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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

Unused Creativity is not Benign…


I’ve been listening to podcasts lately.  A good friend of mine kept sending me recommendations on iTunes, and since I spend an insane amount of time in my car every week (an hour each direction to work), and I’ve been getting tired of just listening to music (not that music isn’t amaaaaazing)…..

A couple have really hit me.  Like… punched me in the gut, and knocked the wind out of my sails.  I was driving along and life was all good, and the following words came out of Brené Brown’s mouth:  (I can’t remember if this was from her appearance on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey, or For the Love with Jen Hatmaker — I think it was For the Love, but listen to both anyway!)

Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame. We are creative beings. We are by nature creative. It gets lost along the way. It gets shamed out of us.

Shame has gotten in the way of so many things for me, as I’ve reflected on what that’s looked like over my years.  Some of them I am not ready to talk about yet.  I’m just not.

But creativity?  That, I can talk about.

See, creativity is a muscle.  You have to develop it.  And there’s skill involved in it.  It’s not just talent.  It doesn’t just happen.  It’s not something you either have or don’t.  Everyone has something they like to do that flexes that creative muscle.  Some of us bake.  Some of us cook.  Some of us write.  Some of us paint.  We take pictures.  We design rooms.  We write music or we play music.  We landscape yards.  We build bookcases.  We just…. create.

But when we try to create and we don’t like the result that comes out of it, it gets really real.  It gets even more real when someone else calls us out on it.  Even if they didn’t mean to.  Our creativity gets stifled by others.  It happens when we create something, and others don’t see the value that we do.  Maybe we baked something and it didn’t turn out great, and it didn’t get eaten wherever we took it.  Maybe, like several of my Paint Nite endeavours, we’ve painted something and it did NOT turn out like the example.  Maybe we haven’t opened the case of our violin (or other, more generic, musical instrument….) since February because we feel like we’ll never be as good as ___________.  (Comparison is the thief of joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt)  Whatever the case…. I can’t help but wonder… who are we being creative FOR?

If I’m being creative because I want to impress others, I’m doing it for the wrong reason.  But if I’m being creative — if I’m designing, painting, baking, capturing, and creating…. and if I’m doing it because I know that if I don’t, I’ll wither and shrivel under the weight of judgment, grief, rage, sorrow, and shame, I will thrive.

So….. this is why I’m here.

I’m flexing my creative muscles.

I was listening to Luvvie Ajayi on Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love podcast, and she was talking about how she got started as a writer.  She said that she jumped into the blog world when it was still called web logging, and she felt like she had to do it, because it was how she processed the world.  And that hit me too, because there have been many times that I’ve expressed my need to write to process.  I’ve also thought about wanting to write a book, but I’ve even verbally admitted that I’m too afraid no one will like it, no one will read it, and it won’t be successful.  Luvvie Ajayi started me to thinking, and then Brené Brown hit it home.  Who am I writing for?  Why am I writing?  I love this!  I LOVE this!  So why am I hiding behind the fear that no one else will like it, if I should be doing it because my soul needs it, craves it, and begs me to get stuff off my chest by clacking my keyboard?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  I don’t know where the niggling voice of shame comes from that says no one will like it if I hit publish, and I should just sit on my deepest thoughts.  It’s likely that they don’t all belong on the internet, but some of them do – many of them do – and I am going to be brave.

I am going to write more than book reviews.

I am going to say no thank you to the voice that tells me I’m not good enough.  No, that’s not true.  I’m going to be much more forceful with that voice.  It has no place here.

Hi, my name is Laura.
I’m a writer.
I’m a painter.
I’m a photographer.
I’m an artist.
I’m designing my own basement renovation.
I’m a baker.
I’m a cook.
I’m a musician.
I will stop hiding from these things that I love.
I am creative.
I will create.

 

On Anxiety, Jesus, and the space in between.


Recently, I’ve been struggling a little bit.  It’s been hard to talk about, and I’ve wanted to write about it, but I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot of positive to say, and I didn’t want to sound like I was griping.  I finally have something positive to say, so here I am.

I also didn’t want to be offered dozens of potential solutions that I’d potentially already tried or that would just make things worse when I tried them and they didn’t work.  I’ve been navigating fairly well with the help of a trusted circle of very close peeps.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Here it goes.

Easter weekend, I did something stupid.  Me, hyper-sensitive to caffeine, whose reaction to it can be measured in the increase in words spoken per minute — I forgot to monitor my caffeine intake throughout the course of the day, and because it was a long weekend, I also didn’t think too much of consuming caffeine past my typical 3 pm cutoff.  It started the evening of Good Friday.  I had a Cherry Pepsi with dinner.  It took me a while to fall asleep, but I’d gotten home late anyway and I didn’t think much of it.  I went for lunch with a friend the next day, and had a great big glass of Dr. Pepper with lunch.  Later, (about 5 pm — I didn’t realize it’d gotten that late) we got iced capps through the Tim Horton’s drive thru.  THEN (because I’m an idiot), I forgot about the caffeine I’d consumed throughout the rest of the day, and I had another Cherry Pepsi with dinner on Saturday night, and dinner wasn’t until about 8 pm.

Well, shocking, I didn’t sleep that night.  At all.  Like I got up Easter Sunday morning and lead worship on precisely zero hours of sleep, and was so out of it that I could hardly put music stands together.  But what I discovered in the midst of the night of no sleep is that caffeine also sends my brain spinning down this spiraling tunnel of anxiety, and while I wasn’t sleeping at all, I was over-processing, hyper-analyzing, and pretty much freaking out.  If I could think about it, I was worrying about it.

Sunday night, I went to go to bed, and was fairly thoroughly convinced I was having a heart attack (turns out that’s pretty much what a panic attack feels like).  Long story short, I ended up in the hospital most of the night only to have a doctor tell me I needed to calm down and relax.

