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!

 

 

 

 

 

24/11/2020

Accepting Unforgiveness

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:18 pm by The Water Bearer

I’ve always tired to be nice, polite and tolerant of people, I’m a typical people pleaser, so its easy for me to ‘forgive’, to keep the peace and get along with most people. I really just wanted to be included and I assumed this was how it’s done.

In the past this trait caused me to befriend the wrong people. Rather than being choosy about who I let close, I invited in anyone willing to show me attention, affection and acceptance. Even after they had treated me with appalling betrayals, I was willing to give another chance, believing I was growing and learning about forgiveness.

It’s not just friends that teach us about forgiveness, its colleagues, family and lovers too. Recently I have been learning the difference between friendliness and true forgiveness. The world would like us to believe that we must remain in relationship with those we have forgiven in order to prove we have let go of the grudge. But people are often nice to the face of those they hate, so how is being ‘Nice’ to them any evidence of our forgiving heart? I’m pretty good at nice, but I’m learning its not the same thing as true forgiveness. 

I heard Jordan Peterson say something like “Don’t pretend you are a better person than you are. If you have even 5% unforgiveness left in you and you pretend its not there, it will come out in other ways and may destroy everything.”

This got me thinking, because what happens when we allow someone back into our lives, claim to forgive and try to forget their past betrayals, only to realise they continue in the same vein? What happens when more betrayals build on top of the 5% of unforgiveness we may have hiding in our hearts from the last source of pain? Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7, but I don’t believe he was encouraging us to keep putting ourselves back in the path of someone who hasn’t learned the lesson from their last betrayal, or even their last hundred betrayals. I think he was talking about how often we all fail, feel remorse and need forgiveness and must give the same grace to others that we accept for ourselves. That is more about self-awareness, and growth, because we ALL mess up over and over, and our remorse must reach its utmost before we really make the changes and cease the behaviour.

In just the past year or so, a few of those I had ‘forgiven’ and let back in, became untrustworthy yet again. And those old beliefs that I must rise above, tolerate and ‘forgive’ came rising from within me. But when I took a good look in my heart I realised I was still hurt, still angry at past events even though I had continued in relationship with them, and so their recent betrayals just lit the fuse of an explosion of unforgiveness! It wasn’t pretty.

On top of that, people who I trusted for many years also turned on me, and it would have been easy to pretend all was forgiven and go back to people pleasing them, but instead I withdrew just a little, I stayed polite, but I chose not to be as invested as I had always been. I didn’t want to be included. I wanted an damned apology! I wanted to protect my fragile heart and I wanted proof that they were trustworthy again before letting down my guard.

Then came a huge epiphany!

It is often necessary to accept our unforgiveness and take the time to heal, in order to truly forgive.

Now this will be tricky, and can’t be rushed, especially with those who haven’t even apologised, and/or continued to betray me. I knew I needed a significant amount of time to truly forgive. I needed to heal that last 5% and that means I need time without more betrayals adding to the pile. 

Some may believe that I am unchristian and unloving by removing myself from the contact of those who need my forgiveness. But I know the truth, I know I have tried to treat them well despite the pain in my heart. I recognise they need my true forgiveness, not merely a polite relationship. I believe, thanks to the forgiveness I have received from my Saviour, that true forgiveness is possible and I am looking forward to experiencing its freedom when I get there. But in the mean time, I’m removing that overcompensating smile plastered across my face that makes everyone more comfortable with their mistreatment of me and I’m focusing on the process of entirely overcoming any deeper levels of unforgiveness, so that when I say and act like I have forgiven someone, I will feel and know it’s TRUTH!

 

 

21/05/2020

Surrounded by Flawed Systems

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Finding Faith, General, Musings, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:38 am by The Water Bearer

Its not surprising that, during this time when our usual way of life is placed on hold, that many more of us are beginning to see that we are surrounded by flawed systems.

As I list them out, it can be scary to realise that the things we rely on most are unstable and untrustworthy! So, you’ll want to hang on until the end for the good news and the solution to this conundrum.

We only need to switch on free to air TV to find its a flawed system. What used to be a device to entertain and inform, has been tainted by hidden agendas. The news is politically biased and promotes fear, advertising is extremely manipulative, time slots are unreliable, plenty of the content is offensive and mindless, and most of it is misleading. Its no wonder everyone moved on to pay for streaming. $$$

Speaking of making money, have you noticed how many companies alter their products just slightly enough to inconvenience us, but not enough to be found guilty of extortion? Products we’ve paid good hard-earned money for become redundant after only a short use. One example is Apple changing the headphone jack and charging ports on iPhones, so all your old charging cables and headphones are now useless. Money thrown in the bin. Living in a throw-away society has led to us throwing away money and big business knows we have little to no choice but pay up.

