An Ode to Little Deb

Little Deb

I’ve been thinking a bit about my inner child lately as a part of a personal/spiritual growth course I’m taking at the moment. I’ve come to realise that there are parts of Little Deb that I have abandoned or rejected because she experienced these very feelings and I don’t want those feelings to be a part of my now life. The problem with that, is Little Deb won’t experience the healing needed until I extend my Big Deb love and kindness to her – so, let me introduce you to one of the quirkiest, coolest, most loveable little girls you’ll ever meet.

Little Deb rocks the mullet like no-one else rocks the mullet. No-one believed her when she got older and she told them that she had sported the most worthy fe-mullet for ten years of her life. That was, until, they saw the pics and were completely awe-struck. One of the funniest moments of her adult-life was finding a photo at her BFF’s house of said BFF with an almost identical childhood mullet – only to discover that they had shared the same uber-lovely, but not-so-gifted, mobile hairdresser.

Little Deb’s sense of fashion pretty well matches her amazing haircut. She occasionally has a moment where she thinks about being cool or trendy and risks mortal peril by stealing an item of her sister’s clothing in order to experiment with fashion. But for the most part, Little Deb is a total creature of comfort. Her favourite outfit consists of a threadbare black corduroy black A-line skirt and a pair of jelly shoes that are broken at the heels. Her mum tried throwing the skirt out once, but thankfully her sister told her about it, so she was able to rescue her most treasured item out of the rubbish sack before it could be permanently ripped from her life.

Most kids are quirky to some degree, but Little Deb really takes the cake. She loves to swim and would spend all day in the water if she could. The only problem is that sometimes the water gets up her nose, and it really hurts. But it’s ok – she’s discovered that if she bobs up and down breathing out on the bob-down, it soothes her wee sinuses and it feels really good. She kind of knows that people are looking and laughing when she’s on her bob-round the pool, but she really doesn’t care. In fact, she kind of feels sorry for them that they’re missing out. And she cannot for the love of Pete figure out why her mum won’t let her ‘mail’ leaves and stones in the neighbour’s letterboxes when she’s playing ‘postie’. So unfair.

Little Deb has an incredible imagination. She has managed to convince some of her friends that if they wrap certain dead flowers in their leftover morning tea glad wrap and leave them in a certain bush for a few days, they will turn into real gold. She’s also started a lunchtime game called ‘The Handicapped Four Eyed Geeky Express’ (she’s not terribly PC). Her very favourite game of all-time is the Bee Clinic…all you have to do is stand on a bee until the white stuff squishes out, then you ‘operate’ on it with a stick until it’s all better. It’s a miracle she hasn’t been stung by any of her patients yet…although to be fair, they’re not terribly active once she’s finished with them.

Little Deb has two great life ambitions. The first is to become a famous singer (however, believe it or not, she’s not that good a singer), and the second is to be locked in the Foodtown supermarket overnight by herself. She lies awake at night figuring out which aisle she’d go down first, and which treats she’d consume, in what order. Needless to say, she’ll do almost anything for a bag of lollies.

If you’re looking for a fun, imaginative, loyal friend, you need look no further than Little Deb – plus as an added bonus, she’ll almost certainly make you look more fashionable. She’s such a cool wee girl, and I love her to pieces.

Until next time,

(Big) Deb xx

Confessions of a Recovering Smugaholic

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I have become aware in recent times of what I can only call an indulgent sense of smugness. Some of it manifests itself in a self-satisfied Cheshire cat-like enjoyment of my nice house, nice family and cosily heated car seats. Some of it manifests itself in the sort of attitude displayed by the old guy that reminds any complainers that he used to have to get up at 3am to walk 20 miles to school, barefoot in the snow through bear-infested woods. It shows itself in the form of my firmly tied tubes smirking at people recounting the torment of sleepless newborn nights. It’s the little piece of me that is in danger of giving out slightly patronising relationship advice from the warmth of my happy marriage.

