Saturday, December 18, 2010

Separation/Divorce...from the eyes of a child

Today, I saw something for the first time. It was a picture of great pain... and it came from the eyes and expressions and confessions of an eleven year old child.

Books have taught me, Counsellors have shared with me, Parents have assured me... separation/divorce is hell for the children who have to walk through it.

What have I learned in the past about a child's experience with separation/divorce?

1. Children believe that they are responsible when their parents separate/divorce.

2. Children believe that it is their perogative to fix their parent's marriage.

3. Children feel unloved during their parent's marital crisis.

Today... I can assure you. It is all true.

What can I do to assure one hurting child that Love is NOT something that leaves and walks away when Mom and Dad can't work things out? What words can I offer to the innocent victim that bleeds as much and maybe more than Mom and Dad? When does Jesus show up to dry the tears and heal the broken heart?

Here sits a child with foundation weaker than quicksand. I hug, I listen, I hug some more. I wipe the tears that fall ... and then I assure one broken hearted child that Love will never leave.

I just hope and pray that one day... the broken heart will believe it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Processing my own Pain

It is Monday morning, very early Monday morning. 3 A.M. To be precise.

I hurt. Pain, real intense, sharp, constant pain. For months now, I have been in pain. Weekly trip to the chiropractor have not been putting an end to the agony. My neck and shoulders are the worst with some lower back pain as well. It is crippling. I went for a therapeutic massage on Thursday and I think the masseur aggravated something. This weekend has been excruciating.

Yes, I am whining. I can do that here. That is why I created this blog... To have a place where I can write about what is really going on. I am forty-two and I feel like I am eighty two. Only at eighty-two I wouldn't have the responsibilities that I do now. I wouldn't be asked to lift toilet bowls at work, shovel snow, or even haul laundry up and down stairs. I want a miraculous healing or I want my life to stop for the time it would take me to heal.

There, I wish I could say that I feel better. But I don't. I am going to get this stiff and aching body up in a couple of hours and start the routine all over. I can't take any pain medication. I wouldn't be able to drive with the amount I would need to make a noticeable difference.

Venting this kind of stuff on people is hard to do. All that is received back is a look of helplessness. There is a strong desire to fix things that are broken, especially in men. My husband had been giving me back rubs to help alleviate the pain, but the pain runs deeper than what he can massage away. I am even a challenge to my chiropractor.

I guess this is the extent of my griping. Pretty soon the battery on my iPod will die and I will be left to my thoughts and weakened prayers.

"God, what right do I have to beg You for an end to this? Job endured 40 chapters of worse agony and I remember Your response to him.

Jesus, You removed a lot of pain in three years of ministry, but maybe there were a few that were not healed. Where they any less special to You? I have few questions and even fewer answers. I think I will put my iPod down and try to get some sleep. I will lay here in pain and still be stubborn enough to believe that You love me. Even if the evidence proves otherwise."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Transition and The Journey:: Part 2

Me: Welcome back

Myself: I didn't go anywhere

Me: I know... Just wanted an opening for the interview.

Myself: It has been a while since we talked.

Me: I know, I don't talk to myself as much as I used to.

Myself: Where did we leave off?

Me: I can't remember.

Myself: Well, if you can't remember... I won't be able to help you.

Me: Let's start over.

Myself: Let's not. I had an interesting conversation at work today. It
kind of has something to do with our interview topic.

Me: Go ahead.

Myself: I had a customer come to the counter today to pick up some
faucets and plumbing fittings. I found out that he is brothers with
one of my former YFC co-workers.

Me: Small world.

Myself: I know. I told him that pastors are highly unappreciated in their field of employment. That led into a few minutes of telling him about my departure from organized "church".

Me: Did he agree with you about the "unappreciated" bit?

Myself: He told me he felt appreciated.

Me: Really. Did he give you an example?

Myself: "Pastor Appreciation Week"

Me: Oh.

Myself: I think it is a sad thing that a pastor had to schedule in time for people to show their appreciation.

Me: Let's get back to your journey. We need to lay the foundation for this adventure before we shingle the roof.

Myself: Okay, ask away.

Me: What about your relationship with God. You were bumping around from building to building and from theology to doctrine... How did that affect your relationship?

Myself: I am 42 and still trying to figure out what the relationship is about. Looking back, things seemed to be cloudy. There was so much stuff in the way that looked like relationship material, I am just not sure it was.

