Is true love and happiness just the carrot dangled in front of us?

The possibility that we can find true love and happiness is the carrot dangled in front of us. It is the promise in every romantic comedy. We would be disappointed if it wasn’t. However, real life begs the question of whether we have placed our faith in fairytales. I know I have wondered this.

In my teens and early twenties I battled the fear that nobody would want to marry me. My three younger siblings were married and I found myself wallowing in longing and loneliness. Marriage and family seemed to be the missing element that would fill the void I felt. My mother was convinced it was the next thing I needed and I admit I listened to her. I even went so far as to visit a “boyfriend” in another province with whom I had a rather long long-distance relationship to let him know I was finally ready to settle down. Unfortunately I discovered he was now taken.

I watched an interview with a young woman who had every marriageable quality, namely beauty, youth, understanding, insight. She cleans houses for a living and lives frugally. Who wouldn’t want a woman like her for a wife? But like me, she expressed a fatalistic acceptance of never being married. It hit me that I know very many in their twenties and thirties like her. I wished I could open a match-making service to bring these people together.

I think what is missing is opportunity to meet a varied group of marriageable people in a setting where there is no pressure.

Someone told our college-aged group that we would marry out of our acquaintances and this jarred me. I realized that I held onto a fantasy that my prince would come riding into town one day. He was not already there, among my peers, waiting to be acknlowledged. I had tried to broaden my horizons. Nothing wrong with that. I remember a girlfriend and I went to a gathering of youth across the border, with no other intent than the hope that we might meet someone.

I wasn’t alone in my thinking. Two of my best friends also despaired of ever getting married. Like the girl I mentioned earlier, they had everything to recommend them for marriage but it was as though all hell was bent on keeping us from the alter. Recently I have begun to think there may actually be some truth to this. We cannot deny there are oppositional forces keeping people apart and preventing them from committing to another person.

Why should my girlfriend and I get married, a young man asked me. So you can have a family, was my response.

Family. Think about it. We come from a family, such as it was. We dream about the ideal, two-parent biological family. Nobody can deny it is what we need and want.

I think many people have given up on ever having either marriage or happiness. Not only is it disappointing to have neither love nor happiness, it is depressing and almost devastating to have to acknowledge that this was the elusive carrot and that we were virtually deceived and promised an ideal that would never happen.

But happiness is not tied to marriage. In fact, happiness is not dependent on our situation. It is a mindset. It is deciding to refuse to be unhappy and doing everything we know to do in order not to sink into despair. I’ve engaged in years of observation and study to find out why some people are happy and others are not. I’ve concluded happiness is not dependent on circumstances. People can be in an identically trying place and one will be happy while another will be on the brink of suicide. Each has arrived where they are as a result of a pattern of choices in how they respond to what life deals them.

Refusal to sink is a powerful weapon. It means you may go under water, but you will always rise again. It means you believe in your resilience. You get up as many times as you fall down.

It also means looking out for the things that make you buoyant and strong.

At the root of happiness is a personal integrity. You value your life.

It follows that if you value your own life, you will value the lives of others. And if you value the lives of others, you will live your life so as to make the world a better place. Integrity is being the same person on the outside as you are on the inside. It also means cleaning up the mess inside.

It means dealing with your anxious feelings, with your tendency to become easily annoyed, with your constant worrying, with your fearfulness, with your difficulty coping. It means facing the truth that the best thing you can do for yourself is to become a stronger, better adjusted person.

An interesting thing happened at the time in my life when I was afraid I would never get married. I increased my happiness level.

I had not wasted my time while I was waiting for my prince. I had worked at becoming marriageable. It struck me one day that I needed to become the person who would attract the kind of person I wanted to marry. Once I had this revelation an amazing thing happened. I began to have options. I also turned down unsuitable prospects because I valued myself and knew what I needed.

I was still unrealistic, however. I might not marry a “handsome prince.” Looking back I see that I had a sad pattern of always falling for a stereotype. Yes, the tall, dark, handsome type. I married a ginger.

As I thought about who I wanted in my life as a life partner, I decided that I wanted someone whom I would enjoy sitting across from me at the breakfast table for my remaining years.

Happiness has not come easy for me, but the pursuit has been rewarding. I think we find happiness in the pursuit because our eyes are opened.

Lately I have had more of a struggle maintaining a happy spirit. I awaken at night with dismal feelings, even feelings of doom. I don’t think it is possible to be truly happy unless your soul is at rest. This is where I believe the Christian faith shines. Not only does the example of Christ inspire, we are offered forgiveness. This is such a unique and profound concept. That we can start anew. That we can be restored in our relationship after having failed. That we can offer this hope to others.

