Wednesday, June 26, 2013

when God doesn't show up

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about my brother and about how God was working in his life. Well guess what? God decided to change the plan. Without telling us. Without asking anyone's permission. Without any notice.  Call me a heretic or whatever, but I'm telling you straight up, I'm plenty pissed.

See, four months ago, my brother landed his dream job. We all kept saying it was a God-thing--from the fact that a buddy just happened to mention a job opening, to the fact that he had one last resume handy in his car, to the fact that he got an interview and then got hired on the spot. The timing was perfect, all the pieces fit.  And we couldn't have been more happy or proud. 

And then it all came crashing down this week. The boss-man hired someone with more experience and figured he'd let my brother go. So, after stepping out in faith to start living out his dream, my brother is suddenly jobless with a wife and a new baby to support. 

And that makes me really mad. Mad at the boss-man for not seeing the potential in my brother, yes, but most of all, really mad at God. Because right now, in this moment, it seems like God just doesn't give a crap. I mean, this was His big chance to show the world what He can do through Dan. And He blew it. He dropped the ball. He didn't show up. 

And the worst part is that He gave us a huge dose of false hope--my brother tasted what his life could be like, but then had it all ripped away. For some people, life always seems to be a struggle. For every good thing that happens, there's always another ten bad things. That's how it seems to go for my brother. Where is God in all this? Why isn't he doing anything? 

So, what do you do when things don't work out they way you plan? When life isn't easy or fair? When God doesn't show up?  When God takes away your brother's chance at living his dream? When he lets your new kitten fall in a cistern and drown in front of you? When he lets your dad suffer and die from cancer? How do you keep the hope alive? How do you keep your faith intact when God doesn't show up? When He's utterly silent?

Jeremiah 29:11 promises that God knows the plans He has for us--"plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." In the middle of all the crap, these verses may sometimes seem trite. But the reality is, we humans don't see the big picture. We don't know the future. My brother might get a job offer tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. And it might be even better than his last job. That's the thing, we just don't know. 

But the good news is, God can handle my anger. He understands my frustration. And disappointment. Even when they get in the way of my faith. 

And just because He didn't do things my way, just because he didn't show up when I wanted Him to, doesn't mean that He's not going to show up. He is God and I am not. I don't know exactly what He's trying to teach me, my family, and our friends though all of this. Patience? Trust? Reliance on Him for meeting financial needs? 

Being a Christian is relatively easy when life is good. It's when life is hard that it really counts. Maybe that's the point. It takes faith to believe in a God we can't see. It takes even more faith to keep believing in that God when He seems so far away. When He doesn't show up. 

Just like the song in the video link says,

"And I can't understand
All that You allow
I just can't see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn I will trust You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will trust You Lord
Even in my darkest valley I will praise trust You Lord
And when my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord."

on blogging

Another one of my passions is writing. I have always enjoyed the process of organizing my thoughts, finding my voice on paper (or on a keyboard), and writing about something or someone that I care about. This explains all the blog posts about family, friends, relationships, finding hope and healing in life's struggles, finding your passion in life, etc, etc. 

I think I come by it honestly. My Pake Dykstra (grandfather) was a gifted writer, who ended up writing his autobiography before he died. Our family had it published a few years ago. His daughter, my aunt Rennie, is a wonderful writer also. (You can read some of her writing here.) As soon as I could hold a pencil, I have been writing, so it seems only natural that I should start a blog. 

Blogging has been very therapeutic for me. Because it's not face-to-face, it's easier to be vulerable. To open up my heart and speak what's in it. And over the past three months, I am learning that I have a lot to say. And that what I say is important. My life lessons are valuable. My public encouragement of others is crucial.  My honesty is essential. And that's a big deal coming from a girl who's primary wound keeps telling her she's not enough. 

Watching my stats counter rise has been an affirmation that I need to continue writing. And judging by your comments (though they have been few and far between lately) and facebook "likes," writing isn't just helping me, it's helping and encouraging some of you as well. I can't tell you how much joy I feel every time my husband shares the link for my latest blog post on his Facebook, along with some quick phrase about how I nailed it. We've had some good discussions afterwards about things I've written, and he is seeing me come more fully alive. And through my blog, he's definitely learning more about this girl he married.

