16/03/2021

Hellish Help

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:30 am by The Water Bearer

You know that feeling where you feel disconnected from those around you, when no one understands your heart or intentions, where you feel accused, misjudged, attacked, unsafe. When you feel that no one sees your value or allows you to be your worst self and let it be ok. When no one gives you the benefit of the doubt and every tiny thing you do is under a magnifying glass and scrutinized. You feel fragile and exposed but even when you seek God in that moment you can’t seem to truly connect to Him. It’s enough to make the best of us shut down, or crumble into a puddle of tears, or erupt in a cyclone of unpredictable emotions.

These feelings all bubble to the surface because deep down you feel you’re not good enough, no matter what you do, or how hard you try, there’s always a critic, waiting to pounce on you for pulling a facial expression you didn’t know you were pulling while a torrent of emotions overwhelm you… I’m mean it’s not like we can see our own face looking out at other people… right!

Most of the time you try to press those feelings down and say “I’m fine” to anyone who asks. This is a protection strategy, because during these dark times you are extremely vulnerable. You know you can’t trust yourself to be in that state around other people because all self-control and self-esteem has left the building. You know from past experience that you can’t trust others to get it, to give the validation, compassion and empathy you crave, and adding their misunderstanding to that level of vulnerability is like a Molotov Cocktail for your sanity!

This my lovelies is HELL… It’s a place filled by these fearful voices of the enemy deep inside us. I’ve be writing about Hell for a long time, about the sanctifying process it holds, bringing to light our fears from deep within so they can be seen and then cleared out, so they won’t unconsciously pollute our behaviour and our faith. But I’ve only just realised what others can do to help someone who is in Hell.

So this post is for me to learn and practice more than anyone, because I’m so sensitive to their hell I want to fix it. The closer you are to me, the more I want to stop your tears, but I now realise that these tears are precious, and necessary, and being “Happy” all the time is disingenuous and unable to bring growth. If we aren’t growing we are just dying, if our loved ones aren’t growing they are dying. So encourage the tears to fall, to water that authentic growth. God wants us to be authentic and healthy and free from the lie that we aren’t good enough. So we all must give our loved ones a safe place to unload their tears so they can get the relief and the lessons and eventually the blessings that Hell brings.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

How to Handle Hell

1.Never give Advice to someone in Hell. They can’t do shit in that moment… Nothing. If you understand what hell is like, then imagine someone giving you advice, you’ll probably understand why it made the top of my list. Wait until they ask “What should I do?”

2. Listen with eye contact if possible, and stay engaged with sympathy sounds, hmmm…Yeah… tutt… Oh.. geeze…

3. Ask them questions about their pain. Allow them to lean into the discomfort and have empathy (even if they are upset because of you). “Do you feel … Misunderstood? Attacked? Blamed? Like nothing you do is good enough? I hate that.. it sux to feel like that”. As I mentioned in a recent post…Validation is vital.

4. See their truth… This is so important… Look past your own fears, needs, desires, self talk, and try to truly see them, to feel their pain, to give them grace to pull faces and say nasty things and recognise they don’t mean anything by it, they aren’t to blame, they are just in hell. They are frantically battling demons and you are just getting hit with friendly fire.

5. Never talk about yourself or say “I understand” before they’ve unloaded. Saying ‘I understand’ or “I’ve been there” or “same” cuts them off so they can’t explain any more. They don’t get the freedom to ramble about it, to unload, to cry deeper and release more pain from within. We learn heaps about ourselves when we talk about ourselves. Wait until every question you can think to ask has been asked, and they begin to feel better, then say “I can’t tell you what to do but if you like, I can tell you what I did in a similar situation?”

6. Watch for your own fears. Often when we see someone we care for going through something difficult we get triggered too. Especially if it is our child or spouse, because we immediately take on some guilt that we were unable to protect them from such pain. When our emotions become fearful, we automatically go into control mode, we want to fix it. This is why we try to give advice like in lesson no.1. It’s also why we start talking about our own pain in no.5 and no.7, because we can so easily relate to theirs. But that makes the situation and conversation about us and that doesn’t help them.

7. Remind them that the enemy is up to his old tricks, lying to them in their thoughts and using their emotions of shame, telling them they aren’t safe, or aren’t good enough. Give them countering truths against these lies. Reassure them that they are more than good enough and loved even at their worst… Jesus made one hell of a journey just because he loves the worst of us most! Encourage them that the enemy has been defeated by the cross and this will pass and bring amazing interactions with God and huge growth of faith.

