Monday, 10 April 2017

All My X's

It's funny what middle age can do for a woman. She learns to let the little things go, to care less about public opinion, and to keep a small-but-tight circle of friends.
 
Most profound for me has been the recent urge to make friends with my X's. No, not men with whom I've had relationships, silly. I mean those X's on the care labels of my clothing. Those ones that scream, "Look how big you are! We're the reason you can't shop in 95% of clothing stores!" Those X's that have, for too long, defined too many women. 
 
 
 
I have eaten salads for lunch. I have worked out, and I have skipped meals. I have refused to look in the mirror. I have squeezed myself into ill-fitting clothing to avoid purchasing another X. I have reached a decision to stop doing all of the above.
 
Don't get me wrong: I know I'm overweight. I actually know that I fall into the morbidly obese category. I understand it's unhealthy, and I have shed tears and prayed about the numbers on the scale and the X's on my clothing tags. I am not giving up: I am deciding not let this define me; I will no longer spend every waking thought on this one aspect of who I am.
 
I am a wife and a mother. I am a musician and a loyal friend. I am an estranged sibling, the black sheep of my family, and the life of the party. I am a sinful saint, a reliable employee, and a quiet neighbor. I am a survivor of domestic abuse, a recipient of grace, and the favorite "daycare mom." I suspect each of these roles has contributed to the number of X's that have surpassed my number of chins in some way.
 
Worry solves nothing. Striving hasn't worked either. So, just for now, I'm going to become my own best friend. I'm going to buy clothes that fit, and look in the mirror before I leave the house. I'm going to buy scarves to cover the tags that pop up and tell people how many X's I wear. I'm going to strive to be a better me, one orthopaedic appointment at a time.
 
I have taken a second look at my family heritage scrapbook. I notice that I come from a long line of large ladies. I also notice that their weight decreases as they progress into the post-menopausal years. So here I am, telling myself this condition is both genetic and temporary. I will survive this like I've survived all the other hard chapters: through Christ, who strengthens me.
 
Skip the cookie, but not the cream - the coffee must still taste great! Eat more soup, make more poop. Play Pok√©mon Go with the 5-year-old - who cares why I'm walking?! Spend time at the park: swinging is great for the abs! The excess of X's shall pass; meanwhile ... I've got enough meat on my bones to ground me through the upcoming tornado season! Positive thoughts yield positive results, right?
 
 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

"Never Unfriended" - It's As Great As It Sounds!

It was a simple comment on a devotional, typed from my desk at the office. I truly didn't think I even had a chance of being selected for the Book Launch Team... but I felt impressed to share my heart on the subject of community. That's the funny thing about women: we often get used to rejection, but are somehow determined to conquer it.

The Book Launch invitation came with a digital sample of Lisa-Jo Baker's book, Never Unfriended. I had read no further than the first paragraph of the introduction before I was hooked! When I read the following quote, I knew this book would be one of those rare, life-changing reads:

"We want to matter to the people we think matter."
 
I had spent my entire life trying to matter:
  • To my father, who always chose my sister when each parent took one sibling
  • To the one schoolteacher who understood the depths of my sorrow after my grandfather passed, but excluded me from attending her wedding
  • To the cousin who took my only sibling for a one-on-one drive when he got his driver's license
  • To the boy who called me "Darling", but didn't respect my moral boundaries
  • To the man I first chose as my husband and father to my children, who beat me mercilessly while pursuing other women
  • To my step-daughter, whose attachment issues magnified my own inadequacies
  • To anyone. Anyone at all.
 
Never Unfriended unfolded like the pages of an old journal. It spoke of friendship PTSD, of the fear of being and/or welcoming the new girl, and of unresolved conflict. My life was nothing if not a series of all of the above! The sting of rejection and fear of conflict had led me to abandon a number of relationships to avoid more of either. This book is a manual for people who, like me, have grown tired of trying.
 

If you think you are alone in your friendship frustrations, please read Never Unfriended. Rays of hope shine from every page as Lisa-Jo Baker shares both her wounds and steps to healing. Tears will fall and spirits will rise as you read a book that ministers so deeply to the heart that it is impossible to put down. Never Unfriended has traveled with me to the lunchroom, to the bathroom, and to a hotel room. It will continue to travel in my heart.

