Monday, December 31, 2012

Just A Thought has hit 10 000 page views!

On Saturday, the page view count for Just A Thought hit 10 000!  How amazingly cool is that?  I am humbled, and excited, and a little startled.  I mean, really. 10 000?!!

I've been writing in this blog for about four years, but the majority of the hits have happened in the last couple of years. Google Blogger allows me to track the number of page views per day, and the country the hits come from.  I love the fact that I have had readers from Russia, Singapore, China, the UK, Serbia, South Africa, Ireland, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Moldova, Kenya, Mexico, Guam, Nepal, Germany, Poland, well as from Canada and the U.S.  In fact, I have been visited by every continent except for Antarctica.

I also appreciate the fact that hitting this milestone coincides with the end of 2012.  It seems a fitting time to begin the next 10 000.  I have said it before, that I am so grateful for you, the readers.  Writing the posts is just one half of the equation for me.  When you read what I have written, you complete the process.  In no way do I expect you to agree with everything I write, or with anything I write, for that matter.  I know that there are some who come into Just A Thought looking for dirt.  I've had my own words, chewed up, twisted, seasoned with poison and spit back into my face, so distorted and out of context that I no longer recognize them.   Still, it is part of the deal, that once I hit "publish" on a post, it no longer belongs to me.  It is given to others, to do with as they will.  I am so grateful that the majority of people who let me know that they are reading are encouraging and positive, even when they don't agree with me.

I think one of the reasons I am so amazed at reaching 10 000 is because continuing to write here has been a huge challenge.  It's scary.  Seriously.  It has been difficult to keep my inner censor from throwing herself off a cliff at times.  Nothing screams "What if???!!" louder than my inner voice watching my cursor hover over the "publish" button. I am learning to make honest choices about what I put here, to allow myself to be weak and to let others know it, to present myself in all my flawed glory, to let kindness and truth be my guide, and to listen to the still, quiet voice of God when He whispers in my ear, "Do you really want to post that? Or would it be a good idea to calm down first and let your brain have a say...?"

Years ago, God gave me a strong desire to "live out loud".  So much of my life had been controlled by what others think of me.  I felt that God wanted to help me challenge that fear by reaching out, giving myself to others, risking rejection in the process.  I discovered that rejection is not soul-killing.  Hiding in fear of rejection is.  Being a fool, and having others discover this, is not the end of the world.  Hiding the Light of God within ourselves for fear that our foolishness might also be discovered may just be the beginning of the end.

There very well may be people who, in reading my words here, decide that I am not for them. That is okay.  I am not for everyone.  I can't say that it is their loss. I mean, my goodness, how am I to know that? How arrogant would it be to assume that to know me is to love me?  It very well may be my loss.  It just is what it is.

Still, whenever someone tells me that they have read my blog, and liked it, I want to hug them and shine their shoes and bake them cookies and give them puppies and vacuum their carpets and sing sappy love songs and do a happy dance and smile until my face hurts.  And I want details.

I am, after all, human.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you, dear readers. For coming here, for receiving my gift of myself and for letting my voice into your world.  Thank you, dearest Lord, for the courage to be who I am here, and for the words.

Just a thought.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

As 2013 looms on the Horizon...where does my hope lie?

This verse from the prophet Jeremiah is one of my favorites.  It is my life verse.  God gave it to me many years ago, and He has always been faithful to keep it for me.

I don't know that I have always been as faithful to believe it, though.  I think, for the most part, I believe parts of it.  That God has a plan for me? Got it.  That His plan is to prosper me and not to harm me?  Uh..sometimes got it.  That He also plans to give me hope, and a future...that kind of depends on the day. depends on my faithfulness to God "on the day".

So, as 2012 is quickly sliding into the realm of history, and 2013 looms on the horizon, what do I hope for in the new year?  What am I resolving?  What changes will be made, what problems will find solutions, what attitudes will be adjusted?  Good questions.

I want to trust the God of this verse more.  I want to trust Jeremiah's God, the God who doesn't just have a plan, but who declares it out loud, who wants to prosper those who trust and love Him, who does not harm me, who plans to give me, glory of all glories, a hope and a future.

I have been slowly realizing that I have begun to see life as one continuous stumble, a constant meeting of trouble, getting through, taking a deep breath, and meeting the next trouble.  In moments of trouble, I make my way through, holding on to God, learning from Him, growing in obedience, asking for forgiveness when I fail, praising Him when we make it through together.  In moments of you know what I tend to do in moments of peace? I wait for the next moment of trouble to hit.  Maybe not outwardly. I am, by nature, and optimistic person.  I don't forecast gloom, complain about things before they happen, grumbling about the storm that I am certain is going to ruin my lovely, sunny day.  I enjoy the sun, I breathe deeply when the air is rich and fragrant, I see the splashes of grace and know that I am loved.

But inside, deep inside, anxiety niggles at me.  I fully engage myself in moments of pleasure and peace, but I am beginning to realize that in my innermost being, I believe that the good times are temporary. Rest stops, maybe, but no place for me to live.

I'll give you an example.  The past few months have been really good.  I've been working hard, and achieving great results. I've done well in school, and getting lots of positive feedback from my job, I'm enjoying meeting lots of new people, and am getting to the place (although I'm not there yet) where I know that I can relax about money and bill paying, etc. The pain from past sorrows is easing.  I am enjoying my relationship with God, and while there are heartaches, He is sustaining me and lifting me up daily.

Still, there is a part of me that can't relax.  That keeps peering upward, waiting for the proverbial "other shoe to drop".  Another death, maybe.  Or, and this one really bothers me, probably because it feels more likely, another heart attack.  My mind keeps drifting down that path, the "What if?" road to worry and insecurity.  What if I have another heart attack?  And can't work?  What then?

Now, how afraid am I of this?  Enough to make sure I take my meds daily, but not enough to stop me from helping Grace shovel the driveway yesterday.  I am not tormented by it.  It does not haunt me.  It's not a swarm of wasps up my shirt.  It's a mosquito in my ear.

So, if it isn't an army of angry wasps up my shirt, what's the problem? The problem is not the mosquito of worry. It's the belief - of lack of belief - that has created this mosquito.

There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about getting out of our comfort zone. What happens when comfort is out of our comfort zone?  When having enough money to meet my needs (almost there!) and feeling healthy enough to enjoy life and work (with a few accommodations), when having a great relationship with an amazing daughter who is smart, kind and in love with Jesus with a maturity that blows my mind and having special people in my life, when being able to write and having time to read (other than academic stuff), when life is going okay and God is as close as ever...what happens when that is outside of my comfort zone?

The truth? God deserves more from me. That's it. Pointe finale.  Of course stuff happens, and life is full of problems to be solved, challenges to be faced.  Still, God deserves a child who knows that she knows that she knows that while, yes, He is her peace in the storm, the truth is that sometimes there isn't a storm.  I don't have to wear my life jacket 24/7.  I don't need to try to pull my jacket around the life preserver that I wear, every day, just in case.  Sometimes, there is no storm.

Ultimately it comes down to this.  If there is a storm coming, I don't need to know about it.  Sounds radical, huh?  The thing is, God knows about it.  All I need is Him.  All I need is Jesus.

All I need is Jesus.  He is my peace. He is my joy. He is my love, my life, my hope...and He is my calm in the lack of a storm.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!

I want to wish all my readers, known and unknown, friends and family, all the amazing people who wander in and out of these pages, a merry, merry Christmas.

We are all in so many different places, in this world, in our lives, in our hearts and minds and years, and I am grateful for the small moments that we get to connect here.  I re-read my Christmas post from last year, and back then, I wrote about being "ready for Christmas".  And how I wasn't.  And yet, was.

I think it still applies today, for me.  I wrote about Mary and Joseph, and how, outwardly, they were incredibly unready for the birth of Jesus.  They didn't even have a room for Mary to give birth in, let alone a midwife...or ice chips...or heated blankets...or an epidural.  They had nothing, and yet they still found themselves holding everything. In their arms. In their hearts.

