Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here!

This little space is dedicated to honest conversations about the messy, real challenges we face; the impossible ideals that drag us down; the restoration we really need and why it's worth leaving the kitchen (messy or not) more often to find greater love, joy, rest! The dishes can wait! (I promise).

When you discover that your treasure is really just fool’s gold.

I’m sharing this post as part of Sarah Bessey‘s syncroblog (with the prompt: I used to think____, now I think____) for the launch of her new book “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith”.

“You and I are sitting in a mess of half-unpacked boxes, aren’t we?
We have a few piles here and there. This looks like a homemade altar to me.”
-Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

laundry

I used to think that my value as a mom could be measured in laundry loads, meals cooked, baths given and prayers spoken. I calculated my worth by the length of my skirt, the number of children I had, the hours I spent doing all the things godly mothers should do. On the outside, I was clutching my ideals like they were made of precious gold. On the inside, I was hanging by a very thin thread. I realize now that I had idealized motherhood and faith, and created this picture perfect image of what a good and godly mother should look like. It turns out that for me, she looked like a 1950’s housewife. And, I made it my mission to become her.

The thing about gold is that you have to dig deep and sort through a lot of rocks to find it. Sometimes what you thought was gold, is actually just pyrite or “fool’s gold”. Wikipedia describes pyrite as having a “superficial resemblance to gold”.  And, I think that’s it. That’s the truth of it. I was chasing a superficial resemblance of what it looks like to be a great mom. I live in a part of Canada that is known as having a “heart of gold” for all the gold mines that fill the landscape here.  And, I’ve been down there so I know: gold is found deep in the ground where it’s hot, dirty and dangerous.

Motherhood and faith are not easy. But, instead of climbing the jagged cliff of ideals and expectations, instead of white knuckling it to find some sense of self-worth and value, I know now that I need to be mining for gold. I’ve had to do the messy work of going deep inside myself, to discover that real gold looks like this: my worth is not connected to my work. I’m still doing the hard, sweaty work of asking questions and digging deeper, sorting through all the rocks, leaving the man-made ideals behind me, on the surface, where they belong. For so long I had kept my own golden ideals of motherhood and faith tucked neatly in a safe, little box. When exhaustion set in, the box started to break and crumble. I stopped baking bread and gave up skirts because you guys, winters are cold here in Canada.  After my 7th child was born, my body was completely burned out. It was a desperate prayer over a pot of soup in my (holy sanctuary) kitchen that connected me to this important truth: My value is not tied to my tasks. Jesus loves me, just as I am.

I had a dream about Jesus once. In my dream, I was at a “love expo”. I went to each booth, one by one, asking for love. Everytime I did, I was ridiculed, spit on, abused. I left the expo broken and hurting. As I neared the exit, out of the corner of my eye I saw him. He was a simple man. His booth was so plain that I had skipped it. In my dream I heard him say the words: “I will take you and love you. You are mine.” He scooped me up in His arms and carried me out. It was a dream but I remember realizing in that moment, I was in the arms of Jesus and His love was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was deeper, higher, and bigger than I’d ever imagined. And that’s the golden truth: a godly mother is really just a mother who is carried in the arms of Jesus, by His love.

Earlier this week I was in a hospital waiting room. An older woman sat near me and began to talk with me and share a story. She had recently had surgery and been in hospital for a month. Her family expected it to be day surgery so no one was prepared for the long stay. She longed to talk to her son but he lived thousands of miles away and she explained that her crooked fingers just couldn’t manage the phone. She told me how, one day, as she lay in her hospital bed, she looked up and there, in the doorway, stood her 6 foot 2 inch tall son (the one who lives really far away). She said that he scooped her up off the hospital bed and into his arms and they both cried and cried.  (Here come the water slides, am I right?) In that moment, I got a beautiful glimpse of what a good mother really looks like. You guys, a good mother looks like a little old lady being scooped up into her son’s arms in a hospital room. A good mother looks like a woman who loves and is loved.

Later that day I sat in another room. This time it was an exam room and I was shifting awkwardly in my bright pink gown. Recovering from burn-out is hard, man. But, recovering from impossible ideals, in my opinion, is even harder. (Also, pink medical gowns are super unflattering). I still have a long way to go to reclaim my strength. I shed some tears and wished (for the thousandth time) that I’d taken better care of myself during those idealistic years.

