Healing

Remember…

Today, at our local Remembrance Day ceremony honouring the Canadians who fought for us, a friend of mine who saw me struggling with the kids alone initiated a conversation.

I told her how my husband was working today, and that I found out yesterday I have pneumonia. She looked at me, alone, sick, with my four young kids and said, “you didn’t have to come you know.”

I laughed. I told her I did.  I came for me.

I’m hoping my children will remember this someday, and remember a Mother who took Remembrance Day seriously, regardless of what was going on at that moment, on that day, or in her own life. Pneumonia included.

It wasn’t easy, but I prepared the best I could. Snowsuits so I didn’t have to hear about how cold it was. Goldfish crackers to prevent the classic, “I’m hungry Mom” comments. The promise of hot chocolate after if they just behaved for this ceremony.

But also, the reminder of why we were going.

Their school did a project where everyone could submit a photo and story of who they remembered. I knew this was my moment to teach them about a young man I went to high school with, named Mark McLaren who died in Afghanistan in 2008 when an IED hit the truck he was in.

My husband and I went to his wake. It seemed so surreal to be there by the coffin of a man who wrote a cheque payable to his country with his life, and had it cashed in unfortunately. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say when I saw his grieving girl friend, family and close friends. I couldn’t imagine being in their position.

Remembrance day reminds me that I’m thankful to only have that one experience.  Yet, so many other people can’t say the same.

I think of the Moms, who had multiple children head overseas. Some to return. Some not. Others to have an entirely different person return in the body they recognize, but the mind they don’t.

I think of the men who overcame anxiety to fight sometimes daily. I think of the planning of missions. The sadness when they lost comrades and brothers on the field beside them. The sights, smells and sounds they endured. The choice between kill or be killed. Sleeping in the elements, not always getting a proper meal. The leaders who saw their own plans unfold, sometimes costing them their own crew members.

I think of towns reuniting with their dead constantly. Not just one person in 30 years. I think of the families who lost multiple generations, and multiple children.  I think of the families who didn’t find the remains of their loved ones. I think of the families who may never know what happened to someone they cherished so much.

I picture opening the door to soldiers, knowing the news they bring is the news that their family dreaded for months only to see it become a reality. I wonder how those soldiers felt, announcing the death of their fallen brother or sister, bringing a next to kin the worst possible news but also hoping that no one has to deliver that very same news to their own families.

I think of the civilians in the towns where these wars were fought. I visited many WWI and WWII sights in 2005 on a trip called “Battlefields”.

I saw the uneven texture of the grounds where Vimy Ridge was fought. I walked on the shores of Omaha & Juno beaches, amazed at the sadness of the event in such beautiful places. I visited many gravesites for the fallen, including one for the Nazi soldiers.  Photos don’t do the number of white stones justice.  It tugs on your heart to see the vast amount knowing you can’t pay your respects to each one, it would simply take forever. The same guilt panged me again when we saw places where all the names are listed. Endless lives gone far too soon.

I saw places in France that still had obvious damage, a church in the countryside with a huge cannon ball sized hole in their bell tower, multiple decades later.  I walked through bunkers, and even the Anne Frank house. I imagined soldiers, gun in hand looking out the tiny window. I imagined Anne silently listening to the events outside, hoping she could escape the death plaguing the world.

I think of the people who lost their homes, their businesses, their belongings and their life’s work, when war tore through their communities.  I think of the people who are still farming present day, and as they till the soil, come across the remains of body parts and unexploded land mines.

I think of the people still living that life today. I cringe when I hear people say refugees “ought to go back to where they came from” not knowing that their home is no longer there. I can’t believe this is still something that people are experiencing in my lifetime.

One of the speakers said today that remembering is a past, present and future thing. We remember things in the past, like whether we took the garbage out yesterday or not. We remember the present, like we need to turn the stove off, and we remember the future, like I have an appointment next week.

That same concept needs to apply to this day. We remember the tragedy behind us. We remember those who laid down their life, and those who returned. We remember the reason they fought, we remembered the sacrifices made by the families left behind, and those who innocently were affected by a war raging on in their communities.

We remember the people still living in war. We remember their great need for humanitarian aide and mercy. We can’t imagine the events they have witnessed first hand. We remember the people serving today with gratitude. We remember their families who are left for months at a time, praying and hoping those soldiers never knock at their door.

We remember the future. We teach our kids about the importance of this day. We show up, sick, cold, raining, whatever the circumstances, grateful that they pale in comparison to the sacrifices others have made for our freedoms and the freedoms of others.  We pray that our children don’t grow up to go to war, we hope they will know peace that the world has yet to figure out.  We remember the injustices that started these wars and put preventive measures in place so these things happen. We watch current world events with bated breath.

Most importantly, we remember how grateful we are. We can easily forget that in our day to day lives. We can take for granted the freedoms we have. But let’s not.  Let’s always remember with gratitude.

