Posted in Rambles

Songs for Broken Believers

Well, it’s springtime in Manitoba – time for our characteristic April snow storm!  Here is the view from my back door today:

20200403_113251

The snow began early yesterday, and then just kept on comin’.  It’s petering out now.  Since we haven’t had as much snow as usual this year, this almost feels like more than we’ve had all winter.

In the midst of the snow storm yesterday, I found myself paying visits to the doctor’s office and then to the hospital for an x-ray.  No, I don’t have COVID-19, but a flu that was something very similar ran through our household earlier this month.  Now, several weeks later, I am experiencing some odd pains in my ribs and being checked for infection.  It was a little bit unsettling to expose myself to doctor’s offices and hospitals with COVID going around while I may already have a lung infection.  Here I am, in masked and sanitized glory, awaiting my x-ray:

20200402_114251

Later on I paid a trip to the grocery store.  One advantage for me in all of this is being able (even required) to shop alone, without my children tagging along.  I love being with them, but those trips are simpler when I don’t have to keep a handle on two energetic boys while gathering the groceries.  It’s an odd world out there, as we all know.  It’s quiet, and people keep their distance, but I’m finding that many who I encounter are welcoming of a friendly smile.  The staff at the grocery store seem a little stressed, but from what I’ve seen, their attitudes are admirable – joking with each other, laughing, and smiling to lighten the mood.  (In between their repetitive wiping of conveyer belts.)

In the midst of all of this, I’ve read more news than I probably have in two years.  But as one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa Howeler, reminded me in this post, we cannot find what we need in the news or in the media.  My devotions have been lacking in frequency for several weeks.  An excuse could be, “Well, my kids are home full time,” but it’s not a very good one.  If it’s possible for me to read news story after news story while they’re home, and then worry needlessly about all the possible implications of what is happening in the world, it should be possible for me to read a chapter of the Bible and scrawl a prayer in my journal to my ever-listening and caring Father.

A song was playing on the radio yesterday as I pulled up to the medical clinic, and its lyrics caught my ear:  “Hallelujah, I am broken, I’m broken wide open.  Hallelujah, I am emptied out.  Hallelujah, I am nothing, thank you, for being my everything.  I’m ready now, to lay it down.”  If there ever were a time for us to let go, it would be now.  To realize, we are not on the throne, even though we sometimes trick ourselves into believing that.  Hallelujah…there is blessing in being brought low before God.

I signed up for e-devotionals through my church.  This morning, the reading was John 13, the chapter where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.  I found my heart softening as I read it.  When I am anxious or scared, I am tempted to care only for myself.  However, in the moments preceding what would be some of Jesus’ darkest hours, his demonstration was servanthood, and love, for others.  I have much to learn from this example.

I hope that you will have some time to spend today with the Spirit of this Man Jesus, who longs to minister to your soul.  Here are some of my favorite songs to help with that.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

This Shame Problem

I’ve recently begun to identify a problem on the fringes of my awareness.  Someone suggested it to me, a long time ago, saying they had received a little ‘nudge’ from God in their spirit while praying for me.  I didn’t believe them.  They had heard wrong, I thought.  My problem was anxiety, not shame.

But when I pray, and come face to face with God and show Him my pain, I am beginning to see that I do carry around a vast amount of shame.  It’s not even necessarily to do with things that I’ve done wrong, as we would normally define it.  It is so deeply rooted, that, as I mentioned, I didn’t believe it was there.  Woven into my fabric.  A part of myself.  Like a long, long thread that – if it were to be pulled out – perhaps I would fall completely apart.

It occurs to me that, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve suddenly developed the ability to feel shame, they did not only hide their sin.  They made garments, and covered their bodies.  What is sinful about the body?  Nothing.  The body itself is not sinful.  Yet, they were inclined to cover it.  They were inclined to hide from God when He came looking for them.

I don’t think they were only ashamed of their sins.  They were ashamed of their very selves.

Like me.  I’m not only ashamed of my sins.  I’m ashamed of my very self.

I pursue something in life, trying to do some good.  I lead a music therapy session, or write a blog post, and then look back on it and feel ashamed.  In doing these things, which are so near and dear to my heart, and, I believe, true to what God has designed me to do, I am exposed.  My voice, my words, my very best efforts, are on display for others to see.

And it is mortifying.

I fear that what I have done will not be enough.  I will be laughed at, frowned upon, or mocked.  My motives will be revealed as tainted.  (Be honest – how often are our motives 100% pure and unselfish?)

