Saturday, June 21, 2014

moving to wordpress

I'm moving my blog over to wordpress.  I would love it if you would still follow my blog over there!! You can find me at inthequietinthechaos.wordpress.com .  Thank you.  Over & out. Hehe.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

like a drug



Like a drug this fills me up
Gives me a buzz for one more vacant moment
and the empty ecstasy that I pursue
a false satisfaction that keeps me from You
And the guilt - it washes over
and I'm drowning in the shame
Self-indulgent, safe emotions
The elusive front that I parade
 
 
 
 
When I was about 15 I had this friend.  She came to school one day with cuts all over her forearm.  I asked her about them & she said, 'When my mum is angry with me for something, I do this.  Then she feels bad & stops yelling at me.'  
'Oh . . . cool,' I said.  'Freeeeeeaky,' I thought.
 
I have many positive memories of my childhood & youth but I also went through some hard times.  I responded to the chaos and conflict with fear & a sense of helplessness.  I felt like nothing was in my control.  I experienced a lot of confusion & difficult emotions.  I felt isolated in this & I didn't feel I had anyone to help me make sense of what was going on.  When I was 20, I finally found a way to manage unwanted, messy emotions. I didn't know it was a 'thing', I didn't know it had a name.  What I knew was that when I burned myself  I no longer had to feel anything.  Nothing but momentary physical pain & a neat, long  line to acknowledge it.  Sadness, anxiety, fear, shame, & anger.  All gone in the drawing of burning embers across my skin.  Other times, when I knew I should be hurting & instead just felt numb; burning myself was a way of feeling something & it brought relief.  That's messed up, right?  I mean, that is messed up. I remember flipping through the pages of a magazine while at Teachers College one day, & coming across an article on self-harm.  My friend leaned over my shoulder & glancing at the article said, 'It's really sad, eh?'  & with my heart racing like it was about to explode, I casually said, 'Yer.' and went on slowly flipping. That there was a name for what I was doing & that it was a growing issue amongst young people didn't help me.  I already knew it was not healthy.  I knew it was messed up & I was ashamed.  I didn't want anyone to know that I was so broken. 

I wanted to be better. Often I would manage months of no self-harming only to cave again as soon as the pressure came on.  During those periods when this was sometimes a daily occurrence, I had conflicting feelings of not wanting anyone to know  & longing for someone to intervene. 
Throughout this time I battled with feelings of anger towards God & a desperate desire to earn His favour.

When I was lucky enough to marry my 'first love' a few years later, I hoped it would be a fresh start.  This young couple, starting a new & beautiful life. But for all the happiness of the day & what it symbolised, it was a miserable time in my life.   I felt consumed by darkness & the belief that I had nothing to offer.  And I was burdened with guilt for joining with this person for what I would gain & most certainly not what I had to give.  I had a deep desire to see healing in my life. I also had some wonderful people supporting me during that time. I began to make progress in my thinking & I  hoped that maybe self-harming was a thing of the past. However, a couple of years later when some issues resurfaced, I fell back to that old pattern of coping.

The incentive to cease this behaviour came when I saw the way it impacted negatively on my husband.  I could no longer justify what I was doing with the idea that it wasn't hurting anyone else.  When my daughter  (who was not long speaking in sentences) touched my arm and  asked in alarm, 'Mama, what happened?' the payoff was no longer big enough.  The final time I self-harmed I felt no relief from the inner chaos & I knew that in order for it to 'work', I would need to do something much more drastic.  So, I had a choice to make; end the pain, or work through the pain.  I was not planning any hasty exit from this earth so I chose what felt like the more difficult latter. 

Recently at church, one of our pastors, Sam, shared the following story:

Luke 7 vs 36-38 - When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

It was a horribly awkward situation for all the guests - dignified, well-respected members of the community sitting down to dinner only to have an uninvited woman with a 'bad' reputation show up and begin to make a scene.  This was an embarrassment for Simon, the host & when Jesus seemed unfazed by the situation, Simon criticized him for sitting there and allowing her to behave in this way.  This was Jesus' response:

Luke 7 vs 44-48 - Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house.  You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown.  But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.'  Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'

He then goes on to say to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' (Luke 7 v 50)

This woman was living in shame & brokenness. She had a bad reputation & she was a mess.  But in her desperation, she brought her mess to Jesus. He saw her act of humility & surrender as beautiful & responded with love & by bringing freedom & healing to her. 