Now that I’ve eased you in, how about we investigate something more serious, like education. I’ve spoken to several concerned parents recently who only through the introduction of mandatory home-schooling have they begun to worry about the subject matter being taught to our children. This is something I have been aware of for quite some years, but now many of you are seeing just how often political biases and teacher’s opinions are being taught as facts. And how many of us have complained that our teens weren’t taught how to understand their vote, or how to apply for a home loan, or complete a tax return, or the workings of insurance, or the basic principles of our rights and obligations under constitutional law? Important information that would help steer the course of their lives. And don’t get me started on how words are being misused and their meanings twisted or even abolished, for the sake of simplicity and political correctness. Could the system that is supposed to expand knowledge, really be dumbing down our children?

How about our health system? Its kind of at pinnacle importance currently! How many of us have conditions which doctors have masked with drugs without identifying the cause? How many of you have stopped to research the drugs your GP prescribes? With the global push towards private health, how can we rely on a system that makes a profit by keeping us unwell? Think about it, someone in a big corporation is getting richer simply by exploiting our reality and our natural fear of suffering illness, pain, and death. And let’s not even begin to point out the flaws in the scientific community and the recent pandemic!

And its not just for-profit corporations that have warped agendas, how about churches and charities? Purposed to be places of solace to bolster faith, stand in truth, support the disenfranchised and radiate hope…. yet many of us have found the integrity of such places to be a complete disappointment. Aside from all the revelations of pedophilia, condemnation, and corruption, or the guilt trips set to coax you out of your hard earned dollars, to line their pockets or earn brownie points and gain bragging rights. Most of them simply don’t mean what they say. When integrity has completely left the church, you gotta know Jesus has left the building!

Lets get back to you…

How many of you are concerned about what to feed your family? By now many of you understand that processed and fast foods, which we have all been consuming by the truck load, since the 80’s, are poisoning us. We see the increasing amount of illnesses and allergies, disorders and inflammation, auto-immune conditions and hormone imbalances, syndromes and diseases impacting our quality of life, all of which are exacerbated by GMO’s, sugar, preservatives, artificial additives, hormones, MSG, pesticides, antifungals and more. All of which saturate products we chomp down to survive. We are beginning to see the hypocrisy that an organic meal costs 3-4 times a meal that is filled with poison. Yet even with both parents working full-time (while missing out on knowing what their kids are learning at school or watching on TV), the average family still can’t afford to feed their children non-poisonous food, or afford the medical insurance for when they get sick.

Whilst I would love to go on a spiel about the government, law, and politics, especially with the current restrictions on our freedoms, not to mention mandatory vaccines, microchips, climate change, 5G or the Magna Carta, I feel that is a rabbit-hole we could get lost in for quite some time, and by now you’re probably ready to check out from this blog post and this world with all its flawed systems. So, I will leave all that to your own research and imagination.

It’s reasonable to feel overwhelmed and helpless when surrounded by countless flawed systems, but all is not lost.

We the people are waking up to the scams, the hoaxes, the corruption, we are learning about our rights and our freedoms that our ancestors fought for. We are seeking for spiritual truth over dogma. We are searching out alternative health services and growing our own food, we are challenging our children to think for themselves and avoid swallowing their teacher’s biases.

Just like any good blockbuster, there is good and evil influencing our systems. Most of the systems mentioned above are influenced by the flesh, by greed, selfishness, thirst for power and control. They are influenced by evil, which has always set about to counterfeit the original trustworthy design of the universe.

Its no coincidence that our planet is precisely located to facilitate life perfectly, where 1 degree closer or further away from the sun would result in our destruction. Its no coincidence that organic food is best for us or that natural remedies hold untold healing capabilities. Its no coincidence that families succeed and survive better when they are a solid unit. Its no coincidence that intelligence grows as we discover more opportunities to ask questions and think for ourselves. Its no coincidence that evil is being exposed and its systems are being revealed as flawed, for the scriptures have spoken of these things for millennia. But in the end it ALL works out perfectly!

Therefore, I encourage you to have hope, especially those who have avoided reading scripture. This is all exactly how God said it would go, He warned us through His sevants the Prophets, but we chose our own way, we allowed our unrighteous urges and indulgences to drive the systems of this world instead of submitting to God’s wisdom. But the good news is that He also put in a contingency plan, so that none should perish. A Saviour, an intercessor, someone who upended evil’s opportunity for success, someone who told us that a new system, one completely other-worldly, would come in place of all current systems. A new government with Christ in charge! He passed the test, He overcame the desires of the flesh to overpower us. Instead, Christ showed us that serving all, having faith and giving up His life, His rulership and His rights for His people is what a trustworthy ruler looks like. All there is left to do is come to Him and await His return as King!

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

11/02/2020

Seek Not to Alter Me

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:17 pm by The Water Bearer

“Cheer up”

“Calm Down”

“Harden Up”

“Take a Breath”

“Just Chill”

“What’s Wrong Now?”

“Dont Stress

“Geeze you’re a lot to take, aren’t you!”

