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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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Things I Learned in 2015

My husband can still surprise me. We’ve been married 19 years. By now he is well-versed in the little things that make me happy. All the examples I used in my previous post are ideas that he has used many times over the years. I am delighted that he takes the time to get me things that he knows I’ll love, but I am not usually surprised by gifts from him.  Well, this Christmas, he knocked my socks off with a gift card for a new tattoo. That’s not something I had hinted about or was secretly hoping for. It had never crossed my mind that he would get that for me, as he’s not interested in ink at all. But I love it and I’m so excited for my appointment next week!

Old dogs can learn new tricks. It’s hard work; old brains don’t absorb and retain information like young brains do. But it can be done! In 2015, I finished my aromatherapy certification, did my aroma-massage certification, and almost completed my reflexology certification (my final exam will be early in 2016, but I did all the book-work and most of my case studies in 2015). Old brains that have worked hard deserve a rest.

I can’t go back to the previous version of me. I realized that I’ve been functioning in crisis-mode for the seven years that we’ve been struggling with our son’s toxicity. Many of the people who are in my life now have only known the crisis-mode me. All this time, I kind of had it in my head that this isn’t the real me, and therefore most people don’t really know me. I expected that once the crisis was over, I could get back to being me again. It’s been six months since we instigated some healthy distance in the toxic relationship, and it’s been six months of healing. Somewhere along the way, it dawned on me that I don’t get to revert back to pre-crisis me. Seven years of crisis have changed me. They have changed my relationship with my husband and my relationship with my other kids. They have changed who I am. And who I am right now is the real, current me.

The new me is pretty great. Surprise, surprise! My mourning over the previous me didn’t last very long. I quickly discovered that I don’t really want to go back. I can have sadness over how things transpired with our son, but at the same time, it’s okay for me to be joyful about how I have grown because of it. When God promises to bring beauty out of ashes, He really means it! It’s not a cliché. It’s deep and profound and humbling and awe-inspiring. He is so good. All the time. He is working. All the time. And He has done good work in me!

I still have a ways to go. I don’t mean to say that the new me is perfect. I’m still a work in progress. Long-term crisis-mode bent me a bit out of shape, and some of those kinks still need to be worked out. I am more cynical and more short-tempered. But I am also more relaxed about being changed. I don’t need to be in a constant, panicky, fix-me-now state of mind. One day at a time is okay. One step at a time is okay. Temporary derailments aren’t the end of the world. I will press on towards the prize.

“Fappy” is better than “hangry” – but only for a little while. The battery in my scale died in late October. Good-bye, accountability! Hello, fudge and Doritos and white bread and shortbread and gingerbread (basically ALL THE BREADS) and cheesecake and bacon-wrapped ribs and egg nog. It’s been fun. But now it’s time to act like a grown-up again. A grown-up who can wear the jeans that she already owns. Okay, maybe “now” is not the exact time. Tomorrow is the exact time. Or whenever tonight’s leftovers run out. So, you know…soon. Ish.

Happy New Year, friends!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

What It Is I Actually Do

Now that I’m a for-real grown-up with a for-real (albeit rather part-time) job in my own for-real office, I thought I should clear up some misconceptions about what I actually do.

Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is not scented candles, bubble bath, and air fresheners. It is not witchcraft or hippie voodoo. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for improvement and maintenance of health and beauty. It is very scientific, but it is also considered an art. Essential oils can be applied topically (for example, you could drop lavender essential oil on an infected cut instead of using Polysporin) or aromatically (meaning you inhale the oils and the molecules get into your bloodstream via the lungs and into your brain via the limbic system).

When I first started experimenting with essential oils, I was hugely skeptical. But after a few months of trying to stump them, I finally had to admit that they really do work in many wonderful ways. That’s when I headed back to school to learn the how’s and why’s. In the course of my studies, I learned a lot about proper dilution and blending, and now I have my own line of essential oils and products!

Next came Aromatherapy Massage. Sweet, naïve, little me had no idea that the term “aromatherapy massage” is used much more broadly than the clinical, therapeutic technique that I learned at school. I have had a very rude awakening to that reality. And oh what fun it is to explain to creepy guys that no, there will be no fancy finish. No, not even for a generous tip. That is not the kind of massage that I do.

