Soul Vacation

image

Well, hello social media! After writing last week’s blog, I went on a one week soul vacation from Facey and Candy Crush. It was an enlightening experience; not one of those ‘shout out loud’ moments, but more a small gentle waterfall of revelation. So here are my thoughts from my week of technological silence:

Returning to social media was underwhelming. Giving up Facebook was more difficult than giving up my wee game. When the highly anticipated moment arrived, I said to Caleb with a glint in my eye (and only half joking), “See you in three hours.” Well. Twenty short minutes later, I had caught up on all my notifications and was left somewhat deflated. All those little red flags promised so much but delivered so little (apart from a few special words from friends). All I had really missed is that Prince had died. That was weird. My immediate thought was that FB is such a false reality. It leads us to believe that we’re involved in a rich community of relationship, and while it is handy for keeping in touch with those friends afar, it is absolutely no substitute for genuine soul connection. It’s kind of like snacking when you’re starving for a proper meal.

Candy Crush and FB filled different purposes in my day. Playing a mindless little game was a way of filling time, keeping myself entertained, distracting myself from being still, and gaining an odd sense of achievement. Being a stay-at-home-mum is so frequently this relentless day-in-day-out mishmash of intangibles. There’s not a lot of readily measurable accomplishment and success that is verifiable. When I pass a level on Candy Crush, the deep American voice tells me I’ve done a good job. Why thank you Candy-Crush-man, I appreciate your feedback. Although to be fair I pushed Judah through a puddle in the pram the other day and he was like, “Good job Mum.” So. Cute. Anyway, the long and short of that story is that I deleted Candy Crush halfway though the week. Because I realised I was addicted and I actually didn’t enjoy it that much. Plus it freed up time to read, play with Judah, and spend some time tree-gazing in my back yard.

As already mentioned, giving up Facey was much more difficult. And since I wasn’t playing a game, I had time to think about why. It’s become more apparent to me in recent times that there’s this deep cavernous void in the pit of my soul. It’s a place that was formed because of many childhood experiences (more on that in another blog – maybe next week). It’s a place that needs to be filled with the love and light of Jesus, but I try to fill it with other stuff. Mostly I try and satisfy it with other people’s approval. Enter Facebook. It’s so temporarily nice to get likes and kind comments on posts and photos. Going without that affirmation for a week highlighted the state of my soul more clearly.

My key intention over my soul vacation was to create more space to focus on Christ. And what I discovered was that in the stillness I found an unexpected gift; peace. I though being still would unleash an anxious voice in my soul. But what I found was tranquility. It was as if Jesus had provided a secret garden of peace, but I had to walk through the gate to enter. I have a massive aversion to trinkets and ornaments. They are contraindicated in my life. There was a period of time in my adolescence when it seemed like every gift I received was a teddy bear or a candle. It was so ironic. Like how I really don’t like dogs, and they sense it and try really hard to be friends with me…and then they go and stick their heads in my crotch and I’m left doing the super-awkward leg-cross-bend-over-while-high-pitched-laughing thing…anyway, I digress. Somewhere around that time someone gave me a wee card with my name and a corresponding scripture on it. I wouldn’t normally keep something like that, as I said, contraindicated. But for some reason I stuck it on my mirror, and it said this, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, he whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.” That verse from Isaiah rung true this week. I discovered that life has a million flashing neon signs that are attempting to steal my gaze from God. It’s part of my call as an apprentice of Jesus to train my focus onto him. And I’m discovering more and more why he wants us to do this. The rewards are infinitely priceless.

Moving forward, I can guarantee that other attractions will try to replace the distractions I’ve farewelled this week. But I’m going to continue with my new habits of contemplative prayer and mindfulness…which basically means really noticing what’s around me. Being present. Feeling the breeze float over me. Breathing deeply. Sitting with Jesus. It’s a sweet, gentle and rich new adventure.

Bless you guys,
Deb x

Advertisements

Peace Out

image

I read a Buzzfeed post a few years ago about the game ‘Candy Crush’. Big mistake. I was just curious. It sounded like my kind of game. And now I’m to a level that I couldn’t possibly mention (except to say that it rhymes with bifteen shmundred and peighty). I know right? But I just love it. It’s the perfect filler when you’re waiting for the doc, or kiddo is watching some inane children’s programme, or you’re bored, or should be sleeping, or paying attention to what your husband is saying…

I was late to the smartphone game. My little neon pink Nokia served me so well and pretty much refused to break no matter how many times I dropped it. I was kinda proud of not owning a smartphone. Then I had a wee windfall and Caleb encouraged me to bust out and get an iPad mini. Which I did. And I loved it. And subsequently turned into Gamey McGamerton. But at least it stayed at home and was less portable than a handheld device.

iPhones are really expensive in New Zealand; you either have to sign up for a monthly plan that will leave you eating a lettuce leaf and a Tic Tac for each meal, or pay a really big upfront price for the handset. However, upon arriving here we discovered we could sign up for a reasonable plan and get iPhones for $99 each…so we bought 12 of them. Not. But we joke about it often.