All-in-all it’s really pretty ugly. I had always put it in the category of pride up until now – and while that still may be a part of it, I have become more convinced that for many of us, smugness is the cushion on which rests the still traumatised parts of a past experience. An emotional and mental barrier between where we’re at and where we once were. An illusion of being protected from ever having to return to that place or those feelings.

You see, when I consider it, I am most prone to smugness in areas where I have come through a significant struggle. The nightmare of having a severely-refluxy newborn that won’t stop screaming, the many years of singleness that were so desperately unwanted, the intense work of dealing through my inner mess – my bitter acquaintance with these things has resulted in an almost ironic mingling of compassion and smugness towards others facing similar issues. Which only goes to show, that there is a measure of brokenness evident.

For me, there are two main reasons to be aware of smugsville. The first of which is that it is terribly unkind to others. You know that feeling when people are patronising, dismissive, or know-it-all about a situation you are facing – it’s the very worst! Our smugness leads us to assumptions about others’ experiences and blocks us from truly being present and compassionate. And secondly, it’s an indicator that there’s likely some part of me that is needing a bit of TLC.

When we encounter a traumatic event (which doesn’t need to be ‘traumatic’ by any objective scale – it’s all in how our minds perceive it), our brains often segregate the traumatised part behind a wall in order to help keep us functional. While this is super handy to keep living life, there comes a time, usually once the trauma is well behind us, when the injured part of us can start to be disruptive to healthy living. In order to experience wholeness, the wounded part of ourselves needs to be integrated back into our lives.

Put it this way, the part of us that has experienced trauma is locked up in a cell so it’s not able to incapacitate us by running rampant through our minds. But, eventually, it will start to make its presence known. At that point, we have a choice. We can smother the tin-cup-on-the-jail-bars noise with a big pillow of smugness and rest our weary bones on top of it. OR, we can undergo the often-painstaking process of integrating our injured cellmate back into the society of our life. How we go about that will differ based on varying factors – including the severity of our trauma, other stuff going on in our lives, and past experience of working through mental and emotional issues. We may simply need awareness and a few moments of reflection or journaling – or we may need to get help from someone qualified to walk the journey with us.

I don’t want to be a smuggerton any more – the only cushion I want others to experience with me is a soft place for them to rest their stories for a bit.

Love you friends,

Deb

The Tree of Life

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I have been aware of a nagging sense of discontent in my soul of late. I think it’s probably been there for ages, but as the fog of chronic illness lifts, I am better able to see it. It’s a longing for my life to be different; more full, more productive, more exciting, more fun. I miss my old life when I was younger, was firmly entrenched in a solid crew of friends, and had more invites to events than I cared to attend. Yet, if I am honest with myself, I remember that there was a nagging (sometimes raging) discontent in those times also; I wanted to be married, to own a house and live in America(!). In fact, if I am even more honest with myself, I will come to the conclusion that what I think I need is the free time, energy, health and social status of my younger years, coupled with the current blessings of marriage, family, our own home and a decent education. I want the very best bits of each stage of my life to converge into the present. I want these things because my heart, mind, soul and brain has been tricked into thinking that that is what they need to be content.

When I am in a grotty patch of migraines, I feel strangely more content; resigned to the fact that I can only just barely keep my head above water trying to live and keep two little dudes alive. When my treatment kicks in, the discontent starts squirming and making its presence known. I know that I won’t just be stumbling from day-to-day, waiting until I can stumble into a dark room with an ice-pack on my head. I am aware that I could attend events, I could work a productive job, I could get fitter, I could become more social, and attractive, and popular, and successful. My health would allow me the chance to chase after the things that I so regularly pursue to provide what I think I need for joy and contentment.

Fill in the blank, my life would be more complete/joyous/full if only __________ (I was married/married to someone else/single, I owned a home/boat/car/full head of hair, I was skinnier/stronger/healthier/smarter/prettier/funnier/more popular, I was understood/appreciated/valued, I had a best friend/10,000 followers on Instagram/naturally long and full eyelashes/the magical ability to eat hot chips without gaining weight, I had kids/did not have kids, I had more responsibility/more adventure and less responsibility…).

