This year’s Christmas Letter has been posted:
This past Monday I was privileged to attend an event to mark the 25th Anniversary of the disappearance of Candace Derksen. I have been in the same circles with her parents for several years. Three years ago I became involved with The Ministry of Listening. Since then I have become closer to the Derksen family.
One of the people at the gathering quoted this verse:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor 12:9, NIV
We did a sharing circle where each person shared how they were part of the story. There were many different people there. Some knew Candace and were involved in supporting the Derksen’s through Candace’s murder. Others have become part of their lives more recently. Everyone had a story to tell.
It was abundantly clear was that there was a lot of pain in the room. Many tears were shed. Yet it was also clear that God’s grace had shone through. I am sure it didn’t always seem like it at the time but with the benefit of 25 years of hindsight, it is clear that God has and continues to weave a powerful story.
I couldn’t help but think of my own life. The Derksen’s were part of helping me get through a time when I had trouble believing God would intervene in my life. The timing of the event was perfect. The next day I had a major stressor removed from my life. That very day the physical symptoms I have been struggling with, the major fatigue to the point of dizziness, have almost disappeared. And when I realized that looking back in hindsight, God has brought me through the past several years. I am grateful that the verse was mentioned because I realized that God’s grace had been sufficient for me all along.
So I haven’t posted for a while. The reason is mainly that I am writing a book in November. I am participating in a challenge where you write a novel in 30 days. It has been an amazing time. I am so enjoying not only the book but working out. I challenged myself to workout 32 times in the months of October and November. That works out to just a little less than 4 times per week. I wanted to give myself a buffer.
I decided that if I did that I would buy a camera. I was going to buy the camera anyway but this would give me something to strive for and time to figure out exactly what I wanted. I had a setback in October with the infection. The buffer didn’t cover taking a week and a half off of working out. So I moved the date back.
The novel has been going well. As of today I have written over 30,000 words which is today’s target. I have been enjoying my workouts as well. I have been amazed to discover that November has not been so bad this year. The autumn that I feared hasn’t been an issue. Although I know the wonderful weather we are having has definitely helped, I also know that feeling like I have had a direction has helped even more.
Then yesterday I was thrown a bit of a curve ball. Well I can’t really say it’s a curve ball. I should have seen it coming but I have been ignoring it. My workouts have become increasingly difficult. Apparently I still have some recovery to do from the infection so I have to take a break from working out. I am benched for two weeks.
I was surprised to find that I was extremely upset that I couldn’t work out. It has become really important for managing stress. It’s not about a camera. It’s about wanting to do something important. It’s about wanting to strive to be better.
I realized last night that I need to be careful about my goals. Yes, I need to strive to be better. My goals are good ones and I believe that God has no problem with them. Yet I need to remember that I can’t carry myself on my own strength. I can accomplish all things through Christ who strengthens me. I need to trust that things will get better. I also need to remember to turn to Him to help me carry my burdens.
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (Jam 1:2-3 NLT )
I struggle with verses like this. You can find many of them in the bible. What they all have in common is this sense that we should all be excited about our problems. Maybe I'm just a cynic or maybe it's just my life experience but I really don't think that that's what these verses are about. Yesterday I read this scripture in a new way. It came to life for me when I thought about what I've been experiencing the past few days.
I’m no longer sick with my infection. Having the infection derailed me from the things I've been trying to do. I found it difficult to get back on track. I've been overwhelmed at work and not dealing with my stress well. I'm really tired and the reality is that huge part of me wants to give up. That scares me.
I think often when people read this verse or even when some teach about they think it means "suck it up. " Today I read it as " don't give up". You see I think it can be really discouraging to hear that we should embrace our pain. But when I read this that's not what I hear. What I hear is a resounding " keep going, you can do it, it'll get better if you just keep trying".
It's not really the falling down that we need to take joy in. It's the getting up. For that is the hope of Christ.
Last week I got a very large zit on my forehead just above my eyebrow. It sucked because I was actually feeling pretty good but I was self conscious about the zit which seemed to be turning into a boil. I thought about the Book of Job, especially the point where Job was afflicted with boils. Up until last week I hadn’t thought about that very much but the one infection on my skin was causing the lymph nodes on my neck to swell and become hard. I was feeling miserable. I only had one.