Now I can crush candies and stalk my friends at an arms reach. And my phone recharges next to my bed at night, and instead of reaching for a book before I sleep, I listen to music and stare at my little beacon of entertainment. I could try and justify this is any number of ways, but the bald truth of it is that I’m addicted. I find myself halfway through a show or movie and needing to check in to see if the little red flag of wonder has a message for me.

The dichotomy of my phone is that it both feeds and distracts me from anxiety. A moment of revelation in my life was when my counsellor said to me, “You know Deb, it seems like you’ve been living with low level anxiety for your whole life.” Upon reflection, I used to sleep way more than a kid should. I would take naps after school, and no joke, my ultimate dream when I five was that my bed would have wheels and an engine so I could drive it to school(!). That’s not normal. I also used to have trouble getting a full breath and I was diagnosed with juvenile asthma…but the inhalers never helped. I had quite a bit going on under the surface.

Over the years I’ve worked through truckloads of my stuff, but to be honest I have trouble being still. I love to relax and read and chill, I’m not a workaholic, but I literally have trouble sitting still. I’m a Fidgety Bridget. I’ve become more aware of things I do when I read or sit still; I bite the inside of my bottom lip, gnaw on the skin around my fingernails, pick at any zit foolish enough to raise a wee bump, or twirl my hair around my finger. I went to a small group recently, sat in a comfy armchair and was stoked to realise that it swivelled from side to side. Because I like to move. Weirdo.

The thought of going on a silent retreat has always had this magical appeal, although in reality I’d probably chew my hand down to a stump before running naked through the woods howling at the moon. I even briefly (for like one second) considered becoming a nun because of the stillness and simplicity in monastic practices (of course I really wanted to get married, and I’m not Catholic, but still…). Something in my soul is screaming for solitude and serenity. I feel like it’s got things to say to me, but I’ve been blocking it out with my Candy Crush, and Facebook, and fidgeting. It’s easier to distract myself then allow my soul to speak its mind. I may not like what it has to say. But I don’t want to continue feeling the disquieting murmurings of my inner voice attempting to catch my attention.

So I’ve got a plan. From the moment of posting this blog, I’m going off the grid for a week. No Facebook. And the only candies I’ll be crushing are the leftover Easter jelly beans. I’m going to read more. I’m going to sit outside and look at the trees and listen to the birds and the wind. I’m going to be more intentional about being present. I’m going to invite my soul to tell me some of its secrets. I’m going to ask Jesus to make Himself more known to me.

Only a week you say? Yes. For a start. I’ll let you know how it goes next week. I anticipate each little red notification to be like a red flag to a bull. It will drive me crazy. But I need to do it. So sayonara friends. Thanks in advance for your comments – I’ll rip into them like a kid on Christmas morning next Wednesday. I’m already so looking forward to it!! Aaaahhh! Here I go…

Over and out,
Deb x

Brave and Beautiful

image

I have this love affair with British shows – Downton Abbey, the Poirot and Miss Marple movies, and more recently, Call the Midwife. It follows the stories of midwives in post WII East London. They somehow manage to make what was surely a pretty grim era look very cosy. Which is why I love it. Cup of tea love? In a recent episode Sister Mary Cynthia is assisting a labouring Gypsy woman toward the end of her childbearing years. The woman tells the nun that she’s too exhausted and can’t push anymore, to which the sister replies, “This is a brave, beautiful body…it knows the way, and so do you.”

Powerful. And true. I instantly welled up. Because I think of how my beautiful, brave body grew a sweet precious human, and bears the stretch and knife marks of that journey. And I think of how my amazing husband’s brave, beautiful body carries the train tracks of having survived being impaled. And how my little Judah’s brave, beautiful body endured two years of stomach acid burning his wee oesophagus.

Then I consider the times I have thrown my brave, beautiful body under the bus. Not literally. But the times I have compared it to another’s brave, beautiful body. The moments I have shamed it for not fitting in with a societal ideal. Instances that I have punished it by exercising while sick, or under-eating, or over-eating.

I was talking with a friend recently that is recovering from a battle with anorexia. She said that when it comes to general chit-chat about body image, she simply refuses to play in that sandbox. I love that. I have been endeavouring to do the same. I would like to nourish my body with food that it needs, and take care of it with exercise and rest. And I would like my motivation to be that God gave me this brave, beautiful body to take care of. The thing that gets so mixy in all this however is that the eating well and exercise can also represent an ulterior motive; a way that I can control my acceptability in the world.

My value is solely because God made me and Jesus loves me. I desperately want to live out of this reality.

