside night in our backyard. We actually started the fire with flint and steel! I felt like a true survivalist. And then I went inside to make hot chocolate with my electric kettle, because it’s too much work to boil water over a fire. LOL!

15. Ice cream sundae night! We had dozens of toppings to choose from and could each choose THREE ONLY because, let’s face it, my kids would’ve put on every topping if allowed. My favourite toppings are caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt!

16. Family movie night with popcorn and Nibs. We have now started doing a movie night each Friday and we take turns picking a movie. IF anyones complains about the choice, they miss their next turn to chose. Finally, no more arguing about what to watch!

17. Family snow ball fight. (Which ended in a real fight! Surprise, surprise.)

18. We played “Wink Murder” and “Mafia” which is quite morbid now that I think of it, but we have a great time guessing the murderer. It’s amazing how convincing some of our kids can be when they are claiming their “innocence”…

19. Decorate a gingerbread house. (More candy… there’s a theme here.)

20. We picked up pizza one night and dropped one off for our parents as well and had a quick front door visit.

21. Random acts of kindness night! We picked up 3 dozen donuts and delivered them to some of our friends/family we missed so we could see their faces for a bit. The kids came home so happy (but it was a lot of driving!)

22. Sleepover by the Christmas tree. Probably the best and worst thing ever. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your rest. We fell asleep listening to Adventures in Odyssey together around midnight. In the middle of the night the couch felt like I was sleeping on rocks. My back still hurts. And we all woke up at 5am. This will most likely never happen again.

23. On Christmas Day, my husband led us in some Christmas Carols on his guitar and then we read the Christmas Story. Afterwards we ate our traditional family Christmas brunch and opened presents.

24. We had a fancy candle light dinner one night. Complete with a four course meal, the fancy table cloth, and mandatory table manners (yes, with a family that has four boys, table manners is a special event!)

25. I planned a Minute to Win It Game Night. Again lots of work to put together, but it was so much fun! A few of our favourite games include “Mad Dog” and “Dizzy Mummy”. We also laughed pretty hard at “Junk in the Trunk”.

 Yes, it’s a month into 2021 and we’re still mostly at home. However, we’ve been doing our best to be at peace with where we’re at.

Best of all: I have seen the joy returning to our family.

They have something each day to look forward to and for that I pray with a thankful heart: “Jesus, THANK YOU, for the gift of creativity. You know it doesn’t come naturally to me… Thank you for bringing joy back into our home.”

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Creative Writing

Invisible Pain

An invisible destruction fills the land. Immeasurable pain; unseen, unheard.

“Where?” you ask, “Where? I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. I’m fine, tucked away. Hidden away in my rabbit hole. I don’t need anybody. Me and my own are fine, we’re safe. We’re comfortable.”

“As a matter of fact,” some even say, “I’ll be fine if things never go back to the way they were.”

Fine then, keep your illusion of safety.

You “heroes” at home, a self-given title for those consumed with the daily case count, lives lived in terror and fear. Not only for them, but also a good excuse for the selfish, for those whose only care is for their own. Those who still have a job, and a neat little family. Who keep telling themselves that they are doing the right thing: saving lives.

And maybe they are. At least, the ones that are visible to the eye.

But do you see the others? The thousands upon thousands of others? The billions of stories, unheard, and locked away. Those stories that are hidden in rows upon rows of neighbours and country-sides, shut off, behind closed doors?

While you watch your Netflix shows and get lost in an increasingly virtual world, while you listen to daily death counts for strangers, and support restrictions that have little to no effect on your own life, I will tell you what I see in reality. Their cries are getting louder and I can ignore their voices no longer. Theirs is an unheard reality of a side that has been, at times, unjustly labelled “covidiots” or “selfish” or “covid deniers.”

There is a reality that we have collectively begun to ignore: The reality that human suffering and pain exists beyond this virus.

This pain doesn’t neatly fit into the convenient narrative of ‘lockdown to stay safe’, so our world has simply shut it out.

We hear daily of the deaths, of the numerous cases, of the overwhelmed hospitals, and tired hospital staff. We’ve heard of the Covid long-haulers, who suffer for months with symptoms which have drained their youth. Their lives ruined. We’ve heard their pain and their pain caused a beautiful thing: Compassion.

We listened. We responded. We acted.

In the name of this very same compassion that was shown, can we now take a moment, just a moment, and listen to the stories of the unheard? The stories of the lives that have been hurt more by the measures to protect than the virus itself?