There’s been a lot going on, and I don’t need to get into all of it because that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that since all this has happened, I’ve found myself in a place where I have never relied so heavily on Jesus, even though prior to all of this I would have told you that I did, and now that it’s happening often, I’m able to see the differences that reliance, and that open line of communication makes in my life.  I’ve had a few really cool experiences in the past few weeks, and I firmly believe my deepening relationship with Jesus is the catalyst for that.

I’ve had to learn to pray my way through situations that make me feel like I want to panic.  I haven’t had any major panic issues since Easter, but some minor ones, and I’ve learned that when I lean into Jesus and claim the promises in scripture about fear and anxiety, I can come out the other side of my bouts of anxiety with confidence, knowing I’m never alone, I have not been abandoned in any way, and I am safe.

I’ve had to create a bed time routine.  If you know me personally, you know that I’m someone who likes to fall into bed exhausted, as late as possible while still being able to function, because my best thinking, my best work, and the most fun usually happens later.  I’m a textbook night owl, and having trouble sleeping rocked my foundation.  When you’re only used to getting 6-6.5 hours of sleep a night anyway, because you’ve narrowed down the bare minimum amount you need in order to function like a responsible grown-up on a consistent basis, I found that the second I would have trouble falling asleep, my brain would reel into panic again — because “if I can’t sleep, I can’t drive to work.  That’s not safe.” and other such things that I would tell myself at 3 am when I still wasn’t asleep.

My bed time routine involves writing out scriptures (the month of May was actually focused around anxiety and fear, and it was VERY helpful), journaling gratitude (I have a journal where I’m writing down all the things I’m thankful for from each day as I get ready to go to sleep — 1000 Gifts style, I suppose.), reading my devotional book (I do NOT give myself enough time for this in the morning), praying, and having a bubble bath while I read a theology book of some sort in the tub.  When I start to doze, and start not retaining what I’m reading, I know I’m ready to go to bed.  I then fall asleep fairly quickly, which has been awesome.

Sometimes, though, when I get to the time of night when I’m ready to start this process, I can feel my brain spinning and I know that if I don’t process what’s inside, I’ll have a hard night ahead.  I have a journal where sometimes I write letters to God, sometimes I just write what I’m thinking and process that way, and sometimes I just write out my prayers as if I were speaking them.

And here we are, at the reason I wanted to post today.

A couple of days ago I made it to my bedtime routine and I found just that — my brain was reeling and spinning, and I couldn’t quiet my thoughts down enough to even focus on the scriptures I was reading through and trying to absorb by writing out.  So I went back through my scripture journal, and I wrote a prayer to God claiming all of the truths I’d learned and internalized throughout May about anxiety and fear.  I know whose I am, so I don’t need to be afraid.  I know this deeply now, and it’s become a matter of making sure I remember it in my times of greatest need.

I wanted to share what I wrote down, in hopes that someone would need to read this and that it would be helpful.  When I wrote it, I didn’t include the scripture references to which I was referring, but I have here in case you want to go read the verses themselves to see what I based this on.

Lord, I surrender.  All my fears.  They’re nothing and useless when I hold them to the standard of your love, your care for me, and your grace.  Jesus, right now I honestly don’t even know why I’m feeling anxious and fearful, but I know it isn’t from you.  You don’t elicit fear.  Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). I will fear no evil.  For my God is with me (song — You Never Let Go).  I have not been given a spirit of fear. The Lord is for me.  Who can be against me?

Father I cast all my cares on you.  I release their weight (Psalm 55:22).  I know your yoke is easy and your burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  I know you have not created me to live in this space of anxiety and fear.

I feel like I’m slipping, God, but I know I’m not, because you’re holding me and keeping me steady.  Please help me to trust my rational and logical thoughts. Your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:18-19).

When I lean on my own understanding, sometimes I panic and I don’t even know why!  I choose to trust in you (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 62:8).  You are good.  When there’s nothing good in me.  I’m running to your arms.

David prayed to you in his distress and you set him free. Lord, I am doing the same! You are for me, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me? Yes, you will help me.  You are for me (Psalm 118:5-7).  You work all things together for my good because I love you (Romans 8:28). I see this when I look back at my life’s circumstances and I trust that you stay the same through the ages (Psalm 30:4-5 — also the song Your Love Never Fails), and you will continue to work outside of time to hold my life together according to your plans.

You will never leave me. You will never forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6). You will never abandon me (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Father, I praise you for all these promises and truths, and I rejoice because I know I can trust them. Rest in them. Claim them. Live them (Psalm 56:1-4).

I am pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I am never abandoned by you. I get knocked down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

My hope is in you! (Psalm 62:5).  You alone are my rock and salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken (Psalm 62:1-4).

I have all that I need in you. My rest comes from you. My peace comes from you. My strength comes from you. Even when I don’t think I can handle what comes at me, I don’t have to be afraid, because you’re right there with me. You protect and comfort me. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:1-6).

You are always ready to help in times of trouble! (Nahum 1:7, Psalm 46:1-3)

I want to live in the shelter of the Most High so I can find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. You alone are my refuge, my place of safety. You are my God, and I trust you.  You will cover me with your feathers and shelter me with your wings. Your faithful promises are my honour and my protection (Psalm 91:1-6).

You yourself will fight for me.  My job is to stay calm (Exodus 14:14). So I rest in you. I will find my strength in the shadow of your wings (song — My Hope is in You).

 

Anyway — it’s my hope and prayer that these verses find homes in the hearts of those who need to read them, like they have in mine the past couple of months.  In the five days since I wrote that prayer, I’ve reread it three times, and it washes me with peace every time I do.