Grace and I have much more than Mary and Joseph did back then.  In the context of our time, our culture, the "way things are done", though, we're lagging behind. Money is tight. We're both celebrating the end of the last semester with illness.  The tree is already dried out...who was in charge of keeping it watered, anyway? But that's okay.  Because we tend to live our lives in "His" time, anyway.  And in Jesus' time, there is room for joy in the pain.  There is a place for laughter through the tears.  Love shines brighter than the hatred.  Truth obliterates the lies.  There is Life in the manger, in the fatigue, in the grime, in the dark...and beyond death.

This morning in church, we sang "The Little Drummer Boy".  It's my favorite Christmas song.  I love the message of being small and having little to give, offering it anyway and seeing God smile with delight.  Not because of the gift, but because of the giver...the Beloved.  Us.  Me.

So I sang with all my heart, clutching a wad of wet Kleenex, my voice choked with tears...

And God smiled at me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Someday" is waiting for us!

I just re-read my post from last night - A Melancholy Friday Night - and winced.  I know that my goal for this blog includes honesty, but talking about how insecure I can be when I am feeling insecure is hard.  Really, really hard.

I still feel that it is important, though.  I know that I am not alone.  I know that many of us struggle to trust others, to know who our friends are. We struggle to believe, in this world of social politeness that can veil all manner of negativity and criticism, that we are really welcome in the lives of others.

For me, the most hopeful word in last night's post was "someday". Because I know that these insecurities are not a permanent part of my life.  God is always in the process of transforming me into His image, which is loving and graceful. And strong.  God's strength in His people is love.  I will live all my days on this earth, and never even come close to knowing how powerful and strong God's love is.  Or how much power His love generates in us when we allow Him in.

God deals with my insecurities, not by trying to convince me that I am fabulous and worth loving, although I believe that He thinks this is true.  God deals with my insecurities by reminding me to get my eyes off of myself, and to reach out in love to others.

So, "What if they don't like me" turns into "how can I show them how neat I think they are?"  And, "What if they gossip about me behind my back?" turns into, "God, help me not to gossip about them behind their backs..."  Things get easier as I stop thinking about how people might treat me, and focus on how I treat others.  That's the power of love.

That's why the word "someday" is so hopeful.  Someday, I won't struggle with being insecure. Someday I won't be afraid of rejection.  Someday, I'll feel brave, even when I am tired and emotional and vulnerable.

Maybe "someday" is tomorrow. You never know.  But one thing I do know...if you need it, God has your "someday" waiting for you, too.

How cool is that?

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Melancholy Friday Night

I just came home from work. I spent three hours with a dear boy who has Asperger's syndrome, and who is an absolute delight.  We ate pizza and watched the movie, Real Steel. I cried at the end.  He practiced all his newly learned boxing moves. I was impressed.  

His parents went out for supper and bought groceries.  They came home, happy from a night out. I had a wonderful time, and once again left amazed that the agency I work for actually pays me to do this.  It feels like what I was made to do.

I stopped at the Super C in Ormstown on my way home, picked up a few things, and came home.

So, now, here I am.  Grace was already in bed.  She's not feeling well, poor Chika.

And I am feeling melancholy. Part of it is being alone on a Friday night. When I was passing through Ormstown, there was a friend who lives there that I considered visiting, but I didn't.  Wasn't sure if I should.  Didn't know if I'd be an interruption or not. Didn't want to intrude.

All the old insecurities surfaced.  And I came home.

Someday I'm going to be okay, popping in to say hi, knowing that I am welcome, knowing for sure who my friends are...

So, in the spirit of sharing things about me that you may not know...I can be very insecure.  I can get confused about who my friends are, who wants me in their lives and who is just being nice.  I have my forever friends, the ones I never, ever, ever doubt.  But then, there are the people that I really want to get to know, the ones that I'm not quite close enough to, to feel safe with, but who I would like to be.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Hobbit, The end of school and a bit about me...

The Hobbit was a wonderful, funny, scary, magical, moving romp through Middle Earth, as I thought it would be.  Beyond amazing!  Especially in 3D!

So now, I have one more final to do (macroeconomics...egad) and I am done.  I am sad to be finishing with school, at least for a while, although I will still be in the school as I will continue to work as a volunteer there. I'll miss the other students, and the teachers. I have met some truly amazing people in this program!

I have to admit, though, that I am getting tired.  I've been in a IC flare for a few days, and the pain is worse than it has been in a long time.  I feel like I have knives cutting through my abdomen.  I am grateful, though, that this didn't happen sooner.  Having loads to do and feeling like this makes me feel so pressured that I have a tendency to get really down.  I do feel a bit low, but it's just the pain.

 I am especially blessed that I am able to work even when I feel so ill, because I find my time with the people I work with so enjoyable, and so unstressful, and I have the freedom to spend it in a way that doesn't tax me. For example, on Tuesday, I worked for four hours, and spent it playing cards with two of the sweetest little boys ever.  I was tired when I got home, but I told Grace, I don't believe I get paid for this!  I am glad I do, but wow, what a blessing!

I was thinking, as it is the holiday season and I feel like taking things a little lighter, that maybe I would do a few "things you didn't know about me" posts.  I know that I have many readers that I don't know, and some that I don't know very well, and wish I knew better. Maybe you'd like to know me better, too? *she says hopefully*

I express a lot of opinions and ideas in this blog, and maybe giving you all a bit of info about me might add a bit of context to my posts?

Or maybe I'm just lazy.  That could be it, too.

In any case, I'll start with this - I love chickens.  I'm not just talking chicken as food, although I am not one to pass up a good coq au vin.  I really, really, really love chickens ~ live chickens, free-range chickens, hens and roosters, scratching around the yard, pulling worms out of the garden, peering in the windows, pooping on the steps, leaving feathers and eggs in corners of the front porch...chickens.

I have also (and this may come under the category of confessions) spanked a chicken.  On purpose. Hard.

It was a hen that was tormenting another hen, her sister. They were the only two Americauna hens that we had, and they had come to us in the same cage. They were fine together in the cage, but once let loose, one became quite aggressive with her sister.

After several attempts at isolating both the bully and the poor, hen-pecked victim, I let them loose together with the flock and little miss bully cornered her sister hen behind the coop door and was pecking her to bits.  The rooster tried to intervene, to no avail.

So I marched up to the battling hens in the corner behind the door and swatted the top hen on her bottom.  The first swat basically just hit feathers - I love little feathery chicken bottoms! - and so I swatted her again, hard.  She went flying across the coop yard, squawking and complaining. Talk about righteous indignation.  But she left her sister alone after that.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

More later...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'm going back to Middle Earth!!!

I cannot possibly express how overwhelmingly excited I am to be going to see The Hobbit tomorrow with Grace and my friends, Sandy and Karen.  My mind has been so on school and work and on physically making it through this week that I have just now realized what a thrill it will be to revisit Middle Earth.  I love, love, love the Lord of the Ring series, I've read the books repeatedly, have seen the movies countless times, and cannot wait to go back, and to see how it all started.

* happy, happy sigh*

I'm thinking, this holiday season may be a good time for a Lord of the Ring marathon.  All three movies, extended editions, back to back. With Hobbit food, lots of ale, wine and friends. there anyone out there who hasn't ever done a LOTR marathon?  Aw, c' know you want to...

Heh heh.

I can't wait for tomorrow! *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Is that the finish line I see?

I am so tired.  I spent seven hours today writing my economics dossier. And yes, I left it until the last minute. I do feel good about having finished it, but my entire body is in revolt.  Everything that can hurt, does hurt.  And I've been getting mild, but frequent bouts of angina.  I only have 2 more exams, though, and then school is done.  It will be such a relief to just work, and not have to worry about essays, projects and homework calling to me from the depths of my school bag.  Having said that, I am proud of the work that I have done over the past few months.  It's been a good semester, especially considering the fact that I entered it totally intimidated by the courses I was going to take. Economics? Geography? Seriously?  On Friday, I found out that so far, my economics average is 85%.  How is that even possible?  I do know that I feel much more comfortable with the subject than I did when I started.  I've learned stuff that I didn't know, and that's always a good thing.  That was the point.  The marks are just a bonus.

I wanted to write about the shootings in Connecticut, but I am not emotionally or mentally prepared to. I am so tired, I feel like anything I say will just be about me and my reaction to what happened, and that just feels selfish at this point.  I am deeply sad.  Too sad for words.  That's about it.