If you have a mental illness, you might hear feedback like this all the time. Usually from those around you who feel they are being helpful by telling you how to ACT ‘normally’.

I recently watched the movie ‘Joker‘, and yep ok it was little darker than I usually like, but for the sake of research into mental illness I thought “Heck, I’m just gonna give it a go.”

Just as predicted it was dark, I mean really dark, and brilliantly acted!

As I watched intently, gripping my throw-pillow and cringing at the brutality, one statement POPPED like fireworks when I saw it. It was simply brilliant!

Joker writes in his journal –

‘The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

This sums it up folks! WOW! I mean WOW!

I’ve been at this a long time, well over a decade, I am unmedicated and functional despite my episodes of Cyclothymia (a form of Bipolar with long-lasting episodes, some last months, others can last years). I know the tools that help me avoid episodes and the tools that help me cope with episodes, and I use them daily. When I’m feeling at my worst, I struggle to be around anyone who wants me to behave like they want, or even to behave like I would when I’m not episodic. But the reality is, I can’t keep that up for long, and often “playing sane” can trigger a spiral into an even more severe episode, making life so much harder to deal with.

I often think how nice it would be if someone asked “How you doing today Claire-Bear?”

and I could reply “I’m actually mid-episode at the moment and struggling to be here.”

and have them reply, “Well good on you for showing up and giving it a go, if you need a time out or want someone to talk it all through with, just holler.”

But I rarely reply that way, and the times I do open up, I usually get looks of pity or motivational speeches and well meaning advice on how to manage my mood better. Some people just back away slowly, wide-eyed, not making any sudden movements, never to ask how I am again. I’ve even had people take offence, some blame and shame me. Some say “well I’m here now, you could at least cheer up for me!” or “Just get over it!” or “I can’t believe you asked for some space from me!”

With all the awareness around mental illness of late, when will we as a society realise that there is no benefit in encouraging people to “Be Normal” when none of us are normal all the time, and life would be very boring if we were. You’d prefer to be accepted or at least tolerated, even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, because lets face it, you’re not perfect, no one is. Perhaps more of you could be authentic in your downtimes and weirdness if there wasn’t such negative feedback when you come clean?

Remember: An episode is not just a sad mood, or an extra does of energy, that can be altered to suit the crowd if you will it…And it doesn’t mean we can be written off as dysfunctional and useless either!

I am very lucky, I have a number of friends, family and colleagues who get me, they just do. They appreciate my amazing qualities and accept my horrifying ones. They don’t hold it against me when I act in ways that seem selfish or crazy, they give me the benefit of the doubt and don’t take it personally. They show support and they listen, they don’t sit counting how many times I interrupted them while in a manic state or take offense, demanding that I should “learn how to LISTEN!” They don’t get pissed off when I drop off the grid for a bit and stop initiating contact when I’m wrestling with depression, they reach out and say “Hi” with no expectations. They don’t hold against me the stances I take or excessive advice I give, they appreciate the wisdom I’ve gained from my overactive analytical mind and depth of thought.

So the next time you notice our imperfections…. instead of trying to make us act like you want, you could try saying

“That’s cool, You just do You.” or “I’m here if you need, Babe.” or a simple “I love you”.

That goes for behind our backs too, because eventually snide remarks all come out and who can tell the damage they can do to someone’s soul?

21/11/2019

“I love you”…. Whatever that means!

Posted in Family, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:19 am by The Water Bearer

“I love you”

Three tiny, yet pretty loaded and confusing words aren’t they?

They’re the stuff Rom-coms and Spotify playlists are made of, but the word ‘love’ is a slippery thing.

So when someone says “I love you” it could quite literally mean anything..

  • 1. To one person it could mean “I can’t stop thinking about you, I long to be with you every minute of every day, I need you!” (or some varying intensity of that)
  • 2. To another person it means “I accept you as you are, I appreciate you, and cherish our time together.” (or I’m learning what that looks like at least)
  • 3. To the rest it could mean anything from “I own you”, to “I hate you” and through every shade of grey or rainbow in between. (Let’s leave that group of extremists for another post on another day)

I know which one I’d prefer.. How bout you?

There was once a girl who believed she had found love. She spent all her time imagining their future together. She created fantasies in her mind of how their love would become the stuff of legends. He was going to always be there, and hold her when she was scared or sad, he would kiss her intensely when she was bored or lonely, he would be playful and romantic and make her laugh, and he would help her find solutions to all of life’s problems. He would fill all her empty spaces and she would finally be happy.

You can imagine her despair when in reality he had lots of friendships and activities to keep him busy away from her, and he actually pulled away when she was sad because he believed she needed space. He couldn’t tell the difference between when she was scared and when she was mad, so he gave her space then as well. He would kiss her intensely but only when he felt like it, which was usually when she was tired, which annoyed her. He wasn’t really the romantic type, thinking all that was soppy crap! And problem solving wasn’t his strong suit. He let things figure themselves out, while she found problems in almost everything and demanded he try to fix them… Instead he saw past her wild changes in mood, and he accepted her extremely affectionate nature even though he didn’t really like PDA’s. He dedicated himself to appreciating just having her as his special person, no matter what.

