It’s a stressful time to be alive. There’s no doubt about it. Being someone that absorbs the emotional atmosphere around me, I find my body buzzing with tension in the air almost everywhere I go. I feel it on the roads where it seems like everyone’s temper is on a tripwire, I feel it in the supermarket where I rarely see anyone attempting to smize above their mask any longer, and I most certainly feel it online.
The litany of bad and contentious news is overwhelming; COVID has worsened with new and more severe strains, Afghanistan is crumbling, Haiti is suffering, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is burning-up and drying-up simultaneously, and the climate report is projecting even worse decay than was earlier realised. It’s heavy.
I think one of the things that I feel the most at this time, is a collective sense of powerlessness. We want COVID to dissipate, but it’s gotten worse. We want people to do the right thing, but we have no power to change anyone else’s mind. We want large corporations to start showing genuine social responsibility, but we’re ants in a giants’ world. We want the world to be taken care of – fed, loved, sheltered, and safe – but we have trouble just keeping our house plants alive.
It is this sense of powerlessness that can erode our sense of purpose and meaning in life. It feeds off our energy, and drains our emotional reserves. It’s like the totality of my resources is a wee krill, and the problems of the world are a blue whale – completely swallowing all I have to give.
When Delta came barging into our lives recently, I immediately recognised the feelings of angst in my body. My cells remember this feeling well. But this time, I decided, something has to be different. I’m not going to get through the other side of this never-ending story with my nervous system in shreds like I did last time.
You see, even though we feel so powerless, we’re actually not. We have more power than we realise. We have the power to make very practical decisions to ensure we preserve our emotional and mental health. Some of the things I have been implementing are:
– Muting friends that post a lot of information that I find stressful.
– Limiting my intake of news.
– Deciding that it’s not worth getting angry at people at the store not wearing a mask – it’s not going to affect change, and it’s only hurting me.
– Practising mindfulness – making set times throughout my daily routine where I intentionally focus on my five senses and being in the moment.
– Taking action. Doing what little things I can to make a difference to those around me – I may not be able to lobby corporate America, or house a thousand Afghan refugees in my spare room – but I can go out of my way to be kind to the checkout guy.
I actually think it’s been really important to remember what God has asked me to do: live in a way that exhibits the heart of Jesus in every little daily moment. He’s not asking me to singlehandedly fix the climate, or change the government, or carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. He’s only asking me to represent who He is in the limited sphere of my life right here where I live.
So I’m choosing to zoom in. I will be aware of what’s going on in the world, I will pray, and I will do what little I can to help, but I will mainly focus on the handful of people and situations that I do have influence over.
Here’s a little mantra I wrote myself for when the state of the world is getting me down, and maybe it will help you too:
I am just one person.
I have limits, and today I accept and honour those limits.
Even though the world is in chaos, it is not my responsibility to feel the collective turmoil.
And when I do, I will pray these feelings into my hands, and blow them into the wind, where they can be picked up by the One who has the heart that can hold them.
I am just one person.
And as one person, I have the power to love those around me, exercise kindness, patience, understanding and compassion.
I have the power to choose my actions and reactions today, and that is all that I can do.
I release myself from the obligation to do the impossible and I empower myself to do the possible.
I will stay in my lane, listen to my Guide, put one foot in front of the other, and let Him carry my backpack.
Love you friends, we’re going to be okay.
I usually have a reasonable idea of what I’m about to write when I start a blog – but today, I don’t have any anecdotes or well-formed thoughts, just the seed of a thought that’s been sitting with me for a number of months. So here goes.
I, like many of you, have over the past 15 years or so, been on a journey of ‘deconstruction’ (which, sidenote, is a word I’m so ready to be done with…perhaps we could give it a new name, something German sounding like ‘schnarffleffen’) – a process where I have never once questioned Jesus or God, but have unpacked the version of Jesus or God that was presented to me in my formative years.
