Friday, April 29, 2016

Brave Girl

I have written several draft posts over the last few weeks, but for each one, when I've read over it I've felt "I'm not ready to share this yet.  It's still too real and too raw."

I want to be authentic, real and honest with you.   I want to be able to share what's really going on in my life below the everyday stuff, to go deeper than the small-talk kind of posts.  But I'm also very aware this is a public forum.

So it has taken a few weeks to process enough to blog about this event from the beginning of the month.

I was an attendee at the first ever "Brave Girl" conference, hosted by the inspiring Steph and the team at bravegirl.co.nz.   

Photo courtesy of Manda J Photography and Brave Girl NZ
I was feeling down and vulnerable.  My black dog seemed to be getting worse, and it felt that I was going around in circles despite doing all that I should and could in terms of self care and well-being and processing through my "stuff".  I felt that my lack of progress was a reflection on my strength and my faith.

Photo courtesy of Manda J Photography and Brave Girl NZ
Even during the conference I was fighting against the darkness. I'd woken up on the Saturday morning feeling down, and instead of dissipating the feeling kept welling back up.

Photo courtesy of Manda J Photography and Brave Girl NZ
I didn't quite know what to expect, but found the weekend like a soothing balm.  The messages and stories of courage and hope, were what I most needed to hear.  

Photo courtesy of Manda J Photography and Brave Girl NZ

To understand that He is with us in and through the storm.  To learn about the different types of depression, and the amazing relief to finally understand that being prescribed medication does not represent failure.  (I mean, I knew that before, but it seems I didn't fully believe it applied to myself).  To have some much needed time of support and prayer.

Photo courtesy of Manda J Photography and Brave Girl NZ
Thank you Steph and your team.  Thank you for being brave enough to take the risk that hosting this conference would have been for you.  Thank you for your effort, your honesty and your compassion.  I'll look forward to seeing you again next year.

This is NOT a sponsored post in any way, just my own personal review of this event. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Redemption, Atonement and Salvation

Earlier this month I found myself face to face with those long standing foes: rejection and failure.

As much as I tell myself (and others assured me) that it wasn’t personal, no reflection on who I am as a person or my abilities…
.. but I still feel pain.

As much as I tell myself (and others assured me) that everything has a season, and this is just the end of a season…
...but I still feel grief.

I’d catch myself thinking that if only I had stronger faith then I wouldn’t feel like this, and have to remind myself yet again that my emotions are no reflection of my faith, since in this darkness is when I cling even tighter to His love, mercy and grace.

I followed the emotions and thoughts back to find their roots.  I followed a shadowy strand into what seemed like a hidden cave in my mind. I followed it through a maze of many twists and turns, down shafts and through tunnels and passageways.  

I finally found myself in a subterranean chamber inside my soul facing a dark pulsating blob of hurt, rejection and shame, looking like something from a Dr Who episode, filled with the following thoughts:

"I am unworthy.  I am undeserving.  I am unacceptable.  I am nobody, I have nothing.  I am unattractive, and unlike-able"

I could see from this thing tendrils snaking back up to the surface, affecting all the areas that I'm struggling in, both in the present and as far back into my past as my memory would take me.

I sat in the dark, pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapped my arms around my legs and rested my chin on my knees, looking at this dark mass of lies, and asked Father, "Now what?  How do I deal with this?"

His answer was:
Isn't that the point of My grace and mercy?
Isn't that the point of redemption, atonement and salvation?
Isn't that the whole point of the Cross?
 
It only takes a single droplet of light to begin to dispel darkness.  And in that one drop of light was a distant hill, a chanting crowd, a suffering God.  

We hear a lot about the message of the Cross being forgiveness for sin.  And it is. But that’s just the surface of it.  Atonement offers so much more. This sense of unworthiness goes deeper than the wrongdoing that is usually meant by “sin”.  This darkness is not guilt, I know I have been forgiven and my conscience is clear. It is rejection, hurt, failure and shame.



Carried on his battered and bleeding shoulders was my black shape, the lies that have been burdening my life.  As the nails were driven into his flesh, they drove also into this darkness of mine. As he cried out “IT IS FINISHED” and breathed his last, the blackness was finally defeated and destroyed.



I wish I could say I’m not feeling these emotions any more.  But this is a journey and a process, and it seems these things take time.  I must still guard myself against the lies, and cling tightly to Truth and Light.  This is all I must do, the rest has already been done.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hold onto Hope

A glimmer of the possibility of something positive.

You don’t want to get your hopes up, now, I found myself thinking, You know this most likely isn’t going to work out.  You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

I fought back tears as I scraped vege scraps into the compost bin in the garden.    No, it probably won’t work out.  It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work out.  I don’t really care if it doesn’t work out.  At least I’ll know I tried.

Then I suddenly realised – when did I start making a habit of talking myself out of hope?  The refrain “Don’t get your hopes up” has been part of my inner dialogue for as long as I can remember.  Reinforced by well-meaning advice from many different people over the years.