And if this deeply woven thread were to be pulled out, what would remain?  Would I fall apart, as I fear?  Why do I believe that feeling ashamed somehow qualifies me to continue working?  (Sure, I suck, but at least I feel bad about it.)  Why do I think that the shame holds me together, when in reality it only causes me to hide?

Today I re-read an article that said to not compare yourself to the faster runners, or the slower runners, but to just run your own race.  I’ve been taught by the wise teachers in my life to “leave the results up to God.”  I’m not sure why he would create, in me, such a flawed vessel.  But He did.

And after Adam and Eve sinned, He still went looking for them.

He said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”

He knew what He had made, before they felt it necessary to hide it.  And in fact, He had said that it was “good.”

He could have made me differently, or done away with me altogether, a long time ago.  He could prevent me from ever leading another session or writing another post.

But He doesn’t.

Maybe that, in itself, is saying something.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Am I making sense, or no?  I would love to hear your wisdom and ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

An Imposed Simplicity

As COVID-19 has reached my home province of Manitoba, there have been some dramatic changes.  Organizations and lifestyles are being whittled down to their most essential parts.  I’ve been hearing the reactions to what is happening, and many are mourning the loss of events and socialization opportunities.  People are worried about mental health – depression and anxiety, for example.

I feel like a bit of an oddball in all of this.  I do worry about the normal things – health risks, the economic toll, poverty, etc.  But as far as things being cancelled?  I feel like my mental health is better than it was before.  I’m sure the feeling of loss will kick in eventually…but, it hasn’t yet.

Before the pandemic, my children and I were committed to a variety of activities through school, preschool, church, and family.  Admittedly, I often involved us in these things out of a sense of duty.  We should participate in community.  We should volunteer and serve.  We should fellowship in groups.  My children should spend lots of time around other kids.  We should be physically active.  We should work hard.  We should always be learning – academically, and otherwise.  We should go on family vacations.  

We should, we should, we should.

I would write it all on my calendar, and then feel like crawling into a hole.  I would wake up in the morning, and want nothing more than to rest, because I am always tired.  I would drag myself from place to place.  These events were not feeding me, they were draining me.

I suppose, I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself, and on my family.

Do we really need so many programs, events, and commitments?

Perhaps this is a stretch, but it’s gotten me thinking about the tower of Babel.  Building, and building, trying to reach Heaven.  Striving for that ideal lifestyle.  Covering the bases.  Doing it all.

Look at this building.  Look at this program.  Look at our creativity!  Our ingenuity!  Our abilities!  Our wealth!  Just watch as we go, go, go!

It doesn’t take much to scramble us all up, does it?  A few days, a few weeks, and we’re ground to a halt, forced to re-examine our priorities.

In my life I’ve felt a great deal of stress about things like: finding the ideal job, having a certain kind of home, or getting my kids involved in the right extra-curricular activities.

I bet people who are recently laid off would be happy for nearly any job – not just the one that ticks all the boxes on their wish list.  People struggling to pay their mortgage or rent would be pleased to have a roof over their head that they can afford, even if it isn’t a dream home.  And as a parent maybe I need to realize that “extra-curricular” means just that – EXTRA, as in, non-essential.  And perhaps, at times, unnecessary.

I’m not saying that fellowship, education, and organized activities are bad things.  To the contrary.  They are privileges, and I am grateful for them.  However, I am noticing – in my life, anyway – there is relief in trimming away some of the excess.

Has your life become simpler lately, or more complicated?  Are you experiencing stress, relief, or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

INFP, and other things

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve written.  I feel as though I’ve gone from one kind of busy to another.  It used to be that we’d get ourselves packed up, dressed, and ready to go nearly every morning, and rush off to school, work, preschool, church, or whatever we had planned for the day.  Now, I stay home with my two boys, make sure my eldest does his school work, and try to prevent the two of them from fighting too much.  I focus on keeping them meaningfully engaged throughout the day and squeeze in as much housework or cooking as I can.  Honestly, I prefer this type of ‘busy’ to the former.  Being a recluse comes easily to me.  It has actually gotten me thinking about how I could change my lifestyle when this is (God willing) all over.  The irony, for me, was that when the pandemic cleared my schedule, I found myself breathing great sighs of relief.  (Perhaps I have been over-committing?)  I think it’s silly that it took a pandemic for me to realize that.

