Tag Archives: Faith

Grief

Grief is a funny thing. It hits you at the strangest times. There’s the obvious initial response to the death of a parent that is emotional and jarring and raw, but then that gives way to daily life needing to move on and that’s when grief creeps up, bubbles up, bursts forth at the oddest of moments. Seemingly odd at first, but very fitting upon further observation.

James’ dad died in the middle of February. It was sudden and unexpected. He wasn’t the healthiest of people and seemed to be aging rapidly, but no one would have guessed he was going to pass at 62 years of age, not yet two months into his retirement. I’d never experienced anything like that before. My husband hadn’t experienced anything like that before. We’ve lost grandparents and a few people on the outskirts of our lives, but never someone so close and dear and…there. Having to tell the kids their beloved Grandpa, the man who would pick them up and take them for pancakes and read to them was gone was one of the hardest things to do.

I found that because James is the eldest child and his dad was alone and we had children going through their own grieving process I shelved a lot of my emotion. After Pat died, after the room cleared out, I sat there and just thought about the mountain of things that this meant. What this meant to everyone, all of the things that had to be done and taken care of. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom and have been for a long time now, but the list grew instantly and I went into ‘care’ mode.

But now I find it creeping out or bursting forth at bizarre moments like when I walked into Safeway the other day. It was the first time since he died. Pat had called James from Safeway because he felt dizzy and short of breath. It was the last time they talked. The manager had called Pat an ambulance and by the time James got to him he was unconscious. I put Eli in the buggy and walked through the doors and an instant flood of emotion came over me. “He’s gone” I just kept repeating in my head.

It also caught me off guard when I put a dish of rice pudding in the oven to bake. The last time that I had made it was the day he died. The connection to a time when he was here was too profound. The absence of the person is felt so deeply. Too deeply. But it’s good. I need to feel it. I need to care for the people around me during a time like this, but I also need to wade through my own emotions and let them break the surface so that I can work through them.

I imagine it will be a long road of these sorts of things. We will never fully recover from a parent dying, they are linked too closely to our lives. They mean too much to us. Especially if they have been the type of parent, like Pat, who, despite his flaws and our flaws, has loved us greatly and unconditionally.

 

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‘Farewell’

 

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Beauty

We are constantly bombarded these days with ideas of beauty and what beautiful is; our own inner voices, our family and friends, the media, the world around us. Girls seem to be more obsessed than ever to fit into the societal views of beauty, trying to acquire flawless skin, perfectly applied eye make-up and the ever illusive “thigh-gap” (I read an article about this new obsession…kinda crazy). Older women rush to the spa to get skin treatments and injections, paying thousands and thousands of dollars so they can keep-up with their daughters. Every things seems to be competing for some of our head space (because if it gets in our head then we’ll obsess and spend money on trying to ‘fix it’, right?). It’s loud and it’s hard to shut it off.

Beauty is a touchy subject for me. I say touchy because I find that I am far too frequently in sync with the cravings our society has for beauty. I want the youthful look and slender build and Banana Republic’s 2013 fall wardrobe (I think I actually had heart palpitations when I went into the new store). I enjoy Vouge and often peruse The Sartorialist. It’s not that I think these things are wrong in and of themselves, it’s that I know I get carried away and allow them to take up too much time. I often put too much stock in a materialistic definition of beauty and I become shaped by all of those voices that begin to chat away in my brain. I begin to compare myself to those definitions and I fall short, because they are unattainable. Seriously, I’ve had three kids, my body will not look like a 16 year olds.

But the funny thing is that when I think about the woman that I want to be and become, these definitions of beauty don’t hold a lead role. Sure, I hope that I look as good as my mom does when I’m 58, but I long for a different beauty as well. A lasting beauty. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately and it’s probably because I’m nearing my 30th birthday.

