Grace Like Scarlett


Hi, friends:

For this particular book review I’ve invited a dear friend into the process.  When the title and description for Grace Like Scarlett popped into my email inbox, I knew exactly who this book was meant to end up with.  My friend Rachel has experienced miscarriage, and as a result has a great deal of empathy as well as a passion for supporting grieving families by partnering with an organization called Hope Boxes.

I trust that Rachel’s words will mean far more than mine ever could, so I invite you to read a guest post by Rachel.

Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope After Miscarriage and Loss

The statistics are staggering… 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime.

This is my story:

April 1, 2013 – A day of complete and utter joy with the phone call that we were indeed pregnant after 5.5 years. I can remember pinching myself just to be sure it was real. He is Elohim, the Lord our creator!

May 1, 2013 – Another day that I will never forget. ..that moment when, at 8 weeks, you hear your baby’s first heartbeat. Without a doubt, THE most precious sound…a sound I was beginning to think I would never hear. He is El Hanne’eman, the Lord is faithful!

May 29, 2013 – 12 week ultrasound day. The day anyone in our shoes would look forward to but yet a day that is etched in our minds forever, one where we saw our tiny precious baby….lifeless in my womb. He is El Elyon, the Lord who is sovereign over all things!

June 6, 2013 – The day our baby’s tiny, tiny body was surgically removed from my womb and discarded, yet a day that serves as such a reminder that Jaiden is with Jesus – heart beating strong, completely healed and whole. He is Jehovah-rapha, the Lord who heals!

Cautious and excited summed up how I felt about diving into this book. My cautiousness came from understanding that grief is deep and not linear. Even though five years have passed, there are elements of my grief journey that come up in unexpected ways. I knew this book would be one I couldn’t put down but needed to in order to digest the content and to let the author’s words soak deep down into my soul. I didn’t expect just how healing it would be. This book is a gift! I cannot recommend it enough.

Adriel shares a moving, personal narrative of how her family suffered pregnancy loss and how they walked their grief journey with hope.

The excited part (for me) came in how this book resource could be used as an encouragement to other women who have experienced loss. God has graciously allowed a friend of mine and I to start a ministry that reaches out to families who are walking through pregnancy and infant loss. We make Hope Boxes** that are full of book resources and personal care items to help women know they are seen during a most difficult time in their life. Though Grace Like Scarlett is primarily geared toward the grieving mother herself, Adriel has included a wonderfully written letter from her husband to grieving dads, along with ways to remember your baby, how to talk about loss to other children in the family, pregnancy after loss, and caring for a friend after a miscarriage. Each part has been written beautifully and with much grace navigating such a “taboo” grief that many women suffer with in silence.

Each chapter is so raw and real, and yet so full of the Hope of Jesus Christ and His presence during our darkest moments. She shares her faith in way that is so healing, constantly reminding the reader that God is so very grieved by their loss, and that not for a moment does He forsake us.

You don’t need to be facing loss to read this book. There’s a good chance you have walked, will walk, or are currently walking with a friend or family member through the loss of a child. That’s reason enough to take time to read through this book. One of the things Adriel shares about relationship after loss:

“Relationships after loss can feel a bit like Thistle Cove: ugly and beautiful. They hurt and they help. Sometimes you feel deserted, while other times you are spontaneously healed in their embrace.”

She shares things that were said that were hurtful to her and even includes a variety of other short paragraphs of hurt other women experienced after the loss of a child. Her challenge to the grieving mom toward those who cause hurt is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Most often people don’t know how to respond or act around anyone who is grieving, and while that can sometimes cause us to keep grief to ourselves, Adriel reminds the reader that, “Community can hurt, but it can heal even deeper.”

Speaking from my own experience, the ministry of presence is a powerful thing for a family whose world has just turned upside down. Continuing to keep that contact and realizing that you won’t be able to take away the pain they are feeling, but to just keep close with your “I’m thinking of you”, or “You’re on my heart today” texts or call means everything. I promise.

At the end of each chapter there is a journal prompt that is designed to take the reader into working through some aspects of their own journey and truly putting words where there may be none. I didn’t take the time to do this as I read to review, but plan to go back and look at them more in-depth with my next read through.

There’s so much more I want to say about this book, because it exposed the Light of Christ again to some spaces that are still dark for me, but I shall stop writing and just wholeheartedly encourage you to get a copy for yourself (or give one to a friend who is grieving)! I finished the book almost a month ago but have found it hard to sit down and write because I feel as though I’ve felt much of what Adril shared but literally didn’t have the eloquent and raw writing ability to put it all together as beautifully as Adriel has.

This book is one that I know I will read over and over, because there’s just that much soul food to digest!

Thank you to my friend Laura (and Baker Books) for connecting me with a copy of Grace Like Scarlett by Adriel Booker in exchange for a guest review on her blog.  Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

Booker_GraceLikeScarlett_3D_web

https://www.gracelikescarlett.com/

**To learn more about Oxford Brant Hope Box or to request a Hope Box, please connect with me here: http://www.facebook.com/oxfordbranthopebox

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Advertisements

The Accidental Guardian


Oh, I loved this book.

The irony of my love for historical fiction is not lost on me as I sit reflecting on some of the dramatic moments in this book.  There were chases through the Sierra Nevadas, all on horseback of course, that took days.  Those same chases would now take fractions of the time.  That irony isn’t lost because I’m sitting in an airport terminal waiting to board a flight to go 3400 km in 4 hours.

In particular, when it comes to historical fiction, I love a good Western.  Maybe it’s the rugged terrain and the way everyone has to band together to fend for themselves to be able to survive without the things I’ve come to depend on (ahem, airplanes, wifi…).  I don’t really know.  But I love them very much.

When Trace Riley finds the smoldering ruins of a small wagon train, he recognizes the hand behind the attack as the same group who left him as sole survivor years ago. Living off the wilderness since then, he’d finally carved out a home and started a herd–while serving as a self-appointed guardian of the trail, driving off dangerous men. He’d
hoped those days were over, but the latest attack shows he was wrong.

Deborah Harkness saved her younger sister and two toddlers during the attack, and now finds herself at the mercy of her rescuer. Trace offers the only shelter for miles around, and agrees to take them in until she can safely continue. His simple bachelor existence never anticipated kids and women in the picture and their arrival is unsettling–yet enticing.

Working to survive the winter and finally bring justice to the trail, Trace and Deborah find themselves drawn together–yet every day approaches the moment she’ll leave forever.