As I mentioned before in this blog and many others, there is a very important purpose to Hell, and there is no avoiding it, even if you’re “saved”. Hell is the furnace that purifies the flesh and soul. It reveals our worst selves so that we know where the enemy is getting in and that helps us know where to direct our attention as we grow in faith and towards the best version of ourselves. So the next time you or a loved one are going through a season of Hell, get out this blog, and use these tips to support each other through it. It just may help the Hellish phase pass far more quickly than resisting it, because in that moment you get to be the arms of Jesus, holding your loved one and helping them find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Every time I learn something cool about God or understand a little more how much the devil sucks, I write a blog so I can treasure the lesson. This lesson is huge! Its a game changer and it effects every single one of us. Thank you Lord for sharing your wisdom with us!

 

11/03/2021

Glorious Guilt

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , at 9:26 pm by The Water Bearer

Do you ever look back at your past mistakes and still feel intense feelings of guilt, even long after you have made amends or been saved? Some of you may wish these guilty feelings away, but I see them as precious and life changing. Feeling guilty for those times we really messed up is the appropriate emotion. In fact I’d be worried if you can look back at something horrible you did and feel ok about it. Let me tell you one of my most horrifying actions that still causes me so much guilt!

One early November, when my daughter was 6 years old, she asked me “Is Santa real Mumma?” In our family I had never tried to sell that commercialised lie to my children. I let them get a book from Santa at Kindy if he was making an appearance, but I never put presents from him under our tree. If you’re curious as to why, when I am not from any religious group who all hold this same opinion, you can read my “Poem of Christmas Woe”. So when she asked me, I replied “Do you want me to tell you the truth or would you like me to tell you the story all children in our culture are told?” she looked me straight in the eye and said “Tell me the truth” So I told her the story of Saint Nicholas, and that he had lived a long time ago and that Santa was a way of carrying on his tradition and honoring his generosity but it had all gotten a bit out of hand.

I’ll let you in on a little secret though, I may have sounded strong and confident when I argued my reasons for this stance, but I had to hold this stance against every single one of our family and friends who all made their kids believe in Santa. I had to do it while I was suffering from serious mental health episodes and with the threat of being deemed insane as my father was whenever he stood against the crowd in his faith. So it was extremely scary to stand on my own like that. To protect myself and this stance, I made her promise not to tell this secret to her school friends because that would spoil all the efforts her friends parents made to keep the magic of Christmas alive and it was up to them to tell them the truth when they felt it was time. She happily agreed and kept our secret for the entire Christmas season, smiling along with all her friends as they discussed what Santa would bring them.

The following year, around mid-December, I got a phone call from one of my closest friends, she was pretty mad when she explained that my daughter had told her son about Saint Nicholas and that his younger sister had heard and came crying to her that “Santa was DEAD!” Her disappointment in me sparked a chain of events that I will forever feel guilty for. Just thinking about it it brings tears to my eyes. I was so embarrassed and scared of the rejection my friend could inflict upon me that I angrily called my now 7 year old daughter from her room to scold her for sharing the secret I had sworn her to keep. I wasn’t just mad as much as I was afraid, afraid of being a bad parent, afraid of being a bad friend, afraid of being a fanatical freak ready for exile. Terrified would be more accurate. As you know when fear explodes it comes across as intense anger. I really made my poor precious little girl feel like utter shit. She immediately burst into tears of regret. I put her on the phone to my friend so she could apologise and her little heart sobbed as she pleaded with my friend for forgiveness. 

When I saw her tears, and her big eyes filled with painful remorse I had a huge moment of clarity. I realised that she had done absolutely nothing wrong. I felt sick! I had thrown my poor daughter under the bus to avoid taking the brunt of my friends disappointment and anger. Immediately I ran into my daughters room as she soaked the pillow with her tears. I picked her up into my arms and held her and I told her “You did absolutely nothing wrong Hunni. I am so sorry for being mad at you. It was my fault and I was completely wrong for getting angry at you. I promise you from now on I will have your back, no matter what! I will never again allow what other people think of me to be more important than you. You told the truth and you should always tell the truth. You did nothing wrong. I was so very very wrong. Please forgive me!”

Recalling that moment triggers masses of guilt in me, but I do not wish it away. Do I wish I hadn’t done it? Bloody oath I do! But I can’t go back and rewrite history. I have to live with what I did and all the other previous times I likely had the same awful reaction when my children weren’t perfectly pleasing to those who I felt I needed to impress. But feeling guilty is the exact right and appropriate response. It is the shocking pain of that guilt that changed me from that moment on, it made me a better parent, and I have always had my two daughter’s backs since that day 10+ years ago, no matter who has an issue with me or my beliefs, or my children.