Later in the week the rest of left side of my face began to swell. My eye almost swelled shut by Wednesday morning. After waiting several hours to see a doctor at the Urgent Care Centre the doctor diagnosed me with facial cellulitis. I was placed on IV antibiotics and I was told I would have to return to the IV clinic daily for further treatment.
I know I will get better. And I refuse to let this derail me from the things I am trying to do – work out, be a light to others, continue to serve. Yet I am tired and sick. The side effects of the oral antibiotics I am taking are unpleasant (we’ll leave it at that.) I need to be honest about how I am feeling and I need to rest. So perhaps this is just a few days to pause and that’s okay.
I went to a seminar this past weekend called Pure Heart. The seminar was lead by some people from the International House of Prayer. It was an amazing weekend and I had miraculous experience when someone prayed over me. I didn’t know her and yet the things she prayed were about issues I had never really discussed with anyone – never mind this young woman I had never met.
It was amazing. I knew that God had sent her and provided her with the prayer so that I could see God in the places of my deepest hurt. I should be jumping for joy. Yet the past few days have been difficult. I find myself tired, weary, and sad. I don’t know what I am supposed to do with all of it.
This morning I was scheduled to give a short testimony to support The Ministry of Listening. I received an email from our pastor the other day that I was on page 3 of his teaching. I was curious because I thought that my testimony had something to do with his topic. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the Weekly (our version of a church bulletin) and saw that the topic was purity!
One of the things I am trying to shed about my identity is that I feel like I am the queen of inconsistency. One day I will be on fire for Jesus. It seems like a few days later I will appear to have forgotten Jesus exists. One of the things I learned this summer is that I need to let go of that belief.
When I went up during the first gathering this morning I actually asked the pastor, “how did I end up in the teaching on living in purity.” He laughed and basically said he didn’t know. But as the teaching went on he came back to my question (thank goodness or I would feel a little low.) As I listened to the teaching a second time I began to realize how much of my story is about becoming pure.
As I write this blog I do so with a bit of a cringe because I know purity isn’t a popular concept in our culture. But the truth is that when I confessed my sin and was cleansed this summer everything changed for me. I am living in purity. I can’t claim to be without sin. No one can. What I am referring to is not living in a state of intentional disobedience.
One thing I took away from this morning is that living in purity is not about running away from sin. It is about running toward God. Over the past several weeks I have seen the fruit of that in my life. Thank you Jesus.
I went out for lunch with my friend today. I was talking about the many happenings in my life. There are challenges as always but I said, God’s got me. She remarked that she didn’t remember hearing me saying that before. She’s probably right.
If I had to characterize the change in myself over the past several weeks I would say that it has been my constant awareness of that fact. What I have noticed is that it is giving me courage to move forward with a lot of things. I find that I have a greater creativity and ability to solve problems at work. I have started to work out this week. I signed up to write an entire novel in the month of November (note that blog posts will probably go down.) Knowing that God has you, makes life pretty exciting and gives you seemingly limitless possibilities.
This week I have been posting a simple status on Facebook. Misty is happy. It’s amazing the kind of response you get when you post you are happy. Many people click ‘like’, others comment. I think that is the status I have seen the most response on.
A friend of mine acknowledged my courage for actually posting that I was happy. To declare that one is happy seems to invite disaster. I posted last year about just that. But this year it doesn’t seem to be as courageous….
I think that it is because this time I have learned something. It is okay to fight for happiness. You see I pursuing happiness by going after material things or avoiding things that are hard. It is just the opposite. I am paying attention to this mended heart of mine. When it is hurting I am reaching out. I am praying for guidance. I am leaning on my friends.
You see last week was a challenge for me. I felt this sense of lingering sadness. Instead of hiding I reached out. I prayed. I talked to people I trusted. I asked others to pray for me. At the end of the week I was blessed by someone who released me from a burden I was carrying. So this week, I am happy. And I am going to fight to be happy…
I learned this weekend that a healed heart is a tender one. I have found that being more fully alive means that I notice things. I notice those little hurts that used to sneak there way into my heart without my knowing. I notice when I am reacting to something someone says that triggers me and reminds me of my past. Instead of numbing my feelings in various ways, my heart serves of an early warning system. It is hard to ignore.
It is a paradox that in my vulnerability I feel stronger for the most part. I know that this is probably because my tender heart knows it needs God and goes there sooner. I have to admit this past weekend was a difficult one. But I know Jesus was walking with me.
