My Big Girl and I were having one of our ‘Deep & Meaningful” talks one night recently, as we often do. These are times I am so grateful for, as it seems so difficult to get teenagers to talk at the best of times, let alone with their parents. So here we were talking about life, faith, boys, future plans, past victories and sharing our thoughts about all kinds of important stuff. One thing she wanted to share, was how much she appreciates that she doesn’t equate ‘gifts’ with how much she is loved. She is happy with a balance of going without things, and appreciating what she has. However, people in her life are beginning to give her gifts as a gesture of affection. Many would perhaps enjoy being spoilt like this, but it actually causes her to feel uncomfortable and I can understand why.
I used to date a guy who bought me ‘gifts’ all the time, he would buy me gifts for no particular reason, and when a special occasion came along he would go overboard. I was a single Mum and counting every penny I had, obviously there was no way I could keep up with his level of gift giving. I gave him affection and attention, but not much in the way of material things. Unfortunately he didn’t know any better, it was how his parents showed him affection, they bought him stuff. They were quite wealthy and he wanted for nothing, yet he was not even close to feeling fulfilled or happy.
It is so common to try to buy things for our loved ones to make up for our shortcomings in regard to giving them attention or love. The act itself of buying a gift for someone could be interpreted as loving thing to do, to spend time thinking about the person you love and thinking of what will make them smile. However the person receiving these gifts only gets a short dose of warmth that easily fades over time. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought to myself , ‘Yep, they must really love me, because I remember that present they bought me last month.’
Another element to consider when buying gifts is that the intention can often create feelings of anticipation. If the intention is simply to make someone smile then fine, you will probably get a smile in return for a gift. But what if the intention is to get love in return? What would they have to do to love you back? Do they owe you something now?
A gift is a gift, end of story. It is a gesture purely to acknowledge that thought was given to a person or situation. Thought alone, not love.
If we really want to show our love for others it needs to come in the form of something that cannot be forgotten or broken or lost. If we give our loved ones things like loyalty, compromise, acceptance, forgiveness, freedom, trust, support, encouragement, honesty, affection and attention, then they will know they are loved. We won’t need gifts to prove it.
These expectations of love and the now seemingly common practice of giving ‘gifts’ in exchange for love, has led to the excessive commercialisation we get shoved down our throats at every ‘special day’ imaginable. We just recover from Christmas and then it’s Valentine’s day, we take a breath after getting that out of the way and all of a sudden it’s Easter, with chocolate eggs through to lavish gift baskets displayed on (a ridiculous amount of) stands in every shop. Add to that all the birthdays of those we care for, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Baby showers, Christenings, Birth of New babies, Anniversaries, and before you know it, it is stinking Christmas again! I don’t know about you, but the thought of loving someone with gifts is both expensive and exhausting.
It seems obvious to me that our inner enemies are trying to convince us that giving gifts is necessary when it comes to showing love, by creating hoopla around every occasion we can come up with.
We need to ask our inner angels to take over and encourage us to begin truly loving people in ways that puts gift giving to shame. In fact I think this post should conclude with those true loving gestures lingering in our minds.
Lord, help this world to overlook gift giving as a gesture of love and help us show our loved ones genuine love through AFFECTION – PATIENCE – LOYALTY – KINDNESS – COMPROMISE – SUPPORT – ATTENTION – FORGIVENESS – ACCEPTANCE – FREEDOM – ENCOURAGEMENT – HONESTY & TRUST! Amen!
I read a post recently by a fabulous writer who I have found in the blogosphere. Author Jodi Ambrose was talking about her recent birthday and reflected on her youth by listing her traits at 20 years old. You can read her excellent blog post here. I enjoyed Jodi’s blog so much that we began exchanging comments. One thing we have both found to be a true blessing, along with spiritual faith, is self-awareness. It is one of the most important things we need to achieve growth and inner peace in this life, and something I write about often.
After our little ‘comment swap’ I began to think about those who may not have as much self-awareness as others. It got me thinking about those people who haven’t changed much over the years, and are still stuck in the same old patterns they have always been.
I read a little something recently, it said:
“If you are the same person, with the same perspective you had a decade ago; then you have just wasted ten years of your life!”
