Faith

On Failure and Getting Back Up

I often feel like a total dirtbag.

It usually is because I say/write/do something careless and then I realize it too late.

Once the words have been said.

Once the text has been sent.

Once the mistake has been made.

A few such things have happened this past week.

A week ago it was Father’s Day. I knew this, as we had already celebrated twice, but that particular morning it didn’t cross my mind at all. My husband was preparing food to BBQ, which he does quite well. I mean it tastes amazing... But it often lacks in the health department.

And without thinking twice I decide: This is the day that I am going to bring up my concerns about how unhealthy I feel and blame it on him.

Really, I am just stressed about my weight as I have gained 15 pounds since COVID-19 happened. And it’s easier to blame others than to look in the mirror.

Stupid.

On a good day, it is a stupid thing to say. But it wasn’t just a good day, it was Father’s Day. And not only was he making DELICIOUS food on Father’s Day, he was joyfully making food. No complaints, it is what he loves to do.

But I chose to tear him down and five minutes into my rant, it dawns on me: Just shut up already.

So I close my mouth. And then in the 10 seconds of awkward silence, I realize – with horror – that today is a day to celebrate the man I was just criticizing.

I apologize immediately. I call the kids to the table to bless him, and say what they love about the man I was just tearing down.

I tell him what I appreciate about him: He never criticizes me.

The rest of the morning I feel terrible. I want to crawl into a hole and stay there. I want to cover up my face and hide away. I consider having my tongue surgically removed. I wonder if there’s anyone out there who can be as two-faced as me.

Because friends, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

How does one move on from feeling low? How does one reconcile themselves to the fact that to the core of their being, they are not what they want to be, what they mean to be, what they claim to be?

I’ll tell you how I get back up: Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s why he needed to die on the cross. Because of me. Because of my hurtful words, my careless tongue.

This is what faith in Jesus is all about. Knowing our true state, that we are not good enough and running to a Father who loves us anyways. As we repent, as we turn to him, an incredible thing happens.

He covers us up. He covers our sin with his blood.

I can come out of my hole, because he entered that hole of shame for me! My life becomes “hidden” in Christ.

But in the same way, I must never claim anything good inside myself as “who I am”. For I know very well who I am apart from Christ: Just a shameful girl, hiding in a hole.

I am tired of messing up. Tired of sin. Tired of my words getting me into trouble.

“Who will rescue me from this body, that brings death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-26

Faith

A Hard Life Sucks… But it Makes You Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God, make me like Jesus.”

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

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

I do now.

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

“It is finished.”

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

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

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

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

My love for God became real.

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

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

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

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

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

NOTHING.

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

So you see, the pain has a point.

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

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

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

Just like Jesus.

Faith · Forgiveness

Believers Need to Love the Church

There is a disturbing trend I’ve been noticing in those who claim to be Christians. It goes something like this:

I don’t go to church. Oh I love God. I especially love Jesus. But the church? It’s full of greedy hypocrites. They’re judgemental, they’re selfish, they do not follow what they preach. No, I can serve God better without them.

I’m not going to refute the statements above with my own thoughts. I think we sometimes get far too caught up in our own arguments.

Rather, I’m going to let the word of God speak into these lies…

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

You cannot hate Christians and claim to love God. You are fooling yourself. These aren’t my words, they’re God’s!

“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor your leaders.” 1 Peter 2:17

Interesting that Peter addresses four behaviours that servants of Christ should follow. And the second one is to love the family of believers. Is this not enough proof that God is calling us to love the church?

Want to hear it from Jesus himself?

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

“This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

You don’t think Jesus was serious? He repeated it over three times in one speech!! It wasn’t a suggestion. He didn’t say, “Oh, it would be rather nice if you could learn to love each other.”

He commanded it!

If we hate the church but claim to love God, we are fooling ourselves. We are liars.

These are some harsh words for those who can’t stand Christians, yet have the audacity to bear the name themselves.

Now you may be upset at me, for speaking this way. You may think that I just don’t understand the pain you have faced at the hands of believers.

That may be true.

I may not know the pain you faced.

But I most definitely know the pain I faced at their hands. I am not a stranger to the pain people in the church can cause.

A few years ago I was sent away from a church after being brutally wounded by many untrue words. Spoken by people who thought they knew how God saw me, people who claimed to have God’s sight into my heart. In reality, I was misunderstood when asking for help with my children while my husband led worship. I was called bitter, merely for expressing my complete loneliness in the church. I hadn’t accused anyone, rather asked. But I was first harassed, then eventually sent away.

