Buy Long-life Milk

I am in the process of packing up Anna, Ben and my home (along with Sophie, Rufus and Muffy and our latest foster, Lloyd) to move to a more manageable place that we will doubtless come to love as much as every place that we have ever lived, regardless of the circumstances that led us to move.

During the sorting and packing, I have found many things including my knitting and sewing from grade 9 (maybe my Home Economics ability was an early ‘heads up’ that wife may not be my calling); my wedding speech (I can still remember my second one, so yes, the one spoken at the marriage to the father of my children); as well as much that represented the wonders and disappointments of my marriage(s).

And as I say goodbye to the parts I have grieved and take with me the parts I have loved (as well as the Le Creuset pots), it has made me think of my friends who have begun the journey of divorce. This post is for you.

  1. Don’t for one moment think that this will be your ‘new normal’ indefinitely. Having your dreams crushed or crushing those of someone you once loved , while trying, among other things, to parent, friend and earn, while being emotionally battered as well as consonantly forgetting to buy milk for that soothing cup of tea, IS NOT NORMAL, new or not. Contentment, a strong and healthy sense of your identity as an individual, showing vulnerability and having it lovingly and graciously received and reciprocated is normal. As is buying long-life milk in bulk.
  2. Time does not heal just because time passes. If it mattered, you will need to intentionally grieve what you lost, even if it was just the dream of your marriage. Go through the stages in your own way and in your own time. In the beginning,  dating felt like cheating, as in the infidelity kind. Forever becoming never is like a time-machine gone wrong. Bad drugs couldn’t even take you on that trip
  3. When you are ready to date again (there are countless variations of ready), try and keep a few things in mind:
  4. If the answer to “How did you contribute to the breakdown of your marriage?” involves, I don’t know; my ex is…. ; I tried so hard to love him/her but….; RUN (like Usain)
  5. Being dry humped (absolutely terrible phrase, I know) while kissing him goodbye at the door is not a good sign. I have foster dogs who are also lonely and desperate. Say goodbye and come to my house where the dog will add a lick in the face too if you’re into that. And I will make soothing tea with my long-life milk.
  6. If he/she wants to marry you within six weeks because you are perfect, do not be flattered. Wait until he/she has shown he/she loves the whole you, good and bad, and that you feel the same before even considering a commitment that involves life-long promises.
  7. Don’t waste time with people who don’t think you are beautiful. Beauty is the sum of all your parts. Anyone who dates you and implies your beauty is conditional, may be considered a beast (Or a narcissist, *insert swear word here).
  8. If your ex meets another woman/man (no matter when or how or where), and he/she spends time with your children, be gracious (medication may be necessary). You may believe you have control over what goes on in his/her house, but I assure you, you do not. Being bitter, blaming, self-righteous and pretending it is ‘in the childrens’ best interests’ fools nobody, least of all your children. This is a first hand account. I am not proud of it. Neither would you be, my precious friend.
  9. There are so many good people in the world. Open your heart to them once you have experienced their goodness (not just been told) and have made sure you can love their badness too.
  10. Most importantly, always remember that you are loveable no matter what. And allow yourself to be loved by those who love well, with generosity of spirit, openly and unconditionally. You are so worth it.

And don’t forget to buy long-life milk.

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Yes

Yes:   an expression of agreement

“If the wounds on her heart and the bruises on her soul were translated on her skin, you wouldn’t recognise her at all” (Barrie Davenport, 2014)

The word ‘yes’ can deeply wound and even destroy, but when spoken with authenticity and freedom, can be powerful, redemptive and healing.

I often refer to Danny Silk’s book, “Keep Your Love On! Connection, Communication and Boundaries” when I’m trying to make sense of something in my life or relationships.

He talks about how, if our hearts are governed by fear, then much of what we communicate is designed to hide what is really happening internally. We hold back, pretend something doesn’t hurt or act as if we’re happy when our heart is breaking, in an attempt to avoid the pain of being ‘real’. Sometimes, we were not taught how to interpret our thoughts, emotions and desires and translate them into words, much less communicate them to others. The consequence of not knowing how to communicate our feelings are shame and fear, which leads to hiding behind an acceptable social mask. Not having the courage or the ability to face the truth of what we feel think and need, results in confusing and inaccurate information being communicated. At times even falsehoods.

It is important to remember that only those who value and understand themselves can value and understand others. Only those who communicate honestly with themselves can communicate honestly with others.

