I Didn’t Know What To Call This, But I’m Back

This is usually the part where the blog writer explains his or her long absence with a list of reasons why they haven’t blogged since August of last year. However, my reasons for not blogging were kind of boring (Depression, school work, blah, blah, blah) What I’ll do instead is just move right along to the next topic.

In the past seven months, I have noticed a change in how I approach reading and writing. I’m a lifelong bookworm, and in 2012, I successfully completed 100 books. Since then, I’ve completed one year of university, and now, when I read anything, my inner editor automatically picks up the punctuation errors.

A few days ago, I was reading a response to a question on the Ask FM app (in which the people submit anonymous questions). My first thought was, “Dang, girl, ease up on the commas! No one takes that many pauses when they speak.” Then, I remembered that I was not reading an essay, so the person could put the commas wherever she wanted to, and her mark would still be the same. (Zero, because she’s answering questions about her life, not being graded for her writing.)

I also moved, and found out that I spent most of my time working acquiring stuff that depreciates in value. You know what’s mildly depressing? Having to fill out a form for renter’s insurance and realizing that you don’t have anything that would qualify as an “asset.” What I do have is a bunch of stuff that is valuable to me, and perhaps, my niece. (My makeup collection is enormous, and she loves it.)

A few weeks from now, I have to do a presentation about the “Desert Saints.” They were a group of Christians from the 4th century, who believed that struggle and self-sacrifice were an integral part of one’s spiritual development.

I have to say, that it’s something that I connected with right away. If I’m too comfortable, complacency sets in, so for me, some discomfort is necessary to keep me on track. Since I’m an introverted person, it’s easy to find things that make me uncomfortable.

I’ll be the first to tell you that my life as a Christian has been full of adversity. There are years of my life that I wonder how I got through them without completely losing my mind. I love being comfortable. In fact, I prefer comfort, but there’s something about going through a good battle and coming out alive that energizes me and reaffirms my faith in the God who got me through it all.

I always hate going through the tough times, but with each level I pass successfully, I learn something new. Life isn’t just about pursuing happiness, getting what you want, and making sure your people are well. It is about passing along what you’ve learned to others.

One interesting thing about Antony, one of the desert saints I read about, is that, while he lived in isolation for much of his life, he didn’t keep the blessings from God to himself.

He taught people and prayed with them, miraculous things happened, as a result. He wasn’t just eccentric for eccentricity’s sake. He used his years of struggle and sacrifice to allow God to work through him to help others.

I was initially attracted by the “away from people” aspect of his spiritual life, but I also know that I can never completely disengage because there is always someone who needs encouragement or support. A life in ministry is not one I would have chosen for myself, but now that I know “what”, I have to keep the “why” in perspective.

The first act of my life was all about me. My job; my feelings; my wants and needs, but the second act is all about what I can do to serve God best.
So far, I’ve got being kind and respectful to people with different belief systems, and being less hostile to fellow saints whom I believe are too exclusive and cliquey.
(It turns out, I’m much better at the former than I am at the latter. Oops)

Before I started school, a friend told me that the person I’ll be once I leave school will be different from the person who started. I didn’t know what she meant, at the time, but I’m already noticing a difference. Whatever happens along the way, whether it be a struggle or a peaceful journey, I pray that my experience will help someone else.

Be Wary of an Easy Ride

There are hundreds of colloquialisms about how the road that appears to be the easiest ends up being more costly in the end than a hard-fought journey. We hear, “Too good to be true” usually is; that the road less travelled is the one we should take. Even the Bible tells people that the gate to heaven is narrow, but the gate to hell is wide. It’s cliche, but adversity does make people stronger than they would be because weakness and uncertainty are a forerunner for adaptability and strength.

A few years ago, I listened to a radio program about the plight of the homeless in western Canada. One of the volunteers at a shelter said that people he meets deal with misfortune on a consistent basis and that makes them tougher, more adaptable, more resilient and more appreciative than those of us who live comparably easier lives.

