That Weird Girl #BellLetsTalk

I always thought I was just weird. That weird kid. A total spaz. It was a lie. But I believed it wholeheartedly.

That’s why I love Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk day (#BellLetsTalk) which is today.

Because it brings into the light something that has been hid too long in the dark. In shame. Covered in lies. Maybe Crazy Uncle Bill wasn’t crazy. Maybe there was more to cousin’s addiction than we understood. Maybe Nervous Nellie had something else going on. It was the big white elephant in the room but nobody dared talk about it. It’s happened in too many homes.

Thankfully things are starting to turn around. Mental health is being discussed openly for both caregivers and those who battle with it.

For me, the anxiety attacks started when I was ten years old. I had been sick with the stomach flu and once better, all of a sudden I was afraid to be anywhere but home. I was afraid of being sick again. I was afraid of throwing up. I was afraid of embarrassing myself in public. I felt unsafe in the world around me.

I would sit in school or church, rubbing my hands up and down my legs, continuously. The constant motion soothing my nerves. Until someone would turn around and tell me to stop. The noise was distracting.

Or I would be at my desk, looking fine on the outside but inside it felt like all hell had broken loose. My heart and mind were racing. I couldn’t concentrate on what was being said. All I could focus on was getting out of that classroom. I would count down the ticks of the clock. I would tell myself that I could get through the next five minutes. And then the next five. I would eat a hard candy to calm me down. By the time the class was done, I was exhausted from the mental battle that had raged for the last period.

Other times, I would get into OCD mode. (I didn’t even know that term then.) I would have to say or think things a certain way and if I didn’t, I had to start over again. And then repeat it perfectly or start over again. Because if I didn’t do it right, something bad was going to happen and it would be my fault.

I thought I was weird. I knew I had to get over it but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know what IT was.

As I got older and entered high school, I thought I was getting better. Managing it. I’d have occasional attacks but they weren’t as frequent.

In fact, I was numb.  What I was doing was stuffing things down deep. Eventually it comes back to the surface.  Rage masked the fear.

You either get mad or sad and I was definitely mad. Anxiety would overtake me and I’d get angry. Not wanting anyone to know that I was scared or panicky at some “imagined thing” because they’d think I was crazy, I would get mad.  My friends would be confused.  Why was I freaking out?  I felt like a freak.

When I really lost it, I would see red and there was no turning back. I broke things and once slammed my hand into a very hard door and had to get x-rays.

I could go on but I’m hoping you get the picture. It wasn’t until I was an adult that the words panic attack, agoraphobia and OCD entered my vocabulary. In research I had stumbled upon these words at different occasions and felt somewhat relieved that I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t the only one. That there was something to this.

For so many years I was ashamed of me. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it together. I thought I was broke. Maybe I was. But broke can be fixed.

I was afraid to talk about what was going on inside of my head and body. So I kept quiet. I didn’t ask for help until the anger was so bad that I was scaring myself and those I loved. I endured years of agony, exhaustion and shame.

That’s why I’m so glad that Bell Canada, Clara Hughes and some other very brave people have started this discussion. There is help out there but first you have to recognize what’s going on. Ignorance is not bliss. There is no shame in asking for help.  You are not weird and you are not alone.

 

TURN to Trust

She knew that the Lord would provide the strength to accomplish His purpose.
Redlettersigns.com

I finally emptied and put away some goodies I had gotten at a conference. I’d looked through it previously but had not done anything with it except separate the books out and then everything got shoved back in the bag to deal with “later.”

I’m pretty proud of myself. That bag could have sat there for a year. I know. I have a problem. I mean what’s the big deal? Empty the darn thing already. I could write several blogs on the issues that surround it but that’s not what I want to address today.

It’s what I found in the bag. Or rather had forgotten about. A sign. In more ways than one.

Because before clearing out the bag and putting everything away, I had been reading a book, Unlikely Rebel by Kelli Gotthardt. Sitting in her counsellor’s office she had been freaking out that she was going to mess up her kids. Her counsellor listens, then wisely says to Kelli, ‘ “This isn’t really about your kids, is it? This is about you learning to trust.” ‘ (p. 78, Unlikely Rebel)  Busted.

