Authenticity · Blogging · Faith

The Things I Won’t Write

I love quiet, dark mornings when the house is silent and my family sleeps in late. It is my resting place, my time to do what I love: read & write.

I start off with devotions, sitting in the council of my Heavenly Father, who I once only read about, but now have grown to know and love. I journal my thoughts and some scripture that touched me, then say a few prayers.

Afterwards I write other things. Sometimes I send personal notes and encouraging messages to people around me. Other times I write another page or chapter of my book.

Or today, a blog post.

2021, as every year for me, starts a chapter of something new. It’s not looking much different in terms of freedom or peace than 2020 did, but I always appreciate new beginnings for myself. I love the chance to start fresh.

I honestly considered shutting down my blog this year, especially since it had lately taken on such a political tone, but I thought about it more and can’t get myself to delete it. I have learned to appreciate the people in the blogging world. WordPress has become a sort of haven among some very dark social media and I truly do love the people.

I have met so many writers here. Some with similar stories to mine. Some very different. I have met people halfway across the world that felt like sisters. I have even met people close by who I now know in person.

It is a wonderful thing, to have friends that appreciate words as much as I do.

But today, as I look forward to 2021, I am committing to one thing for this blog: I will not be another voice that brings such depression as to only focus on the restrictions, the turmoil, and the negative world around me. I am not going to speak of that thing which seems to consume us all. I just don’t want to be that place anymore. We get enough of the doom and gloom by reading our daily news and the argumentative comments that follow.

In 2021, I want to be an uplifting voice, however small that voice may be.

So if you need a more cheerful place than the news and the constant noise of all the different opinions – please, stick around. I’m sure this world isn’t getting any better, but there are still so many good people in it and I’m not waving my white flag just yet.

Advertisement
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

A Serious Wound

The pain hurt.

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

And. Did. Nothing.

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

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

The pain hurt.

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

There are three things that prompted my short story above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we did.

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

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

Do we?

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

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

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

Who are we becoming? What are we doing?

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

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

These were important things.

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

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

Because those telling on others are cowards.

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

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

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

Most would say absolutely not!

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

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

COVID-19 was.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s not try to pretend as if it is.

Authenticity · Faith

Jekyll or Hyde?

“Jekyll and Hyde,” he called me.

That I’m like two different people living in one me. The funny thing is that I agree wholeheartedly. I know what he’s talking about.

One side: sweet, caring, and nice.

The other: filled with anger, rejection, and fear.

One side: accepted & loved.

The other: rejected & condemned.

Aren’t we all, really? Jekyll one day. Hyde the next. Trying to stay Jekyll.

Failing miserably.

But the good news? Jesus loves me as Mr. Hyde.

He loves my rejected side. Though people love me when I’m good and hate me when I’m not – Jesus takes me at all times.

He loves both “me’s”.

He has shown me that from day one. Through anger, shame, fear and deepest pain. Through embarrassing panic attacks to awkward moments. Even in full out rebellion.

Though we often turn our faces away from the “Hyde’s” of this world, God doesn’t shrink back. He reaches out his hand and calls them home. Though people reject “Hyde” (he’s horrible and socially awkward and often inappropriate) – God does not.

He tells us this through stories:

Remember the prostitutes? Rahab and Mary Magdeline to name a few…

Remember the government tax thieves? Zacchaeus and Matthew… probably more.

Remember the murderer(s)? Moses (and others)!

Or the adulterous murderer? David.

Or the liars? Isaac, Jacob.

Remember them. And then remember those who slammed stakes through his feet and hands?

“Father, forgive them.” He says.

To top it off, Jesus shares the ultimate story of his love through the parable of the prodigal son. A story of a son who squandered his inheritance, rejecting everything his father had raised him to be.

But the Father.

He waited with open arms for “Hyde” to return.

God loves us. ALL of us.

And he is ever working until I’m all better. Until I’m whole.

Until I’m just one person:

His child.

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

COVID-19

Tears that Say what Words Won’t

I cry a lot these days.

I speak little. I write little.

I think my tears are trying to say all the things I can’t get myself to express.

To my family, they say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that life looks so different. I’m sorry that we just sit at home all the time. I’m sorry that I’m not more creative. I’m sorry for all the friendships on hold, for all the cancelled plans, for all the disappointments.”

To the lonely they say, “You are not forgotten. I wish I could be there, comforting you.”

To my parents, sisters and friends they say, “I miss you. I really miss talking. I miss laughing together. I miss seeing you face to face.”

To all those who have been laid off, who are fearful of their future and uncertain of how to pay their next bills they say, “I wish you could have your job back. I wish you could work. I’m sorry for your fear. I am here for you. I can’t give you everything you need, but what I have, I will gladly share. Ask for help.”

To my dear friend who sits quarantined in her room while her father lays in a hospital bed in a coma from COVID-19, my tears say, “I’m praying for you. I’m so sorry. I long to give you a hug, to tell you that everything will be alright. I’m sorry I can’t.”

To the Church they say, “Are we OK? Are we being the church? Do you still pray when you’re all alone? Are you still out there, seeking God? Are we showing the world Christ in this time? Or are we just distractingly surviving this like everyone else? Are we using this time to call on God, turning back to him, back to our families? Or are we just complaining and binge watching Netflix?”

To my blogging friends – yes friends – though we’ve never met… my tears say, “I see you. I don’t have the words to comfort your fears, your dashed hopes, your anxiety or your loneliness. But I see you. I hear you. Even if I don’t have the strength to comment.”

To God, they say, “I trust you completely… But how long will this last? How bad will it get? I hate how uncertain everything is!”

As the tears fall, they speak, a universal language of pain and hope to the world: This is hard…but we will get through this.

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.

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.
Authenticity · Blogging

Blogging Popularity

I was naive when I started blogging.

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

Call me a quitter.

Call me a pessimist.

Call me impatient.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a lover of good writing, this saddens me.

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

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

Because I love writing.

I want to grow in my abilities.

I want to make connections through my writing.

I wish to receive feedback.

And I long to encourage others as well.

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

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

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.