We are told to take care of our future. We put money away and make plans upon plans upon plans to ensure our comfort and our childrens safety. We are told to eat healthy and be active so as to ward off heart disease and strokes…which are all important. But I’ve been wondering why more of us (and maybe this takes place but it’s not talked about as much) don’t plan for how we want to age in character and faith and personality. I’ve been thinking about how I would like to age in many areas.

I came across a quote that I wrote down quite a long time ago. Unfortunatly I didn’t write down the author, but it goes like this:

” This is what beauty says, All shall be well. And this is what it’s like to be with a woman at rest,

a woman comfortable in her feminine beauty. She is enjoyabe to be with. She is lovely.

In her presence your heart stops holding its breath. You relax and believe once again

that all will be well.”

This quote resonates with me, but I feel so far off. Mentors seem as though they are a thing of the past, but I bet this is where they would come in to play. I’d love to have a mentor, a Ruth or an Ester type, a godly woman to look-up to and ask questions to and  see how she walked through all of the long rough years.

When I look at my peers and at older women around me that I know and admire, they don’t fit into these silly cookie cutters that the world has made for us. They come in all shapes and sizes. I find that what makes these women beautiful are their lives and their stories, their love and their passion, their flaws and their humour. They have something that a cosmetic stand or Botox add cant sell.

“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom…

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”

Proverbs 31: 10, 26,

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Me and My Blessed Life

When I was younger my dad said to me a number of times, “Bria, you were born the right colour, in the right place, at the right time.” I never really knew what he meant, so I’d nod my head and smile as though I understood. Now, before you start ranting on about how that’s ‘whatever label or ist that you want to ascribe to it’, I believe he was trying to teach me to be thankful for my privileged/blessed lot in life, not to take my situation for granted and squander away my opportunities.

However, lately I’ve found it troubling. I’ve begun to understand what he tried to teach me so many years ago, but with greater understanding comes greater responsibility. These are the thoughts that have been plaguing my mind lately. Please don’t take them the wrong way.

I have blonde hair, blue eyes and white skin. I don’t know what it’s like to be a minority. I’ve never been a recipient of racism. I’ve  never been turned down for employment because of how I look or talk or because of where I come from. Yet I complain about my skin, my hairstyle and having to wear glasses (that are covered under my husbands benefits…I don’t even pay for the damn things).

I have my health and an able body, one that was blessed with growing three children. I don’t know the feeling of chronic pain. I’m a stranger to the long and lonely years of infertility. I don’t bear marks or scars of accidents or ailments. Yet I complain about having wide hips, about needing to lose 10 pounds, about a few stretch marks here or there and a saggy stretched-out tummy.

I have a house over my head, a kitchen full of food, a nice yard for the kids to play in and a car in my driveway (and a truck to tow our boat). I don’t know what it’s like to be homeless and I probably never will. I don’t know what it’s like to be truly hungry. Yet I complain about our renovations, about not having enough room, about our neighbourhood and I’m constantly think about moving to a ‘nicer’ place. I complain about not having anything to cook for dinner when my fridge, pantry and freezer are full.

I live in a province that is unbelievably abundant and beautiful in a country that is free. I don’t know what it’s like to be a refugee. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a place that is war-torn. Yet I complain about our harsh winters, our giant mosquitoes, our bad roads and our high taxes.

I have family who loves me, friends who care about me and a church community that supports me. I have money in my wallet and in the bank. I go on leisurely trips outside of the city to beaches and cottages and, on occasion, hotels. I don’t know what it’s like to not have a family. I don’t know what it’s like to not have friends. Yet I complain about the little things that irritate me with family, friends and church. I complain about not going on more grandiose trips to more exotic destinations.  I’m forever complaining about not having enough money.

I have a loving husband who has an amazing job and a secondary source of income. He treats me well and smothers me with affection everyday. He supports me in everything I do and loves that I stay home to take care of his kids. I have three beautiful children who are healthy and smart. They have things they need to work on, as we all do, but they are well behaved and love their parents and each other very much. They are free to go to school to learn and play with their friends, regardless of race or religion.

