Tuesday, December 31, 2013

looking back...reflections on 2013

A year ago today I was lying on the couch -- sick as a dog with the flu-from-hell, physically and emotionally exhausted, unemployed, refusing to attend church, full of anger, bitterness, and grief. 2013 has been a tough year, but I have learned a lot about myself, others, and God. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I am not in the same place I was a year ago. 

Blog highlights/lessons I've been learning this past year:

-Learning to once again live with a heart wide open, despite all the dangers of love is a very scary business. Be careful who you open your heart to. There are a lot of people out there who are not able to safely handle your heart. But when you do open your heart, what a joy it is to have someone to walk alongside! 

-Real friends are the ones who show up and help carry you when things get tough. They stick it out even when you're not fun to be around. Letting go of past friendships is tough, but anyone who can't hang in there with you during the hard times, isn't worth having around to share the good times. 

-As terrible as house renovations are, there is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with the completion of a project. (And having now felt that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, we're totally going to hire someone to complete the final half of the house!)

-Having a home church and being part of a church community is important. Finding a church family where you fit in can be really hard. Finding a church that will care for your heart is even tougher. No church is perfect because we're all sinners. Sometimes, we can get deeply hurt by people who who are part of the church. Although they are sadly few and far between, church leadership that extends grace and love, and who offer a a sense of community and acceptance, really do exist. If you are able to find a pastor who takes seriously the calling of being Jesus' hands and feet, consider yourself blessed. 

-Forgiveness is a process, not an instant cure. You are not a "bad Christian" if you don't instantly forgive someone who caused you tremendous hurt and pain. Reconciliation is not the same as forgiveness, and it is not always possible.

-A lot of my friends have gone through some really tough losses recently. Though I can't relate specifically, my heart hurts for them. 

-Love is powerful. So is the bond of family. Being a big sister and an aunt is a great privilege

-Marriage can be really hard. Especially the "for richer or poorer/in sickness and in health" part. But I love my husband and wouldn't trade him for anything in the world.

-The only way for the grieving heart to heal is to work through it and deal with it. Easier said than done. Don't run when your past comes calling I (and so many others) am living proof that healing can happen. Sometimes your worst childhood enemy really can become your friend.

-Just because God doesn't show up when you want Him to, doesn't mean He's not there, or that He doesn't care. His sense of timing is not the same as ours, and we have to trust Him with the bigger picture. Again, easier said than done.

-Some dreams are worth pursuing, even when they seem impossible. Sometimes, they come true sooner than you think.

Thank you to my faithful mentors, friends and readers for your prayers and your words of encouragement throughout 2013. It is my hope and prayer that each of you experience God's ongoing presence in your life throughout the New Year. May you know without a doubt that whatever 2014 holds, He will hold you firmly in His hands!
Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

christmas 2013 in photos

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful,

And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've bought some corn for popping,

The lights are turned way down low,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When we finally kiss good night
How I'll hate going out in the storm!

But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,

And my dear, we're still goodbying,

But as long as you love me so,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

(And since I was not so diligent with taking family photos this year, here is the link to view last year's Christmas photo post.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

when you can't find a job - part 4

***This is a follow-up to my previous posts, When You Can't Find a Job - part 1part 2 and part 3 (which I must say, have been some of my most-read posts so far!)***

It's no secret that I have had an odd assortment of jobs this past year. From selling items online, to organizing and cleaning, to making preserves and gift baskets, to tutoring, I've done it all. And now I'm happy to announce that in addition to doing all of the above, I'm now back to part-time teaching as well.

Because local teaching jobs are so hard to come by (and basically non-existent in the local Christian schools), my only option of getting back into the market was to supply teach. Although the money can be great, supply teaching is not for the faint of heart! It's incredibly stressful walking into a room of 25 kids you don't know, and hoping praying that you can maintain control all day--and if you're lucky, actually get them to do some work. It's the stuff that those "week-before-school-starts-teacher-nightmares" are made of! And it's the reason I usually don't teach older grades (although I did teach high school English and Civics once...talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!) I was dreading the prospect of constantly being on-call, never knowing if/when/where I would be working; however, the only way into the public or Catholic school board is to first get on to their supply list. And I had applied for this twice in the past two years, and never received an interview. 

Thus, late in August, armed with my resume and a current police check, I visited several local schools in hopes of getting on some emergency supply teacher lists. This is done on a school-by-school basis, and usually left up to the administrative assistant. I started out with the schools that were within a few minutes' driving distance from home. Thankfully, we are very centrally located--I am within 15 minutes of 3 public schools! One was familiar because I had done a student-teaching placement there. Although my former associate teacher had transferred to another school, the administrative assistant remembered me, and immediately added me to her list. The next school I visited was brand new to me, however it happened to be the school where my former associate teacher now worked. The last school was also brand new to me, but I had a teacher friend who taught there. The administrative assistant was delighted that I had experience in Kindergarten. Having been added to the lists at 3 different schools, all I had to do was wait for a phone call.