 

Ending the Silence: Post-Partum Depression and Me (a guest post)


I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, and a friend of mine, Nicole, posted that because May is Post-Partum Depression Awareness month (which I did not know), she wanted to share her experience loudly, and spread that awareness as far as she could.  I have happily lent her a space here, hoping that the reach I have gives her words an audience.  What follows is not written by me.  I have no children, and zero experience with this, but if Nicole’s words are something you needed to hear, I hope they find their way to you.

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First off, I want to give a slight introduction as to who I am and how I landed a spot on Laura’s blog (to which, I’m honored by the way!) My name is Nicole Turcotte (formally Fletcher) I’m newly 24, married to a wonderful man and together we have a two year old son who keeps us on our toes – to say the least. Laura and I go a-ways back. I posted on facebook about May being PPD (Postpartum depression) awareness month and how I was desperate for ways of reaching out and sharing my story in hopes of helping others. Laura out of kindness, offered this vice and I am super grateful!

Growing up, sitting over coffee with your friends planning out your future, talking about meeting your prince charming, getting married, having children… it’s all just conversation, you think at the time you truly know what you want and you’re dead set on getting there – but in reality some of life’s punches can take you for a spin – I speak from first hand experience in this. There is quite some miracle to the creation of life; Kyle, my husband (who was a boyfriend at the time) – was medically pronounced unable to have children, one in a million chance. This took me back a bit, as it caused a ripple in the plans I had spent years forming together in my head. When he broke this to me, I remember thinking in that exact moment that things were about to become brutally unfair. I wanted him yet I wanted desperately to be a mother – it didn’t look like my “happily ever after” was going to work out in my favor. I was 21 (most of you are probably cringing as I’m still a baby myself to some of you and here I am complaining like I know somethin’ about anythin’…) when God nudged my world a little bit. Truthfully, at the time I found out I was pregnant things weren’t forming together well in my life. I had dropped out of school, working a full-time retail position and definitely didn’t think my desire to be a mother would have been heard as quickly as it did, but God certainly had another plan, and I didn’t see it in that second but we were to be deeply blessed by this little life. As terrified and unsure as I felt in that moment staring at that positive pregnancy test – I knew for certain one thing, that this child was going to be absolutely adored. It took Kyle sometime to come to terms with the fact he was actually capable of creating life. He spent a lot of his teen years carrying the weight of the fact he was probably never going to have a family. Now after finding out I was pregnant, my 6w ultrasound placed my due date as March 21, 2015. We really couldn’t believe it as Kyle’s birthday is February 21, and mine is April 21…He aligned us. Let me tell you though – that doctor who misdiagnosed Kyle looked pretty silly to me as months passed and our little Zachary formed, so fearfully, so wonderfully made – that boy is.

My water broke at 12am on March 21st (as if he could have been more “meant to be here”), the night spent at the hospital was a story in itself. I knew something was wrong right after the epidural, not that anyone listened until I was stuck at 5cm dilated, with contractions 30 seconds apart (which were not doing their job!) a son who was trying to come through a cervix that wasn’t ready for him – which caused him to panic as his head was swelling from smashing it off my uncooperative body. His heart rate raced from 130-190 and at this point I’m screaming for a C-section… Literally 10 minutes later, they had him out, crying and in Kyle’s arms… Safe. Safe became my favorite word after that eventful day, I almost lost my baby. No nurse, no doctor said it out loud but the panic that flew around the already tension filled room are said enough for me. It was that night, when he and I were tucked in alone – I out loud vowed to be the one who protects him as I honestly, was the one who almost lost him. As a mother, there was a real guilt to that; a guilt that stuck around for a long time actually.

Weeks passed and I told myself I was just tired and let the darkness fall thicker and thicker around me. I truthfully thought I was handling everything fine, I thought I still had my pre-baby calm demeanor, my sensitive heart, my kind soul… But when the clouds cleared and I saw the mess I had made for myself, I had absolutely no clue what to do or where to even begin. My life became round the clock tending to Zac. In my head, I was the only person he needed to take care of him and if I didn’t step up to the plate – or even if I asked for someone’s help I was drowned in guilt because he was MY baby and MY responsibility 24/7. I took on the role of SuperMom in the unhealthiest way possible; Zac was a terrible sleeper – still kind of is 2 years later… So Kyle would come in and try to take over in the middle of the night and I would lose my mind at him for even thinking he could replace me when my son clearly needed me. (Mind you, I did not breast feed. I physically was unable to produce and guilt followed that as well.) So it made it easier when I did actually accept the help I was offered, I wasn’t needed for him to feed. Looking back now, on top of all that – I had developed a severe fear of germs on top of this crippling anxiety when it came to Zac that when taking him out in public I was the only one who held him, no one was welcomed to “awh’ing” too close to his face… I constantly felt in a state of panic. Something was going to happen… somehow – and harm my baby. I was in mama bear mode 24/7 and that alone took everything out of me. Having people want to come see him… was something I used to dread in fear they’d get him sick… We had bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere and no one could touch him without using it first or I didn’t sleep well that night. Well when he did get sick, which he did a lot – I blamed myself each and every time (not to mention would have him to the doctor the second his cough scared me in the slightest…) I would think, “I took him to the place where he picked it up, I let whoever around him and now he’s suffering and its all because of me…” I constantly kicked my own mom-ego down but let me tell you and I can say this with full confidence – I absolutely rocked the mother thing; Zachary is the most well-loved on child you will ever meet. He is a mama’s boy to the extreme and even though I let myself get worse, let my relationships get worse… at least I had him, growing bigger, smarter and stronger everyday. His love for me kept my heart beating some days, I swear. My main goal was to wake up and be all I could for him and I poured all the good things I could into him during the day, that by the time night time came around I was empty, drained and a shell of a woman who at this time was a very sorry excuse of a wife.