Me: Did you have any moments when you were sure God was trying to connect with you.

Myself: Outside of the institution?

Me: Sure.

Myself: Nature... God has always been able to talk to me somehow through creation. That may sound lame, but there is a stillness there.

Me: What about people? Who has influenced your relationship/journey with God?

Myself: Boy, you sure ask the tough questions. There is a name that comes to mind. His name is Rapheal. I actually dedicated a poem in my book for him.

Me: Tell me about him.

Myself: Rafi was one of the Youth Guidance Kids. Youth Guidance was a program that I volunteered with for over five years. I had interaccted with so many kids, my favourite being Sophia.

Me: Your little sister.

Myself: That is a story in itself.

Me: Raphael came after the Sophia years. Right?

Myself: My YG time was on the tail end when Rafi was a part of it. He was a most inquisitive and hyper boy I had seen come through that program when I was there. He liked to ask a lot of questions about God and spirituality. He was constantly interrupting the flow of things. That kind of behaviour wouldn't be appreciated Sunday morning when the paster is delivering his sermon.

Me: Probably not. Interruptions are not part of the planned program. "Sit and Listen" is the encouraged response if I remember correctly.

Myself:: Rafi was adorable, his questions were honest and innocent. If something puzzled him, he wouldn't just pretend that he knew the answer. There was no head nodding with Raphael unless he absolutely understood. Even then he would let everyone know that he didn't get it. There was no spiritual shame with that boy.

Me: So why choose Raphael as a spiritual influence?

Myself: He asked questions. If he didn't understand something, he asked a question. I have been around a lot of churches with a lot of folks in the pews that don't understand but won't ask the questions.

Me: Are there any other people like that that have made an impression on you?

Myself: There is Gail. She is another courageous person who doesn't fear asking questions. I met her when I moved to the Edmonton area.

Me: Tell me about her.

Myself: My love for that woman grew because she didn't always accept the sermons that were preached to her. Her boldness and curiosity were her most admirable character traits.

Me: Is that kind of curiosity and boldness missing in church circles today?

Myself: I believe it still is. Asking questions has only been acceptable in Sunday School. Even then, it isn't a positive thing to suggest something that your teacher doesn't agree with.

Me: Really. In all of your years as a Sunday School teacher, did you face some of those questions?

Myself: I had a few of them.

Me: Do you want to elaborate?

Myself: No. Let's change the subject.

Me: Okay. How 'bout we take a break for now. I want to talk about your book and what lead you to write "Still Broken". I also want to dig into your post "institutional church" life and how things are going for you now.

Myself: You mean "us", how things are going for "us"?

Me: I think everyone gets the point. So until the next chance I get to talk with myself...

Thank you for taking the time to read "our" story.

Myself: Oh! So now it is OUR story. I thought it was my story.

Me: Whatever.

Myself: Hey! Don't "whatever" me!

Me: I didn't. I "whatevered" you.

Good bye all... Until next time.

Myself: You always get the last word.

Me: Of course.

Myself: That's not fair.

Me: Life isn't fair. Goodbye.

Myself: Goodbye.

Me: Goodbye.

Myself: I said goodbye.

Me: I heard that.

Myself: There you go, getting the last word in again.

Me: Yep!

(a whisper from off stage)

I: This can go on for a very long time. I would suggest a hasty exit for the reader right now. I know these two. They like to talk. Thank you for stopping in. The conversation is far from over. I can assure you of that!

From Me, Myself and I !!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Processing someone else's pain.

This week I received news of death... Twice.

First I had a letter arrive in the mailbox from my former landlady in Calgary. Her husband, my former landlord, had passed away in October.
I lived with Helen and Fraser for three years. They lived upstairs and I lived in their basement suite. Both were special to me and my heart hurt when I read Helen's letter. I am thankful that I was able to visit with them this past year.

The other news came via email today. My godmother lost her husband to cancer. Here is a woman who has prayed for me for 42 years of my life. She is the one who held me in her arms when I was an infant. Now 42 years later I wish I were close to her do that I can embrace her in her time of sorrow.

Death is inevitable. But that doesn't mean the journey through the valley is any easier.
I wonder about something. Are hugs enough? That seems to be all I am capable of these days. Words are empty, understanding isn't specific enough. How do I process these events? And more importantly, how do I allow others to process their pain in their own way?