Over this time, I have pendulumed between more liberal and orthodox views, and in recent years, I feel like I’ve reconstructed my faith in a lot of ways, and have come to a quite settled theological worldview. It is from this place that I am observing a wing of, what I can only call, ex-Christian spirituality. It’s a whole bevy of people that have come up through evangelicalism and have found that reality and their experiences don’t line up with the party line that they were taught. And as a result of this, they have adopted a spirituality that includes aspects of many religions, as well as still thinking Jesus is great.
I actually think I have a fairly open view of God in a lot of ways, in fact some would call me a downright liberal. Do I think that God is found in much more than the four walls of the church and between the two covers of the bible? Absolutely. Do I think that people encounter Jesus all the time but don’t know that it’s him? Yes. Would I be surprised to discover people from other religions and faiths having a relationship with Christ in way that they would describe differently to ‘Christianity’? Not at all. Am I okay with people referring to God as ‘her’? Sure.
But I think the whole ‘all spirituality is good spirituality’ thing sits a little uncomfortably with me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it all just seems so untethered. There’s no anchor. To me, Jesus is always the anchor – he’s the reference point, the bottom line, the litmus test. Does this mean that the teachings of Buddha or Confucius don’t hold some truth? Absolutely not. But everything gets run through the filter of Jesus.
Another thing that I find uncomfortable is the very important distinction between ‘God lives in me’ and ‘I am part-God’; a subtle but very important difference. In ex-Christian spirituality, I have observed a thought that essentially says, ‘I am Divine’. A lot of this is probably a knee-jerk reaction to the teachings of the church that have wrongly hammered into us that we’re all ground-dwelling worms that feed on the excrement of pond-scum. I guess the way that I think of it, is that I am not essentially ‘good’, but I am irrevocably loved and valued. I was created with love, care and intention, but I am also, let’s face it, almost incurably selfish. A lot of the ‘good’ things I do are at heart a mixture of wanting to follow the example of Jesus, and because I have learned that doing good things pays really good dividends…in friendships, reciprocity and good feelings. I am deeply loved and held, and I am also not Jesus.
My heart isn’t to throw anyone under the bus; I recognise that the undertaking of a deconstruction journey often results from the wounds inflicted by our church experiences and is deeply intertwined with our views of self. I also believe that such a journey is a necessary one. I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that I believe it is possible to deconstruct (schnarffleffen) our faith, while still remaining tethered to Jesus, and fully reliant on the pure goodness that only comes from him.
I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on this one!!
Love Deb x
I am writing for work at the moment on the theme of ‘Mother Guilt’ – something from which, thankfully, I have always considered that I do not suffer too readily. I have always kind of figured that my kiddos will pick up a mix of good and bad from my parenting (hopefully more good than bad), and that they will have their own issues to process and work through as they grow up; issues which, as they process them, will make them more empathetic, resilient, and grounded human beings.
I already see large parts of my personality in Judah, my oldest. The insistence on knowing what ‘the plan’ is for any given day, the motivation to do just about anything for a lolly, and the inability to let things go – or the ability to persevere no matter what, depending on which way you look at it. I also see less of my personality, but more of my quirks in my little Mason – who knew that chewing those little bits of cheek/inside lip (what are those things called?!) is an inherited trait?
Although I don’t fret a lot about how my mothering is going to stuff up my kids’ lives, today I found myself huddled in the corner of the kitchen, sobbing, while waiting for the kettle to boil. You see, with the ongoing ups and downs of chronic health issues, I will sometimes find myself roaring at the kids over something reasonably minor. I know it gives them a fright – and you know what? It often gives me a fright too. I don’t often realise that my body is depleted and my margins are paper thin, until I hear just one more little argument about that stupid fidget spinner.
Because I’m a big believer in the importance of one’s intentions, I can so easily brush off my infractions by explaining to my inner-critic that I never meant to upset anyone, and I’m only edgy because I feel like crap. But explain that to a couple of kiddos who never know which version of their mum they’re going to get today…or a husband, for that matter.
I guess I find myself at this juncture where I feel a sense of responsibility to not lose my rag at my kids, and not be a grumpy presence in my home, coupled with this sense of futility and the thought that it’s just so bloody unfair that I have to try and practice self-control, when I just want to sit in the corner and wallow in how gross I feel.