Nor am I a Registered Massage Therapist.

Aromatherapy Massage focuses on the nervous system, with some lymphatic drainage mixed in. There is some musculoskeletal work, and it is indeed very relaxing, but it’s not the deep kneading that one usually expects from an RMT. Specific essential oils are used depending on the client’s health needs (pain management, insomnia, digestive problems, stress…). It is a full-body massage and it takes an hour.

Reflexology.  This does not involve me hitting your knee with a little rubber hammer to see how far your foot kicks out. You and my children can ask as many times as you want, but I still don’t have one of those little rubber hammers. Reflexology is the stimulation of reflex points in your feet that correspond to all the organs and systems throughout the body. Gentle pressure on the foot stimulates nerve messages and blood flow to the part of the body that matches that spot on the foot, thereby encouraging the body to heal itself of various ailments. All the areas of both feet are covered during treatment, so it feels much like a relaxing foot massage. If there are specific health concerns, those corresponding reflexes can be worked a little more and a few subsequent treatments would probably be beneficial.

There are a bunch of other modalities that are often associated with alternative health care. Reiki, tarot cards, crystal readings etc. I will not be adding those types of treatments to my practice. As a Christian, I have a firm desire not to open myself or my clients to spiritual influence that is not directly from Creator God. I know there are a lot of spiritual people who feel I’m being too judgmental or restrictive. I have, in fact, treated many people who are very interested in Reiki and the like. They are still welcome to my care; I just won’t be offering those services. I need to draw a line, so that’s where I’m drawing it. I also want fellow Christians to know that my office is a safe place for them to come for the treatments I do offer, without being pressured to participate in treatments that they may not feel 100% comfortable with.

So there you have it, folks. That is what I do. Someday when I don’t have to drive the carpool at 2:30, I may actually be able to do it for a full, for-real, grown-up workday!

And if anyone is still reading and wants to give any of these services a try, you can contact me via email (anita@aperia.ca) or follow me on Facebook  or Twitter.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Long Lost Writer

Do you ever have one of those weeks when too many all-consuming things in life are happening at the same time?  That’s pretty much what 2015 has looked like for me. Hence, the lack of writing.

When last we chatted, I was writing my final exams for my aromatherapy and anatomy courses. And mere seconds after that, I flew off to Cambodia for a couple of weeks with a team from my church. And then I blinked and I was in Myrtle Beach for our first ever family beach vacation. And I’d barely unpacked from that when it was time to take my aroma-massage course, and then complete the requisite case studies for that certification. And then school ended for the kids. And one kid moved out while the rest of us went camping for a week.

Summer was a whirlwind of kids going back and forth to various camps and activities, another mission trip (husband and daughter to Zambia plus a short visit with friends in Ethiopia), a road trip to Halifax, and the blissful distance from the drama created by the one child who is no longer living with us. Praise the Lord and pass the gravy!

School started again before I was ready (that was a new experience for me) and then I launched right into my next course: reflexology.

Oh, and in the middle of all that, I moved my aromatherapy practice out of our house into an office downtown, painted our old home office and moved a daughter over into that room, ran into some trouble in the building I’d just moved into and had to move my practice AGAIN… And I think that’s it.

I thought about writing almost every single day. But honestly, whenever I had time to myself to sit (aside from studying), I only had enough mental capacity to play Candy Crush. I am on level 1087 now and I missed you.

But look! Here I am! I have been managing to look after my new baby business, AND be the plexus that holds all the carpooling constellations in order, AND sometimes remember to put the laundry in the dryer, AND make food for all the people that still want to eat every single day. Now, today, my resting heartbeat is slow and steady, my facial tics have relaxed, my brain is allowing me snippets of sleep, and my fingers are typing words and sentences.

I have no great theme to expound on. No brilliant witticisms or side-splitting hilarity. No deep theology or cultural challenges. Just a long-awaited (by me, if not anyone else) greeting. We will talk more soon, dear friends.