Jesus said of his own impending death in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I’m thankful for that sacrifice everyday when I consider my salvation.  And I’m thankful for the sacrifice of many more ‘friends,’ who stepped up then and are stepping up today, ensuring my freedom. I’m thankful that there is a heaven free of war, pain, and suffering where many of these great people are now resting peacefully.

So yes, I had to go today. It was the very least that I could do for those who gave and give it all for me.

Lest we forget. 

 

crator
Crater damage above a bunker window, Vimy Ridge, France

 

vimy
Crater and land mine damage, Vimy Ridge. Sheep currently cut the grass as the land mines still surface from time to time, hence the rope. 

 

Vimy grounds
More crater damage and some items left behind. Vimy Ridge. It amazed me to see the way the grass grew on the ground as is. 

 

vimy under construction
Vimy Ridge monument, under construction. Currently finished. Many Canadians travelled here for the 100th anniversary of this battle this year, 2017. 

 

surfaced items
Some artifacts in a bunker. Some things have surfaced slowly over time. 

 

 

bunker in sand juno
Remains of a German bunker coming out of the sand at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omaha
Omaha Beach Memorial, Normandy, France.

 

juno
Bunkers that are accessible to this day. Surreal to imagine a beach so beautiful littered with the bodies of the fallen. 

 

cross
Cross with a single wreath at Bény-sur-Mer cemetery, a cemetery complied of over 2000 graves of Canadians killed at Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6th 1944. 

 

beny
Alternate views in Bény-sur-Mer, France. 

 

beny sur mer
Endless sadness, Bény-sur-Mer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Healing

Acknowledge the Valleys

Do you pay attention to the valleys and peaks of life? The peaks are those special moments we hold onto in our hearts, our wedding day, the birth of our children perhaps, or even paying off your debt, graduation, or a vacation you dreamed of. There can also be little peaks, like winning something, getting mail that isn’t a bill, or being told how valued that you are to someone.

Those peaks carry us through the valleys.  The valleys are the moments where we feel as though we could stay in bed hibernating all day, when we question our worth, when we deny our ability to shine, or when life seems to be unbearable. The times where perhaps we are more sensitive to things that may not bother us otherwise. When we know we’re just in a rut. The circumstances around us just seem to overpower us, as the expression goes, “when it rains, it pours.”

This time of year tends to be a valley for me. There seems to always be reminders of past events that caused great pain, fading daylight hours, and gloomy skies both outside and in my heart. The Hallowe’en season with death and decay all around me, depicting violence and gore. The morning being dark, the cool weather setting in, the busyness of routine beginning again. Fall is just hard for me. I often find myself in a valley at his time.

Can you relate? Perhaps it isn’t fall for you, but its the anniversary of a great tragedy you’ve experienced? Its the reminder that there was once better days. And time moves on, and suddenly a new season occurs, and you reach a new peak again. Oh, how the valleys make us appreciate the peaks so much more.

Sometimes we spend so much time filling others that we forget to fill ourselves up. We have jobs or roles that call for us to constantly put other’s needs above our own and that is an amazing thing, but sometimes it can also be very heavy. Sometimes we just don’t get enough sleep and begin to feel so overwhelmed and exhausted. Sometimes we just don’t reach out to our support system, or even worse, we convince ourselves we aren’t worth bothering our support system. Sometimes we just swim in our own self pity, forgetting we can choose to reach for a life vest, a friend, a counselor, a loved one.

We think we are the only one in our valley.

Sometimes situations are bigger than some cheery encouragement. Some things are just so much more complicated and bigger than a bumper sticker style phrase that is intended to help. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that we are in a valley, and that is okay because we won’t be here forever.

An other peak will someday arrive.

But to you in a valley, know that I am right there with you.

Acknowledge your valley. Grieve if you need to. Let it out.  Strong people do cry, and in those tears we release the toxins overtaking our bodies. Seek help. Know the power that comes from being vulnerable with those you trust will help set you free. Don’t dig your hole deeper by thinking you’re in this alone. You’re not. Reach out and take control.

Though you may now be in a valley, you’ve overcome them before. And you have the power to do that again resting in your very soul.

Sometimes just simply acknowledging the existence of the valley gives you enough determination to start climbing up out of it.

“When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.”
Isaiah 43:2

 

 

Parenting · Spread Joy

Loving the life I have, while I have it.

In the interest of being super responsible (well not really, or this would have been a long time ago..) Okay.. trying to catch up and be responsible, my husband and I are working on our will.

No one prepares you for the emotional roller coaster that it is to think about the death of one us, or worse yet, both of us. What becomes of our home and assets? How about the responsibility of raising the 4 children we created? Who will give away our sentimental objects to the right people? What if one of us is on life support? What if one dies and the other is on life support? What if we all die together?

Some of these questions have been insanely hard to answer, much less think about.

The big one for us is in regards to our children. I hope and pray that I get the opportunity to fulfill my life long dream of being a parent, by actually getting the opportunity to raise my children completely.

