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. 

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.

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Jesus is Perfect – NOT a Perfectionist and Week 4 of Prayer Challenge

I smiled as I fondly looked at the happy pictures of my family from this past week. These little clips are beautiful memories that will stay in my heart for years to come.

One would think, by looking at them, that it was a perfectly happy week. But the pictures don’t tell the whole story…

Camping with little ones isn’t easy. Hard mattresses, hot tempertures and unfamiliar settings make for long and restless nights. Despite our few snapshots of the best moments, not everything was as relaxing and peaceful as it would appear.  Doing without the comforts and convieneces we normally have can be exhausting.

I am reminded this week that life isn’t perfect, nor can we expect it to be. That’s the fallen state of our world. It’s broken; incomplete.

I have also realized that life is neither about waiting for those golden “picture” moments (for they are far too short and few) nor about making the right decision at every opportunity.

It’s about overcoming. Never giving up. Learning and then relearning. All the while, finding joy in the ups, downs, and curves of life.

My dear auntie shared something with me a couple weeks ago that I absolutely loved. She said, “If all is well only when we frail humans finally come to our senses and make wrong things right (even though this is very important) what do we do when things can never be made right? Where we can’t go back, where permanent damage has occurred; or where people simply see things differently and don’t apologize…it HAS to be possible to overcome in all circumstances or we will constantly loose our joy.”

This is key. We often think it’s the big things that we need to overcome. The huge tests and trials. But for me, especially struggling with depression, I find it’s all too often the little things that I need to relinquish my control over.

This week I “failed” in my specific prayer challenges. My prayer times were short, interrupted and scattered throughout the day. I slept in because the camping nights weren’t great. I had little alone time in a little camper with five kids, no room to go to have peace and quiet. And I was really stressed about it! Because I said I was going to pray this week and I want to always keep my word. But then I stumbled upon this painted rock, hidden one morning:

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And it hit me: Jesus isn’t interested in my perfection or my legalistic prayer agendas.

He’s interested in my heart.

Now I’m not saying that the prayer challenge itself is legalistic, but as always, I needed to get back to the heart of it. The heart of prayer is ALWAYS to connect with Jesus, not to “accomplish” this or that.

So I let go of the weekly agenda and practised “being still.”

Oh how sweet it was to connect with Jesus when the pressure was off! While kayaking, I suddenly was full of joy at the beauty around me and sang praises to God. While running or biking the trails, I was free to worship. While lying in the sun I would pray for loved ones. During meltdowns and temper tantrums I would grit my teeth and ask for grace, patience and wisdom.

There is no formula to a “good prayer”. All you really need is a sincere heart that desires God.

I am continuing the Summer Prayer Challenge, for I still desire to grow in prayer. Yet after this week, I am more sure of one thing then ever before: Jesus is absolutely perfect, but he’s not a perfectionist. Holiness/Perfection is NOT the same as perfectionism. To be holy means to be pure or set apart. Perfectionism says nothing is ever good enough. Jesus is perfect, that is, he is without fault or flaw, blemish or sin or stain…But he has chosen to work outside of perfection; in chaos, really. He is consistent, but knows very well that we are not. Yet, he has chosen the weak, the broken, and the unimpressive as vessels to work through. He’s not interested in our perfectly thought-out rountines, our well-structured lists or cleverly worded prayers.

He’s interested in YOU…in ME! Even though we could never be good enough on our own. He’s interested in relationship. He is able to work through us, if only we will listen to his heart. So for those of you this week, burdened by the “lists”, let go of them and “just be”…

Be still in his presence.

Be thankful in his blessings.

Be touched by his goodness.

Be filled with his love. Allow yourself to feel his love for you. He made only one special you!! Irreplaceable, unique, beautiful and totally LOVED. Feel his smile of delight, enjoying you “be” who he made you to be. Don’t bind yourself to a list. This week, make connection – not completion, your goal.

Summer Prayer Challenge- Week 4:

Pray each day with joy and thanksgiving, for your family. As each precious person comes to mind, lift them up to God. Picture them as you pray for them.

Monday: Pray for bible camps going on this summer. For staff and children to encounter Jesus and to be healed by him. For lasting change and lifelong commitments to be made.

Tuesday: Pray that God would unite his bride, the church. That we would set aside our differences and LOVE as he has called us to love.

Wednesday: Pray for those struggling with mental health. That God would bring break through and healing in this area. That he would bring miraculous healings. That God would give wisdom and tools to the church, to help those suffering to find victory, to overcome!

Thursday: For us as a church to realize our desperate need and hopelessness without God. For the church to call out to God, to wake up and PRAY. For our eyes to be opened to the idols around us.