This was a beautiful story with more action and adventure than romance, I thought, though there was a good mixture of both.  I loved it very much and I highly recommend it.  This was my first book by Mary Connealy and it will certainly not be my last!  I will be on the lookout for more, for sure!

If you like crime chasing, action, adventure, and a good old-fashioned Western love story, give this Mary Connealy gem a read.  I’m sure you won’t regret it!

guardian.jpg

 

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

All My Tomorrows


If you’ve been following any of my reviews for any length of time, you know I swoon for historical fiction.  It doesn’t even have to be historical romance fiction, though it tends to end up as such, but just something with a historical flair.

So you can imagine my delight when I was offered the opportunity to review a collection of historical novellas including short novels (the very definition of a novella) by Karen Witemeyer, Elizabeth Camden (two of my absolute favourite authors), and Jody Hedlund.  Jody Hedlund was new to me, but I can happily add her to a list of favourites as well.

I love novella collections, but I also don’t love them.  I’m torn.  I love them because the stories are short and quick, and they are often great introductions to a story line or set of characters that an author will use throughout a series.  But for very similar reasons, I also don’t love them.  I don’t love them because they leave you desperate for more information and, in my case, the next book.  I don’t love them because you JUST start to get attached to characters, and then the stories seem to end very abruptly.  I think of them like a trailer for the larger book series.

This was especially true of Jody Hedlund’s “An Awakened Heart.”  It follows a young woman into the shadows of New York’s tenements where she and a newly appointed minister spar over the best way to care for the poor and orphaned.  This story was beautifully done, but it definitely left me aching for more of these characters.  Once you read this, you’ll need to snag “With You Always,” which continues from where “An Awakened Heart” left off.  It was my next book.  I regret nothing.  I’ve not yet read Together Forever or Searching for You (Orphan Train series books 2 and 3), but I will.

Karen Witemeyer’s “Worth the Wait” takes readers to the Harper’s Station women’s colony where a young mother must overcome pains and fears of the past in order to trust again.  I’ve read others in this series, and I likely read them out of order.  But it was great to revisit Harper’s Station under the keen historical style of Karen Witemeyer.  I’ll read anything she writes, and my only complaint about this was that it ended too soon.  But it was like 100 pages, so novellas will usually be guilty of that if you’re used to 300 page novels.

Elizabeth Camden’s “Toward the Sunrise” finds a young female medical student trying to overcome the ramifications of a decision that leave her at the mercy of a stubborn but handsome attorney.  In typical Camden fashion, this story was expertly crafted.  The characters were relatable, and I felt great about how it wrapped itself up. I haven’t looked into whether there are more that continue on from this book or not, but I will.

In short, I highly recommend this collection of novellas if for no other reason than that you will need to add more from these authors to your collections.

Buy the book here on Amazon.ca

all my tomorrows

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Ontario Education: My thoughts in a letter that turned into an essay


Dear Ontario Politicians,

First of all, I want to congratulate all of you on your wins in your ridings and your appointments to your new roles. Welcome to your new positions. Congratulations.

I know you’ve just started your jobs. It is probably overwhelming, as any new job is. It’s hard to start new things. But there are a lot of big changes ahead in this province, and I cannot just sit and hope the adjustment period is smooth for everyone while things happen that I can’t stomach. I did that when Justin Trudeau took office federally, and while not everything he’s touched has been horrible, I wonder if things would have been different if we, the people of Canada, had stood up sooner and voiced our concerns. I did the same thing with Kathleen Wynne, hoping that she could not possibly have as negative an impact as Dalton McGuinty, only to watch her carry on his legacy. I will not do it now.

I am an educator. I have been teaching for ten years, going into my eleventh. This is not a new game for me. To say that in the last few weeks I’ve grown concerned about what education will look like by the time I get back to it in the fall would be a dramatic understatement. In fact, concern isn’t anywhere close to the right word. I am afraid. I do not like to live in fear, but I see a lot of changes coming that are very negative for the children I work with.

This letter is long, so I will add some headings and subtitles, and below I will try my hardest to summarize my thoughts before I go into greater detail. The trouble I’m having with being succinct is that these are complex, difficult issues. They merit more than a paragraph each, and I want to make sure my voice is heard. But in the event that you simply cannot spare the time to read the whole text, please find my summary below, followed by an in-depth examination of the issues at hand.

  1. Please do not cancel the school repair fund. Schools are filled with asbestos, and they have heaters, washrooms, and water fountains that don’t work properly. Humidity makes it hard for students to work. Many aren’t adequately accessible for the needs we have in this province, which becomes a Human Rights issue. Students need to work and learn in comfortable work spaces that meet all of their needs.
  2. Please do not cancel the Indigenous Education addendum to the Social Studies, History, and Geography curriculums. These are important issues that students need to learn about. A great deal of time and money has already been spent on this issue, and it will go to waste if it is canceled. Trust has been built with the members of the Indigenous communities who helped create this addendum to add Indigenous perspective, and scrapping this addendum will communicate a message that money is more important than relationship and trust, adding further insult to injury for members of this community. Please find another way.
  3. Please do not scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum. It is not a good use of money, as a great deal of money was already spent to create this researched, consulted, and approved document. I know there are many concerns from parents about it, but I have read it, and I read it again while I sat to write you this letter. Below I have gone into detail about the issues I’ve heard of. I strongly believe that the issues come from people who either have not read the document, or who believe that cancelling the document can cancel issues they do not agree with. This is a dangerous reversion for students in Ontario who need education on the issues of today — issues such as consent, harassment, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, culture, race, religion, body shape, substance abuse, and weight and healthy eating. The 2015 document teaches proper names for body parts, and proper developmental stages at the time students are developing. It gives students language for issues they face in 2018 that did not exist in 1998 like the internet, easy access to pornography, media, sexting, dating apps, online predators, cyberbullying, cyber stalking, and identity theft. OPHEA and OASPHE, the associations responsible for helping teachers deliver the health and physical education curriculum, are equally disappointed by this regressive shift.

It is my hope that you continue to read below. I spent hours writing this letter (which, admittedly, has turned into an essay), and I hope you will do me the courtesy of reading a letter from a concerned resident and educator of this province.

The School Repair Fund

The first issue that I want to address is the cancellation of the $100,000,000.00 school repair fund. This is a significant blow to students and educators. There are buildings filled with asbestos. There are buildings that are not accessible to those with disabilities, and denying this money to create those improvements is a Human Rights issue. Every student has the right to attend school, and I know of schools where there are no elevators but there are certainly many sets of stairs. There are buildings with leaks, heating that doesn’t work properly, poorly sealed windows, washrooms and water fountains that repeatedly malfunction, and the list goes on. The humidity alone in some of the classrooms I work in is unbearable during the hotter months. Kids try to focus. They try to get their work done. But you and I both know that it is hard to do when you sweat without moving. It is also hard to do when you’re very cold, and that is also a reality in some of Ontario’s classrooms. There is already a backlog of school repairs needing to be completed. School boards will need to draw money out of student programming just to complete necessary repairs. I understand that any work already started will be covered, but what about work that is still necessary?