A life of integrity is a life lived with the quiet assurance that we have done our part reasonably well. This is what helps us sleep at night. It is also a life that is not naive and can face with courage the evil and devastation in the world. Let’s be honest, there is evil and devastation. The longer we live, the more we see. This is the reason for my feelings of doom. It is the reality we live with. The only response I have found to lift me out of this place is prayer. Prayer is an aspect of virtually all religions. But prayer is only a placebo if the entity to which we are praying is a figment of our imagination. On the other hand, if we believe in a Creator of the universe, then it follows that this Creator and sustainer of life cares. Every day we have a new sunrise. Every day the birds are fed. Every day plants grow. This simple observation is enough to lift me out of despair every time because it is evidence that my Creator lives. My only reasonable response is awe and worship and gratitude.

When I awake with feelings of doom in the middle of the night, I begin to pray for the world. The beauty and the order I see in creation, the intricacies of the balance of nature, inspire me to pray for the same thing among human beings. In other words, I pray “Thy kingdom; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I consider myself the most fortunate person on earth to have grasped this understanding. Prayer for me is not a placebo. It is a powerful coming into unity with the one who created me and sustains me. We have been done a serious disservice by being taught to put our faith in the theory of evolution. We have been told to believe in a “theory.” In fact the qualifier, “theory” has been mostly erased. In university we are stigmatized if we do not “believe” in evolution.

This is more critical than people realize. I propose that the real purpose of the introduction of the theory of evolution was actually an objection to belief in a Creator. However, looking at the laws of the universe will quickly dispel the theory. Seeing that there is no evidence of the “in-between” and “imperfect” stages of development disproves the theory. Yes, there are similarities between species that could point to giving rise to superior species and development from simplicity to complexity. But there are components that need to be in place simultaneously and so many components that evolution never attempts to explain. This proposition merely depends on our ignorance and inability and unwillingness to open our eyes and see and reason.

Why is this relevant to marriage and happiness? Every species propagates. Propagation is part of purpose. If we cannot propagate, we can support others who can. Do you see how evolutionary theory opposes propagation? It cannot have a worldview of blessing and sustenance by the Creator. It totally depends on personal effort. Well, we are doomed when we exclude a Greater Power.

This is why faith can be threatening. It truly engages a Higher Power. It is also why faith and religion have not only been maligned but have been distorted and destroyed from within and become unrecognizable as a source of goodness and strength. It is what the Bible refers to as damnable, the “holding of truth in unrighteousness.” The perfection we see in creation around us is meant to be mirrored in our lives. Yes, there is forgiveness offered when we fail, and we all fail. But we are called to a higher place. A place where rivers of living water flow out of our belly. A place of fruit-bearing. A place of hope and joy and peace.

You will see that this flies in the face of popular culture. This is because God has a real adversary and people can choose with which side to align themselves.

Whenever I pray for the whole world when I have a personal need, I feel the burden lift. But it is not a victory without a battle. There is a relationship we can have with our Creator that exceeds the beauty and fulfillment of a marriage. I have lived this for decades and I have found “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It is the glory of God we are seeking, even more than marriage and happiness. When we experience the glory we will not be satisfied with anything less. We will have a “continual feast” and it will make us the kind of people in whose company others desire to be. It will also give us patience during the times of waiting. And much of life is waiting.

I am amazed at how confrontational these simple observations are today. We have moved so far from the simple understanding of believing in a life-giving God and living a life according to godly principles in the way we were intended to live. All of nature around us is an example of the beauty and simplicity of a life lived according to the original blueprint.

Canadian Truckers Didn’t Get What They Expected–Instead They Got So Much More

The two things truckers asked for, they didn’t get–vaccine mandates lifted and travel restrictions lifted. But they didn’t come away with nothing. Quite to the contrary. They came away with their eyes opened.

It can be very distressing when you expect one thing and get something entirely different.

Truckers drove to Ottawa in anticipation. You had a very real need. You knew who could address that need.

The problem is that only Prime Minster Trudeau could address the felt need of the truckers. There was no one else to go to, so you went directly to him, at great cost to yourselves.

The relationship between citizens and the government and our Prime Minister is not exactly a parent/child relationship but there are similarities. There is a similarity in that we have an authoritative presence in government and we, the people, experience a measure of dependency and susceptability to the whims of this authority.

In the case of the truckers, you wanted an audience with “dad.” But he turned his back on you. He did not even come out and say “No.” You had what you perceived to be a very reasonable request. Your “dad” verbally abused you, insulted you, belittled you and essentially trashed you before others. That is not a good feeling. It leaves you floundering with all kinds of internal dissonance.

The dissonance is there because what happened is very difficult to reconcile in your heart and mind and mostly this is due to the high regard you had for leadership. Your leaders have fallen from the pedestal on which you held them.

In the case of abuse, and that is clearly what happened here, there is the tendency of the victim to excuse the perpetrator. We want to hold onto our ideal. We need to hold onto our ideal. Because not to do so turns the world we imagined upside down.

We may even go so far as to deny reality in order to preserve the ideal.

Many Canadians have embraced a vision of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a man of decency with respect for the ordinary citizens of Canada. We thought we held a precious place in his heart. Not only was he deaf to the voices of the truckers, but he slandered those who relied on his good judgment and had no where else to turn with their need.