I remember one particular night, during a time when Craig was working away from home, & my two babies were asleep.  It was late and I sat on the couch alone. I had been attending counselling for a couple of months, trying to make sense of  some past experiences and trying to  wade through the subsequent  overwhelming emotions, with little progress.  My life felt like it was unravelling.  It felt like a dangerous place to be and at times I wondered if I would ever be able to find order in my thoughts again or be able to experience emotions in a normal way.  That night, I closed my eyes & just started talking to God about it - about my anger, my unforgiveness & bitterness & my shame . . .  As I sat there in the quiet I saw a picture of this place filled with light & other people covering me with clothes of light.  I felt like God was saying to me that all that 'stuff' that had previously defined me was no longer who I was.  That I was His child, this was my new identity & could start living in that. If I'm honest I think in that moment I still didn't feel His love for me but I began to believe that He loved me. 

It was a turning point. In that moment of surrender, He revealed the truth - that I was His & I didn't have to walk in that shame & brokenness anymore.  I was done with self-harming.

Acts 17 v 28  - 'For in him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring'.
The last couple of months I have been swept up in the busy-ness of life & there are changes in the air.  It's easy in these moments to become a bit unhinged, a bit ungrounded.  When life feels like it's slipping out of my control, the nightmares come again taunting and haunting.   Its  easy then for  doubts to creep in.  Slipping back to the old, familiar and forgetting momentarily, my identity.  Forgetting where I find my identity.  And seeing my broken, more than His beautiful.   

What I have realised over these last few years, and what I have been reminded of again in the last few days is that yes, I'm still living with brokenness.  I'm messed up.  Life is messy. I can't navigate my way through this alone. And honestly, I still have seasons where I struggle to trust that God is good & that He loves me.  BUT, I have experienced a genuine understanding of His love and a growing intimacy in my relationship with Him.  I find hope and cling to the fact that because I have experienced His love & His grace, I know I can come to Him with all my ugly mess & surrender it to Him.  And when I do, He gently takes that & transforms my broken into His beautiful.

Hebrews 4 vs 14-16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. 

'The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.'  - Timothy Keller. 


If you want to listen to Sam's message based on the scriptures I have shared here, you can click on this link & select the Podcast 'The Source of Healing & Holiness'.








Friday, June 6, 2014

awkward . . .

                           "describe yourself in one sentence" lol #someecards #quotes

picture source

I'm awkward.  If you know me, chances are we've had some kind of awkward encounter at some stage.  I want to assure you, just in case there was any doubt at all, it's not you, it's me. I'm just not awesome with people.  Small talk, eye contact & hugging.  All things that can literally make me break out in a cold sweat. 

When I was a teenager I used to bribe my little sister to buy items from the local dairy for me because you know, having to talk to the girl at the counter was just SO terrifying. It was a nice little set-up for us both until she decided that she was enabling me & refused any more bribes. So I stopped buying stuff.  People used to think I was her taller, better looking, younger sister, because in social situations, I would kind of linger behind & let her do all the talking. Awesome.

As I got older, I used to dread those moments when I was walking through the supermarket & glanced across the aisle to see someone I knew. 'Don't make eye contact, do not make eye contact . . . '  Suddenly the ingredients list on that can of red kidney beans became really fascinating.  I've gone to church all my life & until recently found those before & after service times almost unbearable.  And when they would say, 'Now, lets just break for a coupla minutes & take some time to greet the person next to you,'  this was a weekly moment of horror for me.   I'm not great with small talk. 
 
'The awkward moment when someone says, 'Hello' and you say, 'Good thanks!' - anon.
 