This is my privileged life. I don’t battle AIDS or famine or threats of war. I don’t fear widespread diseases or imprisonment because of my faith. Yet I complain and complain and complain. The things I battle are apathy, complacency and idleness.

Sometimes I just hang my head in shame over how blessed my life is and how ungrateful my heart is. I think back to those little outstretched hands poking through the fence in Haiti, begging me for a handful of rice and beans. What would they think of my life up here?

{Lord, teach me to be more like you.}

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Shifting

Lately, I’ve been quite surprised with myself over how toxic I’d let my thought patterns become. Over the years I’ve created this process of self-sabotaging that I continually allow myself to go through. I’ll have a wonderful thought or idea or a compliment from someone and within seconds I’ll have handfuls of reasons why it wasn’t a superb idea or how I’ll fail at it or this, that, and the other thing. It’s disheartening to live like that.

There are a few problems that I’ve run into with living like this. One is that you won’t ever make any progress or be successful (in whatever you choose) if that’s how you view yourself. The other is that if that’s what you’re made-up of, it will eventually bubble-up and spill over into your view of other people and the world around you.

I’ve been very pointedly trying to replace my negative self talk with positive, uplifting thoughts. It sounds so cheesy, but I do think that there is power in positive thinking for people like me. But it’s hard!

A light went on a few days ago shortly after a friend posted a picture on Facebook. It was a list of 10 things that people spend time thinking about too often. I read through the list and it’s safe to say that a large majority of my thoughts are taken-up by these things (number 3 & 7 especially).

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 After I read through the list I chuckled to myself. “Yup!” I said to mysef, “That’s me.” Later in the day when I had a bit of peace and quiet to do some soul-searching I was stopped in my tracks by a thought. I looked down at my body. I looked at my legs and my hands. I looked at my squishy post-baby tummy. One day this body will be rotting away and could be next week for all I know. Every day, every breath is unknown. We don’t have a right to the next day…it’s a gift, it’s a blessing. Yet I’m spending this gift and blessing on all the wrong things. I’m spending it worrying about everything and what people think. I’m spending it in fear of failing so I don’t even take steps to try. I’m spending it feeling overwhelmed by so many things that are inconsequential. How many days, months, years have I wasted with thinking this way!? I was sad for a little while after I thought about all of this.

I’m learning a lot about myself these days. I feel like God is pealing back all these layers and slowly revealing a vision of how He wants me to be. I need to set aside my fears and disappointments and follow Him. Life is too short to spend it absorbed in such silly things.

 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:14

 

 

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And My Soul Thirsts – Part 2.

So how does one learn how to follow God during the ‘good’ times? The ‘boring’ times? The straight and only slightly bumpy times? I’m not entirely sure but I was frustrated with feeling distant and dry, longing for some spiritual rejuvination. I always expect to have this big breakthrough or a burning bush telling me exactly what I need to hear. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced either of those. More often than not my heart is stirred and then it’s left up to me to pursue. I also felt like I shouldn’t be operating with a dried-up cup anymore, for a number of reasons:

  1.  James’ new career is a very damanding and stressful one (for him and for our family) and I need to go into this change with a healthy heart & mind.
  2. I’ve been snapping at the kids more often and it’s getting old real fast.
  3. I’ve taken on a position on our church council (for Family Ministries) and I had the strong sense that I should probably ‘be fed’ before I start actually filling the role.

So with all of those in the forefront of my mind, I picked-up my bible on that Monday morning. I didn’t feel lead to any specific area so I decided to start reading from Psalm 1. I also picked-up my dusty devotion (A Prayer Journey with the Apostle Paul) and started where I left off. Even though it was great to finally sit down and do something I would be lying if I didn’t say that it was difficult at first. To be honest, I wanted to be infront of my laptop and not my bible. But after a little while it has become more routine…routine that I look forward to. To sit and be still and be fed is what my soul was thirsting for, not the lastest news or e-mails.

