Thursday, 15 November 2018

LIVING ON THE FRONT LINES

This year was the most unusual Remembrance Day I have ever witnessed. It was, to my recollection, the first time our family did not attend an official Remembrance Day ceremony together. Instead, I took our youngest child to church, were we observed the traditional moment of silence; the remainder of the family each observed the day independently.

I spent some time today thinking about how to present the subject of war to my 7-yr-old. He knows there were soldiers who died, but he has yet to see any videos or historical literature of the subject. Although I could easily turn on the TV and choose an appropriate show to share with him, I wondered if it would just seem like a movie to him. That's not how wars are fought today; it looks like a movie scene to our youngest generation.

So what do you say when your child asks if they will ever have to go to war? I have to be honest - my mind reels at the thought of my children ever being near an actual war zone. Yet, more importantly, we fight a war every day which we rarely talk about. It is a battle for our souls, our minds, our joy, and all things good and precious; we live on the front lines of a spiritual warfare every. single. day.

In any war, the first thing you must know is: Who is my enemy, and who is my ally? It is not so different in the war for our mind and soul. Besides Satan himself, I consider anyone an enemy who tries to sabotage my joy, my confidence, or my family. Allies are people who cheer for us, even when others would believe the worst of us. If you are unsure whether someone is for you, odds are very good they're not; true allies are vocal - not unlike parents on the sidelines of sporting events.

The next important thing to know in war is: What is my mission? I imagine in wars past the soldiers often questioned, "Why this hill?" Lives were lost claiming small pieces of land at a time; aren't we still like that today? We will risk a relationship to claim the small hill of being right. We will sacrifice our contentment for the prize of keeping up with our neighbor. Be careful which hills you choose to battle for; always consider the cost versus the reward.

If I were in a physical war, I would want to know what my weapons are. It is no different in the war for my well-being, or the war for my eternal life. Key weapons I have identified thus far are the promises of God, the power of prayer, the current of friendship, and the lantern of hope. Any one of these may get us through the day, but the combination is enough to carry us all the way to a victorious finish.

Perhaps the key question we can ask is: What am I fighting for? Our veterans fought for justice and liberty. Many wars today are about power and money. The war that is relevant to each of us, waged on our minds every day, is for eternity. There is no enemy attack where there is no prize to be gained. Rest assured that if you are feeling weary, battle-scarred and wounded, the enemy of your soul is trying to shift your focus to things of today so that you ignore all thoughts of eternity.

Show up to the front lines of your life today! Is your joy being robbed by fear, jealousy or bitterness? "Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you." (James 4:7 NCV) Are you convinced that you don't have the strength to fight? "...And after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then..." Just stand. Your weapons - prayer, promises of God, friendship and hope - will serve you well if you do nothing but stand. Just show up.

Life is a battlefield, but there will be a winning side! I choose today to rebuke anything that would steal my peace. There will be days of loss and hardship, but the big picture says there's a big reward for just standing my ground. I'd love to have you standing beside me.

Please leave a comment below if I can pray for you today. None of us fight alone. That's the one beauty of a war zone.

Hugs,
Vicki

Friday, 2 November 2018

A THANK YOU TO FRIENDS PAST AND PRESENT





It is always the hardest seasons that bring forth the most growth in my life. So it has been with mixed emotions recently that I have dug deep and begun to remove the old to make room for the new. This is definitely hardest when it comes to people.

I have always thought friendships should last forever. Every single time I am wrong, I cry like a newborn who is abandoned and starving. It hurts my heart to lose someone who once knew my favorite treats, my hardest days, my moods and my secrets. I do not throw my heart open easily, and I am careful with promises. The end of a friendship feels like failure to me.

With all of that in mind, I feel that I have apologies to make. A recent challenge to purge the old, prepare for the new, and preserve the good has redefined my heart. 



 At the end of a growing season, the fruit is harvested from the garden. When there is excess, much of it is preserved, or prepared for storage. If one were to place the fresh food on the counter and simply leave it there, regardless of how much water and sunlight and company it receives, the food would rot. It must be preserved while it is still good and fresh. 

Preserved food still nourishes. In fact, once you have made pickles or jam/jelly and sealed the lid, you can even choose whether the food will nourish your household or someone else's. I am coming to understand that friendship is the same way. 

It is my duty to determine whether a friendship has been given to me for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Friendships given for a reason typically identify themselves quickly: You know when you encounter someone who meets a need in your life. The difficulty for me has been differentiating between the seasonal and lifetime friendships. 


And so comes my apology. Some of you were meant to be my friends for a season. We were apples  on different branches. We grew side by side for a while, sharing sunny days and weathering rainy ones together. Then our branches grew in different directions. 