So, do you think she loved him?

Did he love her?

Do you think their love became the stuff of legends?

You guessed it!

Of course not! She thought she had chosen the wrong guy, she thought her passionate love was being wasted on him and perhaps the next guy (who she couldn’t stop thinking about) would make all her dreams come true. SPOILER ALERT : That guy didn’t last either… and neither did the next.

The problem was “LOVE”.

What she thought was love was actually insecurity, sentimentality, obsession, expectations and control All of these depend on her emotions and how she viewed herself.

Don’t get me wrong here.. It’s not always the girls who have this co-dependent view of love, in fact many young men are now looking to this generation of confident, independent young women to become the very oxygen they breathe.

Its important to realise that our own emotions, identity and self-confidence have a huge impact on what those words “I love you” mean. They can change what we mean when we say it, but they can also change what we hear when someone says it to us. We can expect certain things that they never promised to give us. Or they may expect more from us than we signed up for.

If we are emotionally aware, meaning we know emotions are fickle and we don’t always trust them, and we have a good foundation of self-worth and a solid identity, then we are more likely to find love in the 2nd way.

However if we have some insecurities, and are not accepting of ourselves, or have a warped sense of identity, and our emotions take charge of us more than we take charge of them, we are more than likely to fall into category 1… or God forbid, category 3!

There is an ancient guide to what true love looks like. It can serve as a template to meditate on when we are dealing with matters of the heart and relationships of all kinds. So before we say those words “I love you” perhaps we can check this guide to see if we really mean it. Now granted this is a divine form of love which doesn’t come naturally, however it is possible with help from God to manage our emotions, gaining our sense of identity from being His much loved creation, and understanding the goal of what love should look like. Could you love anyone like this?

  1. Are you patient with your loved one and try to keep the peace?
  2. Do you treat them with kindness, are thoughtful and understanding of them?
  3. Do you resist the urge to feel jealous and possessive over them?
  4. Do you refuse to boast to your friends about your love, not showing off on social media to compete or compare against other’s relationships?
  5. Do you apologise when you take your frustrations or emotions out on them?
  6. Are you in the relationship for what you can get out of it, or do you simply want to give love to them?
  7. Do you try not to get angry or emotionally sensitive with them easily?
  8. Do you forgive and forget when they take responsibility for their mistakes?
  9. Do you encourage each other to do your best, tell the truth, never lie to them nor tempt them to do wrong?
  10. Do you refuse to give up on your love when times get tough?
  11. Do you trust them?
  12. Do you always look for the best in them?
  13. Does your love get weaker depending on your emotional state, or does it stay stable no matter your mood?

05/11/2019

The Power of Pets

Posted in Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , at 10:43 am by The Water Bearer

When I was a little girl I was riddled with fear. I now understand that I am highly sensitive and the world is a daunting place for a child when things overwhelm and impact you severely more than your siblings. I felt misunderstood, petrified, ashamed, and broken. When I talk about my childhood in this blog, I usually focus on healing the trauma, but of course trauma is not the whole story.

Every little girl dreams of owning a pony, but as a child of 3 in a home with a single mum, I lowered my expectations to wanting a dog. It wasn’t just a longing, it was a desperate need. I even stole a puppy from a litter our friend’s dog had and told my Mum it just followed me home. “It must be meant to be my dog!” I fibbed. Even after my Mum caved in and let me keep a puppy from another litter the same dog had some years later, we soon realised it was unfair to leave a little dog alone at home all day everyday and my lovely little ‘Buffy’ ended up living out her happy life as a lap dog to my favourite Aunt.

‘Buffy’

Now, when I see how attentive my little Jack Russel is to my mood and sensitivities, and after all the new evidence about the benefits of anxiety pets, it makes sense that as a terrified sensitive child, why I was desperate to have a pet. There is something so spiritually soothing and special about running your hand over the soft fur of a loyal creature who’s purpose in life is simply to make you happy. It’s only now that I’m older and more aware of mental health struggles that I realised the profound impact having a pet can have.

Some years later, when I was on the brink of adolescence, my big sister was given the chance to lease a horse. Mum had always loved horses and had arranged riding lessons for us from when we were toddlers living in England, so when the opportunity arose to exercise and look after this gorgeous Bay gelding in a paddock not far from our home, it seemed too good to be true. “Prince” immediately became a treasured part of our family, and once we were in the local horsey community another horse was leased for me. ‘Crinalea’ was a mountain pony with a bad attitude, but we soon became friends with lots of pony club and practice, and my early teen years filled up quickly with all things horsey.