My phone was silent for nearly all of September. I assumed that I was not going to have a very busy year, so I continued tutoring and working on my other side businesses. I was also able to help my sister-in-law set up for her first year of homeschooling. Because I wasn't teaching Kindergarten, she was then able to make use of my plans, books, and activities that would have otherwise sat in boxes in our spare room. 

Then I started getting calls. (As the old saying goes, "When it rains, it pours!") And not just for supply teaching, but also for Educational Assistant (EA) supply, and with my background in Kindergarten, Early Childhood Education (ECE) supply. Most recently, I was able to work as an ECE for 8 days in the same classroom! Not only did I have an excellent associate teacher to work with, but also a very well-behaved class! It also gave me the opportunity to get to know the school routines, as well as the other staff.

Some weeks I work full-time, some weeks part-time, and some weeks not at all. Overall, though, I average about one call per week. Even though emergency supply teachers make a lot less than those who are on the board supply list, the money is still good. Combined with my other endeavors, the one-call-a-week is providing nearly the exact amount of extra cash needed for me to stop looking for a permanent job. 

After a frustrating year of searching, applying, and interviewing for non-teaching-related jobs, and still coming up jobless, it appears that God had a plan this whole time. Having this time away from teaching has allowed me to be able to work through some of my pain and past hurts (like the part where I stopped going to church...not so good if you plan on being employed in a Christian school.) So after a year away, it's time to ease back into real life. And right now, I have a strong sense that real life consists of emergency supply teaching.  

Living and working in a small community is not easy for someone with my trust issues who has been burned by one of the churches in that small community. I can't even go to the grocery store without running into someone from my "former life." However, emergency supply work provides the opportunity go into a school and focus on my job for the day; there is no need to form lasting relationships with co-workers or parents, or make small-talk with with someone I'm still trying hard to forgive. It's a relief to go in and do my job, without wondering what everyone is thinking or saying behind my back, and then feeling anxiety over having to face them all again the next day. 

I still hate being on-call, (I have actually lost sleep worrying about if I am going to have to work the next day), but I enjoy the freedom of not being tied down to a specific job. I can decline a call, or quit supplying any time I want. Through this whole process of job-hunting, it's clear that all along, God knew what He was doing. It is not my intention to do emergency supply teaching forever. But it's a good fit for where I'm at right now. And it's another stepping stone on my journey of healing and discovering more of who I am.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

christmas greetings 2013

Dear Family, Friends and Blog Readers,

It’s that time of year again! We are amazed at where the time goes--in a few short weeks we will again be celebrating the birth of our Saviour, and ringing in a New Year. With that in mind, we would like to take some time to reflect on the past 12 months. It has been a rather eventful year for us:

After 2.5 years, we now have a completed master bedroom, spare bedroom, and bathroom/laundry room upstairs! We were so relieved to finally complete the enormous task this past spring. This summer, we had a new front entranceway added, and had the front porch completely re-built. Mr. Gryce continues to work at the downstairs foyer/office area, and the downstairs bathroom. He is becoming quite handy at framing, plumbing, electrical work, and all other necessary tasks involved. If all goes as planned, we will gut the kitchen and living room in early spring, and then hire someone to complete the final stage of our downstairs renovations before next Christmas.

Mr. Gryce is definitely ready for a well-deserved vacation this month! Renovating and chopping our winter’s supply of wood have kept him busy all year—in addition to his work as a software developer. He has been at his current job for just over 3 years, and while the work is challenging and time-consuming, the company is doing well and he hopes to be there for a long time. Their new office space provides a beautiful view of the Bay of Quinte! We were able to get away for a weekend in August to Huntsville, Ontario, where Mr. Gryce was a groomsman in his friend Ivan’s wedding.

Mrs. Gryce has not yet found a permanent job. She started offering private tutoring at our home this past summer, and currently works with 5 students here in the evenings. She also launched her own business, The County Cupboard, selling homemade jams, preserves and gift baskets. She also cleaned and organized several people’s homes/garages, selling numerous items on consignment. Mrs. Gryce continues to put her entrepreneurial skills to good use, selling a variety of items online, including her preserves. From time to time, she also gets called to supply teach in some of the local schools. We are thankful that in the past few weeks, she had received numerous calls. In her spare time, Mrs. Gryce has started this blog, and also continues to enjoy scrapbooking.