In Sarah Bessey’s new book: “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith”, there is this “Benediction” at the end. I loved every chapter but the Benediction is possibly the most moving thing I’ve read in a long time. I returned to it today and found this:

“I pray that when you are grieving and suffering, you would find peace and wholeness again.
God isn’t to blame. I really believe that; may that truth comfort you. I pray for you
to feel held and carried in your time of great need, because it will come if it hasn’t already.
You have a voice for lament as well as for praise. Cry out to God.” 

There is still some lament in my heart. The rock sorting is so hard at times. But, I’m starting to catch some glimpses of authentic gold. So I keep going and I keep digging because I’m really certain that a good mother looks like the million different, beautiful, unique ways each of us expresses love in our own lives. I used to think that my value as a mom could be measured by my tasks. Now I think that being a great mom (and a great human being) has more to do with how we love than what we accomplish in a day. Most importantly, it has everything to do with knowing that we are loved. 

So then, in Sarah’s own words: let us “Love Ferociously”.

Benediction-Sarah Bessey

laundry: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24679031@N02/5311937837″></a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Changing the Words We Call Ourselves

I’m not sure I ever saw myself as brave. As a child, they called me “peureuse” which is the French version of “scaredy-cat”-without the cat. I have a lot of memories of being afraid and very few (if any) of being what I would qualify as brave.  Then one day my daughter gave me the gift of words, boldly adding to the glossary of terms I call myself. I stared at the letter penned by her hand and it etched itself onto my heart.

“Thank you for being so strong and kind and brave and committed.” Whoa.

I was on my way out the door-running late-when she handed me this card. That girl can see things I can’t see. Like sunsets. She was always snapping pictures (and showing me), excited at beauty that can barely be contained within the limits of a photograph. I was limited in what I could see so I would smile in agreement thinking, meh, it’s nice. And, when I read this card? I couldn’t say meh, that’s nice because I knew deep down that her seeing was un-blinding me.

sunset1

I think we walk around with a blindness to our remarkableness. We see ourselves through the cloudy lens of self-doubt. We’re myopic and so our glossary of terms is sorely lacking and tunnel visioned. I’m realizing more and more how much we need the warmth of a friend (or a daughter) and the bright light of love to dissipate the shadows. We need others and we need the Spirit to open our eyes and expand our glossary.

I’ve been pretty blind to a lot of things.

I know that God opens our eyes. There are stories about Jesus restoring sight to the blind, usually involving spit and mud. I think we all need spit-and-mud opening of our soul-eyes.

So we can see that we are already brave, already kind, already strong.

Words open eyes and seeing unlocks new words. It’s a beautiful cycle that wakes us up to the beauty of our lives. And, I think that’s the best gift we can give our families, God, ourselves. To see the beauty of our lives.

What are you missing because you can’t see that beauty?

This summer I had a spit and mud moment. My youngest child fell into a campfire and her wounds, her pain, her reaction opened me (cracked me open, really) to see everything in a new way. I went from shrugging off sunsets to chasing sunsets, tears streaming down my face. I had a very tidy, safe route mapped out for my evening walks. Now my path is erratic as I follow after a glimpse of this wonder I had never really noticed before. I see people around me, my neighbours, my children, my husband in new ways. It’s still not 20/20 vision, but I can see things I was blind to and I’m running all the way back to my family to tell them the news, praising God all the way there.

sunset3

You are already beautiful. The world around us is already beautiful. Yes, that beauty is interspersed between crappy challenges, and hurt, and injustice and pain but it is there.

And, I want to see it, to change the words in my glossary of terms I call myself. I think that’s a good place to start. That, and sunset chasing. I know there will be days when the clouds will prevent me from seeing all that beauty. We will have those days right? I will try, on cloudy days, to remember what lies just behind the clouds.

sunset2

Yesterday was overcast so I couldn’t see the sunset. But, a friend in the next town over posted a gorgeous photo of the sunset that the clouds near my home covered up. It was breathtaking and it reminded me that it was there all along. Behind the clouds, hiding, but still there.

So, thanks for being brave and thanks for being all the amazing things you might not see.

Here’s to seeing the beauty of our lives and discovering new words to call ourselves.

