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 · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

About Me · COVID-19

Boring Updates and Much Ado about Nothing

When COVID-19 first began impacting my world, my screen time went up by hours. It wasn’t that I was immediately self-isolating and needed the connection. In fact, at first I was so shocked that I was definitely NOT social distancing. It was simply because I needed to know what was happening.

What was happening?!? I still don’t think I really know.

On March 12, my life was pretty normal. I went out for a rare evening coffee with a friend. I decided to pick up a few groceries as well, just because I had started to hear stories of things getting crazy around the world.

Imagine my surprise when the pasta aisle was empty, as was the toilet paper aisle and flour, sugar, etc. Shaking my head at “those crazies” I grabbed enough for my week and went home.

The next day, on March 13, our school division announced that schools would be closed the following three weeks.

I was completely shocked. I felt many things that day. Distrust in my governments “overreaction”. Confusion, as I’m not on most social media and I don’t watch the news. Mostly, I felt numb and indifferent. Numb, because the ramifications of what the shut down of civilization would mean hadn’t fully hit me yet. Indifferent, because I am a mother. A stay at home mother. Social distancing has been my life for the past decade.

Yet, sometime in the following weeks as more places closed, as lockdowns grew tighter, as people started loosing their jobs, the tears came. They fell and they fell.

And now they are no more.

I haven’t cried for a week. Mostly, I have been angry. A deep, unsettling anger, at no one and nothing in particular. Just angry at being stuck. I’m a “do-er”. Now I’m encouraged to not go and do, but to stay put. It sucks me dry.

But enough about feelings, I am writing today to share that my life right now is about as interesting as watching seeds grow, which is precisely what I’m doing these days.

I planted seeds and they are taking longer than usual to grow, but every day or so, another one pops up reminding me that life can’t be rushed. And patience produces fruit. Or in this case, vegetables.

I also bake daily. Yesterday it was banana bread and an Easter dessert. The banana bread actually was a part of a funnier story. Want to hear it?

Well sure! I’ll tell you, since it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all month.

I ordered groceries online and was given FOUR CONTAINERS OF SOURCREAM.

Large containers.

What I had really ordered was yogurt. To eat with granola. For breakfast. And obviously this was the best replacement?!? LOL!! Anyway, there was no way I was going to wait in line just to complain but goodness did I have a laugh. And then promptly changed my entire weeks meal plan to revolve around sour cream.

When life gives you sour cream… Make Nachos and banana bread!

Really people, those are the most exciting moments of my life this past month.

Like everyone else, I am on screens far too much, homeschooling, staying home, shopping only when absolutely necessary, surviving boredom and stir-crazy kids, who fight and bicker, and then whine and complain. In cycles.

I make meals from scratch and then clean them up.

I read lots, but I’m not really in the mood for writing these days. Life isn’t inspiring enough to write fiction. Once the world stops being fiction, I’ll write again.

Me and the kids finished four 500 piece puzzles, all of which were missing a single piece.

One. Single. Piece. (I may have found the reason for my anger!)

I also run, though the weather is cold again, and who really wants to run on a treadmill indoors after getting a taste of the fresh outdoor air these past weeks?

So as you sit around doing nothing on this fine Easter Day, take comfort, we are all doing nothing. And I’ll read about your nothing while you read about mine. Together we’ll get through this.

One sour cream container at a time.

Education · Family · Homeschooling · public school

Homeschooling vs. Public School – from a Mom who Loves Both.

Autumn has come and gone and we’re already two full weeks into March! I have now had my all five of my children in school for a little more than six months. After 13 years of having non-stop chaos in my home, I used to wonder how these days would feel… No kids at home for half of the day. Only one around for the other half (he’s in kindergarten).

I had dreams of what this would look like.

Heavenly dreams of slow mornings, hot coffee, settling down with a good book in hand and a bowl of chocolate covered almonds in the other… Or maybe I would go on a run each morning.

Or strike off a few more books on my never-ending “to read” list.