‘Prince’

Despite the financial struggles, Mum worked her arse off for us to eventually buy Prince, and while Crinalea wasn’t for sale, Mum allowed me to buy my own horse from the Trading Post. He was a stunning chestnut Arabian gelding called “Rusty”. Rusty quickly became my best friend in the entire world! (I have goosebumps covering my legs as I write his name, and happy tears well up). Rusty had been trained to be a dressage horse, (which if you don’t know, is prancing in boring circles) “He doesn’t jump, and he doesn’t do sporting events, he is only a dressage horse!” His owner informed me emphatically. I would have agreed to anything, because I had fallen in love with him the moment I saw him. Rusty and I had some amazing years together, he was the best therapy pet, so trustworthy and such a good listener. Galloping on his back was powerful enough to wash away the most painful of tears and his kisses gave me the unconditional love I craved. Funnily enough after a few months of pony club Rusty proved to be a ribbon-winning sporting horse and a brilliant jumper. He would do anything I asked of him with his whole heart, and soon it was clear that neither of us much like dressage! I was in horsey heaven.

Having a horse taught me so much more than I ever imagined. It taught me the internal fortitude needed to control a huge animal, and a sense of confidence from all that I achieved on Rusty’s back. It taught me about responsibility and duty of care, and once I started working and had to take on the financial burden, I realised Mum had made an impossible dream possible for us. I eventually sold Rusty when I no longer had the time or finances to keep him, and he spent his last years as a cherished horse at a riding school for the disabled. He was the most trustworthy horse they’d ever had and I took my daughter to spoil him with carrots when she was 5 years old. He was fat, happy and retired by then. It was a grateful and teary farewell.

Those years with Rusty remain as the most wonderful part of my childhood, I will forever be grateful for them.

Thanks so much Mum xxx

If you have sensitive children or perhaps you struggle yourself with anxiety, let me give pets a plug. They teach us so much while bringing many blessings. Thank you Lord for the power of pets! 🙌

‘Rusty’

15/03/2019

The Devil Made Me Do It

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:32 pm by The Water Bearer

Have you ever reached a point of anger that has become uncontrollable? Has it made you act in ways you never thought you would?

Have you ever felt so much pain and fear that defensive protection mechanisms caused you to say terrible and hurtful things to people you love?

I sure have.

I do understand how powerful emotions can make us want to lash out. I lived it for the first 20 years of my own life. I blamed everyone around me for my own feelings of disappointment and anger, I accused people of being unloving if they failed to meet my ideals of what love should look like. I called people I love names like “F’ing Asshole” and “F’ing bitch” and pointed out all their failings with nastiness, and then I shared all of their misgivings with anyone who would listen. I wrote letters outlining all the reasons I felt mistreated, all the reasons they were wrong and I was right.

Worst of all, I believed I was justified. I believed my emotions were valid. I believed my behaviour was not as bad as what they had caused me to feel. I believed that they had asked for it, that they deserved it. I took zero responsibility for my emotional outbursts, and in return I expected and longed for close happy relationships.

The real trouble with blaming, accusing, name calling, put downs, backstabbing etc is that once they leave our mouths or are written and sent, they break the precious trust that is needed to be close in that relationship.

Each time we say these things we feel, and they are directed at someone as a personal attack, more trust is broken. Broken trust creates distance, division, stress, triggers, defensiveness and many mental health problems like anxiety, depression etc.

The only way to repair that broken trust is to own up to the nasty things said and done and truly apologise, to feel the remorse of having said and done these things to someone cared for. Truly feeling the remorse of becoming untrustworthy and not being as close as before, and to promise to try not to do it anymore, while accepting that they get to choose whether or not to give another chance. Then to do everything possible to alter feelings and behaviours so that the pattern stops happening.

It is very hard to break patterns of emotion like this but it is possible, with time, therapy, faith and techniques that build self-awareness. This whole blog Inner Angels and Enemies, is dedicated to empowering us to succeed.

Being held hostage by powerful emotions that push us to treat the people we love that way, is not how I wanted to live my life. I saw this pattern in myself and my family and I desperately refused to pass the curse onto my daughters. And for the last 20 years I’ve been working hard to break this cycle.

I had to realise that not all my emotions are valid, and there is a devil who can create emotions within me, I was his puppet and emotions were his strings. Then I would be his weapon against people and all I had to say was “its not my fault its how I feel”. But what we say and how we act is our responsibility, and yes there is more than enough grace to cover all our failings, yet God can’t forgive based on the excuses that our ’emotions made us do it’, which really means ‘the devil made me do it’.

However God mercifully forgives our confessions, which is when we’ve taken responsibility and showed true remorse.

It is the devil at play, but we can overcome the devil through Christ’s example and He will help us change and break the devil’s hold. So then it is possible to gain control over our emotions more and more. Its a constant war. This is the spiritual war. This is what its ALL about.

“These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures” Galatians 5:17

The constant battle within each of us between the devils powerful emotions, and God’s forgiveness and power over those emotions. So we can move into Freedom from all the devil’s games and find real lasting unity with others.

Selah!