Oh, and you should probably get a massage or reflexology treatment and let me help you with your Christmas shopping. http://www.aperia.ca

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Maya Angelou: Caged No More

My husband and I were watching TV when he turned to look at me and found me grinning. Grinning at nothing consequential, nothing notable, nothing strikingly amusing. “What?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I answered. “Just…” and I repeated whatever line from Elementary that had tickled my fancy. I was still grinning.

“You like the way the words are put together, don’t you?” Bless him. He gets me.

Yes, I like the way words are put together. A unique voice, a startlingly fresh simile, subtle wit, raw emotion. Words woven well are magic to me.

And the world lost one of its finest magicians yesterday.

I only own one of her books, but I could flip to any random page and quickly find a sentence or paragraph that deserves to be read multiple times.

“Each nicety becomes more sterile and each withdrawal more permanent.” Page 35

“I was so engrossed in telling the story that I did not know when the music and I had parted company, or quite how we could get back together. I only knew I was in one key and the piano in another.” Page 124

“They took no notice of me, but I couldn’t do the same with them. I had never been so close to trained singers and the reverberations shook in my ears. I left the room and walked down the corridor to find my place in the wings. Sounds came out of each door I passed. One baritone roared like a wounded moose, another wailed like a freight train on a stormy night. The tenors yelped in high screeches. There were whines and growls and the siren of an engine on its way to a four-alarm fire. Grunts overlapped the high-pitched ‘ha ha ho ho’s’ and the total cacophony tickled me; I could have laughed outright. These exquisite singers who would soon stand on the stage delivering the most lovely and liquid tones had first to creak like rusty scissors and wail like banshees… The singers were not funny. They were working. Preparation is rarely easy and never beautiful. That was the first of many lessons Porgy and Bess taught me.” Page 133

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to the loneliness.” Page 1

Dear Maya, may the entrancing, inspiring magic of your wit and wisdom continue to echo for many generations to come. Rest assured, if your work is in my hands when I’m caught grinning, no one need ask, “What?”

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

How About Some Cancer PREVENTION Awareness?

I’m confused about why “cancer awareness” campaigns are still a thing. Movember, pink ribbons, Facebook status games, no-make-up selfies, and now dudes waxing their nether-regions. (Dudes – stop.) I don’t get it. Sure, some of you donate to various cancer societies in connection with these campaigns, and if that helps you feel like you’re doing something beneficial, I won’t discourage that (at least not in this post). But how does your moustache help anyone? What does your make-up-free face have to do with cancer? If the Facebook games are supposed to spread awareness, why are they secret?

These campaigns are not effective. And more to the point, they are not necessary. Do you actually know anyone who is yet unaware of cancer? No, I’m sure you do not. But do you know anyone who has fought cancer or is fighting it right now? I’m sure you do.

I’m proposing we switch to cancer prevention awareness. And I’ll kick it off with a ridiculously awkward selfie so yours, by comparison, will be ridiculously easy. (If I were a hashtagging person, I would tag this as firsttimeusingcameratimer and onlynakedpictureofmeevereverever).

Image

Here’s me applying aluminum-free deodorant.  I make it myself – it’s super easy, super cheap, it works beautifully and it doesn’t stain my black clothes. (Here’s the recipe.)

Now it’s your turn. Post a photo of yourself making a healthy choice and explain why that choice helps you prevent cancer. Need some ideas?

  • Post a photo of yourself having a delicious homemade smoothie for breakfast.
  • Post a photo of yourself drinking water instead of pop.
  • Post a photo of yourself filling your grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Post a photo of yourself playing outside with your kids.
  • Post a photo of yourself wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

Until cancer itself is no longer a thing, we should all be working hard to prevent it. So let’s stop the nad-waxing (Seriously, dudes – please stop that right now) and start conversations that will actually make a difference.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Host a Perfect Dinner Party

Cherished readers, I know that having people over for dinner stresses you out. I know that you worry about what to serve and whether it will turn out okay and be ready on time and be bountiful enough to sate everybody. I know that you cringe at the thought of your guests eating off plain (and maybe even – gasp! – mismatched) dishes. I know that you obsess about cleaning everything from the oven to the floor under the couches, from the bathtub to the fridge, from the kids’ rooms to the back porch. I know that not having dripless candles or linen napkins or a glamorous decanter will stress you out of your ever-loving mind.