Sometimes formidable a opponent is just what a person needs to shake them up, and get them back on track. Through experience, I learned to treasure the good times when they come, as well as prepare myself for the tough stuff. Everyone hates discomfort, and we don’t like the uncertainty that goes along with strong opposition. However, just as a video game gets more difficult with each level a person beats, day to day life gets more difficult with every challenge. How a person handles a tough challenge could mean the difference between moving up a level, or staying at a plateau. Life will knock us down—often. It is not falling down that tells the tale. It is whether we learn from the hard knocks and get back up to fight again.

I don’t think I’d be the same person had I not had so much opposition. I would not have known how to handle conflict if I never had anyone oppose me. I would not know the right thing to do if I had not gotten  so many things wrong. Opposition, it turns out, is the friction that sifted the nonessentials in my life away, and left the important things behind.

We may despise the appearance of weakness or vulnerability, but it is in that weakness that we find strength. A so-called “easy ride”, may make us feel good, but it does not prepare us for real life. Life can be an easy ride, but sometimes it isn’t. Just like an elite athlete in training for his or her next event, we need to be prepared both in season and out of the season because we never know when we’ll get the call to step up. We may not need as much power while things are going well, but we still need to build our muscles for when things go wrong.

Do not get too freaked out when challenging situations arise. Remember that every day is different, and things can turn around. Don’t allow past mistakes to infect the present. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Adversity can crush a person, but it can also push them to succeed.

Don’t let the fear of failure kill your confidence. If life has knocked you down, remember that, as long as you’re living, hope is not lost. You were born to prosper.

 

Peace,

Erie

…But Then I Was Like, “This Is A Story”:2012 In Review

I did a lot this year. I read 100 books (as of December 29th). I *officially* chose a career and started saving money to pay for university, (No collections agencies for me!) and I got it through my thick skull that my arms are too short to box with God, so I may as well be quiet and do things His way.

I also started another blog so I can ramble on about what I’ve learned, mostly by making tons of mistakes.

2012 was the year that I came into my own. I chose to be authentic rather than pandering. I can honestly say that every compliment, and encouraging word I paid this year was genuine. (Unfortunately, so were the insults! I suffer fools badly)

In reading 100 books, (25,225  total pages to be exact) I learned to ‘Resist not evil’ (Leo Tolstoy, My Religion). I learned “Manuscripts do not burn”, (Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita), “Depression is a damned liar”, (Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened), and, “We degrade God when we attribute our own ideas to Him, out of annoyance that we cannot fathom His ways” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot)

I also learned that it is okay to be a quiet introvert, (from both The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling, and Quiet by Susan Cain). And love gives you more power than hatred, manipulation, or control (from every single Christian book I’ve read).

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned this year is how to be still. I’m the type of person who is always trying to fix things. If something is wrong, I feel duty-bound to intervene–whether it is my business or not. This year I  found out that I can’t control everything.

I can’t change what people do, what they say, or how they feel. What I can change is how I react, and then make a mental note of everything that was said, done and felt, and write about it later. (At first I was angry, but then I was like, “This is a story.”)

We have all had those situations that temporarily knock us off our feet, but when you communicate mostly through writing as I do, and have a neat little forum to express yourself, you can publish some of those situations online and receive the input of tens of strangers. (Whether you want it or not)

Besides, I’m the progeny of fighters, so you can’t keep me down for long.

There are some years that are remembered for how traumatic they were. (2008-2010 immediately spring to mind for me. There were accidents, births, deaths, court dates, renovations, murder. OK. I’m kidding about the last one) Yet even through the hard times there were moments of joy.

That’s another thing I learned this year: Joy cannot be changed by circumstance. I’m not a bubbly person, and when I’m not smiling I look as though I am angry, so my joy is not apparent to the casual viewer.

Even though, it isn’t obvious, joy is what carried me through the loss of several relatives this year. It is what kept me calm during the busy Christmas season, and it helped me to laugh in the face of tests and trials. Joy keeps me grounded, and it makes me strong.  After all, it’s easy to give in to anger, but keeping  your composure takes a lot more work.

Then again, I always enjoy a challenge.

I can look back on 2012 and say that I will remember it affectionately. I wasn’t as nice as I could have been (really, who was?). I had more than my fair share of open-mouth-insert-foot moments, and I didn’t give as much as I thought I would have, but I also spent time encouraging people. I have said prayers on behalf of complete strangers, and even though I wasn’t as philanthropic as I wanted to be, I still took the time to give to people who have less than I do.

