Who Am I?

Who Am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My current selection is Bonhoeffer.

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

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

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

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

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

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A Life Worthy of His Calling

We all have a Choice.

Some would see this as radical Christianity, it isn’t. It’s Christianity as taught in the Bible.

The Choice is simple: To live and die by the flesh, or live and find peace by the Spirit. 

The flesh and the spirit are something we are all born with. They do not work in sync with each other because of the fall.

The flesh wants comfort, pleasure and ease. It is always thinking about itself and how to fulfill its own desires.

The Spirit simply wants to do the will of God.

The flesh hates God’s will – for it is often difficult, self-sacrificing, messy and painful. It requires humility, absolute obedience and above all, TRUST in the Father. It requires faith that moves without seeing the future. This is living in the spirit.

When we are born again, or saved, we receive God’s own Spirit in our hearts. Yet, somehow, we still have to choose daily… which will I follow? The comfortable flesh? Or the somewhat uncomfortable, yet deeply- rewarding Spirit?

There are many Christians who love the thought of this spirit-led life. They watch all the faith building movies and love to read stories of others who have walked before them. Stories of courageous men and woman who have left comfortable lives to walk dangerous paths, who’ve witnessed to drug lords, who’ve stood before unreached villages and people groups; people who have been mistreated, tortured and martyred. They love to get their emotions stirred, to hear about God’s mighty hand in the lives of others.

Yet…never once do they step out of their own comfortable homes and take hold of this lifestyle for themselves. It doesn’t have to look the same, maybe it looks differently in your life… Sharing Jesus with your coworkers. Having unbelieving neighbours over for dinner. Striking up conversation with a discouraged stranger. Fostering a child who needs a loving home. Stopping and praying for the beggar. Yet although these things are possible for any one of us to do, most Christians simply aren’t doing them. They are far too comfortable in their own lives to look outside and see the needs around them.

A Christian who is inspired by the faith of others but is unwilling to go out and walk by the same faith themselves is a Christian who is still living in the flesh.

Reading a book about martyrs no more makes you a saint, then watching “Captain America” makes you a superhero.

Walking in the spirit requires action and faith of the most difficult kind: A kind that gets out of the pews to walk the broken streets.

We have been given everything we need to live the spirit-led life. The question is, are we willing?

Don’t Forget the Good

This is a repost, but today I thought it was an important reminder for me to stop and see the good in others.

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures.

But then there was this one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me sniffing back tears and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

 

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me.

What can I say? They’re kids…and there’s five of them.

BUT then, I read this and step back to actually see my children. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am.

And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them one morning asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good.

They are GOOD kids.

They are obedient, sweet, unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, forgetting that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out.

In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine. 

Mental Health: Are We Choosing our Own Chaos?

I don’t do random.

If I start something new, it almost always has a purpose. Sometimes the roads I travel start with a purpose but only lead to a dead end, or they get so rocky and dangerous that I turn around.

But I never just carelessly walk down random paths. I’m far too predictable, to safe, to orderly for risky adventures. However, I have to admit that I always seem to find myself on these precarious streets…

Like the time I chose to keep my baby at the age of seventeen. Or when I chose to get married before I graduated. A few months later, I chose to pack up a bag and live at the hospital while my baby boy suffered for almost a year, before witnessing God’s amazing healing hand.

I chose to finish my high school diploma with 3 kids under 3, even though my body begged for extra rest and I had no desire to do homework when they were finally sleeping at night.

Later, I chose the lonely road of homeschooling, though I’m not a great teacher and I feel unqualified.

I chose to leave a church full of friends and family that I had attended since my childhood to help start a church that ended up being the most painful and wounding experience of my life so far. I also chose to walk in forgiveness and healing, believing the best of people.

We left a job my husband loved, to buy into a company and build it into something, which has been painfully difficult.

And my newest path is the choice to send my five beloved children to public school next year.

I wish I could see the future but I can’t, so I try to walk as close as I can beside the only one I know who does: my Heavenly Father. He’s known by so many to be a rock. A shelter in the storm. The hiding place. He’s a foundation. He is a strong tower. Our refuge in times of trouble.

That is my God.

The choices above may seem difficult, but no matter how those around me viewed them, they all brought a sense of peace and although there has been hardships and inner turmoil around me almost constantly, I rarely have felt that sense of chaos within me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have felt inner turmoil. In the past I felt a lot of it while dealing with depression and anxiety. In fact this month I’ve been feeling a lot of it.

I can tell almost immediately when I’m in “overwhelm” because I become unable to slow down and just be. My downtime moments are filled with distractions.

