Authenticity · Blogging

Blogging Popularity

I was naive when I started blogging.

Early on, when I still was in the Facebook world, I got a lot of views. In fact, sometimes hundreds of views a day. I figured that starting off with such popularity was a sure ticket to my success. After all, my writing was still pretty rocky at first. I had a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make. Nevertheless, deep down, I truly believed one of my posts would one day go viral and I would have an easy path to becoming a famous writer.

Call me a quitter.

Call me a pessimist.

Call me impatient.

But I’m loosing all desire to blog for numbers.

In fact, new followers mean very little to me. Unless, of course, I get to know them through their blogs and comments. In that case, there’s nothing that delights me more than a person who actually reads and responds thoughtfully to my posts. I love reading the posts of these authors as they seem to have a depth that much of the blogging world is missing.

So the question is why, in a mostly positive community of writers, would I feel a lack of passion and drive to keep growing my readers?

I guess you can say I’m realizing a lot about WordPress. Somethings are good. Some are not so good.

Good, like for instance, I have never once had a negative comment on one of my posts. In fact, I believe every single comment on WordPress has been encouraging, uplifting and positive. It’s as if this world of blogging still believes in the magical words we used to all try to live by: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I definitely can’t say the same for the comments I got on Facebook.

But there are still some things that are frustrating to me. Am I wrong in noticing that the people with the most followers on WordPress aren’t the best writers? They are merely the writers with the most quantity? Multiple, mindless posts a day, just to gain more, more, and more followers.

As a lover of good writing, this saddens me.

There also seem to be far too many people who scroll down and follow everyone, just to gain more followers themselves. Who click “like” on every post without reading a single one. It makes me feel as if all my readers have hidden motivates, only reading and commenting to boost their own popularity.

It’s kind of a depressing thought. I don’t really want a part in that side of blogging. So the question is why am I still posting on WordPress?

Because I love writing.

I want to grow in my abilities.

I want to make connections through my writing.

I wish to receive feedback.

And I long to encourage others as well.

I’m not here to become famous. I’m just here to write.

Today, I needed to remind myself of this again. And I wonder if possibly, someone else out there needed the reminder too.

Writing

Eating My Humble Pie

I’ve always loved a good slice of pie.

As we all know, some pies taste better than others. There’s the premium kind Mom serves at gatherings. It has the perfect crust with that smooth, but slightly flaky texture, so easy to swallow. The filling is sweet, with just the right spices. Then there’s the bakery pies. Delicious, but not quite the same as Mom makes it. And then there’s the pie from the convenience store, which has a shelf life of a decade and tastes like it too.

Humble pie tastes more like the convince store baking. And it’s not sweet, so the sugar can’t hide the flavour… it’s more like a dinner pie made with mixed veggies. Ugh. To top it off, these days I feel like I’m skipping the slice and eating the whole thing at once. And it doesn’t sit well.

Still, there are a few areas where I manage to feel immensely proud.

It just depends where I look.

The source of my pride is and always will be my children. They continually amaze me with their remarkable talents and personalities. Those who lack in “skill” most certainly make up for it in character.

Last week we received their report cards.

My oldest son, Isaiah did fine in his grades… especially after we handed in a couple of late assignments. But what pleased me most is when the teacher talked about the character of my young man. Respectful, thoughtful, always looking to put others first. He said that Isaiah has a good heart, both tender and wise. Trust me, when these words are said about your 13-year-old-boy, you listen.

My daughter got 100% on everything. A perfect report card. I hadn’t known that was possible until last week, but no matter how many times I blinked, there it was. I was more of an 70s/80s kid myself. She got chosen as one of the two girls in her grade at school to attend a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) event.

My next son, stuck right in the middle of five kids, excelled in his grades too. Jonas’ teacher was most astonished at his abilities in Mathematics. She said not only was he a leap ahead of everyone else, but he was brilliant, showing her and the class new methods to figure out problems that she hadn’t ever heard of in over a decade of teaching.

Dallas is also strong in math. He did really good in his other work as well, but he’s also our athletic one. Tells me he’s the fastest boy in his class. Whether this proves to be true, I have yet to see. But I don’t doubt it. He’s always kept me running.