Now I know there are individuals reading this blog whose sole purpose in reading is to simply find dirt to feed their gossip group. I've has emails from a few readers fishing for more details about my personal life, (as if the blog posts weren't detailed enough) all under the guise of Christian love. (Just so you know, if I have my doubts about someone's sincerity and motive, I have my husband read them. He's intuitive that way, and also an excellent judge of character--which I'm sure the gossip group would say is just plain arrogant lol.) That all being said, I realize--as with anything worth doing--I have to take the bad with the good. 

At this point, let me be very clear: It is never my intention to harm anyone through my writing. Yes, I tell it like it is. Sometimes that might hurt a little. (But, as my husband often reminds me, hurt is not the same as harm.) Sometimes it might be uncomfortable. (Often, truth isn't, is it?) Sometimes you might be offended. (I got a few emails from offended readers when I wrote this post.) Sometimes you might completely disagree. I'm okay with that. 

So, I welcome thoughts, feelings, reactions to my posts. I really, really want to hear from you--but only if you're willing to be real about it. You don't have to agree with everything I write. I don't expect you to. I'd still like to hear your side. I'd like to hear about your life experiences--your hopes, hurts, and healing journey--and how they've shaped who you are.  We don't have to do life alone!   

I look forward to reading your comments and emails. And I can't wait to listen to your stories! It just might inspire another blog post! :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

when you can't find a job

I have been officially unemployed since Christmas. As a hobby, I enjoyed selling items online for the past few years, beginning with all the junk that we didn't have room to store during our house renovations. (My husband is astonished at the things people will buy, and I can't wait to ask him, "Guess how much I got for [insert random item] today?") Since losing my job, I have continued selling items online.  However, on such a small scale, it doesn't exactly pay the bills. And so, the idea to start my own business was born.

But what could I do, and where would I start? 
What what I good at? What are my passions? So, I started a list.

1. I enjoy rooting through other people's old crap. Absolutely love it. You never know when you're going to find something really, really interesting. 

2. You never know when you're going to get something for FREE. (I am sure that my Dutch ancestors would be really, really proud!)

3. I am a minimalist at heart. Clutter makes me crazy. My favourite part of teaching was getting my classroom ready for the beginning of a new school year. Everything was clean, fresh, new, and....organized. 

4. I love the thrill of buying and selling. I am constantly on the lookout for bag sales and other great deals at thrift stores all around town in order to sell the items for a profit online.

And so, in this spirit, ORGANIZE ME! was born.

I know there is a market for professional organizers. I know there are people with basements and garages full of crap. I know there are people who are so overwhelmed by their clutter, that they just don't know where to start. I know there are people who just want their junk gone. I know there are people who would love to sell their junk, but don't know where to start. And golly, I sure would love to help! 

In order to gain some experience and some references, am doing some de-cluttering, sorting, and online selling work for family members just for fun. I am currently working on selling some items online that were left over from my husband's late uncle's estate.  I regularly scrounge my list of thrift stores for bargains on things that are hot selling items online. I currently have two clients for whom I am selling items on consignment. 

I have no idea if this idea is going to take off or not; however, I have been constantly applying for other jobs for the past six months without so much as an interview. I feel strongly that God is closing all the doors in order to give me this time to have a break and figure some things out.

Of course, now that I've found my passion, I would love to be able to make a living doing it. I absolutely LOVE sorting and selling stuff. I enjoy helping people and making their lives better. I LOVE being my own boss, setting my own hours, and being the one solely in charge of expenses and profits.

I am still in process of looking for another part-time job. (Anyone know someone who's hiring??) Whether it's admin work, supply teaching, tutoring, or something else, I am hoping something comes up to help with the cash flow. But I'm confident that in God's timing, things will come together and I'll end up where He wants me to be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

it's a cat's life

   Busy Day

the cat
eats drinks
washes blinks
scampers stalks
sniffs scratches
leaps chews
rubs purrs
                         stretches sleeps

a day with my dad


This essay was originally written for one of my university writing classes, and given to my Dad on his birthday in 2003. While I have taken a few liberties as a writer, (one can't be expected to remember all the details of a typical day from ages 3-6), this is an accurate reflection of time spent on the farm with my dad .  The most precious memories I have of my dad are from these days.


"It's time to get the cows," my dad says, pushing back his empty teacup, and I eagerly jump from my chair, ready for action. 

"Don't forget to change your clothes," says my mom. I scamper off to my bedroom and emerge a few minutes later wearing my barn clothes: a pair of denim overalls that are too short, a faded t-shirt and a green cotton hat - "your milker's cap" my mom tells me.