That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Living in the way that Jesus demonstrated doesn’t come with caveats as to how one might be feeling at the time. He doesn’t command us to love our neighbour, only when we’re feeling good. He doesn’t teach us to put others first, but don’t worry about it if you’re facing stuff.
I don’t for a second think he’s standing there with a big stick, reprimanding me with a stern look on his face. No. I get the sense that he’s gotten down to my eye-level, with compassion in his eyes, and an invitation to lean on him, and borrow his love and grace for the people that I live with. My margins may be non-existent, but his are everlasting.
So friends, if you, like me, are facing struggles of some sort (and who isn’t?), and it feels like you don’t have anything but the scum of your personality to share with those around you, perhaps you will join me in resting in the love of Jesus, and allowing his love to permeate your frailness, and drift through you to your loved ones.
Love you friends,
It’s been a minute since I wrote anything for anything other than work. To be honest, I’ve never felt less qualified to share wisdom/insight/anything in my whole life. Why? Because I’m 100% NOT rocking this COVID home-school, work from home, social distancing life. (Ok, yes, I am rocking the social distancing – it may surprise you to learn that I am, in fact, an introvert, and this time has given me a golden opportunity to polish my inner hermit).
I always said, even long before I had children, that home-schooling was my idea of a nightmare. Even so, I kind of thought, somewhere in the back of my hopeatorium, that actually I would discover a natural aptitude for it and find out that it’s surprisingly rewarding. Well that bubble has been well and truly popped. I hate it. I actually hate it. There’s not many things I hate – that awful yawn-sigh people do, reggae music, loud eating noises (I should probably just get permanent earplugs) – but home-schooling is right up there.
The thing that’s so difficult, is that because those of us here in our part of the States have had the kiddos home for a solid 8 months now, my margins are paper thin. I normally gird my loins for the 3-month summer break, and begin to morph into Harriet the Haggard by the end. And this is 2.5 summers, with no clear end in sight.
When we have no margins is when issues that we are able to keep below the surface with rest, regular moments of respite, relaxation, socialisation etc. rear their ugly heads. For me, this means that I revert to my inner child a lot of the time.
The little girl that wanted to please the teacher and gain her constant approval, is now the parent of a kiddo whose schooling she is overseeing, and she really wants her kid to do well in order to appease her quest for affirmation.
The little girl that learned it was desperately important to get things done within a self-imposed timeframe, is now trying to force a seven-year-old to finish up his schoolwork within the same arbitrary window of time.
With the constant stress and pressure of life here in US right now, it feels like every unhealed part of my soul and every unchallenged erroneous belief is simultaneously running the show and beating me up.
So friends, if you’re feeling like me right now – and I know so many of you are, let’s join hands and start to do the things we need to get through this very challenging phase. For some of us, we really need to ease up on ourselves and our kiddos. For others of us, we need to choose a daily rhythm at this time that allows for a lot of extra space. Maybe we need to call a friend just to tell them that we’re not okay. Maybe we need to choose a regular meditation/prayer practice. Maybe we need to go for a walk around the block every day. Maybe we need to stop and realise that although no-one (except maybe the tech gods) are winning in the shit-show that is 2020, we are learning lessons and facing trials that have the potential to forge gold within us.
So, to all the other fellow humans in the trenches right now (even those with their masks under their noses), I give you my biggest smize, and raise my arm in a weary salute to you. You are loved, you are not alone, and you’re going to get through this. And so will I – albeit with a new cavernous depth to the frown lines between my eyebrows.
Love you friends,
For Valentine’s Day this year, Caleb bought the 500-piece puzzle version of the Jaws movie poster for us to do together. Firstly, good man. Secondly, it was ridiculously hard – so. much. water. And thirdly, it rekindled in me the love I had for doing puzzles when I was a tweenager. So, when COVID kicked off, I was all over those puzzles like a rash; I was buying them, borrowing them, and harassing the local shops for when they might be re-stocking, like some kind of junkie.