I’ll begin by saying this, I was only getting 3 hours of sleep a night when he was an infant, he was up and always needed to be soothed; always wanting me, each and every time – no matter how much it hurt me physically or mentally – I got up. I rocked him; I loved him back to sleep. Sleep deprivation is a demon all in its own. You wanna watch someone go crazy? Pull their sleep away completely and throw in a demanding, constantly screaming infant that relies only on you to take care of its every need… good luck! Some people are cut out for it and handle it flawlessly, some are not. I was one who fell in the “not” category and I’m still paying for it today. I wish I would have taken the help when it was offered, that’s for sure!

Now hear me people, not for ONE second am I complaining about motherhood and what it entails, I take pride in the mother I am and the way I raise my son. I recognize and sympathize deeply with the couples who so desperately want a child and are unable to have one or have lost one… What I am here to say though is that I REALLY wish someone would have warned me about this side of motherhood – the dark side that can follow it and linger around for months past its welcome, especially if not tended to. Whilst pregnant, I understand no one wants to dump anything bad on you, no one wants to scare you more than you probably already are… I get that. However, not ONE person mentioned postpartum depression to me – not ONE person warned me until after the fact. So as the months passed, I really had no idea what was wrong with me – the last thing I felt was myself. As each day passed and I lost sight of the person I was, it got more and more sad.

I was angry, often so angry I couldn’t bring it back down. I noticed it way more in the night time, (Never once in Zachary’s presence. I could always recognize the line when he was involved) I would cry so hard, which would result in both of us staying up all night not understanding what was going on, I couldn’t grasp why my relationship with Kyle was crumbling. By the end of it, I was as empty as I could have possibly been. When I would try to justify my behavior, it made 0 sense to me that I had just birthed this beautiful, healthy, happy baby boy – I’m in a relationship with a man who always put loving me and our son first before anything, the support system of a literal queen when it came to family/friendships – all so more than willing to help out… once everyone left, once the baby was in bed, once I pulled my fakest of fake masks off.. The smallest of things would get to me – it led to an outburst of angry tears that often times wouldn’t stop. I’d be shaking, screaming, out of energy; collapsed on the floor… you know who always picked me up? My husband. I married him this past October for so many reasons, but one of the biggest being he’s seen the absolute ugliest sides of me and he’s stayed… Trust me, there were nights he shouldn’t have, there still are days today he should realize his worth and take off on me – but that’s not my man. He is “for better or for worse”, he is “in sickness and in health”. I often compare his love for me during this time as he was clinging for dear life to a rose full with stem… the thorns stabbing, probably scarring his bloody hands but he still to this day, won’t let go. No matter how hard he has to hold on, he just DOES. He somehow is always capable of catching me and half the time he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Kyle has always modelled a strength and confidence that has never not been attractive to me, and as I’m falling apart which I never expected to but now that I need him, I know he’s got my back. We grew so much during this time, we became each other’s anchors – I grow more and more thankful for his existence each and every day.

It was right after Zachary’s first birthday that he and I were at the doctors and I noticed a flyer on the wall advertising postpartum depression, the symptoms, the steps to recovering… I almost cried sitting there. Suddenly, every single thing made sense – I finally had an answer. However, it wasn’t exactly the answer I was hoping for – in fact I was pretty ashamed of it. I remember my brain’s vicious cycle even in that moment – I didn’t want to tell people I was suffering from this out of fear that they’d judge me, my mothering abilities, god forbid they’d do something like take my son away, what if they saw me as an unfit parent?… I felt sick to my stomach over that realization more than I felt relief. I made myself tell my doctor that day, sobbing to him over not only how I’ve felt over the past year – how I had treated people, the fears I had of this disease, how I tried to fight it alone, I tried to get past it – I tried to even ignore it and truthfully, it kept getting worse. I expected the reaction to be severely negative, a lecture? Maybe even anger for not mentioning it sooner… what did he do? He embraced me. My doctor dropped everything and offered his friendship outside of his profession – he still to this day cares way too much and expects way too little. The relationship I have with my doctor is a blessing; I always tell him he deserves the nicest bottle of tequila on me for all the stress I’ve caused him, his reply? “Nicole, it’s my job.” No, No it is not… for him to go out of his way for me, he’s fought fights that I don’t even know about for me – all to get me better no matter what the cost. Now this is where my best advice comes into play – FIND THAT. Find that support system in your life, find the people who love you for YOU, because PPD – that’s not you and you’re going to need to be reminded of that often; it’s a chapter of you, a chapter that will end and new will begin, you just have to want it. You desperately need that desire to want to get better – they say it takes as much time as it did for you to get help, to be healed. I waited a year! A full year! Was every single day a terrible one? No. Did I freak out every single day? Nope. Did I feel all these terrible things about myself everyday? No. That’s what made it so confusing for me, I just felt all these sad things with no explanation and since it’s a joyous rollercoaster of emotions, you never can predict what you’re up against. 
Especially since this isn’t a topic a lot of people like talking about.

Why are we ashamed? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we hide away from help?
I believe truly we base ourselves so much on how other people are doing – social media is KILLER for this, you focus on how well others appear to be doing, or you see their life flourishing and wonder why you’re so stuck… meanwhile they could be battling a demon 100x bigger than anything we could ever have imagined – we’re all so quick to post our accomplishments and our smiles – but what about when we’re actually deeply suffering? When we type out that “cry for help” status and erase it, because who knows what someone might say or do, we mirror ourselves against each other but we can’t live like that, we can’t PARENT like that – We live in a society that is so judgmental, opinionated and all together just MEAN; if we embraced every single hurting person out there – even just sat down and LISTENED, instead of casting them out like they’re some new kind of crazy – we’d see more people reach out for help, we’d see more people coming together recognizing the fact we are all human beings with real feelings and real problems instead of a “number on the scale” or number of “likes on a picture”- if we all let our flaws show, I don’t think this world would know what hit it.