Oddly enough, my dear reader friends, I feel like I miss you.  It's odd, because I don't even know who most of you are.  But I have gotten used to sharing myself with you, and you are all such good listeners!  I pray for you all, because I know that God knows who you are.  And please feel free to drop me a line, ask questions, let me know what you think.  My email address is . If you are new here, I don't allow comments on this blog because of some disturbing anonymous comments I received in the past, but I absolutely welcome your input, or simply a hello.  Then, I get to say hello back to you!  If you send me a question or comment that you would like to have answered on the blog, I will absolutely do that, too.

I hope that you know how important you are, dear reader.  Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and posting my thoughts and feelings here is only part of the equation.  What I write here is only complete when you read it. You don't have to agree, or like what I say.   The gift that you give me, every time I muster up the courage to give myself to these pages, is the absolute wonder of knowing that you have heard my voice.  I pray that you, dear reader, are also enjoying the loveliness of being heard, in which ever way you speak your life into this world.  Maybe you sing. Maybe you cook, or fix cars, or build things, or paint, or garden...there are so many ways to share ourselves with the world.  And tonight, I am so grateful that you have allowed me these opportunities to share myself with you. I am honored.

And now, it is bedtime.  Sweet dreams, my friends.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Well, Hello Christmas Spirit! Welcome!

Grace and I put our Christmas tree up today, with help from her dad, Mark.  Needless-to-say, my house smells like an evergreen forest.  I love it!  You'll notice from the picture that it isn't decorated yet.  That's tomorrow's project. I have learned, over the years, that being chronically ill doesn't mean necessarily mean that I can't do things. It just means that I need to do them differently. Which means that sometimes, the Christmas tree has to be naked for a while until I get the energy/strength to decorate it. It's much more fun when everyone enjoys the process, anyway.

I have always been the kind of person that takes pleasure in simple things.  I have found, over the years, that this trait has often been a blessing. Today has been filled with pleasant things.  Some difficult things, as well.  But the nice things win out.  Like squash soup, made with a butternut squash that my friend, Sandy, gave me. The soup was incredible, rich, buttery and flavored with ginger and lemongrass.  Grace made a Asian pear tart for dessert, which was lovely.  She also cut out some pretty paper snowflakes and hung them around the house.  Tonight, a young friend came to play cards with me for a bit, and we had a nice visit.  I finished most of one of the papers due for next week, received a fun email from my favorite teacher as well as an early Christmas gift of a nifty door bell that plays different tunes, including Christmas songs ...and did I mention that my house smells as fresh and evergreeny?

Despite the tough stuff, like a difficult phone call this morning or the headache that haunted me all day, my world is filled with lovely things, and I am grateful.  Tired, and ready for bed, but grateful.

Maybe being grateful IS the Christmas Spirit.  There really is so much to be grateful for.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hello Mountain Top! *Woops! Good Bye Mountain Top, Hello Valley...*

This morning I did a geography presentation on Middle (or Central) America with a great group of other students.  I think it went well, and our teacher seemed to really enjoy it.  Since our presentation realm included countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, etc, we had a bit of fun with it. A couple members of our group made awesome sombreros for us, another member made spiced hot chocolate and the yummiest baked, cinnamon tortilla chips, and I bought a bunch of different kinds of tropical fruits and veggies to share, including a coconut (yeah, neither a fruit or veggie, but you get the idea).  I had fun, and now I have a fridge full of exotic goodies. A win-win situation, I think.

Then I got my geography quiz back and I had gotten a 90% on it. This is such a blessing, considering my first quiz netted me  67% and an angina attack.  I mean, really. What was I thinking? Apparently nothing.  Actually, I am learning that in the same way that I don't do graphs well in macroeconomics, I also don't do maps well.  They confuse me.  I need lots of words on them to make any sense of them.  Hence the flashes of anxiety and gut-wrenching confusion when given a blank...yes, BLANK!!! and asked to name countries and stuff.  Really?  *sigh*

Anyway, so the 90% was lovely.  I left the school on a bit of a high, the teacher's praise for our presentation ringing in my ears and a successful test tucked into my school bag.

In the car on the way to the grocery store, I suddenly realized how tired I was. Exhausted.  And my throat was scratchy and sore. My body hurt.

Then on the way home from the grocery store, my car stalled.  While I was driving it.  Scared the willies out of me.  It started up again, but not before adrenaline flash flooded my body and left me wanting to fight off the dragons of expensive car repairs or flight my way into bed with the covers pulled securely over my head.

It amazes me how quickly I can go from cloud 9 to a face plant in the mud.

Alas, we don't remain on the mountain top forever. I am grateful for mountain top experiences, those wonderful moments of pleasure, success or happiness.  Mountain top experiences remind me that there is something wonderful, good and worth working or waiting for while traipsing through the valleys of life.  The valleys help me remember what life is about, how fragile it is, how important my people are, how much I have to learn, to grow, to be.  And it is in the valleys that we do our best growing.  Our hardest work.  Our most intense living.  It is where I, as a disciple of Jesus, best learn to trust Him.  And, oddly enough, it is where I feel His love the most.  Think about it, a loved one's arms wrapped around us in a moment of accomplishment and success feels great.  A loved one's arms wrapped around us in a moment of abject failure, disappointment, or misery can be life to us. Love received in these moments means everything.

That's why we need to make the choice to love unconditionally.  I told someone once that I wanted him to love me when I am "bad".  He was offended  Apparently, the concept of grace - the undeserved love of God - hadn't reached him yet.  I was sad. But no matter.  When the God of the Universe offers His unconditional, eternal, overwhelmingly powerful and passionate love to me, even when I am screwing up, I can accept the worlds refusal to do it, too.  My goal in life is to walk so close to Jesus, that His life is in me, and His loves are my loves.  I want to love like He does.  And, to be honest, that happens in the valleys.

So...I'm going to drag my sore throat and achy body to bed and start working on the next history exam, on Thursday.  And the geography colonialism paper due on Tuesday.  And the...well, you get the picture.

Peace out.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I am learning from my macroeconomics class *hint- it's not macroeconomics!*

This week, I got my grade for my last macroeconomic exam.  It was 84%.  Yeah, I don't know how that happened, either.  To be honest, I think my Christmas miracle came early.

Economics has been a struggle for me.  The part of my brain that was originally designed to process macroeconomic-type things has apparently atrophied.  If it ever actually existed.  I listen intently to every lecture, writing notes on everything the teacher says.  If he has to reteach the same concept four times, it is written in my notes four times.  I read the text book, stare at graphs for hours, and still, nothing makes sense.

Still, I believe that everything is a learning opportunity, and this is no different. So, here are some of the things that I have learned from my macroeconomic class.

The first thing I have learned is that I don't do graphs.  I cannot look at a graph, even one that I am familiar with, and immediately grasp the information it offers.  I need to talk my way through each graph.  Every time.   I guess I am not a visual learner.  That is probably why, when I want to know how to do something, I would much rather read instructions that watch a teaching video. I do like to watch people do stuff, but I'd still rather have the instructions written down.  I feel like it gives me more freedom, and the words open doors to me that don't get opened from the pictures.

The second thing that I have learned is that there are some concepts that, no matter how many times I cram the information into my brain, will not be easily learned.  This includes anything math related, especially algebra.  Graphs, formulas, equations, they all leave me staring mournfully at my papers, wishing more than anything that I was anywhere else.

The third thing I have learned is that if I work hard and listen to all the lectures, do all the reading, write and re-write the formulas, go over my notes repeatedly before each test, and pray fervently that God will help me access at least some of the information during the test, I can get enough out to actually pass a test.  Between the little bit that I know, and multiple educated guesses, I do okay.  Does this mean that I know anything about macroeconomics? Not a chance.  In fact, the teacher posted the answers to the test with the test results, and when I went over the answers, I got lost and gave up.  I really was only able to hold onto the information long enough to sweat my way through the test.  I guess that's all I needed.

The fourth thing that I have learned through macroeconomics class is that, while the details are lost as soon as I put my pencil down after a test, the bigger concepts do remain with me.  I understand the banking system a bit more.  I have had the opportunity to talk about some of the things that I have learned about the economy, the last recession, etc.  The knowledge that I may need seems to have stuck.  I may have to re-learn, for every exam,  how to find the real GDP of a given year from a graph of several years, but there are others things that I  really do "get". And that's cool.