Eye contact has been the bane of my existence.  This is something I have worked incredibly hard to overcome with little success.  And the more I try to establish strong eye contact, the more awkward it becomes. In the first place, it can be a huge effort for me just to meet someone's eye.  I'm never sure how long is appropriate to maintain eye contact & then  I don't know how to look away without appearing rude or disinterested.  In the end, it gets to the point where I have absolutely no idea what the other person is talking about because I'm so uncomfortable and distracted by the whole eye contact dilemma. If they are great at making eye contact - well, that's even worse for me.  Because if someone is looking at me intently while I talk, I start to feel very self-conscious and then the stuttering starts.  My husband has got used to me stumbling through the same sentence 3 or 4 times before I ask him if we can just come back to it later. Yep, at times I'm awkward around him too.  I used to have a phone phobia.  I would avoid making phone calls at all costs & if I did have to make a phone call I would have to write down what I was going to say & then psych myself up just to dial the number.  And I love the idea of Skype but having someone staring at my face for the entirety of the conversation is just too overwhelming to make it practical.
 
Even with my kids, I'm awkward.  I know, that's pretty crazy right?  Its mostly the eye contact thing.  I'm standing there, trying to have a conversation with them, & they are staring at me all intently and . . . well . . . it makes me nervous.  Sometimes when they're misbehaving,  I have to reprimand them.  There I am in the middle of a good telling off & they are standing there just staring, & I get all self-conscious and start stuttering or worse, giggle nervously.  There goes the telling off, out the window.  You can't take your mum seriously when she is awkwardly giggling or trying to stutter out a sentence.  Sunny learned to anticipate what I was going to say & was able to finish my sentences for me, before he turned 2. 
 
And the hugging.  I have spent a great deal of time successfully evading prospective hugs by well-meaning relatives or friends over the years.  ARGHH. SO. MUCH. AWKWARDNESS.  A word of advice, unless you can commit to it 100%, just don't even go there!  Unless you are one of those naturally 'huggy' people & can sweep me earnestly into your bosom, with wild abandon, just don't do it.   Honestly, I will NOT get hurt feelings if you refrain. It's just not worth the discomfort that ensues for either party involved.  & understand that I am actually doing you a favour by never imposing this on you & subjecting you to the awkwardness that is my spatially impaired self.    
 
 (Awkward Hug)

So, now that I've got that off my chest here's the thing.  Mostly I'm ok with this.  All of this.  Even the dreaded small talk.  I've got pretty good at not taking myself too seriously or walking away from a situation and thinking, 'God, that was awkward' and being able to have a laugh with Craig about it.  But sometimes its not that cool.  Sometimes I really want to engage with someone & the awkwardness that is myself makes that difficult.  I miss opportunities because I want to avoid those unbearable feelings.  The worst is when I can see that the way I interact with someone actually hinders us from connecting on a deeper level.  I have a genuine desire to connect with people and when my 'social ineptitude' gets in the way, it is bloody frustrating!  And sometimes I come away from situations like that wondering how God could ever use someone like me. 

Which is where Moses comes in.  So, here he is in Exodus 3 & 4 and he's been hanging out in the desert when God decides to reveal Himself in this epic moment through an apparently ever-burning bush.  He reveals His plan to save His people from slavery and oppression and explains that He is going to use Moses to do it.  Instead of being totally blown away & excited to take on this new role that God has personally set out for him, he starts on a bunch of excuses.  Each time he comes up with an excuse God patiently explains how He will support Moses in this but I guess Moses is still kinda freaked out at the prospect of having to actually speak to his people & to Pharaoh.  Because in chapter 4 vs 10 he says, 'Erm, I don't mean to be a bother . . . but I'm not really awesome at the whole speaking thing, now or ever for that matter.  I'm not very good with words & I struggle to get them out & end up stuttering.'  (ok, I'm paraphrasing). God got frustrated with Moses then, & said He'd send his brother Aaron along for support.  Evidently God saw something in Moses that he couldn't see in himself.  & maybe it wasn't ever really about Moses' talents anyway.
 
But that's something I love about the Bible & I love about God.  All through the Bible we see these weak, imperfect people used by God to do awesome things.  And that gives me hope because I think as hard as I try, I'm probably always going to be at least a little bit awkward. 
 