Unfortunately, when we chase after any of the above and more to fulfil our lives, it’s like sitting down to a meal of lollipops…immediately gratifying and very appealing, but ultimately leaves you with an emptiness within and a longing for something more. The world around us is endlessly whispering to us and enticing us to find life in a million different ways. We get addicted to the sweetness and instant gratification of receiving life from anything other than God, but we end up chasing the proverbial dangling carrot.

I recently listened to an excellent sermon by Tim Keller on the wounded spirit (you can find it on YouTube). In it, he parallels the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden with the Cross on which Jesus died. He suggests that the Tree of Life, which is cut off to us by deciding to live life on our own terms, becomes fully accessible to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is SUCH good news!! Do you know what this meant to me? On the one hand, it is clear that I am going to have to do some work diverting my thoughts away from the ways I habitually seek contentment, but on the other hand, it gives me GREAT joy!! Because it means that the longings I have within do not need to remain going unmet, my discontent can be fulfilled, I can eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus can, and wants to be, my everything. I can give up the exhausting, relentless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of the intangible. Now, that is great hope indeed!

 

Bless you friends,

Deb xx

A Journey of Freedom – Part I; The Beginning

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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

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

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

Family Ties

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This pregnancy has been pretty rough. The first one was a total breeze compared to this! I’ve had chronic migraines and a host of other lesser issues, and it’s just been sucky really. People have asked me how my summer was, and I feel like I didn’t really have one! I was a total hermity-hermit. I went underground. I lay in bed with frozen peas on my head/neck, the blinds down, and on the bad days, a tea towel tied around my head to cover my eyes. My saving grace on the bad days was audiobooks downloaded from the library (The Magician’s Nephew is so worth a re-read), and on better days I managed to churn through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. For the third time.

Needless to say, it’s been more than a bit dumb. I’ve been the closest to feeling depressed than I ever have before. And it got me thinking about people who live with illness all the time. The silver lining for me has been that I know it’s just a temporary arrangement. For others it’s a lifetime.

After a particularly bad spell, which ended in a trip to the ER, my mum-in-law stayed over, did the grocery shopping and made a bunch of meals for the freezer. I cannot tell you how appreciated that was. Another friend keeps texting me at random intervals and telling me that she’s bringing food around. Others have offered to hang out with Judah. These are the things that represent who Jesus is in such a real way. These are also the things that have challenged me to the core.

I’ve got friends that are amazing cooks and just seem to be able to whip up a meal for another family; blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. Let me just say, I’m not that person. When a text goes out requesting a meal for a family in need, I’m ashamed to admit that my thought process goes though a wee grid. Do I know this family well? Will it be blatantly obvious if I don’t help out? Have they helped me before in the past? How many kids do they have? What can I make that’s big enough to split so I don’t have to cook for my family as well? But I’m realising that this thought process is just not the Kingdom way!! People in the New Testament church went so far as to sell excess land in order to make sure their brothers and sisters didn’t go without. I can’t be bothered going out of my way to make a blimmin meal.

I’m not just talking about food here. I’m talking about helping each other out with whatever needs to be done. Errands, yard work, house projects, childcare, finances. It shouldn’t be something we even have to think about. It’s just what the community of Christ does. At what point did it become just an option? What on earth has ever lead me to the place where it’s an added extra, rather than part of the fabric of life?

The thing about supporting each other in times of need is that it’s not only helpful, but it makes us part of the same family. When we lived in Christchurch we went through the fire. I won’t go into it here, but we lived a lifetime of crazy over those four years. I’ll never forget the outpouring of kindness and practical love after Caleb got impaled. I didn’t have to cook a meal for at least six weeks. People we’d never met kept bringing food over. They skipped their lunch breaks at work in order to spend time with Caleb in hospital. Magazines and HD drives with movies were delivered. Gas vouchers were given. It was incredible. And it marked for us the transition from people that attended that church, to family members that had been adopted.

You often hear people saying that “it’s just what you do for family”. That’s what we need to be doing for our Christ family. And also our human family, but that’s another post for another day.

So consider me challenged. I’m gonna just say ‘yes’ when I hear of a need. It needs to be the default.

Love you,
Deb xx