Just like Kelli, I have to learn to trust my kids with God. TURN to Him.  TURN to trusting Him to look after them, to love them, to care for them. I have to acknowledge that He can do all this better than I can. He can clean up my mess and mistakes. He can make it all better. Better than before even.

As parents we all have to come to this: to TURN to God and trust or go insane with worry, with control-itis (yes that’s a word!) and a whole host of other unhealthy issues.

Restless after reading, I decided to be productive and empty that bag. Get it up off the floor.

And then I came upon my sign. God was continuing this conversation with me.
Because it’s been an ongoing debate between me, myself and I and also with Him.

IMG_2457

As parents we all make mistakes with our children. It’s impossible not to because none of us are perfect. Even if we were, our children have minds of their own and interpret situations in different ways that we cannot always control. They may read circumstances or intentions wrong and come away with a wound that despite our best intentions, we could not have prevented.

I have to accept that. So do you.

At some point I have to trust God to walk my children through their issues. Just as He has been faithful to journey with me through mine. The only thing I can control here is to pray that they see their need for God, His grace and for truth to replace lies.

IMG_2461

She knew that the Lord would provide the strength to accomplish HIS purpose.

And not just with my kids. But with me too. He will finish what he has started. In me. Some days it feels like two steps forward and a hundred back. Other days we aren’t moving. At.All.

At these times I have to remind myself that He will accomplish HIS purpose. In me. In my kids. In my church. In my world. She knew that the Lord….

Some days I just need to know.

Finally as I’m glancing at the other word art I’d received in that bag, He finishes the conversation. It says: My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9

Guess what Jen? My power is made perfect in your weakness. All that stuff you think is weak, is imperfect, is a mess? It’s the stuff I use to make you whole. Show my power in your life, in your boys’ lives, in the church and in the world. I AM so much bigger than your weakness, your mistakes, your mess. My power is made perfect in your weakness. What are you doing wasting time worrying? Trust me, I AM.  Know that I AM. TURN to Me.

Whatever it is we are wrestling with today, whether it be kids, spouses, jobs, dreams, losses, I hope that you and I will know that the Lord… and we will trust Him to complete His purpose, and make his power perfect, in our lives and in the world around us.

I think that’s all I’m going to clean up today…

TURNING TO: Something New

My boys are off skiing today with their school. It’s an annual field trip for the senior grades. They have never skied. My husband grew up near Quebec and skied a lot. We lived in a very flat area for most of their lives and it hasn’t been a priority since we moved. So they haven’t had a chance to hit the slopes.

One of them didn’t want to go because he was going to be a beginner and the rest of his friends are, according to him, seasoned skiers. He’s at that age where peers matter. A.Lot.

I explained that everyone is a beginner at some point. Listen to the instructor and by the end of the day, you’ll be skiing with your friends. I could feel him tuning me out.

This attitude frustrates me. The idea that we have to master something right now.  That you can’t be a beginner.  I know partly it’s how kids are wired.  (How many of us adults are still wired.)  This child of mine wanted to do figure 8’s the first time he put on skates.  He was like four or five.  He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t do a figure 8 much less keep his balance. Like so many of us, he struggles with being a novice.  Today at the ski hill, he is a beginner while his friends are “pros”.  He did not want to go.

Why do we do that? Why do we TURN AWAY from trying something new? From adventure? From new places and new people? Instead of TURNING TOWARDS them?

Honestly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. How many times have I TURNED AWAY from new experiences or people because I was afraid? Afraid of what? What are we so afraid of? Of how we’d look. What people would think. That we might not do it right so don’t do it at all. That we would lose control. We don’t want to look like a beginners. Amateurs.

Because the world tells us those people are losers. No, we must be experts in everything we do. It’s that kind of attitude that makes us TURN AWAY from being an apprentice. The thing is being a pro in all things is boring. Experts can be arrogant. They are no fun to be around after a while.

TURNING TO a new thing or person, can cure that pretty fast. It takes humility and courage to ask for help. To admit you don’t understand or know how to do something. To receive the gift of advice, instruction or help. The learning curve of TURNING TO something new can be steep but so rich and fulfilling.