To make matters worse, the pastor himself called up my best friends and told them not to meet with me. Instead of standing up for me, they obeyed.

If this wouldn’t crush one’s faith in the church, I don’t know what would.

But I think that’s our problem, isn’t it? We have placed too much faith in the church, expecting the church to be perfect, that we have completely forgotten who the church is: We are merely sinners in the process of being saved.

This calls for a lot of grace. It is in Christ alone that we are supposed to have faith.

I have never stepped foot back into the church that sent me away. But I would, if they welcomed me. For I have forgiven them. Because the funny thing about forgiveness is that I need a whole lot of it. If I’m not willing to give it out, who will be willing to give it out to me?

Yet, even though I haven’t been welcomed back into the church that sent me away, many other churches have opened their arms to my family. This has brought me so much love for the body of Christ. Yes there are some hurtful people in the church… But there’s also people who have brought so much healing into my life.

There are really amazing people in the church. They are not all hypocrites! Some would give their last crust of bread to feed someone else in need. I have met people who truly open up their homes to the homeless. I’ve met people who pray for strangers as they would for their own children. I have met people who would give their entire savings to help a brother in need, without blinking an eye.

This is the church!!

I’m glad I gave her another chance. I would not have healed from my experience if I have not tried again to meet with a body of believers.

Have you been hurt by a church? Forgive and don’t write off an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. In the world we would call that prejudice. Why do we think any differently in the church?

Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Authenticity · Faith · Vulnerability

Exterior Walls

We put up exteriors daily. As if we don’t care about what people think.

As if I don’t care.

As if I don’t notice the likes, the comments or the lack-there-of. As if I’m stronger than those who need to be told every day that they are valuable in someway. As if I don’t need to hear the words of people confirming me and the things I do.

Deep down we just want to be understood, desperately, pathetically.

Humanly.

Listen, as much as you fight it and act like you are above such longings, if you’re human, those feelings are there.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

To the world, you may look confident. Or you may look hopeless. You may look like someone who has it all together or you’re falling apart at every turn. You may even give a phony smile, and say some cliche things. Or you may spew every careless thought that comes from your mouth in hopes of being real and bold.

But whoever you are… you hate it. Because deep down, we all know that that’s not what it’s about, is it?

As if one kind of wrong is better than the other.

Thank God, you are worth more than than your feelings tell you.

Can I just say something here?

Maybe we are all more alike than we want to admit. Maybe I’m just like that too-faced, self-righteous, rich snob we all avoid. That hypocrite in the church pews. That political maniac who rants day and night on social media, believing that those who are on the other side are the enemy. Or the “tolerant” crowd who are tolerant of everyone… except for those who are intolerant.

Maybe, that drunk homeless man, who reeks of alcohol, sitting on the side of the road asking “food” money, is just like me inside.

In fact, I’m convinced of it.

Pride tells me I’m better than all of the above, but there’s one thing that tells me I’m not.

The Cross.

Because on that cross, Jesus gave his life as much for the hypocrite, as for the drunkard, as for the bitter-old-soul who can’t forgive.

Think you’re better? Then maybe the cross isn’t for you.

…Or maybe, it’s especially for you. Because, friends, the ground at the bottom of the cross is equal. And not one of us deserved it.

Faith

The Betrayal of a Friend

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you,

a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked among the worshippers.”

Psalm 55:12-14

One of the greatest pains you can face is the utter betrayal of a close and trusted friend. Indeed, I have felt no greater pain than when I was rejected by those I loved dearly.

It is the ultimate rejection – to be known and then forgotten.

Wounds that deep are not easily healed. But take heart, there is a path to healing.

Healing takes time. Don’t rush it! Instead rush to God:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

Those who run to God in their distress will not fall. When others fail you, trust God.

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation

It was Never Your Grudge to Hold

There’s a family who has completely shut mine out for almost four years now.

At one time I loved them like my own family. We spent many days a week together. And then suddenly, we were shut out. Just like that. They shut us out of their lives. Out of their church. Out of their friendship circles.

Out of everything.

In fact, if I meet up with either of them, they will try to look past me as if I do not exist. If I smile and say hi anyway, they barely nod, mumbling an inaudible greeting in return and only because they know it would make them look bad to say nothing.