1 Cor 1 vs 26-31 - Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential: not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise: God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written; ' Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'

Friday, March 28, 2014

choosing joy




 I was floating down the river with my younger sister.  We were floating down that river on our backs & looking into the clear water below.  And, because it was a dream & made perfect sense, we could see all kinds of sea creatures beneath us.  And as we floated down the river, my sister was carefree and relaxed, laughing and marvelling as she pointed out all the wonderful sea creatures that surrounded her - the dolphins, the vividly coloured starfish and a kaleidoscope of multi-hued tropical fish.  I could see them too,  but to me they appeared faint and unclear.  In contrast to her delight and pleasure, I was filled with terror and tried to hold myself up out of the water as I stared at their companions -  the sharks & stingrays swimming stealthily beneath, and a minefield of jellyfish who floated menacingly close.  I thought I knew what that dream meant, on waking, during a particularly difficult time in my life.

The other night I was lying in bed, thinking about the year to date.  And upon my reflection,  this year, all three months, had been pretty disappointing. And that wasn't really fair because this year was supposed to be different. Different from the previous three or four that had been so challenging.  We'd had winter-long sicknesses, recurrent croup and asthma, emergency ambulance trips, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, upheavals and uncertainties, (can you relate to any of this?) moving houses, moving cities, moving islands!!!  Not to mention all those 'aftershocks' and really, anything over 4.5 on the Richter scale in my opinion, is not an aftershock.  An aftershock sounds too much like an afterthought - insignificant.  When you find yourself leaping out of bed & running down the hall, into the kids' bedroom & then unable to decide who to grab first?  That feels scary.  When you hear your little girl screaming in terror because she's all on her own when an ugly jolty one comes? That feels significant (and we weren't even here for any of the big ones).

 I mean, seriously, this year had to be different!  On New Year's Eve, I decided against any of my usual resolutions - to lose weight, to be friendlier, be a better wife, remember my family members' birthdays, to read my Bible more, to stop swearing (or at least, stop swearing within earshot of the kids). All resolutions that I failed at time and time again.  No, this year I was simply going to lighten up, live a little more spontaneously, be a little more wild. . .  But then the kids all came down with the chicken pox. And Sunny's eyes, as he says, started 'playing tricks'  and there were doctors visits, and specialists visits and an impending MRI. And being told that he would need to have a general anaesthetic and our family history of complications with that - my brother's loss of life . .  . And why did they need to do an MRI anyway? Could I trust the doctors to do it right? & what would they discover?  What was WRONG with my beautiful boy?!?  And . . .  and . . . and  what happened to this year of carefree craziness?



I lay in the darkness in my bed, feeling overwhelmed & considering that maybe all this hard stuff, maybe its just life.  Maybe life is dark and mean and ugly. I may have had a very quiet little tangi to myself right there in my bed, in the dark.  This year, all less-than-three months of it had been shitful.  And it was not supposed to be that way.  This year was simply going to be 2014 - MY YEAR OF FUN.  My year of fun. . .  something about that phrase.  I reached for my phone, squinting in the sudden, harsh glare of the screen and scrolled through my notes. And there, on my phone,  I found what I was looking for.


  
Day 26 -   yelling out 'boo' &  giving Avei such a big fright that she fell over. Laughed so hard.
Day 27 - seeing Lorde win pop song of the year.
Day 29 - Sunny saying, 'If you were a proper mum you would do whatever we told you to.'

On and on I read.  And as I read those notes that I had written, I began to remember.  And my perspective began to change.

I have a friend, Ruth & the sun shines when she is around.   She is fun, dynamic and energetic. Oh, how I long to be like her.  How many times have I wanted to be someone different than Melancholy Meg?  Growing up, I knew that joy was more than just feeling happy and I knew that if you were a Godly person you should be joyful no matter what was going on in life.  Until recently, I would pray, 'God, give me joy. Help me to be joyful.' Like I honestly thought He was going to flick the joy-switch and suddenly I would give a merry chuckle and skip lightly down the street, forever-more viewing life through a rose-tinted lens. 

2014.   My 'year of fun'. At the start of the year I had decided to write down a fun moment or two from each day. That was all.  Lying in bed that night, reading through those joy-filled moments, a small thought began to grow and as I mulled over it the next week, I had this revelation.  Joy, like love, is not a feeling but a choice. And you may be shaking your head, wondering 'It took you 32 years to work this one out?'  Me too! & I don't mean a grit-your-teeth 'I will be happy, dammit!' kind of choice either.  

