A Journey of Freedom – Part II; Gollum

Gollum

I have to smirk; a few people commented on my tricky trickery in leaving you all hanging at the end of my last post. I have a confession to make: it wasn’t intentional. I’m not that clever. I just didn’t want to bore you all to tears, so I decided to stop writing. However, for those of you waiting with bated breath, here is part two. (Those of you waiting with bad breath? I can’t help you there…).

Gollum.

As mentioned in my first post, the voice of ‘the dread’ finally got so intrusive that I could no longer ignore it. Whether it became that way because my life was increasingly contrasted with my deep longing to be free, or because it was yelling louder and louder, I do not know. Or possibly because I had started to make some concerted efforts on a journey of freedom, the lid of the can had started to give way and the proverbial clat of worms started emerging. (On a side note, did you know that there are four possible collective nouns for worms? Bed, bunch, clat, and clew. Drop that into the convo next time you want to impress someone. You’re welcome).

The beginning of this journey mainly consisted of spending a lot of time lying on my bedroom floor, arms splayed, listening to Christian music of some variety and bawling my eyes out. It wasn’t sophisticated or cognitive. There was something about opening my soul to that of the Spirit of God that I think allowed a lot of unidentified grief to be aired. I cried and cried. And then I cried some more. For years, actually. I cried in my room, in church services, on altar calls, in prayer times…you name it, there I was, knee deep in tissues, and with the worst panda-eyes you ever did see. (One would think if I was going to cry for half my life, I would have at least worked out my mascara game). It was deep, painful, and therapeutic. It was also unquantifiable. I’ll never be able to measure what those times did in my heart, but I know for sure that they were essential to my journey of freedom, and that I would never have been able to move forward if they hadn’t have happened.

These encounters created a fog-clearing effect; it was necessary for the smoke to lift so I could see in sharper focus what was behind it. And what lay behind it terrified me; a Gollum-like creature that had the power to torment me. It was so hideous, yet it was hiding inside me. It seemed almost demonic, yet, much like Gollum, once I got to know it, I realised it wasn’t what I initially thought. In fact, given some vitamin D and a good hearty breakfast, it could even be called cute. It wasn’t scary, it was scared. It was a fractured part of my personality, a small Deb, that having experienced a frightening childhood experience, had hidden in a cave, and stayed in there, scared stiff, yelling to big Deb until she finally got my attention.

I was well into the 20-year journey of freedom before ‘the dread’ could finally carry another name. Nowadays I think of her as ‘little Deb’, and far from being my tormentor, she is someone I have come to care for. As you can well imagine, it wasn’t an easy, fun or straight road to get to that place. In fact, it was one of those things that if I knew what it was going to be like at the outset? I’m not sure I would have had the guts to take the journey. But I really, really needed to. And I’m really, really glad I did.

If you’re still reading by Part III, I’ll share a little of how I managed to make friends with my captor.

Much love,

Deb x

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A Journey of Freedom – Part I; The Beginning

Bird

For those that know me, emotional wholeness is something I am extremely passionate about. It’s what led me to study counselling, and something that I could discuss ad nauseum – even at 11pm when exhausted from a long day. Just ask Caleb. He loves it. One would think that I would for sure have blogged about it by now…but I haven’t. It may seem surprising, but it’s a topic so dear to my heart that I couldn’t do it justice in one pithy blog, and no-one wants to read an 11-page diatribe on the subject, so I’ve demurred until now. I’ve decided to write a wee mini-series about the subject. I want to share a bit of my story, in the hopes that may be of some help or encouragement to some of you.

In the Beginning

By most standards, I had a pretty good childhood. There was no significant trauma, my parents loved us and each other, there was always a roof over our head and healthy food (read, not nearly enough treats), I had a good education, friends, and a church family. But I was always plagued by what I guess I can only describe as a feeling of unease; ‘the dread’. It’s like there was this cavern deep within me that sent unsettling and frightening echoes into the atmosphere of my life from time to time; a small, very scared, dark voice. From a really young age I can remember thinking, “I want to be free”. I just didn’t know what from.

