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Author Archives: Anita Neuman

About Anita Neuman

In random order: I am an at-home mom, a writer, a singer, a speaker, a Christian, & the wife of an awesome guy whom I would very much like to keep.

Diversity Is Strength

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My new t-shirt arrived yesterday and I love it!

This t-shirt gives voice to my thoughts. My thoughts are anti-racism. My thoughts want to encourage and love and build people up. My thoughts can sometimes creep towards anger and hatred and other negative things when events like Charlottesville happen, but those are not the thoughts I want to voice. Those thoughts need to be taken captive and replaced with positive thoughts. The positive thoughts need to be communicated with words.

As much as I love words and sentences and wordplay and more words, sometimes the right words just aren’t there. I can’t wrangle the appropriate words together to truly capture my sorrow over the brokenness of our world. And so, when I saw this t-shirt, I knew those three words said a whole lot, and I want to wear those words as a prominent proclamation. Diversity is Strength. All of us together, with all our differences, make society better. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to other white people, “Our brothers and sisters from other racial backgrounds are valuable, worthy, and necessary. You and I are just one shade of skin and we need all shades. Our differences don’t make us less or better, but we are all better with a collection of differences. Please join into the collective better with me.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to people of different skin colours, “I am with you. I am for you. Your story may be different from mine and I can’t claim to know your pain.  But I can learn from you and I value you. Your opinion carries weight. Your perspective counts. Yes, your life matters. Your culture enriches mine. I am honoured to be in this collective with you.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to my children, “This is the standard for our family. This is how we treat each other, and this is how you need to treat everyone. Family is a safe place to be different and loved, and as you launch out into the world, make sure you are a safe place for other people to be different and still feel loved.”

Obviously, diversity isn’t limited to race. I know there are a whole slew of other things. It is completely absurd to me that the cause of racial harmony is in the direst need of champions right now. But if that need is to be met and eradicated, then it needs to be acknowledged. That is the need that I am speaking into now.

There. I’ve managed to add a whole bunch of other words to a very simple message. Diversity is strength. I would also love to be able to express how perfect I think it is that my son wanted to wear his Canada hat for this picture…but I have no words.

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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Beauty, Family

 

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If I Can Do It…

You guys. You know how I kind of hate running? And, well, most exercise in general? You probably also know that I write about it as a bit of a humorous outlet. And to encourage others (because if I can do it, I swear YOU can do it!).

Well, I’ve reached a milestone. Today I ran 5 kilometers in the for-real outside world. Without stopping.

Some of you probably think that’s not very noteworthy, or even that I should be embarrassed instead of proud of that accomplishment. Those readers are kindly invited to go do some one-armed pull-ups instead of reading further. This post is not for you.

I want to share this journey with you, any readers who are still here. Those of you who honestly can’t imagine that you could ever run 5k. (That’s about 3.1 miles, if that is more tangible.)

A few months ago, I was training to participate in a 5k mud/obstacle run. I had signed up with some friends because we thought it would be fun and we IN NO WAY intended to actually race. We just wanted to play on the obstacles.  So, I was doing some core and strength training in hopes of being able to accomplish most of the obstacles.

Then one day, it occurred to me that I didn’t really have any concept of how far 5 kilometers was and whether or not I could even walk that far, nevermind adding the obstacles in, plus the teensy detail of the freaking ski slopes on which said obstacles were to be located.

I had to haul my backside onto the treadmill and get a feel for 5 k.

Okay, that wasn’t too bad. I knew I could walk the distance…if the distance was flat…which it was not. So I started adjusting my speed and/or incline every half kilometer. Then I gradually decided to try running (instead of walking) some of those half-kilometer increments. And then sometimes I decided to get off the treadmill every half kilometer and do a one-minute plank, or a hundred crunches, or some other strength/core move.

That was my training.

The day of the race came and it was amazing! I was the slowest member of our team (except when one of our girls fell on an obstacle and sprained her ankle. She tried to keep going for a while, thus officially becoming the slowest one…but that was about the speed that I would’ve preferred to go anyway). Shortly thereafter, she decided to call the medics and meet us at the finish line. The rest of us carried on.

I am so proud of finishing the course. There were only two obstacles that I didn’t fully complete, plus one that I needed help with, and one that I fell off but was able to climb back on and finish. I did it! It was exhausting and so much fun and I DID IT!!!