See, this whole time I was suffocating under PPD- I never realized how unfortunately common it is, to not only have PPD but how common it is for those to suffer in silence. Did you know that 600,000 women get diagnosed with PPD EACH YEAR in the states alone?! And only 15% seek help? Now, that’s not including women who miscarried or whose babies were stillborn (YES they are just as susceptible) Since the CDC only estimates the live births- if you consider the 15% of the 6 million people who have verified pregnancies in the states each year, you’re looking at 900,000 women diagnosed each year. Not only that, but since its stated that only 15% of women with PPD actually seek/receive professional treatment- that means 850,000 women each year are not getting the help they need…hello?! Do you see that number? WAKE UP!
You know how many of those people could be suffering silently due to lack of awareness?! I’m so thankful to have this WHOLE month to roar loudly on this topic, to help new moms, old moms and moms who aren’t even moms yet. 
This disease is REAL, this disease HURTS, and this disease can DESTROY.
So that being said, let’s prevent it, shall we? Let’s partner together as women to lift each other up in our lowest times instead of making one another feel ashamed or weak for what they’re going through. Help exists now let’s enlighten those suffering that it’s perfectly OKAY to have to rely on pills for a while to get yourself back on track, it’s OKAY to recognize you may need to spend sometime away, it’s OKAY to feel how you’re feeling and no it won’t last forever. I was on an anti depressant almost the second I opened up to my doctor and at first I was terrified about it. I was super hesitant- I remember spending hours reading labels, side effects, reviews, other people’s opinions… I felt silly that it had gotten so “bad” I was to the point of needing medication to help me function; but once I took the chance at it, within a couple weeks I had control again! Regaining that control was such a big step in my healing process, once that I accepted there wasn’t much more fighting I could do on my own and that I wasn’t weak because I needed that little orange pill and instead, I chose to recognize that it gave me a good chunk of my life back. I was able to let Zachy go for weekend excursions to his grandparents, I was able to take him into public environments and not concentrate on the germs that could be reaching him, I was able to FEEL something again that wasn’t doubt, sadness or anger. Something I didn’t do that I wish I did, was reach out to support groups or get legitimate treatment that involved counselling and was in an environment where other women were stuck where I was at, because I felt that I was casting enough negative judgment on myself that I didn’t need other people looking at me like I was nuts either- that feeling ALONE stopped me from pursuing them… however little did I know it probably would have sped up my recovery and I’d be in a different spot even today with a lot of new friends too. I will admit first hand I did not do everything perfectly within my recovery- I’m only human. However, the help I did receive worked for me, some people may need more and some people may need less- you can’t base your walk against someone else’s. We all have our skeletons and our stories are ALL different so doing that, is nothing but unfair to yourself.

To kind of wrap this up here, I get lost in the thought of God looking at Kyle and I, as he was creating this being of perfection and saying HERE, you two; broken, sin filled people- I chose you to be this boy’s parents… To raise him up as the man he’s most capable of being. Always keeping in mind he will one day become some one’s friend, some one’s husband, some one’s father… The phenomenon that is parenting is a whole new WORLD than what I expected but I find myself praying every single day that Kyle and I are able to light a path for him where he naturally radiates kindness, compassion and care for others as he grows and experiences life. That being said, I don’t know what we did right in life to have him be ours, like it really doesn’t make sense. However, being able to start every day with that beautiful smile and, “Hi mum mum, hug!” – saves me. It saves me every single day, because each morning I wake up and take that first breath, it’s for him. Everything I do now, each choice I make is for that little guy. I get up, I live my life, I conquer how I’m feeling; whatever it may be- and be the mother that little man deserves. PPD doesn’t define you, you are STILL an amazing mom, you are STILL an amazing woman, you are STILL loved, appreciated and valued as the incredible human being you are. I don’t care if someone has to write those words out and stick it to their mirror to remind them of those facts every single day- you are just as important, you are just as worth it and you are just as human as everyone around you. You are allowed to have terrible days, you’re allowed to cry, and you’re allowed to be imperfect… But I’m sure you have a child staring up at you the exact same way mine does- That love is unconditional and that love is REAL for their mama; and if nothing else is going to get you through the day, that will. Those little ones don’t know how much we owe them eh? You can always rely on their love; they’re so naive and it’s beautiful.

Still to this day, I can certainly say I’m still not back on two feet. I struggle with an ugly form of anxiety more now than ever before, but it’s just another bump in my path… I’ve had a couple life-rugs pulled out from underneath me when I’ve least expected it and I’ve wound up here…Now, where “Here” is, happens to be a long story that may just end up as another blog post one day. ;)

BUT I fought PPD and I won, so I will keep fighting and winning my battles because I have darn good reason to do so.

His name is Zachary Paul.

31 goals


I turned 31 two weeks ago.  It felt just like any other day.  There was no fanfare, no trumpet blowing, no life-changing ‘a-ha!’ moment to signal that another year had come and gone.  Just some loving friends who made sure I wasn’t forgotten, took me out for dinner, went to wander around the local art gallery’s Christmas light display (which was bizarre with no snow…. weird), and then to Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.

It was lovely.

But at dinner, my dear friend Laurel encouraged me to set 31 goals, as I turned 31.  She said it’s something she started doing at around 27, and she’s really enjoyed it.

