Struggling with life

“The reality is not everyone wants to hear our messes or wounds. Not everyone will care or understand. Not everyone will believe or support us. But that doesn’t make our stories any less true or important.” Trudy Den Hoed at Freed to Fly

Trudy’s blog post this week challenged me. I want to hide away my struggles, bury them under smiles and justifications. When I find myself talking about a current challenges, there is an underlying shame that I’ve caused this messiness and don’t deserve to be accepted. Will this person that I am sharing with still accept me? Will they see me as bad mother? Or cold and unsympathetic? Or with too much mess in my life to be bothered with?

Shame too, comes from another question. Who am I to be admitting to these challenges when I have so much? And then the guilt. My struggles shouldn’t matter and don’t deserve attention. Is this self-pity?

Ironically, my purpose to write is to create connections. To create connections so one does not feel alone in the world. Trudy writes, “And even if our stories aren’t received by all, there just may be someone who needs to hear it and will feel less alone and more understood.”

Her words are what I needed to read. Are they words you also needed, dear readers?

Feeling less confident

Although I know that in life we will have struggles, the current pandemic environment has amplified my uncertainty about the future. Where once I felt like I was understanding how to navigate the bumpy and curved roads, now I grip the wheel with less confidence. I do hold on to hope for better days to come, particularly with my job that pays the bills and with my special-needs son whose defiant behaviour is again escalating.

Feeling Fearful

But I am fearful.

Although God calls us not to fear–I fear, my friends. I fear for my future, and I fear my son’s behaviour will damage his new living arrangements in a supportive group home.

I fear I am not good enough at my job and not a good enough mother, regardless of the current environment, to turn things around.

There have been days I struggle to stay awake. Somedays I loose that struggle and find myself covering myself up in a quilt and closing my eyes when hours of daylight still remain.

Better days

There also have been days with hikes in the mountains, neighbourhood walks with girlfriends, and star-gazing by campfires. There have been days with discovering new places among creeks and valleys and a first climb to the top of an old rusty grain bin to watch the deer in the distance and the hundreds of Canada Geese resting in a farmers field. There have been precious days, too, with the delightful laughter of grandchildren.

It’s these days that help keep me mentally okay. Family, friends and nature–oh do I need you even though I may hide behind smiles. Or be too proud to show that I need anyone. For to need seems just too vulnerable. What if you leave and never return?

Keeping it raw and real, I have no answers right now, wisdom or advise. I don’t want to water-down the reality with a feel-good meme or cliché. What I hope though, is you know that you are not alone in your struggles and even if your struggle is different from another’s, someone (maybe even me) understands how darn hard and messy it is. You are not alone.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Matt Maher, Lord I Need You.

Another blogging friend, Rolain Peterson, is releasing his first devotional book this week, Rise Above Fear, Choosing Faith in Fear-Filled World. Rolain’s post are real and encouraging, and steeped in God’s truth. I hope you’ll take a moment to discover his place, Kingspeech. Considering the fears I have been having, I see God’s hand in the timing of his book release!

Also, my writing group, Writers’ Cafe, is working through the final edits of their story collection, Hope Connections. To find out more and be the first to hear of the latest news on the Fall 2020 release, visit Inspiring Hope In You.

How are you are seeing God’s hand in your life right now? If you’re feeling alone in your struggles, please let me know if there is something we, as a community here, can help you with.

IWSG-A Beta Reader among the Trees

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

September 2 question – If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

The best possible thing you can do when you’re requiring a boost of energy, a reset of your brain, or a remedy for your boredom is to go spend time among trees. They will not speak encouragement or cliched sentiments. They will not drag you to a dance club or feed you triple chocolate truffles washed down with Red Bull. But they will restore you.

Trees cannot be your friend, your editor, or your personal driver. But they help us breathe, provide homes for wildlife we wonder at, and reduce our pollution. They show us the value of a supportive environment. When trees grow together, writes Peter Wohlleben in The Hidden Life of Trees, “nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.”