‘The dread’ impacted more than I realised at the time. Probably the most obvious impact, was that I found it intolerable to experience solitude. I loved my alone time, but I always had to be reading, listening to music, watching something, playing a computer game or sleeping. I slept a lot. If I allowed myself to be undistracted, ‘the dread’ would start to beg for my attention, and it was way too freaky to focus on, so I had to stay busy. I remember my dad once saying that I was too future driven. I now know that it was because the present was too painful, and my constant hope was that the next conference, camp, holiday, project, outing, opportunity or potential relationship might hold the key to freedom.

I say ‘potential’ relationship, because ‘the dread’ impacted that area of my life too. I always had a crush on some poor probably not-so unsuspecting guy. I cringe now to think about how intense I was with those crushes, my wee heart was right out there on my sleeve, and deep down I was looking for something to soothe the disquiet within. The cruel irony, is that the odd time that someone began to return the interest in any way, I ran for the hills, freaked out of my tree. ‘The dread’ badly wanted attention and affection, but it couldn’t handle either.

My life was far from a social failure, but even though I had what many would consider an enviable circle of genuinely amazing friends, I was plagued by the feeling that I was never really ‘in’. On top of this, I would experience these super unfortunate bouts of blushing. Not the rosy, sweet, feminine, pinch-your-cheeks sort of glow. Oh no. This was the ugly sort of mottled scarlet that started somewhere at the base of the neck and spread with horrifying rapidness to my whole head. The sort of fire-engine red that has people asking if you’re okay and getting ready to seek medical attention on your behalf. I hated it. So. Much. I knew deep-down that I was a confident person, and it killed me that I had to leave conversations, or stop speaking out loud in class when I felt it happening.

I really wasn’t sure how to get free from this stuff. I just knew that my life was not peaceful, and that somewhere in the recesses of my soul, was a small, caged girl. She felt powerless, unlovely, alone and invisible. She was trying to get my attention, but it was too unbearable to listen, so I ignored her, until she got so distressed that I could no longer avoid it.

I’ll continue the story soon.

Deb xx

A Weighty Matter

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Sometime last year I blogged on the subject of body image. I had an epiphany regarding my own self-image, and since that time stopped weighing myself on a daily basis, and cast the scales into the outer darkness (the garage). Which is probably just as well, because since that time I got pregnant, was very ill, had a baby, and stacked on the pounds. I’m one of those blessed creatures that can’t lose weight while breastfeeding, so the not-so-small matter of an extra 30 pounds has given me a perfect opportunity to put some of my new-found resolutions to the test.

Let me just paint you the picture of how things are right now: I’m a couple of sizes bigger than I’ve ever been, the post-hormonal hair loss left me with a couple of receeding/baldy patches, my feet have widened to the extent that I can’t fit into some of my favourite shoes, and my giant feedy boobs are giving me continued migraines. Physically, it’s pretty much up there with my worst case scenario. This is what I spent countless hours exercising and counting calories to avoid. And here it is.

I would love to be able to say that I haven’t given the whole situ a passing thought, but let’s be honest, there have been tears. BUT…the really cool thing, is that I am more and more genuinely discovering that IT DOESN’T MATTER. What I look like is not one teeny bit related to how valuable I am. NOT ONE BIT. I realise I’m shouting here, but you see, from the youngest of ages it’s drummed into us just how much it does matter. It’s been a battle, albeit miraculously not a massive one, but still a battle to get to this place. So, I will shout.

The essence of who God has made me to be is wonderful. Full stop. This beauty, which we all possess, is not linked in any small way to our physical appearance. There is no ‘but’ (although there may well be a butt 😉).

We are trained by our culture to think that attractive physical appearance is imperative from the youngest of ages (hello, Barbie?). Not only are we taught that it’s important, but it’s been given a moral status. That shame I feel with weight gain? The relief and confidence that comes with weight-loss? It’s all a total sham. And before I get a barrage of comments regarding the importance of health, let me just say, I know. Health is definitely important. Health of all sorts is important; emotional, relational, mental and spiritual health are all very important. Can I just ask you this? When was the last time you saw a before/after post about a rocky relationship that has healed? Or a viral post about a spiritual awakening? No? It’s because it’s not about health; it’s ideals spawned in marketing meetings the world-over designed to keep us self-monitoring our acceptability (and adjusting with the appropriate product as needed to fit in). It’s way out of kilter.