A brand new mother, what a beautiful thing. A new life to be celebrated. The little one, he has her nose and a dark head of hair. A precious little thing. Yet in her quiet house, she weeps with her child, forgotten by the world. A world that has gone on living without her: No baby showers. No visitors exclaiming over her new prize. Those experiences were stolen from her. No assistance with the enormous task set before her. No reprieve from the many changes that seem so new and foreign. Just one sleepless night after the next, no playgroups or outings. The only one to hold her child. Her makeup bag sits on the shelf, forgotten; objects of a past life that seems so very far away. The summer dress she bought a year ago hangs in her closet unworn. Who is she? She’s forgotten the woman she once was. Her husband leaves for work with a smile, and inwardly she resents him. His life goes on as always. What about hers?

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

A new widow weeps in grief. The man she committed herself to for nearly seventy years passed on alone. All alone in a hospital room that she was not allowed to enter. Her room, also, is in lockdown. She must go on alone. She must mourn alone, mourn that she was not able to be by his side in those final moments. Mourn that her life could end the same. Hour after lonely hour crawls by. If only, she could feel the support of her family and friends during this loss. He was a man who was loved dearly. A funeral of five. He deserved so much more. Shut off from the world, no one to see or hear or feel her pain. No one to hold her and say: this is not right.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

We’re saving lives, after all.

He worked at the cinema for twenty-two years. Then suddenly, without warning, his livelihood is gone. Now, what he worked at joyfully for all those years is classified in a category. A category labelled “non-essential” by those who ironically labelled themselves “essential”. Our world boasts equality, a tier system gone… how funny to find out that it was alive and well all along. All it took was tragedy to rear it’s ugly head. Is he important to the world? The smiles of his customers once told him he was, and his heart aches at the memories that his building held: those awkward first dates, a young teen scrapes his quarters together to pay for her popcorn. Crowds of Harry Potter enthusiasts, excitingly waiting hours in line, all dressed up in their costumes. An elderly couple shuffling slowly along hand-in-hand, to watch an age-old love story that couldn’t rival their own. For a time, hope remains that the season will end. Hope is a fragile thing. Soon it fades into a blur of endless government assistance checks, re-run Netflix shows, and unpaid bills. The bottle he once battled with calls to him, and he inclines. With churches gone, his support crumbled before his eyes. Family visits deemed illegal, he’s on his own. A dangerous thing for a recovering alcoholic. So he pours himself drink after drink, the only thing left to ease the pain.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

One year of school left. Just one short year before he becomes a man and enters the real world. At once, his future is snatched away as life closes down. Sent home to work, with no real support. Grades start slipping, as he mindlessly sits in front of his screen. A screen meant to teach him. Teach him what, exactly? Does it matter anymore? Home alone with his thoughts day after day, while his mom rushes to work and his dad leaves for the office. They have purpose, something to get up for. He doesn’t. Life on devices isn’t as easy as it seems. The web is dark. His thoughts torment him. Day after day, his friendships fade. The loneliness and boredom is unbearable. But the lack of purpose has stolen his future. Finally, he can’t take the pain any longer and in a heartbreaking act of desperation, he ends it all.

No one will notice anyways, he thinks, they’ve already forgotten I exist.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend they don’t exist.

Just four stories, out of millions. Human sacrifices, for a better cause. Shield your eyes, watch the News, try to ignore the reality of the other side of pain.

These restrictions are good. These restrictions are good?!?

History books will tell the tales, with perfect hindsight: What we did right – more likely -what we did wrong. Ever judging the actions and motives of a world that didn’t know better. But will they tell the stories? Will they reveal the true darkness and pain of the generation that lived when families were separated, when non-Covid deaths didn’t count, when love was redefined? Will we ever hear the stories?

Maybe one day.

But, in the meantime, let’s pretend they don’t exist.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

I admit I’ve been quieter this past month. It seems like all I think to write about is that “thing” we all seem stuck on, and quite simply, I’m just tired of talking about “it”.

But we’re approaching 2021, so I believe an update on my life is fitting.

Some exciting news: I’ve been asked to help out the families in our church by contributing regularly to the family ministry blog in the New Year.

Our church is going through some very difficult times, as are many, and I believe supporting families in this way is incredibly important now. Especially since we haven’t been allowed to meet in person much of 2020. As a result, most of my efforts in writing these days are being poured into future blog posts on the topics of parenting, families, leading our children, bringing them to Jesus, having joy in our homes, etc.

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

However, I’ll admit, emotionally I just feel drained with this.

How is one to support and encourage these young women over a Zoom call, when all they need is a morning out with other women and someone else to hold their baby for just a couple minutes?

How do you comfort someone from afar when they just need a hug and to be prayed over?