"Let's go," says my dad as he pulls on his other running shoe, sticking the Velcro. He is far too impatient for lace-up shoes, unlike myself, who just can't manage laces yet. We both say goodbye to mom. My dad then dons his cap and we head out to the machine shed to get the tractor. Unwilling to be left behind, I have to run in order to keep up with my dad's long strides.

"Start 'er up," says my dad, as he shoves in the clutch of our Massey. I turn the key and my dad puts it into gear. He guides the tractor out of the shed and into the dusty lane, in the same manner he has done for as long as I can remember.

"Okay, your turn," he says, gesturing towards the steering wheel. For a brief moment I am terrified, but the sensation soon passes. After all, even though I am so much smaller than this huge machine, the lane is straight, and my dad is here, so everything will be all right.

 It is cool and shaded in this part of the lane. Wild plum trees line one side of the lane, and long grasses sway gently on the opposite side. My dad reaches up and plucks a handful of plums from one of the branches above us. From time to time he does this, popping plums into his mouth one by one, and spitting out the pits over the side of the tractor.

Soon we reach the bend in the lane where my dad takes over the wheel again. We enter the pasture and my dad parks the tractor in its usual spot. Then we make our way down the steep hill. Below us is the pond. It is at least twice as big as a swimming pool, but at this time of the year it's a murky green, "because of the algae," says my dad.

At the edge of the pond, partially hidden by the long grass, lies the pump. I am terrified of coming close to the edge because I cannot swim yet. The pond is over twelve feet deep in the middle - two of my dads standing on top of each other. 

"Go find the hose," my dad instructs, as he attempts to start the pump. One pull of the rope...I scamper off in search of the hose, buried somewhere in the long grass nearby. Two pulls...the pump starts with a puff of smoke, and I dump the hose into the first water trough just in time.

With the sound of the pump, the cows head down the pathway toward the water troughs. The first trough is so old, it's made of stone. The numbers 1935 are engraved along the top. "That's the year it was made," my dad tells me. I do not completely understand how old this makes it, but I'm sure it must have been on this farm forever.

I retreat from the troughs as the cows begin to gather. By the time the whole herd arrives, the second trough, a newer aluminum one, is nearly full as well. "It's going to run over!" I shriek. My dad just laughs and runs to shut off the pump just in time. Meanwhile, the cows drink thirstily. "On a hot day, a single cow can drink over 100 gallons of water," my dad says.

At last, the troughs are empty. We drive the cows back up the pathway and they head for the lane. Back on the tractor, my dad and me take up the rear. It is slow going, but several handfuls of plums later, the cows are driven into the barnyard, the gate is closed behind them, and the tractor is safely back in the machine shed.

When the cows have found their proper stalls, my dad heads for the grainary. He flips on the switch and grain pours out the end of the auger into the wooden wheelbarrow below. I put my hand out and catch some of the kernels. They tickle my palm. As I open my fingers, the kernels fall back into the wheelbarrow, creating miniature golden dunes.

Once the wheelbarrow is full, my dad wheels it out in front of the cows. With the large plastic bowl, he measures out the scoops of grain that each cow is to receive. Some receive more, some less. I have only memorized how many scoops each cow in the first row receives, so my dad begins feeding on the opposite end of the barn, working his way back towards the grainary. By the time he reaches the first row of cows, the wheelbarrow is much lighter, and I am able to push it along. Now I'm on my own. While my dad prepares for milking, I finish the rest of the grain feeding.

My dad, meanwhile, heads for the milkhouse. He flips a few switches and then carries the milking machines out to the other side of the barn. He strides back to the milkhouse and carries out the bucket of warm, soapy water and the wooden, painted green stand that holds the stack of paper towels and cup of iodine. 

By this time, I am finished with my task. I rejoin my dad, awaiting his next instructions. As soon as the first milking machines come off, he nods, and I grab the cup of iodine. Gingerly creeping in between the two cows, I dip each teat into the iodine, leaving a purple stain behind.

After we have begun milking the second row of cows, my dad heads back toward the milkhouse. I grab the 2.5-gallon plastic pails from the shelf and line them up in a row. He fills each one of them with milk and then checks the weight of each on the rusty scales hanging from the ceiling. When all six pails are filled with just the right amount of milk, I carry them off to the hungry calves. One pail in each hand, I struggle towards the pens. The full pail knocks against my legs and a little milk sloshes out onto my overalls.