Friday: For our country, our government, our leaders. Bless them and pray in faith that God is in complete control over our leaders! Pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I’ll post again on Saturday with the prayers for the day and the weekly challenge!

Bless you this week, as you meet with Jesus. Always remember that this is really about him 💕

 

 

 

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Cut Down the Tree

There once stood, in Kentucky, an old magnificent tree. The tree was beautiful and lush, the pride of its owner. It stood tall in front of her house, a welcoming  piece of nature, a beautiful finishing touch to her homestead.

Much to the woman’s dismay, the strong tree was destroyed in Union artillery fire. After the war it still stood upright, but it’s limbs were bare, dark and twisted. It’s charred trunk was only a painful and sad reminder of the past. The woman who owned the place, would stare at the tree and weep for the injustice of all that had happened. When General Robert E. Lee visited the woman, she pointed out the tree to him, expecting sympathy and at the very least for him to condemn those responsible for what had happened. The wise general took one look at the tree and softly said, “Cut it down, dear madam and forget it.”

Lee knew something that few people come to grasp in life: The tree that once stood there would never be the same again and all the tears and bitterness in the world would not change that fact.

All the tree now held was a constant reminder of the injustice the woman had felt and until she would let it go, she would forever feel victimized.

This story, originally told in Charles Bracelen Flood’s book, “Lee: The Last Years”, gives me much to ponder today. For it is a true story, and a wise decision. And it has been proven very true in my own life. My own “trees” sometimes look quite different, maybe it’s a broken treasure, reminding me of the person who shattered it. Maybe it’s a hurtful email held onto for the very same reason as the woman held on to the tree: to point out the wrong that was done. Those texts held onto, serving as a reminder of what happened, as a means of pointing out the injustice. And ridding ourselves of these tokens of injustice that prove our unfair case is painful because it makes a bold statement: I’m not fighting anymore. But oh, the peace that statement brings!

Although the situation feels quite different when the reminders of the pain are not things, but people, doesn’t it? And exactly how does one move ahead when people can’t just be thrown away? It’s one thing to walk out of prison doors and never see your tormentors again, but it’s quite another to live among them. Is it right to flee when they enter the room? Is it good to ignore their presence, as if they don’t exist? Is it helpful to try to force their hand in making things right?

In reality, “Cutting down the tree” when pertaining to close relationships sometimes feels like a physical cutting off, but what it really is, is a recognition that all my human efforts have failed. And rather than continuing on a dangerous path of tearing each other down, there comes a resolve to live moving forward, instead of trying to regain something from the past.

This is the struggle I have been going through, learning to let those you love make painful and heart wrenching decisions and learning to not fight those decisions. Giving space out of safety and respect. Giving a gentle smile out of love. An encouraging word when appropriate. And always praying and staying soft.

Above all, learning that our hope is in God alone. Our hope is NOT in the actions or responses of others. He alone brings healing where it seems impossible. He alone can make the wrong things right. And in His timing all will be restored.

That burnt, ruined tree, will never be the same. It’s true! However I’ve discovered, that when a dead tree is cut down, often a new shoot springs out of that dead stump. Yes, it takes time to grow and no, it doesn’t look the same as the tree that was lost. But it’s ALIVE, it’s fresh, and it’s healing.

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Poetry

I Only Planted the Seeds

I only planted the seeds.

You tilled the ground and made it fine.

It was you who broke the hardened soil, and worked through each new line.

You added nutrition to the dust and fertilized the dirt,

Scraping every inch of earth, though your hands, they bled and hurt.

You sifted through rocks and plowed the weeds, under the beating sun.

Never once giving up or shutting your eyes, till the work was done.

I only planted the seeds.

How great I must’ve thought I was, far bigger than I am;

To think that I should be the one with the master plan.

For you caused the sun to shine its warmth, and the cool, wet rain to fall;

You kept the creatures and the bugs from devouring it all.

And yet I cried out: How unfair! I wanted to see it through!

After all my work in what I did, I never witnessed the fruit!

But really, I only planted the seed, it was never my job to watch it grow.

How hard to admit it’s up to you, harder still to let them go!

For that little seed was planted with care, with tears and with my heart!

How then could I step back and let it wither, couldn’t I play a bigger part?

“These things take time, my dear,” you spoke to me,

“Your job is done! Now let it be.”

Oh that I could see what came from my tiny, dead, old seeds! I may never really know.

For it was only my job to plant the seed, now it’s yours to make it grow.

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When Love is Letting Go

I don’t let go easily.