Why, you may ask, am I sharing this? Because of the warning their lives have become for me.

I do not know them anymore, because they have made sure that we can’t. They were once great people, godly people. They weren’t some angry, bitter souls that looked to destroy and tear others down. They were helpful people. They had a strong family and a beautiful faith. They were talented and inspiring.

Yet somewhere along the line, they have become convinced that what they perceive as wrong in our lives, is what God perceives as wrong… and that God is pleased with this grudge they continue to hold, this “godly shunning” of others.

Let me just say this: Other people’s sin is not for us to hold against them.

Ever.

God does not need us to hold on to the burden of hating others for his sake. He doesn’t need our help to convict them, to discipline them or to punish them in any way. In fact, there are very strong warnings in scripture against bitterness because that is really what bitterness is: holding other people’s sins against them, refusing to forgive. The only difference is that this has been done “for Christ’s sake” so it feels much more godly.

In some cultures this sort of zealous self-righteousness results in honor killings. A “sacrifice” to God.

Can I be so bold as to say that God takes no pleasure in honor killings? Neither does he take pleasure in grudges or in self righteous shunning. In fact there is a story where Jesus responded to this type of religiosity.

A woman was brought before him, caught red-handed in adultery. The real righteous folk, those leaders of the church, brought this woman to Jesus, trying to trap him. Smirking and desperate for bloodshed that day, they said:

“Good teacher, the law requires us to stone her. What should we do?”

Jesus bent down to write in the sand. And then he stood to say something absolutely phenomenal: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”

Every single person present silently walked away, one at a time. No one was worthy to cast it.

Not one.

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we judge one person’s sin as worse than ours, holding onto it, we are literally spitting on the grace that Christ has shown us. Holding onto the sins of others and feeling as if their mistakes are just somehow not worthy of the grace that God has shown us, is hypocrisy.

When Christ was being nailed to the cross, he did not say, “Father, once these vile sinners repent and realize their sin, forgive them.”

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not hold on to grudges, regardless of the actions of those around him. He simply forgave and left the rest in God’s hands.

So why would we think it is our duty to live any differently?

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Do I really want to hold onto another person‘s sin and take the risk that God will hold onto mine?

I’m not taking that chance.

Let it go, move on and love people deeply.

Because friends, it’s not our grudge to hold.

Faith · Forgiveness

Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

About Me

My Favorites: Faith, Family, Fitness, Food, Forgiveness, Freedom, and Friends

No this isn’t the “F” section in the dictionary, nor am I playing a random game of blog scategories…

These are seven “F’s” I came up with to describe my life and the things I’m passionate about. With pictures even!

Faith – My Faith is something I take seriously. I almost lost my way as a teen. The danger and carelessness I lived in almost destroyed me. When I met Jesus Christ and experienced his love for the first time, everything changed: That thick book of His that once bored me to tears became my all time favorite. I treasured it as my most precious possession. God became my rock, my hiding place and ever since I chose to follow God, I’ve had stability and love. I’ve gone through a lot of difficult seasons… but I have peace in my trials and joy even in the hard times.

Family – My first son was born when I was just 18 years old. He became my purpose, my reason to change. Fast forward 13 years…I have a husband and five kids. Yes. Yes it is crazy…My life revolves around feeding them, caring for them, teaching them, loving them, and driving them around. And don’t kid yourselves, in no way is this a one way street… I get just as much love and life lessons in return.

Fitness– I began running a year ago after being diagnosed with depression (which I had struggled with for years without having a name for the darkness I was feeling). I contribute my well-being mostly to God’s healing work in my heart and to what running has done for my mental health. Today I am doing better than I have in many years and I’m passionate about staying active. And recently, I even got my husband to join me 🙂

Food– I love food. Baking mostly. Trend Gluten-free diets have no appeal to me. No thank you! I not only bake for my family, but for weddings and other social gatherings as well. Cakes and cupcakes are my specialty 🙂 I love trying new recipes and am a firm believer that food shouldn’t just look good, but taste delicious as well.

Forgiveness– A few years ago I nearly had my heart ripped out in one of the most painful, heart-wrenching experiences of my life. My trusted friends, mentors and church leaders sent me and my family away, ignoring our messages, our love, and our extension of reconciliation over and over again. It was messy, it was humiliating, it was terrible and I was so hurt. But God brought me to the place where I learnt to forgive, not just in word but in action. Forgiveness means responding in love when others lash out at you or misjudge you. Forgiveness means returning kindness for hatred, blessings for curses. It’s letting go of our “right” to feel insulted and making the decision to step out of that dark dungeon called bitterness. It’s a beautiful thing.