Setting down one pail, I open the door to the first pen. An energetic black calf with a white triangle marking on on her face greets me and immediately begins sucking at the milk in the pail, even before I can set it inside her pen. I do the same for the calf in the pen right beside this one. Once the milk is gone, the calves still suck at the bottom of the empty pails. No matter how hard I pull on the handles, I can't free the pail; the suction is too strong. "I'm stuck! I'm stuck!" I cry to my dad. He comes running to my rescue, and with a swift yank, the pails come free.

I take the empty milk pails back to the milkhouse and repeat the process. As I return to the pens with the next round of pails, the calves that have just eaten are sucking on each other's noses through the peep-hole in the side of the pen, making it look as if they are kissing. I giggle and continue on with the feeding.

Once this is finished, I return to help with the milking. When we are finally finished, my dad cleans up the milkhouse while I fill the cats' feed bowls. Tiger, the black and grey striped cat perches atop the wall of the calf pen, overseeing the process. I give him a scratch under the chin and he purrs contentedly. 

Back inside the milkhouse, my dad takes a plastic cup off the shelf, dips it into the milk tank, and hands it to me. Without this, our day together would not be complete. I savour the rich, cold milk. My dad has a taste too. "Ah, that sure hits the spot," he says, swallowing the last of the milk,"I guess we're done for tonight." Glancing at his watch, he adds, "Let's go have our supper." I follow him out of the barn and down the driveway, back toward the house where my mom is waiting with supper. I am tired but content. Another day of helping my dad on the farm is done.


Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

for dad

Dear Daddy,

Today is your birthday and it seems unreal that you've been gone for over three years already. I wish you could be here to see how we finished renovating the upstairs our of house. Thank you for believing in that dream of mine, and for encouraging me (already in high school) that it could be done. Thank you for waiting until I graduated university, instead of tearing it down, like you threatened so many times.  Thank you for all the hours of work you did on the place that summer, when you should have been working on the farm.  For all the things you didn’t understand about me, the one thing that you totally got was that “you can’t have two women in the same kitchen,” especially if those two women were me and Mom. Thank you for helping me fly the coop and achieving at least one of my dreams. 
I wish I could have known you better, but I think the eulogy below (written by your sister) really sums up what you were all about.

Miss you always.

In Loving Memory of Hessel Dykstra (1935-2010)

I love my brother Hessel. It’s my privilege to have this opportunity to celebrate who he was, from my point of view, over the years. We’ve all experienced him in our own ways, of course, but I think any one of you can relate to something of who I’ve experienced him to be.
Hessel was a nature lover. Early in his life already he dreamed of someday having his own farm. It was that dream that had a lot to do with our family immigrating to Canada in the early 50’s. God honoured his dream as he grew in knowledge and maturity to pursue it with the family’s backing.

Most of my memories of growing up with him are pretty funny. We had a good time together, even though he was the big brother for my sister and me. He was an incessant tease so we learned to defend ourselves. It was a big joke with us that he’d have to run around the kitchen several times in order to collect his thoughts before he headed out to run some errands or leave on a significant trip. We were smart enough, usually, to give him space lest our backside got in the way of a smacking hand in his travels.

We played lots of Monopoly on Sunday afternoons. He was a shrewd Monopoly player and he knew how to get my goat. He ate like a horse and stayed thin like a reed. I was so envious as a teenager because I didn’t have that problem. Jane or I would be trying out our baking skills, some days, he’d sniff the air and blow into the house to sweep up anything that looked edible and hadn’t left the cookie sheet in one piece, and call them “misbaksels” (baker’s mistakes). Sometimes the “misbaksels” were burnt and he ate those too, as a favour, so we wouldn’t have to admit that we’d wasted food. That was frowned upon in our home. It was also his way of saying he had faith in us for a better day.

I remember the tomato summers when the family was faced with picking 5 acres of the red globes for the daily trips to the canning factory. The job would start in the heat of August and continue until the first frost in September, or sometimes October. Some days were so hot that the tomatoes sizzled in the sun and you almost burned your hands on the sunburned ones. Hessel could sense my silent seething against the drudgery and heat that was suddenly wilting any motivation to fill another crate. Well, he knew there was nothing like the sudden splat of an over-ripe tomato square in the chest, to pump up the adrenaline. His aim was perfect. So was mine. And we’d be back at top performance for a while again. I didn’t mind child labour as much if he were around. We did a lot of laughing.