If something is important to me, I hold on to it for dear life. Close friendships are one of these things. They are priceless, difficult to find, time-consuming to build and they take a lot of effort to keep strong. They are more valuable than diamonds, worth more than money can buy.

That’s also why I value relationships and people in my life far too much to just walk away when I’m hurt or to shut them out of my life. When a conflict arises, as they sometimes do, I will try again and again and again to work things out. I will work to the point of insanity to keep the peace. When I am in the wrong, I am usually the first person to go apologize and make things right. When I don’t think I’m in the wrong, I’m still search for something I did that I can apologize for, because I am a firm believer that there are NO situations where I act perfectly. Even if I physically did nothing wrong, in my heart there could be jealousy, or pride, or self-pity, bitterness, anger or frustration. And I can apologize for that because maybe the other person was sensing something in my attitude toward them that I wasn’t even aware of!

And most of the time it has been well worth it. Many friendships have been saved and many wrongs have been forgiven because of my tenacity. It’s hard work to hold on to friends!

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love ALWAYS hopes, love ALWAYS perseveres, love NEVER fails…therefore I came to the conclusion early on in life that “letting go” was the opposite of love.

That is, until this year.

I desperately tried to find some way to mend a relationship I valued, but each attempt seemed to harden the person towards me more and more and more. Each attempt brought with it sleepless nights, days of working through hurtful words said to me and much heartache in forgiving them over and over again. And it was so tough! But I kept telling myself, “It’ll be worth it! Once they see my heart of love for them it will be worth every tear!” So I forgave and kept holding on.

I prayed for them, oh I prayed! I sent little gifts to show my love. I emailed encouraging words. I defended them when others spoke against them. Still, the person wouldn’t even respond to me. Finally one day I asked God what I could possibly do more for them to show my love…and very softly I heard the words: Let them go.

You know what’s harder than forgiving someone who’s hurt you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more difficult than working through the same issues over and over again with someone who has little regard for your feelings? Letting them go.

You know what’s more challenging than speaking kindly of someone who speaks harshly to you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more loving then holding on to someone who has set their heart against you? Letting them go. Because it feels like giving up. And love doesn’t give up! Ever! But letting go is not the same as giving up.

Giving up is hardening yourself to the situation…letting go is staying soft.

Giving up says, “I don’t care what they think!”….letting go says, “I care too deeply to let this go on.”

Giving up is making an enemy, letting go is preventing one.

Giving up says, “I will never let you hurt me again!” Letting go says, “When you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.”

Giving up is losing hope, letting go is hoping in God’s timing.

Why does life have to be so hard sometimes? Why can’t everything just fall into place if we try hard enough? Why?

I don’t have the answers.

I wish I had the ability to see into the future, and to see all the good that will come out of this. Oh, I wish I did! But I don’t…all I know is it’s time to let go. And it’s hard as hell.

But I can do it, because of one special promise written down just for me, just for a time like this…

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

In all things.

Ok God, I trust you. I’m letting go.

Depression · Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer

Finding Joy in Hardships

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about those darkest of times… those days, weeks, months or  even years where you find that everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

These past few years have been the hardest years of my life.

Now if you know my story, that’s probably a bit hard to believe. But what about your teenage pregnancy?? What about the loneliness of losing all of your high school friends as they went on with their lives without you? What about the months you watched your son suffering in the hospital, wondering if he was going to live to see his first birthday? What about the time where your spouse lost his job and you had no idea how you were going to feed the three young babies depending on you? Harder than those days? Yes. A hundred times…yes.

It hasn’t been the outward kind of hard, where everyone can see what’s going on and rushes in to help. Our health is great, our finances have been good, our marriage is doing well. These are things we so often take for granted until they’re gone. Losing a loved one, failing health, money struggles, or having a rough marriage bring very dark times as well. But these aren’t the type of hardships I’ve faced this past year.

I was quite suddenly faced with a totally unexpected confrontation, during a very difficult season of my life. This brought about a dark feeling of rejection that I can’t, try as I may, find the words to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain because I’m not free to tell the whole story… just vague little pieces to protect those involved. I think only those who have felt so hurtfully accused, deeply rejected and so utterly confused as to WHY, could fully understand what I’m talking about. But the hardest thing wasn’t that it happened…it’s that was happening for over a year. For months, I went to bed almost every night with my pillow soaked in tears, wondering if I would ever again lie down with peace in my heart. And for the most part, I carried these burdens alone – desperate to talk to someone, anyone who would listen…but my heart was torn because it involved those I loved SO dearly, so I kept silent.