I am so grateful to have been chosen as part of the Book Launch Team for Never Unfriended! I have been blessed by the fellow Team members, who shared stories, graphics and prayers. Authors like Lisa-Jo Baker, who come alive on the page and seem to sip your coffee with you as you read, are rare treasures. I see every woman through new eyes: I understand now that the challenge is the same for all of us - it is merely our reactions that differ.
 

Near the beginning, the author writes, "No one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman." The remaining pages are a road map to this eloquent statement near the end of the book: "Our business is to believe the best about people. We are not their judge, their jury, and we are certainly not their god. We are intended to be their blessing. On purpose."
 
My heart's desire is still to matter - but not to the people I think matter. I want to matter because I have made the world a warmer place with friendship offered freely.
 
 



Monday, 13 March 2017

"I Have Nobody!"

Our youngest child has been described by his siblings as "spoiled", due largely in part to the age difference of 12 years between himself and the next youngest. I suppose the loss of his sister to adoption has played a tremendous role as well; we have learned the value of every moment together. So it is that I often find myself in my "baby" boy's room at night.

Bedtime is for reading, tickling, talking about his day and sometimes singing. It's for shadow puppets and knock-knock jokes and lots and lots of cuddles. It's for building pillow-and-blanket forts and for strip-dancing and for wrestling with the puppy. Bedtime is for anything except sleep ... until it's time for sleep. When my skin is soaked with sweat from the little person seemingly Velcro'd to me, I sneak out for one last cup of coffee and some reading before sneaking quietly to my own bed.

"Momma!" came the cry, in the middle of the night.

"What?!" I responded, haggard from a particularly challenging day.

Silence. Then muffled cries.

Haphazardly falling out of bed, I grabbed my favorite body pillow for the trip. I shuffled through the hallway to his bedroom, and was shocked to hear how distressed my boy actually was. "What do you need?" I asked him.

"Momma," he sobbed, "I have no one!"

Ouch. I could physically feel my heart breaking. "Yes, you do, buddy - you have me! I'm here."

And for the first time in all my life I understood how Scripture could compare God to a mother. How many times have we tearfully screamed "I have nobody!" even as He came to comfort us? There is never a time I will abandon my boy - though he is truly no longer a baby. How much more, then, does God long to shelter us in His heart, protected under His loving arms?

You are never alone. You are seen, known, and beloved of God. And if you need a "Jesus with skin on", you've got me. Let's sip a coffee together ... even if only virtually. Prayers that are whispered on Earth still echo in Heaven. Leave your name in the comments if you need me to send up a whisper for you today. <3

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

THE PERFECT STORM

We're experiencing the perfect storm on the prairies today. A travel-advisory, slippery, white-out conditions, old-fashioned blizzard. And if I were honest, I would tell you this has been the most soul-soothing day I have experienced in some time.

I grew up in the back woods of Canada's east coast. Driving winding country roads, hiking forest trails, swimming at the base of waterfalls and drinking from babbling brooks were integral parts of my childhood and teen years.

Early in my marriage and motherhood years, I moved to another province. Although time in the forest was less available, I spent more time on the shores of the ocean. The sound of the waves, the smell of the salt, the feel of warm sand, and the sight of sunrise/sunset over the endless motion of the waves? Well, this became my "thing" - my rescue when my soul craved peace and healing.

Moving to the prairies was a huge adventure, and at first was the change we needed. Over the past year, though, I have begun to struggle. There is neither forest nor ocean, and my line of work means summer is my busy season. There is no time for the soul food offered by being in nature. I'm drowning in thin air.

Until yesterday. In the middle of winter. In the middle of a closed-door, boardroom training session. There was a knock, news of being sent home early -  a blizzard making roada a safety risk. A nerve-wracking drive to a neighboring town to pick up our youngest from school. And then?

Wind. Glorious, rushing wind! The kind of wind that doesn't gust in quick bursts - rather, it howls up the length of the street. From any seat or bed on the north side of our home, an incoming wind "gust" sounds exactly like an incomimg tidal wave. I can close my eyes in our ocean-themed, northside bedroom and imagine I'm riding a wave. So soothing!

It has been a haunting 10 days of memories from the past. Our family has been contacted by people whose very names add an element of stress to any conversation. Some of it may be an answer to prayer: there are always hard roads to walk between hurt and healing. Knowing the wind and water have always been a salve to my soul, the Maker has sent me a perfect storm.

I have spent today reading, sipping coffee and snuggling my littlest person. Outside the window, the town is basically a sea of white. A windswept sea. A storm designed for me. I am so blessed!


