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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.

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.

 
3 Comments

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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Single At Night

We’ve been parenting together for 16+ years now, but when it is nighttime, I often feel like a single parent.

In the beginning, there was a very logical reason. I was nursing the babies. There wasn’t a lot my husband could do to help. Sure, I could have woken him up to change a diaper after I’d finished the feeding, but that just seemed mean. I was already up.

Once the nursing was no longer an issue, he reasoned that it still made more sense for me to get up. I could fall asleep so much faster than he could after the random midnight crises were tended to. I didn’t argue. I was too tired.

There were, of course, a few times that I insisted he be the one to respond to a child’s cries, only to have the child desperately want Mommy anyway.

He did get up that one night a mouse bit our daughter’s finger. Blood-curdling screams tend to jolt a person out of bed.

And there was another long, long night with multiple near-death experiences (as portrayed by our offspring). When there was yet another call from a far-off bedroom, I just couldn’t do it. I started crying. Eventually, my sobs compelled him to get up and see to the child’s needs. He returned  shortly thereafter…to ask me where we keep the clean bedsheets.

(Just one mom on the jury. That’s all I need…)

Our kids are mostly old enough now that nighttime emergencies are few and far between. But our youngest still has the occasional accident or night terror. Or itchy nose (for the love!). Recently, I was up with him four nights in a row (and more than once each night). By myself. Every night. I did not have lovely, tender thoughts towards anyone in those moments.

I recall being awakened the morning after the fourth night by some outside noise. A scratching, scraping noise, over and over again. It took several moments of fighting towards consciousness to identify the sound (and at the same time, trying desperately to stay asleep for just a few more minutes. I was So Blasted Tired!).  It was a shovel. My husband was shovelling the driveway.

Just then, the clock radio clicked on. Time to get up. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, realizing that he had been up for more than an hour already. Reading his Bible, bringing in a bin of firewood, getting the woodstove burning for the day, making my coffee, and shovelling our long driveway. All before my alarm went off.

I may be single at night, but praise God from whom all blessings flow, I am married in the morning!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Family, Marriage, parenting

 

More Treadmill Anger

The treadmill and I have a love/hate relationship. No wait, I said that wrong. The treadmill and I have a hate/hate relationship. There is no love at all. There is barely any like, and the squidgeon of like that sometimes pops up is only there for the first minute and the last minute of any workout.

When people say, “I love working out”, I have a carnal urge to correct them. It’s like saying, “Me and Joe seen a gooder movie than you’s guys.” All the words are wrong!

I do not like working out. I don’t like having difficulty breathing. I don’t like muscles that hurt for days. I don’t like having to change into workout clothes and then change again into normal clothes. I don’t like having to drink so much water. I don’t like sweat that stings my eyes (Why is my sweat saltier than my tears? Is that normal? I think it’s dumb.). And I don’t like all of the minutes when the treadmill is making me go faster or go uphill.

One of my children (for the sake of anonymity, I’ll call her Schmabi) is athletic and often says the words that don’t make sense. Also, when she sees me on the treadmill, she does not say the things that an encouraging person would say (like, “You’re doing great. Keep going. You can do it.”) She says, “Stop leaning on the handles.”

When I have enough breath (and/or enough exercise-induced anger), I answer, “You’re not the boss of me.” But most of the time I keep it simple with “Shut.” Breath. “Up.” Breath.

If I had more breath, I would be able to say, “This is not leaning. This is hanging on lest I die.”

Friends, the result of letting go of those handles is two-fold. First, I will lose my balance. Truly, that moving floor messes me up. The faster it moves, the more I look like Bambi and Phoebe competing in a three-legged roller derby. I am remarkably stable on solid ground and even on a balance beam, but once that tread starts milling, I lose all capability of putting one foot in front of the other in a reliable pattern. The handles do not move, therefore I must remain connected to them in order to remain verticle.