“’Losing $25 million is a big deal to us,’ [Toronto District School Board Chair Robin Pilkey] said. ‘Our repair backlog is so large that every piece counts. We’ll have to make decisions in the next few weeks whether we don’t do those projects or we take the money out of … other funds and scrap something else.’” (source) This instance is just one example from the Toronto District School Board. This is merely one board of many.

The fund has disappeared because it was revenue from cap and trade. I understand that. What will replace the revenue that Cap and Trade provided the province? Canceling cap and trade because it was what the people wanted only works if we won’t have to lose every program and fund that we rely on as a province as a result. I personally am not interested in saving the expense of cap and trade if this is what it means. Ontario’s schools need investment, not cuts. I am disappointed that education seems to be the first place Ontario’s Conservatives go to make cuts. It happened under Mike Harris and it appears to be happening again.

Readers:  Please click here to sign a petition to stop this withdrawal of funds organized by the Building Better Schools campaign.

The Indigenous Education Addendum

The second educational issue that concerns me is the immediate halt of the writing work and therefore the rollout of the Indigenous-focused addendum to the Social Studies curriculum. I am not Indigenous. But in my teaching role these past few years, I have been involved in significant learning that has shed light for me on why it is so important that our students in Ontario have an education that reflects actual history, and that contains the voices and perspectives of actual Indigenous people. When I learned social studies in elementary school, we barely talked about this issue. I knew there were people here before settlers arrived, and I knew there were problems that came out of settlement, but I came into my role as an educator with a lot of bias that I didn’t even know was bias. It was there because I was ignorant, and I was ignorant because no one had taught me what had really happened. Through the last few years of significant learning, I have developed empathy that has shifted my perspective from that of someone who thought this wasn’t my problem because it happened so long ago, to that of an ally who firmly believes that we need this education in our schools. I work in schools close to a federal reserve, and yet my experience in our schools has been that many students have no idea how that reserve came to be, what happens on the reserves, or how they work. They have no idea the impact that residential schools had on our Indigenous neighbours, and many have the attitude that I once had — “it happened so long ago. Why does it matter?” Well, it matters because the last residential schools closed a mere 22 years ago. That means that people who attended them may be my age or just a bit older than me. That is devastating to me.

The effects of such trauma are long-lasting, and have a major role to play in what our society currently looks like, but by cancelling the work on the addendum to the Social Studies curriculum, we are telling an entire people group that their history doesn’t matter. We have worked hard to build trust with Elders, Knowledge Holders, and survivors of Residential Schools. In order to help us educate correctly and properly, in a way that reflects what actually happened and the impact that it has had and continues to have, that group of people changed a lot of their plans over the summer, and had to drag up old memories I’m sure they would rather forget. This work was supposed to give us the necessary voices — voices of those with lived experience, the only ones really qualified to share their perspective — on issues such as residential schools, treaty issues, Inuit relocations, land sovereignty, The Sixties Scoop, The Millenial Scoop, and genocide of Indigenous people over the years since European settlement.

But the Ford Conservative government, very shortly after taking the reins, canceled all that work. What does that communicate to the Indigenous people who were helping us create an education system for our students that would tell truth, that would help reconcile, and that would create shared understanding? It likely tells them that their efforts do not matter, and that we never really wanted this reconciliation and understanding — that it was all imposed on us by the Liberal government and that now the Conservative government can’t afford it so we will just put it on hold another number of years.

How long is long enough to go without a solid understanding of this very important issue? What breaks my heart here is the knowledge that we have something almost within reach that will help communicate an Indigenous perspective clearly to students so that they can gain a well-rounded education that is inclusive of a big part of our country’s history, and it is being taken away from them. Students have a right to know what has actually happened in our country. In our province. In their own communities. I have since been on tours of former residential schools and sought to understand, but I feel that the curriculum we currently have is lacking the voice of those actually affected. I am perfectly capable of teaching history — it is what I studied and went to school to do. But I cannot share a voice and an experience that I didn’t live. I’ve taught Social Studies, and while there are currently points in the document that tell us to teach on Indigenous issues, I don’t have the knowledge or the understanding or the perspective to do it well. That is what we were trying to accomplish. Understanding breeds empathy. Empathy creates allies. We need to be allies. There are far too many injustices still occurring to our Indigenous people groups that could be aided by understanding and empathy, and where will students get that understanding if their parents and guardians went to school in a system that didn’t adequately teach the issues? I sure didn’t learn the issues adequately in school.

The Health and Physical Education Curriculum

The last issue — and I’m sure you can see this coming from the way I’ve been writing — I need to let someone know that I am devastated about the decision to scrap the Health and Physical Education curriculum of 2015. I need you to hear me when I say that this is not acceptable. The curriculum that was put in place in 2015 took nearly 5 years of research and consultation with experts, parents, educators, and older students to put in place. The curriculum that was put in place in 1998 is not an acceptable fallback. I am sure that it was researched and developed with experts as well, or at least I sincerely hope that it was. I was in Grade 8 when it was implemented. My “sex-ed” experience involved learning about my period, how pregnancy happens, and sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t remember all the details, since it was 20 years ago. My most vivid memories though were of being separated from the boys because it “wasn’t appropriate” for the boys to hear about female development and it “wasn’t appropriate” for girls to hear about male development. I didn’t learn the other side of it until I was in grade 9. By then, I already knew friends who were having sex. My “sex-ed” experience stopped after a two week stint of it in Grade 9 Health (part of Gym class) where I learned how to put a condom on a banana, and my teacher uncomfortably told us that the best way to avoid pregnancy and disease was to avoid sex. But I knew for a fact — we all did — that many in the room were already having sex, yet that is where the conversation ended. We were also still separated from the boys, because it was still “inappropriate” even though kids at this age were sexually active.