I definitely thought I’d finish editing my book by now. And that it would be published already…

I had grand plans of organizing every single room in the house; touching up the worst of the nicked-up walls with a fresh coat of paint. Plus it was going to look clean all the time as there are no kiddos around to mess it up…am I right??

Even now I’m chuckling to myself because what was I even THINKING?!? Did I actually believe that the moment my kids got on that bus, time would just magically multiply for me? My ideas that moms with kids in public school must have nothing to do… yeah, those are quickly getting squashed.

If anything, this year has been a good reminder about the reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place.

So now that I’ve had a fair chunk of time with my kids in each, I want to give an honest look at homeschooling and public school. Hopefully, with taking a deeper look, the large wall that seems to hang between homeschoolers and those who go to public school will come down.

And we’ll realize how similar we really are. Our differences aren’t so bad either. My hope is that we begin to see that the “other side” isn’t crazy.

Or lazy.

Or bad for your kids.

One isn’t necessarily easier than the other. And honestly, both can be impossibly difficult but amazingly rewarding if done well.

Oh, and I almost forgotaren’t most Canadian’s going to be homeschoolers now for the next three weeks or more?

I had to chuckle to myself about this, because now all the people who have told me they could never homeschool… will actually get the opportunity to test that theory out. I’m willing to pay money, that at the end of the next three weeks, the children in their care will have learnt more under their intentional direction than in a public school setting. 

A Typical Homeschool Day… was not at all what my dream homeschool days looked like.

I had visions creating a curriculum a where science, social studies, ELA projects all worked hand in hand together. I also thought it would look more like the public school setting that I was raised in. And to some point I was able to achieve a bit of this. Don’t see what I mean?

To homeschool, erase much of what you know of public school. Set time schedules, hand raising for help, line ups, waiting for the kids that are ruining it for the rest of the class and subjects that follow a little bit of everything. Only to repeat and go more in depth year after year.

Homeschooling is actually much more freeing then this. And I found that it took considerably less time. Teaching my kids took a third of the time then a school day actually takes. This means I was able to pack more information into my kids before lunch then public school is able to do all day. This isn’t bragging about my teaching abilities, this is just honestly how much faster teaching goes with students who get real discipline when they misbehave and who would rather spend the afternoon playing outside with siblings, then sitting at the table alone working on unfinished assignments.

The most difficult thing was that I actually had to work out character clashes between me and the kids. This not only helped shape them and gave them opportunity to find their place in our family, it sharpened me as well! Impatience and outbursts of anger had to be worked on. It could no longer stay tucked safely away.

What I mean is this… when you only have to “behave” for a couple hours each evening it’s easy to never deal with character issues at all, rather go from “break” to “break”, merely surviving in between. But when you’re always with five children who are testing your patience ALL day long, you actually have to come up with a solution in order to function well.

Pros of homeschooling:

-Students learn at their own pace

-Less distractions

-More one on one teaching

-Flexible Hours

-Flexible curriculum

-Less wasted time

-Closer family connections

-Better values being taught

-Limited exposure to negative influences

-More affordable (You bet, more affordable! At least, it is for having five kids! Even when I spend $500 a year on curriculum, it saves me unnecessary school supplies, indoor/outdoor shoes, School fees, instruments, field trips, mandatory gift exchanges, teacher gifts, lunches, book fairs, etc). Public school is expensive!

Cons of homeschooling:

-Negative sigma- feeling isolated or discouraged from other friends and/or family members

-Lack of support

-Extra sensitive kids with uncontrolled outbursts (Which can also be a positive thing, when children are taught to properly express their emotions.)

-Some children struggle to respect other authority

-Narrow perspective

-Lack of Independence or ability to solve relational problems on their own.

-Difficulty with clashing personalities

-Very little down time or quiet moments

-Bored children

**Notice what ISN’T on this list? Socialization. Quite simply, this is a NON issue. In fact, in this day and age I would argue that most homeschoolers are more socialized than public schoolers. They are able to talk with a variety of ages… (adults, peers AND younger children) most of them aren’t glued to their personal devices, unlike most public school children. Especially those with siblings and support groups, in my opinion are FAR ahead socially. The real argument is do they “fit in”? And my response to that would be… do you want them to? Do you want them to gossip? Show disrespect to teachers? Mock those who are weaker than them? Look up inappropriate YouTube videos?