******

What words do you call yourself? How do you see the world around you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Changing my mind about birth and faith (an #OutofSortsBook post)

{Okay, so I’m going to admit that this post means a whole lot to me. I’ve spent an entire week writing and re-writing it. (Imagine 100 *virtual* scrunched up sheets of paper and empty coffee mugs all around me.) I think it’s because I’m sharing some vulnerable details about myself, about my last birth and my own faith journey. But it’s also because I want to give my best to help Sarah Bessey get the word out about her upcoming book “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith”. (I got onto the launch team. And, I literally jumped into my husband’s arms when I found out! Phew.) Oh, it’s a precious jewel of a book! Here goes, you guys. <3}

*****

With my last pregnancy, I finally got the opportunity to plan a YouTube-esque home water-birth. It was going to be all candles, playlists, total surrender and calm. It’s a real thing, I promise. (There are actual videos on YouTube!) After the birth, I was going to snuggle and nurse and marvel at how beautiful our baby was. I was going to cry tears of joy and kiss my husband and thank God. I had that scene all worked out. I’ve been a birth professional for 17 years so really, with all my service to birth, I kind of felt like birth owed me this one. I mean, I’d been so faithful. I’d spent so many hours learning its ways and respecting its power and holding space for it at all hours of the day and night.

OOS quote

I honestly couldn’t believe it when this thing I’d devoted my life to let me down. 

It was a hard birth with lots of despairing (and possibly some yelling). Labour was stop and go all day. I had to walk the nearby trails to coax my body into having more contractions. I laboured a lot outside, as people passed by, feeling a bit vulnerable and exposed. Some of the older women stopped to talk to us and offered up empathy and motherly advice. (Thank God for little old ladies.) It was late in the day when I hit transition: that magical time when you feel like you want to run away and bail out. I should confess that, yes, there were candles and music and water at this birth. But there was also my body closing up instead of opening and position challenges-Estelle was born with a nuchal hand (one hand up against her face)- and a haemorrhage which left me wrapped up in a blanket, shaking like a leaf in my husband’s arms for the ENTIRE first hour after the birth. I’ll never forget how I was pulled out of the red-tinged bath water (and yanked out of my dream). 

Who were these women on YouTube anyways?

As a birth professional, I knew birth is often unpredictable and has its own power. You can’t tame birth or squeeze it into a box. But, dude, I had studied this thing inside and out for the last 2 decades. I was a faithful disciple of birth. Even more importantly, I had followed ALL the instructions and all the wisdom I had soaked up over the years. I felt disillusioned and betrayed.

I never saw birth the same way after that.

The thing is, what was really yanked out of me that day were all the ideals I’d held about birth, especially natural birth. What a relief it was to finally admit the complexities of those ideals and let go of my pre-conceived expectations.

Birth

Birth is a lot like faith. It takes us places we never expected to go. As I’ve shifted in my understanding of birth, I’ve also experienced a parallel shift in my understanding of faith.

When our sweet Estelle was born in the water that night with her hand up against her face, I was starting to feel squeezed by my own positions on things like family size and gender roles. I had embraced a thing called the Quiverfull Movement, where it’s taught that because God values children and procreation, Christians should not take any measures to prevent pregnancies. Women as (super-amazing) homemakers was the theology that came with it, hand-in-hand.

I was lonely, burned-out, anxious, agoraphobic and generally a broken mess. It was too much to carry. And, I was ready to lay down that load. But, I didn’t really know how to walk away from a theology I had been living out wholeheartedly for years now. I was a faithful disciple of the Quiverfull Movement. Then one day I was making soup and God’s spirit showed up. I know, it sounds a bit self-serving. But, it was one of the most profound moments I’ve ever experienced in my faith. And, it turned my faith upside down (or right side up). I sensed it so strongly as I held onto my wooden spoon: I was being released from all that DOING and PERFORMING. I didn’t have to do so much. Maybe I didn’t even have to do any of it to please God. I stood there, stirring soup, in awe at what the Spirit was stirring inside my heart.

I never saw faith the same way after that. 

Like my birth preparation for my 7th baby, I had tried to dutifully follow all the instructions and study this theology I had lovingly devoted myself to. I watched videos and read blogs, magazines and books. I had big plans for our Quiverfull life. We were going to have all our ducks (kids) lined up in a row and there were going to be candles in this one too. Instead I ended up wrapped in a blanket (again), trembling from exhaustion. It was a relief to finally let go of ideals I couldn’t keep up with anymore. I felt out of sorts but also more in step with God’s heart for me.