But, if I don’t.. someone else has to. Someone has to step in and be their mom. Someone has to make sure they are there to cheer them on at graduation, to throw them baby showers when they become parents, to counsel them through the grief of losing a parent. Someone else has to take them to countless doctor’s appointments, kiss their booboos, make sure they eat a healthy diet and don’t forget their lunch.

Its been in these moments of reflection that I have been thinking about what an incredible honour it is to be a parent.

Someone recently told me she wasn’t ready to have kids yet because she wasn’t ready to be entirely selfless. I loved that she recognized that, because being a Mom is the most selfless thing I’ve ever done.

But in my heart, on this side of the children or no children equation, I know the blessing it is too.

For every selfless act, there’s a greater reward. For every long night, there’s a joyful morning with sticky fingers and a fresh start.

For every trial, there is triumph. Sicknesses and scars heal. They finally sleep all glorious night long.

We look back on stories that were absolute hell at the time and laugh as we retell them. Parents, think of the diaper painting stories, or the times when your kids embarrassed you sharing TMI stories.  Funny how the bad and scary seems somewhat hilarious as we leave those days behind.

There is a moment in each child’s life where they say “I love you Mommy” first. I don’t remember it with each child, but I do remember the emotions. Its usually around 2 years old somewhere. As a Mom,  you carried a baby for nine-ish months. You went through the worst pain to bring them here. You sacrificed painful moments learning to nurse, you have deep bags from sheer exhaustion, and you age immensely from the lack of sleep. Then, suddenly, you have a wild and rambunctious toddler. They disappear in stores. They ask ‘why’ 1000 times a day.  They drive you bonkers, but you love them so much it hurts.

Then, out of the blue, there it is. “I love you Mommy.” And suddenly every single thing you sacrificed seems like it doesn’t even matter. The person who you created out of love with someone you love, and whom you’ve spent all this time showing selfless love to tells you first, that they love you.  They recognize that you are worthy of their love. Sure, they show us their love when they show a preference for us, or calm for us. But when they are thinking to themselves “I just love my Mom so much I need to tell her right now.” That’s a whole new statement of love.

There is no greater moment in my mind. I’m so thankful I got to experience that four times. Whether I get to raise them until adulthood or not, my dream of being their Mom has come true.

The joys that I have felt as a Mom are endless. The trials have been many, this life is not for the selfish or the faint of heart by any means, but it is the single greatest thing I have ever done with my life. It is my dream come true.

So, though I am not overly enjoying the thought of estate planning and will making, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.

It’s often said that the Holy Spirit is the greatest comforter that there is. I truly believe that because I know since becoming a Christian, I feel God’s presence in my trials so much more than I did before, especially as a mother. I feel comforted by my faith, knowing that my death itself won’t be disastrous.

I will be in peace, I will meet my maker, and hug my saviour. I will meet family that passed before me whom I never had the luxury of knowing this side of heaven, and I will reunite with many faces I have missed for years. I will be comfortable, free from pain, anger and sadness.  I will be in awe, worshipping.

Death itself used to scare me, but not now. Now I feel peace thinking about what awaits me. The more I read my Bible, the more my faith grows, the more excited I am to think about what awaits me. Death itself causes me no anxiety. I can’t wait to talk to Noah about what the flood was like first hand. To laugh with Isaiah about him being naked for 3 years as an image to teach with. To sing with David. Most importantly, to thank Jesus face to face for my salvation, for allowing death to not cause me the fear it once did. I am comforted, when I think of what awaits me.

What does bring me trepidation is what I will leave behind. It is my sincere hope that I get to raise my babies until they are grown. That I will snuggle with my grandbabies. That I will hold my husband’s hand long after retirement and aching bodies have set in. There’s lots I want to accomplish yet.

But, if that’s not the plan and my time isn’t long. I am just so thankful for what I got.

30.5 years have come and gone since I was born. That’s a lot of time to do a lot of pretty amazing things. I’ve been fortunate enough to do things some people never get to do. I’ve created some pretty amazing memories.  I’ve outlived several family members, even cousins of my own. Their days are gone, but somehow for some reason mine aren’t.

It is in thinking of my death that makes me realize just how thankful I am for my life.

As cliché as it is, if we lived every day as it were our last, how much more joy would we have? How much longer would we hug those we love? Would we put our phones down and listen more intently to our children? Would we spend time making special foods from scratch? Would we hug and kiss our children and spouse more often? Would we worry less about the long term and focus on the joy that today brings? Would we complain less, knowing its such a blessing that we got to be alive this long already?

Would we focus on the immense joy we have instead of seeing only the burdens we are experiencing in that moment?

I want to be that person. I want my children to know how thankful and grateful I am to be alive,  with the pleasure of raising them. I want my husband to know how committed I am to loving him hopefully well beyond our 70th anniversary. I want my parents to know how thankful I am for every opportunity that they have given me, whether it be small like their encouragement or big like the physical work they put into raising me. I want my extended family to know how proud I am to be related to each of them, how deep my love runs even as the familial connections get smaller and smaller. I want my friends to know I chose them to be friends because they are so valuable and I appreciate so much that they are family to me even though not biologically related. I want my church to know it has shaped me, formed me and rearranged me in the best ways possible.