He was a very sensitive guy. I remember the day the dog died after a nasty farm accident. He wasn’t too ashamed to hide his tears. He let me cry with him, even though he was a grown man. That’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always felt emotionally close to him.

Hessel was a gardener. He loved his flowers and had an ongoing war with the earwigs over the ownership of his stock of geraniums around the house. We always knew what would delight the other as a birthday gift. He supplied me with a flat of bedding plants that he carefully selected each year at the beginning of May and we knew that a flowering shrub or rose bush would always be welcome when it was his turn. The climbing rose in front of the garage was his favourite, I think; he’d make a point of telling me how many blooms it showcased. He also grew the best tasting pears in all of North America, which he liberally shared with us. His vegetable garden grew well in the former barnyard. Whenever we’d visit on a Sunday, he’s be proud to show his neatly-kept batch of strawberries, raspberries, beans, potatoes, and whatever else was growing at the time.

He was also a shrewd farmer. He learned from the best, as a teenager freshly implanted from The Netherlands into a new culture at the Thompson family farm. They taught him to understand the value of having a purebred herd of cattle. And he experienced the glory days of having the best herd of Holstein cows in the County on several occasions. He understood the land he was responsible for and he knew himself to be a steward of all that had been allotted to him by the Lord. He was careful about pollution, and what crops grew best in the different types of soil on his farm. He worked hard to get the land ready as early as possibly for receiving the new seed each year. It was a game to see which of his farming compatriots would be the first to have the land seeded and the first cut of hay ready for the baler. But it was also his sense of responsibility that motivated him. He kept his ear tuned to the weather forecasters and his eye on the sky for sunshine or rain, and his intuitive sense calculated when the crop needed to be ready to be able to tolerate the dry seasons.

Hessel was a generous man. I owe much of my post-secondary education to his sense of family support for one another. When my high school years were over and I had aspirations of going to Calvin College, there weren’t the easy answers of applying for government funds through OSAP. Hessel’s response to my SOS for tuition payment was simply, “Well, we’ll just have to sell one of these cows.” I know others of you have tasted of his generosity as well. He also didn’t like to waste, so if he didn’t think a cause had merit, you’d be wasting your time waiting for a hand-out.

He didn’t need a lot for himself personally. Vacations weren’t very feasible for a farmer with a herd of cows. The only ones he trusted to milk for him, on the few times he did take a break, were his nephews, Chuck and Rick. When they left the area and got married, he stayed put. Until his knees gave out. He saw only one course to take after that, and that was to sell the herd. Even then, the only way he could justify a vacation was to give to the Lord the same as he was spending on himself.

Hessel was someone you could count on once he had given his word. I remember his public profession of faith many years ago. The scripture that the pastor gave to the group of young people with him was Romans 10:11, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Well, he didn’t spout off at the mouth much about his faith, but he lived it in very practical ways.

The Lordship of Jesus meant he had responsibility for the needs of others. He committed himself to getting involved in Christian education long before he ever found Connie and had children of his own. Farming was a moral task and he became an active member of the Christian Farmer’s Federation. He became a board member of Parkside Village because providing a Christian community home for the elderly was important too.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. Those of you who lived with him on a daily basis know that when his frustration level reached its peak, he could lose his temper, or disappear into a dark mood. Connie had to cool him down more than once when the heifers didn’t behave themselves on their way in and out of the stable in the spring. And when machinery broke down and new parts didn’t fit, he preferred nobody around to listen to him vent.

He wasn’t the world’s greatest optimist either. It didn’t take much to discourage him, sometimes, and he lived by Murphy’s Law—if something can go wrong, it will. Those clouds that would come rolling in with a promise of rain would split when they arrived at the corner of Scoharie Road and the Highway, leaving a lovely patch of blue as far as Picton, where the two sections would meet again and pour out their accumulation in a deluge over the dusty pavement of the town and empty out into the bay.

He was also a cautious man. From childhood on, he was known to us more or less as never attempting anything until he was sure he could safely handle the task. Nick tells us he never went swimming with the boys in Holland until he knew how. Where he ever learned is a mystery to the whole family. And when he went pole vaulting over the ditches in Friesland, he didn’t come home wet like his older brother either. It took him 46 years to be sure he could handle asking the first woman on a date, and Connie trusted he was reliable and she could marry him.