Peter Wohlleben began his forestry career in Germany assessing trees to be chopped for lumber mills. It was later when leading tourists in survival skills in the forest when he began to pay closer attention to all trees–the gnarly, the spindly, the stumps–and his wonder of trees grew to researching deeply this communicative community. He has written several books on trees, nature, and animals.

I imagine when walking among the trees with Peter Wohlleben, he’d point out details, patterns, and buried roots I did not see. I imagine his knowledge of nature and his wisdom from observing the social network of the forest would converse into themes and hypothesis that parallel universal stories. I imagine him deeply present in our setting, not letting a moment go by unnoticed.

If Peter Wohlleben was my beta partner, I think first we’d walk among the trees to kindle my energy, clear my mind, and remedy my writers block by igniting the present. Together, like a forest of trees, we’d discover how to grow my story into the best it can be.

Read more authors at IWSG

Who would you choose be your beta partner?

News: I’ll be back posting regularly on Wednesday starting September 2020. Also, if you have a moment, check out Inspiring Hope In You, a site I recently created dedicated to Writers’ Café and our soon to be launched book, Hope Connections.

IWSG-The Writing Life. It finds you.

I’m interrupting my summer break with a post as part of #ISWG. I’m hoping to make this a regular post on the first Wednesday of the month. When I first started blogging in 2007, many of the writers at ISWG were my first readers and vice versa. I hope you check them out!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

When I was a young mother of three children under the age of five years-old, I was a very busy mamma. From meal preparation to reading bed-time stories, from swimming lessons to mom & tot groups, and from Lego pick-ups and to laundry, my days were full. But I still daydreamed of stories while pushing swings or waiting for the chicken fingers to bake. I’m sure I wanted to be writer even before my first memory. My books were my most precious possessions, the library my favourite place, and seeing the coffee table stacked with magazines and the latest newspapers. I read them all, dreaming of seeing my name under a newspaper story, or listed in the contributor section of the magazine. So, as a young mom, when I saw the local university offering an evening English course, I jumped at the chance for some ‘me’ time to learn about a subject I love.

Our first assignment was to write a descriptive paragraph. My dreams of writing articles had changed to imagining myself as a story writer. I’d even written chapters of a novel while tucked away in my bedroom as a teenager. I also had a binder full of silly love poems and songs I penned during math class. Needless to say, I just scrapped by with just a passing mark in math. So, our first assignment in that English class to write description with no story line was not one I thought I would like. But I took to the task. A train idling on tracks became my descriptive subject. I made sure to have a notebook every where I went, not wanting to forget the words and phrases that came to me while busy with the children. Images of trains consumed my mind, and I’d even hope the children would pick Thomas the Tank Engine for their bedtime story. I was eager to get to reading my newly purchased thesaurus in the pursuit of new descriptive words that evoked the rumbling of a train engine, the colour of deep red, and the vibration of wheel axles.

The excitement and satisfaction of finding the perfect words and then creating phrases and sentences, and then re-working them for rhythm and syntax made my skin tingle, my heart beat faster, and I felt 100% alive (as I do even now while I go back into memory)!

Later in that English class, that skill transferred to a personal essay that my professor commented to ‘keep in a special place as it is that good.” He also read it to the class for an example. The subject was my children. Forward twenty years later to 2020 that has me editing a Creative Non-Fiction piece called “A Mother’s Gold.” Although I have an unfinished novel and a couple of short stories, writing personal essays on topics that allow description to be prevalent are still the most satisfying for my heart.

Your turn. Have you ever written a piece that changed how you planned to write or redirected your genre?

Stopping in for the Extraordinary

Hello!

How is your summer so far? I’ve been restless to travel provincially to Jasper and Banff, however the timing has not yet been right! I still have 8 more weeks of summer, and will get there with camera in hand. And then have new landscape Breathing Spaces to share!

Today, I am over at Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Below is an excerpt.

Have you ever nervously laughed when something so extraordinary is told to you that you have a hard time believing it could truly come to pass? 