Mostly, I have learned that nothing is wasted, if we go into it with open minds and hearts and the desire to do our best.  And the willingness to admit to our weaknesses.  And the assurance that it's okay to rely on God to do what we can't!

Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is this semester over yet?

This week I have two meetings with new families, a history assignment and my written part of a group geography assignment/presentation due.  In the next two weeks, I have a major history research paper, a macroeconomics dossier, the geography presentation and a geography research paper due.  There may be exams in there somewhere. If there are, I don't want to know about it.  My dryer doesn't work, so Grace and I have been hanging our laundry up to dry upstairs in the common room, which, let's be honest here, means that the laundry is piling up.  I hate doing laundry with working appliances.  I also have to get my car fixed.  Apparently, it is stuck in second gear. Inconsiderate wretch.

Last night, I was lying in bed trying to relax, and my heart began to race.  It was very disconcerting. I mean, I take serious heart meds so that doesn't happen.  I took my pulse to make sure that I wasn't dying, did some deep breathing and everything settled down. Still, there is no denying it.  I am stressed.

And yet.  I have moments of wonderful contentment.  I laugh. A lot.  I found this picture of a cat named Tardar, the grumpy cat.  Tell me that this face doesn't make you want to fall off your computer chair in glee...

One of the things that my faith has taught me is to not borrow trouble...or homework, from tomorrow.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

There's a lot of wisdom in this.  If I get too caught up in what will be expected of me, or what might happen to me tomorrow, I will be less likely to be able to deal effectively with today's set of stuff.  Add to that the effect of stress on my...or anyone's body, and we have good reason to learn to leave tomorrow's stuff to tomorrow.  One thing I know is that my stress is my responsibility, and I can choose to take that responsibility and do what I need to in order to live a healthy, whole, joyful life, or I can blame the rest of the world and keep on suffering.  

One of the things that I have done is lower the bar on the things that don't matter so much to me.  So the piles of laundry aren't such a big deal.My expectations for the perfect Christmas means that I will spend the holidays loving on my friends and family, not stressing out over buying gifts or making the perfect meal.  I bought a turkey and am planning on making a meal, and I have asked God to provide guests who need or want someplace to go on Christmas day.  I did this last year, and had a house full.  It was glorious.  It means letting go. Letting go. Letting go. So easy to write. So hard to do.  As far as academics go, I will celebrate my successes and learn from the difficulties.

Life can be hard. I am weak. But God is incredible.

And all is good.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My 20th Century History Creative Assignment - Jewish Mother & Son

Earlier this month, I shared that my college 20th century history class had gone to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.  We were asked to use our experiences at the Centre to write creative assignments.  There were a few options, and the one I chose was to tell of my impressions of the talks that we had with survivors of the Holocaust after we went through the museum, and to present an imaginary person who had also survived the Holocaust, and to incorporate them into our essay.  I wanted to share my essay with you.  The moment that I wrote about, with the survivor that we listened to, was powerful.  I pray that you will be moved by his story, and memories, and by the imagined narrative about what his mother might have been going through as she wrote the postcard to him.

Here it is...

The Holocaust survivor that I chose to listen to was Thomas Strasser, a Hungarian Jew who was rounded up  by the Nazis and spent time in a work camp in Hungary.  We arrived in the middle of his talk, and so there are many details of his life and experiences during the war that we missed.  As he neared the end of his talk, I asked him about his thoughts and expectations for his family and home after he was liberated from the camp in 1945, by the Russians.  He was still a teen-ager, and I asked him if, at that point, he still had any hope that his family might be waiting for him, or was he aware that so many Jews had been killed, and that his family might well be included in that number?

He told us that, of course, he had hoped that some of his family might still be alive and back at home.  It was a devastating thing for him, as a young man, to come to the discovery that his entire family had been killed in the Nazi death camps.  From the time that he had left home in an unsuccessful effort to escape a work camp round-up, to the end of the war, he had received only one piece of correspondence from his family.  It was a post card from his mother.  She had sent it to him from the Jewish ghetto in Hungary, and had filled it with maternal admonitions to dress warmly as the colder weather approached and to stay well.  He also told us that there were places on the post card where the writing was blurred, and he knew that it was from the tears of his mother.  He was very moved, as he spoke of this final, emotional connection to his mother. 

As a mother myself, I felt deeply for the heartbreak of this mother, longing for her son, haunted by rumors of terrible things happening to her son imprisoned in the camps, and living with the increasing fear of her own imprisonment as the round up was beginning in her own ghetto.

I pictured her, sitting at a table, anxiously fingering a pen as she stared out of a dirty window onto a grey world.  The post card, a remnant somehow saved, tucked absently into a suitcase during a long-forgotten vacation, lay at an angle on the rough wood of the table.  She ran her finger absently along the edge of the card, and for a moment allowed her thoughts to drift to the son she loved, the son she had not seen for so long, the son who might not live.  If he lived, she knew then that his life was at best, a difficult one.  At worst, it was a nightmare the very thought of which haunted her. 

Her mind drifted back to the days when caring for him was a simple thing.  There had been a time when cuts and scrapes were easily tended with warm water and soft kisses, when danger meant clumsy tumbles from swing sets or colds that refused to go away.  How easy it was then, to protect him with called out warnings of caution, with warm clothes, hot water bottles and camphor, with maternal frowns and gentle hands and words of wisdom. 

Then, he was beyond her reach, and nothing in her arsenal of maternal tools would help him. No folk remedies, no words of warning, no wisdom of the ages…but still, a mother must do something.  With a pen, with a post card saved from a trip to the sea-side, with a heart filled with pain and love and an excruciatingly desire to nurture her child, she would do something. 

There is courage, there is bravery in the hearts of those who stand up to injustice, who wage war with evil, warriors who bear arms to protect the countries that they love. 

And then there is the courage of a mother, hands trembling with fatigue and fear, eyes filled with the sting of tears, taking pen in hand and pouring her love to a son already lost…

“My dear Thomas, I hope and pray that you receive this, son, and know that you are in our thoughts.  Father says hello and sends his love.  I trust that as the weather grows colder, you are remembering to dress well, wear your boots and jacket, and take your mittens with you, even if you think that you won’t need them. You never know, and it is better to have them than not. Am I right?  Of course I’m right. And eat well, child. There is always time to eat well.  Remember what you have been taught, and take care of yourself well.  It would not do, to take ill and die from the flu, now would it? 
Remember, child, you are loved and thought of often.  We are well.
I send kisses,
Your loving Mother”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Settling Down...

Figuring out the webcam...Jean-Luc is not impressed.
Okay, so I know it has been too long since I have written in my blog, because I had to visit the blog to check out my last post, to make sure I don't repeat myself.  It has been a while.

Things are going well.  I did sprain my ankle and the muscles in the right side of my chest a week ago last Saturday, so I've been hobbling and muttering the handy "Christian" version of swear words whenever I bend over and re-pull my chest muscles.  "Ah...ow..oh, fer cryin' alive...oh FUDGE!!!"

Needless-to-say, my last two yoga classes were a blast.  I was a little bummed, because the last two classes were when we did our fitness re-evaluations and practical yoga test. While I was able to do the test with a combo of approximate movements and verbal explanations of what I would be doing if I wasn't broken, the fitness re-evaluation was a bust. Still, I know that I have improved in strength and flexibility, as well as endurance, and I was able to add another seven lost pounds to the 25 that I lost over the summer.  So all was not lost.

I have been spending a lot of time working on assignments, papers and studying for tests.  If I didn't know how to pray before, this macroeconomics class would be a crash course!  I have to admit that when it comes to academic things, especially the subjects that I am interested in, I am not used to having to struggle so much. Basically what I do with the macroeconomics is try to cram all the information and formulas into my head, and then just take a chance on what is actually going to be available to me during an exam.  To be honest, it all feels like a crap shoot.  Except for the prayer part.

Of course, I am not alone.  One of the funniest moments of our last test was just before the teacher arrived, when the entire class looked around and realized that even if we were inclined to cheat, no one was sitting beside anyone they could actually cheat off of.  Except for me.  I sit beside Russell, and he's a macroeconomic genius.  Alas, I am convinced that I will be much more content with my strangled prayers of desperation and a mere pass than I would with a 90% from a cheat. As if my getting a 90% in macroeconomics wouldn't set off alarm bells all over the place. Like, seriously.