My most cherished memory of Hessel, however, is of the mealtimes with him and his family when we were privileged to experience dinner devotions with them. I remember his simple prayers of faith in his compassionate God who always daily provides what is needed. Cancer robbed him of the joy of eating the meals he always relished so much. But that ordeal is over. I believe he may now sit with Jesus at the banqueting table and enjoy the feasts of paradise. 

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

-by Rennie VanderWal   

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

when your past comes calling

And he that sat upon the throne said, 
'Behold, I am making all things new.' " 
(Revelation 21:5). 

Yesterday I came face-to-face with my past. But it actually all started a little over two years ago, when I randomly received a message from one of the girls who had bullied me throughout elementary school. (I wrote more about my experiences and their effects in this post.) It turned out she was good friends with my soon-to-be sister-in-law. That fact alone surprised me, but then I nearly fell off my chair when I read:

"...I was talking to Jessica today and your name came up as she was chatting about her brother. I told her that I knew you from school years ago and I told her I wasn't very nice to you.  I am emailing you because I want to apologize for being mean and for teasing you. I've have wanted to do this for a long time. I was extremely rude and I feel awful for that. I hope that you'll forgive me... I know this doesn't make it okay at all and would understand if you couldn't forgive me, but I guess I'm hoping that you will..."
I didn't want to reply. I'd spent most of my 20's trying to forget that chapter of my life and pretend that it never happened. I'd tried so hard to re-invent myself and was finally getting comfortable with this "new" me, and now it was all about to unravel. 
I talked to a few trusted friends about the whole situation. I talked to my sister-in-law about it. Everyone kept saying, "She's not the same person she was when you knew her. She has genuinely changed. You should talk to her again." They even went so far as to say, " You have so much in common. You might be great friends." Huh? Yeah right! 
However, underneath all my defenses, there was a part of me that was deeply touched by the sincerity of her note. Eventually I was able to honestly write:
"Sorry for the delay in getting back to you... I guess there's still a part of me that doesn't want to forgive you, so replying to your message wasn't a priority. But I know I need to give that up because it's what God wants. So, yes, I forgive you. I never thought I would be able to say that, and I still can't--not in my own strength anyway. But by the grace of God, I can, and I will.
I have always wondered what this moment would feel like....but I was definitely not expecting an apology now, after all these years. Life at [school] was hell for me, (I have never even set foot in the building since graduation). I have major issues--to this day--all stemming from things said and done to me during my 9 years there...the wounds are still there. I still struggle when I look at myself in the mirror. It's hard to do so without remembering the names people called me and feeling ugly and unwanted. I have major trust issues with men and women. When I walk into a room and I see people whisper, I always wonder if it's about me, and if it's something bad. I hope one day God will fully take away my shame, and restore some of my self-confidence, so I can feel like it's okay to be myself, and grow to be the woman he created me to be.
I realize that you definitely weren't the only person who hurt me. You are, however, the first person to come forward to me, and openly acknowledge what you did...and actually apologize. So I thank you for that. Maybe now I'll be able to continue the healing process. 
While I do forgive you, I'm not sure if we could ever actually be friends. So, I hope that's not what you were expecting. But we'll see. God's not finished with me yet..."
I am smiling to myself as I re-read this, because God has indeed been at work. After this brief encounter, we didn't email again. However, we eventually ended up going to the same church.  A few times, I managed an awkward smile, but it was easier to ignore her, to pretend that I didn't see her. I saw her every week at church. We both attended the same baby shower.  Then, I saw her at the store. Twice in one week.  It seemed like she just wouldn't go away! And so, I finally took the hint. A full two years after her initial message, I contacted her again.
I expressed how a lot changed and I'd been able to more fully process her apology. I thanked her for it again. I could sincerely say I was confident that she was not the same person I knew all those years ago. I apologized for being a bit abrupt in my message two years ago. I talked about how I'd seen her many times, and the awkward feeling I got every time. I finally said, "At some point, maybe we could meet, but for now, maybe we could just use facebook...?"
It's been several months since then. We've facebook chatted a little, but yesterday we met face-to-face and talked --really talked-- in person for the first time. I was a little nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. But it wasn't weird. It wasn't awkward. It was good. Really good, in fact. 
I was moved by how she graciously welcomed me into her home. We went beyond the hurt, beyond the pain, beyond the awkwardness, and began to get to know each other. We shared experiences from high school and university days. Remembered former teachers. Talked about mutual friends. Found similarities. I felt comfortable. Respected. Admired. Safe. Very, very safe. The time we spent was too short. How can you catch up on a lifetime of memories and experiences in just an hour and a half? 
We planned to meet again. And then, just as I was leaving, the girl who used to make fun of me and whisper about me, the one who would kick me in the shins on the playground, reached out and hugged me.  