At work, the boys are raising money for prostate cancer research. I am not on the bandwagon for supporting cancer research. I see it as useless. As long as this country makes more money on cancer and it's treatment, a cure will not emerge. But maybe for the people raising money, it is a way to walk through their own grief. I am not the only one who has lost a loved one to cancer. I am just experiencing the journey much differently though.

My friend, Carla is loosing her Dad to cancer. How will I help her through this process? She will hurt differently. That is a given. I just hope my hugs and my shallow level of understanding will be of some comfort for her.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Transition and the Journey: An interview with myself about Religion and my choice to let it go

Me: I've never interviewed myself before. I wanted to share the story of my journey through forty years of religion and why I am letting it
go. I figure that it could make the story telling a bit easier to do
in question format. So here goes.

Some ice breaker questions first. Where did you grow up?

Myself: Fort St. John in northern B.C.

Me: What about your family? In one or two sentences.. Your father
first?

Myself: My Dad was a carpenter, builder and farmer. He rotated between those careers for most of his life. He's an only child. Only children
usually grow up before the get to experience childhood. He passed away
over two years ago.

Me: What about Mom?

Myself: My mom was a school teacher before she got married and
became a wife and mom after. She grew up a middle child in a family of
four. She still lives on the farm with the goats, chickens and llama.
She is one very special lady.

Me: And your sister...

Myself: My sister and I are very different and I am sure that's a
challenge and a joy to any set of parents. She out ranks me by two
and a half years. She's married with two grown boys and farms with her
husband.

Me: You just got married over a year ago. Tell me about your husband. Where did you meet and what does he do, both for a living and in his
spare time.

Myself: Manfred and I met over ten years ago. We both worked for the same heater manufacturing company. Ten years later, he is still
selling heaters and is quite passionate about it. He also is very
passionate about his guitars. He plays acoustic and electric.
He is also the lead guitar player of a local classic rock band.

Me: Where does he fit into his family?

Myself: He has an older sister. Kim is about seven years his senior. But with the age gap and his identity as a first born son, he has a
lot of first born traits. He sometimes reminds me of my dad.

Me: Birth order seems significant to you.

Myself: It is how I like to figure out personalities in people. Most of the time, I can figure out a person's birth order by the way they
behave. Also knowing someone's birth order helps me to understand the
best way to communicate and interact with that person.

Me:
You are the last born on your family. How do you feel that has
defined your personality and behaviour?

Myself: I am challenged in the organization, focus and detail
departments. It drives my hubby and my sister nuts. Both with
firstborn personalities. But I do Iike to have fun!

Me: We are leading into the topic of your spiritual journey, how do
you feel your personality has affected your spiritual journey?

Myself: I bounced around quite a bit in the last twenty years trying to fit my religion into my personality. I tried to fit in where ever I
went, whatever church I ended up in was a personality choice of some
sort.

Me: You mention bouncing around. Do you mean church hopping?

Myself: Something like that. Some hops were longer than others.

Me: Let's talk about your childhood first. You grew up attending a Lutheran church, right?

Myself: Actually, my first memory of church attendance wasn't
Lutheran, it was Mennonite. I was four years old when my family moved from Fort St. John and out to the farm. My grandparents attended the local Mennonite church that was only a few miles away. So instead of commuting to Fort St. John on Sunday morning to the Lutheran church, my parents, my sister and I went to the Mennonite church in the community.

Me: Lutherans and Mennonites are somewhat different in their
doctrines. How easy was that transition?

Myself: I don't remember doctrine being an issue for me when we were
in Flatrock. But if I remember correctly, it was doctrine that motivated my
parents to return to the Lutheran church a few years later.

Me: That's interesting. I know we had planned to talk about your God
Journey, but your religious upbringing and institutional choices bave
very much affected your journey. So let's go down this path for a bit
and see where it leads us. What was the deciding factor that motivated
your parents to make the drive into town to attend the Lutheran church?

Myself: I will have to ask Mom again. I think the neighbours had
something you do with it. Doctrinal issues ... Maybe they didn't want to confuse their children with conflicting theologies. They too were Lutherans that were attending a Mennonite church.

Me: Did the move back to the Lutheran church spare you against
confusion?

Myself: My denominational track record would suggest otherwise.

Me: Do you recall now any God moments you had as a child?

Myself: God was distant, if He was real at all. He was another
character in a story. I don't remember even connecting the God I
learned about in Sunday School with a real person. It wasn't until I
was nineteen and at bible school that I started to think that maybe
there was a person behind all the religious hoo-ha that I had embraced
in my growing up years.