Yes, we could still hear the same soundtrack: birds singing sweetly whole children grew and flew our nests, then grandchildren arrived. We were still nourished by the same roots: whether it was childhood memories, a love for God, or our involvement in a group together; the memories bonded us. But we were farther apart now, and nothing could change the fact that we were heading in different directions.

I kept listening to the soundtrack, hoping we could continue dancing in step together. I didn't understand that apples are seasonal fruit; as such, they must fall. Some will wind up in the same pie, having spent all their days together. Others will land in separate baskets, and while they may be aware of each other's fates, it is from a distance. I tried to keep us both attached to the tree, and risked us both rotting there; changing seasons demand to be recognized. 


Like fruit picked in season, our time together has ended. Like apples turned into a jar of jelly, you are in the storage room of my heart. And when days grow cold and my coffee is poured and I sit with the Bread of Life, the jelly of memories made together will nourish us both. It will keep my heart soft, while the prayers I offer with your name whispered will find their way to you as blessings big and small. 


Thank you, my friends for a reason. Whether you met my need or whether I met yours - I am blessed to have been with you. 


Thank you, my friends for a season. I would not be who I am today without our days together. And falling hurts, but it preserves us.


Thank you, my lifetime friends. You are few in number, but rich in grace and love. We have been through every season and you still see value in me. 


If friendship were a garden, I have grown the most beautiful flowers. Keep blooming, my friends. 


Thursday, 4 October 2018

I'M NOT DEPRESSED

I'm not depressed. The doctor said I'm not depressed.

I went to the doctor months ago. I told him I have a heavy feeling in my chest and I can't stay awake. He asked if I entertained thoughts of suicide; I said no. He told me I'm not depressed.

I'm not even really sad. I don't spend hours crying, and I still participate in life. I enjoy time with friends, I love to read books and drink coffee or tea, and recently I even love my job! But I nod off at my desk because I literally can. not. stay. awake. But I'm not depressed.

I have a new grandbaby, and I love to steal her for cuddles as often as possible. I look forward to watching her grow, and I adore her giggles. I have reasons to want to see the future. I am not depressed.

When I can't be with my granddaughter, I still have my 7-year-old cuddle buddy. I took pictures last night of him pinning me down in his sleep. At all times, an arm or a leg is on top of me, ensuring I don't leave his side. In waking moments, he says the most romantic things to me! He makes me feel beautiful and loved just the way I am. I would do anything for more time with that little boy! I am not depressed.

 My husband does all of the cooking while I nod off on the couch. I am zapped of energy when I walk through the front door. But I am not depressed.

My husband does most of the cleaning. I spent $500 on new crate cupboards so that the dishes and baking goods are more accessible and I could reach to participate in kitchen activities. But I live in between naps and touch the cupboards fondly while I'm getting a drink in the middle of the night. But I'm not depressed.

Every day there is more bad news in mainstream media. Conditions around the world are frightening, anger-inducing, and heart-wrenching; yet, on the average day, I feel none of that. It took a story about a missing 7-year-old whose 3 older siblings were looking for him to bring a tear to my eye. Because I saw my 7-year-old and his 3 older siblings. I have no emotional investment until it relates to me; this is new for me. But I'm not depressed.

I live in hope that things will change - that I will get back the old, passionate, emotional me. Maybe when menopause has passed. Or maybe after my weight loss surgery. Or maybe this is just a funk and I'll find my way out of it. At least it's not permanent ... because this is not depression. The doctor said I'm not depressed.



Tuesday, 2 October 2018

GRACED TO GROW

It has been six years since our family was blessed with a fresh start. After living through divorce, blending our families, and then losing our youngest family member, we were beaten down and soul weary. When you consider the number of friends and allies we had lost, there is no other word for our rescue than "grace."

In my early years - and well into my adult life - I believed mercy and grace to be the same thing. Learning the difference was a revelation to me. If you are still waiting for your moment of clarity on this subject, I would summarize it this way: Mercy withholds the punishment we deserve, while grace gifts us with what we have not earned. Mercy subtracts, grace adds -- and gratitude multiplies all.

I have never been less than teary-eyed grateful for the life I am now living. I have, however, been challenged with passing the grace I have received along to others. It can be easy to settle into a greatly-blessed and highly-favored mentality, expecting everyone to get in line with how I feel I should be treated. After all - God has blessed me, and what mere human dares defy Him?!

Recently, I read a verse that I had memorized as a child. Somehow, I saw it with new eyes, and felt it smash into my heart like a ton of bricks. "And forgive us our sins," it read, "for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us."