Seeing as taking that trip down memory lane was just so satisfying, I began to think about the other thing I adored as a 12-year old; my first true love. Was it, Jesus? You ask? Uncle Jessie from Full House? Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block? All very good guesses, but no. It was Rollerblading.
I had a pair of ex-rental Rollerblade Zetra 303s with a fancy set of new wheels. You know, as well as I do, that I had to tell everyone that they were Rollerblade brand blades, to delineate them from the $30 Warehouse blades most of the kids were using. Which, I know, is SO annoying….but I was the kid that had major brand envy as a result of my hand-me-downs, and only ever had one Billabong long-sleeve T-shirt, which I wore at every mufti-day and anywhere I was likely to be seen by anyone ‘cool’. (It was then, as you can imagine, a day of many tears and much dismay when I tripped over on the railroad tracks and ripped a hole in it. It also shouldn’t surprise you by now, that I still kept wearing it, hole and all.)
My rollerblades gave me life. I loved the fact that I felt like I was flying. I could put my Walkman on, leave the house by myself, and head off on my own little adventure. So, I did a little research, discovered you could still purchase Zetra blades (huzzah!), and I now spend several afternoons each week whizzing around my local park. I. love. it.
Although rollerblading, is, admittedly pretty (very) nerdy, and my husband has basically disowned me (‘Babe, the neighbours will see you!’), something about reconnecting with what I loved at a time in my life where I didn’t love who I was, has been really healing.
In trauma therapy, the goal of counselling is to help people integrate their trauma into their whole person. And although my adolescent years weren’t ‘traumatic’ as such, there are still parts of my younger self within me that I’m tempted to disown. She wasn’t very cool. She was really desperate for acceptance and affection and inclusion. She would sell her soul for a bag of lollies. But she was me. And what she needs from me more than anything, is the love, acceptance and affirmation that she always needed.
The amazing thing about getting a bit of perspective and self-awareness, is that we have the ability to re-parent our inner awkward younger-selves. We can introduce such a beautiful wholeness into our present lives if we will just sit down and eat lunch with our inner lonely kid. Or buy them an ice-cream. Or join in their Mariah Carey glo-stick party. Because no matter how nerdy, you’re the only one who truly knows how rad you really were.
Love you friends!
PS. A couple of insider tips if you’re thinking about getting Rollerblades:
1. Don’t FaceTime your parents and Rollerblade at the same time.
2. Watch out for children on bicycles – not only does it hurt SO bad to crash at high speed at the age of 37, from the haunted look on that kid’s face when I grabbed him before going down, this is going to be one of his traumatic memories in the years to come.
Before the world went nutso grando, I was all set to embark on the next glorious phase of my life; Mason was enrolled in daycare three mornings a week, I had taken on 17 hours a week of writing for Thinkladder (which BTW is excellent, and free, and you should probs download ASAP), Judah was at school every day, and I was enjoying working at my local Starbucks several mornings a week, sipping my coffee and being child-free and all profesh.
Now, my dreams of freedom have imploded on themselves, and I have not one, but TWO little boys at home, and I have to try and navigate 17 hours of writing while forcing my reticent-Reginald to do his schoolwork. All that to say, you can see why it’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything…
But here we are, and while I’ve had a few thoughts over the past six weeks, there are none that I can be bothered putting into one cohesive blog, so let me treat you to my COVID ramblings – a mishmash of the infancy of several of my musings of late:
I really don’t like online church. Please hear me out – I am fully committed to always being a part of the church, I used to work for the church and would like to again one day, but one thing that I have had significant struggle with is the performance aspect of church; that haunting feeling that we’re putting on a show to appease aspects of people’s spirituality, without asking them to engage in a way pushes them toward discomfort and spiritual growth. Online church feels like the epitome of performance church. I know pastors are just trying to do their best, and do what they can at this time – this is in no way a criticism of these beautiful people that are just doing their best – it is, however, a series of questions for the church as a whole…what is the church really meant to look like? When we remove the queen from the chessboard (Sunday Services), how does the game get played in a functional and healthy way? How are we reaching, engaging and discipling people in an authentic and meaningful way outside of Sunday? Has Sunday become a giant crutch, bearing more of the load than it was ever meant to carry?