Most importantly, I want the world to know that I love life. Growing old is a privilege denied to many. How thankful we should be for every single day.

It’s in thinking about my own death, that I realize when that day comes, I’ll be thankful to say I lived well. I saw my dreams come true. I’ll take some pretty amazing moments with me in my heart to heaven.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

Healing

#Metoo

Anyone who is on social media has seen many women posting the words “Me too” in the last few days.  It was started as a way for women who have been victimized by sexual assault and rape to be able to share their stories while also de-stigmatizing the act of speaking out.  It amazed me how many women in my social media networks bravely shared “me too.”  Sadly, I know there are many victims who didn’t share, and that’s okay because our stories belong to us to share when and if we want to.

What an eye opener. The amount of me too’s circulating online have been both liberating and devastating.  I was an other woman to write the words. I am liberated to speak out. I am devastated to see so many are in the same situation.

Since opening the Pandora’s box of “me too,” I have had a few conversations with people about the topic that haven’t been easy.

First there was a text from my oldest sister, “how come I never knew?” she asked.  Our conversation allowed me to tell her several stories I had just never brought up despite us sharing intimate details of our lives to each other all the time. It strengthened our bond that much more to open up about yet an other area of life that is sadly a norm to many women.

I had dialogues with friends about the topic, including some males. I was interested to see the way males reacted to this. My heart breaks for the men who have been sexually assaulted and raped and didn’t get their chance to speak up as this was a dominantly female trend. I hope those men get to share their own stories and de-stigmatize their trauma as well, because it too, is real, and too common.

I read comments of males that didn’t understand the severity of the situation because they were equating it to situations that they have overcome, like bullying for example. The problem there is that sexual assault is a lot different than bullying.  Comparing the two would be like comparing a broken bone to a stubbed toe. Yes, both hurt, but not the same. Even my comparison is an insult to sexual assault, because a physical hurt is so different then a sexual hurt. Physical hurts heal, but sexual ones often leave lifelong scarring.

The shame of being a victim of sexual assault combined with the stigma attached in our culture is truly heartbreaking.

The fact that my timeline was littered with so many “Me too’s” is heartbreaking. I really hope this helps people become more aware that this is a huge problem with our culture that needs addressing.

We need to defend our daughters, we need to inform our sons. We need to teach our children new patterns so that this decreases because no one deserves to be a victim of sexual assault.

I must confess, since this has been brought up, it has opened a door in my heart that I thought I could keep shut forever. In discussing some stories I am reminded that I am a victim of sexual assault too.

I’ve been in pain since I’ve opened the door. Being reminded of the events of my past have not been easy. Looking at my ten year old son and wondering have I done enough to raise him to be courteous and respectful as he is approaching the teenage years? Seeing my daughters play innocently and wonder have I equipped them with enough courage to stand up for themselves or to speak out?

I am raising 2 sons and 2 daughters. I have both sides of this dilemma. I have sons to educate and daughters to inform. I have a heavy task upon my shoulders of trying to make sure my sons become men who stand up for women, not men who belittle and harm women. I have daughters to raise, who I pray will live freely and comfortably never experiencing what so many women have, and if that burden falls upon them, I hope I can equip them with enough courage to confront and overcome.

In the meantime, it is too late for me. I can’t go back and undo what’s been done. I cant avoid that place, that person or undo the sadness in my heart about these events. They happened. They are done. Now I need to heal.

I foolishly searched online for the names of three men who victimized me. I stopped searching after that, realizing I was only hurting myself further. But, interestingly enough, I came to see that all 3 of these men now have daughters.  I wondered if they thought of me when they saw several “me too” statuses on their timelines. Did they remember the pain that I carry? Or did they just forget about it, having technically gotten away with it?

I wondered did they look at their little girls and think, “I hope no one ever puts my daughter into a situation where she could write me too as well.” Did they feel guilty reflecting on the situations of their past? Did they feel tempted to send me an apology message? Should I message them and tell them I haven’t forgotten?  I decided not too.  Although, I do hope to one day get an apology because that at least shows remorse, and shows they recognize their actions caused me pain. I don’t need it though. I’m going to carry on with my life regardless, and be the woman who does her best to do better for the kids I’m responsible to raise. I don’t need to bring them into my current life, because they can stay in my past where they belong.

Before #metoo, I wasn’t thinking of this often because I had tucked it away ever so nicely to ignore as much as I could. I wasn’t prepared for a social trend like this to remind me of the skeletons in closet that I was hiding so as to pretend they didn’t exist. But they are out now and they are on my mind. I fear that for many, the #metoo trend has been damaging.

If you have been shaken and reminded of your hurts because of the me too trend, I pray you are able to find peace to deal with these situations hopefully for the last time. But mostly, I hope you can stand in unity with me promising to do more to make sure less people carry this pain. Let’s take people seriously.  Let’s blame the person responsible, not the victim. Let’s create a culture that holds people accountable for their own actions rather than accuses victims of doing this to deserve it, or wearing that to suggest it.