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I had thought that completing that run was my goal. That’s what I’d been training for. But completing it was so empowering. I readily signed up for another one this fall, and re-registered for the same race next June.

Now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I wanted to improve my endurance and speed so I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed through the whole course. I kept doing my 5 k on the treadmill, but tried to increase how much of that I was able to run. When I got up to 3 k of running, I decided to try running outside. Oh boy, that is a different monster altogether! I failed miserably at that first (and second) attempt.

I kept trying, even during our family camping trip. I had previously mapped out the roads outside the campground so I would know exactly where my 1.5k turnaround point was. And I did it! I ran 3 kilometers without stopping! I did it 3 times that week.

Then, when we got home, I added another kilometer to my route.

Some days, I went back to the treadmill. (Sometimes you just need to set your pace, turn on “Grey’s Anatomy” and turn off your brain.) Soon I was able to do 5 k inside – and that was big for me! But I knew I had to do it out on the road – with wind and gravel and cars going by.

Today was the day that I did it. 5 full kilometers. Outside. No stopping.

There is still no part of me that is thinking, “Whee! This is fun!” No, I don’t enjoy it yet. I would still much prefer to be on the hammock with a Caesar and a good book. But something has definitely shifted. I’m starting to feel empowered by the process.

And that is why I’m writing now. The empowerment. You know I’m no fitness guru. You know about my thigh-chafing and back-roll-chafing. You know how long I’ve hated all of it. BUT after alllllllll these months of hating it and not feeling like I was getting anywhere, I CAN RUN FIVE KILOMETERS! And that means you can, too!

No matter how far away you are from that goal right now, you can get off the couch and do SOMETHING to move your body. Work up a sweat. Bend, stretch, dance, go up and down the stairs, walk, play soccer with your kids…do something. And tomorrow, do it a teensy bit further or longer or faster. Try different things or do the same thing everyday – whatever works for you. Just start moving…and then a bit more.

I did it. I’m going to keep doing it. And YOU CAN DO IT!

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2017 in Personal Growth

 

Window Pains

I started an art project a couple of years ago. Towards the end of last year, I was getting to the point of pulling it all together. I needed a cool frame and decided an antique window was just the thing. After a bit of searching, I found what I was looking for. I bought it and brought it home. It was dirty and I wasn’t quite ready to use it just yet, so I left it on the front porch, leaning against the house. I intended to get working on it within a couple of days.

And then a big storm came and the wind blew the window over and one of the panes shattered. I cleaned up the broken glass and my husband moved the window out to the barn where it would be safe from future storms while I figured out what to do next.

That same week, a storm of a different kind blew through. Our oldest son came to “teach us a lesson” by breaking apart our front porch bench and using it to smash our main floor windows. After 9 years of the figurative darkness that he brought to our lives, he also brought literal darkness. Our windows were boarded up for 10 long winter weeks.

Well, we got through all that, only to have a family health crisis blow through like another storm. (I’ll save that story for another post.)And it seems we’ve gotten through that, too.

Then suddenly it was July and my broken window was still sitting in the barn.IMG_9255

I had half-attempted to find out if I could get the one pane replaced, but I kind of figured that was a lost cause. And I had proceeded far enough with that exact size of window in mind, that my efforts to just replace the whole window were also fruitless. I needed a new plan. I needed to remove the other panes.

It has taken me a couple of weeks. Sitting on the driveway, hunched over my project. Scraping and chipping away at the ancient caulking that was holding the panes in place. I could have just shattered the glass and been done with it…but you’re never really done with shattered glass. I know. Shards lurk for months. For…ever.

Curled over those three remaining panes, carefully trying to restore the project as a whole, I was struck by the metaphoricalness of it all.

I have 4 children. One of them is broken (seemingly beyond repair) and gone. The other 3 remain, but our family is not the same. Trying to rebuild the project without further damage is painstaking work. We can never fill that empty quadrant. There’s no way to fix it. We had to revise the plan. Do our best to make something beautiful out of the wreckage.

The finished project tells a more meaningful story than anything I had envisioned IMG_9294when I started it. His love endures forever. Through even the bleakest of seasons. When everything else is falling apart or already broken beyond repair. When plans need to be reconfigured, re-envisioned, or completely restarted. His love endures forever.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Adoption, Family, God, Personal Growth

 

When Storms Like The Sea Billows Roll

I have a lot of roles. So do you, I’m sure. Let’s list a few. For me, there’s wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt. There are a bunch of work titles. There are friendship roles that I fill. There are different things I do in my church community. And the list goes on.