Essentially, truckers, you felt like you were calling out your “parent.” Parents make mistakes. Some are ready to admit them and humbly ask for forgiveness. Some are not. Some will never apologize to their children. They see themselves in another protected category and this is very unfortunate because the necessary coming together cannot happen. A beautiful and trusting relationship cannot happen without being attentive to, and exploring, each other’s views.

I’m trying to unpack what happened because I find it uncomfortable and even distressing to be in a place of tension where actual experience suddenly does not match my long-held and cherished vision of Canada.

Truckers determined to have a peaceful protest. You did everything possible to convince Canada that you were going to remain peaceful. I truly cannot imagine a more peaceful truckers’ protest. One evidence of this was how you cared for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Ironically this monument symbolizes those for whom there was never resolve because they did not return from battle, either dead or alive, and their remains were never found.

Truckers showed kindness and fed the homeless. When people’s generosity towards you overflowed to the point where you had food left over, you donated to food banks. You showed yourselves to be generous and caring and fun-loving. You cleared sidewalks and picked up garbage left by others. Crime in the area dropped by 90%. But of course this was not how you were represented in the legacy media.

We rely on media for accurate documentation. Not only did the Prime Minister refuse to speak to you, relegating you to a class of citizens that he deemed too despicable to address, the media used talking points over and over again to try and smear your peaceful protest before the public. Both succeeded in maligning the protest to the degree that some neighbours felt justified in villainizing you as well. You suddenly found yourself experiencing a completely different world, one you never anticipated, one very unfamiliar to you, one where people were cruel and unjust and lied and turned others against those who never did them wrong.

The City of Ottawa, under the direction of the mayor, deployed a huge and unwarranted police presence. However, you welcomed the police because you had nothing to fear by their presence since you were following the law. You were respectful and friendly towards the officers who in turn treated you with dignity, more dignity than the Prime Minister demonstrated. The police were on the scene, daily, as witnesses, and can attest to your high character.

The media jumped on the visual of groups of police officers patrolling downtown Ottawa. They could turn this optic in their favor. Their goal, as we can see in hindsight, was to paint the most alarming picture possible of the protests and to incite a reaction. They attempted to create a story that would later justify the “crushing of an uprising.” 

Many of the truckers did not hold to a conspiracy theory before they came to Ottawa, but what they witnessed made it clear there was a conspiracy between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the media. They conspired to turn the truckers into villains in the eyes of the public. This they did.

Not everyone believed what they saw in print and came to Ottawa to find out what was going on for themselves. Others watched independent commentators online who were committed to documenting what was happening, of their own choice and at their own expense.

When the City of Ottawa asked you to stop honking horns, you stopped. Admittedly, you knew the horn honking would agitate some residents. Even peaceful protests cause disruptions. You were trying to get Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attention. This was a means of making him aware of your presence, and making the community, and indeed the world, aware of the fact that you came to Ottawa with a purpose. You wanted to be heard.

Stop the vaccine mandates. Stop the ArriveCan app. Let Canadians be free, once again, to work in their chosen professions, and to travel.

From the beginning I have found it unconscionable that Canadians lost their jobs because they chose not to get the vaccine. If you cannot work, you cannot buy food and feed your family. Our government knows that if you cannot work, you cannot own a home. You lose your dignity and sense of purpose.

For some people it is impossible to get the vaccine, either for conscience sake or for medical reasons. Let’s not under value the significance of personal conviction and consent. Mandates remove the possibility of volition and consent by enforcing intolerable consequences.

Prime Minister Trudeau colluded with the press and it is becoming apparent that there was collusion with pharmaceutical companies who have a lot to gain from ongoing vaccination requirements, regardless of efficacy. It is unrealistic to expect 100% cooperation from the public. It is also totalitarian to have this kind of top-down legislation. The measures taken to force people into compliance are harsh and oppressive.

I am reminded of a little known historical tragedy that happened in Ukraine between 1932-1933 known as the Holodomor or “Great Famine.” Oppressive government mandates issued by Joseph Stalin limited travel and food production and distribution. Farmers were forced to give up their land under new government collectivization efforts. Peasants who resisted forfeiting their land were misrepresented as enemies of the public and violently suppressed by the government and cooperating neighbours during this period of Soviet Industrialization. As a result of the measures an estimated 7 million people in the Ukraine died unnecessarily of starvation.

As shocking as this account may be, it serves to remind us that government leaders are fallible. They are capable of making decisions that lack compassion and that disregard the rights of their citizens, namely the right to dignity and sustenance.

The cognitive dissonance felt by truckers began when they lost their jobs due to the vaccine mandate. This is true of health care workers as well. Peculiarly, these past “heroes” became targets of our government. At time when we lived in much greater fear of the dangers of covid-19, these people could not isolate and work from home, as the Prime Minister did. Daily they exposed themselves to risk and disease because of their commitment to providing care and delivering the goods on which Canadians depended.