Let us rise above. Let’s start by remembering we are not what has happened to us!  I am not just a victim of sexual assault. I will tell you what I am: I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a passionate person. I am someone who is motivated, encouraging, sarcastic and faithful.  I am strong. I am capable. I am full of worth, love, and joy. I am in charge of my future and I declare it will be great.

I am thankful everyday that I married the man I did.  We have been together since high school, and he was honestly the first person I dated who didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Let that be a goal for you, men.  Be a man who makes women feel comfortable. Out of that, my husband got true and genuine love. He has respect from me. And I can’t wait until I can tell our children that fact.  Sons, be like your father who never made your mother uncomfortable. Daughters, be like your mother and find someone who always makes you feel safe.

Come on people, lets not let the #metoo concept be a trend that we forget about in the months to come, like Kony2012 or various other internet trends that blow up and are long since forgotten.  Let’s take the pain many are feeling as they relive these memories and use it to fuel a whole new and stronger society. Let’s discuss preventative measures with our spouses in raising our own children, like do we allow sleepovers where our children can potentially be exposed to these things? Let’s talk to our sons and daughters about consent. Let’s advocate for one an other. We all deserve safety, and it is a right we as human beings have. Let’s seek the resources we need to heal and recover gracefully so the next time we say me too, it can be to answer the question “have we made a difference?”

http://www.canadianwomen.org/stop-the-violence (statistics that we need to lower)

http://www.sexualassaultsupport.ca/support/ (sexual assault centres in Ontario)

http://www.avoicefortheinnocent.org (for male victims)

https://crcvc.ca/links/ (resources galore for all victims)

http://www.cwhn.ca/en/node/18961 (Sexual Assault support for women, including a 24 hour number.)

 

 

Healing · Spread Joy

To my church family, with love.

Church totally sucks sometimes.

Seriously though, it does! It can be so overwhelmingly hard, emotionally draining and if I’m being honest, sometimes it really stinks to be challenged when you just want to sit still in your ignorance, or unpleasant habits.

This past Sunday, our Pastor put to death a vision that has been in the works for years. Multiple people have spent countless hours planning, dreaming and envisioning a new hope for a second site, a satellite location for our church in a town near where we normally meet.

His pain and heartbreak as he laid these broken plans to rest (at least for now) was very evident. I remember when this plan started, it was very much Spirit-lead. In the beginning, I was there to see that. God had opened a brand new and exciting door. And yet… it is no longer happening. The door has been closed.

How on earth did we get here?

Of course, its been a journey, a progression of sorts. Big decisions aren’t made overnight, and nor are they changed that quickly.

Slowly over time, there has been a disunity amongst our congregation. Change is hard and it is scary for so many, and some people panicked at the mere thought. Others had varying opinions of how things should be done, what shouldn’t be done, etc. and the disunity grew and grew until the plan God had laid out shrunk and shrunk until it was gone all together.

And the disunity reminds us that church isn’t perfect. We are not perfect.

I read a quote before about church not being a museum of the perfect, but rather a hospital for the broken and it is very true. When you combine over 150 people who are broken, imperfect and flawed, you can’t expect perfection.

The world around us looks at us as though we are supposed to be the very example of Christ as Christians, and they hold us Christians to standards of perfection that are unachievable to anyone but Christ himself. The second that we show any fault, they are quick to call us hypocritical. But we’re broken people. We are flawed people. We are not Jesus, we are totally imperfect.

What we are is a family. Yes, we are dysfunctional in many regards, just like any other family. We are a family of believers who want to know Jesus better, who want to be closer to him in knowledge and behaviour. We are learning. Learning to admit our faults, learning to deal with things in a Christ-like manner, and learning to draw closer to him, so that we can be more like the perfect person he showed us. Learning to pray, to read our Bibles, to hear from God about the direction of our next steps.

As all families have dysfunction, you can’t expect any differently from a church family. People get their feelings hurt, people step on people’s toes, people feel neglected, people feel frustrated and annoyed. Sounds like any other family get together, doesn’t it? The difference is Jesus. His example taught us forgiveness and grace. He told us to drop everything and find those we have a problem with and make peace.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus didn’t want us to wait with unresolved conflict. He wanted us to deal with it, and get it taken care of instantly. He wants to see us with peace, resolving differences, and having unity amongst our family.

But I am guilty of the opposite. In my anger, I shut down. I walk away. I need space. I stew. I have the hardest time putting my anger away so that I may resolve my conflict. This happened to me within my own church. I wanted to abandon a family that I loved because of hurt. Instead, when some time had passed to allow calmness to brew, resolution came. And I can’t tell you how amazing and freeing that was for me. To be able to say these are my feelings, and have them validated. To apologize and to be apologized to. To restore the love for the family I feared I had lost forever.

I can see clearly now why Jesus calls us to resolve our conflicts quickly. I can see the damage that stewing causes, the time wasted in anger. When I took off the clouded judgement that anger left me, I was left to realize that yes, church can totally suck sometimes, but its also one of the most amazing parts of my life.