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance
Ecclesiastes 3:4, NIV
On Sunday I attended an event for some friends who were about to go through a very difficult time. As part of the invitation we were asked to share words of encouragement with them. So I prepared my card, made some food to share, and went to the event. What was interesting was that somehow we ended up going around the circle and sharing about the times we had each suffered most. It wasn’t really heavy at all. People were extremely vulnerable and we seemed to have a mutual shared spiritual space. What was amazing was that the evening was filled with laughter and joy.
In the morning I was praying for my friends and somehow the weight of what they were about to go through hit me. I wept for them. It seemed important that I had share that with them so I sent them a note to let them know I was thinking about them and weeping with them.
I think it is important to share one another’s burdens. Sometimes that means we laugh (even during the times when it seems impossible) and sometimes we cry.
Usually this time of year I start feeling anxious. I wonder if I will be able to cope with the demands of a fall and winter schedule. This year is different. I am excited about re-engaging community. I can’t wait to see what God has for me.
As I have been pondering this, a frightening thought has come to mind. What happens when the weather changes? What happens if I get depressed? How will I deal with that?
I don’t think that depression is something I have ever directly admitted on my blog. I have struggled with depression on and off since I was a teenager. One particularly bad winter I spent several months sleeping on the floor instead of my bed. It went undiagnosed until one year in my mid-twenties a friend of mine who is a nurse said she thought I was depressed.
I have struggled with being a Christian who has depression. There are many in Christian circles who think it is a sin to be depressed – a form of bondage. They think that depression is always some sort of spiritual flaw and that the depressed person just needs to believe more or differently. The terrible thing is that I can be my own worst enemy in this area.
About eighteen months ago I decided I was cured from depression. I believed that I had found the ‘spiritual formula' to stay out of it. So last fall when I recognized that I was depressed, it shattered my faith. I started going to church infrequently and then stopped going all-together for three months. I was caught up in sin and miserable.
I so want this year to be different. Typically around October or November I start struggling with depression to some degree. I AM going to pray for God to shield me from depression. Someone once advised me that instead of focusing all of my energy trying to get out of or avoid depression I need to figure out how to cope with it. Many of the things I figured out then are still helpful today. Yet I think God has more for me and there are more things I need when I am depressed. Maybe the beginning is naming it, and being honest now – while I have a surplus of emotional energy.
I am reading Wide Awake by Erwin McManus. I started reading it earlier in the summer and I put it aside. I wasn’t ready for it. The book is all about living the life God has set out for you – not settling for monotony.
I started reading the book again yesterday. I got to the chapter on adapting and it hit me right where I am. McManus mentions the stories of Esther and Daniel so I decided to read the book of Esther.
As McManus points out and I confirmed in my reading Esther was really in a bad spot. Her parents die when she is young and then she is taken away from her family to spend a year being prepared to sleep with the king. I imagine what that year was like. I wondered what those beauty treatments where like for Esther. I am guessing it wasn’t like being at the spa. And for her to spend a year thinking about having sex with the king must have been terrifying and somewhat sickening for her.
Yet she becomes queen. She saves the Jews. She follows God. She listens to wise counsel…
I read the Bible in a very different way yesterday. I realized I had romanticized the story. Perhaps this is because Veggie Tales was my first experience of it. Reading the story in Scripture really made it come alive for me. I felt a kinship with Esther. My belief that God will use me even in my brokenness seems to have more substance than before.
*** I wrote this on paper yesterday and I am typing it out today***
I have a prayer evening to go to tonight. The organizer encouraged people to enter some kind of fast during the day. They were fasting from music during their nine hour drive here and throughout the day today. I decided that I would fast from entertainment – namely the computer, tv, and reading fiction.
Lately I have really been questioning how I spend my time. To be honest I spend a lot of time on Facebook and I hate it. Facebook just seems to be a way for me to be on the outside of a whole bunch of people’s lives looking in. The newest trend on Facebook seems to be putting up bizarre , obscure, or statuses only insiders understand. At best they clutter my home page and at worst they make me feel like I am back in junior high watching the popular crowd.
I have over two hundred friends on Facebook. I know all of them but the reality is not all of them are close connections for me. So why spend copious amounts of time monitoring it? I love people’s pictures. Sometimes the status updates do keep me connected. Still I have a lot of friends who I could have over or go for coffee with instead of wasting time on Facebook.
