About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

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

I mean, it’s almost spring.

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

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

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

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

I like winter firesides.

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

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

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

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

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

Ahem…

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

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

Friday I hit a low.

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

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

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

It’s just not right.

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

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

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

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

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

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

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

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

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

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

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

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

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

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

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

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

It’s so very difficult.

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

I hate Zoom.

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

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

They should have that choice.

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

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

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

They deserve to live with family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.

Canada · Christmas · COVID-19

The Things I Cry Over

One thing that has shocked me lately are my tears.

They just don’t make sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I bawled.

Why?

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

Yet no tears fell.

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

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

I think, perhaps, because it’s easier.

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

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

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

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

It all doesn’t make sense.

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

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

I just call it grief.

COVID-19

That Which Defiles

Never have I experienced hate from a complete stranger like I did yesterday. Let me explain:

I was on a field trip with my two homeschooling children. We did all the right things: kept our distance from people, wore our masks, and respected the rules.

While walking from room to room, sometimes we had to pass other people. This is life. It just so happened that as my child was rounding the corner to use the bathroom and I tried to follow him, an older gentleman ahead of us suddenly backed up into me. We collided and he stumbled forward.

At this point all the manners I have been taught from childhood on took hold and I reached out to help the man and ask if he was all right. He had bumped into the side wall and was shaking slightly, but he held out his hand and looked at me with angry eyes. Then he began to shout, “Stay away from me! Back off! Get away!”

At first I hesitated, confused at his overreaction. But then it dawned on me: He was not seeing me as a person, but as a potential COVID-19 carrier.

I was near him, so he was angry.

I backed up before he could physically push me away and he shook his fist as I turned to leave.

And it really struck me that this was not the only situation like this. In fact, there was another lady that was at the same field trip that day who had a kid come up to her and ask her a question, but the mother of that child cut her off, saying in a loud voice: “DISTANCE!”

Or my cousin who was at IKEA when she saw a lady tip her cart and the contents spilled out. As she approach to help, the lady also yelled at her to get back.

These are just three situations that I have personally heard about, but I guarantee that there are many more.

Are we really that dense… That we’ve come to believe that THIS is “loving”?

People think THIS is beneficial?

We are getting it preached at us day in and day out. To care for people, one must:

– keep their distance from others

-refrain from gathering

-cover their face and nose

-lock up the weak and elderly

Where’s the call from our leaders about helping each other out? Where’s the mandate about showing kindness? And for those like to say “Christians are SO judgemental!” …Are they not the very ones judging by mere appearances when they see a face without a mask and assume the worst? That the person must be lazy, ignorant or selfish?

Not all people can easily wear them! You or I might be able to, but not everyone can! In fact, I would have no problem with wearing a mask and keeping my distance, if it weren’t for these things changing people so much!

It is. It’s changing us.

I used to chat and laugh with total strangers as I shopped. Now we all avoid eye contact and hurry about with our heads down.

All to control something we CAN’T.

Do you hear that? We cannot control sickness!! Maybe it is time we stop trying to play God.

Maybe it’s time to realize that while there are steps we can take to try to keep our health care systems from becoming overwhelmed, sickness is an unfortunate part of life.

We cannot control viruses. They will run their course, and we need to do our best, yes, to wash and stay home while sick. But for the love of God, we need to stop this insanity!!

We are a ‘civilized society’, and yet we have gone back to yelling at total strangers “Unclean! Unclean!”

Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard anyone condone the treatment of lepers in Bible times. These men and women were outcasts of society. They went about deformed and socially ostracized. They also got told to “Stay Back!!” They had to socially distance every single day of their lives.

Yet, to the horror of the Pharisees, there was one person who did not fear the disease they carried: Jesus.

He didn’t see a disease, he saw a PERSON.

“A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)

Not only did Jesus see an ‘unclean’ person, he did the unthinkable… he TOUCHED that person.

Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus lived today? Oh horror of horrors!

“He’s spreading COVID! He must hate people!!”

That’s what the Pharisees of today would say. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself:

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders…) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is devoted to God—12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

What Jesus was saying here is that the word of God should ALWAYS take precedence over our human rules. Therefore, if obeying my government means loving people, I should most definitely obey the rules. BUT if the rules get in the way of loving people, I am to lay aside the rules and follow God first.