How do you assure these precious women that they can keep going and raise children in these uncertain times?

It’s so very difficult.

Are my long distance messages and those few words over video chats doing anything? Is it worth the effort? So as I approach the New Year I’m crying out to God for an olive branch; a small sign to see that this year of separation, of long distance relationships and of far too many Zoom calls is coming to an end.

I hate Zoom.

I wish I were bold enough to say that I would never use it again. But, then, I realize that God has used even Zoom in this troubling time.

A sad piece of news to end the year: My only remaining grandmother is now in the hospital.

And my heart mourns that I haven’t seen her for almost a year. A few months ago we started having weekly phone calls which I SO enjoyed. Our last call was rushed and I promised to call her soon.

Now she is isolated and I have no way to reach her; to tell her that I am praying for her. A full year of “protecting” her by staying away. Of keeping her “safe” in isolation.

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

It is with a cautious approach that I state these things. But if I were to be truly honest with those around me, I would say it simply: I disagree that we are protecting seniors in all this. I think it’s wrong that we are not giving them the choice whether they want to keep on seeing their loved ones in their final years on earth.

They should have that choice.

However pro choice seems to only apply to woman who want to end another’s life instead of sacrificing nine months of theirs. And the irony hits me that we’ve all had to put a “nine month” pause on in 2020 for the sake of “life” – A much more inconvenient and painful pause than any pregnancy, I may add.

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

But my voice seems to be unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. I have felt for years that care homes are no place for our beloved parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends.

They deserve to live with family.

I feel this as strongly as I feel orphans need a home and not an orphanage: A place to belong and be loved. A place to be apart of something bigger. To contribute and to be given much in return.

This year has opened my eyes up to this more than ever before. So much so, that I’m looking at my future path with a very different set of eyes: What do I need to do now, so that I can be in a place to care for the elderly in years to come?

What skills do I need to learn? Should I pursue a nursing degree? Are there legalities that would prevent me from doing this? What other obstacles may I face as I consider these things?

And so, I turn my face to my Father, and say:

“Lord, in 2021, may your will be done. In me. In your church. In the world. Our systems may fail us, many hearts may grow cold even as others are being purified through the trials, but my eyes will stay trained on you – the One who holds it all together. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God holds it all together… and because of that I have hope.

No, I don’t believe 2021 will hold all the relief from 2020 that so many are dreaming of. As a matter of fact, I think it may be an even harder year.

BUT if God is allowing this, I know it’s for a good reason.

Hearts are being revealed as they are: Innocence is all the more sweet. Kindness shines a bit brighter. Friendships are all the more precious in such dark times.

Humanity is so fragile that a simple virus could cause such calamity.

Many voices are screaming to be heard. People are watching the world events carefully, wondering what this is all coming to. Some think the world is forever changed. Others seem naively hopeful that by summer life will be back to normal. The “tolerant” are more intolerant than ever before, ready and more than willing to destroy anyone who thinks differently then they.

Evil seems more evil. Good seems more pure. The words of the book of Daniel come to mind: “…many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.

Faith

Taking It For Granted

2020 has been hard.

At times I have been in deep despair. Other times I’ve felt supernatural joy and peace that goes way beyond the bizarre circumstances around me.

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that previously I’ve taken so many things for granted. In the past, December always felt so busy and at times – chaotic. Much to my shame, the gatherings, christmas concerts, and banquets had often become a source of complaints throughout the month.

This December is different. It’s quiet. It’s restful. (Sometimes too quiet; often boringly restful.)

And I miss the things I used to grumble about.

The Things I Am Missing:

  • Gatherings with the people I love. Homes packed full with the joyful faces we know; the sound of laughter ringing through the air. Board games, gift exchanges, singing carols and hearing the Christmas story read aloud.
  • I miss sharing food. My favourite meals are when everyone brings a dish and we dig in buffet style, not worrying about who’s germs are on what spoon or how close we are standing to the next person in line. We are focused on what really matters: THE FOOD!
  • I miss Christmas shopping in stores! I miss slowly walking through the beautiful aisles, all lit up with lights and decorated for the season. I miss the Christmas music playing softly (or obnoxiously… haha) and being able to browse for the perfect gift; picking up one item and humming and hawing, before returning it to it’s place and resuming the search.
  • I miss the piano recitals and school concerts; the instruments of the children squeaking and squaking, and slightly out of tune. The smiles of the little performers, dressed in their Christmas best. The beauty of the effort put into the show. Mostly, I miss the hot chocolate and cookies after it all is over – and the lovely conversations among other parents, teachers and friends.