No, in this sense, my kids do not fit in. And I’m 100% happy with that.

A Typical Public School Day:

So let me just clarify a few things:

– There are no leisurely mornings… I run around like a crazy woman making sure everyone has clean clothes, lunches packed, homework done, books to return for library, gym clothes for class, flute or trumpet for band, clean shoes, washed faces, clipped finger nails, breakfast eaten, and on and on and ON!! My neighbours can probably hear me yelling through the walls, “HURRY UP! YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS!!”

– There is no extra time….After the kids are gone it looks like all my possessions were thrown into a topless blender and vomited all over the house.

– My days are more chaotic than ever.

So yes, you probably understand the chaos in the mornings and the homework/ extra curricular schedules in the evenings. But what do Mom’s really do between those 7 hours from 9-4pm. That’s a lot of time!!!

First I clean up. Dishes, lunch meats still sitting on the table, breakfast items, socks thrown around on the ground in a panic. Forgotten papers for me to sign.

An hour or two later, the house is finally tidy (not clean, tidy, there’s a HUGE difference).

Then the phone begins to ring…

“Mrs. Bergen, I have your son here in the office with chest pains..”

“Mrs. Bergen, your boy really injured his foot today at recesss…”

“Mom I forgot my…” click.

It is now 10:30 and I have approximately 1 hour left before my youngest son comes home on the kindergarten bus. And yes it’s only one kid, but can we just acknowledge that one child is often harder than having five??? I am his only entertainer ALL afternoon!!

Anyways usually, it’s halfway through the morning before I can even start my “to do” list.

Where is this “Glorious Freedom” I was told about? I have come to realize, it is there. I really just have to stop and notice it.

It’s in the peaceful silence as I work and clean.

It’s in the mornings I decide to push off the cleaning and go for a run.

It’s in the cup of coffee I drank that stayed hot.

It’s in the muffin I did not have to share.

There is a difference to being alone, and it is most refreshing!

I established early on that if I was staying at home while my kids were in school I would not waste my time. The temptation for moms to “Netflix binge” is all too real. To safeguard myself, I established firm rules for the days I do find myself with extra time:

1) I do not watch Netflix while my kids are at school and my husband is at work. I do not turn on the T.V. Period. I do not spend time on social media while they are at school. (WordPress is the only social media that I’m currently on). Wasting time on my phone or other devices would be incredibly unfair to my family.

2) Only one social outing a week while the family is at school/work. Again, how is it fair if my children are working all day and my husband is providing all day for our family and I am lounging around?

3) I get all the housework/cooking done while the family is away so that we can make the most of our family time together in the evenings. Yes I make most of our meals and lunch snacks from scratch. It’s healthier and it saves us A TON of money. The secret to living off of one income: Budget well and eat at home. Seriously.

4) The only shopping I do during the day is for necessities. Therefore, I do not waste time browsing stores for my enjoyment.

You may wonder, why all the rules? Quite simply, because our society sees stay at home moms as lazy, particularly once kids are in school. I know this can be true. But I also know, that if done well, stay at home moms are vital to the family unit and to society.

Who else has the time to volunteer in the school system and help struggling children learn to read?

Who else has the time to visit the sick, give meals to the weary or babysit for those who desperately need?

How about public schooling on the students side of things?

The first thing my kids noticed about public school was the noise. It was so loud and distracting! The kids were constantly interrupting the teacher and showing disrespect. My kids honestly felt terrible for the teacher and found it hard to work.

They did enjoy having weekly activities that we did not get to do at home (for instance: music class, phys ed, science labs, after school sports, track and field, etc.) I just simply could not fit all these things in for them, but the school system can!