Today, I’m choosing to obey my government by following the rules because, mostly, they ARE loving.

I’m choosing to love people by trying to keep them safe, to wear masks in public buildings and to keep my germs to myself. I choose to obey and stay within the current restrictions for gatherings. I choose to stay home when I am feeling unusually sick.

However, I also choose to love them, even if it looks like taking my mask off so a deaf person can read my lips, or picking up groceries another has spilled or helping an elderly man who has fallen. I choose to smile and say hi to those around me and treat them with decency… Whether they wear masks or no masks, or vote liberal or conservative!

In this way, I recognize that a virus can not and will not defile me. I choose to SEE people, to love them, and to not fear being near them.

No, COVID-19 will not defile you. But fear and bitterness will.

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.

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Grieving what we’ve Lost

We’ve lost some difficult things.

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up our kids in an hour and pull them mysteriously into the van. They would blink their eyes in confusion at the suitcases and surprise packages around them. We would then tell them the news:

We are going on a SURPRISE family trip!

There were packages to open along the way: a new iPad. Blank comic books. Candy and travel games.

They would scream in excitement and awe that we had surprised them. The next six days would be driving, restaurant meals, family visits, and water park rides.

BUT… today I mourn because instead, I wake up to a completely different day: Ryan’s alarm going off for work. I will wake up and make breakfast, homeschool the kids and then try to keep them joyful for the rest of the day. Surprise travel gifts and the iPad were opened a week ago, now used for school work.

My kids don’t know about the trip, thank goodness we decided to surprise them. It’s just one less disappointment they have to face.

Still, my daughter was discouraged yesterday. Deeply discouraged. As an optimist at heart, I did what I could to be upbeat and see the blessings. But mainly, I just listened because there wasn’t much to say: I am sad too.

I shared what I was sad about… I’m mourning the normalcy of life, as we all are.

I was sad, because I did my hair and makeup to go get the groceries this week. I cry, because I’m sick of people on screens. I cry, because there’s no hopeful message… just experts repeatedly saying: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

I long for an end date. We all do.

I’m mourning family gatherings, church events, and meeting with people. I’m mourning date nights with my husband and visiting my grandparents.

I shared as we put together a puzzle.

We went on a walk, the air was crisp. She shared her heart, her tears. As we walked, she visibly brightened. The sun started setting. The fields were beautiful with the spring water glistening in them. Then we came back home and gathered the family for a drive. Picking up some drive thru iced cream and drove around until dark, looking at some of the beautiful homes people live in.

My youngest pipes up from the back: “When I grow up I will find the biggest house and choose that one.”

We laughed at the innocent comment and came home FULL. The grieving had allowed small glimpses of joy to set in. The grieving allowed us to move on.

So friends: grieve. Then keep going.

Canada · Vulnerability

A Fragile World

Coronavirus. I don’t even need to blog about it, because everyone else has.

Schools are shut down for three weeks.

Sport events are too.

Church is cancelled.

Lineups pile outside of doors before the local grocery stores even open.

Isles are packed with people, void of food…

The world pretends to panic, I sit here and write. It seems surreal. I’m in a book; a doomsday movie.

I run… from the insanity. Breathe in the cool country air.

Real panic is still low, I believe.

Why? Because most people are smiling, letting others ahead in line. Shaking their heads in wonder while they make jokes. Texting pictures of line ups and empty shelves. Kindness is still abundant, violence and aggression are low. This tells me it’s not so bad. We are still a people who have plenty, we don’t know what it’s like to go with out. So far we haven’t seen the desperation of Venezuela.

Real fear is at bay.

I’ve succumbed to the pressure of preparing for something… not sure what. Other crazy shoppers emptying the shelves?? We have food to last us a while. We’re fine. I’m fine. I’m not worried.

Should I be worried?

I feel amused and calm.

Calm because it’s not the end. I think we all know it.

Amused because it’s like we’re all rehearsing for the real thing. We’re not so much afraid of the virus, of halting our lives. But we’re afraid of being helpless. Unprepared. So we prepare ourselves for something much bigger, something completely out of our control.