Another of my COVID musings is to do with facemasks…or rather the way they smell. Or perhaps, more correctly, the way my breathe smells in one. It took me about three weeks of shopping in a face mask to discover that the funny (not bad, just a bit odd) smell in my face mask wasn’t the mask, or even my breath…it was my NOSE! Did you know your nose has a smell? I can’t think about it too much or it makes me queasy. And if it’s made you queasy too, my humble apologies.
And along with thoughts on sinus scents and the church as a gathering, I’ve been giving some thought to my personal faith journey also. I have been on a journey of deconstruction of my faith for around 10 or more years. It was a necessary journey, but funnily enough, I’ve almost come full circle in my conclusions of so many things regarding faith, but I kind of needed to unpack everything to understand properly how it goes back together. When the pandemic started getting serious, it really struck me that in times of crisis, it really forces you to face the pointy end of your faith. Questions like, ‘Where am I going when I die?’, and ‘Do I really trust God with my life?’ are shoved in one’s face, and there remains in that moment not much room for ethereal armchair theologising. I have, along with my love of puzzles and desire to rollerblade, discovered the more simple, anchoring faith of my childhood that puts my hand in the hand of Jesus.
So there you go friends, there’s some thoughts for ya. Caleb always tells me that my mind is a scary place, so I hope you enjoyed a few minutes holiday in Debsville (since you can’t go anywhere else right now). I genuinely hope that you’re doing okay, and please feel free to message me if you’d like someone to pray for you.
Love you friends,
Frankly, being in the middle of a pandemic is really bizarre. I vacillate between, ‘It’s totally fine, it’s just the flu, we’re all going to be fine,” to envisioning life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I begin chastising myself that we didn’t buy a 5-acre self-sustaining plot instead of this suburban dwelling where, if we had to live off the land, we’d probably survive three days on dead grass and the scraps of decaying afternoon snacks left behind by the boys.
I haven’t succumbed to the bunker mentality…yet, but I must admit, while I haven’t stockpiled the loo paper, I would be lying if I said I didn’t add a few extra cans of beans and some hand sanitiser to this week’s shopping list (if we do end up having to live off what’s in our cupboards, let’s just say the meals are going to get less and less yummy by the day).
I experience a level of generalised anxiety on a day-to-day basis, due to varying factors, and this situation has definitely turned the volume up, as I’m sure it has for many of you. And while I can remind myself that this is unlikely to take my family out, and we’ll survive the economic fallout as we have before, the reality is that a worse case scenario is always a possibility.
What amazes me in situations like this, is how it highlights where my trust truly lies. It first came to my attention five years ago when we first moved to the States; I was thrown off-balance by realising that my safety-net of a familiar government that would take care of me if I was in hospital or we lost our income, was no longer underneath me. I was forced to intentionally put my days in the hands of God – a place where I had previously thought they were.
Once again, I find myself feeling off-balance. The comfort of relying on the conveniences and necessities that I do everyday suddenly seems less certain. The assumption that all is well, is, well, not so well.
I like to picture it like sonar – I go through life sending out pings and getting my equilibrium from hearing the reassuring returning sounds from the places I expect things to be. When all is as I expect it to be, I swim through life with a sense of safety and certainty. But in times this like, it becomes all too clear that my requirement for peace relies heavily on external things – the certainty of health, ready access to food and utilities, a guaranteed paycheck.
I hear an invitation in the midst of all this uncertainty. It’s an invitation to surrender. An invitation to relinquish control – the control which feels so important for my survival, but in reality, is only an illusion. An invitation to remember that a certain quality or length of life on earth has never been promised. An invitation to remember that my hope lies in eternity. An invitation to remember that Jesus sits right beside me as I type this, and his love and presence is as close as it ever was. An invitation to accept the unknown.