Right away, I identified the problem. This verse didn't feel right because it simply wasn't true in my life. I have not forgiven everyone indebted to me. If I were honest, I had no intent to ever fully forgive a couple of them. They hurt me, in ways they couldn't begin to imagine or care about; they don't deserve my forgiveness.

Then the voice of my Good, Good Heavenly Father whispered:



"...As we forgive..." You mean that other verse in Mark about receiving the same measure we give applies to forgiveness?


"Not just that," my Heavenly Father whispered. "You are called to go the extra mile."

The extra mile?! You mean basic forgiveness isn't enough? I have to give them a combo deal with dessert, too? What does that look like?!

And, as He always does, He answered:


Oh, I don't know if I can do this. It has taken a long time to even think about forgiveness. I could gradually acclimate myself to kindness, I suppose - especially if we maintain our lives at a distance from each other. But tenderhearted? God, you're asking me to tread impossible ground right now.

But wait. Was I more deserving? One of the good things about social media is that it offers a memory of each day from years past. Let me tell you that my memories from 10 years ago are humbling in every manner of the word! Did that version of me deserve the life I lead today? Many would argue "No."

And even as I think these things through, I enter the church on a Sunday morning. The worship is incredible; the songs minister to my heart. And my wonderful pastor takes the microphone. He begins to speak on "Conquerors Are Reconcilers." He issues a challenge to write the name of someone we had written off, and to begin to pray for them.

I can't, Lord. It's too soon - I need time to warm up to this idea.

But you've had 18 years and a cross-country move. Your kids are grown and safe, and you have the blessing of a grandbaby. To whom much is given ....

I know. Deep in my heart, I know. This is the time. This is my proving grounds.

I wake in the middle of the night to what feels like a giant blood blister just inside the corner of my mouth. Completely taken aback as to how it got there, I stand in front of the mirror to examine the thing. While it feels like a blister, it has the appearance of a canker sore. My first thought is, "I haven't had one of those since ... well, I was still with my ex-husband!"

And my spirit hears the Heavenly Spirit whisper so clearly: "Now will you pray for him? Every time you feel that blister, will you pray for the one person you've written off? Can you bring yourself to understand that you were no more deserving of grace than he is?"

No, God. I can't.You don't understand.

Except ... He does understand. My parents, lost friends, and even my ex-husband have hurt me no worse than I have hurt my Heavenly Father. In ways that only He and I fully know, I should have been written off years ago. Yet, here I stand. Except for grace ...

And so begins my journey. From basic forgiveness to luxury-edition, full-out grace. It may not be instant. It will for sure tear my heart in every direction as I strive not to leave my kids feeling betrayed or bewildered. It will be scary, as my current marriage often feels as though it is on its own proving grounds at the moment.

I have no idea what this grace and forgiveness will look like. But I am committed to praying it through. My heart stands on grace, and I am pushing down every wall. My heart will be as free as the air I breathe. My cup of grace will overflow with bubbles of joy. I will stand in wide open spaces, throw my arms in cross-shaped form, and confidently declare, "I stand amazed."


Thursday, 20 September 2018

WHO DO YOU THINK I AM?

Have you ever been re-reading your favorite book and discovered a brand new line of content? Not that the words weren't there before - just that you hadn't seen or absorbed them. That's what happened to me recently while reading my Bible.

"People thought that Jesus was Joseph's son." ~ Luke 3:23 (NCV)

When you read that phrase, it makes perfect sense. Joseph was there when Jesus was born, and certainly played the role of earthly father to Jesus. Short of a DNA test, why would anyone suspect otherwise?

What's interesting to me is how Jesus responded to this popular belief. He didn't wear a t-shirt captioned "<------ He's not my dad!" Jesus didn't announce at the beginning of every sermon that he was raised by a step-father. Nor did He post signs or pay the media to clarify who He was. Jesus allowed people to learn the truth behind His identity by drawing near to Him, and by listening to His teachings.

So how do I compare? When someone makes assumptions about me or my life based on a passing glance, how do I respond? Do I deal harshly with them with glaring eyes and sharp words? Do I post on social media about it? Do I invest energy in turning my friends against my assessors? Or do I invite them to come close and hear my heart?

I'm afraid I've been guilty of reactingrather than responding. I take flight rather than invite. And, to be bravely honest, I probably induce more judgment upon myself with my resistance.

Some people will tell you I scare easily. Others will tell you I am highly critical of how men treat their lady of choice. Still others will tell you that I am too selective with whom I accept as friends on social media. If I allowed you to linger and hear my story, you would know all of those things are both true and related: it's part of surviving domestic abuse and abandonment.