They also enjoyed making new friendships, hearing new perspectives on life, having recess and lunch with kids their own age, being able to have friends their ages to relate to their struggles on a new level! This was all very wonderful to see!

I also appreciated that there were areas I never taught because I didn’t know how like French and art. Our kids have grown to love these subjects, and I’m so glad that they’ve had the opportunity to study them!

Pros of public school:

Consistent routine and schedule

-Close friendships

-Unique opportunities

-A larger worldview/different perspective

-Space away from parents (Yes I listed this as a good thing! There are some homeschooled children who are smothered by their parents in an unhealthy way.) They do need space to make their own choices and freedom to grow!

-The variety of subjects/courses

-Independence

Cons of public school:

-Homework

-Less Free time

-Overly busy schedule

-Negative influences

-Costs and pressure to do more outings

-Distractions and noise

-Disrespect to teachers

-Lack of individuality in teaching that is often needed for students, especially ones with minor learning disabilities (Although to be fair I think the school system has improved tons in the last few years in this area).

-Lack of supervision

So there you have it! I know I’ve missed some of the pros and cons and there’s so much more I could write. But this is a starting point to better understanding both sides. I’ve learned to appreciate both public/private school and homeschool and I’m so thankful that I live in a country that allows me to choose!

Faith · Purpose · Wisdom

A Forgotten Grave

I sit at my desk, once again, tapping the keys on my laptop. Trying to form another post. I must’ve started fifty in the past months. Fifty posts unseen to the world. 

There is a largely unseen aspect to my life right now, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. I mean truly okay.

I wake up. Journal. Read. Pray.

Connect with my family. Send them to school.

Clean. Bake. Cook. Shop. Volunteer.

Kids come home. I make supper. Connect with my family some more. And then go to bed so I can repeat it all over again in the morning.

And I feel full.

I think it’s because I’ve finally come to the point where I’m no longer trying to move to the next stage and the next. I’ve become content with the journey itself.

We do that a lot in life, don’t we?

Wake up Monday and just try to make it till the weekend.

 

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Start a job and go through the motions… just surviving until the next holiday.

Start parenthood, just waiting until the baby is sleeping through the night… then till they’re potty trained… then just till they’re in school…. finally until they’re out of the house.

And then we still wait! Until retirement. And even then. Fill the schedule so full of social outings and volunteering that we just long until we can go south for the winter.

Is this really what life is about? Waiting for the next good moment?

Now just a caveat: I’ve seen many take this idea to unhealthy places, where people start feeling guilty for even enjoying anything in life. Breaks are fine. Holiday’s are good. Rest is good.

Let’s not get weird.

Yet what I’m saying is this: What if, we actually saw the journey as the purpose; the moment we live in, as the joy of life? And the breaks as just that: A short pause; a rest before the next stanza in the symphony.

Not the only thing to look forward to.

And most certainly not the meaning of it all! For what would a symphony be with no sound?

I’ve decided to homeschool my younger two boys again next year. To finish what I’ve started. Why? Because I’m happy with the results of the older three kids, with the time I’ve put into their lives, with the good relationship we have and I want to provide my younger two children with the same opportunities.

I think, our culture at large has no idea how much time it takes to raise children. To create loving and close bonds with the next generation. That’s why I often chuckle at younger moms or others who are just waiting until the next stage.

Guess what? A teenager needs the same amount of time as a toddler.

HA! I bet you didn’t know THAT! (As most people reading this gasp and shake their heads. Now they know I’m off my rocker!)

How can I make this bold claim? A teenager can do almost everything for themselves!! Yet… Most teens feel so unconnected to their families that they are known to cause trouble, run off, steal, do drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour. It’s why people dread those teenage years.

My older two are just entering these years now. And I am LOVING it. I love my teens. They are SO much fun! They understand so much. They have a spark that I’ve lost. They are losing that lame elementary school humour and becoming hilarious to be around (sorry to my younger kiddos, it’s just true!!). We spend most evenings together. Chatting. Eating supper. Cleaning up together. Laughing. Playing games.

And my question is this? Where are the other parents of this generation?