The curriculum put in place in 2015 includes elements like proper names for body parts, so that if students are being abused and/or touched inappropriately, they are able to tell a trusted adult in their life what is happening. Certainly not in all cases, but in many abuse cases, the parents or someone very close in a child’s family are the ones committing the acts of abuse. There is an argument I keep hearing that suggests that it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach a child the proper names for his or her body parts. That may be true, but it’s not always happening, and there’s no way to enforce that. There is a way to ensure that students have proper terminology — that is to teach it in schools. It may take a child longer to get the help they need if they don’t have the vocabulary to tell a trusted adult what is happening to them. Court proceedings are difficult if a young child is using vague terms to describe their genitalia, and the child does not know the proper terms. Of course, the abuse cases are not the majority, but I am having a hard time understanding why this is a bad thing.

Please click here to watch a video of a CUPE member sharing her experience about the value of this curriculum.

Another argument I have read against this document is that it encourages gender confusion and confuses children who weren’t already confused. As I have mentioned, I’ve been teaching for ten years. I have encountered one student with some gender confusion in that time. Teaching the students in this child’s class that this exists did not encourage any of the other children in the class to switch genders or to decide that they themselves were also confused. The accusation that teachers are indoctrinating children with a “homosexual and transgender agenda” is appalling and unfounded. That is not what is happening. What is happening is that students across Ontario learn that there are different expressions a person can identify with, and like I said about the Indigenous Curriculum Addendum, education kills ignorance, and the death of ignorance leads to empathy and understanding. Empathy and understanding fight against hate. Is that not a world we want to live in? I don’t need to share my own personal beliefs or feelings on the subject. They’re irrelevant. What students in this province need to learn is that regardless of their personal feelings or beliefs about a subject, every human being deserves dignity, respect, and to be treated well. The language in the 2015 document gives teachers ways to have conversations that are uncomfortable and awkward, and to do so in a way that respects all children. The same argument that goes “shouldn’t parents be allowed to teach their children their own beliefs at home??” is also applied to this topic. I would offer the same response. Yes, parents have every right to teach their children their own belief systems at home, but no child or person has a right to be hated or mistreated or harassed because who they are and what they believe does not line up with someone else’s belief system. There are many people in this world, in this province, in my community, even in my circle of friends whose lives don’t reflect my personal belief system. I still owe them dignity and respect because they are human beings, just as they owe it to me because I am a human being.

I have heard arguments that parents hate the new curriculum because it teaches 6 year olds about anal and oral sex. It does not do that. I am looking at my copy of the curriculum as I write this, and that is nowhere in the print. If a teacher were to teach this to six year olds, I would share those parents’ concerns. That is not age appropriate. The 2015 document does, however, address those concerns in the grade 7 portion of the document, where research has shown that it is happening. I’ve heard similar arguments about drugs — that it teaches six year olds how to do drugs. It also does not do that. Again, I am looking at the document as I write. It does, however, teach students in Grade 3 and older that some substances can be addictive and harmful to our bodies, and what the ramifications of those choices might be. It teaches students that it may be difficult for someone dependent on alcohol to take care of their families. This is truth. And this has been true for many students I’ve taught over the past ten years. This is also something that was never talked about when I was in school, despite the fact that it was happening all around us.

The only way these could have been the arguments is if people had not read the document. This is what I suspect is true of many people who take issue with the document — that they did not read it, and they reacted to sensationalized media (which is pretty much all media these days, on one side or the other) about it.

What the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum does accomplish is to teach Grade 1 students the proper names for their body parts, hygienic procedures, food groups, personal safety (at home and in the community), and how our bodies work.

It teaches Grade 2 and Grade 3 students about allergies, respecting the differences of others, medication, bullying, standing up for yourself in a positive way, the dangers of too much screen time, violence, substance use and abuse, and emotional development and mental health. It highlights cultural food choices, so that an immigrant student in a class isn’t made fun of because her curry smells weird (this actually happened to one of my students in a grade 6 class).

In Grade 4, students begin to learn about puberty (which, for many students these days, is when it starts to happen), smoking, and the safe use of technology. The conversation about bullying increases, as does the bullying students face. When I was in school, our only conversation about bullying was not to do it. We did not talk about the different types. We did not talk about how to handle it, or at least not well. We were told to tell our peers “I don’t like it when you _______. It hurts my feelings.” That may be true, but a bully who sets out with intent to harm me is likely thrilled that whatever they did to me hurt my feelings, so my ‘I feel’ statement was usually incredibly ineffective. It typically increased the bullying and it was easier to just stay silent.

In Grade 5, the conversations about substance abuse escalate. Again, when I was in school, we did not talk about substance abuse. I knew many 12 year olds who were drinking and smoking. By grade 5, this is happening to our children, whether we like it or not. Not all of them, certainly, are smoking and drinking, but some are. And if some would avoid it because they knew what could happen to their bodies, is this not a good thing? The peer pressure may not be as strong for a student who understands the risks and consequences of such behaviour, and children are likely to take bigger risks in their friendships and report risky behaviour in their friends to trusted adults when they know the consequences. All I knew about alcohol growing up was that I wasn’t allowed to have it until I was 19. I didn’t know why. Grade 5 students also learn to discern media.

They are taught about how periods and spermatogenesis occur. This is not developmentally inappropriate. This is when it is happening in their bodies. Students are taught that these are natural processes that are not something we should be making fun of. Once again, education stamps out ignorance and a lack of ignorance breeds empathy. I would love to live in a world where a girl just learning to deal with having her period and new hormones isn’t made fun of for any emotional reaction to anything, and written off as being on her period. This was the argument used against us as children in school. If we were teased or made fun of, and expressed that we didn’t like it, we must have been on our periods because we couldn’t take a joke. The two are not synonymous, and perhaps if students are learning about what is actually happening in their bodies, they will not be so cruel to each other.

This 2015 curriculum gives language to students to help them overcome harassment because of gender identity, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, body shape, weight, or ability. Again, I see nothing wrong with this. And again, anyone’s personal beliefs about or feelings on the items in this list should not be relevant. The fact is that students in Ontario schools are experiencing confusion around gender identity. They are exploring their sexual orientation. They are of different races and religions. They are differently abled. When I was in school, anyone with any type of disability was in a special class. They were not integrated into the mainstream classroom as they are now. My classmates and I were barely exposed to differences the way that students are now. Students must be taught how to handle that appropriately, and the 2015 curriculum does just that.