The only thing that will resolve the dissonance is to stare, fearless and unflinching, directly at the brutal facts, without excuse or rationalization. This means moving away from denial. Experientially it is similar to feelings of grief after a great loss like a death. In stages of grief, people who move past denial find themselves angry. Anger is an acceptable response, not to be feared, but it must taper off. Anger depletes a person of energy and is typically followed by a season of depression. At this point it is helpful to find counsel or look for consolation in encouraging slogans, symbols or rituals. Finally we move into a place of acceptance, reluctant as we may be. I say acceptance, not in the sense of resignation, but rather facing the truth of how life is altered and summoning the courage to move forward.

We’ve now reached a fork in the road in Canada. Either we will rebuild our democracy, or the alternative will happen. We can only imagine what that might look like.

Admittedly, there is a part of us that wants to say, “It’s not as bad as I think.” But maybe it is. Maybe what you are thinking and feeling is exactly right. Our desperate longing for good in this world can get in our way. Our child-like innocence and blind trust can cause us to walk, unseeing, into a pit. As the saying goes, “It’s time to call a spade a spade.” Trust serves us well when others are trustworthy.

The trust of Canadians is tragically broken and that is the saddest outfall of the protest. But it was unavoidable and necessary for Canadians to come to this point of acknowledgement. Our government, its tactics, and its attitude towards the people has been exposed. We were living with a false perception of reality that may have been an illusion even in the more distant past. Things have deteriorated to the point that there is no longer any hiding.

I am hopeful that we can return to the Canada where there was trust in our government. Rebuilding trust will be a very long and arduous journey.

Yes, Canada is in a very fragile place. We must act with great care, going forward. The world is watching with expectation. Not all are cheering us on. Some are looking for a tragic end. Some are eyeing Canada calculatingly, hoping for opportunity.

Let’s not despair. All is not lost. Every day new voices are speaking up for dignity, truth, freedom and democracy.

Truckers have had their eyes opened. The images of force in downtown Ottawa as a result of the employment of the Emergencies Act will forever be burned in our memories as testimony to what we did not think could happen in Canada. Peaceful protest turned violent by our government.

There is another side of the coin we must consider as well.

Truckers, you were an imposing presence on Parliament Hill, virtually immovable, and definitely heard. Your peaceful protest attracted a lot of sympathy across Canada and this was undeniably threatening to our government.

Yes, you were a threat. A threat by your goodness and by your reasonableness. You represented justice. You represented fairness. You represented a sensibility understood by the common man. In the face of false accusations, in the face of loss of property, in the face of loss of freedom to work, you have this to hold onto. You did not violate your conscience.

You had no intention to overthrow the government but this was the charge cast against you, unrelentingly, by the Prime Minister and the press. The constant talk of weapons, the arrests that had noting to do with protesters, the defacing of monuments by vandals, which was attributed to truckers. You saw it all. You responded in a calm, respectful manner. You held the higher ground, and the Prime Minister knew it. Our representatives in government witnessed it as they went to work, and attested to the fact that they never felt more safe in downtown Ottawa, that is, until the day when the Emergencies Act was weaponized against innocent citizens.

In these times I turn to my faith for guidance and strength. Jesus knew what was in the heart of man. He was not under any illusions and he knows today. It was this knowledge that gave him courage, no matter the outcome.

We can have the same confidence and assurance when we are on the side of goodness. That does not mean that suffering is avoidable.

This battle for freedom to work, travel and live peacefully alongside our neighbours will continue around the world and it is truth and justice that will set us free. Let’s keep our eyes open and give thanks for every evidence of provision and each step forward in victory. Continue to sing “God keep our land, glorious and free….Oh Canada we stand on guard for thee” and to pray, “Thy kingdom come. They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Hold the line.

Recovery from Moral Injury

In Canada we set aside November 11 as Remembrance Day. Flags are lowered and there are ceremonies across the country honouring veterans, along with a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. This year I was deeply moved as I read two articles posted on Facebook by relatives of veterans. One relates to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in the First World War. The other is about the D-Day Battle at Normandy, in World War II. Both were turning points.

It struck me that many of the men on the beaches of Normandy only had field experience and, as was reported, “were already in the boats when they learned it was no exercise” that awaited them. Only four of the eleven member company of Abe Goertzen (below) returned.

As we commemorate Remembrance Day I think of those who gave their lives and the loved ones they left behind. I think of the ones who returned and try to comprehend what soldiers endured. I know I will never fully understand.

In an article by Charlotte Cuthbertson, in the Epoch Times, entitled, After War, the Journey Home Takes a Lifetime, we read that the community has to share responsibility for what happened in a war. Psychotherapist Ed Tick, who has worked with veterans for 45 years, puts it this way, “You acted in my name, I paid the bills, I sent you. You didn’t do this on your own. And it wasn’t your decision, you were doing it representing me and our country, and you thought you were protecting me. So I take responsibility for you. And for whatever you did, and I’ll carry it with you, and I’ll help you come home.”