After already a long life-time that had Sarah and Abraham still childless, I can imagine the news that they would have a son in a year was astonishing. Their life experiences had thus far shown them a child of their own becoming an impossibility as time marched on. Today we may flippantly refer to times when things just don’t happen like we expected as “it just wasn’t in the cards,” or  “it is what it is.” We may laugh at ourselves while we try to justify in our minds and hearts that our unmet dreams were silly or unrealistic in the first place.  Or we laugh at others when suggestions so extraordinary from our own perception have us choking down chuckles while internally we throw water on any flame sparked in our hearts.

 The realistic and ordinary become the safe places to navigate rather than the possibility of the extraordinary. Dreams dim as circumstances prevail. Years, maybe even decades pass by and, like Sarah, the womb stays empty. Hope leaves with the passing of time. But the Nourisher never stops working. Continue reading….

What places are you planning on visiting this summer?

Themes and Breaks

Today you’ll find me over at Inscribe Christian Writers’ Online.

“Your theme is a Petri dish and experimental bubble in which you’re going to test and explore your theme and premise.” Ted Dekker

In The Creative Way, author Ted Dekker instructs writers to develop theme by looking within to the questions, struggles and victories they are experiencing in their own life.  Every aspect of your story must serve your theme. And never to cheat by forcing a conclusion, but rather be vulnerable. Experience and explore where the story takes you, be open to surprises and let go of your own preconceived endings. “Everyone is dealing with the same questions in life, so they will connect,” he writes. 

Creating connections through stories has been my goal for my writing as long as I can remember. As a very shy child, books were ways to explore my world safely. Looking back on the books I connected with most, I began to see a theme of the lost being found. 

In my childhood favourite book, Are You My Mother by P.D Eastman, I flew with a baby bird hatched in an empty nest who goes searching for a mother it’s never seen and is rescued by a bulldozer that drops it back into its nest where mother soon appears.

In elementary school my favourite books were Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White and A Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon. Reading Charlotte’s Web, I cheered for Wilbur, the pig, as his lonliness lifted when Charlotte, the spider, befriended him and webbed encouraging messages for the world to see.  Imagining Chester, the lost cricket, and his songs blessing the crowds in Times Square, The Cricket in Times Square showed me that friends can come from the most unlikely of places. Continue reading by clicking here

What favourite books do you see reflected as themes in your life?

Now that summer is here which means more work fun and less screen-time, I’ll be taking a blogging break. You may see me pop in from time to time here and at your places! And always love to connect with you at Instagram.

May you have a blessed summer!

This Kind of Hope

In spite of everything I see around me every day, in spite of all the times I cry when I read a newspaper, I have a shaky assurance that everything will turn out fine. I don’t think I’m the only one. Why else would the phrase ‘Everything’s all right’ ease a deep and troubled place in so many of us? We just don’t know, we never know so much, yet we have such faith. We hold our hands over our hurts and lean forward, full of yearning and forgiveness. It is how we keep on, this kind of hope.”

ELIZABETH BERG – Talk Before You Sleep

This week my hairdresser let her clients know that the salon will be re-opening. And then listed all the rules. Stay in car until someone comes to get you, salon will provide you a mask, and your stylist will also be wearing a mask. This, of all things over the last two months, made me want to cry. Maybe it’s because I had hopes that I’d be able to see smiles and laughter and even grimaces by all when social distancing restrictions lifted. And less arrows in grocery stores as those can be so darn confusing! I am somewhat of a rule follower and failing at navigating the aisles properly stresses me! Anyone else with me on that?

I hope for less ZOOM soon and more VROOM from my car traveling the open National Parks, stopping where others too, are enjoying the view of mountains, lakes, and wandering elk.

I hope for less YOUTUBE while on a mat and more ICE-CUBE like ice as I skate in open recreational facilities to challenge my skills and physical fitness.

And I hope for less device FACETIME and more real FACETIME with real hugs instead of circling arms while calling out “virtual hug!” after social distance times with grandkids, kids, and more recently, friends.

Hope is not the closing of our eyes to risk difficulty or failure. It is the trust that if I fail now, I will not fail forever; that if I am hurt, I shall be healed; that life is good and love is powerful! And I shall always prosper in my relationships with God, others and myself.