To me, it seems almost like having to make 31 New Years Resolutions, because my birthday is a mere 3 weeks from the moment when the entire world notices that another year has come and gone, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve decided to take Laurel up on her suggestion, and I’ve decided to set 31 goals.

I’ll check back in around this time in 2016 and let you know how I did

  1.  Read 40 books (So far this year I’m at 22 of the 25 book goal I set for 2015.  I think I can pull it off.)
  2. Write every day (summer 2016 — I’m not going to Camp for the first time in 6 years.  I think writing about SOMETHING every day is a solid aspiration).
  3. Be generous.  I’m not limiting this.  I just want to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He tells me to with the money and time I’m blessed with — things like helping refugees and caring for the homeless.
  4. Actually use my Instagram account.  I just revamped it yesterday.  Follow me if you’d like: @epicwings84
  5. Love deeply.  Who cares if I get hurt?  Hurts heal, but regret takes longer.
  6. Learn to chord on my mandolin
  7. Learn to chord on my guitar
  8. Keep playing the violin
  9. Not hide my piano in its carry-case/bag, but actually play it every once in a while.
  10. Create a music nook in my basement — because 6, 7, 8, and 9
  11. Watch all the Star Wars movies.  I’ve never done it.  I want to know what they hype is about.
  12. Actually read my Bible.  I haven’t figured out what this looks like yet — whether I start a plan or just read, but I want that to be a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 deal, since I already missed my birthday goal start by 2 weeks.  Details to follow.
  13. de-clutter my home.  It’s so cluttered.  I can’t handle it.  I will be removing clutter, filing clutter, giving away and selling clutter.  And if I manage to pull out enough to clutter to have a sale of some sort, I will donate the proceeds to somewhere important — probably to refugees.  They hurt my heart and I want to help everywhere I can.
  14. pray more — not in a “God, this situation sucks please fix it” kind of way.  In a “I lean into the Spirit because the Spirit is in me, and let’s do life together” kind of way.
  15. Start running again.  This is a tentative, hopeful goal.  I don’t know if I can do it, because I wrecked my ankle a couple years ago.  When I stopped running, I then gained a bunch of weight, which leads me to 16….
  16. Lose 50 pounds.  Or more.  But at least 50.  But healthily.
  17. Eat good food.  Goal # 16 does not have to mean I don’t eat good food.  It means I stop eating sour keys and chips.  Seriously — big vices right there.  I just got a Ninja professional kitchen system for Christmas.  And a veggie Spiralizer for my birthday.  And a sweet frying pan.  I seriously feel like I can make anything.
  18. Learn.  I keep saying “if I were to ever go back to school, I would study….” Well, I’m not going to go back to school.  I haven’t paid off round 1 and 2 yet.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t just learn.
  19. do something adventurous and scary.  I haven’t decided what that is going to be yet.  Time will tell.
  20. Play more — do the things I love even if they seem a little childish and like a waste of time.  Like colouring.  Or playing in the rain.
  21. actually stick to my budget.  At the end of August, I created a spreadsheet that’s been really helping me watch where my money is going.  This needs to continue.
  22. Choose love.  Where I can judge, be snarky, be rude, or even just be apathetic… I must choose love.
  23. Practice my French.  I’m not teaching it anymore, and this is the third year in a row that I haven’t been using it regularly.  I don’t want to lose it.
  24. Drink water.  This sounds so cliche and ridiculous, but it’s something I really, really, really need to do.
  25. Take my vitamins every day lol.  See 24.  Also, I’m running out of goals.
  26. Take time to watch the sun both come up and go back down.  I tend to ignore the sunrises, because I firmly believe I should be sleeping, but they’re a part of the natural process, and their beauty is just as profound.
  27. Install a dog door in my back door so Kloe has freedom this summer — something she’ll miss not going to my Mom’s for 2 months.
  28. Road trip somewhere (in Ontario) that I’ve never been.
  29. Write a song.
  30. eat way, way less refined sugar
  31. Choose joy — life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

 

We’ll chat at the end of 2016 and I’ll let you know what I accomplished.  Do you have any goals?

You’re Loved No Matter What


I just finished reading You’re Loved No Matter What by Holley Gerth.  I knew I’d enjoy this book.  I’ve read one of her other books and have yet another sitting in my massive pile of books to be read.  I’ve also been following along with her blog for quite some time.  Coffee for your heart, anyone?

For me, this book couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’ve been struggling with feeling the weight of needing to be perfect for a long time, in many areas, and it was so refreshing to receive a release — not just from people saying ‘you put too much pressure on yourself’ — but from Jesus through Scripture as well.

Holley crafts the words of the book into a beautiful breath of fresh air that I know my heart needed.  I don’t need to strive for perfection.  It’s not what Jesus intends for me.  It’s not what anyone should expect of me.  I can go for excellence, and yet rest in the perfect Grace of God when my pursuit of excellence falls short and I don’t make it.  Trust me, I don’t make it a lot.

Holley gave excellent, practical, real-life examples of people who’ve gone through this very thing.  She talks about gratitude as the antidote to perfectionism.  When you can be thankful for what you have, why would you need to strive for what you can’t get?  She mentions Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts app.  I had it a while ago; I downloaded it shortly after reading (and loving!) One Thousand Gifts.  I started recording my way to 1000, trying to be grateful, but wound up feeling guilty because I was being grateful for the same things over and over again….. So I deleted the app.  I couldn’t even get gratitude right!  Talk about perfectionism.  When you can’t actually be grateful because you’ve imposed your own rules on how to be just that…. whoa.