Before I gained some Godly self-awareness, I thought I was self-aware. I thought I was a ‘good person’. I prided myself on having good intentions and wisdom. My heart was in the right place (or so I thought), I knew the difference between right and wrong (or so I thought), and I was a good friend and family member (or so I thought).
Back then I had no regrets, I had no lingering, self-conscious guilt, because I always had a very good explanation for my actions. It was usually something like, “I meant well”, “I felt ….”, “I’m only human”, or “I had no choice” (because of what someone else did first).
I had little or no remorse for my own actions, (unless of course I got hurt in the fallout). I never set out to hurt anyone, and if I did hurt someone else, I found a way to believe I was right, and that made it ok with me. I saw no reason to change, I was onto it (or so I thought). I used my excuses, and understanding to stay in my own spiraling cycle.
When I became aware of how God saw things, it smacked me in the face and it hurt!
I was SELFISH! I saw things from my way and didn’t consider that perhaps there was a better way. Sure I was always rushing to help people, I was thoughtful and did kind deeds all the time. I tried to find ways to show my affection for others so that they would know how much I thought of them. But I didn’t realise that I was really only doing it to be seen as a good person, not because I was actually a good person. I couldn’t admit the truth to myself so I figured all the trials of life were not lessons I had to learn, just tests to see if I was strong enough and if I could keep my faith through them.
Life will do it’s best to help us become aware of ourselves, and if we stop avoiding it we will be amazed by the realisation. And while it is a challenge to work hard and break the cycles you have been stuck in your whole life, it is definately worth it.
In a recent therapy session we were discussing the downfalls of having no self-awareness. My therapist put it this way “If you don’t regret your actions that affected yourself or others in a negative way, then you avoid the reasoning to need to repair the situation, and refuse to take a realistic look at yourself and make necessary changes.” In other words, these people can’t apologise without explaining why they aren’t really to blame, and they don’t see the need to alter the way they handle things.
He also said that “People who excuse their own actions and don’t own up to the pain they caused another, will continue to hurt others and will usually end up very lonely, they will also wonder why”.
How sad is that! Out of a lack of self-awareness we can damage our relationships so badly, and some will never find the inner peace of growth, or a new perspective and the truth about themselves. It may leave them without a clue as to why they feel isolated from others. We can easily blame everyone else yet we refuse to accept blame ourselves, it would simply be more productive if we swallowed our pride and took a good look in the mirror. That is the only area of our lives that we can bring about a true transformation.
The serenity prayer is one commonly found in households all over the world. It aims to tackle this self-awareness problem. We need the courage to face ourselves head on, to see the truth about ourselves and make the adjustments necessary to bring about a change in our lives, one we will never regret.
“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Sometime ago I noticed an underlying hunger for drama in myself and those around me. Any saga involving family or friends made its way around the group like a gasped version of Chinese whispers. Privacy was a joke, nothing was off limits.
I guess there were many reasons why we shared each others sordid secrets, we liked to offer our own judgements, we tried to convince someone to agree with our position, and we all tried to piece together the various versions of the story to figure out what really went on in each others personal lives, that way we could bring it up later if we needed to make a point. I was definitely a culprit of these gossip sessions and we all believed we meant well. A common excuse for this was that we cared. Fair enough I suppose, but there were always divisions between us, a little drama fed more drama, and it became common to stick our noses into situations that we had not been invited into by the one it concerned. Someone was always left feeling ganged up on and betrayed. Surely there has to be a better way to care for each other?
I am the ultimate drama queen, my feelings are amplified and this makes them almost impossible to deal with on my own. I need a sounding board to help me sought through the noise inside my head to discover the bottom line, the truth amongst the lies, so to speak. Yet sharing my secret thoughts with family members and close friends, left me reeling with more concerns about how much damage they could do with what I had shared. It pretty much defeated the purpose of divulging my thoughts in the first place, not much relief to be found, only more drama.