Then there are the roles within roles. Let’s look at “mom”. Under that heading, I am menu-planner, grocery-shopper, cook, dishwasher, laundress, chauffeur, teacher, disciplinarian, drill sergeant, time-keeper, seamstress, personal shopper, hair stylist, cleaning lady…

I could break it down even further. I make fantastic bread. I can do amazing braids. I am the best at digging out slivers. And ain’t nobody organize a carpool like this mama!15713335_10154671530175351_137902662_n

But all of those roles aren’t applicable all the time. Nobody cares that I can make fantastic bread, unless of course, one of my cherubs offers to bring homemade bread to a school function – which is, to date, I think…never.

But should the need arise, I am the mom for the job!

Allow me to draw a comparison now to all the names and roles of God. Have you ever read a list of His names and attributes and kind of glossed over? Sure, some of them are relatable all the time, but others just seem like nice, random ideas.

Until a need arises.

This Christmas was all about “Emmanuel” for me. As I briefly outlined in my previous post, we’ve been dealing with an attack on our home. Now that the court process is finished and there’s no more “alleged” attached to the perpetrator, I am free to say that it was our son. (You may have figured that out, since I categorized the post under “adoption”. Was that cheeky of me?)

With all the questions about security and what attacks might still be coming, “Emmanuel, God With Us” has been more meaningful to me than ever before. I have always known that He is with me, and I have always had an appreciation for what that name meant to the Jews of the day. But over the past few weeks, the meditation of my heart has been “God with us.” GOD with us. God WITH us. God with US.

Another God-role that has brought me much peace during this time is the concept of Jesus as mediator and God as judge. Let me fill you in on more of the story.

There were numerous charges against our son, accumulated over the course of several weeks. Because our justice system isn’t perfect, we ran into a bit of a snafu with Victim Services. (Yes, I know what snafu means, Mom, but that’s exactly what I mean to say.) The two most serious charges against our son were dropped. That means, as far as all the records are concerned, Mischief Over $5000 and Unlawful Entry never happened – even though we’re still living in a cold, dark, drafty, boarded-up house.

I confess, I had a full day of feeling very bitter and angry towards our Victim Services representative and the prosecutor. They were supposed to speak for us, represent us, advocate for us. And they hung us out to dry. My heart screamed, “Isn’t there anyone who is FOR US?”

And the answer came immediately. “I AM.”

The picture of Jesus Christ as advocate was brilliantly clear in my mind. Again, there has always been a knowledge of Him advocating on my behalf, presenting me as pure and faultless because of His sacrifice, to God the Father and ultimate judge. That picture pertains to my own sin being washed away. But this new picture, with the issue being someone else’s sin against me, showed me so clearly that He is still advocating on my behalf. And I can fully trust the dichotomy of mercy and justice in the hands of our Judge.

These human advocates screwed up (from my perspective) and this human judge acted on incomplete information. But my Jesus advocate doesn’t say, “Meh. Oh well,” about overlooked paperwork. And my Almighty God judge knows all the details anyway.

Our house is still cold and dark and I can’t do anything about that. Our son is free to live his life as if none of this happened, and I can’t do anything about that either. What I can do is intentionally focus my heart and mind on the character of God – on His presence with me through all of it and His capability as advocate and judge.

And I can also make myself some fantastic bread.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Adoption, God, Personal Growth, Recipes

 

A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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Love Hurts

On the first day of grade eleven, my daughter came home and told me about a new girl who sat behind her in one of her classes. She’s from Denmark. She’s living here for one year. She doesn’t know anybody.

Alice needed a friend. And I knew Abi was the right girl for the job.

“You’ve been there. You’ve had that exact same need,” I told Abi. “You’ve lived in a different country and needed deep friendships even though you knew you would be leaving. You know how hard it was to get people to invest deeply in a temporary relationship. And you know how hard it was to say good-bye at the other end. You need to grab Alice and immerse her in your circle of friends tomorrow. Treat her as if she’s always been there and as if she’ll always be there. Don’t wait for a slow-developing, organic friendship. Make it deep immediately.”

And that’s what she did.