There’s also the other end of the spectrum of why we are so afraid. We TURN AWAY from new things because we just might be good at it. Sometimes success is scarier than failure.

Success can bring change. It might mean that we are suddenly ripped from the comfortable and thrust into the uncomfortable. Success means we become visible when we’d much rather be invisible. We might have to stop complaining about some things. It might make life harder in some areas. It may make it easier.

Either way, TURNING TO rather than AWAY from being a beginner or trying something new, it means change. Things are going to change for us. It might be highly significant or not at all. TURNING TO means moving forward. Forward means going up or down or straight. To go forward puts us in a place we haven’t been before. A new place.

IMG_2438

TURNING AWAY is retreat. I’m not saying that retreat is always bad. It may be necessary but for the most part I’d rather move forward or stay still until I can move forward, than retreat.

Another great thing about TURNING TO something new is that people love to help beginners. Don’t you find that? Don’t you love to be asked for help? It gives a sense of purpose to aid others. So when we TURN TO something new and a person can assist us, we all benefit.

Finally TURNING TO something new provides us with the opportunity to learn about ourselves. We find out what we like or don’t like. We learn our limitations or our potential. We discover what we can or can’t handle. We uncover more of who we are and who we can become. It might be painful. It might be exhilarating. Probably both.

We also learn about God. Can we count on him? Is He listening to us? What does He want us to learn from all this? We might discover His sense of humour or his artistry. We might see His majesty. We might TURN and see the love in His eyes as the song, Good Good Father, says. We might uncover a whole new side of His character that we would have missed out on if we had TURNED AWAY from this new thing.

What new thing, new encounter can you TURN TO today? I know at times we’d rather TURN AWAY but remember BRAVE? Let’s be brave and TURN TO the new things God wants to put into our lives and hearts today.  Our lives will be richer for it.

The Invitation of Wide Open Spaces

When trouble surrounded me, I cried out to the Eternal; He answered me and brought me to a wide, open space.   Psalm 118:5-6 The Voice 

We finally took down our Christmas tree. We left it up much later this year than is usual for us. We were savouring the lights in the early mornings and evenings. Our rabbit loved to sit under it. So we lingered at the tree a little longer.

But this weekend it was time for it to come down. I took off all the decorations. My husband and our oldest son dismantled it. (Too many allergies for a real tree, sadly.) Then my husband cleaned up not only the mess from the tree (yes fake ones have needles that fall off too!) but the whole room too. He managed to clear up in an hour what I haven’t been able to do in a week.  (I KNOW!)

My point?  This morning, I am enjoying some space.

Photo on 2016-01-11 at 10.33 AM #2

The Christmas tree is beautiful but it takes up some prized real estate in the house. After it’s down, the house always seems to expand.

It’s not just the house that is feeling roomy. As I look at the weeks ahead, my calendar is looking rather empty. I had to take some breathing room and I said no to some regular commitments.

It’s a good feeling to have space. To be able to exhale. To take stock. To rest. There is something freeing about having space to move, to think and to be.

I came across this verse from Psalm 118 this morning. I have always found it interesting that God not only answered the writer but took him to a wide, open space. Why? The psalmist says God had answered him. Does that mean that the answer was He took him to an open space? He was rescued by being taken away?

Or does it mean something else?

That in the open, when you have space, things can suddenly become clear? Chaos fades.

When clarity comes, you can see. Things you missed in the claustrophobia of busy, of deadlines, of to do. Clarity brings into focus what is important, what was being blocked by the frenzy and the panic of the rush. The walls that close in as we try to do more, as we try to control.  As we give in to fear.

In a wide open space you can see God. Because He fills it but there’s nothing claustrophobic about Him. A wide open space will let you see see yourself in relationship to Him. What does it look like? How far away are you from Him? How close?

IMG_0482

The next verse, the Psalmist says, The Eternal is with me, so I will not be afraid of anything. If God is on my side, how can anyone hurt me?
Maybe being brought to the wide open space, he could see that God was indeed right beside him so he could be brave. With a God so big that he fills the world with His presence, what was there to be afraid of? Maybe the psalmist saw that in the wide open space.