One of the most undermining and devastating types of communication is the passive -aggressive style. It can make anyone feel crazy because of the mixed messages, veiled criticisms, insinuations and discounting of another person’s thoughts and feelings, while the passive-aggressive communicator maintains the good-person façade. To be in agreement with the message communicated by those with a passive-aggressive style is to perpetuate our feelings of unworthiness.

But what if we only say yes to relationships where communication is assertive and the core belief of both people is that “You matter and so do I. My thoughts, feelings and needs matter and so do yours” (Danny Silk).

I felt slightly like an observer in a really affirming dating relationship I was involved in, which was a catalyst for the change of many of my skewed perceptions and incorrect assumptions about myself and others. He showed me unconditional generosity, empathy, kindness, respect, encouragement, honour and protection. He shared the truth of his heart with me which allowed me to share mine. While expecting me to be accountable, he allowed me my failures.  But me weeping when he unreservedly told me I was beautiful, kind or loving, made us realize that my wounds were deep and my core beliefs about how unworthy I was because of mistakes I had made, needed to be healed. And healing cannot come from the opinions of another person. It must come from within.

Often we have intellectual knowledge that has not yet penetrated our hearts or minds and until it does, our perspective is affected. I recently went on a heart-changing mission trip to Madagascar with a team from my church and one of the words that kept coming into my head was ‘enough’.

It made me think of Tim Keller’s explanations in his book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness”.  He explains that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer on trial. Jesus, as our substitute, has taken the condemnation we deserve and so we are acceptable; we are enough in God’s eyes because of what Jesus did on the cross. Knowing that the underserved verdict of ‘not guilty’ has been given, not because of our performance, but because of God’s grace, encourages us to perform on the basis of that verdict. In Him, our identity is secure. We can do things for the joy of doing them and we help people to help people, not so that we can feel better about ourselves nor fill up any emptiness. We say yes to good out of abundance.

In Madagascar, one of the life-changing experiences was connecting with one of the Malagasy volunteers. We were both under a table trying to manage the challenging behaviour of one of the children when we caught the eye of the other. It felt almost like recognition. Later that night, when we were at church, we were part of the same little group who were praying together.  And the next day, we found ourselves standing in a bathroom without a common spoken language, with me showing her how to apply ointment that I had brought with me from South Africa.  As she took off her second layer (I also never wear less than two layers on my upper body because of my scars), and I rubbed the ointment into her wounds, I looked at her and thought, “You are beautiful, you are precious, you are loved”. I realized then, that although we both had physical scars and had been emotionally wounded, we were still beautiful, precious and loved. And it felt like it was a message for every person that had ever felt disqualified or unworthy at any time, for any reason, to remember to say yes to being beautiful, precious and loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness: the act of forgiving

I have recently been reading a book written by Adam Hamilton called, “Forgiveness-Finding Peace through Letting Go”.
He prefaces his book with these words, “Forgiveness is essential to our lives. Without it, no marriage can survive, no family can stay together, and no society can be sustained. It is a necessary part of lasting friendships and work relationships.” He believes that that forgiveness is essential because our human nature means that we are bound to hurt others and others are bound to hurt us. He believes that if we are ever to know freedom and joy then we need to be able to say. “I am sorry” and “I forgive you”.

I have been wrestling with the concept of forgiveness. Particularly, struggling with being forgiven when it felt undeserved; not being forgiven when my repentance was genuine and brought about deep change in my life, as well as needing to examine even the hidden parts of my soul to determine whether I have truly forgiven those who have hurt me.

Many years ago, I attended a course on prayer where one of our tasks was to hold a stone in our hand and think of all the people who had hurt us in some way and those whom we needed to forgive. Once we had done that we were asked to transfer the stone to our other hand and think about all of the people whom we had wronged. As I sat there quietly with a small group of women reflecting on the people we had hurt in our lives, I realized what a burden it seemed both to forgive someone who had hurt me as well as to admit to needing to be forgiven.

Being forgiven is a healing experience that is encouraging and brings hope. But there are times that we face not being forgiven by those whom we have wronged or have felt wronged by us. Is God’s forgiveness sufficient to ease or remove the burden? Sometimes forgiving ourselves is most difficult and in a society that seeks justice and frequently favours retribution over mercy, we feel we need to suffer in order to ease our guilt. But does that mean that we expect others to suffer to be free of their guilt too?