Experiencing joy starts with gratitude.  Choosing to be thankful for the moments of fun, laughter, love, & beauty.   I've heard it said that our perception is our reality.  So, if we want to experience joy, then we need to change our perspective & in so doing, alter our perception.  And how do we do that?  By being thankful.  By practising gratitude. By celebrating the Grace that's been shown to us, which means that in the end, everything is going to be ok. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

See, you don't just 'get' joy.  Unlike happiness, which is a fleeting feeling & is determined by our circumstances, joy is experienced when we practise thankfulness and gratitude.  It can be experienced regardless of our circumstances. In Ben Patterson's words 'joy is what you experience when you are grateful for the grace that has been given to you.' 

As I lay in bed remembering all those beautiful moments in what had otherwise been a cloudy three months, I felt a change occur - a fresh hope & renewed strength for the days ahead.  & I was reminded that yes, life can be dark and mean and ugly.  It can hurt.  But it can also be beautiful. 

So, I am choosing to remember and reflect on the beautiful moments, and practise gratitude with those around me, and to celebrate God's goodness, His love & His faithfulness.

I am choosing joy.

 
Psalm 9:1  - I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
 

 
 
 

Friday, March 14, 2014

the breath of life

                


Today my eldest daughter, NevĂ©ah, came home from school and said, 'I told my teacher I had some Maori in me.'  I looked at her.  'Just a little bit,' she quickly added.  'Oh?' I asked.  'Yeah,' she said awkwardly, shuffling her feet a bit and looking up at me from under her eyebrows, 'because you know, we speak some Maori words . . . at . . .  home?' she trailed off, unconvincingly.  'Oh, ok.' I replied, and just gave her the look. 

 
It's true.  We do speak some Maori at home.  Just simple phrases.  We don't know a lot & with few friends around who speak it, we aren't even sure sometimes that our phrases or pronunciation are correct.  Still we bumble through, we give it go.  We do our best to get it right.  When I speak to the kids in Maori in front of people, it sounds forced and artificial, so it's easier just to speak it at home. 
 
It's like our special language. 
 
Each day I love to pull my wildly active toddler close, and whisper,  'Homai he kihi'.  Then she leans in and plants me a wet one on the lips.  Sometimes we hongi -  gently pressing our noses and foreheads together, instead of a kiss.  In Maori culture, during a hongi, it is believed that the 'ha', the 'breath of life', is exchanged and shared.  In that moment, when my small always-on-the-go child pauses for just seconds, there is a closeness that we share that can't be captured in a regular juicy kiss.
There is something special, something sacred, in that exchanging & sharing of breath.


 
Long ago, right back at the beginning, there was the first sharing of breath - the first hongi.  Genesis 2 v 7 -  Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. From this beautiful act, this outpouring of love; this sharing of life, came the first human life. Just imagine that for a moment - God Himself leaning down and breathing into the nostrils of this small, fragile human.  There was something sacred in that moment, in the sharing and exchanging of 'ha'; the Breath of Life.

What could we possibly give back, in response to that? That gift of Breath, the gift of Life?

Worship.   In the words of Ann Voskamp - 'worship is the essence of everything.  Worship is giving back to God what He's breathed into us'.  Is it the singing of songs, the reciting of prayers, the lighting of candles, the good works?  Yes, it's all of those things.  But it's so much more than just those things.  It is the pouring out of self,  an outpouring of love to Him.  It can be in the sacred rituals and in the every day, mundane activities.  It is the intent that lies behind those things - an act of sacrifice, and an act of love. 
 
Romans 12:1 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
 
In that moment way back at the beginning of time, God poured out His breath, shared His life-giving breath, in an act of love.  Later, His Son, in another most beautiful act of love and sacrifice, poured out His life so that we could share in that Life for always. 
 
Through authentic worship we have the opportunity to experience true intimacy with God, in every life moment and all that we do - an act of sacrifice, of love.   There is something sacred in that moment of 'giving back to God what He's breathed into us'.  This outpouring of love, this sharing of Life. 
 
John 4 v 24 - God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

there was a little girl . . .