Me: Did you connect with God on a personal level at Bible School?

Myself: Looking back, it's hard to tell what was personal connection
and what was religious performance.

Me: When did you start questioning the belief system you were raised with?

Myself: I think it would have been my second year at Olds College - the fall of 1991. I had attended the Lutheran church in Olds during my
first year and decided that for year two I would try something else.

Me: Was it a bad experience in your first year?

Myself: I didn't connect with anyone there, the presentation was
boring and the building was cold.

Me: But you stayed for a whole year before making a change.

Myself: Are we going to talk about guilt, religious obligation, self-
condemnation and betrayal?

Me: We can ... If you want go down that road.

Myself: Not right now.

Me: Okay, your second year.

Myself: I discovered the local Baptist church.

Me: How was that experience?

Myself: I found the people a little more interactive. I don't remember getting involved with anything that year. Then again, I don't remember
anyone asking me too, either.

Me: They were okay to have you pew sit for a year? That seems unusual.

Myself: Ya think? Most would strongly encourage involvement within the first couple months. Maybe my identity as a student gave me a free pass for
the year.

Me: But this was the year that the questions came out, right?

Myself: I was attending a Baptist church and college Inter-varsity. I was exposing myself to new theologies and making friends outside of the Lutheran realm for the first time.

Me: Did any one person influence your spiritual walk in that year?

Myself: His name was Andy Stahl. He was a Ag. Student like myself. But he was also an ex-Hutterite turned Pentecostal. You can imagine the transition he went through. His own family disowned him when he left the colony.

Me:
Wow!

Myself: During the two years around Andy, I started to believe it was possible to believe in something different than the theologies and
ideologies of my parents. But I felt guilty. So much so that in my
second year, there was three weeks where I didn't go to church at all.
It was after three weeks, and a significant talk with my mother that I
went back to First Baptist.

Me: What did your mother tell you that was so significant?

Myself: "Ruby, I don't care where you go to church, just go somewhere!"

Me: Let's fast forward to Calgary. You got a job working on a dairy
farm...

Myself: Shift work soon became the open door for me to experience
something new. I had to work 3 out of 4 Sundays a month. I now had a
reason not to go to church that didn't produce an overwhelming amount
of guilt. But my parents found a place for me to go when I did have a
Sunday off.

Me: Lutheran?

Myself: Oh yeah. They didn't know any other world. They figured I
would like it there, because the pastor was energetic and enthustastic.

Me: Did you? Enjoy it, I mean?

Myself: Mom was right in her assumptions. I liked the pastor. But in the year I was there (one day a month), I didn't get to know any people.

Me: That is sad.

Myself: Actually, my lack of ability to commit to Sunday morning
church attendance opened up the door to my involvement with Youth for
Christ. God isn't caged up in the institutional church system. For
five years I was part of a community that didn't care if I worked on
Sundays. How cool is that!

Me: Some don't care, but most do.

Myself: You are so right.

Me: Tell me about those four years on the farm. Did you still
experience guilt for not going to church ... Even though your job gave
you a valid excuse.

Myself: You're reading my mind, again.

Me: That's easy to do for me.

Myself: I felt guilty for choosing a job where I had to work on
Sunday. I felt guilty for staying so long. When I started going to First Assembly, I signed up as an usher and volunteered to do the shifts on the Sundays I had off.

Me: Obligation is an endless tunnel. Once you commit yourself to enter there is no way out.

Myself: But there are exceptions. Family, job, commitments...

Me: Exactly as I said... an endless tunnel. Tell me about the
denominational transition from conservative Lutheran-Baptist to Charismatic Pentecostalism. How did you process that change?

Myself: Honestly? By believing that I was right and everyone else was wrong.

Me: Oh. We need to camp on this one for a while.

Myself: Every denominational shift I made, I felt I had to justify as the absolute truth. I was right and that means every other belief system was wrong. And the awkwardness of communicating with someone when you believe you are right and they are wrong... How great that is! Oh yeah... can't forget the attraction factor. It was fun. The environment seemed to match my personality.

Me: How did the attitude resonate with your family?

Myself: If it's okay with you, can we continue this discussion next week. I think I need to call someone before I answer that one.

Me: Okay... we will continue this later. Thank you for sharing what you did.