Yesterday I read a quote that I really liked: “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” Every time I have been broken down, I’ve been reinforced. What broke me in 2011 couldn’t break me in 2012, and what broke me in 2012, won’t break me in 2013 because I know where my strength is found.

In 2013, I am leaving the past in the past, and moving onward and upward into the life I was born to live.

Settling for average is so five years ago.

Happy New Year!

Erie

P.S. The title was shamelessly lifted from an episode of Community (The one where Troy is prepping Jeff for his fight with Anthony Michael Hall). I am not that clever.

Talking About God Tuesday:Enemies? Pfft!

To many, the Bible is just highly divisive book of fairy-tales used to oppress and keep people subservient. For those of us who know the truth, the Bible is a guidebook for living a good life. Not an easy life, mind you, or a perfect life, but a good life.

I thought that being a Christian meant that I would never have any problems, but  as soon as I got baptized (making my declaration public), the depression began. And then the anxiety. And the pneumonia. I started having nightmares all the time. Then a lot of other issues came up, both with me, and my extended family.

So much for life being better.

In my later years, I actually read the bible–outside of church–and found out that being a Christian attracts more trouble, not less. When Jesus called his disciples, one of the first things he did was give them instructions about what they could expect as they spread his message.

Excerpts of his advice:

Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Because you are lambs among wolves, and they will eat you if you are not smart.)

“Be on your guard against men.” (Because they will accuse you of things you didn’t do)

“When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say or how to say it.” (Because you will be given what to say)

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm in the end will be saved.” (Trust me)

“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.”(Don’t hang around where you are not welcomed)

“Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Trust me, not people)

The disciples made a lot of enemies. Some followers of Christ were thrown in jail. Some were executed. They were constantly harassed, and one even committed suicide (more on that at a later date). Every disciple had to leave their families and material possessions behind, even the wealthy ones.

That doesn’t exactly sound like a picnic in the park.

There are lots of verses that tell us the cost of following Christ, but thank God that there are more telling us of the benefits.

The Benefits of Following Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Rest)

“Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Endless possibilities)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; Do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Courage)

“No weapon that has been made to be used against you will succeed. You will have an answer for anyone who accuses you. This is the inheritance of the LORD’s servants. Their victory comes from me,” declares the LORD.” (Protection)

Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Victory)

“Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Enlightenment)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Peace)

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Joy)

 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. “(Hope)

“We love because he first loved us.” (Love)

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (Prosperity)

“O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Healing)

“I, the LORD, have spoken! The time has come, and I won’t hold back. I will not change my mind, and I will have no pity on you. You will be judged on the basis of all your wicked actions, says the Sovereign LORD.” (Vengeance)

 “God didn’t give us a cowardly spirit but a spirit of power, love, and good judgment.” (Power)

Being a Christian does not give me the right to believe I am better than anyone else because I’m not. I have the same flaws, struggles, and issues as everyone else. The only difference is that when I feel angry, sad, or depressed I don’t drink myself into a stupor, or yammer on to all of my friends.

I pray. I read my Bible. I meditate. I remember that God is in control, not me.

I know I’m not better than anyone else because I don’t compare myself to anyone else. I follow Jesus, so I’m trying to be more him, not Lily from down the street.

Another thing that my belief in Jesus and this elaborate “fairy-tale” has given me is protection from anyone who makes the unfortunate mistake of becoming my enemy. I’ve read the book, so I know that not everyone is going to like me. In fact, some will hate me, and try everything they can do destroy me.

Fortunately, I have a multitude of angels working on my behalf, contending with anyone who decides to contend with me. I can be confident, not in my own ability, but in the God who created me. He will fight all of my battles for me. All I have to do is be still, and not complain.

Whether we like it or not, the world will be hostile toward us. They won’t like us, or our message. We will be called self-righteous, hypocritical, arrogant, and smug. We will be ridiculed, rejected, and scorned.

But,

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

I can walk with my head held high because my trust is in the Lord.

I can succeed–no matter what the obstacle is– because my faith is in the Lord.

Besides, I don’t have enemies.

I have unintentional allies.

 

“Defeat? I do not recognise the meaning of the word.”

Margaret Thatcher, Former Prime Minister of  the U.K.