My life, to the very core, was being shaken. At one point I truly believed that I had lost the favour of God on my life. I began to do everything I thought I could do to win his favour back. I tried so hard to admit all my faults, to confess and confess and confess, to not be defensive, to take the blame, to restore the peace…and through it all, I began to let go of something very important; my joy.

My joy was gone. Somewhere along the way, my eyes had turned from looking at Jesus and I began to focus on the problem. Like Peter among the waves, I had stepped out of the boat in full confidence; only to lose sight of the fact that I was never meant to walk on water…I was simply supposed to look at Jesus. When I realized this, healing could begin.

Here I was faced with one of the most difficult questions to ask during a trial: How can something like joy be found again…even if your circumstances haven’t changed?

The first step was to recognize the devil’s lies. I realized that I can’t do works to earn God’s favour. Period. God’s children receive his favour as they look to him. And when we have our eyes on him, he loves to pour out his favour.

I also had to let go of the way I wanted things to turn out. I felt that if I just did my very best, if I prayed hard enough…then God would make things better. As it turns out, God never promises to make the road easy or better. He does promise to work everything for the good of those who love him. And I needed to trust this promise. As soon as I was free from focusing on my problem, I could fully turn my attention to pleasing God.  Then and only then, could I follow the steps HE wanted me to take.

The final piece in my journey to rediscovering joy was found in the book of Philippians. If you haven’t read it before, or even if it’s been a while, read it. It’s a true gem. Here is a book written by a man almost 2000 years ago, who had been through so many trials. At the time he wrote it, Paul was in prison, facing a very lonely future, a trial which could’ve led to his death, and hearing of people against him actually preaching – all while he sits under house arrest. Despite all this, the letter is one of the most joyful and thankful books of the bible. Instead of complaining about the negatives events that surround his current circumstances he chooses to see the positive side of things. He also shares two secrets about finding joy and peace that I began to cling to:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. That much I had done. Telling God what I need. Check! Thank him. Thank him! Thankfulness is part of the secret to having the peace of God in your heart. And I began to thank God, even in my pain. Declaring his goodness out loud is SO POWERFUL! As I began to thank God, day after day, I slowly started to see some good things that had come out of my situation. And then, the final secret to joy:

“…I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I can have joy because he gives me strength.  

This realization, that God wasn’t just watching me suffer from the sidelines – but actively walking through the fire with me and holding me up, brought me great joy! Every painful moment, he was there. Every night I cried, he was holding me. And in my weakness he is beside me, giving me strength. I am not alone. Now that is a reason to have great joy!

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

 

Faith · Family · Parenting

When Life was Easy

These past two years my family has seen SO MUCH CHANGE. We’ve moved twice, switched churches twice, my husband has switched jobs twice. And it hasn’t been easy. Actually more often than not, I’ve found myself looking at snapshots from the past and wanting to just scream out: NO more change! Can’t I just go back to the way things were when they were easy!?! (As if it’s EVER been easy) And I long for the simpler times. Before I homeschooled. When the kids were all still young. When cell phones didn’t receive emails and notifications every five minutes…

It’s so easy isn’t it? To look back and see the perfect snapshots of our past and to think how “back then” things were happier, better somehow. But then, I remember how “back then” I wished for the days I’m in now. Where I can sleep without being woken every hour. Where the kids would play nicely by themselves once in a while. Where the baby wouldn’t need to be fed constantly. Where the hard days of pregnancy would be over and I could once again walk without pain.

In life there are many seasons, some good, some challenging, and some that seem to almost kill us. But they are seasons. And they will change.

Right now, I’m finally happy again with the way things are. We have a great church family who love and support us, we have a beautiful new house, we’re doing great financially and Ryan loves his new job. I just want to dig in my nails like a baby kitten and say ‘God, now don’t change a thing.’ But of course, deep down I know that this season wasn’t meant to last forever. Our family is again faced with a very exciting opportunity, but it will also mean change, and I’m terrified. I think back to all the times we’ve just jumped in and expected the best and how it actually turned out to be so much harder than anticipated. The last time everything felt perfect, we chose change and I thought that I might not make it through. But I did. And there’s no way I want to go through a time like THAT again.

But we weren’t made to hold on to the things in this world. We were made to let go. And in letting go of what we hold so dear, we are really admitting that it maybe isn’t as important as we make it out to be. With life continuing to move forward, I must learn to move on as well. Is there ANYTHING that will ever stay the same?

Oh, but there is. And it’s only when we let go that we realize that we were holding on to things that were never meant to keep us happy, they were never meant to satisfy our hearts. When we let go of it all, suddenly we can see clearly and there He is. Jesus. The One and Only. And as we let go, we reach out cling to Him, only to realize that He was holding on to us all along.