So, if you’re cool-as-a-cucumber and feeling not a worry, good for you. But if you’re a red-hot mess quivering in your apocalypse shelter, maybe, just maybe, something really beautiful can come out of this for you. Maybe this is the start of a peace you never knew was possible. So why not join me as I pray, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Love you friends,
(Originally posted on Sheology.co)
If I’m to be honest, I have an ambivalent relationship with dreams. Second only to my dream of being the sixth, only female (and spectacularly mulleted) member of New Kids on the Block, my very greatest childhood dream was to be locked in the local Foodtown Supermarket overnight. While other kiddos were counting sheep, I would lie in bed at night and plot my route from the choccy biscuits, chips, pick’n’mix, fizzy drinks and chocolate bars. Needless to say, neither of these dreams was ever realised, and my childish dreams gave way to the more realistic dreams that maturity brings.
The most heartfelt dream I ever possessed was that of being married. My mum got married at 20, and for some reason I had my heart set on also getting married at 20 (Spoiler alert – I did meet the love of my life and got married one month shy of my 29th birthday). I remember a preacher once saying that the gap between expectation and reality is tension – and each year that passed my ideal age of marriage, the tension and sadness within me grew.
The problem was that my dream had turned from the proverbial dangling carrot – something providing hope and motivation, to a whip that taunted me with reminders of my inadequacies, failures, and inability to control factors which were outside of my control. I got my priorities out of order, and gave my dream the power to make or break me. In many ways, my dream became an idol and sat in the place in my heart reserved for Jesus.
We live in a cultural climate where oftentimes our hopes and dreams are given the same sort of gravity as the quest for the Holy Grail. In some circumstances it is even considered noble to sacrifice everything – our relationships, obligations and moral code, in the pursuit of our aspirations. Yet, when we allow the pursuit of our dreams to surpass our pursuit of Jesus, they become the breeding ground for dissatisfaction and blind us to the joys of the present. I could kick myself now for allowing myself to waste so many of my child-free, care-free, responsibility-light, and time-rich years wallowing in the misery of my singleness.
Taking a moment to get a little curious about what is driving the pursuit of our dreams is an excellent way to ensure they stay in healthy perspective. The answer to the following question can bring us huge insight: “When this dream has finally been realised, I will feel ____________.” Because when it comes down to it, a lot of the time that we are chasing ‘dreams’, we’re actually chasing a feeling. We want to feel accomplished, vindicated, satisfied, secure, loved, smart, acknowledged, happy, settled, or any combination of a million different feelings. It’s not bad to want these feelings, heck, I certainly do! We just run into trouble when we look for any of these feelings from a source other than the complete love and contentment that is offered to us in Jesus.
The feelings that come to us when a dream is fulfilled are lovely, but ultimately temporary. When we see a dream realised, we enjoy the feelings for a while, but the underlying need in our soul is only temporarily satiated, and it gets hungry again – so off we go in search of a differing feeling/dream in the hope that we will find a more permanent satisfaction.
The beauty of putting our quest for Jesus above our quest for anything else is that He has the resources, ability and desire to meet our deepest needs. When Jesus is meeting the cry of our heart, our dreams are free to become a life-giving, motivating, colourful and enchanting part of our story.
And in fact, I have discovered that when I am chasing first Jesus and His Kingdom, he provides me with the fulfilment of dreams that I never even knew that I had. One beautiful example of this is my job writing for a counselling app – not only would I never have dreamed that a job like that even existed, I also get to work from home, helping people from my kitchen table, while earning enough to pay for lovely little luxuries (like holidays to New Zealand) for my wee family. Jesus, in his kindness, knows better than I do what will feed my soul and light up my life.
It’s best to remember that our dreams are there to serve us, not enslave us. So, friends, let’s put our dreams in the correct place in our priorities, and allow them to put the icing on the cake of our lives of pursuit of Jesus. Because he will never leave us empty, or dissatisfied – He will fill us with the contentment, satisfaction and joy that we are seeking.
Love you friends,