LYNN J SIMPSON

I hope for these changes. And this kind of hope whispers “it’s going to be okay” easing my troubling places within.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

ROMANS 5:1

What kind of hope do you have today?

Perfecting Unmet Expectations

“We added the $100 senior discount as well. Thanks.”

What? I re-read the text message. A senior’s discount? I walked to the nearest mirror, scanned my face and hair. Had all this isolation these past weeks aged me? I did look paler, and sure miss going to my aesthetician to swipe (well, rip is a better word) those –ughh–unwanted hairs away. And there are more greys than blonde in my hair, however that has been happening for many years now. Why did the man who scanned my backyard for 10 minutes to give me an estimate on a deck build think I was a senior deserving a discount?

My phone pings. Another text message.

“We trying to help communities and seniors in this Covid19 era…I can add another $75 gift card for groceries for you. Thanks”

What?!!

He must have me mixed up with someone else. Or does he?

And where did this vanity in me come from? I didn’t think I was that concerned about aging….

In a month I will be 55 years-old. Freedom 55 some call it! I’m far from freedom 55. No sailboating in a Caribbean Sea in a white polo t-shirt and blue knee – length LLBean shorts with a husband at the helm and a school of dolphins playing close by.

Instead on my birthday, after my work day has ended at 4:30PM, I’ll likely don my comfortable runners and a bamboo hat so my ears don’t start aching from the prairie wind, walk around the man-made urban pond in my neighbourhood and watch the Canada Geese (if I’m lucky) leisurely paddling in the muddy water.

Ah…life….it does not often turn out like a life insurance commercial.

(To be fair, I have read recently that the life insurance company who branded Freedom 55 is now rebranding to reflect the more realistic scenario of people having to work much longer, the goal of retiring at 55 becoming less attainable in our economic climate.)

But, on my birthday walk in a middle class neighbourhood of green grass backyards adjacent to man-made ponds, I’ll pass couples walking dogs, kids on bicycles, and flutters of sparrows. I’ll take a 20 minute drive to my eldest daughter’s and her husband’s home where I can take another walk with my two grandchildren and discover a new weed growing in prairie grasses and listen for a call of a nuthatch. We’ll eat cupcakes made from a mix and topped with ready-made whip cream. We’ll play Uno and read Star Wars New Reader books. We’ll make a summer plan of a weekend at a lake. Later, back home to my duplex, I’ll smell the cannabis being smoked by the neighbour who shares a wall with me. I’ll light a lavender candle, tuck myself into bed as I have for 20 plus years as a divorced gal, and read and read and read until my eyes start to flutter closed.

And life…is well…perfect in all it’s imperfections and unmet expectations. Even this aging thing is okay….

————————————————–

The college age boy scoops my items at Bulk Barn. I tell him that my girlfriend owned a bulk store thirty years ago when they always had to scoop for their customers even though no pandemic regulations in effect.

He stops, a scoop of carob chips in his hand, looking confused. “Did you say thirty years ago? Aren’t you like thirty something years old?”

I’m smiling. (I like this kid)

That deck man must have gotten me mixed up with someone else.

What gifts are you experiencing from unmet expectations?

Linking up at Soaring With Him

Simply Breathing Rooms-An end of the month Breathing Space Post

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

I hope you are finding “simple little pleasures” today. Maybe browsing the below pictures will have you pausing and looking at your gems from past generation in your spaces. The first home pictures are from the Ukrainian Village Cultural Heritage Village commemorating the settlement of east Alberta by Ukrainians.

The second house is Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in historical Savannah, Georgia.

What simple historical gems do you have in your home that are precious reminders of generations past? Is there a story around the item(s)?

Confused of what to do?

I wish I had three more rooms in my home, I commented to my friend during a phone call recently. I was looking at the items scattered and piled on my desk. Binders, books, day-timers, journals, spiral notebooks, magazines, art cards, microphone, and cameras were just some of the items. I’d like to have a room for painting, another for writing, and another for my work-work (otherwise known as my day job), I told him, have kiddingly but mostly not!