When we have been hurt, we can seek justice or offer mercy and we need to ask for mercy as well as show mercy.
Forgiveness is most freely and fully given when the person who has done wrong repents.
Repentance is a process that should include awareness, regret, confession and change.
• We need an awareness or a consciousness that something we have done has caused pain to another
• When we acknowledge that and do our best to understand how that made the other person feel, we experience true regret or remorse.
• When we understand the impact our actions have had, we are ready for confession- for taking genuine responsibility for what we did and asking for forgiveness. This is about acknowledging the wrong we’ve done and asking for grace.
• Change is the most important step and means “changing one’s heart and mind, leading to change in behaviour”

Hamilton talks about what we are actually looking for when we seek forgiveness. It is not a request for the other person to excuse what we have done, but rather to pardon us. We are looking for reconciliation and for the restoration of our relationship. We are asking for that person to release the right to retaliate. In seeking and finding forgiveness, we experience pardon and restoration, which offers a new beginning.

There are times that we need to forgive without repentance from the person who has hurt us. How does one forgive someone who has inflicted great hurt, much destruction and will not take responsibility for it? This feels like an almost impossible task, but choosing forgiveness means that we choose power rather than powerlessness- we choose not to give the person who has hurt us any more power over us.

In Tim Keller’s book, “Reason for God”, he talks about the need to grant forgiveness before it is felt and that releasing the anger, hurt and bitterness through choosing forgiveness is a process that leads to peace and new life. A process that is difficult and often needs to be repeated. But brings restoration.

I hope that as I continue on my sometimes challenging journey of life, that what I have learned about forgiveness takes hold of me in a way that leads to sincere and absolute forgiveness of myself and others and brings peace and new hope.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future” Paul Boese

Hope in Acceptance

Chronic: continuing for a long time
Stolen: something belonging to someone, taken without permission
Happiness: a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction; a good feeling

I have ulcerative colitis, which is a chronic disease of the large intestine (colon). The lining of the colon becomes inflamed and results in tiny open sores which produce both mucous and pus. During an attack, symptoms include abdominal pain which is both crampy and constantly searing, making sitting and breathing difficult at times. Bloody diarrhoea which is frequent and urgent, interfering with even the most basic daily activities.
This is a disease that is not easily spoken about because going to the toilet to make a watery bloody pooh every half an hour with unrelenting pain is not considered polite conversation. Or even impolite conversation. It’s as uncomfortable as the symptoms which the sufferer feels the need to hide. But what makes having this disease particularly difficult is the loneliness and the persistent fear. The fear is constant. The only way to try and manage it is to  put it in a compartment of my mind, sometimes letting bits out in order to attempt to process it.

I have recently come to realize, almost 18 years after I was first diagnosed, that this disease has continually and chronically stolen what should have been the happiest moments of my life. And although I have lost, others too have paid the price for that theft.

I was diagnosed as a 21 year old in my last year of university. In study week of my final speech therapy exams, I became so ill that the only way I could study was for my mother to read all my notes to me over and over while I lay in bed. I could not eat and could barely drink anything without almost unbearable abdominal pain. The exhaustion from the battle to focus on my work felt overwhelming.
I managed to write one exam next to the bathroom at university with my much-loved professor intermittently coming to tell me rude jokes to make me blush so that I didn’t look so pale.
I wrote the remainder of my exams in hospital with a naso-gastric tube; a drip and a fan blowing on me to try and reduce my high temperature. Always with a slightly traumatised invigilator wondering why I didn’t just write my exams in a hall in January.

This was to be the first of my dramatic hospital stays. Buoyed by my friends and family and amazing well-wishers, I tried to pretend that writing exams in hospital after nights of wondering if I would die and other times wishing to die, was an experience I could process with peace and courage. But I was raging inside and the courage came from realizing how badly I wanted to have a ‘normal’, full, healthy-looking life. I had so many dreams, so much to be thankful for and so much more to hope for.

And I still do. But now I realize that unless I truly acknowledge what this disease has taken from me and live with it more openly, I will, in some ways, be a prisoner forever. The purpose of this blog is to share my journey in order to heal myself, as well as to encourage others to do the same. I have celebrated the miraculous and wondrous moments in my life as well as the more mundane ones, but I have never truly mourned the life this illness has not allowed me to live.