As a community we often don’t even begin to know how to help veterans return home. This became very clear to my husband and me some years ago when we discovered a veteran deceased in his room on Remembrance Day. He lived in the townhouse complex we managed. We were alerted to something being wrong when the tenant beneath him called to tell us the music had been on all night in the suite above him. The tenant seemed distressed earlier in the week and related some of his wartime experience in the Korean War to my husband. We were deeply concerned, but didn’t know what to do beyond offering compassion and lending a listening ear.

Moral injury is defined as a wound to the soul caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.

After the War The Journey Home takes a lifetime – Epoch Times

The Epoch Times article outlines six therapeutic steps to recovery from wartime trauma and it is worth the read. It points out that moral injury is the most difficult to process. From the article, “Moral injury is defined as a wound to the soul caused by participation in events that violate one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong.” According to Tick, “Even witnessing morally questionable acts will cause moral injury….Moral injury is at the heart of PTSD.”

The article states, Moral injury symptoms include profound shame, guilt, betrayal, grief, and alienation.

In the words of Dr. Tick, “We really have to get our warriors in service and our veterans afterward to feel safe and secure so they can deeply explore their own conscience and their own value system and how they feel about what they did. And then give them opportunities for restoring and recovering those more esoteric moral dimensions of their being.” Tick relates the moving story of healing that happens when he takes vets of the Viet Nahm war back to Viet Nahm where they meet their fellow “warriors.”

What stood out for me was the view that veterans do not become normal citizens but are instead warriors. “Traditional cultures didn’t call somebody a warrior until they could carry the experience without traumatic breakdown. Because warriors are supposed to become community elders and leaders and teachers after service,” states Tick.

I recently heard Jordan Peterson allude to the necessity of a higher “spiritual” experience in the context of recovering from addiction. This revelation draws a person out of the depths to a higher plane of experience. I see a similarity of experience here as veterans view themselves as unique contributors to society.

…war is brought about by those who violate their consciences and do unconscionable things. When there is an aggressor there is correspondingly the defender.

As I contemplated moral injury, I was reminded of the words of Jordan Peterson, in Beyond Order, Twelve More Rules for Life, where he stresses the importance of not doing anything that would make you “contemptuous of yourself” or that makes you “weak and ashamed.” In other words, “Don’t do anything that violates your conscience.”

Wartime causes men to violate their conscience. I venture to say war is brought about by those who violate their consciences and do unconscionable things. When there is an aggressor there is correspondingly the defender.

While we are privileged to live in a society where we are not compelled to violate our conscience, we want to value this freedom and guard our hearts and minds to avoid moral injury and its devastation. There is an old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Read the article for more insights. As the title states, After War, the Journey Home Takes a Lifetime.


Follow-up on my recent article

As a writer I am always interested in learning from other writers and so I want to acknowledge a writer I admire whom I have observed to frequently have an unusual clarity and the ability to bring a broader perspective. Compare my recent “outrage” article to this reasoned one. There is a place for outrage, but reason should follow. Read Pandemic Disruptions Give Reason for Optimism by Jane Menton.

Writers Needed

Now is the time to hone your writing skills. Now is the time to learn to express the important things on your mind and in your heart.

It may be your voice that is heard. It may be your voice that makes the difference.

This is the time to shine your light. This is the time to assess what is happening around you and to determine your role. What can you do to move things forward in a positive way?

I think the most important thing we can do right now is to work on building good, strong relationships. Learn from the best. Watch how others do it. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone. You may have to change your tone. Maybe your attitude, or your approach. Learn to listen well. Learn to hear people’s heart. Learn how to reflect back what people say, so you are sure you heard the right thing. Learn to respond with clarity and sincerity. Learn how to bite your tongue, sometimes.

Most of all, be a helper. That is what this is all about. As the beloved Mr. Rogers said, many years ago, “Look for the helpers.” Better yet, be a helper.

Help with your words. Find something encouraging to say. Find something enlightening. Put the pieces together and share what you discover.

Be ready. Don’t expect everyone to appreciate what you say. Find better ways of saying it, rather than giving up.

Leave a legacy. Leave something people can read, or listen too.

When Political Issues Divide Us

A person in my family will not entertain any conversation about Donald Trump and they have made it clear how they despise even the mention of his name. They, “Can’t stand him.”

This person has not observed any good in Trump. They have not conceded that he has done good for America on any level. Their mind is completely closed.

There is no point in talking to someone of this persuasion as they are not open to any possible insights. We continue to love one another, and do not allow this to cause dissension in our family. We simply don’t go there. There are plenty of other things to talk about.

In other words, we show mutual respect for difference of opinion. Although they know others don’t see things their way, they too are tolerant of differences, if not of discussion.

Mask wearing is another area where our family members’ opinions differ. There is a little more tolerance for discussion with these members so we have talked about the subject. But, once again, there is a line we don’t want to cross. We don’t want to allow a difference of viewpoint to destroy our relationship, so we let the subject drop before it does that. We stop trying to persuade.