When I woke up this morning everything became a status update in my head. I wanted to check my email, look up stuff on the web, check the weather. When I made breakfast this morning it seemed like I should turn on the TV while I was eating. I know I turn to these things instead of God.
I decided to read one of the many non-fiction resources I keep putting aside to watch TV, play with the computer, or read a novel. You know what? I learned something. It prompted me to read a book of the Bible.
And now as I sit writing out a blog post to type out after I break the fast I wonder what to take from this experience. I enjoy television often but I don’t need the television to be on to eat a meal. Facebook is a good tool for connecting but it doesn’t have to be open all of the time. Fiction is good and important but easy reads are not the only thing I need.
So maybe I don’t need to get rid of my television and computer or burn my books. Perhaps learning to keep them in their proper place is the key. This day has been a gift already. It is something I plan to do as often as I can. I wonder if I can do it every Saturday…
A few weeks ago my pastor taught a sermon called ‘How to Find a Wife.’ He discussed many things that single people should be looking for. He wanted men to be called to a higher standard. He focused on all of the things men who are looking for a woman should be. Often he will receive text messages during the service and answer people’s questions. One woman asked him something to the effect of ‘so I am supposed to just wait until God is finished preparing a guy for me…’ His answer after some thought was, ‘it is a woman’s job to shine.’
Okay seriously, shine? I carried that with me for some time. I was feeling pretty lacklustre at the time. How does one become shiny? I remember bringing this up in the small group at the conference last week. Suddenly the answer became apparent. When I am resting in God, I shine.
Since I have come home from the conference I have been quite ill. I have had a flu that has kept me at home for the most part. Even with my physical illness I have felt something glowing inside of me. Yesterday I started feeling better and I shared with a couple of people over e-mail what had happened at the conference. Their responses were amazing. It was clear that I was shinning for them. That makes me so happy.
When I was a little girl I would spend hours in the basement dancing. This past week I was reminded of that many times as several people who were attending the conference I was at had some kind of vision of me dancing. The thing was I had the same vision before they did. So last night when the worship leader suggested that he needed some ballerina’s, I took my chance. I danced with all of the grace I could muster. I twirled, pirouetted, skipped back and forth. The people there shared my joy. I feel like a new woman. One who is living as the woman God created her to be.
When I lived in my house the blinds were closed the vast majority of the time. The main reason for this was that I lived on a busy street and the bus stop was in front of my house. I didn’t want people staring in at me while I was on the couch watching television. To some extent I think I also wanted to hide away from the world. Interestingly it was only when I was showing my house to sell it that I figured out that the amount of light that came into the house was one of its’ best selling features.
Now I am living in the condo my blinds are open in the living room most of the time. I like to let the light in but I also enjoy being able to see out. I have a beautiful view of the river and downtown. Even in the winter I like being able to see the weather and look down into the parking lot to see how much snow is on the cars and how many people have ventured out.
I have been thinking that having the blinds open is kind of a metaphor for my life. Sometimes I don’t let people see in. But in order to get the light in, I have to open the blinds. There is a poem somewhere about opening the blinds to let God into those dark places in our hearts, I’ll have to find it.
Several of my friends have been quite vulnerable in their blogs lately. I am inspired by their honestly. I it an honour to read posts that reveal so much about someone’s heart. Right now I am feeling like I need to open the blind to God first. Stay tuned…
For the summer our church is having services on Thursday in addition to Sunday. I always tend to go for the smaller more intimate gatherings. So when I found out they were having a Thursday gathering I offered to help. I am doing the media (running the software that puts the worship songs and pastor’s presentation) for the summer. It feels really good to be involved again.
We had a guest speaker who was talking about communion. He talked about how some people, especially those who grew up in the church, struggle with taking communion when they don’t feel like they have it all together. That feeling is based on the following scripture:
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1Cor11:27, NIV)
The speaker argued that the passage is not referring to sin or struggle or doubt. He said a lot of good things but the thing that stuck out for me was to think of the opposite. Could we ever think we are worthy to go to the table? I laughed out loud. How could we ever possibly feel worthy of eating of the body and drinking of the blood of Christ?
I have never struggled with taking communion. I have always been part of a church that taught we should be taking communion when we are struggling. But when I think about the symbolism of communion I have to step back. Accepting the gift of Jesus’ unconditional love is something I struggle with. I have fallen. I have turned away. I walk with a sense of guilt and trepidation. But how could I ever be worthy?