Second, I might just fly off the back of the Contraption of Imminent Death through the window that is forever behind me (deepest apologies for that unfortunate view, oh random passers-by). As that tread keeps milling faster and my legs keep trying to slow down, it is only my vice-grip on the handles that keeps me on this side of the Pearly Gates. My vice-grip does, in fact, add upper-body resistance training as well , so let’s call it multi-tasking and check all the exercise things off the to-do list.

So why am I working so hard at maintaining the insanity? After all, I’m not so overweight that my triumphant and inspirational journey to health will be the stuff of viral videos. The answer is simple: I need to change the trajectory. That is all.

And why am I blogging about it and making fun of myself on the global interwebbings? Because, unlike Schmabi, I want to be an encouragement to other people. If my ineptitude makes you feel more capable, great! If my whiny anger makes you feel less alone, perfect! If my eventual weight loss and forthcoming enviable physique inspire you to be healthier, win-win!

In the meantime, I do not expect to start liking the process…which means there will probably be more blog and Twitter rants coming. Consider yourself forewarned.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2016 in Humour, Personal Growth

 

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My Treadmill Inner Dialogue

“This isn’t so bad. I can do this for 30 minutes. No wait….I’ve changed my mind. I hate this. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!”

“Please. You’re not even running yet. You’re still warming up. You can’t hate it already.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t hate. I hate this. This is not fun. People who claim to enjoy exercising are psychopaths.”

“Zip it and run. You only have 24 minutes left to go.”

“Only? You can’t just put ‘only’ in front of a number and make it sound good. 24 minutes is not ‘only’.”

“Whatever. Just keep going.”

“My back is chafing. I want to stop.”

“It’s not chafing. Keep going.”

“It IS chafing. My fat rolls are rubbing together with every jiggly step. It’s annoying and I want to stop.”

“That is pretty much the universal sign that you actually need to KEEP GOING.”

“The universe is stupid. I hate it.”

“Mutual, I’m sure. Pick up the pace, Jabba.”

“One does not pick up one’s pace when one is on death’s precipice.”

“Speaking all uppity like that is not going to intimidate me. You know we’re the same person, right?”

“Then stop being so mean to us!”

“I am helping us. This is good for us. We want this!”

“Please. Stop. Making. Words.”

“Look, you’ve been running for 5 minutes now. 5 minutes! Last week you couldn’t keep up this pace for even 2 minutes. Look at all those calories you’re burning. The faster you go and the longer you keep your heart rate up, the sooner you’ll meet your calorie goal.”

“Calories…Great. Now I’m thinking about ice cream. I need ice cream.”

“You do not need ice cream. You don’t even really like ice cream.”

“I do so like ice cream! It’s not my favourite go-to snack, but I like it. And right now I’m hot. I’m so hot and my mouth is all dry. I need ice cream!”

“No, you need water.”

“…to wash down my ice cream?”

“You can MAYBE have ice cream later IF you meet your calorie goal now. (And by the way, I’m going to talk you out of the ice cream later).”

“What was that? A whisper? An aside? You can’t do that inside my own brain.”

“I just did. You can stop me…if you catch me first.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense. Wearethesameperson!”

“But you’re still running, so it’s working. And now you’ve been running for 9 minutes!”

“9 minutes? Consecutively? Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”

“I know, right? If you keep it up for 3 more minutes, then you can drop to a fast walk for the rest of the time.”

“Oh, if I can keep this up for 3 more minutes, then maybe I’ll just keep it up for an EXTRA 2 minutes!”

“Maybe. But not likely. Let’s just be honest, okay?”

“Listen. You didn’t even think I could keep going for 9 minutes. And you were wrong.”

“I knew you could do 9 minutes. And I know you can get to 12 minutes. But after that, I’m pretty sure you will want to drop to a fast walk. Especially because then you can pick up your book and I will stop ‘making words’.”

“Yes. Books are better. Your words make me angry.”

“My words make you motivated.”

“Same thing. Anger is motivation.”

“Exactly. Oh look. 12 minutes of running. You may slow down and read now. But tomorrow you’re doing 14 minutes.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“No, no. Thank YOU.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Beauty, Humour, Personal Growth

 

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