One could go on and on with lists of what we miss, but as I reflected upon these things today I realized: had these things not been taken from me this year, there is a very good chance that I would have been complaining about them.

So I began to think of other things that I still have, which I could someday be missing… is there more that I am taking for granted?

I hope not. But here are the things I hold dearly these days:

  1. Giggles in the morning, of happy children playing together while I lie in my bed.
  2. The sound of the hockey puck slamming against the boards as the kids enjoy the rink outside.
  3. The many family evenings we are having these days – yes, we may miss so many others, but we are together.
  4. The cheerful call my husband gives out: “I’m home!” when he returns from a day of work!
  5. The younger two boys, snuggling in close as I read them yet another chapter.
  6. Fridays and the excitement of “Pizza/Movie Night”.
  7. Waking up to the smell of vanilla/hazelnut coffee.
  8. Going to bed with a full belly.
  9. Evenings spent in the hot tub, staring up at a clear sky of beautiful stars.
  10. Wrapping paper and gifts to put under our homely, but brightly, decorated tree.
  11. Looking through my full cupboards in search of what to make for supper and realizing that there are always plenty of options.
  12. A cozy bed in a warm house.
  13. Pens, paper, journals, craft supplies, laptops, and the ability to create with these tools.
  14. Looking up anything I need to know on google.
  15. Brown packages arriving at my door from Amazon.
  16. Electricity and the internet (although I’m so tired of everything online these days, I DO have to admit… it’s still better than nothing!)
  17. Hearing the doorbell ring and seeing a familiar face at the door coming to drop something off.
  18. The word of God, which encourages me daily.
  19. The Holy Spirit, who guides me so gently, even when I’m grumpy and stubborn.
  20. Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year – Emmanuel – God with us.

May I not take one of these for granted, even as I wait for the things I miss to be restored.

Canada · COVID-19

A World Turned Upside Down

It’s been almost a month since I wrote about my negative COVID test and about the struggles of grief I was going through. A lot has happened since then, and I have started writing about it many times, only to stop and delete it all. Then I try again and after a few paragraphs I hit delete once more.

Is it writers block?

Is it overwhelm?

Or maybe, I’m just done trying to make sense of the chaos around me.

A few weeks back, I was sick with an unknown burning skin issue (which resolved itself without a diagnosis) but not before I went to get help because I began experiencing chest pains. So after isolating for over a week, I went to our local hospital (which at the time was completely overwhelmed with COVID patients) where I believe I caught COVID-19 on top of everything as a result.

Yes I wore a mask.

Yes I stayed 6 ft apart from others in the room.

But, nevertheless, I caught COVID-19.

I began showing symptoms of the dreaded coronavirus just two days after my negative test results came in, so I went in for a second test (although I already knew it’d be positive.) And it was.

My whole family got sick. All of us showed various symptoms, from fatigue, to fevers and body aches, to rashes, to sore eyes, to headaches, vomiting and coughs. It was bizarre in that sense. Most flus that go through our family, carry the same symptoms. With COVID-19, we reacted quite differently. We are now all recovered and done our isolation period.

But that’s not why I’m struggling to write.

My post titled “When COVID-19 Becomes Real” got a lot of views. A lot – meaning almost 5,000 views. My usual posts get about 45-75 views. The rare post gets 100-500. I even had our local news station do an interview with me.

Everyone seemed to want to hear my ER experience as “proof” of the seriousness of COVID and the need for restrictions.

However, my reason for writing that post wasn’t to “convince” anyone of anything. It was a personal account of my experience in an overwhelmed hospital and my sudden snap back to reality that COVID-19 wasn’t just a faraway problem in some other place as it has felt like for so long.

It is here and it is real.

I saw overwhelmed staff. I saw patients getting transferred. I saw a full waiting room of many people who had been waiting for hours without anyone to help them.

So what do I think about all this?

COVID-19 is complicated.

Yet we all talk as if we know the answers. I hear strong opinions from just about everyone and I’m tired of the division. Seriously, can we not just work together to beat this thing??

Are extreme restrictions harmful? Absolutely.

Are some restrictions necessary to keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed? Yes, I believe they are.

But here we have the great divide.

Some say: “Let the virus rip through… People will die, just rip off the bandaid and get it over with.”

Others: “Lockdown everything for as long as it takes.”

Is there really no middle ground here?

Listen, NO ONE wants people to die from COVID-19. And NO ONE is happy about losing our freedoms.

Restrictions in Manitoba, Canada have gotten really bad. Life is not great; it’s actually very hard. The rules are stifling. They take much of the joy out of our days. I absolutely hate them.