At work. Rushing to unimportant outings. And hiding behind screens.

I get asked a lot about my relationship with my children. Why they like church? Why they like our family cell group? How I get them to share their struggles openly with me? How do I manage to have our teens enjoy family times together?

The answer is quite simple, but it isn’t easy: It is quite literally laying down my life daily for my family.

I have no career.

I do not travel.

I have no outside hobbies: my hobbies happen at home. I run at home. I read at home. I bake at home. I write at home.

I have no fame.

I have no degree.

I am nothing, No one to the world.

HA! Feminists HATE this kind of talk. Why am I not doing something for me??

Oh, but I am.

I have no importance to the world, yet I am filled with a profound sense of purpose: I am raising the next generation.

Do you understand the importance of that statement??

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION!

Unseen. Unheard. Probably will never be known or famous. One day, a century or two from now, my graveside will be long forgotten.

But there will be five kids who will live on… and build five more legacies, and their legacies will multiply and their children will have children. And on and on. And perhaps the most profound thing will be this: they will have a legacy of love.

They belonged and they were loved. So they too will love and invite others to belong.

If I could have one wish, it’s that every single person, every single parent, every single mother could see this.

Our purpose isn’t to provide a fancy house, car and clothes for our children. It’s not to give them that dream vacation. It’s not to give them every opportunity with career or extra curricular event. These are usually just our dreams for them anyway.

Our purpose is to be there and listen. To love and connect.

To build a strong legacy, which may never be recorded in the Guinness World Records or history books, but will be written on the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Our purpose is to let this love overflow to the world. Because the more I love and take time for my family, the more I find myself caring about those around me. Instead of judging, wondering, do they have a place of belonging? Do they have someone to care?Often, the answer is no. So we invite them in: Come, join our family.

No, maybe I won’t end up in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a good chance that my grave will one day be forgotten, like the millions of heroes and saints that have gone before me. People pass away. Memories are forgotten.

But you know what doesn’t pass away? The fruit that comes from a labour of love.

Authenticity · Faith

Breaking Point

Sit down. Breathe.

The first morning to rest in weeks. Well, maybe just a bit of rest, there’s a lot of catch up to do.

Oh, what to do? What to do with this extra hour of time. An hour of quiet. An hour of alone time.

Should I read?

Sleep?

Go for a quick run on the treadmill? It’s been over a week since I last could run. Since I last had the time. The strength.

Weddings and long flus do that you know. My house was a place of bustling activities for the past week. So many people. Wonderful people. But a house full of 14 wonderful people, still holds the chaotic mess of the McCallister family from Home Alone.

Yup that was our place. Add a wedding and the flu to whatever you’re imagining. Harry and Marv didn’t even dare stop by. Our house was too much for even them. 

Oh and I almost forgot…there was a wedding cake order that I had to make in the mix. A large one:

Where was I going with this?

Right. Alone time. Rest.

That was supposed to be this morning.

Then the phone rings. My son, who was already sick last week with the flu, just threw up at school.

Morning of rest… OVER.

This is an honest look at Motherhood. An exhaustion that goes beyond exhaustion.

Reality: I don’t get a break. I am Mom.

Also Reality: This is why I need Jesus everyday.

Every. Single. Day.

This past week was impossible for me. If anything, it showed me how human I truly am.

I can’t do it all.

I really can’t! I need help. When I’m up at night holding buckets in front of kids, when I’m up early in the morning doing laundry, when I’m up late after everyone else is gone to bed, baking and decorating wedding cakes & cleaning up the mess that’s left behind, I am not enough.

In fact my character shows it. I become snappy. I become focussed on things rather than people. I grow bitter and bossy. For crying out loud, I quit a card game with my family because I was losing. Immature much??

My normal capacity to handle stress was gone.

Put me in any one of these situations: Host. Wedding. Cake Decorator. Sick family… and I can do it.

I can handle anything. (Or so I think)

But put me in all of the situations at once and I break.

Everyone has a breaking point. This was mine.