What can we do about this? Well, for me, it’s a commitment to place appearance in its proper place; something that is nice, but not terribly important. Instead of relentless commenting on other people’s appearance as small-talk, it’s saying things like, “Gosh, it’s so lovely to see you”, or “What I love about you is that your presence lights up the room”. It’s about being confident going to a party just as I am, and not feeling the need to explain to the world that I know I’ve gained weight, and there’s not a whole lot I can do about it right now.

Measuring value by appearance needs to stop. It’s just not important. No buts.

Deb xx

The Pursuit of Happiness

soap bubbles into the sunset with beautiful bokeh.close-up

I’m one of those people that evolve into an irrational three-headed monster on less than eight hours of solid sleep.  Needless to say, being woken in the wee-smalls is not the easiest, however one of the silver linings of midnight feedies is the luxury of watching whatever I want on Netflix. This time around I have fallen head-over-heals with BBC’s ‘Father Brown’ (go the Beeb!!). Based on GK Chesterton’s character, Father Brown is a down-to-earth, non-judgmental, mischievous, and strongly principled priest with a penchant for solving crime. In one of the episodes he stumbles across a group of hedonists, and during a conversation with one of them he says, “…there’s the paradox…happiness is an unexpected gift. It is evasive. If we pursue it, we will never achieve it.”

As a culture, we are majorly preoccupied with the pursuit of feeling good; and far from being the exception, much of the church is right up there leading the charge! Naturally, we want to feel good. Pain is unpleasant. Suffering is gross. And aside from the grottiness of experiencing these things, I think one of the things that makes it so much worse is the misplaced belief that we should be happy all the time. Somewhere along the way we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that being continuously, unstoppably happy is an option, and if we feel anything other than that, we’re somehow to blame. So we end up on a fruitless treadmill, trying really hard to reach a destination that will always be just out of reach; the proverbial dangling carrot.

We spent much of last year saving for what we knew was going to be a massive hospital bill for the birth of our little Mason. We had to say no to a number of things that we wanted/needed in order to make sure we’d be able to pay the bill when it arrived. And then something totally magic happened; they have this thing at the hospital called the Financial Assistance Program, where you apply with a bunch of your personal info to see if they will help you out with your bill. It turned out they forgave our bill…100%! It was so amazing! We were so grateful, and set about purchasing a number of big ticket items that we had been holding off on. It was kind of a crazy, fun, calculated shopping spree. And it didn’t increase my happiness one iota. Now, I know that stuff doesn’t make you happy, but I was genuinely surprised to find my inner state not altered even a bit. I even felt a bit flat. And maybe it was because of this: I cannot manufacture happiness. It’s a gift.

I remember playing bubbles with Judah one summer when he was a tiny tot. I was a wee bit disappointed that he wasn’t that into it, but that’s okay, because I was. I blew a bunch of bubbles and chased them around the yard trying to pop them. I always felt like a bit of an egg taking big swipes at the bubbles only to have them fly further away by the draft created by my hand (cue embarrassed laughter and side-eyes to make sure no-one else is watching). That’s what happiness is like. It’s like a lovely magical bubble that sometimes floats your way and lands on you for a bit. You can’t force it to come your way, and it always pops in the end, but how lovely when it does arrive.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s about a million different things that can assist us in a journey of freedom; and such a journey is, I believe, very much what Christ has in mind for us. But freedom, contentment and peace are things that can be ours in crappy situations, not hot air balloons to lift us away from the reality of life.

The cool thing about thinking this way is that it has helped me enjoy happiness so much more! When the lovely happy feeling visits, I am no longer suspicious of it (because I know it’s gonna leave me at some point). I also am less tempted to try and trap the feeling in a cage to make it stay. I am free to just enjoy for as long as it chooses to be there and appreciate its beauty.

 

So here’s to just being normal; to feeling deliriously happy, to feeling totally grotty, and everything in-between. Here’s to being human.