Now, if you know Abi at all, you know that she has big feelings about everything. Every feeling that she has is big. BIG. She is emotionally invested in ALL THE THINGS. Every relationship. Every activity. Every place she’s ever been. Everything she owns. Every bite of food. She is ALL IN.

So to tell her to invest in a relationship was probably redundant advice.

But to recall that conversation with her this week was helpful. This week brings Alice’s year here to an end. There have been a lot of tears. (Not just at the final good-bye last night, but on random days leading up to the inevitable. I think those random days started a couple of months ago. “Honey, why are you so upset?” “Because Alice is leeeeeeeaving!!!!!” Jesus, take the wheel.) And we looked back at that first day of school when Abi made the choice to love Alice – knowing how deeply she was going to love, because that’s just who she is, and knowing how much it was going to hurt saying good-bye.

I am so proud of my Abi Mae and her example of Christ-like love. Relationships don’t always end in heartbreak, and when they do, we don’t usually know at the onset that that’s how it’s going to work out. But choosing to love deeply for the sake of what might end sadly, that’s no small thing.

Today we said good-bye to Abi for the next nine weeks. She is off to camp for the summer to be a counselor to dozens of kids. We talked again about loving deeply. About investing emotionally, even though it’s an even shorter timeframe. It is her best gift to give, and the hardest.

And she’s the right girl for the job.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Family, parenting

 

So Messed Up

“What is the most broken and messed up thing in the world?” This conversation-starter was posted on Facebook today, and the answers have kept me interested all afternoon. Poverty, sexual abuse against women and children, the inaccessibility of plentiful resources like food and clean water, greed for power and money, the value of money outweighing the value of human life, the pandemic of broken families, terrorism.

I can’t argue against any of those. Nor can I argue that one is more messed up than the rest.

The answer I would contribute is that the sacredness of sexual purity is broken. That’s almost the same answer as sexual abuse, but it’s broader than that. Abuse happens because individuals lose (or never had) a sense of the sacredness of sexuality, and their selfishness drives them to inflict their perversion on other people. That trajectory is manifested in so many ways: pornography and child pornography, prostitution and sex slavery, adultery, rape and other forms of assault… The list goes on and on, and I believe it all stems from purity not being cherished and protected.

So much brokenness. It is so heavy. And it is so close. There’s no point in deluding ourselves into thinking the mess doesn’t touch our own yard. It’s here. It’s everywhere. And it sucks.

My heart is often heavy in prayer for broken loved ones. Abusive relationships, devastating illnesses, financial blows that keep on coming. I pray for them and I pray with them. And then, so often it feels like the next wave of trauma just sweeps right over us all. And sometimes bitterness creeps into my prayers. “Really, God? This is what You thought was a good answer? Because this is kind of the exact opposite of what we were praying for.” Sometimes I’m tempted to decline praying for someone lest they be sucked into the vortex of my run of bad “luck”.

The last couple of weeks have been especially overwhelming, with waves coming from every direction. Talking about brokenness on Facebook is too heavy, too close.

But it is timely.

As Easter approaches, I think it is worthwhile to consider the brokenness. The loss. The seemingly unmet expectations of our prayers and hopes. I’m sure that’s how Christ’s followers felt 2000 years ago as they watched Jesus being arrested, tossed back and forth between governing bodies in a sham of a trial, beaten and then condemned. Hour by hour, they must have felt like “This is as bad as it can get. He’s going to show Himself strong any moment now. He’s about to do the big miracle that we’ve been waiting for.” And then, no. Crucified.

The brokenness and the desperation of such loss – it’s unbearable. Where is the hope when it feels like God is playing a sick joke? How can we continue to cry out to Him for help when we can see how He’s answered all our prayers leading up to this point? How do we trust Him when it looks like He failed?

The answer lies in Sunday morning.  We find our hope in the resurrection, the triumph over death. We cling to that reality from centuries past, but it is also a picture of a coming final victory. The mess will be eradicated, the brokenness will be fully healed.

Today, we wait in the pause of Saturday, wallowing in brokenness and pain. We may question the purpose of the pause: why is He waiting? But let us not give up entirely. He is big enough to handle our doubts and bitterness and even accusations. He is patient enough to wait out our tears. He is purposeful enough to make use of the pause. And He is already victorious in the coming dawn.

Sunday is almost here.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in God, Personal Growth

 

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