An illusion of control, in a very fragile world. The world hangs in a balance that we don’t even notice from day today. Movement of small, intricate parts:

Work and school.

The stock markets.

Our health.

Border crossings.

Truckers bringing in supplies.

Smallest changes that tip the scale.

We know this isn’t the end. Yet we live in a fragile world which holds on by a thread. What will be the final tug that pulls this civilization apart?

History doesn’t lie: no “kingdom” lasts forever. All eventually come to an end.

And I think instinctively we know this. So we hold on and rehearse just a little while longer. Each year becoming just a little more paranoid. Live as if death stalks behind us.

As I sit here and watch the desperate gain their illusion of power and control, I wonder, if the end finally does come… will we know it?

Or will we casually laugh at another false alarm?

Authenticity · Cake Decorating · Faith

Learning through the Little Things

I share a lot about my failures and what I learn from them on my blog.

I don’t do this because I think we should always focus what we’re doing wrong. My purpose in sharing these things, is that many times I think we go through life feeling that we are alone in the many difficult things that happen. We allow these situations (whether actual sins or honest mistakes) to hinder us from growing or trying things again.

In my life, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that we cannot let hard experiences from the past harden us or keep us from trying new things in the future.

This weekend I made a cake for my niece. It was valentines themed, covered in cream cheese icing with white chocolate decorations. I made it pretty simple, so it wasn’t extravagant or anything and when it was finished I was happy with how it turned out.

I had been wanting to try a white chocolate raspberry cake for a long time, so I asked my sister if I could make one for my niece.

I used a DELICIOUS blueberry cake recipe and swapped the blueberries for raspberries, assuming it would still be as moist as always. What I failed to consider is that raspberries don’t add the moisture that blueberries do.

The result? A dry and dense cake.

At first I felt terrible! Of course my mind went to all my past failures and I began to wallow in those familiar thoughts: that “I was losing my knack for cakes” and that “I would never bake for other people again!!”

What I failed to realize is that trying new things (like the last time I did) doesn’t always work out. There are in fact, many new things I tried this time that worked out really well!

I made up a new filling, that I will definitely be using again. It tasted amazing! I added raspberries, strawberries, melted white chocolate, cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla and I beat it together. Then I beat (in a separate bowl) whipped cream, adding no sugar or flavouring to it. Once it was totally whipped, I stirred the two together.

Oh. My. Word.

The result was heavenly!

But… going back to my terrible feeling about the cake. I had wasted about $20 and four hours of my time.

I felt so much shame that I just wanted to quit.

But as I’ve been doing a lot lately, I took these feelings to Jesus in the most simple and practical way because He Cares.

He actually cares! So often we don’t go to him with these feelings and we instead hide them deep inside. We make ourselves promises such as, “I’m never doing this again!” and those harmful promises hinder our future.

So I went to him. Here’s a simple conversation we had:

Me: Today I tried my best on a cake and it really didn’t turn out. So disappointing! Father, do I need to just stop making cakes for people? This seems to happen far too often! I feel so stupid when my best work fails.

God: How would you feel if you purchased something that didn’t quite turn out?

Me: Honestly, I hate spending money on homemade things. So I’d be pretty disappointed.

God: Disappointed enough to hold it against the person who made it? Or to make a big deal and not pay for it?

Me: No. I just probably wouldn’t order again from that person.

God: You always have options Heather! What do you want to do? You have two choices:

1) Say nothing and collect the money, taking the chance that (the person) won’t order from you again.

2) Charge nothing and tell her that her honesty helped you learn important baking lesson for the future. You will be remembered for your integrity and probably ordered from again. It’s your choice! Do you want to do use this experience to grow your skill as a baker and your integrity? Or would you rather stop doing something that you have an obvious talent for?

Me: Wow I never saw it that way! That sounds so simple. Thanks for listening Jesus.

Sometimes simple wisdom seems complicated in the moment.

How often do we miss the peace God has for us by stressing about things we could have simply talked to him about? How often in the past have I shut myself off to a simple lesson because I’m so busy wallowing in shame?

I think it’s best said in the simplicity of the age old song:

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear,
And what a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit!
Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Jesus, help us to do this. Even in the little things.
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.