 

Love you friends,

Deb xx

 

Musings on Motherhood

imageIt has been some time since I have blogged – the advent of a tiny human tends to hamper ones abilities to do almost anything. So I find myself with a couple of hours to myself, sitting outside at a cafe on a blissfully sunny day, finally with thoughts semi-coherent enough to write. Since my days of late have been nothing but kiddos, poopy nappies and endless renditions of ‘watch this trick mum’ (followed by a suitably unimpressive trick), it is fitting that motherhood should be the topic of this missive. So please find below an absolutely random collections of my musings of late (as befits the state of my addled mind):

Life with a newborn can be terribly isolating. I have to get up multiple times in the dark night while the rest of my family sleeps. My ability to do everyday tasks that used to be simple is greatly hampered; meaning that I can’t get out of the house with ease, and even when I do get to catch up with people, my mind is distracted by lack of sleep, a threenager, or giant froggy-eyes begging me for feedies and more feedies. Additionally, the breastfeeding culture here strikes me as a little less free and easy than it is at home, and even though I use a hooter-hider, I have been in the middle of conversations and had people leave when Mason gets hungry. I get that it can make people uncomfortable, it just adds to the feeling of isolation.

I am nothing without my yoga pants.

People that bring food and coffee are the very best kind of people.

I am struck by the fact that Mason in all his tiny newborn vulnerability and immaturity will never be more or less loved by God than he is right now. It is such a lovely reminder to me that I am wholly loved by Jesus just because I am Deb and not because of anything I do.

Wine.

My theological books can take a backseat for now. In attempt to feel somewhat productive I pulled out one of the more weighty tomes on my shelf and wasted some of my precious downtime trying to read the first three sentences. There will once again come a time when I can put my mind to the advancement of my understanding, but that time can wait until my brain less resembles a pudding.

No-one tells you that the contents of your three year old’s potty can rival that of a middle-aged man the morning after Christmas Day. Then you have to congratulate him whilst trying not to vomit.

It is so easy to allow dissension to enter the marital ranks in the midst of the parenting chaos. I have had to be really careful to stop and put myself in Caleb’s shoes. I have found myself getting jealous that he is allowed to sleep through the night and then leave the house to go to work. In these moments I try to imagine going to work and coming home without having the space to unwind; it helps me to remember that we’re on the same team. We each face different challenges in this season, and it’s essential to the health of our marriage that I do all I can to guard against the seeds of bitterness.

I really need to have a ‘no Face-Booking after 10pm’ rule. I go to bed, my mind starts whirring and I have these ‘epiphanies’ that must be shared with the world – only to wake and discover I’ve posted the half-mad ramblings of a very tired person.

Gin and tonic.

I get perverse enjoyment out of witnessing other people’s kids acting out. It makes me feel better about my son’s behaviour.

Having a newborn is extraordinarily hard on my desire to be in control of life.

Coffee.

Love you friends, so nice to blog again! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a wee bit more now that the fog is slowly lifting.

Deb xx

Stepping off my Soapbox

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I love being right. It’s one of my favourite things ever. The allure of things such as quiz nights and games like Pictionary is the chance to be rewarded for rightness. It’s something inherent in my personality, I was always very black and white in my younger days. It’s something that must have made me insufferable at times – you know, that kid that’s raising their hand so high to answer a question that it looks like they’re about to pop a fufu. As with most characteristics, there is both a shadow side, and a strength side to this. Along with my moral policing of my friends, it also meant that I had a hunger for truth and a conviction to live out what I believed to be right.

I recently listened to a podcast called ‘The War is Over, if you Want it to be,’ by Brian Zahnd (Word of Life Church – I highly recommend, btw). Amongst other things, he highlights the current social media climate, pointing out that it seems that for many of us, rightness trumps relationship (no pun intended). Ouch. That got me. Although my black and whiteness of yesteryear has long become much more nuanced, I realised that my mind has been following some really unhealthy tracks in this regard. I often feel genuinely justified in thinking that it’s ok to disregard authentic relationship with people that act in a way that I perceive as wrong. At times I almost convince myself that Jesus stands on my side and would back me up 100%. Which is pretty sick.