My good friend Joseph sent me some books on theology and culture recently. I am about five pages into the first book. And I have had my dictionary out about five hundred times. But what I have learned so far is that we all have ‘liturgies’ (or common practices) in everyday life that are teaching our hearts what they should desire. Reflecting on this, I had a total moment. I’ve had this ritual everyday for years and years – as long as I can remember. I get the scales out and weigh myself before my shower. Every. Single. Day. It’s a very effective way to monitor how acceptable I will be in the world today. And it’s a total sham.

If I am to live in the truth that my value is not dependent on my external world, then my liturgical practices need a tune-up. So this morning the scales are gone (to the garage – I was going to throw them out, but I got them at the thrift store and they’re really funky, plus super handy when weighing luggage before a flight…). There will still be battles, but it’s a healthy start.

So here’s to not measuring my worth by a set of numbers. Here’s to letting my little bloaty belly just be. Here’s to appreciating this brave, beautiful body.

Love you guys,
Deb x

Piggy in the Middle

image

I’m a wee bit nervous to write this blog, truth be told. I hesitate to wade into the theological world for several reasons; whilst not a complete novice to the field, I am by no means the scholar that some of my dear friends are. Additionally, I don’t really wish to enter into robust debate about weighty issues. I am however aware that this will probably happen. And it will absolutely be of my own doing. So here goes…

My church background is pretty penty. Not the nth degree of cultish cray cray like substituting prayer for medicine, but definitely plenty of flag waving, tongue-speaking, dancing and lots of altar-calls. In my youth going days we had these events called ‘Holy Ghost Explosions’, which was obviously too much of a mouthful, because we ended up calling them ‘HG Explosions’. I’ve no doubt we thought it was pretty clever at the time, but in hindsight it sounds like a lab experiment gone wrong – mercury everywhere. Very dangerous.

Like many things, those days were a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime. There was a span of time when anyone who ended up getting slain in the spirit on an altar-call would be covered with a ‘modesty blanket’ – even if they were wearing jeans. The front of the church would sometimes resemble a makeshift wartime field hospital. And then there was the era of people hunting high and low for wonders such as fillings turned to gold, or sprinklings of gold dust on one’s body. Which is not to say that this didn’t happen sometimes, but the unsettling thing was the way some seemed to chase them with the fervour of winning a holy lotto draw. It just didn’t appear like a healthy kingdom-building way to live.

BUT. Those were the days when I got acquainted with the very real presence of Jesus. And it’s to this day my favourite thing in the whole wide world. I adore being able to experience the overwhelming love, joy, hope, dreamyness, light, comfort, truth and goodness that is God’s manifest presence. And the healing and freedom! I know for sure that so much of the joy and peace evidenced in my life today is a direct result of the beautiful restoration outworked by Jesus in those times.

Over time, like many of my friends, my theology began to shift in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I began to ask questions. I started reading some more weighty theological books. I had a lot of discussions with people attempting to navigate through similar mazes. I think a lot of us felt a bit disillusioned that the Christianity we were experiencing didn’t seem to have very plausible answers to some of the big questions we had. Stuff about healing, prosperity, suffering, brokenness, eternity.

As the years have passed, there seems to have been a parting of the ways. The more Pentecostal camp, and those that have veered in a more ‘intellectual’ direction, for lack of a better word. The separation is, I think, somewhat fuelled by hurt. I know when I started asking big questions, it felt like I was being subversive. I felt invalidated and shut down. I felt hurt. I wanted to say, “I’m still me. You know me! I still love Jesus. I’ve just got these questions. And I think they’re important.” However, I can only imagine how it would feel on the other side of the fence. Having one’s beliefs and ways of doing things seemingly cast in a light of doubt and suspicion. I could imagine one of my friends on the other side of the fence wanting to say, “I’m still me. You know me! I love Jesus too. I feel happy where I am and attacked by your questions.”

The question I’ve been mulling over lately is this; does it have to be either/or? The ‘Pentecostal’ camp is sometimes painted as a bit mindless and unrealistic. The ‘intellectual’ camp is periodically viewed as highbrow, exclusive and not very joyful. But I want to pitch my tent in both camps! I want to keep studying the historical context of the bible and it’s application to modern day living. And I want to throw my eyes, heart and hands in the air and experience the total wonder of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I want to be a well-read holy-roller. An intelligent hardcore penty. A lover of study and the manifest presence of God. I want to walk into church with my NT Wright tucked under one arm and my modesty blanket under the other. (That was a joke).

I know it can be done. You know how? We have a friend called Sam. He’s a very intelligent and very Spirity dude. He reads, studies and converses with the best of them, and while mercifully we’ve never seen him dancing for Jesus in a loincloth (although Jen may have), he’s about as free and passionate for God’s presence as anyone I’ve met. So shoutout to our friend Sam. Because I want to be like that. How about you?

Until next time,
Deb xx