Yesterday, I came face-to-face with my past, and caught a glimpse of what I hope will be a glorious future. 'Behold, I am making all things new.' (Revelation 21:5). Amen!

the walking wounded

I am haunted by my past. 

Years of bullying at school have created wounds in me so deep, that even today, a certain word or a certain look will send my emotions spinning out of control. I spent years trying desperately to be like everyone else. Pretend it doesn't hurt. Don't let them see you cry. Never show weakness. All the while, never being able to completely drown out the voices in my head--You will never be good enough...pretty enough...enough....enough.

You cannot be alive without being wounded. As a result of the wounds we receive growing up, we come to believe that some part of us is marred. Shame makes us believe that we don't measure up. We aren't strong. We don't have what it takes. We aren't lovely or captivating. (Paraphrased from John and Stasi Eldredge.)

Maybe you were told you weren't pretty enough, strong enough, athletic enough, fast enough, smart enough... This desire to be "enough" is at the core of both men and women. In their books Wild at Heart and Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge explain how every boy wonders, "Do I have what it takes?" And every little girl longs to know, "Am I lovely?" When these questions are not answered "yes," and when we don't measure up, we are haunted with a profound sense of guilt and shame. 

When I started school, I was reminded every day that I was not enough.  All my clothes were hand-me-downs from a girl a number of years older than me. By the time anything fit me, it was hopelessly outdated. I was the only girl in the class with short hair. I was tall and skinny. By third grade, I had thick glasses (picked out by my mother), enormous feet, and I was hopelessly un-coordinated. And so, more often than not, I found myself being humiliated and ridiculed. Four-eyes. Dandy Long Legs. Green Giant. 

John and Stasi Eldredge write, "The only thing more tragic than the things that happened to us, is what we have done with them." The more I was humiliated, the harder I tried to fit in. I tried to look, think, and act just like everyone else, because I was not good enough. So I bought my own clothes. I grew out my hair. I wore lots of makeup. I got contacts. But no matter how much I changed on the outside, the damage on the inside was done. 

No matter how many compliments I received, it was never enough, because the problem with shame is that it makes you believe that you are fundamentally defective. You embrace the messages of your wounds and believe it's all your fault. Even when the mean voices on the outside stop, you can still hear them in your head. 

Shame affects how you do relationship with others: your friends, your parents, your children, your spouse. It affects how you handle disappointments, inconveniences, stress. Every little thing I don't get right the first time, every job I apply for but don't get, every word of correction spoken to me, is just another jab in the wound. Another reminder that I wasn't enough.

Just like with grief, we build coping mechanisms so we don't have to live in a world of pain. As John Visser writes in his book Olive Shoots Around the Table, we come up with all sorts of strategies to protect ourselves from being hurt again. Don't feel. Don't think. Don't cry. But in doing so, "we become alienated from our true selves, and can never become the people God intended us to be. It is only in dealing with the root of our shame, that we can re-build a true sense of identity."

Recently, I took another step in my journey of healing. After two years of trying to avoid her, and a few awkward meetings where I couldn't avoid her, I met face-to-face with one of the Mean Girls who had tormented me for years. By the grace of God, she is not the same girl I knew back then. And by the grace of God, I have been able to forgive her. 

Has this magically healed all my wounds and gotten rid of all my shame? Nope. (It's actually brought up a bunch of crap that I'd rather forget... Even as I write this, I cringe at the memories! Even if everyone who ever wronged me/hurt me/said something mean about me, stepped forward and apologized, it could never un-do what's been done. I still have days where the pain is so big and so overwhelming that all I can do is lay on my bed sobbing, and cry out through the tears, "Jesus, deliver me!") But it's a step in the right direction. And a step to what  I hope will be the beginning of a new and beautiful friendship.


To learn more about wounds and grieving, Olive Shoots Around the Table by John Visser is a great resource. So are Captivating and Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.