Even though the mess can eventually get overwhelming, I felt content. Even hopeful and driven. Something that had been missing for some time since our country and province began self-distancing rules during the current world pandemic. Feeling better I realized I’m in the grieving cycle. I’m cycling into acceptance, however understand navigating the grief cycle is more erratic than linear. And may cycle backwards into sadness or anxiety.

Just a week ago my desktop was bare.

When my calendar began to empty of sales appointments and open spaces appeared, I wondered what would now enfold in those time slots. What to do with that time? Are the bills going to get paid? Is this opened time now a gift of God? Goodness, then I really do not want to waste it! What to do? As you can imagine, dear readers, this type of thinking only led to confusion and anxiety. I had to find a way to ease my fears and place my time into God’s hands.

Putting our Plans in God’s Hands

  1. Ask the Helper

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

When we need clarity around something, such as our time, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us through His teaching and bringing something to mind we need to remember. Our Counsellor is always there to show us Jesus’ way of obedience to His words. When I meditated on this verse, God brought to mind Jesus’ command to love God with all your heart and mind; and to love your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31). Practically, how can we do this with our everyday time including some so very ordinary moments?

2. SEEK HIS WILL

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Jesus taught to be persistent in seeking God. Not giving up seeking takes faith, focus, and follow-through. When confusion from uncertainty sets in, especially when our plans unravel, we can ask God for wisdom, knowledge, patience and understanding. Practically we can full-heartedly go to His word. We may want to look up ‘plans’ in the concordance of our bibles and then SOAK in those scriptures. We will never know God’s plan completely for our lives, yet we can be directed on how to be obedient to His word. God’s word opens the door to His will for us to know Him better and be known.

3. LET GO AND TRUST GOD

First Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

In this time, we can only see what we are experiencing. We don’t see the eternal future that God knows. Like looking through a dark glass, we can’t see clearly what is ahead or make sense of what is happening now. Even in obedience using our spiritual gifts to serve others, we are not assured that our plans will come to fruition. We may become confused about what to do with our time or if we are to continue what we thought we are suppose to do! By letting go of trying to make sense of what is going on we place our plans in God’s hands who promises we will know Him fully when we are with Him eternally.

Never Give Up

Never give up asking, seeking, and trusting God, my friend! We will never be free of confusion on this side of eternity, but God’s plans are good!

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead or Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Hebrews 13:20-21

What plans do you need to place in God’s hands today?

Linking up with Recharge Wednesday

Never a Threat

I am sure all of you had a different kind of Easter celebration than maybe ever before. At my house, I had a Skype call with my eldest and her family as they ate their first turkey dinner prepared in their home. Earlier that day I dropped of a gift of cupcakes and my roaster to my daughter, keeping the 6 feet social distance. For me, my granddaughter left on the porch step a ziplock bag of chocolate chips cookies she had made. Later today they’ve promised to drop off on my step turkey and a piece of apple pie left over from their Easter dinner.

During this time of social distancing, our front steps, our porches, our apartment doorways have become drop off zones of gifts, borrowed items, and left-overs.

I miss walking through doorways.

I look forward to the day when porches and doorways become again just a step before entering rather than the final destination they are today.

But for now, I’m called, like many of you, dear readers, to keep doors closed and stay in for the protection of life for others and myself.

Our Protector

May we always remember though too, we have another protector of life Who lets us through the doorway that brings us into God’s salvation.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” John 10:7

When we listen to Jesus’ voice and follow Him through the gate into His pasture, He not only gives us eternal life; we also immediately receive His gifts of forgiveness, love and guidance.

I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:9-10

Our Security

And He never abandons us no matter the threat.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

There is a threat currently in our physical world too tiny for the human eye. Yet, nothing is threatening to the One who overcame death. As we follow the guidelines of our governments and health officials, keeping our distance that may mean not opening our doors, may we hold on to our great Shepherd by continuing to do His work He has called us to and let Him work within us.

Now may the God of peace who through blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Hebrews 13:20-21

Linking up with #TellHisStory