It was the beginning of some important shifting in my faith. Even though I felt like a lone explorer at times, the truth is others have sojourned this way too.  Their stories, words and vulnerability have been my companions in these wide open spaces. Sarah Bessey is one of them. And, this fall, I have the incredible privilege of previewing her new book “Out of Sorts” which is set to release November 3rd, 2015. It’s incredibly insightful, authentic and full of comfort for anyone who’s ever shifted or felt out of sorts in their faith journey or whose ideals suddenly didn’t fit or seem to make sense anymore. You can pre-order here! Perhaps what I’m loving the most in this book so far is Sarah’s big, generous heart and how she makes room for all of us: the wanderers, the seekers, the know-it-alls. I have to think that “us” includes the YouTube birth goddesses and the Quiverfull moms too, even if (for me) trying on the ideals represented by those personas ended up feeling like putting on a tight, itchy woollen sweater on a hot July day. I can’t wait to share more about Sarah’s book and how it relates to my own story! Stay tuned <3

OOS quote_2

Can you relate to being a wanderer and feeling out of sorts? I’d love to hear about your story in the comments below!

 

Why We Should Talk More About Suicide (Even If It’s Hard)

phone

When I was younger, I had a secret relationship. I was 12 when the boy from the English Public school started phoning me, a French Catholic girl, every single Sunday, for almost a year. He’d call me and we would talk for hours and I’d twirl the curly plastic phone cord between my fingers. If I ran into him at the hockey arena with my friends, he’d be ice cold and pretend not to know me. At first our secret “phone relationship” felt exciting. Eventually, as with many things done in secret, it left me feeling unworthy.

My childhood was fraught with “English vs French” sentiments, which played out at the local coffee shops and playgrounds in our small northern Canadian town. It’s a strange leftover tension from battles fought long ago, as if on a cellular level we just couldn’t let go of our ancestors’ baggage. Ours was not exactly a Romeo & Juliet romance. Mainly because we were 12 year olds and I’m pretty sure no one would have died if we had lived out our “crush” in public. Still, our backgrounds felt like a barrier and we hid because of it. Eventually he stopped calling and I moved on.

I often wonder what it was about that relationship that was so entangling for me? Was it the secrecy of it? Was it that he was such a popular boy in our small town? But, the truth is, things that are lived in secret eventually become a thorn. I remember after a while dreading his Sunday evening calls but somehow never giving myself permission to refuse to take the phone. I remember feeling trapped because it was exciting but also discouraging to only be admired in secret. I remember that the secret part of it became the most un-fun part of it.

Today is world suicide prevention day. I found myself in the principal’s office, talking about this painful subject. We got through the conversation, both emotional and struggling to wade through the murky waters of what suicide meant for both of us. I was a bit clumsy at first. But man, I would rather be clumsy than hide. I would rather feel awkward than safe. So we talked it through. And, we both agreed. This thing called suicide is complicated, and hard, and painful. You guys. Suicide is a hard thing to talk about. But it’s so necessary. So we shined a big bright light on it by talking about it and exposing it. One conversation at a time.

I still can’t believe how hard it was. But I just knew that when I walked out of that office, we’d conquered another small piece of the shadows where this thing called suicide hides.

It would mean the world to me if you could shine a light on the subject of suicide too? Because, unlike my 12 year old self’s forbidden romance story, people we love do die when suicide is kept hidden.

Let’s do this. 

#worldsuicidepreventionday

** I’d love to hear how you’re shining a light on this in the comments <3

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/58871905@N03/6066015622″>Touch me and I end up singing</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a
href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Stop hiding (and other things a TV news crew can teach you).

I learned a hard lesson yesterday: Always be prepared for a TV news crew! You just never know when a reporter will stop you in the mall to ask you about your back-to-school shopping on the day before school starts. The reporter who asked me about my shopping adventures was young and sweet. I felt old and tired and clumsy answering her questions. I was guarded when she asked about cost and time because I might have to reveal how many kids I actually have. The fact that I have 7 kids makes me stick out like a sore thumb and on this day, I was really trying to blend in. Additionally, I didn’t really want people to know how much I had spent on getting my kids ready for school or how many crazy trips we’d made to stores, always forgetting something and having to go back!  . But, the questions-and the data in my answers-begged an explanation. So, reluctantly, I revealed my secret. “We have lots of kids. 7 kids.” I felt awkward and unprepared and strangely vulnerable.

Plus, I didn’t have any make up on.

And, I’d put off tweezing my eyebrows.

I would have done so much more to prepare to be on TV.

hiding

It’s ok, I told myself. Only my grandparents will see me on the local news. Yeah, I was wrong about that. Soon my Facebook feed was aglow with comments and messages about my short-lived fame. I didn’t have the courage to watch it. Because, no make-up. I called it a boring, awkward interview. Funny thing, no one else did.