And Emerson, my baby. He amazed me by learning the game of chess when he was four. By the time he was five, he could beat everyone in our family. His teacher was quite stunned when he showed off his skills at school, said that most kindergarteners can’t even grasp the game, never mind master it.

They’re not perfect. No-sir-ree. Sometimes their bickering drives me batty. And when they leave dirty socks on the kitchen counter I want to pull my hair out. But I’m proud of them, because when it comes down to it, they’re amazing people. I feel honored to be called their mother.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

HUMBLE PIE.

Because no one wants to hear how everyone else is excelling.

We wait for the grit.

We love the grit.

Especially when things aren’t going too great in our own lives.

I think it’s a social media thing: others successes making us feel like epic failures. If we lived face to face with our friends successes, we would feel along with their joy. Now we just watch from a 6″ window into their lives and feel shame.

And in some ways, we should. For having false expectations.

Social media will never give us true relationships because it is only a snapshot into the lives of those around us. The only way social media can become something more is if we decide to finally open the window further and give others a real look into our lives.

So let me open my window further for you…

I’ve been reading a lot lately and it made me realize something: I’m not very good at writing.

Ouch.

Did I really just say that? On WordPress? Among authors? As the handful of followers I have stampede away in droves…

That’s right.

You’re following an average joe. A stay at home mother, whose best accomplishment will most likely be raising five kids. Which is probably a good thing in a generation of fame seeking narcissists.

Don’t get me wrong… I want to be a bestseller. And for much of my life I believed I would be. But now, as I read my work compared to so many good authors, it’s pretty obvious: The wit, brilliance and effortless beauty that seems to come naturally to so many, has most definitely not been bestowed upon me.

I mean, I’ve had my moments.

I won second place in a local city competition for short stories and got a piece published in the paper. My high school teacher kept my best poems and says she still shows them off once in a while. I’m known to be authentic in my writing, which is what I want most of all. I once got a thousand views on a post I wrote. Must’ve been shared by the right person.

By the way, this isn’t me giving up. This is me getting real and putting an honest word out there to writers everywhere…

We just aren’t as good as we want to be.

Journaling my thoughts is one of the most amazing and effortless things I can think of. This makes me a natural writer. My best pieces come out of journal entries and poetry I’ve written. But writing for an audience is tough, gruelling and painful. This is the difference between a natural writer and a published one.

Writing my story was simple. Ok relatively simple.

But editing it and admitting that almost half of my story needs to get shuffled around or rewritten before it faces the publishers has been daunting. I mean, I thought I already finished the work! Now I read and reread every sentence until the words blur together and seem meaningless. But this work is necessary if I want it to be the best.

Almost makes me feel guilty for the way I’ve read books in the past; skipping over pages to get to the good parts. Those authors deserved more than a quick skim of the words they mulled over and over again.

As a result, I’m now back to 30,000 words on my book. Down from just over 85,000. But they’re a promising 30,000 words. They mark my best work. Worthy to be published.

At least I think they are. Maybe the publishers will feed me more humble pie. In fact, I’m expecting it. But it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The worst thing would be for me to stop eating at all for fear of being giving this bitter tasting food.

Humble pie may not taste great, but I’ve found it is the most nourishing food for the soul. It’s nothing, if not filling. And it even teaches me; inspiring me to be honest with myself and to learn from my mistakes.

Given enough time, humble pie actually doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, eating humble pie may be my best chance of becoming that bestseller. It might even end up being the key to my success. So, I’m going to eat my pie and enjoy this meal, knowing that someday, I’m going to get a taste of Mom’s Homemade pie again. Until then, this humble pie will keep me alive, so I will be grateful for it.

I may even ask for seconds.

Faith · Family · Parenting

Remember the Little Guy

Growing up in a conservative background, one of the most remarkable trademarks of the adults around me was how selfless they were.

Traditionally, where I grew up, even clapping for others was seen as prideful and vain. Bragging about or praising anyone but God was unthinkable.