– No gatherings are allowed, not even one person allowed to visit us. This includes even outdoor meetings at a person’s residence. Christmas is no exception.

– Churches are closed.

– Our school division is back to distance learning. Which means 6+ hours of screens for my kids A DAY.

– Parks, restaurants, libraries, and non essential businesses are closed.

– Masks are mandatory inside every building.

– Even buying non essential items in store is forbidden.

These rules were discussed and made by people who regularly interact with others, because they have “essential” jobs (side note…Can you imagine being told that your livelihood is unnecessary to the world??) and do not really understand the immense pain that these restrictions are causing so many. For those who aren’t working, whether they’ve lost their jobs because they are deemed “unessential” or whether they are seniors, or stay-at-home moms, such as myself, this isolation is unbearable.

We were made to be with people.

What the working leaders and doctors don’t understand is “unnecessary socializing” – seen by them as “selfish” and “short-sighted” is actually EXTREMELY NECESSARY for those who don’t work outside of the home.

In fact, solitary confinement exceeding 15 days is considered by the United Nations to be a form of torture.

Numerous studies have been done on this very subject. According to Wikipedia: “Research indicates that the psychological effects of solitary confinement may encompass “anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis.” A main issue with isolating prisoners who are known to have mental illnesses is that it prevents the inmates from ever possibly recovering. Instead, many “mentally ill prisoners decompensate in isolation, requiring crisis care or psychiatric hospitalization.”

For many, work is a social interaction.

My husband was at home for two weeks while we had Covid. During those long days, he said time had stopped for him. He grew more withdrawn. I could see he was withering. After two weeks of this he seemed almost like a different person.

Last week he was clear to go back to work and he was grinning ear to ear. He could leave and interact with co-workers again. He said that little interactions with others kept him going. Life seemed to move at a faster pace again.

What’s my point? He was only home for two weeks.

I’ve been home for five.

How do you think I feel?

Yet, you may say, “How can you feel this way? Didn’t your last post say that you are now taking this seriously? Didn’t you say that you now understand the restrictions? Didn’t you say there was a good reason for them?”

Yes, I did.

But understanding the heart behind these rules and regulations, doesn’t make me like them or even agree with them all. It doesn’t magically make all the answers and solutions clear. It doesn’t make me feel any less lonely or frustrated.

It doesn’t stop the feelings that this isn’t a world I want to live in anymore.

I don’t want to write this post, because admitting the truth scares me: I just don’t know what’s right anymore.

Why are so many people pretending that they know the way?

We got mildly sick with Covid-19. Most people I know who’ve gotten it have been mildly sick.

Is it worth all this pain to shut everything down?

BUT… I also know a few who have died that were previously healthy and could’ve lived many more years… and it breaks my heart. They could still be alive.

I’ve heard of the stress of nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers – some who I know personally – who are working tirelessly to take care of the sick. Their frustration and tears are real.

So, if I don’t have the answers, why am I writing?

What am I trying to say?

Right now, really extreme decisions are being made with ONLY one thing being considered: How to keep COVID-19 numbers down.

How did we get to this point? Are there not so many things to consider other than just the numbers in a pandemic?

– What about the alarming rate of declining mental health in our most vulnerable people?

-How about the millions of deaths caused not by COVID-19, but directly as a result of restrictionsThe World Food Programme has warned that an extra 265 million people could be at risk of starvation because of the restrictions.

That’s 263.5 MILLON MORE people STARVING right now than those who’ve died of COVID.

Why are we not talking about those staggering numbers? And since when have we cared about these types of numbers? Since they’ve been shoved in our faces headline after headline? If we really cared about the lives of the vulnerable, why didn’t we stop the world before to help the EIGHT AND A HALF MILLION people who’ve starved to death this year alone?

Is it because this new problem hits a little too close to home??

– What about suicide deaths or drug overdoses?

– What about many, many small businesses that will not recover?

– How about the billions of dollars that the Canadian government has spent on the pandemic… but won’t disclose where it has gone?

– Or what about the complete disregard for children that live in abusive home environments where they are forced to now quarantine – possibility alone and abused without being seen or heard?

– Or what about completely irresponsible distance learning program which sets up students as young as grade 7 to be online and unsupervised at home, while the amount of children involved in online trafficking has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Not to mention the devastating porn addictions in young children who are being left alone for hours on these devices.

These are valid questions, but they are all being drowned out in the world’s chant of insanity: “COVID-19! COVID-19! COVID-19”

Tell me why.

Why don’t these other things matter?

Why are these hundreds of millions or even billions of other voices silenced?