The reality is you can’t always be prepared for a TV news crew.

In the same way, you can’t always be prepared for opportunities, dreams, creative inspiration or the many ways life calls us out of our comfort zones. Sometimes you just have to let these things take your hand and lead you onward. Make-up-less, un-tweezed, vulnerable. Otherwise you’ll spend your whole life staring at yourself in the mirror, hiding in a corner, avoiding the TV news crew, trying to blend in.

Some of my favourite hiding places have included: my kitchen (because I can stay there undetected by people outside my house), my small northern town (this one makes for great excuses about why I can’t do this or that), my insecurities (we’ve been together all my life), my past failures and current fears. In their own way, each of these hiding places made me feel sheltered, less vulnerable, safely hidden. The truth is they were keeping me small, stifled, stagnant and a part of me was suffocating there.

The real lesson I learned yesterday was that, when the news crew asks for an interview and you feel your heart start to pound, it’s a sign. No, it’s an invitation. To come out of hiding. To do the interview. To leave the comfort of your kitchen and the comfort of all your comfort zones for that matter. No one benefits from your hiding, least of all you.

You can do it. I just did when I hit “publish” on this post (and I didn’t realize it then but that’s what I was doing when I agreed to that interview).

Let’s come out of hiding, shall we?

I’d love to hear your stories of coming out of hiding in the comments!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44538772@N00/300631598″>If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take
chances</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

 

Why I Changed My Word for 2015 #oneword365

Words

I was all set to start the new year with my #oneword365. It was carefully chosen and for a while, I was convinced it was the right one. It’s a really great word. And, I was really hoping it would help me make this next year better. Last year was so hard. I fought with emotional pain and physical exhaustion like I was thrown into the boxing ring for the fight of my life. I feel like I spent a lot of time standing in the corner, shellshocked, confused, weary, waiting, trying to figure out my next move. So, this word, it’s such a great word. It felt like putting on a pair of really great boxing gloves.  

Intentional

I tried it on for a while. It made me feel strong and able to change myself and the things around me. And, oh, how I longed for change. How I wanted to be different. You could call it a lifelong dream. I’ve talked about how I used to try to reinvent myself as a young girl. I still do that. With this word, I was going to improve as much as I possibly could.

The  more I carried this word around, the more I realized I wasn’t ready for it. It can’t be the prominent thread  in the fabric of this year. It’s not that I don’t want to be intentional. I do. I want to be intentional with writing, relationships, faith, self-care, love. 

I realized though that asking my burned out, burdened down heart to focus big on being intentional was a lot like supporting my insecurity driven need to change myself. 

I’m not ready to focus on the word “intentional”. Not yet. It can be a minor player this year. But, not the main focus.

There is a step I’ve skipped over all my life. One word that needs to precede everything else.

Acceptance

Accepting myself, my quirky, awkward ways, my gifts and strengths, my weaknesses and fears. Accepting my life, being a housewife and mom of 7 kids (even if it’s incredibly hard), accepting my limits and boundaries, accepting my children, my husband and their limits, boundaries, strengths and weaknesses. Accepting the ebb and flow of friendships past and present in and out of my life. Accepting my faith journey as my own, even if it’s different and full of questions. Accepting burnout. Accepting my exhaustion because it has become an awakening to myself, my needs, my identity. Accepting that our family deals with cavities, low grades, anxiety, asthma, depression, pain, strong personalities, behaviours. Accepting the shape of my heart and the shape of my hips.

I think acceptance will become a gateway. 

A gateway to love, peace, fullness, aliveness, hope, dreams, rest, healing.

My one word for the year needed to change so that I could finally stop trying to change. Words are powerful and I love them so. I hope you’ll join me in choosing one word for the year. #oneword365

What’s your word?

Photo Credit:
<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/11363525@N02/3786683541/”>[Olivia]</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Why I didn’t Sign the Petition (All We Need is Love)

When the local country inn brought in exotic dancers, they said they were praying it would close down and then they went on their merry way. Because, it’s easier to maintain a safe distance from what makes us uncomfortable and wish it away. When classmates were found self-harming in the bathroom, the parents pulled their kids out of school. No one seems to get that what cuts most is rejection-and shunning. That was when the radio show host said his hurting of women was consensual, and every woman who’s been harmed shuddered. And then the petitions started -to cancel a show and then to save it- when really, the only thing at risk of being cancelled was human empathy and godly love. And the reality of the colour of your skin dictating the level of justice you receive, there are a lot of people mourning that right now.