From the look on his face, he's plotting to kill me in my sleep...
In other news, I am enjoying work and I am thrilled to be able to volunteer in the special education class at HAECC (Huntingdon Adult Ed. & Community Centre).  It's the same place that our cegep classes are held, and I am getting to know some amazing people.  If my life has a theme to it these days, it would be amazing people.  I feel like, for the first time in a really long time, I am relaxing into my life, into my relationships with the people around me, into my relationship with God.  For the past...well, lots of years, I have been living essentially in crisis mode. There have been so many losses.  So much instability.  I have clung to God through it all, often just hanging on by the hem of His garment while He was trying to get my attention long enough for me to stop wailing so that He could scoop me into His arms. He has grown me into a stability and peace that is based on faith in Him, not on circumstances or on people.  That doesn't mean my heart doesn't...or isn't...broken at times.  Or that I don't still weep. In fact, I weep more now than ever.  But I have experienced the peace that defies imagination, the peace that comes from faith in God, from the assurance of His love, and from walking so close to Him, the dust from His feet settles on my head.

I don't know whether things are actually settling down in my life or not. I do know that I feel settled.  I know that bumps, like the injuries from the fall, just are. I recently re-read a quote in my journal that I had stolen from a brilliant friend - "it is what it is". Ah, the peace that comes from acceptance. So if I cannot stride boldly, I will limp. And if I cannot limp, I will crawl.  And if I cannot crawl, I know a young man who's a whiz in a wheelchair, and who'll gladly give me lessons.  And I don't have to let the fact that I am lying in the mud with excruciating pain searing up my leg cloud the gratitude for the loving, concerned child who fully believes that the strength of his concern will be enough for his small self to pull me out of the mud and up to my feet.  And he wasn't wrong.

I wrote this on my Facebook profile page yesterday.  Thanks to God, it's still true today.

"Life is such an odd mixture of joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, often all jumbled together and rising up at one time. As a rule, I really can't tell whether my circumstances add up to be more positive or more negative, more joy or more pain. All I know is that without Jesus as my Lord, the good things would be engulfed and drowned in the sorrow of the bad. And with Jesus, there is life in the 
tears, promise in the pain, and hope in the path of sorrow. There is forgiveness for wrongs, healing for wounds, provision for the journey and strength for the trials. I don't know whether there is laughter behind the tears, or tears behind the laughter. All I know is that Jesus is in both the laughter and the tears. And I am loved. And so, so very grateful."  

Just a thought.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre

Last Sunday, Grace and I went with our 20th century history class to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.  It was a very emotional day. Our history teacher, Danijel Matijevic, was an endless fount of knowledge and insight into what we were seeing and hearing.  After a tour through the museum part of the exhibit, we got to sit around tables and listen to holocaust survivors tell their stories and answer our questions. 

I have been wanting to write about this since before we went to the Memorial Centre. We briefly covered it in class, and have a creative assignment to write about what we have learned.  Entering into the world of Nazi Germany and the horrible destruction of so many people is a difficult experience, even from the vantage point of being many years away from the actual events.  I feel as if I am full of feelings and thoughts, and writing about these things is usually the way I deal with them.

But I feel unable to write. Unable to express what I am thinking and feeling.  Unable to explain why I can't stop crying, why my heart is broken.

Yesterday in history class we discussed the aftermath of WW2, the consequences for the world, and especially Europe.

Danijel quoted one German playwright, Bertold Brecht, "After Auschwitz and Hiroshima, there can be no poetry."  As I wrote this quote in my notes, I started to cry.  I feel this emptiness of poetry, of words.  I feel wordless, and yet full of things to express.  It is painful.

My favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, writes that Christians have no business being innocent of the evil in this world.  Innocence is a lack of knowledge, or awareness, and it is a trait of childhood, not adulthood.  We must know what we are capable of, what others are capable of, what evil does in our world, our lives.  We must know that the darkness exists, that it is not as far from us as we would like to imagine, that our primary concern is not to be that we may be vicitms of someone else's evil, but that we may fall into evil ourselves, leaving victims in our wake.  Our calling, as disciples of Jesus, is to purity, not innocence.

Sometimes, in our efforts to avoid even the appearance of evil, we avoid the experience of allowing the pain of others into our own hearts.  When we looking into the darkness of this world with the love of Jesus in our hearts and minds, our hearts will be seared with the pain of others.  There will be no words, no poetry, we will be struck dumb and still.  We will weep. 

My hope is that in the brokenness, God will be God. 

The God who weeps.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I've been a naughty blogger...

I am a naughty blogger, a naughty, naughty blogger.  Really, I am quite ashamed of myself. Okay, not really.  Maybe a little sheepish.  If that.

The truth is, I have so many things to write about, there is a backlog building up in my brain.  This could get messy.  There's the raising-children-to-be-disciples-of-Christ thing, and yesterday we went to the Holocaust Museum in Montreal, and my heart and brain are so full of feelings and thoughts, if I don't write them down soon, something may break.  And I need my heart and brain.  Unbroken.  Seriously.

But at the same time, I have been really busy.  School is getting intense and mid-termish, I am working and volunteering and despite my fervent desire to do all of these things in a free-of-pain sort of way, my body doesn't always comply.  So, some days I got to school in the morning, come home to eat lunch and go to bed for an hour or two before I go to work or volunteer.  Or do homework. Or, to a much lesser extent, housework.  I have even fallen into slothfulness in the cooking department.  So we eat...*gasp* cereal for supper a few times.  We're tough. We'll make it.

I miss my blog, though.  I miss what I do here, whatever that is.  It's a part of me.  I have to get more organized, buy a agenda, mark things down...but how does one organize time to think? Or to feel? 

Things will, of course, get easier when this semester is over and I have, at most, one or two classes.  I'll be able to work more, but there will be less homework. 

I have to say, this semester has been a great one.  My marks are really good, and considering my classes, I didn't expect that.  I am running in the high 90's for both yoga (Ack! Who knew?!) and history, and after a rocky start, I am pulling it together in geography and macroeconomics.  I have been offered a new client outside of the agency, which is nice, and while work is challenging, I really enjoy it. I'm dealing with the kind of challenges that I enjoy, and can handle. 

I am feeling physically fitter, more confident, and one of the biggest things that God has been dealing with me about is my tendency to always be waiting for something to happen, for a problem to be solved, for some issue to get better.  He wants me to let go of the problems and issues and simply live in the present. The fact is, wonderful things are happening now, I risk missing out of the enjoyment of them by focusing too much on things that may not be what I want them to be.  As a friend of mine is fond of saying, "It is what it is."  So...if I hand what it "is" over to God, I get to enjoy all the other neat things that, I mean are.  Not everything that "is" has to be hard.  Some things are lovely. 

I have so many things to say, to feel, to share.  I will get the blogging thing together when I can. Until then, I'll keep coming here and being sheepish and telling you what is going on...

I really do want to write about the Holocaust Museum experience, though.  The truth is, I am still speechless.  I don't know how to express what is in my heart.  To be honest, all I can do is cry.  Which is okay.  Some day soon, the tears will give way to words. I look forward to sharing with you.

Have I mentioned how much you, dear readers, rock?  It's true.

Peace out.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Wow, I think it's has been over a week since I last posted.  I've been doing better about making sure I post in a fairly, kind of regular way, but this past week and a half have been busy.  There have been tests and assignments due, work, and yes, if I am going to be honest, lots of distracting stuff happening in my head.  It's all been good, though. You know, in that "growing pains" sort of good.

I am still thinking and praying about the last post, and the topic of Christian parents inadvertently raising kids to be good instead of to be loving disciples of Jesus.  I want to continue in that direction, because I think it is an important one.  At this point, though, at 8:00pm on a Wednesday night, I am so tired and fuzzy brained, I'm having a hard time even writing about continuing writing about it, so now is probably not the best time to deal with it. 

Am I making any sense?

Besides, Grace is watching Bob & Doug McKenzie on the television behind me, and I'm a little distracted. 

So, yeah, keep your touques on, eh? 

And keep your sticks on the ice.