(Tune in again, folks. We are not finished yet... it may get juicier.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Breath of God... and an overactive imagination

It is Sunday morning. 6:37 to be precise. Where am I? In bed. Hubby is still asleep, the cat is scratching something outside the bedroom door. The DVR is recording the Formula 1 race in Korea. The gentle hum of the furnace and the intermittent buzzing of the fridge are the other sounds that keep me awake. There are drivers on the road already. I can here them out my bedroom window, which is only about fifty feet from the highway.

It may seem strange, but I think I can still sense God in these moments. I think the sound of His breathing is what I hear. I can't see anything except the light of my iPod but He is here. Growing up around a lot of hymns, I remember singing and listening to songs about the Breath of God.

My husband is laying beside me, as I glance in his direction, I can see nothing. The darkness is too ... dark right now. But I can here him breathe. I reach out to touch him. He moans a bit. He is still very real, I just can't look into his eyes right now.

What is it like for us finite human beings to sense God in moments like these when we can't see him? Easy for some and challenging for others. What does the Breath of God sound like? Is it the wind that sometimes whistles through the cracks of our little house? Maybe it is the silence that is trying to exert itself over the other noises. Maybe, just maybe it is my overactive imagination. I have one of those. I think all writers are prone to live life with a mind full of the pictures that they have created.

How do I know? How do I really know that God is with me right now? That question is something that has been through my mind on occasion this fall. I am not that analytical. I live by emotion, imagination and passion... and faith. How does one analyze all that? I somehow think a great portion of faith is imagining it to be as real as the things we can physically touch.

The breeze creeps in through the window. I feel a tingling sensation on my back. I would like to imagine it as the Breath of God caressing my sore and aching muscles.

God is real to me. I can't analyze or explain any other alternative. But as for the sensations that I experience... maybe it is the breath of God or my overactive imagination?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Naked, I create.

Writing has taken on a whole new face for me. Last year Hubby got me an iPod touch. What an incredible little tool. With Wifi and my little iPod touch I can write almost anywhere and post to almost anything. No longer am I bound to desk or laptop to process my thoughts.

My favourite places to write are in bed and in the tub. I can't remember if someone told me this or if I created it in my own mind ...

"The best writing is done when the author is naked."

I tried it once about ten years ago... Me, my computer and my thoughts and nothing else. It worked. I was able to write some incredible stuff and the creative juices flowed. I think I know why that is. To write when your naked means no one else had better be around. So that would get the distractions out of the way and the focus on your creating. Writing in the nude allows my naked thoughts to come out as well. I am not into writing a feel-good sermon. I want to express my inner soul.

I do have another avenue to write the thoughts that no one needs to read, but still need a platform of expression. To expose those in a public forum, such as a blog would be like walking from the privacy of my bathtub out into the street without putting clothes on first.

I like to expose some things... As most who have read my book "Still Broken" have discovered. Some secrets deserve exposure, some don't.

Well, tub time is over. It is Saturday and I am sure there are things to do.

Til next time...

PS. For all you writers out there... Try it sometime. I don't want to see it, but would like to read it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back on the blog trail again...

I have been blogging for years. I loved it when I was in Calgary. The jobs I had where somewhat mindless and mundane, so my overactive, creative brain had a lot to write about. If you want to read some of the things I use to write about...

Check it out: www.rubyvoigt.blogspot.com

... I was just on that site last night. I have no way to edit anymore, so it remains untouched. It is life as I saw it back then.

Today, my job is far from mindless. It is demanding, stressful and energy draining. Since moving to the Edmonton area from Calgary, I have been on the road way too much. My commute to the office for the first year and a half was a day's drive of almost three hours. Since I got married, that has been cut down by half. With more driving, more responsibility at work and the life changes of the last three years... It has been difficult to write anything that the public would want to read.

Since I published "Still Broken", some people have encouraged me to keep writing. I enjoy keying my thoughts and find it a treat when others like to read what I have written.

Why "Bearz Blog"?

Bears are my husband's favourite wild animal. He loves watching nature shows especially when there are bears involved. He gave me "Bearz" as a nickname after we got married. It was something about being cute, cuddly and wild. Well, that was his interpretation.

I have no idea where this ""wild" writing adventure will take me. All I know right now that the thoughts that I release to "the wild" are just that... Thoughts. They are not meant to offend anyone, but chances are good that they might. Forgive me now if I write anything that you don't agree with... And I will forgive you for not agreeing with it. Then we can still remain friends.

You can leave comments, I appreciate feedback.

Cheers

Bearz
(Ruby Neumann)