My church is real. People are honest about their brokenness. We pray for one another, and we walk through each other’s trials and triumphs together. We celebrate when couples get engaged, married and add new little members to their family. We cry when people lose their loved ones, when people move away, when illness hits.

We joined this church just over 5 years ago now. I will never forget being alone with 2 kids, all three of us sick, and my husband was 3 provinces away working. Someone from the church happened to text me, and found out we were sick. She phoned another woman on our pastoral care team and that afternoon a fresh, warm meal was dropped at my door. I was totally embarrassed to open the door looking like death, and feeling the same. I’m sure the smell that radiated out the front door was retching. But this woman risked illness to make sure I had my needs met. And then she apologized because the meal wasn’t homemade because she had just found out her husband had a minor car accident and she had to go rescue him from the accident site, but not wanting to forget about the sick, struggling Mom, she grabbed a whole chicken and the fixings and delivered it while on route to him.

Never in my life have I been so thankful. And yet, so anguished. If my husband had been home, he’d have taken care of me and the kids, she wouldn’t have had to stop on the way. But she did. She told me in that moment, despite her own struggle, I was still worth receiving a chicken that would allow us some strength to nurse back to health. I wondered if I would have had the same compassion to remember the sick mom in the distraction of worry about my own husband’s accident. She truly showed me Jesus that day, and in that moment, I knew this was a family I wanted to be a part of, and I dove right in.

I walked through some pretty challenging times within these five years, and many people stepped up to walk alongside me. There were more meals, one was made for me in my kitchen by one church member while I literally wept to another about the going-ons in my life at that time. None of them judged me as I handled my brokenness, instead they kept pointing me to God, the author of my life, who loved me and wanted best for me. They became a literal Jesus to me. They carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. If I didn’t have the support of the church then, where would I have gone? How would I be the overcomer that I am now? Would I have survived the darkness I was drowning in?

I have news for you. Life is hard. People are broken. Our hospital for the sick is no better.

But, we all know whose children we are. We know what is commanded of us: forgiveness, resolution and grace. Thank God that I learned that lesson when I did, and within the safety net of my church so that when the next storm of my life hits, I know where to turn. So that in your storm, you know that I will be there for you.

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Our purpose is to grow closer to Jesus Christ himself. We do this by living in harmony with each other, supporting one another and our leadership. We need to bring back unity within our congregation and I trust we can do by staying focused on the very purpose we gather together, singing and praising, learning and worshipping.

Let’s encourage our leadership. Let’s step up and fill in the gaps where there aren’t enough hands to do the work. Let’s give generously and cheerfully of our time and finances, in serving and praying. Let’s continue to walk through this very dark world together, united for Christ in love. Let’s comfort those who’s pain is so deep, and who’s burdens seem unbearable. Let’s praise and celebrate our accomplishments together. Let’s commit to resolving our differences, to forgiving our brother, to taking up our cross daily and remembering our church is called the Bride of Christ.

Above all else, let us love on an other. Love each other through the hurts and brokenness. Love each other through the joy and triumphs. Just love.

“We love each other, because he loved us first.” – 1 John 4:19

Parmesan Cheese.png

Healing · Marriage · Spread Joy

Sorry Hef, Marriage Rocks!

Today the world learned of the death of Hugh Hefner. Within hours, social media ws blown up with articles both singing his praises and warning of the damage he has done.

One thing I have noticed is how many men idolize him, commenting that he couldn’t be in a better place now (because being in the playboy mansion with a bunch of playboy bunnies is their goal not heaven itself) and comments about wanting to be like him, or replacing him.

 

Posts like this are currently circulating social media in mass amounts.

 

 

The idea these men are idolizing is having tons of beautiful women preform sexual acts on them, on their beck and call. Having a whole slew of attractive women at their demand.  But really… is this what you truly want?

True intimacy is a million times better than any one night stand.

Having someone preform sexual acts on you because they truly love you and desire to please you is a million times better than having sex with a person who truly doesn’t value you beyond your brief sexual encounter.

Having the safety net of a partner who values you for more than just your body is a beautiful thing.

Being encouraged because you have a vibrant mind, an educated opinion or a wonderful personality trait is more meaningful then being valued only because your body exhibits a certain sexual want or you are able to preform a certain sexual act on demand regardless of whether you want to or not.

Being in a relationship where you know your partner truly wants to have sex with you and feels safe and comfortable doing so rather than knowing they are faking it because of your status or the expectations you’ve placed on them is an amazing thing.

These types of things are the happenings that are now being idolized. One of Hefner’s former ‘girl friends’ went on the record to Macleans and told in detail what goes on behind closed doors.  She mentioned sex capades in which Hefner would take medicine needed to preform, cover himself in baby oil and expect his random girlfriends to satisfy him until he masturbated to porn to finalize things.  She mentioned some of the pressures and hypocrisy of the situations (things like being told they never had to do anything sexual but then also being told they wouldn’t get rewards without sexual performance.)  She mentioned things that show these women were not treated with respect, their own desires weren’t being met and worse yet they were getting infections from the baby oil and not using safe sex practices at all. Everything I read, I read with sadness for her and the lifestyle that today so many men are celebrating.