Trump is not all bad. He has made some positive changes in America. Masks provide some protection, depending on the material and construction. A challenging exercise is trying to hold two opposing views at the same time, balancing them against each other.

Another topic of dissension is religion. Religion is not all bad. Jewish law teaches us not to lie, steal, kill and commit adultery. Christ taught us what is considered as the Golden Rule, to love our neighbours as ourselves. Members of our family are not accepting of the religion of others, but they still continue to love one another.

When we love others we give them a lot of room. We have to allow them to make mistakes, to be wrong. We might try to help them, but even with good intentions, we will not always do the right thing. It takes humility to admit this.

Love genuinely wants the best for the other person. Unfortunately, there are a few among us who care little about others, but even in these cases, we must be careful not to jump to conclusions. I recently came across this, “Do not assume malice when ignorance could explain the situation.”

Some people shut you out when your views differ from theirs. You become the detestable “other.” I favor Christianity because it does not leave room for this attitude. In fact, it teaches people to “love your enemies” and to “pray for those who persecute you.”

I had a vision this week. I saw the love of God encompassing the world. I can’t really explain it. It was like giant arms, like a cloud, or a vapor, encompassing the earth. I was in prayer and I asked God if he wasn’t angry with the world and all the evil in it. In the Bible I read that God is often angry with the wicked, so I wanted to know. The vision zoomed in to those individual, private moments when people are most vulnerable and I was impressed with the thought that this is what God sees. This is what he does not forget, even when evil tries to obscure it. He looks beyond. This is who he loves.

We need to be a little more like God, loving beyond those things that annoy us. Loving beyond our differences.

We can allow evil to tear us apart or we can choose to love.

There are evil forces at work seeking to destroy what is precious and what is truly precious is our relationships. We must watch that our views do not become the most important thing. What matters is the other person, their needs, their dreams and desires. We can love, even with differences. But it may take some help from the example of Christ, who laid down his life, rather than persisting against resistance. At this special Christmas season, let’s remember, “For God so loved the world….”

I think the source of tolerance is the family. It is where we learn to care deeply. It is where we learn to be tolerant of differences. It is where we learn it is safe to make mistakes and where we learn to forgive. It is so important to guard these early relationships that will follow us all of our lives.

When You Face Resistance as a Writer

Does anyone else ever feel like all hell breaks loose once you set a goal?

Recently I determined to spend a minimum of two hours each day on my novel. Since then my computer broke down and I was required to order a new one. We had “smoke week” here on the coast from the fires in the western states and this agitated me to the point where we needed to get a purifier. Some rearranging happened in our house which took up a lot more time than I expected. My husband became sick, so I tried to “nurse” him. I became sick, twice, and required a doctor’s visit. Family issues cropped up. In the middle we had the awaited “Throne Speech” and the looming threat of a federal election in Canada. And of course there was no end of strife south of the border, as I followed the news and political developments.

I also became aware that my other “work” interferes with my creative process. I am now working on a way to resolve this.

Upheavals in our lives and unsettled business constantly rob us of creative energy.

Some years ago I learned to give credit to the “stressors” in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t even know that certain things caused me stress. I ignored and minimized other stressors and this resulted in a kind of cognitive dissonance.

We’ve often heard the saying, The truth will set you free. It is a quote from Jesus Christ. It is remarkable how helpful a good, honest look at our situation can be.

We’ve also heard, “The trouble with being deceived is that you don’t know you are deceived.” We can’t deal with a situation when we don’t understand it. There are times of seeking and then there are times when all we can do is wait for the light.

In my case, my light came through a friend, some years ago, who loaned me a book on stress. I think it was called Pressure Points: How to Deal With Stress, by Don Osgood. Osgood talks about the fact that acknowledging stressors can be a significant key to overcoming stress. I highly recommend his book.

When I give proper credit to the stressors that impair my productivity, I actually have more peace. There are things that make it difficult to clear space in my head for writing. It is as though, by giving them a nod, they settle down.

Naming the problem has a way of reducing its power over us. Even positive stressors like a wedding in the family, or a vacation, or the Christmas Season can drain our resources.

When my children were young I learned to immediately acknowledge their distress. This made them feel cared for and removed the need for whining and nagging.

In my work with mentally challenged adults I took a Behavior Modification course which taught me that if I failed to be consistent in one instance, I could lose years of progress made with a client. I practiced consistency with my children and this made them feel secure.

We all need consistent validation and reassurance. We need to feel secure.

Since we don’t want others to minimize or ignore our needs, we should not be ignoring or minimizing them either. I find that at times I have to picture myself as the “other” in, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

Don’t ignore. Don’t minimize. Life is what it is. Acknowledge and work your way through it. Have a little faith that you will find yourself in a place beyond this that may be better.

Many times we don’t understand the seasons in our lives. Certain periods are characterized by unique circumstances. One season passes and we find ourselves in a new place, which requires adjustment. It may be retirement, or an addition to the family, or a child leaving home. The best we can do is be “faithful” and consistently apply ourselves to the next thing that requires doing in our setting.