In Grade 6, students are also learning about emotional eating and making healthy choices around food. Given the rates of childhood obesity in our country, this is something that needs to be taught. They are learning about mental health, which research is showing again and again is majorly affecting children. The 1998 curriculum did not address this. Students learn about specific drugs and their effects. They do not learn, as I have seen suggested, how to do drugs and where to get them. These arguments are coming from people who have either not read the document or are willfully ignoring what it says, and I cannot understand why they would do that. Emotional and mental health become an increasing focus as students get older. This, once again, was not taught when I was in school. Students are given language about how to handle relationships. This was not addressed when I was in school. But students are in relationships by grade 6. Not all of them, but many. And some of those relationships are resulting in sexual activity. Giving students language to express themselves, what they want, and what they do not want is important. Taking the language in the curriculum away will not stop students from having sex at 12 years old. But it might stop someone from going too far without consent, whether that is because the no is clearly understood, or because someone knows they have a right to say it, no matter what. I understand that the idea of children having sex or being sexually active is uncomfortable to many. I don’t like it either. But my not liking it does not mean it stops. The only way to make sure it happens safely is to give students language and information.

Students learn about “the effects of stereotypes including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes.” Again, this is not impacted by my personal beliefs, or anyone else’s. Whether or not we think the things that are happening are acceptable, they are happening. And when students are given language to address them, they can be more successful advocates for themselves and their peers. Taking the language in the curriculum document away does not make the issues students are facing go away.

In grades 7 and 8, students continue to learn about the benefits but also the dangers of technology. The 1998 curriculum did not include things like easy access to pornography, identify theft, dating apps, internet safety, cyberstalking, sexting, cyberbullying, or online gambling because those things did not exist. Reverting to a document written 20 years ago does students a significant disservice because it neglects the world that we live in. The world that we live in now is very different from the one I went to school in. The 2015 curriculum talks about consent, clear communication, and sexually transmitted infections. Again, I don’t remember ever talking about consent and clear communication when I was in school. We were taught that it was best to abstain. And at 12 years old, I don’t disagree. Abstinence is best. But if children are not going to abstain, because some students will not regardless of what we tell them, they need to know what they are doing, what the risks are, and how to do so in a way that does not harm the other participants. They also need to know that they have a right to say no at any time, regardless of what the other person wants. This article tells the story of a Nova Scotia man who believes that if his daughter had received a curriculum like the one that Ontario just lost, his daughter would still be alive.  She committed suicide after the fallout from being raped.  Mr. Parsons says “I really wished there was something like that in Nova Scotia 10 years ago. Because if there was — and if consent and empathy and respect were being taught in schools in Nova Scotia — I honestly believe that I would still have my daughter with me today.”

This issue goes beyond personal beliefs. This curriculum protects children by arming them with important information. The 2015 document talks about harassment and bullying in contexts that did not exist in 1998. To revert to this document is dangerous for students.

Further, Grade 9 is the only year in which physical education is a requirement in high school. This means that at a time when many students are becoming sexually active, they’re not actively being educated about it if they are not taking Physical Education classes beyond the requirement. This makes their elementary education critical on this subject. I didn’t take any physical education classes beyond grade 9, and I know many of my peers didn’t either. I hated gym class. But that was the only place the health was even taught. So if we have reverted to a document that cannot do justice to the issues of the 21st Century, students risk entering a time in their lives when many simply are sexually active without being armed with information to help them navigate it, because we will have used a 20 year old document to teach these issues before they got to high school.

OPHEA and OASPHE are equally disappointed in the revocation of the 2015 document and the reversion to the 1998 version. Here is just part of their statement.

“Ophea and OASPHE are the provincial subject associations for Health and Physical Education and believe the curriculum has the potential to positively impact the health of 2 million Ontario students by helping them develop the knowledge and skills to become healthy, productive citizens.

Ophea and OASPHE are disappointed with the announcement by the Government of
Ontario and believe that Ontario students have a right to learn from an up-to-date,
research-based Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes human development and sexual health “sex-ed” education.

Sexual health education should address current issues facing students including online safety, informed decision making (including consent), self-esteem, mental health, healthy relationships, respect for others, diversity and equity. The curriculum should reflect all students including those with visible/invisible differences as protected through the Ontario Human Rights Code and related provincial policies such as Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.

Sexual health education should be delivered in a developmentally appropriate manner and structured so that it meets the learning needs of students at different ages to build the skills they need to make healthy choices and protect themselves from potential harms.” (source)

Lastly, I understand that the Conservative government is interested in correcting the deficit and wastes of money that the Liberals left behind. This revocation, quite frankly, is a waste of money. This document took five years to create. It was consulted on, there was a lot of research put into it, parents and students were involved. Ontario’s students can’t afford to wait another five years for a new document to be put in place that the Conservatives feel is more appropriate when the current document is already designed to tackle the needs of the world our students live in. And Ontario’s taxpayers can’t afford to pay to do the process all over again when it was just completed three years ago and the document is doing its job. I beg and implore the Conservative government to rethink scrapping this document. Not starting again may even give you the money you need to leave the Indigenous Education addendum alone.

Conclusion

Please don’t think me naive here. I understand that this Conservative government has walked into a deficit and debt load that is unconscionable. After 15 years of Liberal leadership, there is a lot of work to be done. I understand that money has to come from somewhere, but I beg of you, the collective Conservative you, to please rethink what the cuts you make mean to education. What does this mean for the future generation of children coming through Ontario’s public schools? I was in school when Mike Harris was the Premier, and the cuts he made to balance the budget were devastating to my school experience. Programs were cut that I wanted and needed, all in the name of money. Are there not things that are more important than money? I understand that a budget needs to be balanced. Trust me, I know we cannot continue on the path we were on as a province and not suffer dire consequences for it. I know we could not afford most of the things that the Wynne Liberals put in place. I was not happy with that either, but I am not talking about partisan politics here. I am not interested in laying blame. The Conservatives have an official opposition in the NDP. Perhaps rather than seeing each other as working from opposite sides, which I understand that on many issues, you are… perhaps you could work together to find a solution that balances the budget and respects the programs and services you are trying to cut. Is there not a way to work together to come to a solution that works for everyone? Rather than forcing students to learn and work in buildings that are breaking down, can we not all work together to find a solution that stops the hemorrhage of money but also respects the work that was being done? Rather than revoke students’ ability to learn a culturally responsive Canadian history that has direct ties to today, can we not all find another way? Rather than waste money by taking away a document that addresses today’s needs, can we please find another solution? This is where I have to trust you, as our representatives in the Ontario Legislature, to stand up for what is right. I am not a politician. I don’t know what the solution to these issues could be. But I do know that for the sake of Ontario’s children, we need to find one.

Please consider standing up for Ontario’s students in your new roles as representatives of the people of Ontario. These students are under your umbrellas, too. They need you right now, and I hope you can see why.