After two years, we are starting to feel more at-home in our new church. We have a few close friends and are blessed to be led and loved by a wise and humble pastor. Despite being part of such a large church, he has truly taken the time out of his busy schedule to spend time with us and to really get to know us. We are grateful to be part of a church that cares for not just our hearts, but the hearts of so many other broken and hurting people, both in the church and broader community.

We were excited to become Uncle and Aunt again this year. We welcomed our newest niece Evelena Marie on April 26. We enjoy watching her grow and change—and yes, we even babysit sometimes! Our twin nieces Molly and Lola are growing up fast—they celebrated their first birthday in September, while nephew Silas began home school. He enjoys doing many of their Aunt's former Kindergarten activities in their new school room in the basement. We still have our kitty Charlie, and he continues to delight and amuse us with his antics.  

We are hoping and praying that 2014 will be a year of continued personal growth for us—both spiritually and emotionally. We can’t thank you enough for your friendship, love, prayers, and support. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

With much love,
Mr & Mrs Gryce

(To read last year's Christmas greeting, go here.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

when trust is broken

I have trouble trusting people. If you're a regular reader of this blog, or if you've known me for any length of recent time, you'll know why. I'm still working through a lot of it, because as I've said before, forgiveness is a process.

Forgiveness is not, however, the same as reconciliation. 

To be reconciled with someone that has wronged you, means that trust is re-established. As John Visser writes in his book When Dreams Come True, it means that I can "safely put my life back in your hands without fear of being betrayed, taken advantage of or hurt all over again...Trust once broken is very difficult to restore. It almost inevitably involves a period of testing to make sure that you really are who you say that you are."

While I'm the first to admit that I have trouble with the forgiveness aspect, I have even more trouble with the reconciliation part--because it involves involves trust. 

Wounded hearts do not lightly let go of the pain they have experienced or the injuries they have sustained.

John Visser writes, "Many people cannot learn to trust because their hearts are wounded and they are bonded to their pain. When they see other people living in community, loving and being loved in return, they say, 'Yes, I want to be part of that. I want to...belong.' Hesitatingly, they step out and try to find people that are safe, always testing, always secretly feeling they are going to be disappointed. And sure enough, that is exactly what happens. Sooner or later, someone will let them down and reinforce all their fears that people are not to be trusted...

Wounded hearts are like a bottomless pit. No matter how much love you pour into them, it is never enough. 

"You can do it right a thousand times but the first time that you fail, you're in the doghouse. No one can fill a bottomless pit. It needs to be healed. And the only one who can truly do that is Jesus. As we embrace our pain, take personal responsibility and turn it over to Jesus, He will do the work of healing that needs to be done. As we embrace our fears and step out in faith and obedience, we get stronger and are able to do relationships properly.

"For many people that is a very scary business. To expose one's heart and take the risk of rejection when that has been the story of one's life is contrary to every natural principal of self-preservation. Everything inside of us wants to run away from such pain. Bit as we persevere, as we take the risks...we discover that He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. The benefits of living in community far outweigh the cost of getting there."

With the help of God, forgiveness is always possible. Because God reconciled the world to himself and did not count our many sins against us (II Cor 5:19), we too, should always strive for reconciliation. But reconciliation can only happen with trust. And just like forgiveness, repairing trust takes time.   

So how do we know if it's safe to trust someone who hurt us? The only way to even begin to repair trust is for the injured party to be assured of three things:

1. The offender truly understands what he/she did wrong.
2. The offender is determined to do something about the wrong he/she did.
3. The offender can demonstrate over a period of time that true change has taken place.

This doesn't always happen. Which is why there are many people with whom I am not yet reconciled. Some do not understand the gravity or the significance of the wrong they did. Some do not wish to make make amends or even acknowledge what they did was wrong. Some have not showed any change at all on their end. In those cases, forgiveness on my part is made all that much more difficult. And reconciliation? Impossible at this point. It is not wise, nor safe, to begin trusting them. 

Living in community does not mean we live with our hearts wide open for just anyone. 

My wounded heart can only take so much. So while Colossians 3:13 instructs us to "forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another...as the Lord forgave you," I like the reminder of Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.Just because we forgive someone, doesn't mean we automatically let them back into our lives in the same capacity as before. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation requires cooperation on the part of both parties, and is not possible without trust.

Right now, because of my wounded heart, it's hard for me to trust. But I'm working on it. Sooner or later, we all hurt each other. Because we're all human. And even though sometimes the wounds have been too deep, and the betrayal too great for reconciliation to take place, a sincere apology and acknowledgement of the hurt goes a long way in the process of healing me

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18), and walk in forgiveness. But be careful who you trust.