This is why I feel like having a daily time of devotions and reflection is so important. Other than connecting with God, if I wasn’t used to quieting myself nothing would seem wrong! I would feel anxious and upset, but I wouldn’t realize it until panic attacks and anxiety would start kicking in.

However now I can tell things are wrong just by assessing my quiet times. I just want to distract myself! Turn on the Netflix. Get out the iPhone. Scroll through the news articles!

There’s no desire to reflect or think about my own personal life and the “whys” or the reasons for my behaviours.

This is overwhelm: Avoiding reality. Avoiding the hard questions. Avoiding true connections. This leads to small talk, which leads to shallow and unfulfilling relationships.

It’s a constant disconnected feeling and general discontentment in life.

Sound familiar? This constant state of busyness and distraction are common place in our world, but should not be common place in the Christian life. It feels weird when I get like this because I’m not used to it. It’s like running in a random direction just for the sake of running.

Busyness is often like that, isn’t it?

We sign up for this and commit to that, not having a reason for it but simply because that’s the way the rest of the crowd is headed. It feels wrong to turn off onto a more lonely (albeit simpler) road. But in my experience that’s the path that usually brings the most meaning and peace.

Not that important lessons aren’t learned on the main roads…but with high traffic comes stress, chaos and accidents.

This is where quieting ourselves and learning to ask the hard questions becomes so important. Without reflection, life becomes too difficult to navigate so we instead turn to distracting ourselves from the busyness which leaves us disconnected with our own emotional state. Cue the sleeping drugs, anti anxiety and depression meds that studies say about 1 in 6 Americans are now dependent on.

1 in 6!! Let that sink in for a moment!

No I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to take medicine for mental health issues. Not at all! There are many legitimate imbalances in the human brain that require medical intervention. But do we really believe that 1 in 6 people need to be on meds? Or is there something else going on that we’re not willing to face?

These are uncomfortable questions and thoughts, I know. Necessary ones though.

Are we willing to face them?

Am I?

 

Individuality

I remember learning to finally solve the Rubik’s Cube a couple years ago. Accomplishment and pride surged through my veins!!!

…Until I saw a YouTube video of a six year old boy solving three of them at a time while juggling.

Ugh.

Suddenly my “super accomplishment” seemed super lame! I guess I’ll have to find some other way to fame.

Generally, we don’t like it when others are better at something than we are. Ok I’ll speak for myself here: I don’t like being second best.

It’s kind of strange in a way, to be so insecure that when someone else succeeds, we instinctively feel inferior. As if their success has anything to do with our failures.

But it’s so common isn’t it? Friendships and families are often ruined because of jealousy and comparisons. It starts early on in childhood, this isn’t something that is learned or taught, in fact, one of the most natural reactions children have when they see their sibling with a new toy or a candy is the phrase: “No fair!!”

Overtime this attitude is masked in more “mature” and adult sounding complaints such as “I always get the short end of the stick” or “How come nothing good ever happens to me?” Or “Jimmy always gets all the promotions!” No one mentions Jimmy’s two failed marriages or the fact that his adult kids won’t speak to him. We just see his big house and fancy car. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?

Deep down most would acknowledge that such comparisons are untrue, and that we all have experienced at least some good fortune in life. We’d admit that sure, while that person’s job looks a lot better or this person’s family is so close, we certainly wouldn’t want to trade everything in their life for everything in our own.

Yet I still hear myself saying things like, “THAT person sure seems to afford everything.” and “Why can’t my kids act as polite in public as hers?!?”

We love to think of ourselves as original. We want to stand out from the crowd. We want to be different, to be the best, the one with all the great ideas…the one with the most amazing talents. Ironically, we also learn most of our knowledge by copying one another.

As if copying an original idea is original.

I guess the problem lies in the high hopes that we will be The Hero. Maybe for some not the hero, but certainly the one at the top of the ladder.

Isn’t it true that most of our daydreams centre around us being the fastest, strongest, prettiest, smartest, richest, the most spiritual, etc?

Deep down within each person we have a desire for greatness, for uniqueness, to make a difference in the world.

When we base our self-worth on these things it’s so easy to get crushed…because let’s face it, there’s so many people in the world that eventually nothing we do, when compared with others, is all that impressive, is it?

This is especially true with our generation. Youtube and Social Media have made our local superstars seem mediocre and unimpressive. I think we’re the first generation in world history to have the ability to see the World’s best performers within a matter of seconds as the next one loads.

It’s our loss.

Tragically, being unique has been falsely associated with our abilities, when that’s never what individuality was meant to be.