Soul Winter and a dash of Summer


Friends, if you know me, it is no secret that winter and I are not friends.  Winter came hard this year, and it had a death grip.  It refused to let go.  I’ve been teaching for a decade, and while there was the odd freak ice storm April 1st here and there that gave us a snow day because the roads were just too slippery, I’ve never had one April 16th.  Two weeks ago, that’s all it was.  Two weeks ago winter got its final battle cry in before it finally started to let go, and even then, it didn’t immediately release its grip.  We hung on in the very low single digits for almost another week.

But today, all of a sudden, it was 26 degrees, and the sun shone brilliantly.  The birds are chirping, the trees are finally thinking it might be safe to try to grow some leaves.  Barbecues are firing up, lawns are growing, I’ve had my bike out twice, I read in the hammock until I get cold, and I drove all the way home from work this afternoon with my arm out the driver’s side window.  Spring is here.  Arguably we may have jumped it and gone right to summer, but in my corner of the earth it isn’t really summer without 90% humidity, so we aren’t there yet.

There are many things I love about summer — the barbecues, the fires, the fireworks, the hammocks, the HEAT, the seasonal fruit (I could live off of peaches, concord grapes, strawberries, pears, and watermelon — and I nearly do for the whole summer, because for ten months at a time these things are imported from either America or Mexico because it’s too frigid to grow them here, and they’re just. not. the. same.)…. the BEACH.  This girl’s feet were made to dig into sand, and while it’s not the nicest water, you’ll find me on the shores of Lake Erie at any given opportunity.  I am itching for it.  This winter felt so long in so many ways, and I am longing for beaches, long days, parties and barbecues and fires… all of it.  My bare feet won’t be in a real pair of shoes again until October at least, you have my word (except to play volleyball or ride my bike).

But I’ve been in a season that has perpetually felt like winter for a long time — it’s been gloomy and dark and grey.  I’ve heard it referred to as “Soul Winter,” and at this point I don’t think I have any other words for it.  This may have less intrinsic meaning for those who love snow and crisp, cold mornings.  For those who thrive on the chill of Arctic air coming into your lungs and who live to hit the slopes and play in powder.  I am not one of those people.

What I personally experience after a long winter, I feel like my soul has been experiencing for a little over a year now, and it’s been very hard to put words to it because I don’t like to be still.  I don’t like to reflect on my feelings, sit with my thoughts, or face my fears.  I don’t enjoy being alone, and seeing as I live alone, you can imagine the frenetic pace that this would create for my life.  Last Easter I came to a place where I think my soul had finally had enough.  I tell myself that the ordeal was precipitated by too much caffeine, and I’m sure that that didn’t help, but what I know that I learned about myself in the aftermath is that I can’t manage the pace I’ve been living at…. but I haven’t done anything about it.

Because to sit with my feelings and face them is scary.  And to be alone, and still, and silent…. it means I have to.  And I don’t like that.  I can’t honestly remember the last time I really sat in silence.  Sure, I tell myself there are times when I’m silent — if I clean the house with no music on, that’s pretty silent.  When I lay in the hammock reading, that’s pretty silent.  But I was out there about half an hour ago, and that’s what prompted me to come in here and write.  It was silent for about two minutes.  There was peace and stillness and calm, and I laid in the hammock and didn’t even open the book.  I just basked in the silence.  The people around me might be right — I might need it more than I know.  But it didn’t take long before a motorcycle ripped down the street, my dog barked at the neighbour’s cat for being in her line of vision, and my neighbours came out to their porch to grill their dinner, turning on their radio and cranking some cheesy 90s pop music.  There went my silence.  And then I remembered that the beach, though I love it so deeply, isn’t much better, unless you go when it isn’t busy at all (aka on a weekday morning before school has let out) — because kids run around and screech while they love every second, and teenagers show up with their music pumping, and people fill in all around my sanctuary of space.  None of this is inherently bad, but if it’s silence I’m looking for, a public beach at a Provincial Park is not likely going to be where I find it.  If I’m being honest, I think the last time I let myself be alone, and silent, and just sit — somewhere I didn’t have my phone and I couldn’t hear other people or commotion — it had to have been last summer.  My parents live at a retreat centre at the beginning of the Rocky Mountains.  I just can’t even.  So last July sometime, I parked myself in the gazebo and sat alone and thought….. and I honestly can’t remember letting myself do it since.

One day, by myself, I hiked my way down to the river and I let my feet sit in frigid glacier water while I listened to only birds.  That day, I got time to process my feelings and my thoughts.

But the scary thing is, I haven’t really done it since.  Sure, I’ve had thoughts pop into my head, but I’ve shoved them away.  I read The Best Yes last winter.  I’ve listened to Podcasts and Audio Books.  I heard all the things about learning to say no and carving out space for my soul to breathe.  But I’m learning something I already knew.  There’s a dramatic difference between hearing and listening, between being aware and letting something sink down in deep.

I don’t want to talk about things that aren’t fun, and I don’t want to process them.  At best, I may process them with my therapist, because she has a unique ability to stop me from catastrophizing, but if I process them on my own, there’s no one to stop me, and the what ifs and the but what abouts will all come in a rush.

I was hesitant to even sit down and write this.  It’s daunting.  But I haven’t even really written anything more than book reviews since last winter either, because I process when I write.  I often don’t know what I think about something until I’ve written it down.  So a healthier version of me would be blogging or journaling all. the. time… But I’m not.  I keep the free book train rolling by writing reviews, but otherwise I tend to shove post ideas to the depths of my soul too.

I don’t know what’s different about today.  I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect, which, while so beautifully written as to make it a very easy read in theory, is impacting me so deeply that I can only take it in small chunks.  I’d borrowed the book from a friend, and two chapters in I wanted to write all over it SO BADLY because I just know this will be a book I read again.  I don’t have many of those, but I’ll come back to this.  And like it was meant to be, the next day, I found it in beautiful, pristine, hard-cover condition at a used book sale for 2.50.  I gave my friend back her copy and mine is now well loved and irreparably damaged, all at the same time.

I think it might finally be time to lean in.  I’m ready to pray and process, to think and grow.  I’m going to need to find some silence, because my pastor has said it, my therapist has said it, my home church has said it, and my current book choice (which I’ve wanted to read for a LONG time) is saying it…. and my soul is crying from somewhere way deep down saying “please!  yes!  yes to this but not yes to everything that’s thrown your way!”  In Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about how we’re the only ones who get to control what our lives turns out like in this way.  So if it’s frantic and hurried, frenetic and stressed, too stretched to really be enjoyable…. that’s no one’s fault but mine.  My soul is ready for winter to end.  My soul is ready to bloom and thrive and flourish like it’s summer, but I suspect it can only do that if I give it space to.  I think I need to give it some silence.  I think it needs room to breathe.