When I was in my 20’s I reunited with my Dad, he and I would talk for hours and hours, dissecting all the trials of life. He was a fabulous sounding board for me, and after a while I began to notice that something was different. He actually kept our private conversations to himself, and in one way the drama began to decrease because my secrets were safe with him. This was a foreign concept for me, he taught me about true loyalty. He gave me sound advice and carefully exposed the painful truth, not simply telling me what I liked to hear. Since then I have tried my best to be as loyal to others as he was for me, I don’t pick up the phone to involve other family members when I am asked advice from one of them, I keep their private thoughts to myself, and I clearly state that I don’t want to get involved if someone tries to drag me into another saga. If it’s not coming direct from the person themselves, then I don’t pay any attention to it. Therefore this helped decrease the amount of drama in another way. Amen!
There is a very real difference between why certain people share their issues. Some actually want advice on how to grow from their troubles, and to decrease the drama that the situation is causing. While others simply thrive on the drama, they want to drag someone else into it with them, or to play the victim and get others to feel sorry for them.
I used to try to help everyone with their crises; I got emotionally involved, I would pray for them and be there for them at every turn, this made me a magnet for every sob story in the vicinity and I was drained. After many years of this I came to see a pattern form. Many of them didn’t take my advice, yet they kept coming to me with their problems. I kept being drawn into their dramatic lives, my heart went out to them time and time again and yet still my advice was not taken on board.
They didn’t want me to help them change their ways, instead they wanted me to make them feel better, to carry them through their problems, they wanted to complain to me and drag me down into their negative perspective. Once it subsided they simply headed straight back into the same situations over and over.
In therapy I learned the term ‘enabler’, meaning – ‘one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behaviour by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behaviour’. I realised I was one. I gave attention to those going through hard times and helped absorb their suffering, but I wasn’t helping them to learn how to help themselves, for that they needed to suffer through the consequences of their actions and learn how to change themselves.
In God’s wisdom He allowed me to suffer physical and psychological damage in a car accident and for a long time afterwards I was unable to help anyone else. I was having a hard time getting myself through my own, very real drama, so I turned to God and Godly people for advice and followed it to the letter. I was genuinely willing to do the hard work, to grow and learn from my trials.
I still tried to be supportive for others, but ceased with enabling them. I told them what I believed they needed to do according to God’s ways which would invite God to change their troubles, but that of course was not what many of them wanted from me. These people tried to help me for a little while during my own crisis, but I saw that they fed off my drama and didn’t encourage me to grow with sound advice. In fact the opposite, they tried to distract me from my problems with a good time, and selfish indulgence. Once I noticed this I stood my ground and stuck to my path to grow in faith, as a result these people, the ones who I had carried for so long, turned on me. One by one they disappeared from my life.
It was as if God had picked up my life, given it a good shaking and watched as all the dead weight fell away. I gained a new perspective of how to help, who to help, and who to leave to figure it out themselves. My life became so much lighter, I saved my energy for those who deserved it and was left with true friends and supportive family members, those who encouraged me to be faithful during the tough times, those who kept my secrets, and who listened and applied my advice during their own issues. These wonderfully loyal people have stayed in my life and my relationships with them are true blessings.
I once heard someone say that if you put one crab in a bucket, it will climb out and set itself free. However if you put two crabs in a bucket, one crab will continually pull the other crab back, preventing it from escaping, so that they both end up rotting in the bucket.
I encourage you to look at who you share your bucket with. Are they helping you out or pulling you back? Thank God, I am much happier with the people who I now share my bucket with, and even though I am still a drama queen, I have come to enjoy the peacefulness of less ‘nonsense’ drama in my life.
So often I hear stories and see with my own eyes the damage brought about when parents separate. Children from split families often struggle with insecurity, and a string of psychological conditions. This is a subject extremely close to my heart, as I was estranged from my father from the age of 10 until I was an adult, and I still battle with the internal scars it caused me.
After doing some research I found some shocking statistics effecting children whose parents are no longer together. Not only are the children from split families prone to psychological distress, which lasts well into adulthood. These statistics also showed frightening increased levels in the following areas when compared to children from homes with both parents, these include; lower grades, poverty, poor health, suicidal tendencies, incarceration, teen drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual encounters, and the likelihood of being victims of child abuse and assault. 40% of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers; commonly the case in Australia also. Half of the children in America and Australia will witness the separation or divorce of their parents. A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure”.