I could be totally wrong. I’m not a biblical scholar. I’m fascinated by wide open spaces.  I like them.  A.Lot.

Besides opening our eyes to the presence of God, a wide open space can do a few other useful things for us.

 

Wide open spaces invites deep cleansing breaths. Which clears the fog and cobwebs.

Wide open spaces entices one to lie down and rest. To gaze at the sky. To bring your body to stillness.

IMG_3708

Wide open spaces also inspires creativity. After the rest, comes art. A wide open space is a dance floor, and it calls for some dancing! Or skipping. Running. It lets imagination and play run wild.

Wide open spaces suggest an emptying of what is not needed and a filling of what is.

Wide open spaces are a wooing from the Eternal to draw close and see Him in the open. Like we never have before. To see Him as our Defender. Our friend. As our one and only God. As Creator. As Lover.

I look at my wide open calendar spaces. They have the feel of an invitation. To come. To see. To experience. To get to know Him as He fills in the blanks.

What about you?  Do you have any wide open spaces?  Or do you need to make some room so you can have some space?  What do you see in those wide open spaces?

TURNING BACK: Finding What I Thought I’d Lost

The year ended, leaving me, with a surprise. I know it’s now the new year and we are supposed to be looking forward but before I do, I need to TURN BACK to the old year for a minute. I need to process something I wasn’t expecting.

I found Christmas this year. I thought it was lost to me. It never really felt like Christmas. For you too? (What does Christmas feel like, really? Why can’t it change from year to year?) There was no snow. The boys were wearing hoodies not winter jackets. It was grey every day.

Advent was non-existent in our house. I didn’t decorate other than a few table decorations because we were having the staff over one night. The tree went up because the boys expected one (rightly so). But other than that, I opened a few boxes and closed them up again. I didn’t have the energy or spirit. I didn’t even set up our nativity scene, something I usually love.

So I fully expected nothing from Christmas. I hadn’t done my duty to prepare. Because it fully depends on our doing to experience Christmas, right? To wonder at the Christ child’s birth, we have to do advent readings. Attend church. That’s what we’re told, maybe not in words.

To feel Christmasy, the house must be cleaned and decorated to the nines. Our freezers must be loaded with baking and treats. We pressure ourselves every year.

IMG_2229
These didn’t happen this year! This photo is a year old at least!

 

It’s not just Christmas, either. Easter is starting to feel the same. It’s becoming something else to do rather than experience. We’ve messed it up. It all depends solely on us. All.Of.It. We think.

If we don’t participate, we tell ourselves, then we don’t deserve to see Jesus. That’s how I thought deep down although I probably wouldn’t have admitted it. I’m not saying that baking and decorating and Advent are bad. But what about grace? The outside glitter is okay but if it becomes the idol of Christmas then we need to TURN AWAY from it.

My TURNING AWAY this Christmas was rebelling against the status quo and being too exhausted to bother with it all. I’m weary of doing and chasing. I just said no to it all.

Saying no was the best gift I could’ve given myself. In the empty spaces that not baking, decorating, going and doing left behind, those spaces were filled with quiet, rest, and peace.

I thought I wouldn’t see Jesus this Christmas because I hadn’t done my part. After all, I had said no to Him. Rather, I had said no to the imposter that says to worship him I have to work hard to know him, I have to chase but never catch him. (Lynne Hybels in her book, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World, first clued me into this imposter.) I thought I had lost Christmas.

But the real Jesus, showed up in the quiet, in the rest and most of all, in the peacefulness of our home. I didn’t recognize him at first because I’ve been too focused on the imposter and the lies he’s been whispering. I believed all I deserved was a lump of coal. Naughty girl.

As I TURN BACK to the last couple of weeks, I see the presence of Jesus in our home and our lives. I was thinking about another problem one day and God showed me that sometimes when we think He is far from us, He’s actually sitting right beside us. Sometimes He waits for us to TURN TO Him. Other times He TURNS TO us first. And still others, He just sits with us. But in all of these situations, He is near. He is loving us. Even when we think He has abandoned us.