I Will Not Fear


Fear has been a topic that’s been following me around lately.

We’ve done sermons on it at church.
I’ve read a book about it (Fierce Faith by Alli Worthington ~ fantastic book!).
I’ve had conversations with friends about it because lately it seems my life is a wee bit characterized by it.

I was given the opportunity to read and review a book called “I Will Not Fear” ~ A book written by a lady named Melba Patillo Beals.  She was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I can’t imagine what life would have been like — to have felt so unwanted, so other, so less than… and such fear!  I have studied American history, and I am aware of the records of what it was like in the 50s and 60s, leading to the Civil Rights movement.  I’ve read of the Klan, of the death threats….. but what I hadn’t read, until now, was someone’s first hand account.

This book will grab you and make you hold on tight.  The story this woman tells of how she was a “first” at so many things in her life — trying to integrate into a society that thought segregation was the only way to live, going to university, going to grad school, being a single mom, getting jobs where she felt “other” not only because of her skin colour but also because of her gender — it’ll grip you.

I know I’ve experienced a great deal of fear in my life, but as I read this I realized I’ve really had very little to actually be afraid of.  That’s not the point of the book, however, because Melba offers the wisdom she learned from her Grandmother throughout, and with every story of some sort of atrocious experience that would surely knock my foundation down at the knees, she tells of how she trusted God, trusted Jesus, and lived as though the protection of God were real (and it is)!

One of my favourite parts of the book, and what I found most encouraging, were the little nuggets of summary that she included at the end of each chapter.  My story may not resemble that of Melba Patillo Beals’ in any way.  I’ll never know what it’s like to live her story.  But I do know what it’s like to live mine, and fear has no place here either.  I can take just as much encouragement from her words, and from how she did not bow to fear, as anyone else can.

“… no matter what threatening evidence appears to be true, we need not fear because God is always beside us.” (p. 165)

“As complex and dangerous as a predicament may be, God is as close as our skin.  Although peril feels like forever, God is here now.  He will guide us through the jungle of fear, if we only listen and obey.” (p. 189)

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not long, only 200 pages, so it’s a short read.  And it’s written in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more of Melba’s story, to know that it comes to a happy ending just like we always wish.  Melba Patillo Beals is a remarkable woman of faith, and we would all do well to stand in the face of adversity and fear like she did and declare “not today.”

51xXvT6UEAL

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Oath of Honor


I loved this one.  Lynette Eason does it again!  I was first introduced to Lynette Eason with her Elite Guardians series.  This book wasn’t any less gripping.

From the moment you’re introduced to police officer Izzy St. John and her family, you’ll be hooked.  When her partner, Kevin Marshall, is murdered, she has a bunch of decisions to make that I don’t wish on anyone!

A murdered partner. A missing brother. Will Isabelle’s silence protect those she loves . . . or delay justice?

Police officer Isabelle St. John loves her crazy, loud, law-enforcement family. She knows they’ll be there for her when things get tough. Like when her partner is murdered and she barely escapes with her own life.

Izzy is determined to discover exactly what happened, and her investigation sends her headfirst into a criminal organization, possibly with cops on the payroll–including someone from her own family. With her dead partner’s brother Ryan, a handsome homicide detective, shadowing her every move, Izzy’s head is spinning. How can she secure justice for her partner when doing so could mean sending someone she loves to prison? And how will she guard her heart when the man she’s had a secret crush on for years won’t leave her side?

This is a real page-turner, and I guarantee that if you are a fan of Eason’s work, or if you like suspenseful Christian fiction as much as I do, this will be one you won’t want to put down, either!  The characters are well-developed and likeable, and the story moves quickly, but is still easy to follow.  With a writing style that keeps you guessing with every page you turn, I will definitely be back for more of Lynette Eason!

oath of honor

Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Judah’s Wife | A Book Review


It’s not often that I find a book I don’t love, but this one fits that category.  I typically know what I like, and I have a pretty good idea that something sounds interesting before I pick it up.  I’m not even completely sure why I didn’t like all of it, if I’m completely honest.  There were definitely parts that I did like, but it’s not something I grieved over finishing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was well written.  I felt many feelings in relation to those characters, and the characters were well developed.  The plot flowed well, and the story line made a lot of sense.

What I did really like, and what drew me into the book in the first place, was the historical setting — set in that vague in-between time between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the “silent years” — scholars say something like 400 years? — I was very interested to learn a little bit more about the way of life, being a pretty big historical fiction nerd.  It was very interesting to read about Jerusalem during the time of Alexander the Great.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find I don’t often connect the Biblical history to the Classical history and what I know about the two of them.  It never seems to occur to me that they would coincide, although obviously they have to.  I loved that part.  The story sets up the story of the Maccabees and the history around Hanukkah, which I did find fascinating.

Again, I can’t say that I loved it, despite it being well-written.  I’ve liked other works by Angela Hunt as well!  I’m just not sure.  I even waited a while after finishing to write the review, hoping it would come to me, but it hasn’t.  It took me a long time to finish the book, too.  Almost a month, actually.  And that’s not like me.

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has tried this book, and what you thought of it?

 

Seeking quiet and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she’ll have peace. But the very nation Judah was named for has been conquered by a cruel king, who decrees that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws or risk death for following the laws of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands Judah to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of Israel. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long?

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice.

 

Judah's Wife

 

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

 

Free of Me


It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.

 

What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

free of me

2018 — An obligatory New Year’s Day post


It is 2018.  It is January 1st.  Actually, in the time zone I inhabit, by the time I’ve hit publish on this post, it’ll likely be January 2nd.  Thankfully, I’m currently chilling in the Rockies and Mountain Standard Time has gifted me with two whole extra hours — something I’m thankful for tonight, but was annoyed by at this time last night as I set myself a reminder alarm to remember to text my Ontario peeps at 10 pm to wish THEM a Happy New Year!

Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Yes; it’s 2018.  Nothing really feels like it’s changed from yesterday.  But yet, so much has, hasn’t it?  We do this yearly.  We wait til January 1st to start things.  We spend the last week of December eating all the junk food in our houses in hopes to start fresh January 1st.  I was a day late with this silly plan and made my last bag of chips my personal mission for today.

happy-new-year-meme-2018

Source

But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Futility doesn’t have to be our best friend as we launch into every single new year.  New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a to-do list that extends no further than the first week of January.