It seems that many marriage vows are no longer taken as an actual ‘vow’, it is a promise too easily broken, same goes for people who chose to have children together without considering how the child may be effected if there is no family unit. For example when I learned of my teen pregnancy I knew I would manage on my own just as my Mum had, but I never considered how my child might be affected by who her father was. It seemed irrelevant to me, because I was a child who grew up without a father, and at that time I thought I had turned out ok. (Ha! I can tick off well over half of the points above!)
Due to the rampant popularity of sex before marriage, it has become more common to agree to have a child with someone before we have even decided if we would marry them. Having a child together should be acknowledged as an even stronger commitment than marriage, yet this often fails to be the case. Children from separated families raising their own children are sometimes unable to see the consequences from that separation, as they have not developed the self-awareness to see their true internal stability or instability yet. Therefore the cycle continues and increases throughout society.
So often in our relationships we allow too easily the bumps of life to divide us, we live in a throw away, walk away society which has destructive, devastating consequences to the development of our characters and the spiritual “footprints” we leave behind. Western culture allows us to choose our own life partners, we choose out of emotion, need and desire, and then quickly, easily, we doubt our choice. Perhaps we assume it was the wrong choice because our previous lessons came from one of our bad decisions. Perhaps its because we didn’t apply Godly principles of LOVE to our relationships. Perhaps it is just too hard and we give up in search of something easier, of course we forget that it was not meant to be easy. For children this destroys their ingrained belief in the capability of their parents. The very foundation of a child’s perspective of stability and security comes from the belief that their parents are the most capable people on earth, they look to them for reassurance. When parents fail to work on their relationship and it breaks down, so does the trust of their children in them.
The emotions behind the reasons we chose our life partners are fickle! Once powerful and thought-consuming, eventually will change, develop, or even disappear completely over time. We are humans with much baggage and sin, and we expect our life partners to miraculously fill our empty places and help us carry the baggage weighing us down, and that means they are hoping the same from us also. Love and sexual connections actually allow our baggage and sinful nature to rise to the surface, so that we can face it and deal with it together as a couple. However, the ‘Better or Worse’ promise only seems to apply when we see their ‘better’ side, and we stop loving them when faced with their ‘worst’, too often facing each others sinful baggage causes much heartache and leads to bitterness and separation.
Speaking from personal experience, this is something I spend most of my time in therapy dealing with. The essence of both parents is within a child; therefore any bitterness viewed by a child from one parent toward the other is identified in some way as bitterness towards a part of them. It sends confusing messages into the inner foundation of their self-love and security.
Due to this inner battle, where I turned this bitterness upon myself, I have suffered from an incredible amount of insecurity, unsure of how anyone can truly love me because it took years for me to learn to accept myself, like myself, let alone LOVE myself.
The enemy within knows our inner wounds and is out to destroy the foundation of all of God’s designs, especially the functional family unit.The inner enemy can exaggerate our emotions, pointing to the hurt or painful memories over and over, knowing the action that follows will be a destructive one. We owe it to our children to use our inner angels to war against these emotions, striving to make sure our actions are the result of a selfless, logical decision and not a selfish, emotional one. We need to call on our Heavenly Father, knowing that our obedience to Him allows His promise to protect our children to be fulfilled.
Didn’t we make a secret promise to our children when we became parents? We would do anything to keep them safe. Their inner security is vital when determining the ‘safer’ path they will walk in their lives and it is our duty to steady their feet for their journey ahead.
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In my post Discipline + Trust = Love I promised I would follow on with the story of my adult tantrums and how a changed perspective helped me enjoy many benefits in my relationships.
In my early relationships I was a manipulative, critical, conceited, control freak; unable to identify love at all. I allowed my emotions to control my actions, and used them as excuses to blackmail the people I thought I loved.
I had grown up believing with all my heart that I knew love because I felt it so intensely.
After I learned a bit of Godly self-awareness, I came to realise that what I felt so intensely wasn’t love at all; it was desire, obsession, jealousy, fear, and a lack of self-worth. I had held onto the belief that I deserved ‘the best‘ and should never settle for anything less, which gave me the sky as the limit for my expectations. Let’s just say that was a recipe for disaster!