I am human.

I am weak.

The inside yuck comes out, and surprise, surprise, I’m just as short tempered, grumpy, and controlling as anybody else.

It gives me a lot of grace, to think this way. Because what is this trial compared to so many others have gone through and are going through right now?

Oh, that I would have eyes to see this! We are all just humans, struggling along in our weakness. We actually cannot do anything.

BUT…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

All things.

Not some things. All things.

As I sit now, resting, with my hand in his. I believe it. Because he never said that I have to do everything perfectly. I just need to hold his hand in mine and stay soft through it all.

When I fall, all he asks is me to reach out again and get back up.

That I can do.

If this is what keeps me humble, if this is what keeps my heart soft towards others, then Jesus, I thank you for it. Bring me to my breaking point over and over so that I learn to truly rely on you. Then I will truly do all things in your strength and not my own.

Christmas

Broken Angels

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

It all started when they caught Mother’s eye. A rare, impulse buy. All at once in that tiny moment, in that unknowing act, a progression of events was started that would eventually end in a yearly disaster.

The act of buying glass anything was foolish, she knew, for a household with not only one, but two babies. However it wasn’t that first year, nor the second, but the third when the tradition began. That third year, when there were three children.

Nevertheless a tradition was born – thee tradition was born – for every tradition must make its debut.

It was an innocent mistake, that first broken angel. A boy, a girl and a ball. One quick game of indoor catch was all it took. Of course, Mother saw it all before it actually happened, as most mother’s do. Wisdom. Foresight. Experience. Whatever it was, she called out her warning a second too late.

The inevitable crash of shattering glass. Immediate chaos, if only for a second. An overreaction of sorts. Yelling. Tiny stricken faces with regretful tears.

Finally, understanding dawns: it’s not that big a deal.

Voices soften, the room calms and Mother warns gently now: “Be careful, step away, that glass is sharp.”

Year four. Fast baby. Moving baby. Soft chubby hands grab for a sparkling figure, carelessly placed two branches too low. A single snap. A piercing scream. Mother holds baby close as little drops of red appear on the cherub’s hands. She cleans them carefully, silently. Kissing them, bandaging the wounds. Angel number two is momentarily forgotten.

When, and only when baby is safe in his crib, Mother cleans up the mess. She looks at the angel, broken in pieces and shakes her head. What a stupid move, such a thoughtless notion, to buy glass.

The fifth year, another child joins the picture. Four little children. But they can’t be blamed for broken angel number three. This one was on Daddy. Goofy Daddy. Careless Daddy. Daddy with his smiling eyes.

Mother yells again, “You careless bunch of hooligans! I only have six left!” but as she turns to get the vacuum, a smile tugs at her lips.

Three years, three angels.

Year six was quite different, for the angel broke itself. At least, that is what Mother claimed as she carefully and gently lifted the angelic piece to the tree. The halo, which held the string simply snapped and down, down, down fell the ornament as Mother gasped. The room is silent, except for the breaking angel. The shattering of glass now sounds like the chiming of a familiar childhood memory. Each piece holds its own pitch, and rings out its broken song: The sound of Christmas.

A snicker. A snort. The room hold no more tension. The family bursts into laughter. Four years in a row. One broken angel a year. No more, no less.

By the time year seven rolls around, the family of seven opens up the decoration box to find a fifth wingless angel. Had the box dropped? Had it been carelessly packed away? No one knows. But by now it’s a game. A silly little game. How will next year’s angel break?

Year eight doesn’t disappoint. Mom’s once again growing tired of the negligence. But still, she allows the laughter, pulling out the vacuum, the expression she wears is one resigned to the destiny of her fragile figures.

“I only have three left.”

The oldest child just giggles, “But Mooom, it has to break. It’s tradition!”

Year nine and ten fly by in a similar manner. There’s now eight broken angels. Never once was one shattered on purpose. But each year it happens just the same.

Finally, year eleven approaches. The Christmas tree is up. The five children are all older. Less careless.