 

Live Well Everyone,

Erie 🙂

If You Can’t Take The Heat,Get Your Behind Out Of the Kitchen!

When I was a kid, one of the most popular mind games was “Yo’ Mama”. For those unfamiliar with “Yo’ Mama” (Heh :grin:) The point of the game was to out-insult the opposition. Or make him or her cry–whichever came first. I figured out early on that the person who gave the most vitriolic, mean-spirited responses was also the one who would cry as soon as the crowd turned on him or her. As long as they had the support of the group, they were all in, grinning and laughing. When a person made fun of them or their mama, they got angry.

I have been a loner since I was very young. I found out during those recess games of “Yo mama” that when you continually count on the crowd to back you up, you are nurturing your own weakness. Often, I find myself speaking to teenagers about this topic. I always preach about individuality, about them being true to the person they were created to be, and ignoring all the haters. I conveniently leave out how difficult it was for me to be an individual, how my true self was stifled by peers who felt threatened by me, and how “ignoring all the haters” typically meant that I spent most of my breaks with the school librarian. (Or off campus with my friend who had a car)

There’s a cost to being who you really are, but, man, does it every pay off when you’re older. When you’re young, older seems like a far away land that you don’t have to think about until you get there. Believe it or not, it’s closer than you think. And what you do not want to do is spend your time living by who the crowd thinks you should be.

Being an outsider either defeats you to the point of wishing your own death (or acting upon it. Tragically, this happens far too often), makes you bitter, passive-aggressive, and controlling, or it makes you stronger and more independent–but only after you’ve lived through the first two. (It also gives you a laundry list of issues, including, PTSD, anxiety, and depression, but that’s another story for another day)

I had the benefit of having two parents who went through being teased as children, and used different ways of coping. My mother focused more on her academic life and became an activist and a counselor. My father learned how to fight and bullies pretty much left him alone. My parents raised me to stand up for what is right even if I have to stand alone, to be quiet, work hard, and mind my own business, and not to take anything said against me personally.

Most of the time, the people who set out intentionally to wound others are broken themselves. They don’t understand what it’s like to live confidently, so they mistake it for arrogance and try to destroy that quality in others out of fear. I didn’t understand this until I grew up. Bullies are rarely mean people. They’re just hurt and insecure. And whichever way that insecurity manifests itself, either through self-loathing, narcissism, or arrogance, it is damaging to everyone they come into contact with.

But I digress.

My father once told me, “If you can’t throw a decent punch, you’d better keep your mouth shut.” (Once a fighter, always a fighter :razz:) He told me that I can’t be mouthy if I am not able to defend myself if someone takes my words to heart and decides to punch me in the face. By the same token, if you can’t take someone criticizing you, don’t be critical. If you can’t take a sarcastic jab, don’t make them. If you don’t want to be manipulated, don’t be manipulative. If you don’t want to be judged harshly, don’t judge anyone else.

And if you can’t take the heat, for God’s sake, stay away from the kitchen.

“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”   Proverbs 15:1

Live well everyone,

Erie

I Don’t Have A Catchy Title For Monday Posts

 

I requested today off of work because I had some important family business to attend to. It all turned out really well, (All thanks to God!) and I spent the rest of the day “window shopping” (which meant that I actually bought a new purse and a snazzy eye shadow palette. Note:I always end up buying all of my gifts early and spending the money I’ve saved on myself. Every single year) On the way home, I began thinking about forgiveness. The last couple of years have been trying ones for everyone in my family. It seemed as though we were perpetually taking one step forward, and 3 steps back. The situation was beyond our control, but thankfully, that’s where our faith filled in the gap.

Whenever we became discouraged, something would happen to give us hope. We learned not to look to our outward condition to give us an accurate picture because it changed by the week. Instead, we grew to count on our faith in God, something that has never failed us. All of us had plenty of opportunities to allow bitterness to rule us, and it was definitely warranted. But, holding onto resentment would not have made any difference in the outcome. It would have altered us in destructive ways. In order for us to gain clarity, we had to treat everyone involved with a measure of respect. Even the people who least deserved it. I honestly believe that once we changed how we saw the situation, we were better equipped to handle it. (Plus, some wise counsel helps :D)

Choosing forgiveness freed us from focusing on the past. Yesterday, my pastor said in his sermon that our past is meant to be a place of reference, not residence. We could look back and see every false step we made, but we didn’t camp out and live there. Learning from our mistakes gave us the momentum to advance, and conquer the obstacle that was placed in our way. I am grateful for all of the adversity I have had to face, either with my family, or by myself because it has given me the opportunity to learn something I would not have experienced otherwise. What was meant to break us actually ended up bonding us closer together.  While I was going through the difficult times, my favourite verse was this one: “Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.”