These people lived out what they sang: “I will not boast in anything, no strength, no power and wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection!”

I loved that line… I still do! What I’m writing about today is in no way putting down these beautiful truths because I do believe we live a time where people are way too self focused (…just see my previous post haha)!

We live in a world that praises many things.

It glorifies power, money, sex, careers, possessions, fame, yet places very little value on family, time, connecting, caring for the needy or serving without pay.

Why, even those in the church are beginning to buy into the idolization of wealth and power.

And I think the reason is quite simple:

We’ve forgotten what’s important, because while the world boasts loudly about what it sees as valuable, those who value true worth remain painfully silent about what really matters.

And we’re beginning to buy in to what the world is saying.

When I write about motherhood and how vital it is, about how valuable family is, and how important stay-at-home-mothers are in our society, I’m not just trying to toot my own horn and to gain recognition for what I’m doing.

My purpose isn’t to get praise for myself.

It’s alright when people misunderstand me, because if I was the only one affected by misconceptions about moms who don’t work outside the home, I would just keep my mouth closed. But the truth is, our lack of understanding and value of families… of stay at home mothers in particular, is changing a whole generation.

Every single comment about what I am doing with all my free time makes me understand more and more why women are ashamed to stay at home. It feels awkward to try and justify the value of cleaning, cooking, organizing, grocery shopping, driving around… it would be so much easier to just say, “Oh I work AND I am a mom of five.”

It just sounds better!

No one would flat out say stay-at-home moms are lazy. But… what are they doing at home? We wonder.

Sometimes even ask.

Have you ever asked that about someone who is at work?

Have you ever asked someone in an office, “Just what are you doing with all your time at work?” Have you ever asked someone at a workplace, “Sooo, what do you do with no children around?!?”

Did you know that right now there are women working their tail off, with no children at home, and, there are also women at work scrolling through their Facebook feed?

Did you know that laziness is a heart issue, not an occupation issue?

This goes both ways people!

Of course there are stay at home mothers who don’t spend their time wisely! Just like there are students who skip class or don’t do their work, just like there are employees who take advantage of their employers by taking a ten minutes smoke break every hour. There are also leaders who live in luxury, taking advantage of taxpayers hard earned money to go on elaborate vacations or hire not one but two expensive full time nannies… ahem. Not naming any names here.

Yes there are people who take advantage of others. Some of them are on welfare, some of them are in the workplace, some of them are stay at home moms.

Working hard has very little to do with capacity or position… it has everything to do with the heart.

I know people who physically could not be a firefighter or a labourer. Yet they work incredibly hard in an office. Just like there are people who are physically strong but who would not have a hot clue how to navigate what many people do in an office.

Personally, I could never do what my husband does. As a part owner of an Internet company he’s smart, incredibly efficient and able figure out problems that I would stare dumbly at. He’s able to deal with hundreds of emails in a day. He’s able to maintain a cool when there’s power outages and frustrated customers who are depending on him.

However, he admits that the coordination of finances, schedules, meals, gardening, cleaning, and taxing people around is something he could never do.

Working hard, with or without pay, deserves recognition. Period. It’s about time we stop valuing people for their net worth.

Let’s boast in the janitor who shows up every single day and works with all his might for the whole shift. We need him! Let’s recognize the children who take their schoolwork seriously and do their best in each class. Let’s praise the stay at home parents, who do all the unseen things to keep the families lives running smoothly. Let’s give honor to the cooks, the artists, the singers and writers who bring enjoyment to life. Let’s bless the truckers who keep the shelves stocked so we can eat and the volunteers at the soup kitchen, who care for the needy.

For when we recognize the forgotten ones in society, it’s then we remember that the little things often hold the greatest worth. And some of those we hold in high regard, when stripped of the fame and power, may seem very small indeed.

It’s time we remember what and who matters the most. Then, let’s boast in it.

Autumn · Family · Food · Parenting

My First Week of “Freedom” – It was all a Hoax

Back to school! All the Mom’s cheer…

Really?

Don’t believe it for one second, I tell you!

That cup of coffee never got finished…just saying.