Mama stares at that last glass angel. Something in her hopes it will break. Another part wishes it will last forever. But either way, she knows, the tradition will soon end. All traditions must have a finale. Either that or they slowly die out, forgotten forever.

A finale sounded much better.

But what? A slow smile spreads across her face.

A plan.

Christmas Day comes and the angel still holds tightly to the tree. Gently swaying there, beautifully. The family seems to momentarily forget their ridiculous ritual. Angel breaking.

They forget as they rip open boxes of paper; brightly colored paper that carpets the floor. Suddenly it happens. Mother brings out a box; a clear box with a string. To protect. To safeguard. A monument to last forever. This last angel will not break. It will be preserved.

Ooohs and Awws fill the room. The perfect finale. Mother takes the last angel and carefully places it within its cage, sticking it with care to the bottom. Savouring this precious moment, she turns to place the memory box on the tree.

A piece of discarded wrapping paper was all it took. Her foot slips, she stumbles, as if in slow motion. Her eyes grow wide as the treasure slips from her grasp. The angel and the box hang in the air. Mother hits the ground first, then all at once, it happens. As if the tradition has a mind of its own, the box hits the ground. The last angel shatters within its own shield.

First shock. And stunned silence. Impossible!

Then that magical moment. The outburst of howling, almost delirious laughter. Floor pounding, snorting and roaring type laughter. Tears rolling down each face, unable to breathe sort of laughter. Wave after wave it continues. The kind that erupts from deep inside and goes on until all sides are aching.

Finally, as all good times do, the moment ends. For the very last time, Mother cleans up. It is all as it was meant to be.

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

Now, there are memories.

Writing

Eating My Humble Pie

I’ve always loved a good slice of pie.

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

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

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

It just depends where I look.

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

Last week we received their report cards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUMBLE PIE.

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

We wait for the grit.

We love the grit.

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

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

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

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

So let me open my window further for you…

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

Ouch.

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

That’s right.

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

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

I mean, I’ve had my moments.

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

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

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

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

Writing my story was simple. Ok relatively simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I may even ask for seconds.

Faith

Keeping my Family Together

These were my thoughts today as I reflected on the influence I have on my family:

The most sobering and shocking revelation that I’ve found in my home is that I am the heartbeat of it. When I isolate myself, when I’m upset or allow myself to become mean and uncontrolled, the rest of my family is sure to follow.

When I am in a room, the kids gather around, drinking in the conversation, the laughter, the stories I share.

When I leave, they scatter.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I stay present.

My joy lights up the room. My sadness darkens it. It is as if I am able to control the very atmosphere of my home with my responses to those around me.

This may just be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse a parent can discover.

Pregnancy

Fourteen Years Ago

Fourteen years ago I was seventeen. I held a secret in my heart that only I knew.

Fourteen years ago I walked to the clinic all by myself and saw the doctor who gave me a test.

Positive. I had already known.

“Was this a good thing?” She asked. I slowly shook my head.

“Do you need help?” I did need help. Lots of it. But one long look in her eyes and I knew that I didn’t want the kind of help she was offering.

“I’ll be fine.” I said.

Fourteen years ago, I lowered my head as a guy in my classroom at school mocked teenage pregnancy… little did he know I was with child.

Fourteen years ago, I sat at a thanksgiving meal feeling oddly… thankful. Thankful for the little life that I was soon to be told would “ruin” mine.

Fourteen years ago I fought for the right to keep my own child.

“You’re too young.”

“You’ll throw away your future.”

“Just give it to a family who will actually want a baby.”

I did. I wanted you.

Fourteen years ago, I held my hand over my belly and sang a first lullaby of many. I danced with you. I ran with you. I spoke to you. I chose life. I chose you.

Fourteen years ago, I changed forever.

Because of you.

Now you’re thirteen, a charming young man. Funny. Selfless. Gentle. Nurturing. Wise beyond your years. And all I can think of is how thankful I am for the life I’ve gotten to raise, to know, and love. For the amazing journey you’ve brought me on that all began –

Fourteen years ago.