Many people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test.  I am INFP, leaning very heavily toward the introverted end of the spectrum (above the ninetieth percentile).  “Notoriously difficult to get to know,” according to one description of INFP that I read.  Although I enjoy people and can always see good in them, being with others (and especially in groups) is exhausting for me.  Sometimes I feel that the rest of the world moves too fast.  They talk fast, they walk fast, they do everything so darn fast.  Social media, especially Facebook, move at the speed of light.  I feel barraged by information, words, and images, constantly, without the time to process or think deeply about everything, the way that I would like to.  This is why, at the end of each day, I shut myself into the bathroom and run a hot bath.  Did you see that episode of “Stranger Things,” where they used a bathtub as a sensory deprivation tank?  That’s what it is like for me.

Once, at a group I attend at my church, we were sharing around the table, as we often do.  A couple of very deep questions were asked by the pastor, and we were supposed to take turns answering them.  A lump formed in my throat immediately and my head swirled with thoughts.  Did I have answers for those questions?  Well, how long have you got?  I could write a book on each one.  I glanced at the clock, and looked around the table.  A handful more people to share after me.  Only about 15 minutes of sharing time left.  That would leave me with 2, maybe 3 minutes, to say my piece.  I thought about the other ladies.  They barely knew me.  Even the ones who have known me for years…how could I make them understand?  I blinked back my tears, and drew a breath.  “I think I’ll pass,” I said, “those are very big questions.”  Yup…notoriously difficult, to get to know.

Having this personality comes with its baggage.  It’s not that we don’t want to be known.  We do.  And, we see the easy closeness that other people share, and we envy them.  We feel the pain of exclusion when not invited…but, we understand.  It’s not their fault, it’s not ours.  It just is.

Having this personality also comes with its delights.  The tiny things of life bring great joy.  The sunrise, or the sunset.  A cup of tea.  The laughter of children.  A piece of art.  The sun on my face.  The world is rich, beyond belief.

And here, on my blog, I can share thoughts as slowly as I want.  Those who want to, will read them, while those who move at a faster pace, can breeze on by.

I’m sorry for my unexplained absence.  I’ve missed reading your posts too, especially those with whom I used to interact with regularly.  I think I have brain space to blog again, but my posts may not look like they used to.  I may give up on sticking to a schedule, or a particular type of content.  My posts won’t be edited or curated as carefully anymore, I don’t think.  It’s too much of a burden right now.  These days I need to write as my children talk to me almost constantly, and I need to stop every minute or two to tend to something.  So, the blog will be whatever it will be.

But, I need my blog!  I need my pen pals!

I will try to visit your blogs in the near future too.  Please feel free to comment below; how is everyone doing these days?  I would love to hear from you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Groundhog Day

It was Groundhog Day, six years ago, when she died.  A woman of 35, the same age that I am right now.  As we drove the 14 hours that it was to her funeral, over wind-whipped plains, I thought about midwinter.  The white drifts that seemed to go on forever.  The hard, encrusted snow.  The bitter cold.

And in her life, the illness.  The grief.  Her trials and tragedies, and her past, which had never released her.

Through my tears, I remembered her husband: the man now left a widower.  And the irony of that movie, “Groundhog Day.”  Of all the days to relive endlessly, ruthlessly – is that what would now happen to him, in his mind?

groundhog-day1

I don’t know this kind of grief.  But I have had winters.  Proverbs 13:12 says that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  “Hope deferred?”  Oh yes.  “Heart sick?”  The weak, fluttery feeling in your chest; the weight in your stomach; the heaviness that follows you, slowing your every move and thought…yes.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10

Groundhog Day may seem like a silly tradition to some.  To me, it makes sense.  At this lowest, deepest point of cold on the calendar, we’ll cling to any shred of hope that winter will not last forever.  “Early spring,” “6 more weeks of winter” – either one is a blessed reminder:  Spring is coming!  Hallelujah!  Just hang on, a little longer!

And as for our emotional winters?  One scripture that has encouraged me is a prophetic word, given to an ancient people that lived in biblical times.  However, as prophetic words often go, its core truth is applicable across culture, time, and space:

“An oracle concerning Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, what is left of the night?  Watchman, what is left of the night?’

The watchman replies, ‘Morning is coming, but also the night.  If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.'” Isaiah 21:11-12

silhouette-1705707_640

God created a world where suffering was possible, and He doesn’t stop all of it.  He brings all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and there is purpose in what He allows to happen.  But He made the night, as well as the day.  The winter, as well as the summer.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

Yet He reminds us, through the coldest days of winter, and the darkest hours of night: “Morning will come.  Inquire again later – don’t stop asking.”