We are incredibly valuable!

Every single person was made in God’s image. Not only that, we are also stunningly unique. Not even the most identical set of twins have the same personality or fingerprints! You don’t have to look further than a grieving parent or spouse to realize that once a life is gone, there is no replacement. No matter how close of a match in appearance and character, the lost one could never be brought back!

Think about that! You are irreplaceable!

When someone is gone, no one misses their ability to play tennis. No one cares about how many miles they could run and how fast they got.

They are missed because of who they were to the people who loved them, not what they could do.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like just another nobody, lost in a crowd of billions. Remember that to those who love you and care for you, you are extremely important

 

We Can Be Free

As promised, these are my steps to freedom that I would like to share today.

My last few blog posts have been about my struggles with words which started many years ago. In fact, it started so long ago that I had forgotten how or why or when it began. So I did what I’ve learnt to do when I don’t have the answers: I went to God.

I knew it wasn’t going to be just one conversation, rather many – all addressing the root of my anger, of my hurtful words and my outbursts. So I set aside a whole week of prayer and journalling to spend with God dealing with this character issue.

Day One: God, I journaled, what is the root of my hurtful words? Where did this begin?

I sat in my bed, waiting expectantly in the early morning, for that’s when the house is quiet and motionless. The sun was still hidden from sight although the first edges of the light were slowly beginning to creep up on the horizon.

God speaks when we listen. But it takes time to learn to hear him. Sometimes he’s silent. Sometimes we are too loud. Sometimes there’s a reason he’s not answering – usually because we already know the answer but we don’t want to listen.

However today, my heart was quiet and I was desperate.

And I saw a picture in my mind. It was a memory from when I was a girl. I remember something really bad happening and someone that I respected very much yelling and swearing in anger about it. As a result of that outburst, people paid attention, that person was heard and the problem was dealt with.

A simple memory. One long forgotten. However a lie was planted in my heart that day: Strong and hurtful words are powerful and they can accomplish good.

That was the lie where it all started. Where I let my voice shout and scream hurtful, strong words to gain a false sense of control because I felt that in the end it would accomplish good.

Recognizing the lie is always step one. I quickly scribbled the memory down in my journal, along with a lie I believed. I renounced the lie, and repented before God that I had believed it.

Then I asked God: Can you give me a foundational truth to replace this lie?

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

Ah, Yes! Of course! Evil cannot bear good fruit. Evil and darkness do not birth goodness and light. The only way to overcome evil and injustice is with GOOD. This is why revenge will never set the bitter soul free, only forgiveness can do that. I memorized this truth, etching it into my memory like initials carved into concrete.

Day Two: God, how can I change my habits? They are ingrained into my life so deeply. How can I become someone who speaks life?

God: Repent! Choose a day to turn from your sins. Make a list of those who you’ve heard in this way and apologize to them. You will never be perfect, but if you say sorry to each person and start fresh from this day forward, then you won’t have a heap of history to carry on your shoulders. You can look back and say on this day you repented. From then on, all you have to do is apologize each time you say something hurtful or burst out in anger.

I’m too exhausted to ask God for names this day. The thought of the list He might give me is overwhelming. So I pray for strength.

Day Three: OK God. Who do I need to apologize to you?

He gives me a list. It is not exhausting. In fact, it involves mostly family members. I thought it looked too short so I mentioned some other names of people that I’ve had conflict with. God gently tells me that the actions of others I need not taken responsibility for, only the mistakes I have made.

That same day I ask my husband and children for forgiveness, and they are incredible. They forgive me without hesitation.

Day Four: My heart feels lighter God! There’s no more secrets, no more shame. Help me to have the strength to confess to the remaining people.

God: Good. It’s time that you see yourself as loveable again.

These tender and applicable words cause me to melt. I feel lovable. That’s exactly how I feel.

Day Five through Seven- More confessions. The last of them. So much grace shown to me by so many people. God, I feel at peace. Thank you for giving me the strength needed to go through with this.

God: I love watching the captives go free. You are free daughter.

Me: God what now? I am free, how do I keep from getting tangled up in sin again?

God: Dear Child, continue walking beside me. Soak in the truth. Repent when you fall and run back to me, not wasting a second with hiding in shame. Walk with a tender heart beside me and I will lead you into victory. Turn your eyes to the cross and I will purify your mouth.

The steps aren’t set in stone. The conversations will look different for each person. But this is my journey to freedom. This is God completing his work in me.

-It isn’t difficult, yet it’s humbling.

-It isn’t hard, because he’s done the work, but it does take time.