And it also brings me to my next point which is…

Freedom– I have found freedom! Not through obeying the law in my flesh…this brings judgementalism and legalism, but through the cross and precious blood of Jesus. He gave his life for me, I now have the opportunity to daily give mine to him. This is true freedom. No guilt in life because I’m forgiven! No fear in death because he has conquered!!

Friends– This brings me to my last and final word: Friends!! Oh has God ever been good to me, for what I lost three years ago, God has multiplied fourfold! I am overwhelmed with the amount of people in my life who I can call up for coffee or invite down. Being someone who never has had many close friendships, I can say with confidence that I have more people in my life who care for me than I ever have before. Who knew that God could take such heartache and turn it for my good! Out of that season, came some shuffling and switching and now I have had the opportunity to meet a ton of great people!

How about you? What are your words? What describes your life right now?

Uncategorized

Rebuilding the Bridge

Oh my heart.

I’ve been reading so many articles lately, of people I’ve never met, who have become like friends. Broken people. Hurting people. People who have been mistreated and rejected by the world.

And my heart literally breaks for them.

I thought my story was unique. That no one else had experienced what I had experienced.

I was wrong.

My story, isn’t something I want to flaunt. I’m not ashamed of it, but I do want to protect those I love.

So here I am, once again, struggling.  Struggling to know what to share, how much to share. Struggling because I know I have found freedom from the deepest, darkest pain. And I desperately want to lead others to this freedom.

My testimony is this:

I followed the “typical” teenage path, got caught up in the socialization of school, rather than the work. Insecure as I was, I tried to impress others by partying, being obnoxious and carefree, lying about who I was, and by doing things I knew I ought to stay away from. I got caught in a very bad place. From being suspended from school because of drinking to being careless sexually…I made heartbreaking, life-devastating choices.

Choices that lead me to the night God heard me and literally set me free.

It was dark, I knew only one person at the party. I was lonely as ever and I prayed while looking at the stars on that clear, August night. I prayed for God to save me. Then, I drank one very large drink and don’t remember much else. Two men, a lot older than myself, slept with me.

I was broken, but acted tough, like it made no difference.

It was at this time I met her. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call her Anna, though those who know my full story will know quite well who she is, because she was so instrumental in my life.

The gentleness and compassion in her voice is something I’ll never forget. Her sincere heart of care, she saw things in me that no-one else did. And she loved me. I could tell from the moment I met her, I wasn’t just some charity case, some feel-good project, she truly cared for me. She said that I was beautiful. That I was tenderhearted. She gently and carefully showed me the care of Christ.

And one day she got me to pray, and I experienced God’s love for myself. I knew he was real that day and I chose that day to leave my life of emptiness behind.

I became a child of God.

My boyfriend, who soon became my husband, formed a similar relationship with Anna’s husband, whom I’ll call Paul. During the next ten years a beautiful friendship/mentorship formed. Paul and Anna guided me and my husband through life. She prayed for me when I felt down. She listened when I cried, and gave really good advice. When my firstborn was deathly ill in the hospital, she and her husband visited me faithfully.

I cared for her too, listened to her and prayed for her as well. When she experienced loss, I brought her food. She was often lonely and I felt for her in this.

She was the one person who always understood me…until the day came when she didn’t.

What can destroy a deep friendship like that? A hurtful word? Miscommunication? Gossip? An outburst of anger? Cruel misjudgement?

In my opinion it is none of the above, although they do hurt a friendship, a deep friendship is ultimately built on endurance, commitment, loyalty, forgiveness and the ability to see the best in others when they’re at their worst. Unwillingness to change or forgive, that is ultimately what destroys all relationships in life.

When I went through a dark depression a year after having my fifth child, Anna did not recognize it as such, and to be honest, nor did I at first. I was confused, having never felt such despair and loneliness before. I desperately needed help, physically, mentally, spiritually. I mostly kept it to myself, but once in I while I would give little glimpses to her to reveal what I was going through.