15/04/2018

Are You Getting in the Way of Your Own Serenity?

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:44 am by The Water Bearer

Why is it that some people are able to take their suffering and turn it into something positive and amazing, while others go backwards towards a more negative and unhappy life?

I think it all has something to do with the level of respect each of us has for our thoughts.

Respecting your thoughts might be a strange concept, especially in our current ‘mindless’ culture, simply because many of us are still not aware of just how powerful the thought life is. Just ask Dr Leaf.

Yet if we fail to respect our thoughts, we fail to see how they can steer our lives towards more good and fulfilment, or towards more dysfunction and disappointment. Just as we understand that we must have a foundation of respect before we can negotiate with a hostile person, we must use this principle in order to negotiate our hostile thoughts.

RESPECTING YOUR THOUGHTS

In the last post we talked about renewing the mind, and how the first step is to dig deeply into understanding the fear and selfishness beneath our survival instincts, and beneath our unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It really isn’t a one off practice, more like a life-long journey in search of truth.

This journey takes a certain type of awareness, an awareness that overrides our naïve thinking that our subtle negative self-talk is trivial, and has little to no effect on the course of our personal lives, let alone the world.

On the contrary, the power of one small thought can create a whole actual physical mechanism in your brain! Each mechanism dictates your goals and influences how you respond to various aspects of life. Every word, every decision has a significant ripple effect on your own happiness and peace. Which in turn effects those in your family, your workplace, and the world!

The awareness of this has to have enough seriousness to not be taken lightly, and enough humility to cut through the ‘good only’ persona we try to present to the world, but end up believing ourselves. Its time to take inventory of our thoughts, to assess them and recognise how much damage we are actually capable of. Then we must take responsibility for that!

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

GETTING OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!

Perhaps its time to ask yourself, Am I unconsciously or subconsciously sabotaging my own serenity?

Because those who are willing to excavate their thoughts and alter them towards increased serenity, will have a far better outcome than those who choose ignorance, or stubborn naivety. 

Are you ready to choose determination instead of defeat, to choose betterment over bitterness, to choose self-worth over self-condemnation, to choose to be a victor rather than a victim? Are you ready to turn your struggles into the very platform from which to build your purpose? Because in order to find serenity you must discover your purpose, and all that fuel that once empowered your pain, can now become the passion to drive you in a completely opposite direction.

Only then can you get out of your own way and chose to aim for serenity with far more success!

DON’T BE FOOLED

As a final point, if you are one of those who is convinced that you have no evil motives within, or that they are all behind you, then think again. Even Christ spent time listening to the evil within. In the wilderness we hear of how He became aware of the evil thoughts that offered him satisfaction for a selfish hunger that fed only His own body. He struggled with His identity in submission to God the Father, had to fight against the desire to take his own life. And He had to hold fast to His purpose despite the urges within to gain an easier tyrannical position over the universe instead of a painfully humble one.

Christ knew that before He could fulfil His purpose He must first spend time with His Inner Enemies, and learn how to transform them into fuel to push forward with the most precious and most unbearable purpose. So that, even at the very end when He wanted desperately to give up, HE SUCCEEDED! YEEEEEW! And aren’t we extremely grateful He did!! AMEN!!!

 

 

09/04/2018

Renewing the Mind

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:59 am by The Water Bearer

In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us to “Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.”

So what exactly is the pattern of this world that lures you into conformity?

You don’t have to look far to find a number of behavioural patterns to avoid. Things like violence, manipulation, bitterness, abuse, deception, control, addiction, greed, and unpleasant emotions like loneliness, nervousness, disappointment and depression.

Yet when we strip back all these superficial traits, get curious about their origins, and delve a little deeper into the caverns of the human heart, two very prominent patterns are revealed.

Fear & Selfishness

Foolishly we have convinced ourselves that if we were actually selfish and afraid, then we would be running around screaming in terror and telling people we don’t care what they think or what they want (probably with our hands on our hips!). But that’s merely evidence of fear and selfishness in it’s most immature state. All of us have seen children behave like this. Yet, despite our assumption, we don’t actually outgrow these traits as we age, we just learn to hide them better. We hide them beneath other “grown up” characteristics, like those mentioned above, and we convince ourselves that our ‘good deeds’ are proof that we aren’t selfish at heart.

Fear and selfishness in their most comprehensive form, are attributes of “SURVIVAL” – The instinct to protect ones self at all costs. This is the way the human brain was designed, to ensure the survival of our species. When we understand that the most prominent dangers of our current society are loneliness, criticism and rejection, it can be easy to see why we develop such drastic ways to control others, build and defend our reputation, and avoid scrutiny of any kind.