 
 
 
 
(Picture credit: http://www.pinterest.com/raegeo2000/nursery-rhymes/ )

We are sitting in the car & we are both being stubborn.  Neither of us are going to give in easily.  We are sitting here & it's too warm for so early in the morning.  He is digging his heels in & I am not going anywhere ‘til he caves.  He is falling apart & I hold my breath.  I will not give in & I will NOT lose my temper.  I explain again, ‘Sunny, we are not leaving ‘til you’re clicked in.’ He is gasping & sighing and his face is screwing up.  ‘I can’t do it! You HAVE to do it, Mum’. 
Calm voice, steady, assertive.  ‘You can do it, Sunny.  We are going to sit here ‘til you do it.’
Reassuring. ‘There’s no rush, just take your time.’  Panic and the kicking and the arching of the back.  My heart rate rises as the little girl sitting in front of him starts to make I-can’t-sit-here-happily-for-much-longer noises.  Then the tears and the wailing.  ‘I CAN’T do it! You HAVE to do it, Mum. You have to HELP me!’ 
 
I try another tack.  ‘I’ll help you, yes.  But I’m going to explain what to do.  I’m not going to do it for you.’  He screams and protests and tugs angrily at the strap.  It pulls taut across his neck & when he lets it go slack there are red marks left behind.  ‘See! I can’t do it.  IT'S TOO HARD!’  he screams, flying out of his carseat and over the back of the seat.  Scrambling forwards, until he is in the front of the car with me. Clinging.  With as much self-control as I can muster, I gently pull his fingers from around my neck and ease him off my lap.  He is gasping and sobbing and people are watching.  I try again.   ‘Sunny, I know you can do this.  You’ve been able to put your own seatbelt on for months. C’mon, I’ll talk you through it.’  His response is another scream of protest.  And on and on it goes. 

I would love to be able to say that I stayed peaceful and patient and gently coached him through it.  That he finally sat down and calmly clicked himself in.    In reality that was not the case.  Oh, I managed not to yell and he managed to put his own seatbelt on.   That was AFTER I stared at him and through clenched teeth & in a freakishly calm voice let forth a stream of choice language.  Safely in his seatbelt, I pulled out of the mall carpark and drove home, defeated and feeling physically sick at my own loss of control. 

Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it?  Upon reflection, choosing that moment to use as a ‘growing opportunity’ was not the wisest.  What I wanted to show him was that he was more capable than he thought.  That instead of saying, ‘I can’t,’ he could say, ‘I’ll try’.  I think it’s safe to say that lesson fell flat.   And that it's safe to say, it wasn’t my finest parenting moment. 

Sometimes as a mum, I feel like that little girl in the poem.  When I’m at my best, man, I am on to it.  Involved, enthusiastic, encouraging, responsive, communicative, loving, empathic, gentle, and fun.  But in a ‘bad’ moment, it all gets pretty ugly.  I’m yelly, shouty, snappy and reactive.  Yes, in those moments, I am horrid. 

Now before you abandon this blog, thinking it's just another ‘woe is me, I’m a terrible mother’ kind of post, hear me out.

Philippians 4 v 5  - Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

When I think about what I want to be as a mum, it's this.  We were in Australia.  My parents and five of my seven siblings and me.  What were Mum & Dad thinking embarking on this trip, on a limited budget, with six kids ages 9-19 and our accommodation for the majority of that time – a very basic two-bedroom apartment?  I remember seeing a video taken on that trip, by my dad or a brother.  And most of us were in a pool and my mum was sitting on the side and we were all splashing about and having fun and making a LOT of noise.  The thing that stood out to me, watching that years later, as a teenager, was the way we little kids kept yelling out, ‘Mum, mum, watch this!’  ‘Watch me, mum – look what I can do,’  all over the top of each other, vying for her attention.  & her response:  just the right amount of calm, and steady, encouraging and interested at the same time.  I remember hearing all that noise and our high-pitched shrieking voices and thinking ‘How can she be so calm and patient? All that noise, everyone yelling at me – it would drive me crazy!’  But for the most part, that was my mum. Patient, peaceful, gentle.

In contrast, I remember an evening when Sunny wasn’t even 2 yet & his sister, 3 and they were eating their dinner.  Sunny accidentally knocked his cup over and water spilled everywhere.  There was a brief pause, as both children looked at me in horror and then simultaneously erupted in tears.  And I knew it was because of all the times this kind of thing had happened and I had responded with a loud gasp & flailing arms & a dramatic, ‘Oh no!!! Now look what’s happened!’ as if the world was about to end because some water was on the floor. 