How many of us grew up believing in movie love? As a child my favourite game was ‘grown-ups’. I would create the perfect imaginary life, perfect job, perfect husband, and perfect baby. I could have it all my own way and be completely happy. Of course reality hit like a brick!
Have you ever made a meal for someone special, rushed to make it extraordinary and watched the clock in anticipation of the perfect evening of dining and romance, only to watch it tick past the arranged time by over an hour? The first ten minutes were about as much as I could take before I began wavering back and too between anger and panic. By the time that special someone got a foot in the door I would be so worked up, I would be in his face demanding an explanation for his complete ignorance to my feelings!.…Am I alone in this?
It would usually go something like this….
“What time do you call this? Where were you? Can’t you read the time? Have your fingers fallen off so you can’t dial a @$#%ing number? Don’t worry about me! NO! I wasn’t just slaving away to make you a nice meal only to have it ruined, was I? I have been sitting here for over an hour, waiting for you, worried something may have happened to you! Obviously you weren’t even thinking of me! Am I wasting my time here? What else can I think except that you simply don’t give a @#$%! I deserve better than THIS! ARGH!”
I can’t believe I thought this reaction would bring about the response I desired from him …“Baby, I am so sorry that you felt that way, I love you so much, I will never do that to you again I promise!” Rush to me, hold me, kiss me and thank me for being so loving…End scene!
I am so grateful that I no longer believe that is love! Why would anyone rush home to that?!
The Bible describes love this way ‘Love is never tired of waiting; love is kind; love has no envy; love has no high opinion of itself, love has no pride; Love’s ways are ever fair, it takes no thought for itself; it is not quickly made angry, it takes no account of evil; It takes no pleasure in wrongdoing, but has joy in what is true; Love has the power of undergoing all things, having faith in all things, hoping all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7 (BBE))
When my Dad first showed me that scripture in context, it was difficult for me to read and almost impossible to believe, but once I began to accept God’s design over my life and submitted to His ways, I saw how far from a loving person I was. The reality of my actions crushed me, it was as if all that I thought I knew was wrong! I cried out to God for the ability to understand love and to change.
Then came my first new perspective, I thought perhaps I should treat the man in my life as I do my friends, friends who I want to show love to, friends who I respect and treat well. A friends love is believed, because they are free to love me or not, rather than expected to. If a friend was late for dinner I would give them grace, so why not him?
I took some time to try and learn to depend on God for His love and fulfillment, and when I began dating my husband, I would do my best to greet him with a smile even when he was late and I prayed away the anger that rose in me, to stop my inner enemies exploding in his face when he didn’t meet my expectations.
A number of years ago someone asked me why I was ok with my husband going out whenever he wants, without getting upset and making him stay home more? His job was in a social environment and there was always something to do with people after work.
My reply to her was an epiphany that I have used as an anchor, to remind me of my true beliefs whenever I become too controlling in my relationship. I replied “I would rather he be home one night a year because he really wants to, than be home every night because I forced him to.” I gave myself low expectations and this helped me cope with any emotionally controlling behaviour. I would rather know that he wants to be with me more than he HAS to! I also began to trust that if God wanted him to be the man for me, then he would be! And if he wasn’t meant to be then I was never going to be able to change God’s reasons for that! I had to let go and let God have his way.
Having less or no expectations changes our perspective. Perspective is everything!
Here’s another little example of how a changed perspective brought me much joy. This recent Valentine’s Day, which we hardly ever celebrate, I wasn’t expecting anything, no gifts, no romantic date, nothing. I woke up to a tickle under my foot from the man I love, I opened my eyes to look into his and heard him say “Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetheart” After so many years together, to still be rubbing our feet together under the sheets was the most wonderful feeling in the world! To hear him call me ‘Sweetheart’, and let me know I was his Valentine was almost too much joy! (I have happy tears in my eyes as I recall it!)
I still have to work hard at being the best version of myself as possible, to try to show love through acceptance and grace, instead of demanding it with blackmail and complaining. I go through good runs and bad, (once a month is especially hard, around pregnancy was particularly hard, after my car accident was downright ridiculous!). However I continue to try, to be self-aware and try to look at things with a Godly perspective. I have noticed that it is much easier to be loving to those around me when I am in close unity with God, and much harder when I drift away from Him.