There is yet another glorious aspect to painful guilty memories, and that is the gratitude and humility that comes when we look from our guilt to the cross. The realisation of how desperately I need forgiveness, I need a Saviour to save me from myself and my guilt and my awful mistakes, is what brings tremendous value to what Christ did for me, and for everyone! I flood with gratitude when I see how much He has changed me from the person I once was. So if you find yourself looking back on your biggest mistakes and feeling huge amounts of guilt, take stock and be glad, don’t try to down play them, or hide them away, because they are your testimonies of God’s grace. If you find yourself looking back and being numb to your sins or convincing yourself they weren’t that bad, then you should be very very worried about the state of your heart. For through Christ’s sacrifice He can forgive everything….except an excuse!

 

05/03/2021

Bitterly Blended

Posted in Family, General, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:44 am by The Water Bearer

 

Ever since the Boomers discovered divorce and gave themselves permission to break their marriage vows, there’s been a steady increase of single parents and blended families. I’m not telling you anything new, and we’ve all heard plenty about the negative consequences and scary statistics that befall the children who aren’t raised in a home with both of their loving biological parents.

However, in this post I plan to share some helpful tips for parents to mitigate some of the damage.

Relationships are complex in the most stable of circumstances, and parenting is a bloody hard enough job without doing it alone or bringing more outsiders into the mix. Especially at a time in history when emotional instability is at an all time high. There certainly are occasions where parents separate amicably and continue to nurture their children with love and respect for each other long after the romance has passed. But the more common theme is one of bitterness, tension and ill will.

Whether that bitterness is between Mum and Dad, or Step-Mum and Mum or Step-Dad and Dad etc. It’s extremely toxic to children… I’ll say that again.. IT’S PSYCHOLOGICALLY TOXIC TO CHILDREN!

“looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”
Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

I have testified many times the dire psychological impact from my own experience with this toxic formula. It happens while the parents are all consumed with their own powerful emotions, and trying to navigate each turbulent situation, so no one is really interested in how the children feel.

I tried for decades to explain my traumatic feelings to my bitter parent and yet I never felt heard or respected, safe or even loved. In response to sharing my pain, I was met with defensive justifying excusing their actions, along with all the reasons for their feelings. I was reminded of All the “acts of care and effort” they had done, as some sort of evidence that I should not feel the way I did. The message was loud and clear… Their feelings mattered and mine did not.

Is it really so hard to ask a child in your care “How do you feel and why?” Or ask “Is there anything I can do to help ease your pain?” Or owning your humanity admitting you made a mistake and say “If I could go back in time I would have done things differently” Especially as the children grow into teens and start realising the unhealthy strategies they’ve adopted to cope with their traumatic feelings.

In relationship therapy there is a simple process called “Active Listening” It goes like this… Ask “How do you feel and why?” Then paraphrase back “so what I’m hearing is….. Is that correct?” If you were correct then validation is so important “That must have been awful for you, you must have felt…. (Add in 3 or 4 similar feelings that they might have felt)” then reassure “I reassure you that from now on I will… (Your plan of action to prevent repeat)

Don’t parents think we know it all! We can even assume to know our child better than they know themselves… so instead of being heard, understood, validated and reassured when I withdrew emotionally to protect myself, I was accused of being ‘cold hearted’. Instead of asking why I stopped playing happy families and avoided close contact, I was called “ungrateful”, and instead of considering if my feelings were valid I was told I had been “brainwashed” or “coerced” by my other parent.

If you are a parent, in any style of family and you catch yourself doing any of the things listed above, allow me to be the one to knock some sense into you! If you accepted the role to care for a young person and you can’t see past your own feelings to show empathy to theirs then you are headed for a future of loneliness and drama, likely cut off from those children and their children. And you will find yourself having to badmouth those poor kids to everyone who asks “how are your kids?” as you try to shirk any blame for them cutting you out of their lives. Trust me, no one may tell you to your face, they may all sympathize and tutt and say “you poor thing, how terrible!” but underneath that they are thinking “how horrible does someone have to be to badmouth their kids? No wonder the kids don’t call or visit”. It’s not a good look… Ever!

If their unhealthy coping strategies don’t destroy them, at best those kids will end up in years of therapy paying someone to listen to their feelings cause you couldn’t manage it!

If you’ve read this and know of someone who badmouths the young people they accepted care of, either through birth, adoption or marriage, please be brave and tell them what empathy is and how to actively listen. That it requires putting their own feelings aside for a moment to be able to show compassion and support for someone else’s pain. You may just save a family and a child from becoming another statistic of God-only-knows-what!

 

 

 

 

 

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