She sensed that things were changing too. Things were just different between us. By the time we started talking about these changes that were happening, Anna was convinced that I was dealing with deep bitterness, that I was trying to hide it and lie about it and that I was being deceived by the devil. Strong accusations for sure. But since I didn’t know what I was going through, I couldn’t quite explain why I knew she was wrong, all I could say was “no, I wasn’t holding anything against anyone.”

Paul and Anna began to have meetings with us, at first to help us, but really what they became were interrogations. They would bring before me everything that they thought I was doing wrong and I would apologize for somethings (such as wrongful attitudes and gossip) and defend myself in others (as in, I would not repent for lying when I had not lied).

Unfortunately, Paul and Anna were also our church leaders, and we were forced to resign from our involvement in the church, as they felt like we weren’t walking in true freedom. Soon after, we were also told to repent of these issues and submit to their leadership, or leave the church. This was done without any meeting with the rest of the church leadership.

We had to leave the church, I had no choice. I longed to make things right, but to pretend I was guilty of sins that I was not? That was too far. I could not do it. Our very best friends were in that church. They were all called up and told to no longer welcome us to their bible study. They submitted to their leadership and I was crushed. I longed for someone to defend us, for someone to fight for our case.

But no one spoke up. They all stayed silent.

I lost my mentors, my church and my best friends all within a few months. Only my family and my husband stood by my side.

Meanwhile, I was still  going through depression, which had only intensified with the situation. I was so confused. Here my loving mentors were saying disturbing things: Saying I was bitter and vindictive. Saying I was living by works and not by faith. Telling me that my apologies were covering up my unwillingness to repent…were they right? Could this really be the source of my struggles? Part of me wanted them to just be right, so I could make amends and be happy again. I longed to have things back to the way they used to be. I was willing to do anything for reconciliation.

But in my heart I knew that they had misunderstood me so deeply, that they were now just following the trail of lies, ultimately believing the worst about my motives and my actions.

Forgiveness for those who felt they were righteously doing God’s will…could I ever let go of what they had done? Trusting people after such betrayal…is it possible?

Sorting through all my feelings and coming to a place where I could see things through God’s eyes wasn’t at all simple. I read A LOT about forgiveness. The Bible is full of stories of forgiveness, from Joseph to David to Jesus Christ himself. Another gem of a book I found on forgiveness, that aided to my healing, was called “The bait of Satan” by John Bevere. 

Here’s the conclusion that I’ve come to: It is impossible to forgive someone when you let your mind think the worst of them. BUT when you begin to humbly let God show you how he feels about those who have hurt you and choose to think the best of them, ALL things are possible.

I can not make people see my heart through God’s eyes. I can not force them to love me, forgive me, believe me or even like me, but I CAN chose to do so for them.

It no longer became a struggle of who is right and wrong…Rather could I be humble enough to stop trying to figure it out and forgive them either way? If Paul and Anna were right about me, then what right do I have to hate them? They were trying to help me, risking their own reputation in the process. That is love! If they were wrong about me, then I felt deep compassion and sorrow for them. How sad to feel like you are doing the work of God, only to find out in the end that you were working against him! But in all, whether they’re right or wrong, I can only say that I believe they were trying their best to do what they felt was right, with the knowledge and tools that they had.

After many tears, much heartache, many angry outbursts, and times when I wrongfully spoke against them…I can truly say that I’m sorry for the ways I have hurt Paul and Anna, even the ones that I may be blinded to.

And I forgive them.

So much so, that when their names come up, my heart is full of joy because of the ten good years we had with them. For the ten years of wisdom we gained from knowing them. I am glad I knew them. I remember the good. I remember their passion and love for God.

Forgiveness is like building a bridge to those who have hurt us and extending a hand, welcoming them back to friendship with us when they are ready.

However, one thing that we often forget is that building a bridge of forgiveness doesn’t guarantee that people will cross it, it merely gives them a chance to. And we are not accountable for the actions of others.

Much to my disappointment Paul and Anna have chosen, so far, not to cross that bridge. Then again, the moral of the story is that they don’t need to. Ever. I can still find overflowing joy and peace in the fact that my heart is right with God.

And I can find joy in the blessings he has given us during the past two painful years: A new church that I love with my whole heart, new friends (more than I have ever had in my adult life before) and new mentors who have gone through similar trials and come through victorious.

Simply put, building a bridge is difficult. It takes time. Sometimes you have to stop everything and start all over. But through forgiving, God has brought me to hope again…not in people. Not in things. But in Christ alone, all my hope is found.

For me, that’s a first.