Thursday, 2 March 2017

Forty Is Fabulous!

Y'all, I have got to try to put my excitement into words right now!

Today, I am 40 years old - a landmark which I have been so excited to reach! (I know, I'm weird ... and I'm OK with it.) But so much is happening so quickly that I can already tell this will be a wonderful decade for me, even if it is cut short by the end of the world. :)

My best friend randomly called a couple of days ago and asked if I've read Lysa Terkeurst's new book, "Uninvited." Although I've read plenty of excerpts online and fought the urge to order it on my credit card, I have not yet read the book. This was great news to Sara, who simply responded, "Good! I'm sending it to you; happy birthday. We're going to read it together." I was so excited! This goes well with the call I have been feeling to deepen relationships.

To add to that, I opened my e-mail yesterday to find I had been invited to participate in a book launch. Somehow, God thought it would be funny to launch me from 4.5 years of no close relationships into a season of opportunity that blows me completely away. The name of the book is "Never Unfriended" - so you just know it's going to be full of nuggets to bless my life! :)

Today, during a rare zero-work-on-my-desk moment, I pulled out the copy of Ann Voskamp's "The Broken Way" from my purse. An excerpt from today's chapter reads, "Every soul ... wants to experience a powerful connection. We want to be fully seen and experienced by Someone ... we want to know the wonder of being intimately known." Have more accurate words ever been written? And has anything ever been more timely?





Ten years ago, I was in isolation in a Children's Hospital room with my son. We were both fighting influenza A; my boy nearly lost that battle. I have joked a number of times that it was a pretty clear indicator of how the next decade would go: a struggle to be sure! How blessed I am today, then, to begin a new decade in a state of being seen, known, and understood. Each person in the book launch group has a heart wish exactly like mine: deeper connections.

If there's anything I know, it's that life is about seasons. I feel like I am entering a season of realizing hopes and dreams. I welcome new experiences, new friendships, and restoration in wounded places. I am grateful to have a few close friends along for the journey, and look forward to blessing others as I grow.

Yaaaayyyy! :-)

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

I AM SEEN


I am busy and tired. I pray every day; I ask God to lead me in His favor. I don't have time to read my Bible and journal ... maybe later.

I am interrupted and startled. I am stopped in my tracks. I can't breathe. I need wisdom. Anxiety creeps in, and so does shame. I am on a roller coaster of emotions; I want off.

I am busy. I am trying to stay busy so I don't have time to think. I am hurt. A coworker hugs me and I begin to sob. I am a mess. I am hurting and afraid and ashamed and excited and ... I feel alone.

I deactivate my main social media account. I log into an old account. There it is: a rference to El Roi - the God who sees me. I must make time to hear His voice. 

I reach for my journal. I search today's Bible reading online.  

 "Then Balaam gave this message:
“This is the message of Balaam son of Beor,
    the message of a man who sees clearly;
16 this is the message of a man who hears the words of God.
    I know well the Most High God.
I see a vision from the Almighty,
    and my eyes are open as I fall before him." (Numbers 24:15 NCV)

Switch to 1 Corinthians 13; wait ... isn't this "the love chapter"? Yes, but look - right at the end. Verse 12 says, "...Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me."

There it is. Balaam hears God, and sees Him clearly. God sees ME ... but am I seeing Him? Oh that my heart would learn to run to Him instead of running from life! That I may know Him!

No God, no peace; know God, know peace. 

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the reminder. Anxieties melt and shame is covered and peace descends like a serene fog. You see me. You are with me. El Roi.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

What's Challenging Me


 
I am currently reading "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. I ordered it after seeing a post on social media regarding the use of politics to distract people from the truly important things in life. I am a bit blown away by the fact that something written so long ago is so relevant to today's society.
 
The photos above are taken from the third letter in the book. It struck me that if the patient and his mother were replaced by a husband and wife, it could easily resemble my home on many occasions. It seems that we know how to push each other's buttons, and too often we resemble the remark, "Some people create their own storm, then complain when it rains."
 
I am taking this as a wake-up call. I will be more careful with words and hearts. I will be conscious of the fact that there are spirits at work that would destroy us all by creating conflict where there really isn't any. There are tired bodies and exhausted voices more often than there are mean-spirited, anger-inducing bullies. Choosing to respond, rather than react, can make all the difference.
 
Let's change our domestic worlds. One conversation at a time.
 
Cheers,
Vicki