Why? Because you’re a real person and I’m a real person and I get it. It takes so much time and planning and preparation and organization that you rarely bother. So even though you keep telling yourself you’d like to have people over, and you even keep telling your friends, “Hey, let’s have dinner sometime”…it never happens.

I am about to teach you a very simple dinner-party trick that I learned while living abroad. It may sound tricky and overwhelming at first, but I promise if you try it once, you will discover that I speak truth.

Are you ready? My advice can be summed up in just two words: stop caring.

Yes, friends, that is it! Stop caring so much about whether or not everything will be perfect enough or pretty enough or delicious enough or ample enough and instead, switch your focus to caring about your guests.

Your guests are, in fact, the main point of the party. Not the perfect wine pairing, not the polished silver, not the background music, not the bathroom potpourri. Your guests.

When we lived in Ethiopia, everything was delightfully casual. Even fancy things, by necessity, had an air of flexibility about them. You never knew if you would have electricity or water on any given day. It was a normal occurrence to go to the grocery store for a couple of last-minute ingredients only to find that they didn’t have any of the things you needed. And in the missionary culture of sharing and blessing each other, there was nothing awkward about asking for, offering, or accepting offers of contributions to the meal. People would show up with a nice loaf of bread or a salad or a dessert and it didn’t have to be all strategically planned out ahead of time.

We simply focused on enjoying each other’s company, and it happened to involve sharing a meal together.

That’s still how we do dinner parties now that we’re back in Canada.

I will share with you an example from this past weekend. My husband was eager to smoke one of the turkeys in our freezer. Being as the bird was an astounding 27 pounds, we figured we should share it. So we invited a few families over. Two of the families are good friends of ours, but they had never met each other. And the third family had never been to our house before. (Does that scenario make your blood pressure jittery? Stop caring!) Two of our kids had overnight plans on Friday and I knew they wouldn’t be at their cherubic best for helping to get things ready on Saturday. (Would that turn you into a shrieking lunatic? Stop caring!) I myself had agreed to attend a birthday party with our youngest son all afternoon, so I wouldn’t be home methodically checking things off my to-do list. (Would that make you cancel your party altogether? Stop caring!)

As it turned out, I was home for less than an hour before our first guests arrived and I managed to throw together a big pan of stuffing, a pot of mashed potatoes, some delicious squash (which, admittedly, I had roasted and thrown in the crock pot earlier in the day), gravy and drinks. My husband looked after the turkey. Our guests brought veggie dishes and desserts.

I did not do any special cleaning (although we did pick up random clutter so there would be room to spread out all the food on the counters). We do not have enough matching dishes for 15 people. Nor enough matching chairs, for that matter. We used paper napkins and folding tables. We ate buffet-style. And we had so much fun.

My gravy didn’t look like it was going to turn out, so I mixed up a pot of packaged gravy – and then the first gravy magically thickened, so I just served them both. Weird, but whatever! The two husbands of the families that didn’t know each other actually grew up in the same small town a couple hours away and knew a bunch of the same people. Who knew? One of the table legs collapsed before dessert, but nothing broke or spilled and we fixed it and carried on. The children clustered around ipods and tablets after supper and entertained themselves while the adults talked and laughed.

None of it was stressful. All of it was fun. Why? Because I cared more about my friends than my perfection. And I trusted that their priorities were exactly the same: they came to be with us, not our flatware or our canapés. They had fun because they were welcome here in the midst of real life. We all felt free to snort-laugh because we weren’t hiding behind a façade of prim and proper.

Now it’s your turn. Maybe a turkey dinner for 15 is too much to start with. But perhaps you could do pasta for 8. Or burgers for 10. Don’t plan three months ahead of time. Don’t scrub the floor. Don’t rent a chocolate fountain. Don’t hire a barista. Stop caring! And I am absolutely sure that your dinner party will be completely fantastic.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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