First week back, well, you heard about our first day, but let’s just say the next two didn’t go any better! On the third day of school I received a call that Dallas (in grade 2) had really hurt his foot during recess. Being laid back (and also, having dealt with many twisted ankles, sore legs and bruised bones), I sort of shrugged it off until the next day. Dallas still couldn’t put weight on it the second day, so away we went to ER and, long story short, he is in a cast for two weeks.

How we are going to keep him from wrecking the other leg…I do not know, because literally this is what it looks like a week later:

Yeah… he somehow decided to go on the zip line and jumped off into my garden. Barefoot!!!

Boys, I tell you! It’s like they have a built in self-destruct button!

The second week I have had some busy moments and some calm ones, but I’m in the process of harvesting the last of my vegetables for the season and canning takes SO much time! But I got to canning some pasta sauce, which is my least favourite thing to can, so now it’s just salsa!

I also did a lot of baking because, oh my word, are school lunches ever expensive!!

And last but not least I am making cakes for others again!! This is something I have a love/hate relationship with. I love it because it is like doing arts and crafts…but I hate it because I literally make about $4 an hour for my time. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on but I think I’ll do a separate post about it later:

And burger week! I can’t forget burger week!!We have such a thing in our small city as burger week and participating restaurants each make their own specialty, limited-time, burger to be voted on …so of course Ryan and I had to go to try at least one:

It was amazing!! And I still feel full. Yes, I did finish the whole thing. 😋

So there you have it! My first four-day-week of having half-days with no kids around in over 13 years!! It’s amazing how much I can pack into a day with them gone. However, when they come home the life returns to our house and once again it’s chaotic and loud….and I realize that I truly have missed them.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from them. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them…”

Psalm 127:3-5

Fitness · Health · Running

Run

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

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

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

Most days, just before evening.

The sun begins to set.

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

Run.

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

But I do not stop.

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

Because what would we do without this?

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

No.

I run. To nowhere at all.

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

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

Keep running.

About Me · Family

My Computer Hates Me

It sits there, white screen of death, mocking me. Daring me to try fixing it again. Well not me, but my husband, who loves me ever so much as to put up with such requests.

It knows me well.

Coming from a Mennonite background, I just can’t bear the thought of throwing out anything that may just have a tiny bit of life still left in it. If I can sell it, yes, then I have no issue parting with my junk, because who doesn’t like to trade junk for cash?!? Or give it to someone in need, even better! Self help…sure!

But this hellish computer isn’t sellable. Or gift-able. It is garbage. A $2000 piece of iMac garbage.

It still looks brand new but the face itself hides the disaster within. I know full well that it fries it’s own hard drives within 6 months of replacing them.

The computer was a lemon when we got it. A toss away from a friend who wisely went on to a new and better relationship.

But being who I am. Could. Not. Chuck. Mr. FryMac.

My husband is a near genius when it comes to fixing technology. So with a hairdryer and some other tools he took the cursed thing apart and melted parts together, moved pieces around (I’m sure this description is precisely accurate by the way). And VOILA! I had me a brand new looking iMac.

A new hard drive was ordered and the thing worked beautifully for 2 full years. And then one day.

GONE!

All my writing, my saved files and documents!!! (thank goodness photos are in the “cloud”)

Most people would shrug and say at least I got two more years out of it… Not me!

I insisted that he fix it again (at which point he looked at me like I was from another plant and told me that it would just do this again)… to which I, knowing nothing about computers but fully believing in miracles, replied that surely Mr. FryMac would last three years this time.

So my ever patient husband shook his head and fixed it one more time telling me that he wouldn’t do it again. Oh and he recovered all my files. Because he’s amazing.

Now, four months later (practically to the day) everything’s gone.

He told me so….four short months later I’m in the same situation again and one would think I’d learnt my lesson already, but alas, the thought comes to me…maybe just one more time??

It’s either Mr. FryMac or back to good old Windows 7 **Shudder**

Well…which would you choose?

I’m leaning towards taking my chances with the FryMac.

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

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

Uncategorized

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!”

 

Uncategorized

#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.