I read a hopeful blog this morning at Another Slice, entitled Follow the Sun. I look for encouragement wherever I can find it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I remind myself. There is a way and we will find it by persisting in the face of resistance.

Persistence may look different than we imagined. It may mean first taking care of things that get in the way and then returning to our writing. Think of this as a pause, not a stop. Or it may mean acknowledging and then ignoring them, so that we can write.

I heard a touching story that encouraged me in a strange way. We are living in challenging times and things can get worse. What if they do? How will we manage? Things may get worse before they get better. Some things will not get better this side of eternity. I think of this when my doctor says the word “degenerative.”

The story I heard was of a man who was in a concentration camp. Each morning the men in the barracks rose before sunrise and walked miles in every kind of weather to the place where they put in a long day of back-breaking labor. He and his comrades received almost no nourishment and many succumbed. The man noticed that when the guards saw someone stumbling and failing, the person was shot on the spot. Realizing this, he knew that if he wanted to survive he needed to appear strong and capable. He decided that each morning he would get up and shave. He was a survivor who lived to tell his story.

Each day we have to do the equivalent of shaving–the thing that tells us we are strong enough for what this day may bring. I may not be able to control what happens in my life, but I can maintain my dignity in my trial. This will serve me well in accomplishing my goal.

It’s Not Who You Are

We can choose to be identified by our past or we can have faith to move beyond it.

As I commit myself to working on my novel again, I am having to deal with demons of the past. “You won’t follow through.” “You’ve failed before.” “What makes you think you can do it this time?”

If you’ve ever tried to change a pattern in your life, you will have run into similar taunts and fears. But there are numerous testimonials to the contrary, examples of how people prevailed against odds. You can be one of those people.

I have a large bookshelf and sometimes I look at my books and ask why my novel is not yet published. What am I missing that the other published authors have?

First of all, my worth is not defined by whether I am a published author or not. Secondly, my life is not over yet and the potential for publication is still there. I just have to persevere and acquire a few skills. This may still add up to publication. I will also have to do the hard work.

Doing the hard work is probably the most important part.

I once surprised a lot of people who never gave any thought to my capabilities. You see, I attended college when I was young, but I didn’t graduate. In fact, I dropped out of two classes during my final year in college.

Then I went back to college after our children left home. I had no confidence in my ability. A friend was working to finish her degree and my attitude was, “Good for her.” But I could never do that.

The truth is that I again dropped out of two classes. History was repeating itself. But the following year something changed and for two years I took a full course load, even more than a full course load, and I graduated with my degree, with highest honors.

That voice you hear in your head, telling you that you will fail, don’t listen to it. It does not know you. It does not acknowledge all of your capabilities.

We all have an accuser that tries to keep us from getting up and trying again, trying harder, and succeeding.

The first year I took a full coarse load in college I was extremely stressed but I set a daily goal of how much reading I needed to do. I scheduled a time to work on my assignments. I attended classes faithfully. All of these added up to eventually completing my degree.

That year our school went on our annual weekend retreat and while there I climbed a small mountain. It was challenging. I didn’t know if I could make it. But I did. Whenever I didn’t know if I could succeed in my studies, I reminded myself that if I was able to climb that mountain, I could do this.

Look at a success in your life. Remind yourself of your ability. Persevere. Prevail. Don’t allow that voice in your head to define you. It’s not who you are.

What to Write About – Leave a Legacy

I don’t very often talk about content in writing. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve touched on this subject before.

There are messages out there that need to be shared. A few questions I always ask myself:

1) Am I the one to speak about this?

2) Where/to whom do I talk/write about this?

3) What is the best format/presentation method/platform?

5) Is now the time?

I think for awhile Facebook hijacked my ideas in the sense that it was where I posted short scripts, rather than blogging them or writing a book. As writers we need to determine what specific message we are to make a priority and write about. After this we determine when and where and how we will deliver the message.

This morning I read a couple of blogs I follow. I noted this in one blog: The Russians, for their part, wanted paralyzing chaos and to destabilize the United States politically — Mission Accomplished, Ivan. This blogger posts political content and adds personal commentary. The reason I chose this quote is because I see a lot of material these days that is causing destabilization and I think as writers this is something we could respond to. I would add that Russia does not get all the credit for chaos and destabilization.

Another blogger I follow, who is an inspirational writer of poetry, confessed today that she is actually a “political junkie” on Twitter. She deviated from her usual form and wrote about being moved to tears by a mother who lost her son this past week when a passenger plane was shot down over Iran. She felt the need to draw attention to the plight of Iranians at this time.

I hear from more and more people who are distraught by what they see around them and want to speak out. Don’t allow your voice to be silenced when you have a conviction that you need to speak. Some things need to be said, even if there are repercussions.

Although our privilege to speak freely is being challenged, today, silence is not the answer. Wisdom is.

Count the cost. Be courageous. Be considerate. Be prayerful. Think through what it is you want to say, then choose your words carefully.