Oh wait. That's Red Green.  Man alive, I am tired.

Still, dear readers, you are in my heart and prayers always.  I know who some of you are, and am honored that you continue to visit this place to read my ramblings. As for those of you that I don't know, that's okay.  God knows you, and so when I pray, He knows who I am talking about, even if I don't.  Which, if you really think about it, is a very cool thing.

Cheers, friends!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Raising Children - To Be Good, Or To Love?

I woke up this morning with this thought in my head.

We fail to disciple our children in the Way of Christ when we teach them to be good rather than to love sacrificially.

Sometimes, I think we, as Christian parents, can be fooled into thinking that these two things are the same.  Or that if we teach our kids to be good, they will automatically be loving.  This just isn't true.  Our natural inclination to fall into pride is too strong.  Being good means knowing the rules and following them.  Loving sacrificially means loving others the way Jesus did.  Being good depends on rewards and punishments.  Loving sacrificially depends on the Holy Spirit's guidance and discipline.  Being good means we feel "right" when we have done what is expected of us.  Loving sacrificially means that we feel right when we know that our actions have been motivated by love and only love. 

Being good can lead to pride or shame because it is too easy to judge our own goodness against the goodness of others.  If we are better than "they" are, we feel pride.  If we are worse, we feel shame.  We play intricate inner games with ourselves in an effort to feel better than others, by doing things like comparing our strengths with another's weaknesses or labelling some sins as worse than others (usually sins that we don't struggle with).  This is how someone who gossips maliciously can be judgmental against someone who drinks alcoholically.

Loving sacrificially kills pride and shame, because our Standard is Jesus, and no one can match Him.  His passionate, sacrificial love for us creates a safe place to confess that we cannot love others as He does.  There is no comparing ourselves to others. We all need His help.  We need Him to pour His love through us out onto the world.  No one can do it alone. So there is no room for pride, and shame is banished in the Light of Jesus' love.  So when we see others struggling with sin, we feel compassion and a longing to help, not judge.  There is no reason to judge, no motivation.  In fact, if we do slip into judgment, we feel the prompting, the displeasure of the Holy Spirit immediately. Finding judgment in a heart devoted to love is like seeing a cockroach scuttling across the floor of a finely decorated kitchen.  Everything within us jumps up yelping, and there is no rest until the judgment is caught, confessed, repented and disposed of. 

How does this relate to how we raise our children?

More later.

Peace out.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

And Moving On...

Well, happy week-end, friends! 

Most of you will be glad to hear that I have disabled comments on this blog. After the comments from last week, and much thought and prayer, I am pretty much certain that no meaningful discussion can come from the spirit that made itself known there.  The ability to remain anonymous means that there is no accountability, and when someone insists on entering into the private affairs of others but purposely avoids accountability, it just can't go well.  So, since most of my comments come from Facebook and Twitter anyway, and I have posted my email address - - there really is no need to have the option for anonymous comments available.  So please, please, please, feel free to let me know what you think!  I love to hear from you, and am pretty sure that I have the best readers in the history of blogdom, so comment away!!

Also, I would just like to say that with all the writing that I do about my private life, I try very hard to balance honesty with love when I talk about my husband.  I do not regret marrying him.  I do not regret loving him.  I believe that God had amazing plans for us, for our marriage and our family.  I know this, because He is continuing to work out His plans in our family, at least through the part I have access to, which is Grace and I.  We needed to come to Huntingdon.  We needed to be in the church that we are in, with our pastor, whose heart is humble and faithful and passionate about lost, broken people. 

Most importantly, I believe that marriage is about loving, and I have loved Marc for many, many years.  First, as a friend and brother-in-Christ, then as my husband, and now that love is changing again, in ways I can't quite describe, but God has deepened it and is transforming it into His love for Marc.  I will never look back on our years together and say, "What was I thinking?"  He was an amazing man, who deeply loved me.  And I loved him.  We began our marriage burdened with heartaches that came from outside our small family, were totally unexpected and which God never meant for us to carry.  I know who Marc really is, and I miss him.  He is precious to me.  

I realize that it is difficult to understand, this stubborn commitment to caring about someone who has hurt us, when our culture, even our churches have a tendency to freely throw people away when they no longer serve a desired purpose.  Having been thrown away does not mean, however, that I have to become one who throws others away.  God has never, and will never throw me away, and it is my joy to honor Him by wanting to be like Him in this.  For the disciple of Jesus, people are never things to be used.  Our love does not vary according to their contribution to our lives.  We may have to set boundaries when dealing with difficult people, but Jesus' love is as powerful from afar as it is close up.  I care deeply about Marc, pray daily for him, and would do anything in God's will to help him towards healing.  That is my role in his life now. 

And, under God's guidance and protection, I move on.  To new opportunities, new depths of faith, new friendships and challenges.  Hence the disabling of the comments.  There is no room to drag old lies with us on the path into the future that God has planned. 

Peace out, friends.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Writers are forgetful...

Grace sent me this in an email.  It was such a gift...and it explains a lot!

"Writers are forgetful,

but they remember everything.
They forget appointments and anniversaries,
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled,
on your first date…

They remember every story you’ve ever told them -
like ever,
but forget what you’ve just said.
They don’t remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don’t forget how
to make you laugh.

Writers are forgetful
they’re busy
the important things."

Author Unknown

Thank you,  Chika! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 2012...Has it really been a year?

Today, October 17, 2012, is the first anniversary of my mother's death.   A year ago, at this time, Grace and I were driving to Cornwall to say good-bye to her.  I remember it all clearly.  The early morning phone call from Dana to let me know that she had died, sitting on the edge of my bed after hanging up the phone, feeling the cold emptiness of loss sift into my body and spirit, slipping into Grace's room to wake her up and let her know.  We dressed and got ready to leave quietly. I felt stunned.  I had expected it, but it was the kind of expectation that exists only in the mind.  My heart was completely unprepared.  How could it be? I had never known a moment of life without my mother in it.  Everything had changed. And yet the drive to Cornwall was a precursor to the oddness I would experience repeatedly in the days after my mum's death, as I drove through a morning world that had not changed, not one iota.   Driving through Huntingdon, sitting in class, pushing a grocery cart through the local IGA, seeing the world continue as usual while, on the inside, I struggled to deal with the absolute fact that for me, everything had changed.  My mum was gone.

I cannot express how grateful I am for those who walked this road with me, especially for my sisters who intimately shared this loss with me.  We all processed our loss in unique and individual ways, but we did it together as much as possible.  I am especially grateful for the care that Dana & Erin gave to Mum in her last days, and to Lori and Erin for being with her when she died.  I think of my daughter, who walked quietly beside me, praying, hugging, loving.  Madison, who greeted me every time I came home with a hug and compassionate eyes, and who understood when I felt the need to hide in the Mom-Cave at times.  My Aunts and Uncles, who shared this loss with me as they said good-bye to their sister.  Having already lost their parents, they faced this loss with grace and strength that was an encouragment to me.  My best friend, Sandy, who cried.  Ah, the friends.  They prayed, they cried, they offered words of encouragement and hugs and so much love, it overwhelmed me at times.  The friend who hugged me and said, "How are you?" in the hallways of school and really wanted to know.  The friends who sat with me in a restaurant in Malone and offered napkins when I cried.  The many friends who shared their stories of loss with me, and encouraged me that while the pain doesn't go away, it does mellow into memory and love and hope.  I am thankful for Jean-Luc, who curled up on the pillow beside mine every night and let me cry into his fur.  Of course, he did warn me not to make a habit of it. After all, he is Jean-Luc. 

Has it really been a year?  I have to admit, I feel better than I thought I would.  I am sad, but it is a gentler, kinder sorrow.  I miss Mum.  I am filled with gratitude, and I think that helps.  I will never stop being grateful for the time I had with Mum before she died, or for her motherly care for me in those days. 

So, yes, I guess it has really been a year. 

I love you, Mum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Permission to get angry, Captain...

If you are a regular reader of this blog, and you managed to make it though the abject foolishness of last week-end's posts, I don't know whether to thank you, or apologize profusely. 