I might be wrong, but I don’t think my mum has ever had to work particularly hard on this aspect of her personality.  I genuinely think that her calm disposition is just a part of her character, her make-up.  She’s generally a laid-back person, who isn’t easily riled.   And that’s brilliant.  I’m happy for her.  Happy for me of course, because it was nice being raised by someone like that.  But that’s just not me – I’m easily flustered and highly strung. I have a temper. An ugly temper & a short fuse.  BUT.  I do not want to be the angry parent.  & I don’t want anger to be a black smudge on my kids' childhood experience, as it was on mine.  I love my kids too much to settle for this.

It would be so helpful if there was an easy answer.  But I don’t think there is.  I have developed some wonderful strategies over the 6 or so years I’ve been a parent which help me maintain my composure in times of stress.  And yet I still find myself offering heart-felt  (& broken-hearted) apologies to my children (and husband) for angry outbursts again and again.  I wish I could offer up a special prayer and instantly morph into this sweet, easy-going, mild-tempered mother. 

Mum used to have this annoying saying.  Something along the lines of being 'so filled with the Holy Spirit, that if you get bumped only the Spirit sloshes out.'  And you can put that right up there with ‘washed in the blood’ and ‘lay it at Jesus’ feet’ and all the other many weird-and-irritating Christian sayings.  .  . Except, sometimes I think I know what she meant.

 2 Corinthians 12 v 9a -  But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

There is something about letting Someone Else be in charge.  & I don't in any respect  mean absolving myself of responsibility either.  But being able to admit that this is something so important to me, & yet an area in which I fall so terribly short.  & that I can't do it on my own - in those moments of heat, taking a split-second pause & crying out  'Can You help me?'   
 


The victories are in the small moments. 

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

running


I am a runner.  I love being able to say that.  I love it because for so long I had such great admiration for runners, but looked on enviously from afar.  You know those runners - charging effortlessly down the road, looking relaxed and energised, like what they are doing is as simple & natural as breathing?  And the endurance runners – those crazy ultramarathon runners who do epic runs across intensely hot deserts, or over treacherous mountains for days on end & upon reaching the finish line already have their sights on the next big adventure?  Something about that appeals to me.  I have to admit, at present I’m not even close.  I’ve been running for almost a year & only just completed my first 10 k a few weeks back.  And truth be told, as much as I’m desperate to get back out there,  I’ve barely managed more than a brisk walk since.  Gammy knees.  Enough said.  But I AM a runner.  And I will get back out there soon.

In regards to our journey of faith, Hebrews 12 vs 1 talks about running with perseverance ‘the race marked out for us’.     

  
A few years ago, I really felt like I had reached a point in my faith where I wasn’t running toward anything, I wasn’t even walking.  I was at a standstill.  Nothing was happening.  I wasn’t growing or developing.  When I spent some time reflecting on it, I knew that if I wanted to grow in my relationship with God,  I needed to trust Him more. Let Him in a little bit closer.  And that freaked me out.  I wasn’t running towards God.  If anything I was running from Him.  Around that time, I wrote this.

 
I am running from you.
I used to stand & fight.
Ready & watching because of the rage
But underneath the fury was fear
And now there is just quiet
People think the swift run towards a goal
But a new pace is found
when there are things you’re running from
And I know if I wait a while
in this silence, you’ll speak
I know you’ll ask me to know you;
might ask me to trust
For now I’m going to run
singing loudly, fingers in ears.
For now I’m going to run with the quiet & my fear.

 
Whenever my husband is in conversation with someone, & it emerges that they are a runner he always asks (cheekily), ‘So, what are you running from?’ 

 
What was I running from?

Intimacy.  That word  . . .  I used to find it so awkward & uncomfortable - actually it repulsed me.  Intimacy.   When I think about what that word means in the ideal sense – it is a closeness with a person that is genuine and shared.  A mutual trust and surrender.  It cannot be forcefully given or taken.  That’s my understanding of it, anyway.  It should be this beautiful thing.  But in my mind it wasn’t.  Once, I couldn’t hear that word without negative connotations springing to mind.   The whole idea of surrendering myself to someone else did not sit comfortably with me.  I had my reasons.  But that didn’t help my predicament. 
 