I took comfort in the fact that hard times do not last forever. Eventually, the clouds will part. The sun will rise, and there may even be a rainbow, but first you have to believe it’s possible.

I think I’ll call future posts “Maudlin Monday” 😆

Peace,

Erin

Off The Cuff Thursday: I’m So Mean (And Other Stuff)

This is what is on my mind today.

  • In the interest of full-disclosure, I have to admit that I’m not always kind. I’m straightforward, and sometimes  most of the time my straightforwardness puts people off. After being bullied for most of elementary school and Jr High, I developed a thick-skin. (Unfortunately, I had to go through years of depression, anxiety, and PTSD  to acquire that thick skin, but it is what it is) As a result, I automatically assume that everyone handles verbal jabs the same way that I do– either by ignoring them or by laughing them off. More often than not, I say something that I think is funny, but to the person I’m speaking to it’s rude, tactless, and uncaring. I have to work, every day, to curb this character flaw because if left unchecked, it can be destructive.

 

  • Living with peace is so sacred to me that I will do whatever I can in order to maintain it. I was an anxious child, who grew into an anxious teenager, and then I spent 7 years as an anxious adult. Admitting that I needed help was the best–and most humbling–thing I have done to date. I love to help others, but I can’t stand asking for assistance myself. Acknowledging that I was not perfect or indestructible meant that I could be human, with all of the messes and foibles that go with it. (See previous thought.) I can’t do everything, help everyone, and fit in to what others expect of me…and that’s okay. As the famous quote says, peace doesn’t mean the absence of chaos, difficulty, and disturbance, it means that you have an inner calm in spite of what is going on around you. Now I know what that feels like.

 

  • If I never get another blessing from God, I will still be thankful for the role He has played in my life. It seems as though the message of God’s love has been drowned out by much louder voices that preach hatred, intolerance, and division–while using the Bible to back their beliefs. Well, the God I chose to serve as a 14 year-old girl is only after one thing: reconciliation by unconditional love. 

 

  • I didn’t watch the entire season of The Bachelor Canada (It was on too late), but I have to say, we did pretty well. The bachelor was engaging, intelligent, and funny, and he really loves the woman he finally chose to marry (who is also a lovely person, and an R.N. like my mom 🙂 ) As an avid reality TV watcher, I think they’re the real deal. (I have watched lots of these shows. I can always tell.)

 

  • I heard on the news today that all internet, cellphone, and cable access has been blocked in Syria. This is beyond disturbing because it means that no news is coming out…or in. Sending prayers.

 

  • This morning I posted a random list of things my father has told me. He’s (infuriatingly) modest, but he’s one of the smartest people I know. When I was younger, I used to get annoyed when he gave me advice, but now that I’m older, I find myself asking his opinion. Since I’m me, I also tell him that some of his advice is wrong, but I’m glad to hear it nonetheless. Some people aren’t as blessed.

 

  • I don’t believe in karma. (I’m not well-read on the topic, but I think it has something to do with Hinduism?) I do believe that each person reaps whatever he or she sows. (Leave it to Jesus to give a parable about farming :P) So don’t expect rose garden when all you have planted are weeds.

 

  • Learning how to live comfortably with discomfort is better than having everything go your way. There’s a laziness that sets in when you grow too accustomed to being comfortable. You don’t work as hard. You take fewer risks in the interest of self-preservation, and you don’t always notice when things are about to go wrong for you. Discomfort, on the other hand, keeps you on your toes. Since you are always prepared for the worst, it doesn’t throw you off when your fears become reality. Handling distressing situations with grace is a sign of growth, and whenever you run away–or worse–try to control them, you run the risk of missing the lesson.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. I hope you’re doing well, and thank you for reading 🙂

Peace,

Erin