Some will meet me only in passing through business transactions, and will label me as a difficult customer. Those who know me will tell you it's a combination of my desire to be a good steward of my money, the knowledge I have gained through my work in Warranty, and my passion to blaze a trail for those who come behind me.

Professionals who worked with my older children would tell you I was a strict disciplinarian. One woman once told me my children were too well-mannered - likely out of fear, she assesed. Professionals who work with my 7-yr-old today will tell you that they rarely see me be serious with him, and that he is somewhat indulged. Listening to the opinions of the passers-by would confuse you, but step into my home. See the photos of a beautiful girl who took a piece of my heart with her and forever changed how I parent.

Some who have known me all my life question my relationships with family. Only those who walk with me will see how hard I try, how consistently I am rejected, and how much it costs me to keep trying. This past week has been one of the most hurtful in years, and I considered using social media to set the record straight again. And then I read the Scripture verse I shared earlier: "People thought..."

Only when the crowds paused to hear Jesus teach did they learn, "If you have seen Me, you have seen my Father. I and my Father are one." Only those who remained at the Crucifixion heard Jesus call out "Father! Why have you forsaken me?" And even Joseph knew, this child came with DNA and destiny far greater than what people thought.

So I extend a peaxe offering. I'm not here to argue with what you think of me; I'm here to invite you in. Come to my table - at home, at the coffee shop, or at the local pizzeria. I'm inviting you into my arms - at church, at the office, or at the grocery store. Let's throw away the labels that keep us from hearing each other's  hearts. Let's not be people who thought, but rather people who taught ... love and compassion.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

TIME FOR A CHANGE



"Nothing gold can stay," the poet says. It sounds depressing, but I don't believe that was his intention. Rather, this is a poetic way of stating a fact of life: it's all about seasons and change.

This poem has come to life for me in recent days, as harvest begins on the prairies. Fields covered with golden canola blossoms just weeks ago now stand in tones of burnt blonde, or lie swathed and waiting for pickup.




Beaches which were well-frequented and highly populated all summer, now looking more solitary in the evenings.


As if on cue, my mind and body recognize a new season and begin to change. Muscles, tense from a season of sitting at a desk, begin to relax with time in the lake/pool, bicycle rides and yoga ball stretches.

I have time to devote to memories and goals. Some of this is healing, while some of it just leaves the heart feeling raw. Similar to the harvested crop, I'm mostly ready to put the good parts to use and prep for a new season and a different product.

It's not awful, this fading of gold. I love the cooler mornings, the comfort of owning my skin, and the view in the rear-view mirror. The hiĺls and valleys made me stronger, the lonely stretches forced me to know myself better, and the seasons of color marked me with laugh lines and happy tears. The horizon is full of unknowns, but I'm thankful for that, too. I would spend too much energy dreading the hard days.

Golden canola blossoms turn into food products. Golden tansy flowers become a salve that soothes my aching feet. Gold coins turn into beverages shared with friends. Golden sunbeams turn into moonlight, cuddles and dreams.

Nothing gold can stay,
But when it fades away:
Oh the joy change brings
To those who choose to sing!





Friday, 17 August 2018

A DECADE OF DECISIONS

Today marks 12 years since my baby girl was taken from me. Twelve years of tears and tough decisions - of healing and hoping and praying and pressing pause.

The emotions of that night have never left me. I remember the shock, the fear - and the sting when I stopped at the church campgeound for prayers and comfort. I remember the buried needle on the dashboard, my mother-in-law wringing her hands, and the sound of my husband's voice. And I cry anew.

I remember little of the days that followed, yet all the rawness is fresh. Like a smoky sky, the haze of depression hung low and heavy. I remember the tears of her siblings, the feeling of helplesness, the inability to sleep, and the waves of nausea.

This memory surfaces even as I mourn a friend's failed adoption this week. This was the one - the first time in 12 years I was able to see the beauty in adoption again. This was the adoption restoring my hope that Heaven has a Master plan, and all things are redeemed.

I received very personal promises from God in prayer for this adoption. And while I have a head knowledge that His Word is sure, my shattered heart again begs the question: Why, God?! And what about Your promises?

If there is anything I have learned in the last 12 years, it is that God is close to the broken-hearted. You can't ask questions of someone if you're not speaking to them. So the more questions I have, the more time I spend talking to God. While it may not change the situation, prayer always changes me.

So I bring all my broken pieces, all my shattered hopes, and all my regrets to the Master. He is the weaver; I'm just a dreamer. And I dream of the day where mothers hold babies close to their hearts while being held close to the Heavenly Father.

I continue to live in hope.  And if you're reading this, my singing cuckoo bird, I pray that you are hearing His whispers of hope, sensing His healing hands, and know you are loved.