I really wanted to grow, to be more mature in my faith – to know God on a deeper level.  But I knew that if I wanted to do that, then I also needed to learn to trust Him more.  & that was my problem.  For years I battled – wanting our relationship to grow, not wanting to totally let go or surrender.  At one point I may have recklessly stated, ‘Just do what it takes,’ & then instantly regretted that fleeting moment of insanity.  I sat stubbornly in that place for a long time. 

 
Sometimes when my small, wild baby is having a tantrum, she kicks and writhes, and holds herself stiff, then throws herself back.  She is in crazy fighting, attack mode.  She will not allow me near.  Finally, exhausted, she relents & in that moment of surrender, she allows herself to be swept up in my arms & drawn close as I comfort her.  I wanted that too.  I knew it must be good.  But I just couldn’t let down my defences.

 
We all respond to painful experiences differently.  Keeping myself ‘safe’ was my priority.  And keeping myself safe meant keeping everyone at a comfortable distance, including God.  That actually works, in a dysfunctional kind of way,  IF you can maintain control & if you’re happy with superficial, shallow relationships.  The ‘problem’ is that we are made for intimacy with God.  Right back at the start of the Story, the Bible talks about how God walked in the garden where Adam & Eve lived.  That’s not a God who is distant & removed. When He made us, He made us for relationship with Him, & He wanted us to want to know Him too. 

 
I longed for a closer relationship with God, & in my head I knew He wanted more of me, to KNOW me.  But in my heart, I didn’t really believe that.  I felt like I was just a number to Him.   At the risk of sounding irreverent;  that He just wanted another adoring fan. & I didn’t trust Him.  I longed for Him, but it was too overwhelming. . . I was ok though.  I had my kids & my husband.  They brought meaning to my life that I’d never known before.  As long as I didn’t think about it too much, I was ok. 

I remember attending a wedding.  The couple made their vows.  They spoke of ‘completing one another’.  Last year, a friend shared about how she could not function without her husband, her life would be over if anything ever happened to him.  I see people who put their whole lives into their kids.  We need to find some meaning.  We long to be loved and known intimately.  We are looking in the wrong place.  People will always let us down.  They can never always be our everything.  Sooner or later we find that out.  And then what? 

 
Last year I was faced with losing someone close to me, someone I ‘needed’.  It brought me to a crisis point.  What was life without this person?  It forced me to re-evaluate my intimacy with God.  Forced me to confront that uncomfortable concept.   Could He be everything to me?  All I needed?  Could I allow myself to be ‘known’ by Him?  What was the alternative? It forced me to evaluate why I was holding back, what I was fearful of.  I had to do some digging to get beneath those layers of what I was supposed to believe as a good Christian, to find out what I truly believed as Meg.  
 
Like most people, important human relationships had shaped how I saw God & myself in relation to Him.  I was His child in the sense that I was one of many children, I was just a number, insignificant, ‘unspecial’ and unseen.  It took a special lady’s gentle guidance & a terrifying toddler step of faith to accept that ‘You . . . have loved them even as You love Me’ (John 17 vs 23b).  The idea that God loves me as He loves His Son.  A Son who was His beloved, with Whom He was ‘well pleased’.  Valued, unique, special, and SEEN.  And known.  Outrageous!  Preposterous!!  True.

Many years ago, a wonderful & wise man told me that I needed to experience a ‘paradigm shift’.  At the time, I couldn’t even remotely grasp what he meant (it would have been helpful to know what those words meant!)  When I took that terrifying toddler step, I experienced that ‘paradigm shift’ & it blew me away.  It has brought a freedom that I could never have hoped to have experienced.  It is an ongoing process.  I gabble away to God every day, yet sometimes when I think of Who I am talking to, it is almost unbearable, I am overcome with awe & fear.  I withdraw, unable to continue. 

It’s a process, this letting go & surrendering.  I’m running the race.  Sometimes not very quickly.  Sometimes I’m just kinda jogging on the spot.  But I AM a runner and I’m running to Him.