I praise and thank God every day that He gave me the opportunity to become aware of myself and my unloving actions, and that in His mercy He saw fit to help me make changes to be more genuinely loving. Amen!
If your inner enemies are preventing you from feeling, giving or understanding love, I recommend you too call out to God for a new, loving, perspective. It will bring about a change you never thought possible!
There are times when the circumstances of life get heavy for me and the depression I have fought with rises back up against me. I recognise that my mood is contagious, if I am happy and full of joy so is the rest of my family, and if I am irritable and low it seeps through causing a bad mood to set into the whole house. While I am mostly known to be a person of positive and high spirits, I have a hard time being that way all the time, especially behind closed doors. I feel the pressure of that weight on me and sometimes it breaks me.
I want so much to help others find the methods that helped me through the darkest times of my life. But I still have so much to learn, how can I begin to teach others? I guess once again my disorder is causing me to doubt my calling, and it is pretty much impossible to publish a blog when I am filled with doubt.
I can see so clearly ways to help future generations live a life of faith and learn to let God have His way with our lives. To bring the abundance of peace, joy and love that I see when I have visions of the future, where God is once again given ultimate authority over this place.
I see it, I believe it, but I still struggle every day to live this life as that premium version of myself!
I believe my children deserve a Mum who doesn’t drag down the mood of the house with the heaviness of depression and the instability of anxiety, yet I have to submit to the fact that God knows why He chose me for the job.
My inner enemy is always trying to convince me that my girls deserve a better mother than me. I get so disheartened when I allow the negative poison inside me to overflow out onto them. I know what damage it can do and I want more than anything to protect them from it.
I have had a rough couple of weeks, with health issues and extra emotional pressure. When I get like this I remember all too well how deep I sank into depression the first time I felt this useless. My accident left me damaged and a shell of my former self. I was unable to find any joy or peace, except in my faith. But Faith isn’t as easy to share as you may think. Faith can hold you tight by the ankle as life drags you out over a cliff, on the outside I may look like I am faithless, panicking and freaking out as I stare down into the abyss beneath me. But I manage to stay there until I am once again placed on solid ground, over and over this happens and I guess I must find comfort in knowing that I haven’t been dropped to meet my doom. My faith has held me tight, no matter how far from calm I am.
I hit my lowest point a number of years ago, in my darkest moment I believed that they would actually be better off without me. As I stared at a handful of pills, and kept half an eye on a bottle of vodka, I thought to myself ‘It’s that easy’. I cried out to God to help me! Praise God I snapped out of it! I had to accept that my illness was clouding my clarity of thought. I had to put myself in my girl’s shoes and I realised that they would not understand that I was doing this for them. All they would know was that I left them, and the thought of leaving them alone to struggle through this life without me was even scarier than the damage I thought I was already causing them.
I thank God that He gave me the help to escape the trap my mind was setting for me. I swore that day that I was going to keep on my godly armour, to surround myself with an army of angels and prevent those thoughts creeping back in.
My faith pulled me back over the edge of that cliff and put me back on solid ground, but I had to work hard, I had to keep my eyes on God, and make sure I was honest in my therapy sessions. I kept myself surrounded with people who supported me and had to distance myself from those who may not have realised it but were dragging me down.
During my recent heaviness I shared some of my thoughts with my very faithful, eldest daughter, she said many wise words but mostly she wanted me to see myself through her eyes, that she saw me as a strong, loving and faithful Mum. She also reminded me of the weight of sin Jesus carried, how heavy it was for Him. How He pleaded with God in the Garden of Gethsemane to find another way to save people, to avoid His suffering. Yet He still walked in faith and finished His horrendous job.
So, if God wants me to write, then I am going to keep trying until I finish the job! I will give Him the glory of being my strength when I am weakest.
I may not always be the best version of myself on the outside, but I find comfort in knowing that God knows what is in my heart, He has given me self-awareness and a way to be able to share that awareness with others. I pray for us all that we hold onto our faith even as we stare into the abyss below, knowing that He has got us! For us to grow together through the internal war which the inner enemy is using to try to destroy us, and to find Godly weapons to make us VICTORIOUS!
In the mighty name of your son I pray… AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!