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

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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

Row, Row, Row your Boat

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Some of our very favourite people were in town recently for a conference. They popped in for lunch, and over tomato soup and toasties, we caught up and discussed some of what they had heard at the conference. One of the speakers had just shared a message about seasons of obscurity, which struck a chord for our friends, but also for me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It feels like there’s nothing quite so obscure as being a stay-at-home-mum. I don’t get paid. My kid pretty much only says ‘thanks’ because we’re trying teaching him to not be a snotty brat, and he knows he doesn’t get what he wants unless he uses his manners. When I clean the house it takes all of 36.5 seconds for it to get undone again. Nobody gives me high fives for creatively arranging the afternoon-tea plate.

I have to stop myself from longing for the day when my as-yet-unborn son is old enough for kindy and I can get on with some ‘real’ work. Work where I get remunerated for my time, where I get to be part of a team building something valuable, where my ideas count for something and I receive recognition for my efforts.

In a bible study this week, I learned that the Greek translation for the word Paul uses as ‘servant’ in 2 Timothy alludes to the rower of a big ship. You know those big old ships that had a whole heap of slaves at the very bottom of the boat? Now surely THAT is the very picture of obscurity! Stuck in the bowels of a filthy great ship, no windows, no idea which direction you’re going, and breathing the meaty sweat of a shipload of smelly dudes. So unappealing, yet this is the kind of servanthood we’re called to. One in which the work we do is not for our own glory and gratification, but for that of our Captain Jesus. Now mercifully, God does so often give us tasks and work that ARE enjoyable and fulfilling. But we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of using our gifts, abilities and daily tasks to meet inner needs for significance and love.

I quickly learned in church life that if I could be ‘good’ at doing Christian stuff, I would get plenty of encouragement and admiration. I felt significant if ‘important’ people recognised my hard work, so I got real good at doing what it took to gain that affirmation. When people were falling off the bible-in-a-year bandwagon left, right and centre, there I was still going strong four years in. I was the moral police amongst my group of friends at school, correcting a swear word there, casting disapproving looks at anything that, in my holier-than-thou opinion, may tarnish the good name of the Gospel. In fact, looking back now, the true miracle is that I had any friends at all! (I’ve since thanked some of my old friends for putting up with me. For real.)

This way of looking at the world was unfortunately encouraged by many a sermon and youth conference; where the altar call was all too often given only for those felt called to ‘full time ministry’, or to be a businessperson for the Kingdom, and occasionally, if you were lucky, a full time missionary. There was never a mention of the person who wanted to be a P.E. teacher, chef, artist, builder, bus driver, stay-at-home parent, shopkeeper or accountant. The clear preference of the cultural climate was that one should aspire to something with social prominence. Or in other words, minor Christian celebrity. The upshot of which meant you had people auditioning for the worship team who couldn’t sing to save themselves, and a dearth of volunteers willing to help with the kiddos.

What I’m slowly learning over this season of my life, is that it will never get more significant than a moment spent singing a song to Jesus on my back porch, just the two of us. Or making a meal for a family in need. Or sitting with my son while he takes an inordinately long time to squeeze out a wee treasure on the potty. ‘Cause the thing is, Jesus is the prize. He is it. And we get Him whether we’re manning the oars or captaining the ship. We are significant because He loves us, not because of what we do. And that, my friends, is true joy!!

Love you,
Deb xx

Oh Baby! (Part II)

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You may or may not have noticed that it’s been some time since I last blogged; the reason being, I have been feeling really unwell. I’ve had a spate of migraines varying from foggy soreness to hold-my-head-howl-at-the-moon-and-spew ones. My head has been feeling like it’s not attached to my body. I’m feeling nauseous. And exhausted. Just bottomed out. But, yes Sherlock, as you’ve probably suspected by this point, I’m pregnant!!

The blog I posted a few months ago (https://adventuresoftheordinaryblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/oh-baby/) outlined the unexpected fertility journey we found ourselves on. Shortly after I wrote that blog, we headed away on a trip to California for our fifth wedding anniversary. We had been planning to go somewhere amazing in the Dominican Republic, but then we bought a house, so ended up heading to Bethel Church to spend time with Jesus instead. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

We stayed at a guest house run by a couple that are involved with prayer ministry at Bethel. The moment we arrived, they asked us why we were there, and we briefly told them about the issues my body was facing. We told them that we where heading to the Healing Rooms the next morning to receive prayer. Naturally, they prayed for me then and there. Rick is one of those dudes that seems to have a direct line to God – he just prayed for like two seconds, then his face split into the most infectious grin, and he goes, “It’s time!! Ha ha, it’s time!!”

The next morning we attended the Healing Rooms, where they prayed for me again, then we had the funnest day eating out and napping, going to the movies, drinking coffee and all the fun stuff that’s not relaxing with a toddler. The next morning at church a man next to me interrupted me in the middle of worship, saying, “Excuse me, but are you wanting children?” So he prayed for me. Then we had breakkie with a Kiwi buddy before we left on the long trek home, and I told her about Rick saying, “It’s time.” To that she replied, “That’s exactly what popped into my head the very first moment I saw you.”

I won’t go into gory details, but let’s just say that all the cramping and issues I’d been experiencing stopped from that weekend on, and now I’m almost 11 weeks preggo! I had an early scan at seven weeks and got to see our little sesame seed and hear its wee rapid heartbeat.

I was SO excited to finally have a new little Schnoops onboard! And I am still so grateful, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s been TOUGH!! I really don’t recommend being a sicky preggy with a toddler, if it can at all be avoided. I don’t know who I feel most sorry for; me, Caleb or Judah. It’s been a family affair, this trimester. Grumpy mum has made too many appearances. Judah, sensing the changes afoot has been acting out and pushing my buttons with the skill of a neurosurgeon. Caleb has been picking up the extra slack along with starting a new business. (But since I’m voting for two, my ballot box wins).

One thing I’ve been learning throughout this journey is that God doesn’t do things my way. Or in my time. Or to my specifications. And that there are moments when life seems unbearably hard, and it’s difficult to understand why He doesn’t appear to intervene. However He is always there. The very worst migraine I had was last week. I was wracked with pain, couldn’t stop vomiting, and just so over being sick. And as I sat there in the dark room, there He was. His love was all around me. He just loved me. And it was so sweet.

So! New Hargrove on the scene Feb 2017!! Eeek!! (That was the sound of excitement/nervousness – not, as Caleb would say, the squeak of ‘Preggy Piggy’ approaching a Big Mac. Although, let’s be honest, it’s that too). I’ll blog when I feel up to it, otherwise, love you friends, I hope you are well!!

Deb xx