Please, tell me. Why is COVID now the only thing that matters now?? Does anyone know?

All this pain is not adding up.

I’ll wait for my answers. You’ll know where to find me.

Locked up in my fancy, lonely, prison… called home.

Canada · Christmas · COVID-19

The Things I Cry Over

One thing that has shocked me lately are my tears.

They just don’t make sense.

This week I have gone through alot. We all have. Most people either know someone sick, hospitalized or dead from COVID-19. Or someone about to crack mentally from all the restrictions. We are all maxed out: Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Even the kids.

I have gotten no answers about my health, although right now my pain is almost gone. I literally checked for my COVID-19 test results every minute for three days straight until at last the news came:

Yay! My family is free to go to school and work again. Though I am still stuck home because I have nothing essential to do outside of the house.

Now, one would think it not possible, but here in Manitoba further restrictions have been made. Deaths are happening everyday and so I understand why… but I still don’t agree with it all.

Not being allowed to have one person over? Or shop for Christmas gifts. Not being able to go to my dear husband’s grandma’s funeral (not even a drive by funeral) because they are restricted to five people?

My husband’s sweet grandma died this week (not from COVID), but though there was pain in my heart, not one tear fell. Later that day, we tried to set up the Christmas tree. It looked ugly and the lights were broken.

I bawled.

Why?

I chatted with some friends, and they shared some very painful struggles. Unimaginable situations are happening all around the world. Really hard things. Mental health issues, financial strain, separation from loved ones, marriage struggles.

Yet no tears fell.

This morning our coffee maker broke. I wept as if I lost a dear friend.

Why is it that I am crying over insignificant, replaceable, material things – but my tears don’t come over the things that really break my heart?

I think, perhaps, because it’s easier.

My mind knows the problem when the Christmas tree lights don’t work. What it doesn’t know, is how to sort out all my feelings with the sickness, the stress and the world being shut down.

Holidays are approaching, but Christmas is the furthest thing from my mind. All gatherings have been cancelled. There will be no Christmas programs, or sleigh rides. Local stores are no longer allowed to sell non-essential goods, for we are trying to keep shopping numbers down. So no walking through the isles with Christmas music in the background, shopping for presents.

We have no plans for the foreseeable future. Nothing to look forward to. The day to day toil of trying to help my kids process their complicated emotions, while pushing my own aside has me on edge.

I’m stuck at home, when I’d rather be anywhere else.

It all doesn’t make sense.

But a broken coffee maker, that my mind can grasp.

I’m sure the professionals out there would have a highly sophisticated term or explanation for these random tears of mine.

I just call it grief.

COVID-19

When COVID-19 becomes Real

In the current crisis, I’ll admit, I’ve been sceptical about what is true and what is not.

I’ve been searching for truth and it seems on either side it has been skewed… either by angry and fearful people wanting to shut down the world and hide away until COVID-19 “disappears” or the other extreme of anti maskers calling this a “plandemic” thinking that this is some crazy power grab by the government.

Well as one who enjoys my freedoms, and as one who hates wearing masks, and who also cares about the economy – especially small businesses- I have to share this, I just have to. For there are far too many people are taking one side or the other – and now I see both.

COVID-19 is real.

And those who think this is nothing, need to see what I just saw. Not to stir up fear, for the media is doing a fine job of that, but to be snapped back to reality: that this is actually serious. And it’s not just affecting the elderly.

I’m not afraid of it but last night, it personally affected me and I got a tiny glimpse into the way it affects the healthcare system when people don’t mind the rules.

Our area has been relaxed, it has felt almost normal compared to the rest of the world and in many ways, it was a breath of fresh air to me. Until now.

We have hit code red in Manitoba, and we entered the “circuit breaker” lockdown on Thursday. I disagreed with the extreme measures that were being taken. I thought that the people should be careful and reasonable, but that the government had no place to tell us that we couldn’t have social gatherings. I still don’t like it… but now I do see why it’s being done. On top of the outbreak in Manitoba, I live in a city with a small town feel and COVID-19 has hit unsustainable numbers. We currently have 2X the rate of COVID than Winnipeg does. And our hospital can’t handle it.

Enter my sudden illness. 

Not Covid-19, but something else, and possibly more serious for someone in their early 30s. I do not see doctors easily. In fact, as I called in for my appointment (because clinics are shut down), I realized that I hadn’t been seen for almost 3 years now. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been to the emergency room for myself. After 3 different calls, and 3 different opinions later, I decided to go in to emergency to get checked out because two of the nurses had stated emphatically that it was essential I get seen ASAP. Also I am in a lot of pain.