In the fall of 2016, my dear friend Rachel sent me a link to this thing she’d heard of called Power Sheets.  Lara Casey and her team make them over at Cultivate What Matters.  It’s designed for intentional life planning.  Intentional goal setting.  Progress.  Not perfection.  Rachel and I dove right in.  We each ordered a set and split the shipping (since it has to come from the States and the shipping is steep), and we dug in.  (This year 6 of us ordered and split shipping — highly recommend this if you’re Canadian and want your hands on a set!)  We did the prep work while discussing all of our goals together, and we were ready over the course of about a month of intentional thinking, planning, and praying to meet 2017 head on.  For me, it felt like 2017 was going to be the year I finally got my act together and stopped making resolutions I couldn’t keep.  Resolutions I knew even as I made them I wouldn’t keep.  But it’s what we do, right?

PowerSheets_Goal_Planner

Source

I can’t say that my Power Sheets were overwhelmingly life-changing in 2017.  Though maybe I can — it’s hard to achieve perspective since I don’t have a 2017 without Power Sheets to compare it to.  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t the productive year I’d hoped it to be.  The entire point to Power Sheets is to set goals, track your tending lists, make progress, and cover yourself in grace when you fall short of your own expectations.  After all, we don’t keep pushing into what we want to change when we feel defeated and like it’s hopeless, do we?  Progress.  Not perfection.  But I know they made some difference.  I was able to measure growth in some areas.  Some were more stubborn than others, and I’ve had to re-evaluate what I really wanted to see change in this year to make sure that I was choosing the right goals.  But more importantly, I’ve had to evaluate the why for my goals.  Why am I choosing this?  Am I choosing “be healthier” because I think people will like me more?  Or am I choosing it because I actually want health and I want to be able to do things I’ve only ever dreamed of — like learn to surf.  The prep work at the beginning of the planner for each year asks big questions and makes you look deep into the whys, and I know I got to the root of some of my wishes for 2018.

I don’t have my 2017 book with me.  I don’t have the list of goals I chose for 2017 with me because they’re in my book, and they’re in Ontario, and I am not.  But I do have the goals I’ve chosen for 2018, and I’d like to share them with you.  I’d like to be a little bit vulnerable and put them out into the air for the blogosphere to read.  This year, I’ve chosen bigger, over-arching goals.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to Power Sheets users where a couple people have referred to them as “umbrella goals.”  They’re more like a topic where I want to do some work in my life this year, and then the more specific goals (which I have a lot of for 2018) will work their way into my monthly, weekly, and daily check-lists for each month.

Without further ado, here are my umbrella goals for 2018:

  1. Finances ~ Saving and not spending needlessly.  Obviously each month will have specific targets for this.  I’d been working on it throughout 2017 as well, and with some careful planning and some good timing, I managed to pay off a pile of debt in May, and have been relishing in the freedom of that ever since.  Can I recommend You Need A Budget (YNAB) to you?  Seriously, it changed my life in March of 2016.  Jesse Mecham, the creator, has written a book and it just released last week.  It’s on my list of things to do in January.
  2. Spiritual Growth ~ Depth.  I want a relationship with Jesus that is marked by reliance, listening, and trust.  That doesn’t come from just thinking about it and hoping it comes.
  3. Fun ~ Responsible Fun; Not running to fun to escape uncomfortable emotions.  This felt like a funny goal, but through a lot of introspection this year I’ve discovered something I don’t really love about myself.  Where I’d perpetually thought I just liked to have fun, it dawned on me that I’m prone to running to fun as soon as I don’t want to deal with something that doesn’t seem fun.  Awkward relationship situation?  I run away.  Work sucks?  I want to switch jobs — it isn’t fun!  Pain?  No fun.  Let’s go on vacation instead.  Where I want to goal-set around fun this year is to make sure it’s not my escape, as much as it is something that is just necessary to live.
  4. Mental Health — This is something I began to take very seriously in 2017, as I battled some anxiety that it turned out had been simmering just beneath my surface for a long time, and I’d never dealt with it.  I’ve started seeing a counselor, and I honestly can’t recommend a professional therapist enough — seriously.  You get to talk about yourself for an hour, and you don’t have to do anyone the social courtesy of listening back to them.  My goals here revolve around leaning into stress and anxiety and the situations that cause them so that I continue to get better at managing and reducing both of these things.
  5. Leadership — I am a leader.  For better or for worse, I’m in leadership positions in my church and at work.  I’m not sure how this happened.  I’m honestly not sure how I got here.  But people see potential in me, and I’d like to harness it for good!
  6. Health — this one is so common.  How many of us set healthy lifestyle New Year’s resolutions?  This one could be a whole post for me, but it’s a very raw spot at the moment, so… nope!  That doesn’t sound fun!
  7. Creativity — Brene Brown once said in a podcast interview I was listening to her on (For the Love with Jen Hatmaker) that “Unused creativity is not benign.”  It hit me to my core.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write but have been too afraid people wouldn’t buy it.  I’ve wanted to paint but have been self-conscious because I’m not as good as someone else.  I’ve wanted to be a better musician but again, compare myself to others and always fall short.  But if unused creativity is harmful to me, then this needs intentional work as well.
  8. Bravery.  It has occurred to me that I am not that brave.  I’m a pretty big chicken, actually.  So 2018 needs to hone in on some of those areas where I could use some bravery the most.  I read Annie F. Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave” (buy it on Amazon here) in November, and I cried through parts of it.  I’m so ready to be brave.  So ready.  I highly recommend the book, but if you’re determined to stay seated in. your comfort zone, it may not be for you.  I’m doing her 100 Days to Brave devotional starting as soon as I get home (as it’s arrived in Ontario before I have).
  9. Adventure — I thrive on this.  It’s linked to my fun, and it’s linked to my finances.  I found a lot of my goals are linked to each other — I actually created a very messy flow chart that reflects that!  But I will have adventure based goals.  Where will I travel next?  Europe is calling — Scandinavia?  The South of France?  Switzerland (the land of my ancestral people)?  Who knows?
  10. Relationships — This is not just the romantic kind — though that’s pretty intrinsically linked to bravery.  I want to be intentional.  I want to be present.  I want to be brave.  In all of my relationships.

 

And there you have it.  My over-arching umbrella goals.

Do you set goals?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  If you’ve been a successful Power Sheets user, I’d love to hear from you!  I really want them to help me make big changes this year!

Even if you don’t use Power Sheets, I highly recommend both of Lara Casey’s books.  They’re less intensive than using Power Sheets, but still give you lots of great tips and encouragement for living a more intentional life.  Get Make It Happen on Amazon here, and get Cultivate on Amazon here.