I know that we just all want to move on.  But, I also know that the majority of you will forgive me if I head back into this issue one more time.  I just don't feel like I can move on yet.  The comments and posts of the week-end were not simply issue debates or a sharing of opinions.  For me, it was personal.  Someone walked boldly into my space, with the confidence that can only accompany ignorance and religious self-righteousness, and told me and all my readers that I deserved to be physically harmed as a punishment for talking back/disagreeing with/being rude to another person. They also maintained that my daughter deserved the same treatment.  And the worst part of it all, they claimed that God approved.  Someone that I might stand behind in line at the grocery store, that I might walk past on the street, that might sit near me in church, believes that I am no more than a disobedient dog that deserves to be chained and hurt.  I am horrified.  Sickened.  And furious.

I have spent the past few days trying not to admit to my anger.  Anger is a scary thing for an abuse victim.  If an abuse victim gets angry after being violated, abusers will often use that anger to justify the attack.  Forget that the anger came after the attack.  Logic is not usually a strong point for abusive people.  And religious, abusive people will say that either God knew that she was secretly angry and she needed to be punished, or that his anger is a sign of an evil/dysfunctional spirit and he needs to be treated harshly.  Because flying into a hysterical rage because someone doesn't agree with your opinion about a certain issue is waaaay more rational and sane than becoming angry at a physical/emotional assault.  *rolls eyes*  I guarrantee that my commenter will look at the fact that I am angry about his/her comments as an indication that I am guilty and out of God's will for my life. 
But then there's what God has to say about, not just the issue, but about me and my situation.  Years ago, when the abuse first started, God gave me Psalms 18 as an encouragement and a promise.  He did see what was going on.  No one was going to get away with anything.  And yes, abuse makes God angry. Very angry.  Just listen...

"I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
 The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.

 In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.

 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.

Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me."
Psalm 18:3 - 19

This passage is special to me for many reasons, but it was a few years before I realized just how personal God had made it.  Because I have coronary artery spasms, stress is a major trigger of angina for me.  Stress messes with the IC as well, but that's just painful, not deadly.  Under intense stress, my arteries spasm partially closed, lessening the amount of blood that can reach my heart.  The heart attack I had was caused by an artery that was damaged from previous spasms, spasming closed and cutting of the blood supply to part of my heart.  It's a very real risk again. 
When this passage speaks of cords of death coiled around and entangling the psalmist, that is exactly what an angina attack feels like to me.  Like I am being suffocated, by a rope around my throat.  Not only is a coil of death threatening to close off my arteries, but I feel it, in my throat.  It is very frightening. 
God assures me, through these verses, that He sees what is happening, and that I am not without a hero.  Read the description of His decent from Heaven again.  Close your eyes. Imagine it.  Angry doesn't begin to describe it.  Smoke rising from His nostrils.  Consuming fire coming from His mouth.  He thunders and roars and rages into battle.  Why? Because one of His children is being attacked. 
I have been protected.  I have much less angina than I used to, and I believe I am on a road, albeit zigzaggy, to improvements in my IC symptoms as well.  Within a few months of leaving my home with nothing, God provided an apartment that Grace & I love, more furniture and household stuff than we need, a new church with a pastor that supports, guides and encourages us, a great community with new experiences, new people, and new challenges to face, a job that I was created for and that I physically can manage, and most importantly, healing and growth in Him.  I have watched my child grow into a beautiful, compassionate, loving young disciple of Christ, and we have the most wonderful conversations about God and His ways in our lives.  Even my mother's death was preceded by the most intimate, loving mother-daughter time that I have ever had with my mum, and as painful as it was, I remember her life with joy and look forward to being reunited with her one day.  I also enjoy an even closer relationship with my sisters.  God has truly met all my needs, and has blessed us with so much over the past year, I can hardly begin to describe it.

So yes, being told that I deserved what I got angers me.  It should.  It makes God angry, too.  I am angry because I love, though, and that's the difference for me.  It is obvious that the commenter was angry, too.  No one quotes scripture and spouts accusations with that kind of venom without some deep-seated anger going on.  The thing that really angers me?  I know how much damage those lies have done to my ex-husband.  I know how confusing they can be for people still in abusive situations, who may be reading this blog.  I fear for the children, the helpless, the hurt people that may be under this person's influence.  This stuff is dangerous.  Seriously.

And I am furious at the fact that Pharisees and religious self-rightous church-people like this drag weak, lost, confused, sinful people before Jesus, calling for death and punishment for sins they themselves commit in secret. Then, they claim that Jesus delivers death rather than life, hate rather than love, punishment rather than mercy.  I hate that they try to re-invent Jesus in their image, rather than allowing themselves to be transformed into His glorious Love. 

I am also grateful.  That I am surrounded by people who do not need to be "manipulated" by me into believing that abuse is wrong.  That God's truth is a trillion times louder than these filthy lies.  And that I have been given the power...and the make sure that no one will ever read again, on this blog, that they deserve to be abused. 

I have chosen Life, for myself and my daughter, and I have never regretted it.  And in Christ, I live.

Praise His Holy Name!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Okay, one last reply to one more comment...

"Did you write that you had the power of an atomic bomb in the use of words. Atomic bombs can only destroy, it never builds up. Start using those words to bless your husband. In this instalment you say that you don't want to expose your husband, then you proceed to shred him publicly on your blog, under the pretext that your teaching your readers about abs. It 's manipulating and using public opinion as a weapon against him. When we live outside the will of God, we need and want the approval and support from the world. The world will be more than happy to accommodate "   ~ Anonymous

Before I respond, I would highly encourage you to have the courage to identify yourself.  I know that it is easier to write comments like the above under the cover of anonymity, but if you are determined to involve yourself, you should also name yourself.

That being said, yes, I did speak of having power in the use of my words.  I also wrote that I would not use that power.  Atomic bombs destroy. Atomic energy provides heat and electricity.  When I receive a comment that specifically mentions my ex-husband, as the last one did (I am assuming it is from you as well, but I cannot be sure, because it is, of course, anonymous) I am left in a dilemma.  If I do not allow the comment to be posted, I am cutting off a voice that obviously wants to be heard.  It is also obvious that it wants to be heard publically, as sending me a personal message would be as simple as a comment requesting my email address.  I dislike censorship, and don't feel comfortable with this, as I have stated before.  Still, the comment specifically invites a discussion about my ex-husband, which I am uncomfortable with.  It is a difficult matter, to be honest about what I am going through while still honoring my ex-husband.  There is an incredible pressure on victims of violence, especially domestic violence, to be quiet.  This is not an option for me.  So I walk a very fine line.  And I try to walk it with grace.  But I will not lie.  And I will not allow myself to be held responsible for the actions of another.  I was often told that the violence I suffered was a consequence of my rebellion and disobedience.  Perhaps there are also consequences for physically assaulting a blogger?  Something to think about.

As to the way I have used my words in my marriage, again, I am put at a disadvantage by your anonymity.  I do not know who you are, so I do not know how much you know about my marriage.  Have we ever discussed it?  Have you ever witnessed me verbally abusing my ex-husband? Or him, me? I don't know.  Apparently you are aware, from reading my blog, that physical violence was involved.  I assume that you are also aware that, as a heart patient with coronary artery spasms who has already had a heart attack, acts of violence truly do threaten my life.  So, your above comment is made in light of these facts.  You obviously are still comfortable with the idea that I deserved what I got.  Tell me, if I had died, would you have told that to my daughter at my funeral?  Would you have used those words to comfort my ex-husband, who I believe did love me, but was in the grip of something that he cannot get free of himself?  Do these questions feel manipulative?  I lived with them for years.  My family lived with them. To us, they were real.  The threat was real. 

You obviously feel free to speak your mind, albeit anonymously.  If I had spoken a message like that, in my  marriage, I would have been punished.  Do you consider your words to be blessings?  Should you be physically or emotionally punished?  How do you define "blessing"?  And how do you know that I have not used my words, repeatedly, to my ex-husband, to bless him? 