IMG_0161

That’s what I see, when I TURN BACK to Christmas 2015. I see wisps of his presence in the boys’ laughter and twinkling eyes. I see Him in the rest, against all odds, both my husband and I experienced. I see Him in the funny things Whiskers, our pet dwarf rabbit, does. I see Him in late night movies and chicken wings. And so much more.

IMG_2365

The emptiness brought fullness. The stopping instead of doing, brought focus. It all brought me face-to-face with the real Jesus. The true gift. Unexpected. Undeserved.

My desire In 2016, is to TURN TO the real Jesus. I won’t be doing anything else. The days of earning, striving, and chasing are over. (Although I know I will have to remind myself again and again about this. These lies have been ingrained in my DNA if feels like.)

TURN TO the real Jesus. And then, I’ll wait for Him to show Himself.

One Word (for 2016)

New year. New word. I was waffling about choosing a word this year. Wasn’t sure I’d get one. Maybe it was more that I didn’t want to sit still long enough to hear it. It was tempting to run from it.

The whole word thing for me is more of an exercise in seeing from a new perspective. It is not a religious thing or Christian thing at all. So not choosing to do this doesn’t make anyone less of a lover of Jesus. Let’s just be clear on that. I read about it on a blog a few years back and it fascinated me at the time. It took a couple of years to actually act on it.

IMG_2302

I’m a word person. I find them intriguing. I found filtering life through the word BRAVE last year gave me a whole new way of looking at life. So I’m curious about doing it again.

I don’t just choose a random word. I look at where I am in my journey and what themes have been bouncing around my head, in my life. I ask God what word is for me and then Listen. That’s it. There is no magical formula. You might go about it in a different way altogether. That’s okay.

A week ago, I finally started to listen. A few words came to mind. Create. Dangerous. Change. Change was resonating the most. A few things I‘ve read lately and watched, really got me thinking that I need to be the change. I’m not talking about playing God. Or that I have to do more. It’s not that.

This is what it is; instead of waiting for things to change on their own, being the catalyst for change when I can. Think Serenity Prayer. Following the nudge in my spirit telling me to act, instead of ignoring it. Instead of complaining about a situation or person, make a positive forward motion if it’s at all a possibility.

I thought about it some more and I really didn’t like the word CHANGE. It needed to be more and yet less. Then it came to me. TURN.

IMG_1477

We turn to something or someone. We turn away from things or people. We can turn into. In a sense, we turn back, we turn to and we can turn away from. Making a turn, is making a change. It’s dangerous and creative in so many ways. TURN is change but there is an added dimension to it. It’s richer.

TURN. I am going to filter 2016 through this word. Not sure what it will bring. What it’s going to teach me, what I will learn.

IMG_1480

Today, on this first day of January 2016, I am definitely turning away from 2015 and turning to the hope of 2016.

2015 was a hard year. Not that anything really terrible happened. It was about an inner journey that has been difficult. A lot of questions. Few answers. So I am happy to turn away from it. I’m not walking away from it empty-handed though. I’m taking a few things with me as I TURN to the new year. Even in suffering, questions, doubts, good can be birthed.

I’m taking the things I learned about living BRAVE with me as I TURN to this new year. TURNING takes courage. I’ll need all the help I can get.

I’m taking the victories from 2015 and transferring and building on them into the 2016. Fear, anxiety, and lies will continue to be TURNED aside for bravery, hope and truth.

As I TURN to the new year, I turn with the hope that in a year’s time a few more things will be different. I read somewhere that despair comes about when there is no hope that things will ever change. It’s so very true. It’s stayed with me. I want things to evolve and grow and where I can be the change, I want to TURN into it.

What word is whispering in your heart and soul? Maybe that’s your word for the year. It’s worth thinking and praying about.

Or perhaps you just want to make some change too this new year. I have a couple of books I’d recommend for reading. You can’t read them without being transformed. That’s a good thing I think. They’ll make you uncomfortable and they’ll make you ask some difficult questions. At least, I hope they do. They rocked my world this year. I’ve mentioned them all at some point in my blogs. So if you are looking for a few books to shake you up and the world around you, put these on your reading list for 2016:

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
Help My Unbelief: When Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith by Barnabas Piper
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Nice Girls Don’t Change the Word by Lynne Hybels

Happy New Year!

Jen