So I entered the ER and I have never seen, in Canada, what I saw yesterday. There were so many, many SICK people, too many to be seen. Some had been there for 8 hours or more, in the waiting room, because all the beds were full. I’m sure at the sound of the hacking in the room and the feverish faces that half of them had Covid-19. (For the first time ever, I was glad for my mask.) And no, not all of them were elderly. At least two of them were 50 or younger. 

After sitting there for THREE HOURS, I finally got checked in by a nurse. In the meantime, no one from the waiting room had gotten called in to see a doctor, because the rooms were full. A few ambulances came – bringing in more patients struggling breathe and obviously those people were getting care, but it looked like they were the only ones being seen. It suddenly became clear to me that I would be sitting there all night unless I was bad enough to need an ambulance myself. And that’s when I realized that we are in trouble.

The one hero nurse that was working at the front desk looked so tired. I heard her say that they were severely understaffed and that it was only getting worse each day. People were anxious, people were complaining, one man was moaning in the corner from the moment I came in until I left, never getting seen.

That’s right, I left. 

After four hours I got bloodwork done and still had not seen a doctor, not even one walking around. I was in too much pain to sit in a chair any longer and I personally didn’t want to catch COVID on top of my other issues, so I got up and told them to call me with the results from my tests, then hobbled out. I decided that if I got too bad in the night, we would just have to go in by ambulance because that is the only way I would be getting seen.

This, my friends, is why we are isolating. So that our healthcare workers don’t burn out. So that the system doesn’t fail. Because, yeah, maybe only the weak and elderly are dying from Covid-19, and maybe to the young and healthy that doesn’t matter. But I am young (32) and I was healthy, and now I need to be seen by a doctor but I can’t. Because the hospitals are full. So please, don’t wait until your area gets this bad. There is a reason for the restrictions. I hate them. I hate this whole situation. But I’m now taking this seriously… maybe too late.

To our healthcare workers: I’m praying for you. Thank you for all you are doing. Please keep going, we need you.
COVID-19

A Serious Wound

The pain hurt.

By not as much as the bystanders. Those who looked on and saw, but did not act. They saw the tears, they witnessed what was happening. But turned away.

And. Did. Nothing.

The wounds, I’m told, could’ve been worse

“…you’ll just make things worse by continually bringing this up. Suck it up and move on for the greater good. That was the “helpful” counsel received. With those words, I was forced to go on my way. I slipped on my mask, too heavy to bear.

The pain hurt.

But to not be taken seriously, that was what killed me.

There are three things that prompted my short story above:

  • Current world events surrounding COVID-19 restrictions and blindspots.
  • A scripture passage I read in Jeremiah.
  • About a dozen people I’ve talked to who’ve suffered quietly for way too long, unheard and silenced.

A few years ago, I spoke to a woman who had been a victim of sexual abuse throughout her childhood. As we talked it became clear that she had amazingly moved past the tragedy and even forgiven her perpetrator. However, there was still so much anger she felt towards her past church and certain family members that I was surprised to see, considering her ability to forgive this other man.

When I asked her about why she thought that she had been able to forgive this man who did unspeakable things to her, but couldn’t forgive the people who had done nothing, this was her response:

In the world we come to expect bad things from bad people. It’s just broken like that. But when good people, people you love and trust, stand by and let evil happen – that can completely ruin you forever.”

When good people are indifferent to evil, the world loses hope.

We seem to understand mental health today better than ever before. And yet never before has our world been so indifferent and unsympathetic to this REAL pain of loneliness many are facing. These stories are going unheard in the media’s push to focus on COVID-19.

Never before have we tried so valiantly to brush it aside. The mental health crisis and current loneliness people are feeling right now are real issues. IMPORTANT ISSUES. Issues, that if not addressed, may become fatal without us even noticing it.

Yet, I sometimes wonder if our world has forgotten this. In our struggle to “stay alive” and keep as many vulnerable people safe from Covid-19 as possible, we’ve denied ourselves of a human NEED: social interaction.

The anger and frustration many people are feeling isn’t just from being “entitled, selfish humans” but a direct result of denying themselves of a basic human need when they could not see any difference being made.

We shut down everything for months. We were told it was to be temporary, to “flatten the curve”.

And we did.

The curve not only flattened, it plummeted. In fact for a whole month in my area there were “zero” cases. That was after four months of shut down.

But life can’t stay shut down forever. We know this, don’t we??

Do we?

Fast forward eight months later, I rarely see anyone out and about without a mask anymore. Church isn’t even church, we stick to our own family and seem miles away from anyone else. Yet cases continue to rise and one begins to wonder: Are all our efforts even doing anything?