Here’s a little exercise to try for yourself. Think of a behavior that you would like to change within yourself. It could be anything. Name it. (e.g. Yelling)

Now ask yourself what situations tend to spark that trait in you. Get really specific. (e.g When blamed, misunderstood or ignored)

Then identify the most obvious emotion that those situations evoke within you and any physical sensations you may experience. (Anger and desperation/clenched jaw, flared nostrils and shallow breathing)

Once you spend a moment pondering the sensation and the emotion, lean into it rather than avoiding it. Now its time to ask the most important question. What am I afraid of here (worst case scenario) and is there a self orientated motive? (e.g Afraid of not being good enough, of being rejected and not being loved / demanding that I deserve to be loved!)

Sadly these patterns are all too common and can escalate to far more serious outcomes. Seeing as we have become a species that is comfort orientated, we avoid any discomfort like the plague. This includes emotional discomfort. When we experience the usual fight, flight or freeze response to normal unpleasant emotions we fail to learn what they are teaching us. So let’s not waste the opportunity to purge some of these unhealthy patterns.

Now that we have identified the patterns of this world, lets look at how to renew your mind.

Our brains may be designed with survival mode deeply ingrained, and neural patterns as the default for many of our behaviours, but thankfully they are also malleable, which means they can change!! YEEEEW!

Now I’m no neuroscientist, but even the most prominent in their field will agree that we know very little about how amazing our brains actually are. There are new discoveries all the time which drive this exciting conversation. That being said, there are some interesting breakthroughs within neuro-psychology that recognise mindfulness and meditation as accessing the brains malleability.

So this time, when doing the exercise above, try adding another element to it. Scripture Meditation.

Locate a suitable scripture or two, by either searching online or reading your Bible. Find one that re-frames the fear and survival urge and gives an alternate, Christ-like way of responding to the situation.

(E.g. Behold  what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1 & Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.)

Using usual relaxation techniques like slow breathing, being present in the moment and focusing the mind on simple stimulants such as noise, taste, smell, feel etc, allow your thoughts to settle and become quiet. Once you feel calmer, begin the exercise above again. Picture the usual situation that triggers the default pattern you wish to address and recognise the physical and emotional responses. Then ponder your scripture for a few moments, if your mind wanders just guide it gently back to the scripture, over time, the more you do this, the more chance that you will remember this scripture in those trigger situations.

The pattern has been slowed down and re-framed so that you have a moment to choose a new response.

Isn’t that amazing!

It doesn’t demand anything you can’t afford to give, it just takes the urge to be transformed, diligence, and conviction to trust the promises of God.

For those who have trouble settling their mind more than they like, adding the element of conscious slow movement helps override the wound up patterns, and increases the chance to develop self-awareness. This is why Sanctuary Stretch Classes are so multi-layered with benefits.

The trick is to understand that you can’t change anything in yourself without self-awareness. You can’t alter something you can’t admit. You can’t overcome something you can’t recognise and name.

So, what are you waiting for?

Your renewed mind is waiting for you to step up and claim it! Yeeeeew!

 

 

 

01/04/2018

Media Madness & Tips to protect your children from it

Posted in Family, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:18 pm by The Water Bearer

 

 

 

Warning: This post contains some explicit content.

I must admit straight out the gate that this is a topic I can get pretty passionate about. If you too find yourself throwing your hands in the air as a result of the current Media frenzy impacting our homes and our children, then this is the post for you!

CYBER-BULLYING, GET SERIOUS!

Today I saw yet another video of the horribly cruel things children have been exposed to over social media. Honestly, I say this with love and compassion that we know not what we do more than half the time. But some of the children bullied in this video were as young as 10 years old and all of them were under 16.

 

Please understand that I trust my teenage daughter as much as a trustworthy adolescent can be trusted, but I recognise she is not merely a small adult. She has not yet had chance to develop the maturity and sense of self-confidence required to withstand the impact such horrible comments can have on her mental health. She is still figuring out who she is and what place she holds in this world, and the negative effect of no privacy and constant peer pressure is not a risk I am willing to place on her shoulders.

 

For over 8 years I have held the stance that my children are not permitted on social media until they finish high school. Sure, I’ve heard the usual retorts that I’m too overprotective, that I don’t trust my child, that I’m preventing them learning life skills. These comments don’t sway me, because I’ve done the research. I’ve looked into the developing adolescent brain, and the stunted behavioural development that stems from online relationships replacing face-to-face ones. The reality is that I don’t usually go looking for trouble online either, but it sure as hell still finds me and impacts my soul. I’m very concerned about how many children need to suffer depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, self-mutilation, or become suicidal before we admit that Social Media is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18?

 

I’ve come to realise that the parents who get really opinionated with me, are usually the ones who have little to no control or knowledge of their child’s online life. It’s hard to keep on top of, especially if you work full time, it’s far easier to give in, and to justify it. Trust me I understand.