It all sounds ludicrous to me. How nothing has changed and we still constantly push people out on the fringe. How we can’t serve a cup of coffee, share a classroom, deliver justice. 

sticks and stones

 

I’m so done with it. I’m done with wanting to give water to those who need it, and instead keeping to myself because, we send cheques to the fringe, but we don’t ever go there. And I’m not talking about my short-term missions trip where I snapped a picture of me with a young, pregnant girl living in poverty. I’m talking about how our prejudices, judgements, attitudes create barriers that keep us away from people on the fringe, all around us, all the time. Turns out I’m the one who is thirsty. Thirsty for God’s extravagant, authentic love that doesn’t ever pass anyone by.

balloon friends

 

There was a time when I only ever wore skirts and I thought that being a white, North American stay-at-home mom with a house full of kids was the only true picture of being a godly woman and a good mom. Other mothers would ask me why I decided to have so many children and I’d say that I was trusting God with it all. Because when another woman said she felt full with 2 or 3 kids, I’d whisper a prayer and think if only she trusted God more and be more like me. I don’t think I realized then how believing that your choices are the only right choices only pushes people away. I know it now. A godly woman isn’t defined by her appearance, the number of children in her home or even her (privileged) choice to stay home. I’ve seen hearts fall apart under the weight of all that. Mine did. No, I’m learning that a godly woman is defined by love.

So, I’ve decided that I’m done with ideals that push others down to puff ourselves up. I’m done with trying to look good and keep up with the Joneses. We should never, ever try to be so alike that we can’t ever connect to anyone who is different. Because the face of love isn’t a big, rich American family with all their children (or even ducks)  lined in a row, no, the face of love is walking out of your comfort zone and into the fringe. It’s reaching out instead of pulling away. It’s in every human connection that crosses over gender lines, financial status, skin colour, life choices…every-single-line-crossed for loveAnd godly women (and men) do this.

holding hands

I’ve decided not to sign the petition or hide behind my poetic writing. Because Lord knows I’ve spent a lot of time hiding and trying to stay away from the fringe.

Loves, will you join me? Let’s come out from under our bowls and let’s salt the earth, all the way up to the edges, the fringes, the borders. As far out as God’s love leads us. Let’s stop complaining about all the ways people are different from us, let’s stop praying for other people to become just like us and start letting God’s love draw us to people who are altogether different, maybe even polar opposites. Because, at the local strip club, in your child’s class, in the cross-fire of petitions, underneath skin, behind lifestyle choices and in your church nursery are people, made in God’s image, in need of one thing (and it’s not your opinions or signature). It’s love.

Do you have any ideas on how to love outside your comfort zone? What comes to mind? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Photo Credits:
Stick and Stones: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ashleyrosex/2450534945/”>ashley rose,</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Balloon Friends: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/brandoncwarren/4164759025/”>Brandon Christopher Warren</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href
Hands holding:<a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotorita/1482317508/”>FotoRita [Allstar maniac]</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Burn-Out is a Gift (Why You Should Stop Rushing)

I want to be done. This burn-out thing is getting old and I want to move on. I want to have stamina for the things I love to do. I long for a sharp mind and a strong body.

My body begs for rest and more rest.

Burn-out feels like the quiet extinguishing of my flame, a silent thief.

Back when I thought that for a woman to be biblical she had to become empty and exhausted, I ignored all of my own needs. Instead of creating spaces in my life for me to breathe, I suffocated myself with tasks and ideals and it never made me more biblical.

Rolling pin

Maybe that’s the real thief. This running around, emptying ourselves, this belief that being “biblical” has more to do with our handiwork than God’s work in our lives. We give and give and give and it’s true. Sacrifice is godly. But, the emptiness that comes from doing it all, it throws water on the very embers of our soul that God intends to fan into flames.

And that’s the difference.

Burn-out is teaching me that. But, my anxious soul is rushing this slow process of restoration and refreshment. And, every time I rush out of that process, my body protests and hijacks me out of my busyness and back into forced rest. Yeah, I’ve tried to go AWOL a few times. But, my assignment is rest. It’s learning to slow down and stop rushing. It’s experiencing the glory of the fall colours and the tickle of a snowflake melting on my face. It’s sitting with my toddlers and cuddling over and over again. It’s letting the dust settle on the things I was busy doing and dusting off the things I’ve been neglecting. It’s love and life on a slow simmer.

devotions

That spring, years ago when the earth rushed out of winter and into summer (think t-shirts and shorts in a time when we typically shovel snow), the blueberries died and the apple orchards failed to yield an abundant harvest. I think that’s what happens when we rush. We might feel the excitement of the warmth of the sun but all of it is premature and causes the best harvest to fail.