I imagined these young women feeling beautiful and on top of the world, knowing they have been chosen to live in the playboy mansion. I imagined them recognizing their only real value in their non monogamous relationship was their sexual capabilities. I imagined their parent’s sadness at seeing their daughters, full of value and worth, demoralized to just simply someone’s living sex toy.

This is not something to be jealous over.

Greetings!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to photograph my younger cousin’s wedding (featured above), and of course that got me thinking about my own wonderful wedding over eight years ago now (the cover photo). When I set out for marriage, I remember the jokes and comments about being with only one person for the rest of my life. I remember feeling as though so many people were against marriage as we walked into our wedding and feeling sadness for them as I considered how excited I was to get married to my best friend, hoping for forever with him.

And then reality hits. Marriage is hard. It is a crazy turbulent journey, and we have made it through some pretty incredible scenarios.  Now, more than ever, we stand united in love and dedication to one an other. This is what people need to celebrate.

I see couples married much longer than we have been full of respect for one an other, acting like newlyweds still and this is what makes me jealous. Not a lavish lifestyle of forcing people to do what I want when I want.  When I see people with successful marriages, that have been married 10, 20, 30 years I want what they have – love, passion, safety, vulnerability.  If people learn to celebrate these things perhaps our divorce rates would lower and we would learn to encourage one an other in marriage rather than encouraging adultery, easy outs, and walking away over things that really are fixable. (And I am not saying all things are, but with a divorce rate of 50%, I’m sure many can be resolved if people are willing to work at it.)

We need to celebrate marriage! Celebrate our own marriages! Celebrate with our friends and family as they hit more and more anniversaries! We need to be sounding boards when our friends or family are upset in their own marriages, encouraging them to reflect and seek action steps on how to move forward, rather than taking the opportunity to complain about our spouse as well. We need to sometimes be the bigger person and put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

We need to put marriages on a pedestal! Instead of ball and chain jokes, we need to celebrate that someone found a person they deemed worthy of the deepest level of commitment there is. We need to congratulate people when they pass an other anniversary, for their dedication to their marriage and for making it yet an other year united.

If we want to change the world’s view of marriage, that begins at home. That starts with building our own marriages up, encouraging the success of marriages around us, and celebrating the joy of love. Not lust, but rather the love that comes from commitment, even when you don’t always feel good about your own marriage.

We need to shift our mindsets from those who are jealous of the lonely life Hefner must have lead without a significant attachment to any one person to watering the green grass of our own marriage instead.

I love being married. It has been incredibly hard at times, sometimes for very long times.  There was a while were I imagined us not surviving, and I remember thinking about how determined I was to succeed at marriage when I said my vows. I remember thinking how devastating it was that the vulnerability I had placed into marriage could be taken from me.  Thankfully, after a lot of elbow grease and dedication, my husband and I survived our deepest drought in marriage. And that’s a story for an other day, but today I want to encourage others to hold fast to their commitments, to celebrate love, to encourage others to find whatever needs to be done to make it work.

There is nothing better in this life than having a best friend for life. Having a husband who values me in every aspect of partnership, sexual included, but also for my emotional impact, for the things I do outside the bedroom, for the commitment that I have for him. These are the hopes I have for my children when they grow and find spouses.

There is such a deep intimacy between us having survived all that we have to this point in life, there is no other person I want more when I am happy or hurt. He is the source of much joy for me, and my comforter, my very best friend. I couldn’t imagine the loneliness of rotating through sexual partners, never completely having my needs met or meeting the needs of others, risking sexually transmitted diseases and never truly forming a life long bond with someone.

Marriage is a sacred and holy union.  Holy meaning, to be set apart. And that’s what should be done. We need to set apart marriage in our minds and raise it to the hierarchy it deserves. Studies prove how much children thrive with happily married parents, and life is way easier in a team. Marriage deserves to be encouraged and celebrated.

So, if you want to be jealous, be jealous of those who are determined to succeed in their marriage and set your goals to work with the same dedication for your spouse that they do, or to make sure you encourage that same dedication in those around you. Protect your marriage and encourage others.

Be jealous of success in marriage and not sexual conquests.

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Where is God for the starving & poor?

Our church had an amazing guest speaker on Saturday evening, Dr. Tony Campolo. For those who don’t know him, he is the author of over 30 publishings, including the popular series “Red Letter Christians” which focuses on Jesus’ teachings (the red letters referring to copies of the Bible that put Jesus’ words in red ink.) He is an educator, a guest speaker, a sociologist and a pastor. He has been featured on many TV shows including as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour, and he was once the spiritual advisor to President Clinton.  At 82 years old, this man knows his stuff! He spoke with humour and also a clear passion for the calling of Christians to love others as Jesus did and as he called us to do too.  I was so blessed by and fortunate to have heard him speak, and to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my oldest son to him on Saturday, September 16th.