So this book has given me the fresh perspective I need to give an ‘attitude of gratitude’ (as cheesy as that phrase really is…) another shot.  If gratitude is the antidote to perfectionism, and releasing my need to be perfect because I can’t be will let me breathe, sleep, and function better as a human being….. I feel like I have nothing to lose.I highly recommend this book, and in fact have already farmed my copy out.  If you’re tired of the try-hard “I can’t do this” “too much pressure” kind of life, relax and have a heart to heart with Holley Gerth.  She really does wiggle her way right into the places my heart needs to relax the most.

Worry Less So You Can Live More


I just finished another book (reviewing for the Nuts About Books program put out by Graf-Hill Communications).  It’s called “Worry Less So You Can Live More.”

image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/worry-less-so-you-can-live-more/351991
image source: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/worry-less-so-you-can-live-more/351991

I’ll be honest, when I said I’d read the book I expected it to be just like every other book on worry I’ve ever read.  I’m a worrier myself, so this is not the first Christian self-help book on worry I’ve cracked open. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was not a word-for-word reiteration of what scriptures say about worry, but was instead a beautiful journey with author Jane Rubietta through what it looks like to live a life of worry, and what the alternative of living life leaning into God can look like.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a word-for-word exposé on what God has to say through Scripture about worry, but I was glad to find that this book was more than that. It’s a beautifully written anecdotal toolbox for how to replace worry with things like hope, praise, anticipation, and joy ~ because worry is the antithesis and thief to all of those things.  Jane Rubietta has a wonderful writing style which kept me engaged all the way through.

If I had to choose a favourite chapter (without spoiling anything), it would definitely be the one on fireflies.  And I’ll let you read the rest for yourself. Each chapter was accompanied by deep, thought-provoking questions which made me reflect deeply on some of my own worry-filled and worrisome tendencies, but what I appreciated the most about each chapter were the quotes, votums, and benedictions that Rubietta put at the end.  Quotes, both from Scripture and elsewhere, served to reinforce everything Rubietta had said in the chapter, and served as a clear reminder that if sometimes you feel that you’re the only one who struggles with this ~ you’re not.  Votums were like a prayer prayed right from my heart, even though I’ve never met the author.  Benedictions were like an answer to those prayers, each of which hit me with strength.

I finished the book feeling like I knew Jane Rubietta personally ~ like I could run into her in a coffee shop, give her a great big hug, and sit down and talk to her for hours over a latte.  Her writing was so deeply personal that it really connected me to the text and what she was saying.  This author is not someone who has perfected the art of living worry-free and is then preaching at the reader from a high horse of having it all figured out.  Instead, she crafted beautiful pieces of wonderful imagery woven together to show that we’re all in this together.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with worrying and perfectionism like I do.  It’s a good read, it’s a fairly quick read, and if I’m right about this book ~ I think it’s a read that will stick with you in the weeks to come.

Why I’m not one of Dean Brody’s Canadian Girls


Disclaimer:  I know the song was not written to be an all-encompassing description of the definitive Canadian Girl.  It’s just that every time I hear the song it makes me snicker to think how much it doesn’t describe me, so I’m blogging it.

 

First, if you haven’t heard this song, check it out ~

 

And now, please chuckle along as I pick apart how different I am from the lyrics of this song 😛

She grew up watching hockey
With her daddy on Saturday nights

Nope, not me!  I hate hockey!  And my Dad never really watched it!
He taught her how to tie her skates
Her brothers taught her how to fight

I hate skating.  I don’t know how to tie skates.  I fall down when I skate.  I don’t like falling down… so I avoid skating.
She can wear high heels or flannel

I don’t like high heels all that much, and I don’t think I own anything flannel, though I’m sure I could wear both if I wanted to… though not at the same time.  That’s a no-no I’m sure.
She can look sexy in a tuque

No one looks sexy in a tuque.  Warm?  Yes.  Sexy?  No.
She likes snow storms and Gordon Lightfoot

I like neither of those things.  Neither.
And if you’re lucky she’ll love you

That’s true….
Canadian girls, Canadian girls
Irresistible, lovable, trouble though sometimes – girls
We could travel the world
From New York to Paris, France
But we’re always gonna come back, Canadian girls

Baby, she likes to snowboard

I did try that once, I liked it.  It was fun.
And spend her summers out on a boat

Nope.
Thinks the perfect night out is a cabin
Smell of coffee on an old wood-stove

I’m sure that smells awesome, but that doesn’t sound like the perfect night.
She won’t admit she watched Degrassi

I can’t admit it…. I didn’t watch it… I’ve never seen it.
She’s proud and she’s sometimes quiet

I’m never quiet.
A true north national treasure
She’d give her life for the red and white

I am a national treasure, but…..

Canadian girls, Canadian girls
Irresistible, lovable, trouble though sometimes – girls
We could travel the world
From New York to Paris, France
But we’re always gonna come back Canadian girls

Well us boys we like our fishin’
Our hockey and Ron McLean

Who is Ron McLean??  And why do boys like him?
We like Moosehead beer and whitetail deer
Stompin’ Tom and the USA
And we like the foreign ladies
Their accents are really nice
But there ain’t nothin like our northern girls
To keep us warm at night

Canadian girls, Canadian girls
Irresistible, lovable, trouble though sometimes – girls
We could travel the world
From New York to Paris, France
But we’re always gonna come back Canadian girls

From the mountains to the ocean sands
Tuktoyaktuk to Newfoundland
You keep us coming back Canadian girls

 

I’ve been waiting a long time to pick this song apart… just happened to be in my head tonight because it was the last song on in the car when I got out.  I like the song, don’t get me wrong, I’m just nothing like the Canadian girl he describes 😉

Are you?

The Dollarama Incident


Yesterday evening, something happened that I feel I must share with you, my faithful readers.  I was (wrongly) accused of shoplifting yesterday in a Dollarama… of shoplifting chocolate bars.