Those who’ve lived in isolation, continually glued to their screens are still blaming it all on “careless” people, becoming hard and judgemental. Reporting neighbours with visitors. Harshly judging others without hearing the story behind these gatherings.

Can we consider this for a second… That not since World War II have people been so willing to call in their neighbours for having company over?

Who are we becoming? What are we doing?

I was all on board with closing down businesses and restaurants back in spring, willingly going along with the plan to “flatten the curve.” Orders to shut down gatherings and religious ceremonies were obeyed wholeheartedly. Closing schools for “three weeks” which turned into “three months” which morphed into summer vacation, we all agreed and followed – without question.

Even with wearing masks inside buildings, most people obeyed, though some did question the usefulness of them. We listened because we could see the heart behind this and knew it was the government doing their best to take steps to not overwhelm our healthcare system.

These were important things.

But calling on citizens to tell on their neighbours for having people down? That is a line I am unwilling to cross.

This is a call from the government that is absolutely alarming to me, one that we should all take a serious look at. If we are indeed, so “concerned”, Why not ask our neighbors about the reason for their gathering? Why not send a text?

Because those telling on others are cowards.

They’re cowards! It’s easy to anonymously “call-in” and tell. But to have an awkward conversation to get the full story, that’s hard! It takes effort.

We have equated normal social interaction, with willingly bringing harm on those around us and it cannot be treated the same.

If a person meets with a friend to encourage them and unknowingly passes on Covid… and say, this friend dies as a result, are we seriously equating that with murder?

Most would say absolutely not!

Yet the government of Manitoba is coming out with a commercial that is saying just that. They have taken a man’s real life story and exploited him to spread a message of fear. He lived a normal life and as a result had a loved one die of COVID-19 and they are making an advertisement out of it.

This young man was NOT responsible for the death of his grandmother.

COVID-19 was.

Viruses are out of our control. We have never been able to control a virus before and this is the first our world has literally believed we could outsmart a virus.

This illusion of control is killing us! It’s ruining us. It’s tearing apart families and neighbors.

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14

We have some very lonely people and some very serious wounds we are facing. It’s time we address them instead of shaming people and ignoring their needs. I believe it’s only a matter of time with all the pent up anger and division before we may face riots and civil war that will look much worse than any virus.

Living behind plexiglass barriers, masks and meeting on FaceTime chats for a year isn’t normal.

Let’s not try to pretend as if it is.

Autumn · Faith

Good News

Good news… An oxymoron you say?

COVID-19. First wave. Second wave. Masks. No masks. Crazy cons/republicans. Ridiculous libs/democrats. November Election… Social distancing, physical distancing. Donald Trump catches the virus he downplayed for months while the reporter sharks circle gleefully and mock. Conspiracy? Karma?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here’s some news: I. Am. So. Done.

…With the depressing world news that is.

But MY life is definitely full of good news. Which I will share, because we all need something good to read once in a while.

First of all, it’s AUTUMN! The most gorgeous, perfect season that ever existed!!

It’s warm.

It’s cool.

The air smells of sweet, dry leaves. The hot tub is used every evening. There have been many firesides with friends at my side and a cup of hot coffee in hand. I do not know how long this season will last, but I do not ask.

It is enough that I have today.

My son’s birthday is today. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. And I LOVE birthdays. We are definitely making them extra special this year.

Dallas is now 9 years old!
Tomorrow she’s 13… we now have TWO teens in the house.

Also our basement was just finished last week and I am positively THRILLED with everything from finally having a pantry, to the cozy rug and beautiful natural woodwork.

Also, in Canada we celebrate thanksgiving next weekend. I LOVE thanksgiving. It happens to be my favourite holiday. Not because of the food (though I love the food) or the gatherings (though I love those too, mainly because of the food 😆)… I simply love it because it is the one holiday we still celebrate just to be grateful for nothing in particular.

Or for everything that we usually take for granted. Like our families. Or our country. Like our homes and the food we have to eat. Or the friends we have. Or our beautiful planet and the God who created it all for us to experience and enjoy.

Gratefulness. Contentment. Thanksgiving.

These are the things that have saved me from spiraling into a very deep pit when times have been hard.

And times have been hard…

But I’ve been through worse. And sometimes we just have to remember what we still have and enjoy it before we become so overcome by the bad that we lose the ability to see the good at all.

The good:

The blessings:

The downright amazing, silly, joyful stuff:

Remember to feed your mind some good news once in a while.

Because life’s too short to get stuck in the bad.