I’m trying to remember this.

God is good at reminding me how, that day so many years ago when I was in premature labour at 24 weeks with my first baby, I was rushing. I wanted to have my baby that day because I couldn’t wait to meet him. The nurse on duty understood that, as well as the risks and losses we would be forced to confront if our baby came at 24 weeks. Her determination and patience stopped my labour and forced me to do exactly what I needed to: wait. I think I may have even felt a bit annoyed.

All these years later, I’m still annoyed. Annoyed that I have to wait again. 

girl holding candle

The thing is, burn-out is not what extinguishes your flame. Burn out is your body’s way of protecting what’s left of the embers. If you are patient, burn-out will teach you how to really live your best life and will, like that wonderful wise nurse, stop you from rushing through this life, protecting you from losing things like strength, time, love, family, faith.

Think of it this way. In the story of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and Martha who fussed in the kitchen, one chose rest and the other chose busyness.

Which will you choose? (Remember, the dishes can wait).

Have you or are you experiencing burn-out? What did you learn? How did it change you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Photo credits:
Woman holding candle: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/calamity_photography/4726912910/”>Www.CourtneyCarmody.com/</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Woman doing devotions: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/shutterchik/232935406/”>shutterbugchik</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Rolling pin: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/alebaffa/11876364946/”>Alessandro Baffa</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

What You Need To Hear When You Don’t Feel Pretty

medium_12013464313

All day long she couldn’t stop saying it. “Pretty!” The pink sweater had a little tulle skirt. Cutest sweater ever. And she felt pretty in it. So she exclaimed it all day long. She is only 2. And, in her innocent heart, unmarred and secure, she accepted her beauty. Celebrated it even.

A little, unbroken heart can amaze you.

I think one of my earliest memories is of feeling unbeautiful. I remember my cousin pointing out my freckles. I was really little. And, yet, somehow my heart had learned to feel small and plain. They never washed off and I never stopped feeling it. I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. I wasn’t enough.

There are voices that need to be silenced.

This dialogue we have with ourselves about not being enough needs to be annulled. If we can divorce ourselves from this feeling of “not enough”, we might be able to hear the chorus of love spoken over us by our Creator, whose image we actually reflect.

Yesterday I burned the popcorn and hid in my room at supper time because I hit a wall. My body ached and my heart lamented: “You’re not a good mother today”. 

FullSizeRender

I listened to my heart for a moment. But, I’ve been at this for too long to be fooled. Burned popcorn and aching hips don’t make a bad mother anymore than a well executed recipe and being in the kitchen make a good mother. 

“This is the best popcorn ever!” my 10 year old exclaimed. “What’s in it?”

I smiled. “It’s burned. I burned it.”

“Really? I don’t see the burned. It tastes good to me!”

Sometimes we need to look past what we see as failure so we can taste the goodness of this crazy, hard, amazing life. 

If you went to your closet and tried on a cute sweater, or dress, would you say it (even if it was quietly to yourself)? Would you say “pretty!”?

large_8142121222

 

The thing is you are beautiful even without the cute sweater or dress. But, in a sense, the pink sweater with the tulle skirt that made my little girl exclaim over and over “Pretty! Essie pretty!” was the thing that helped her see what was already there.

And our words? They can be the thing that helps us see the beauty that already exists. No need to try to wash off freckles or hide your body. No need to whisper to yourself that you’re a bad mother or a failure.

Burned popcorn happens. It will happen again. But, your words, they don’t have to be the dialogue that makes you feel like you’re not enough.

You are enough. Enough for God to love you. Enough for a saviour to give his life so you would know what it’s like to feel loved, accepted by your Creator. Just as you are. 

There are things we can improve. And, there probably always will be. That’s not what this is about. I’ve learned that I constantly trip over my weaknesses when I can’t see how wonderfully God made me. My dance through this life is so much more in step and in tune when I hear his chorus of love over me.