But if it’s true, why do I feel so much grief at the loss of hope?  No wonder it takes so much energy to push through the doubts, if I have to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter anyway just to get started.
Surely hope’s not a bad thing?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12, ESV).
So why do I find it so hard to allow myself to hope?  Because I fear disappointment?  Surely the grief at the loss of hope is as painful as, if not more than, the potential disappointment would be.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
(Psalm 42:5, ESV)
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him
. (Psalm 62:5, ESV)
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12, ESV)
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)


It’s okay, I told myself, You’re allowed to have hope.  Go ahead and hope as much as you want.  If disappointment comes we’ll just deal with it then.
 
But it was too late.  Where the hopeful glimmer had been was now just hollowness again.  But I’ll be watching myself next time so I can learn to hold more tightly to hope when it comes again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

So this happened: again.

This hit.
It's chaos inside Briscoes following the earthquake.
Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/76869691/photos-christchurch-hit-by-57-magnitude-earthquake

Just as I started my Love Your Bible study group.  I was just getting to the "drop cover hold" point when the assistant pastor ran into the room yelling for us to go outside.

Flashbacks to 5 years ago. I sat in the carpark while the building was being checked, trying to concentrate on breathing and explaining to a more recent arrival to this City why I cannot get used to this.

Once the all clear was given we continued our study, but once I got home the emotions hit. I got the the curling up into a small qivering ball stage
.
I had been getting better.  I am confident I will do so again.  But I will  never  get used to this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dreams become reality

Five years ago, back when this city was still reeling through aftershocks, the council set up a city-wide brainstorming session for the rebuild called "Share an Idea."  This was Young Lady's contribution:


It appears every other child who contributed had a similar suggestion, because nearly five years later, here's the reality:


 

 

 

 
  

This is the generation this city is being rebuilt for.   This is the where the future vibrancy and creativity that is the outstanding feature of the New Christchurch will come from.

After so many frustrations with the slowness of the recovery, the delays, insurance companies, red tape, it's encouraging to see something wished for, hoped for, dreamed actually come to pass.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Holy Love


Holy Love, calling to me,
”Come with me, come further in.”
Take my hand
to lead me through shadows,
If I stumble,
you won’t let me fall.
Holy Love, bring me home.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mary


She felt the wave of pain spread up over her abdomen, increasing in intensity.  She tried to breathe the way her mother has shown her, deep slow breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  She had to stop walking for a moment, leaning on Joseph’s arm as the wave peaked and passed.  He looked at her with concern.  She was needing to pause more frequently for the last couple of miles.  She knew what he was worried about:  this was slowing them down, and they needed to reach Bethlehem before dark.
She rubbed at the small of her back, took a deep, determined breath, and began walking again.  Earlier one of the others travelling with them had offered her a ride on their donkey, but the jolting was too uncomfortable, it made her back ache worse . 
She could feel the pressure of the baby pushing down into her pelvis. She was tired and sore – her back was sore, her belly was sore, even her thighs were sore.  There had been several times this day where she wasn’t sure if she could do this after all.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” she whispered, to remind herself.  That day seemed so long ago now, yet she was sure of the vision she’d seen.  She’d clung to the memory through the mocking and shunning of the other women and girls once the news of her condition spread through Nazareth.  She continued to cling to the vision and the promise now, when it was just so hard. 
As she walked, she hardly noticed any more the road and the fields they were passing.  She held onto Joseph, trusting him to guide her. Walk, pause, breathe through the contraction, start walking again. If only she could rest.  She was barely aware as Joseph knocked on the door of his cousin’s house, the brief conversation, then the turning away to walk once more through the streets.  She only vaguely noticed Joseph say something about another relative the could try, a more distant cousin who might still have some room.
As yet another contraction swept over her, she wondered briefly if this day would ever end. 
The contractions were consuming all her concentration.  She heard voices as if from a great distance.  Gentle hands guided her onto a small straw pallet.  A woman’s voice, “It’s okay, Mary, I’m a midwife.  It won’t be long now.”
A midwife.  Mary felt a great tension she didn’t realise she’d had lift suddenly from her shoulders. Tears welled up from nowhere, spilling down her cheeks. The midwives in Nazareth had been among the women who shunned her.  She'd only had her cousin Elizabeth, then in the last few months her mother, to tell her about what to expect.  But the rumours and whispers had not reached Bethlehem, and Joseph was with her, and now here was an experienced midwife, with gentle hands and a reassuring voice.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” she confessed to the midwife.
“You’re doing great,” the woman replied, “the baby will be here soon.”
Another wave of contraction spread over her.  Before it fully passed another started.  Mary felt her muscles tighten involuntarily, again and again.  “Just keep breathing,” the gentle voice reassured her. 
“Good girl, the head’s out now.  Just one more push with your next contraction.”
Then it was over, and the sound of a new-born baby’s cry filled the air.  “It’s a boy,” the voice said, placing the warm, wet, slippery baby up onto Mary’s belly.  She reached down to hold the baby, still partially attached to her body.  As she looked at him, his eyes opened, gazing into her face. “He’s so beautiful,” and all the tiredness and pain disappeared from from her mind.  She barely noticed the last few contractions and the midwife busying herself with the afterbirth.  Everything was about this child, this new life, and the promise and hope that he brought to her. 
“I am the Lord’s servant,” she whispered to the child, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”