I read this recently:

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. – Elie Wiesel

As writers we have a very significant role. We communicate a message that has the potential to influence others. We pass on information. We help people look at things from different viewpoints. This can be encouraging to some while it is threatening to others. Once again, I do not believe the solution is for people of good intentions to remain silent.

What is your motivation? Why do you write? I am encouraged when I see writers who aim to achieve good in the world. As we have seen, there are those whose motivation is less lofty.

In deciding what it is we want to say, it is also helpful to know exactly what it is we are doing. One person may want to document their journey. Another may want to give a commentary, or an evaluation. Some write to teach and share information. Others feel the need to alert people to current events or developments.

Occasionally people write cathartically, as a form of personal therapy. Some want their words to soothe and heal and bring comfort. Others write to entertain with wit and humor.

Our personality will incline us in a certain direction. A few people have expressed a sense of “call” to communicate a specific message or to deliver it in a very specific way. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what sets us writing but I think it’s safe to say it is interest and concern.

Whatever your content, whatever your style, I encourage you to contribute. Your voice is unlike anyone else’s voice. What you have to say matters. Together we can work towards creating a more insightful, more caring and more peaceful world. We can address some of the chaos and hopefully bring a greater sense of stability. Let’s leave behind a legacy for those who will follow. Your voice could be the one someone has waited for.

Update on My Novel

To my dear readers who have followed my story…thank you for your incredible patience.

It would almost make a story of its own for me to document my writing journey these past months. I finally decided that at the end of the year I will put my novel aside. In other words, it must be finished by then. There are other things I want to be freed up to do.

My biggest struggle has been that I want to write non-fiction. I don’t feel like I am a novelist. I’ve had to greatly adjust my writing style in order to write fiction. Many times when I have been blocked I have read a variety of books on writing, or I’ve read novels, or I’ve picked up Writers’ Digest magazines. I always find the magazines extremely motivating.

However, lately none of the above have helped me get out of my slump. I’ve had a series of revelations, however, and these are now beginning to motivate me to keep writing.

First of all I realized that I was embarrassed to be writing a “fluffy romance.” I actually kept thinking of people who I DID NOT want to have read my novel. My husband insisted that many people loved books by Louis L’Amour, and they were not profound treatises. He kept reminding me that I was a good writer. He told me he enjoyed the parts I had read to him, and that my writing was as good or better than published authors he’s read. “If you can do that, over and over, then you can write a good book.” Don’t underestimate the importance of novels, he’d tell me.

But, I argued, that is not all there is to a book. All of the pieces have to tie together and be in the right order, and you have to keep track of all the threads, and round out all the characters, and build the tension, etc., etc. It just seemed like I would fail, and worse, I might not even know where or why I failed.

I’ve had segments of my work edited and it has proved to be a very humbling experience. However, I decided I needed to move on from there by thinking about how much I learned, how my writing changed and improved, as a result.

I read somewhere that I needed to love my book. Someone pointed out that I had a bit of “self loathing” going on here. In other words, I no longer believed in my story, nor in my ability to tell it.

One day, when I felt particularly low–the day that my editor friend told me that my main character sounded pathetic (in other words), and that my language sounded like something from twenty years ago–yes, I was really told that…I drove to the ocean and was ready to delete my book and cancel my plan to attend a writers conference in August. The thing that held me back was that, for no reason I could put my finger on, I just believed that God actually wanted me to go to the conference this year. If I believed that, then I needed to go. I don’t want to live with having failed to have the courage to do what I needed to do.

Even deciding to love my book didn’t help me keep writing. I still wanted to quit more often than not. The truth was I didn’t believe what I was writing was significant.

I had been trying to dig deep, to get in touch with my characters’ feelings. Yes, there was some good writing. I could tell when it was good and that I needed to do more of that.

I think the breakthrough came when I realized that I knew my book inside and out. I had lived with it so long, I understood my characters better than my editor. And I had grown. I was able to recognize pathetic now and use it. That day I wrote back to my editor friend and told her that, yes, my character starts out with weaknesses, and she knows this, and it bothers her. I told her that maybe I am writing in a twenty year old style, but I’m OK with it. I’m probably not going to change that.

I began to see strength in my story. I took ownership.

I had taken pieces out of my story. Now I began to integrate them once again, in a different way, because I could see they contributed something vital. I slashed whatever didn’t serve a clear purpose. I made a list of what I wasn’t sure I should include and as the weeks passed the decisions became clear. I finally had a sense, not only of where I was going, but what I was doing with my story.

If I had not put a time pressure on myself, I would not have been pushed up against a wall. I would not have realized how much I hated my story and how I was actually seriously avoiding finishing it.

Most of all, I would not have come to the conclusion that I was the only one who could prevent it from being pathetic. I was the only one who could make my story as strong as I wanted it to be. I was the only one who could say, this was how I intended it and I love it now. It is now a true representation of me as a writer.

I finally found my strength and the strength in my story and it motivated me. I saw that I could write a book I would love. And this was the book I wanted to share.