A few days ago, a friend gave me a booklet of verses and quotes on a keychain. They spoke to me profoundly, helping me change the harmful dialogue that shouts its way into my heart. And that’s what we need. We need others who love us and know us to join the conversation and help us drown out the negative talk. We need each other. We need a new verse, a new word to change the tune of our hearts and tune us into God’s heart. 

Cards

So the next time that old voice comes creeping in, or shouts at you in a vulnerable moment – when you’re holding a bowl of burned popcorn maybe – listen for the other voice speaking love over you. Really listen because it might sound faint at first. But I promise it’s there; God speaking love, acceptance, beauty to you.

Because the thing is, He will always exclaim “Pretty!” at the sight of you. And it’s really true. Whether you burned the popcorn or not.

***********

Can you relate? What words do you say about yourself. How can you tune into God’s words about you? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Photo credits:
Tutus: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/imagemd/12013464313/”>ImageMD</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Woman’s face: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/aztlek/8142121222/”>Aztlek</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

How to Really Connect (A Story of Un-othering)

 

origin_349331010

*This post is part of the Synchroblog happening at SheLoves Magazine entitled “We are the Other”. So excited to be joining in! Check it out here!

Her name was Annie and she wasn’t the prettiest girl in class. I saw her alone, and I understood. We both knew what it was like to stand in a corner with our shadows for company, recess after recess. Excluded, different, apart, clashing. We’d both been “othered”. I don’t remember how I ended up at her house that day. “I’ll help you pick out better outfits” I offered. Back then I still believed that if a girl could better her outward appearance, she’d get what she really wanted deep down inside: acceptance.  “I’ll teach you how to put on make-up” I promised. I didn’t understand it then. That making yourself up into something you’re not won’t ever get you accepted for who you really are.

The truth is I kept wanting to change who I was because I didn’t really believe that I had enough value just as I was. I carried that into motherhood and eventually burned out trying to live life with a super cape and a threadbare heart. My real, aching heart proved more vital than my imaginary cape. And, while losing the cape made me feel a little lighter, my heart-soul-body-mind condition pushed me back into the fringes of being “othered” all over again.

Burn-out meant that I couldn’t keep up with the other moms. I was exhausted and out of breath. I was eating their dust and choking on their busy pace of life. It was a season of scarcity. Energy, strength, peace, motivation were all in low supply.

large_8025692978

I was like a ghost, one friend teased. Ghosts are rarely seen and I guess she didn’t realize it then but I really did feel invisible. It took everything I had just to show up as a mother and wife everyday. Ghost mothers trying to exist and survive can be the most unnoticed of all.

I want you to know I was that mother who stopped coming to play group, who struggled to get out of bed everyday, who stopped cleaning her house because the mess always won out. I was that mother who shrank back, who turned you down not because she didn’t want your friendship but because she was out of energy, out of confidence, out of hope. I was her. Until.

Until along came a group of extraordinary, ordinary women . When they invited me to their home study group, I was still afraid to walk out my door. We were different. Still, my “otherness” didn’t push them away. Instead, they leaned in close when I spoke and listened intently to my stories. They kept inviting me but never pressuring me. They showed me that you can undo the feeling of being “othered” by creating a safe space to untangle your story and let your journey unfold and unite into a greater story of acceptance, friendship and love. I was still different in so many ways, but no longer separate. They took my broken life and grafted me into theirs.

The thing is, to receive a graft, a vine has to be wounded. To be grafted in, you have to be cut open.

And, here’s the deal. If you want to be connected to others, you’ve got to allow yourself to be cut open by their pain. You’ve got to share wounds so that you can grow together.

A vine has a limited lifespan unless it gets grafted. It’s true we can’t survive long on our own. We need each other. I was the “other” mother, suffering unnoticed, the ghost mother, invisible because of my pain. Until a group of women decided to open themselves up to me and my story, un-othering me by sharing my pain and leaning into my ache. Beautiful, life-giving friendships were born.

origin_2871346522

 

We have so much un-othering to do. It’s a holy work. A work that Jesus, the true Vine, modeled when he was wounded for us so that we could be joined to the Father. This grafting, this joining together in our discomfort and pain is the only way to really live the life God gave us and to give that life away. There are “others” all around us. We just have to be willing to notice them and lean in.

Have you experienced being “othered”? How have you “un-othered” those who have experienced rejection or separation from a group of people? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Photo Credits:
Closet: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/349331010/”>jamelah</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Exhausted: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978/”>jazbeck</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Shoe heart: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwaysbecool/2871346522/”>@ifatma.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>