I can see that, on some level, you care for my ex-husband.  If you do not hold him 100% accountable for his behaviour, you must understand that your words are poison to him.  You are tagging him with names that God never meant for him to carry.  I respect him enough to know...absolutely know...that he is capable of reaching out to God for help. I have seen him do it.  We have been friends for many, many years, and as his friend, I never made excuses for him, never saw him as too weak or foolish or lost to let God lead him the right way.  True friends are people who see us as we truly are, and love us anyway.  When we are surrounded by "yes" people, who lie to us about our behaviour and encourage us to blame others, we quickly get the message that it is not safe to be honest about who we are.  That is not love.  There is no blessing in that.  I also know that on some level, he trusts me in this. He doesn't like it, but he trusts me.  He knows who I am.  And one day, when he really comes to the end of himself, he will not go to those who have cheered him on in his sin, but those who have called him, with love, to Life.  I asked him once, if he ever doubted my love. He said no.  That means something to me.

As to whether or not I am living in the will of God, I have to assume that you don't know me very well.  Not because I am some super Christian, but because God has been so awesomely abundant in His provision for Grace and I, and His love and strength and sweetness are such a daily gift to me, that if this is living outside of God's will, I can't imagine what it is like inside of His will!!!  Am I seeking the approval of others?  The original post, I Will Change Your Name, was written for a friend who is hurting, but I don't know if approval was exactly the point. I wanted to bless the person, and others, with the reality of God's love.  The thing is, most people simply don't approve of abuse and bullying.  If you feel "disapproved of", you may not be a victim of my wizardry with words.  It may just be because most people think that hitting people who disagree with us is wrong.  It's a bit ironic that you are free to disagree with me, without fear of violence.  Not everyone has that freedom. 

This is going to be the last post on this.  I'm not going to keep coming back to the same place, in hopes of finding life and truth.  There is no logic in the thinking of people who believe that they deserve to freely and safely speak their mind, no matter how rude or hurtful, while others should be physically and emotionally abused for simply disagreeing.  I don't know where the anger against victims comes from, especially victims that rise up and refuse to be victims anymore. I really don't understand it. I have theories, of course, but really, it doesn't matter.  I don't believe that there is anything I can say that will make a difference for you, Commenter, and even if these posts help other victims to know how to stand up under similar attacks, I'm not convinced that this is the best way to do that.

I will not be allowing any more comments concerning my ex-husband to be posted.  If you or anyone else wants to discuss these issues with me, my email address is  Email me, identify yourself, and ask all the questions that you want.  Understand that if your emails consist of assumptions and attacks, and you are unwilling to let go of your assumptions, we won't get far.  As long as you believe that people in certain circumstances deserve to live lives of fear and abuse for any reason, there is no possiblity of constructive conversation.  That's just the way it is.

Peace out.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An answer to another comment...

This is the second reply that I have written to this comment.  A lot of inner debate went into deciding to post it.  After I wrote this, I saved it, and went to check out my Facebook newsfeed, and was saddened to see yet another beautiful young person who has fallen in the face of bullying.  My heart breaks with each one of these stories, and I am always reminded of the number of times I was told, mostly by church leaders and lay-leaders, to try harder not to make my husband so angry.  As if I could control what was happening to me.  As if it was mine to own, mine to carry, mine to take responsiblity for.  The sense of hopelessness and self-hatred that follows this kind of advice is soul shattering. 

Then I re-read this comment, this reply, and knew that I have to post it.  We cannot be silent in the face of the hateful idea that victims of abuse deserve what happens to them.  We cannot keep allowing victims to be saddled with responsibilities for the abusive behaviour of others, responsibilities which destroy them from the inside out.  Whether it is in the schoolyards, the workplaces, the main streets or the dining rooms of our country, we must start speaking truth, to those who abuse others as well as those who are being abused.  We must speak hope, to those who abuse as well as the victims of abuse.  There is hope, but it is in truth.  May God give us the courage to speak it.

Today I received this comment, again, anonymously, to my post, "I Will Change Your Name".

"I know your husband, I also know a relationship is a 2 way. Verbally were you always a blessing to him."

 I tried to write an honest reply, but there is no way to completely answer this without exposing my ex-husband in ways that I simply am not willing to do.  As I have said before, I could write for months about my experiences, but I won't. 

Comments like this either reveal a great deal of trust in my care for my ex-husband and my desire to guard his privacy, or they reveal a deep ignorance of our situation and who my ex-husband and I really are. 

So, I will say this.  No, I have not always been a verbal blessing to anyone, and my ex-husband is included in that.  I have had a sharp tongue, and have often spoken here in the blog about it, and how God is helping me learn to speak in love.  I have repented of my hurtful words many times to my ex-husband, both verbally and in writing.  I was told that a wife is always abusive if she ever says anything negative to her husband (regardless of his behaviour) or refuses to completely and unquestioningly obey him, even if she believes that his actions are morally wrong.  I could not accept this.  So my apologies are not considered authentic. 

I will also say that in the course of our marriage, when I began to be successful at not responding to my husband's verbal attacks with harsh words, but learned to walk away, the physical abuse became more aggressive, more violent.  His friends and family considered that I still deserved to be abused, because it was disobedient of me to walk away from his verbal attacks.  Obviously we disagree on this point. 

Yes, I believe marriage is a two way relationship.  I also know that the fervent belief of every abuser is that the victim deserved it.  And yes, I believe that it is a verbal blessing to tell someone who is ruining their own life (and the lives of others, including children) with anger and aggression that they are violent and abusive. 

There is something cold and hard and twisted about the above comment. It says so much more that the words on the page.  It says, rape victim, how short was your skirt?  Murder victim, why were you in the alley?  Sexually abused child, why didn't you tell?  Why didn't you run?  Why do you still call him Daddy? 

It implies that the victim is responsible for the abuse.  Abuse victim, you weren't perfect either.  You deserved what happened to you.  You should have been able to fix it, fix him.  It's all your fault.

The scary thing is, every victim already has thought this on some level.  If I can just keep him from getting angry, if I just do what he says, if I am just good enough, smart enough, quiet enough, perfect enough.

And how much arrogance does it take for another person to look at an abuse victim and say, you just weren't good enough?  Because, Commenter, if you haven't been hit or threatened or had your child frightened, is that because you are better than I am?  You have never spoken a harsh word to your spouse?  Or about your spouse? If you lost your temper at your spouse, he or she has permission to hit you? Threaten to kill you?  Destroy your possessions?  Threaten to seriously harm your child?  Is this what you have taught your children? Have you told your sons that physical abuse is an appropriate punishment for a wife who does not do her husband's bidding? Have you told this to your daughter, that she should obey and keep quiet or expect swift and brutal punishment? 

If none of this has happened to you, how perfect you must be!  Or, maybe your spouse knows that you are both flawed, and he or she would never want to harm you.  Maybe he knows his or her own weaknesses as well, and treats you with grace and care.  Maybe gratitude would be a more appropriate response, rather than pride and arrogance, and distain for others who do not have what you have.

So, yes, I have talked back to my husband. I have been rude to him at times.  There were times when I felt that it was absolutely and morally necessary to disobey him, and I did.  And no, I do not feel that I deserved to be abused.  I believe that my ex-husband was and is capable of more.  I believe and agree with our old pastor and every counsellor that we saw, that he needs help.  I wish, with all my heart, that he could have access to the peace that God has given Grace and I.  At this point, I am more sad for him than I am for myself, as God's healing has been profound.   I pray daily for healing, and for the return of my friend who would never in a million years have tried to harm me.  I know who he is, under all that pain and anger, and he is dear to me.  He always will be.  I fight daily for his healing, not by attacking anyone who dares to notice his flaws (who among us isn't flawed?!) but by prayer, that he would one day know the power and wonder of God's love, and would be free to see himself as he really is, flawed, responsible, and deeply, deeply loved.  I know there is freedom in being honest about our sins before God, because I seei tin my own life. 

And I believe that there are few things as vile as telling someone who is as deeply troubled as my ex-husband that all his problems are someone else's fault.  These words speak death to a troubled soul, and it is wrong, and dangerous.

So, Commenter, I pray for you as well. That you would think about the messages that you are sending to your children, if you have them.  I pray that if you are in an abusive relationship, that you will see that being imperfect does not justify abuse, and that for your own safety, you would protect yourself and your children.  I pray that if you are in contact with my ex-husband, that you would understand that encouraging self-pity and violence and rage will only hurt him more.  I am saddened by the fact that you would read what were meant to be messages of joy and freedom, and that your thoughts would turn to , "she deserved what she got." 

There is so much more to life with God than this!
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