-It doesn’t take a strong person, it only takes a desperate one.

This is what Freedom looks like.

The Day I Cursed God…And Lost My Voice

At the beginning of this year I lost my voice, for three days. The end.

If I had my way, that would be all there was to the tale. I would stop this post right here and move on. Nope God. I’m not telling them the full story. Obviously I had some sort of cold…right?

Except that I’ve never, not even once lost my voice in my entire life before this. And while my voice was gone, I didn’t have a cold or a runny nose – not even a hint of one. In fact, my throat didn’t even hurt. But my voice was gone. It was so gone that I couldn’t even make those raspy, crackling noises of a teenage boy… I could only whisper. And it hurt to whisper, so I stayed mostly silent.

Three full days to listen to others speak.  Three days to realize how many things I can accomplish without using words. Three days to think about how much I take talking for granted, how often I’ve used my voice for evil rather than good.

Three days to consider what happened the day before my silence.

The day before… was a windy one. The snow blew across our driveway in a big three foot drift. My husband had specifically done something that I had asked him not to and I was furious at him. In fact, because of my anger, I decided enough was enough, that I was going to drive away for the afternoon and leave him with the kids while I went out and did whatever I wanted for once. I grabbed my purse, stormed onto the van and backed out of my garage door only to get stuck in the drift that I hadn’t thought of looking for. Furious, that I was now trapped, I got out of the van and began to kick at the snow around my back tires….Maybe if I move forward and take a speed, I’ll make it out. So I drive forward and then hammer the van into reverse and try to barrel through the drift, but my bald, all-season tires are no match for the deep white fluff that surrounds them.

I am now a prisoner in a snow drift.

Then, oh God, no, please no! Who should peek out of the window, but the grinning face of none other than my beloved husband, who I’m so desperately trying to escape.

I feel like a child. An immature, angry, helpless child, stuck in my own mess. I beg God not to let him come out and help me. That would be too much, too embarrassing …humiliating actually. But, of course, he calls out to me from our front door already with his jacket on, beaming at me as if he’s greatly amused at my anger: “Need some help??”

I shout back that “NO, I do NOT” – but we both know I do. And he begins putting on his boots and grabbing for the shovel as angry tears pour down my face.

 I mean to pray, but what comes out of my mouth are a string of curses directed at God. How dare he humiliate me so in my anger! How dare he put me in this humble position after what was done to me! I sit sulking in my van as Ryan patiently digs me out of the snow bank. Without a word, I drive forward and park in the garage. I walk straight into the house and disappear into my room for the next couple hours, crying myself to sleep. I feel foolish when I wake up that evening, but don’t quite understand the magnitude of everything that happened until the next day when I wake up and try to speak…

Not a single sound comes out. Not one word.

At first I’m simply confused. I’ve never lost my voice before, and here, I can’t even squeak! I try again to clear my throat but this doesn’t even make a sound. Panic fills me as the harder I try to talk, the more I wonder if I will ever make another sound again! And it’s a Sunday, the day that I’m supposed to go to church and worship! How can this be?!?

Finally, to my relief, I realize that when I gently whisper, I can still make a sound. But it is only then that I realize why my voice is gone as memories of my careless, thoughtless words to an all-powerful God fill my mind. I hear a voice in my head which speaks loud and clear: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:10)

Tears immediately spring to my eyes as I realize the mercy of my all-powerful God. He could’ve struck me dead the moment I decided to speak to Him as if he were someone that was put there just to serve me. He could’ve put me in my place in fierce anger and he would’ve been fully justified in doing so.

But he chose to gently take away my voice.

He was lovingly disciplining me as a a Father would a child, not lashing out at me as an enemy, which shows me, not only can God do whatever he wants with whomever he wants, but he really does discipline for our good.

Also, He has a pretty funny sense of humour. “Fine, my angry, childish daughter, if you will speak to me that way, then no longer will you speak!”

Three days of silence does a lot to calm an angry heart and to open the ears of a child who doesn’t want to listen. It’s humbling. It got my attention.

Fast forward four months.

God’s still teaching me about my hurtful words, he’s given me so much grace, showing me and guiding me through. God really doesn’t leave us if we truly desire to walk in his ways. Next post, I want to share with you the steps he’s given me to lead me to freedom from using hurtful words. I believe these steps are a tool that can be used not just to control our tongue, but to walking in freedom from every kind of harmful habit or addiction. Until then, know this: that God is absolutely faithful…even when we are faithless. He disciplines us only because he loves us so dearly. Sit on that truth today.

He loves you and will do whatever it takes to get your attention.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Love always,

Heather.