It’s not that rightness doesn’t matter; I believe it really does. But things get a bit blurry when the issues we are willing to battle over are often a matter of perception. Do I believe in absolute truth? Yes. Absolutely. However, none of us individually have the all-encompassing global view and insight on any one issue that would constitute complete understanding.The irony that strikes me is that if younger me got the chance to meet me now, we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on so many things. So many. I was passionately convinced of so many things that I now know were just plain wrong (like my conviction that I had a future as a gymnast – despite the fact I couldn’t do a cartwheel or touch my toes).

My best friend at primary school was from a Mormon family, and I remember us having a conversation one day trying to figure out what the differences between our faiths were. After a short discussion, she said that their bible had Mary Magdalene in it, while I said I thought ours was just Mary. End of discussion. Sorted. And on we went with our merry friendship. I LOVE that! What mattered was not who was right or wrong, despite the fact that we obviously didn’t really have a handle on our respective religions; what mattered was that we were buddies.

When you look at the New Testament, it’s so very clear that Jesus was much more interested in loving people first, and from that place he taught truth. He was happy just hanging out with people, regardless of the fact they were oftentimes societal outcasts, and most certainly not your average pew-dweller. In fact, you only see him getting super shirty with the Pharisees; the people who were obsessed with being right. Let this be a lesson to us all – and a red flag next time we’re tempted to start standing on our righteous soap boxes at the risk of breaking relationship.

Our search for truth is vitally important; but not nearly as important as our quest to live out a Kingdom life by loving people the way Jesus did.

Much love,
Deb x

Thanksgiving

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With the occasion of Thanksgiving I had planned to pen a cute and peppy wee list detailing the things for which I am grateful. However, as I pondered this list, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I am not grateful for a million things; I absolutely am. All the usuals; Jesus, family, friends, a lovely home, food on the table, clothes on my back, health etc. But somehow as I considered my list, there was no energy behind it. It would be rote and from my head. Because my heart these days is suffering from what I can only describe as ‘ennui’. (Gilmore Girls super-fans, you’re welcome).

My health turned a corner at about 21 weeks pregnant, and I only face migraines roughly once a fortnight, as opposed to the daily battle that was occurring prior to now. So I’m not as sick as I was. But I’m tired. So tired. I sleep about 10 hours every night and then nap for at least an hour during the day. Doing almost anything requires what feels like a superhuman effort. To add to this, the weather has turned. It is on the verge of snowing on a regular basis, the sky is icy and unfriendly, and my 3 year old has just discovered for the first time that he really doesn’t like going for walks in the cold anymore. I feel housebound, deflated, purposeless and there’s a newborn on the way. Help me Rhonda.

Whilst out for a wee walk (waddle) the other day I was pondering the things for which I am thankful. The train of thought followed something like what I have detailed above; I have a list in my head, but it feels devoid of warmth, so what then do I really feel grateful for in my heart at this moment? And the answer? Redemption.

No matter what craziness happens to us, around us, in us or through us, Jesus is in the most hope-inducing business of making the broken whole, beautiful, purposeful, radiant. I know this to be true, not just because the biblical narrative is predominantly a redemption story, but also because my own life narrative has already taken some stunningly redemptive turns. When I look at the state of my inner and outer world over time, I see formerly painful and dark areas I had just accepted as normal, now peaceful, flourishing and light-filled. This has been purely the result of Jesus’ redeeming work in my world. This gives me such hope.

The thing that fills my heart with joy, is that this journey from death to life is not just for my world, but for the people around me, our societies, cultures, and ultimately for the earth itself. Outside a school down the road, I was struck several months ago at a little plant root that had grown up through the asphalt. Even despite the best efforts of a bunch of hot bitumen, this tiny wee plant had raised its tiny head and cracked through to find the light. And so shall my heart. And yours. Maybe not today, maybe not in the near future, but barring all else, most definitely in eternity. Although, can I just say hurrah and thanks be that Jesus does give us great hope, and often beautiful resolution in the here and now!?

So as I go about the days ahead, as grey and murky as they feel right now, I will continue to look for the small glimmers of redemption that are popping their heads above the clouds. And I will remember that those glimmers represent a tiny portion of what will one day be full restoration. Amen.

Love you,
Deb xx