I hadn’t, naturally.  There are better things I can think of attempting shoplifting on for the first time than a Peanut Butter Oh Henry and a Reese Peanut Butter Cup.

But here’s the story.

I went into Dollarama after a trip to Costco with a friend.  I can’t remember even 24 hours later what I went in for, it couldn’t have been that important, but I went in because I obviously thought I needed something.  I go into this Dollarama all. the. time.  It’s maybe a minute from my house, and teaching means Dollarama is a girl’s best friend.  No joke.  At least once a week.

While I was in the candy aisle, texting a friend, I was kind of pacing back and forth.  My hands were in and out of my pockets because that’s where my phone was, and I kept picking up chocolate bars and putting them back down because a) I couldn’t  make up my mind on what I wanted, and b) I was trying to remember what I went in for, and c) my friend and I were making plans for tonight.  While I was pacing, I caught sight of this woman who appeared to have just paid for her purchase, standing just by the cash register counters.  She was staring at me, and not discreetly.  When I caught her stare, I looked back at her with a “what?!” kind of look, and when she continued to stare, making me uncomfortable, I put the chocolate bars down and turned to leave the aisle.

See, my first thought was that she was fat-shaming me.  I don’t know why I assumed this, because she was about the same size as me, but my own insecurity played out and my inner voice saying “you don’t need this” led me to jump to the absurd conclusion that this woman was judging me for buying candy.

Somewhat thankfully, she was not fat-shaming me.  Instead though, she was assuming that when I put the chocolate bars down, I didn’t put them back on the shelf but in my purse.  She alerted a cashier of her assumption.  I can’t fault her for this, I guess.  I suppose as I look back at this incident that if I was sure I saw someone shoplifting, I’d probably tell someone as well.  After all, when things get stolen, prices go up because the store isn’t making their projected profit.  Also, on the level of my inner Junior Kindergarten student, it isn’t fair that I have to pay for things when other people don’t.  Yup, I’m petty like that.  What I hope I wouldn’t do is stare awkwardly, even after alerting staff to the situation.

This woman did that.

Over the PA system came the alert “Security scan all aisles.”  I didn’t think anything of it.  I hadn’t done anything unseemly.  A cashier I was familiar with (like I said, I’m in there all the time) came down the aisle I was in, and I turned and said hi.  She walked up behind me, and the conversation went like this:

“It’s been reported to us that you were seen putting chocolate bars into your purse.”

“I didn’t, I put two down, back in their box, cuz that lady at the cash counter is staring at me and making me uncomfortable.”

“Would you mind showing me your purse?”

“Sure, I don’t have anything to hide.”

I took my purse apart, showed her the various pockets, and then rifled through the collection of tampons, pepto bismol, advil, lip gloss, hair brushes, bobby pins, and elastics that collect at the bottom.  Satisfied with what I’d shown her, she apologized and thanked me for cooperating.

That should be the end, because like I said, I didn’t do anything wrong, but as I rounded a corner, this woman was still staring at me.  I still couldn’t remember what I was there for, so now I’d taken to wandering up and down the aisles, looking for whatever it was I went in for.

Down to the heart of this…. I feel like I need to share what’s bugging me about it.

Just minutes before all of this went down, and then again just a minute or two later, I had run into one of our grade 8 students from my school.  As a teacher, we’re cautioned very strongly about our reputation, and even more strongly about the perception of our reputation.  I don’t think this grade 8 student saw me being searched in the middle of the store, right in front of the toy section, but I know that it wouldn’t be good if he did.  He’s a lovely student, and so I’d hope he’d be able to see the truth and not spread rumours, but rumours are all it takes before parents don’t trust their child’s teacher because they heard she steals.  I run our school’s book fair, I collect student money on occasion…. if my students’ parents hear that I was accused of shoplifting at Dollarama, why would they have any reason to trust me with their money?

What I would like to have seen is a discreet cashier who gave me the opportunity to show her the contents of my purse in private.  I didn’t think it through in the moment, I just wanted to show very quickly that I wasn’t a thief.  It was embarrassing, though, to have to do that with complete strangers standing watching, and I spent a good deal of time last night fretting about what was going to happen at school today if the student saw anything or said anything…. and I sincerely feel that that was unnecessary.  It was unnecessary worry in the first place, and I know that, and I should have known better, but it isn’t a situation that should have happened, in my opinion.  I sincerely believe that there’s a more dignified way to prove you’re not a thief.

I don’t know what it is, because I imagine if I HAD tried to sneak the chocolate bars into my purse, asking to speak to me in private wouldn’t have helped, because the crowd of witnesses would have been helpful while I refused to open my purse based on the privacy act and blah blah blah…..

I just think there has to be a better way.

Am I the only one?

Has this happened to you before?

What do you think?

After Stares-a-lot left the store and I regained my composure, though I never did remember what I went in for, I finally decided on at least a Toblerone and went and stood in line to pay for it.  The cashier that had searched my purse in the first place came over to me to apologize, explaining that as soon as she saw who they’d accused, she thought it couldn’t possibly be true, because “you’re in here all the time and you always pay for your stuff.”  To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disconcerting.  I mean, I’m glad I’m trustworthy and all, but that might mean I’m in Dollarama FAR too often.  She said she hoped I wasn’t offended, and apologized sincerely again.  I was not upset with her in the least, she was just doing her job.

I paid for my Toblerone and went on my way, but while leaving the store to go to my car, I saw the lady who’d reported me leaning against the wall outside the store with her friends, still staring at me.  All I can say is I think she’s lucky I wasn’t in the mood for a fight and that Gotham was about to start, because I had half a mind to go encourage her to be a bit more certain next time she accuses someone of shoplifting.  But, I guess on the good side for all of us, Gotham was about to start, and I had a Toblerone to eat.