In the meantime, we may need to fast – from having our hopes realized, or our pains taken away.  When we fast from food, each pain of hunger is a reminder to pray.  So it is when we suffer.  Let the pain incite you to pray.  In your weakness, press in to God, that He may strengthen you.  Do not forget, that He cares for you.  And the morning will come.  The snow will melt; spring will arrive.  It may take longer than we like, but the winter will not last forever.

prayer-2544994_640

Jesus, have mercy on us in our seasons of suffering.  Be near, comfort us, limit our pains and times of trial.  Help us, Lord, to not lose hope.  You said the morning will come.  May we have the strength to wait patiently for it!

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Posted in Rambles

Fasting for Spiritual Reasons, Part 2: My Blogging Fast

Two Fridays ago, I shared about my first fast, which had nothing to do with food.  Click here to read about it.

I also made two main points:

  1. Fasting is a personal thing, and may take many different forms.
  2. Fasting can be a way to wean ourselves from things we rely on too heavily, and focus on God instead.

Another type of fast that has become quite popular (and often, necessary) is to fast from social media.  Experience has taught me, as yours probably has too, that the perils of this medium are many.  Facebook was particularly bad for me – so bad, in fact, that I’m fasting from it…well, permanently.  (That’s another story, for, perhaps, another time.)  Today, however, I would like to focus on blogging.

Many of my current readers may not be aware of my blogging history, up until this point.  I am a fairly new blogger, as you may have guessed, but this is not my first blog.  I began in 2017 with a blog entitled Little Moment Meditations.  I couldn’t believe my luck, when I started blogging – not because my blog was all that successful, but because I enjoyed it SO much!  Finally, I had found a creative outlet that was not only extremely satisfying, but also allowed me to connect and dialogue with other writers.

However, after a few months, things had gotten a little out of balance.  The amount of time and energy I was spending on my blog left me with too little of either to spend on my husband and kids.  I also noticed that I was reacting emotionally to the likes or dislikes of others concerning my writing.  Views on my stats, likes or shares on my posts, and even the exhilaration of receiving inspirations to write became ‘highs’ that I was chasing.  Behaving like an addict, my feelings spiked or plummeted sharply depending on how people were reacting to my writing, and on whether I had my next idea or not.  I knew this wasn’t healthy.  And confusing the issue, for me, was the fact that I partly viewed my blog as a ministry.  But was I actually doing it for God?  Or was I doing it for myself?

computer-1185626_640

It was the book “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge that enlightened this question for me.  In chapter 45, entitled “The Secret of Intimacy First,” he explains that even ministry can be like ‘wine’ when the pleasures of serving God become more important to us than our relationship with Him.  Serving God should happen as a natural response to His love.  It isn’t supposed to be about chasing the intoxication of His anointing, the accolades of people, or a ‘fix’ to help us feel worthy and valuable.  God loves us just as we are, before we’ve done anything for Him.  That’s the funny thing about God; the thing we don’t tend to expect.  He’s more interested in us, in ourselves, and in relating to us, than He is in our efforts and our work.  I am so thankful for that!

In order to let this truth soak into my bones, and to wean myself from the “highs” of blogging, I took an extended break.  About 7 months passed before I published another post.  By then I wanted a fresh start, with a slightly different feel to my blog, and “The Manitoba Mom Blog” was born.  I often visit the topics of God and spirituality, because that’s just a part of who I am.  But I’m not doing it to earn favour with God.  (I already have that…praise Him!)  And because I do have that, the opinions of my readers no longer make or break me.  (Although I appreciate all of your support, of course!)

Since most of my readers are also bloggers, I would love to hear your perspective on this topic.  Have you ever taken an intentional break from blogging?  And why?

And if you would like a more thorough explanation of the Biblical basis for fasting than what I provide here, and some of the reasons/purposes behind it, a pastor at my church has been teaching an excellent series of sermons on the topic.  Here is the link to listen to them:

https://mysouthland.com/messages#Prayer_and_Fasting/Prayer_and_Fasting

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Dead Time – Guest Post on Boondock Ramblings

“Have you ever had that sense of: “You’re done here.” – before you were actually done? A feeling of finality. Like a premonition: the book is going to close. You’re in the last few chapters. Maybe even the final pages. And you know in your bones, it’s going to end, and you will be starting another book. But first, you have to finish this one.”

To read the rest of my guest post, please visit Lisa R. Howeler’s awesome blog “Boondock Ramblings”!  Many thanks to Lisa for hosting me as a guest on her blog.

Warm wishes,

Lisa