I was allowing things to get in my way of reading my bible and spending time in prayer because I didn’t really want to do either. I realized (which is obvious, it just took a little while to sink in) that being a disciple is not just for one difficult year here and there, I need to sit and pray and read even when I’d rather be doing something else. I need to focus on God and give Him my attention even when there are phone calls to make and kids to take care of.

I know it seems like all of this is so obvious but it’s taken a while for me to actually want to acknowledge it. I was desiring all of the things that only time spent being close to God can bring but unwilling to put in the time or work to get them.

Hopefully I’ve learnt a lesson here.

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And My Soul Thirsts – Part One.

I sat down in the morning sun with a cup of steaming coffee in my hand and I opened-up my bible.

I felt so much better after doing a lectio divina with a passage from Psalms. Amazing. Refreshing. Calming. Convicting. Comforting. Clarifying. Life-giving.

I opened-up my devotional. The same devotional that I’ve had from before Ammie was born, A Prayer Journey with the Apostle Paul. I still hadn’t made it even a quarter of the way through the book. I picked-up from where I’d left off…right at the beginning of Paul’s conversion. Amazing. Refreshing. Calming. Convicting. Comforting. Clarifying. Life-giving.

I pushed my books aside and bowed my head. There were a number of people who had been on my heart so I brought them, one-by-one, before the Lord. I thought about the passage I’d read and the devotion I did. I thought about Saul’s conversion to Paul. I thought about God’s grace and love and His wonderful hand of providence. I thanked Him for these. Amazing. Refreshing. Calming. Convicting. Comforting. Clarifying. Life-giving.

That was Monday morning.

I sat in church on Sunday and wondered what had happened. Why did I feel so dry and distant? I was a touch on the angry side. I’d been fighting a conviction for a few months and I didn’t want to admit it. He was trying to speak and I knew it, but I didn’t want to change. “I’ve changed enough” I reasoned, “I’ve come so far”. It had been months since I’d sat and spent time with Him. Months since I’d given Him my quieted attention. Months since I’d given him room to speak and to guide me. Sure I’d shoot Him a prayer here and there. Sure I’d spend time kind-of thinking about my spiritual walk. A prayer here and there and a random thought aren’t enough to feed me. My cup was drying-up.

The reason? Things were fine.

I find it so easy to draw close to God when I’m in crisis or when I’m stressed. It’s logical. He is a savior and I’m in need of saving. It makes sense. What I find extremely difficult is to draw close to him when life is truckin’ along; kids are good, marriage is great, life is (for the most part) grand. Certain things here and there could use some improvement but in the overall grand scheme of things life is humming along, just peachy.

After years of living in crisis and not knowing what was going on and why things were happening the way that there were I think that my spiritual walk was almost a survival tactic for me. I needed it to stay afloat. Which is fine. When you’re in the midst of a storm you need to cling to what will cover you and give you guidance. You keep your eyes fixed on the light from the lighthouse. I got used to this. I got used to seeking God in the midst of chaos.

Now that our lives have calmed down it’s as though I’m re-learning how to follow God on a straight, sometimes bumpy, road instead of the switchback that I had grown so accustom to.

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Calming My Nerves.

I had a bit of a nerve wracking afternoon. It was good, but I was anxious.

I had a hard time settling myself when everything was all said and done, my mind was racing a million miles a minute.

I sat myself down on the couch (after putting a show on for the kids so that I could have a bit of quiet) and brought my worries before the Lord. I knew that it wasn’t within my own power to calm myself so I opened up my bible to find some much needed encouragement.

I did the whole ‘let the spirit lead’ thing and just let my bible open to wherever it would (which, for the record, rarely works). My book opened to Psalm 38 and, believe it or not, I found exactly what I needed.

“All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me…

O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.”

(Psalm 38: 10, 21 & 22)

I found such a peace in these words. To be honest, my mind is still going a million miles a minute but I know that my longings and sighs are heard. I know that my heavenly Father cares and that he is not far from me.

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