Tony Campolo

Dr. Campolo spoke with clarity and authority.  Without needing notes, he was able to direct us to verses all over the Bible to support his message, and it was evident that the love of Christ is very strong in him.  He challenged his listeners to ensure the Spirit of Christ was living in them, which is more than just being a believer of Christ. Even the devil believed in Christ, but there certainly isn’t any Spirit of Christ living in the devil.

In talking about the Spirit of Christ living in us, he mentioned the great joy we would feel. He drew from some amazing stories to demonstrate the immense warmth we receive when we freely allow God to inhabit us. He explained that we are here on earth as agents of Christ’s love, meaning it is our responsibility as representatives of Christ to spread the love that Jesus did when he walked this earth. He challenged us to see the faces of the poor and needy as the very face of Jesus, and he challenged us to actually think about what Jesus would do if he were in our place and to live so that we actually reflect Jesus himself.

I was very challenged by his message. I hope that people can see Jesus when they see me. But more importantly, I want to see Jesus in the faces of others and learn to be a better ambassador of God’s Kingdom.  In Matthew Chapter 25 verses 34-40, Jesus describes a day of final judgement and he says the following,

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The first sentence is describing what will happen on the final day of judgement. People will be divided into two groups, and those on the right are who Jesus is speaking to, those who loved like Jesus asked. Jesus tells this group that they took care of him, though they don’t understand how as they never actually saw Jesus.  His response is so crucial, when we take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, the impoverished, the socially challenged, the imprisoned, the strangers, the lost, the starving, the widowed, the ones suffering greatly, the condemned, the broken, then we are facing Jesus Christ himself. We are serving him by carrying for those who are in need.

So where is God for the starving and poor? He is in us. He is represented by us. We are his hands and feet on this earth. We are called to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love every single one of our neighbors.

This is OUR responsibility. This is our God-assigned task, and in my opinion, the very purpose of our life!

As Christians, we spend time debating scripture. Our various denominations have differences for things like infant baptism, women in office positions, homosexual topics, and alcohol to name a few. We debate these things, and stand united in our separate congregations on our opinions. Yet, none of this matters as much as doing what we are called to do, being who we are called to be. Dr Campolo made an interesting point, he stated that over 5000 times in the Bible there are verses about taking care of others, and yet only a handful of verses about homosexuality. So why are so many Christians debating the topic of homosexuality and not discussing feeding the poor? His thought was that its easy to discuss topics that don’t affect us personally, or allow us to talk about others, but it isn’t so easy to talk about things that convict us, or challenge us to be doing something better or differently. Ouch. I heard that loud and clear.

Since I heard about the more than 5000 times the Bible calls us to help, in my personal Bible reading I am amazed how often I have noticed this command and yet I didn’t pay as close attention to it before having it bopped over my noggin like a V8 commercial. Thank God that he opened my eyes even more.

Dr Campolo shared some amazing statistics that I also feel are note worthy – He said that 25 years ago, 45 000 children a day died from malnourishment, 1 out of every 6 people didn’t have access to clean water, and 80% of the planet was illiterate.  Today, he said that its down to 17 000 children dying each day (ouch, still a very scary number), 1 out of 12 people now do not have access to clean water and the illiterate now number 20% of the world’s population! Wow! 25 years is really not a huge time period considering the difference of those statistics! Where can we be in 25 more years if we the Christians representing Christ actually live out our calling? Dr Campolo stated that much of this change was from Christians rising up and implementing literacy programs, creating food programs to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, and fundraising to dig wells all around the globe just as a few examples. What an amazing accomplishment to be thankful and proud of! But, because there is still starving children, and still people without access to clean water, and still people who cant read or write, we aren’t done yet.

So again, where is God for the starving and the poor? He’s represented by us here on earth. We are the ones responsible to help. What does that look like? While I think it depends on your passion and position. But certainly it requires action. Dr. Campolo was representing World Vision and strongly encouraged Child Sponsorship.  Our own family sponsors a boy and girl through Compassion, again, I don’t think the difference matters (much like the denominational differences) I think it just matters that we accept the mission we’ve been given.

There are a million ways to support the needy around each of us, it would take me an entire week to even be able to research the ways in my own community.  Whatever your passion, whatever your church, whatever your hope just get out there and take action as often as you can. Once in a while is not enough! We truly don’t recognize how good we have it in a first world country – even our poor aren’t a reflection of the poor in 3rd world countries. But both groups need support, regardless. People need support. And its our job to support them.  And when we need support, we should rest assured knowing that there will be people to support us too.

There’s a beautiful song that I feel like captures what I’m trying to communicate as well, Matthew West’s Do Something. I urge you to absorb the words and message of this song. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

Lastly, I will leave you with a verse that I read in my personal devotional time this morning that also really spoke to me, reminding me that even the little things we do add up, and every single thing matters. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” !!!

Do SOMETHING!