 

I agree, it would be nice to live in a utopian society where people don’t treat each other in these heinous ways, but the reality is that verbal abuse is all too common. And yet its not illegal.. Probably should be, but sadly that’s not the case. We must accept the true condition of our world as it is, and protect our children until this kind of behaviour is but a distant memory…

 

Thankfully I am now hearing parents changing their tune and wishing they could protect their children from it, and yet have no practical ways to combat the tidal wave of pressure to comply. Keep reading cause those practical tips are coming…

 

ADULTS GET CAUGHT AS WELL

Even adults struggle with the more serious impact of social media, let alone the less violent concerns like wasting their precious time, creating a temporary false sense of joy, and replacing personal interaction with impersonal clicks and comments. So why would we expect our children to know how to cope? Even the simple addictive nature of opening the app, click click, scroll scroll, is causing actual physical damage to our nervous system, our brains, and our bodies. It’s so mindless!

 

Another point to consider is all the photographs of children plastered all over their parents Facebook pages. Does anyone else feel this is seriously lacking in self-awareness and self-discipline? My sympathy if you fall into that category, which the numbers show you probably do. But ask yourself, were these children asked permission? Were they informed enough to understand that their entire lives would be on display for all to see and judge? That some of those in their parents “friends” list are people they don’t even know, yet they’re able to see images of their personal intimate moments? Could this be more detrimental than the paparazzi? Because at least the law forces them to stay outside our homes.

 

The line in the sand has blurred so much that children are now sending unsolicited images of themselves all over Snapchat without being aware of the consequences to their reputations, privacy and self-esteem.

 

Why am I the one left feeling awkward when I ask people to please take down photo’s of my kids, that have been put up without my permission or theirs? It is ridiculously hard to monitor! So why is this even legal?

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Neanderthal, I understand there are some precious memories that warrant photo evidence, and the cultural call to share triumphs, and world travel, weddings and so forth. Inspiring stuff right! An occasional pic (with permission) is not completely without merit. But WOW, it has gotten seriously out of hand. Can we stop it? Is it too late to hit the brakes? Rewind? Delete?

 

EYES ARE THE DOORWAYS TO THE SOUL

Its not just social media causing all the trouble either. Other forms of media have a lot to answer for!

Want a couple of mind-boggling examples?

 

During a NEWS program at dinner time, an advert for the trailer of the new 50 shades movie came on. I was sitting next to my young teenage daughter when all of a sudden, we are watching two people, mostly naked, in the throes of some pretty intense sexual activity. It’s honestly no wonder the line between consensual flirting and sexual harassment has become so hard to define.

 

I recognise that we have allowed the lines of morality to slur closer and closer to the abyss of ‘FREE EXPRESSION’, but when will we actually stop and look at ourselves and realise that we are watching people have SEX for our entertainment?! Not hidden behind closed doors, with the saddest, depraved, and sexually warped individuals, but out in the open! With our children!!

 

Many years ago, I used to watch the TV show Law & Order, I love the law and detective work, but then Special Victims Unit came along and all of a sudden we were watching children getting molested and calling it entertainment! Actual real life children are being given scripts to read, and roles to play where this is the story! Am I the only one who sees something very, very wrong with this? And don’t even get me started on some of the twisted content available on YouTube and similar formats.

 

Yeah, you say perhaps I’m just too sensitive. But I wonder if we know what exactly it was that our Saviour came to save us from? And do we even see the value of it?

 

My tears fall for all those who can’t see what’s going on! For the children exposed to images and abuse that corrupts their innocence and depletes their self-worth. I’m not sure how much longer we can sit by and watch this happen! So in the meantime, while we wait for the world to change, here are a few practical ways you can protect your family.

 

TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM MEDIA

Tip 1:

Be their parent not their ‘easy going friend’. It is perfectly normal for them to get moody and upset with you, you may feel fear at losing your ‘friendliness’ with them. But their tears won’t hurt them as much as certain forms of media can. When done right, you’ll end up all the closer for it.

 

Tip 2:

Exception not the rule. Set clear boundaries that Social Media is a unique privilege only for special circumstances, such as an overseas trip with school or sporting team or church. Refuse it if you can until last few weeks of high school.

 

Tip 3:

Prevention is better than the cure. It may be hard to hold your stance and you may want to cave under the pressure, but remember they never miss what they never have. Taking it away could be a far more difficult task. It’s much easier to stand your ground beforehand.

 

Tip 4:

Communicate. Explain your reasons and show them evidence of its toxic nature (they will also see the unwanted drama their friends experience). Regular communication is vital, listen to their side, and try to be compassionate. Yet stay the course.

 

Tip 5:

Consequences. If they do have social media and you see their behaviour, grades, or communication with you begin to suffer, use an app blocker to block certain apps as a consequence. Or confiscate their device for periods of time.

 

Tip 6:

Respect their Privacy. Create a private album for your Facebook photos of your children and only allow people they know and trust to see them. Remove any photo’s of them that they may not appreciate once they grow up.

 

Tip 7:

Value & Permission. Respect your child’s image by asking permission before you share photos of them online. Empower them to value images of themselves and not spread them mindlessly.

 

Tip 8:

Monitor & Follow Up. Monitor and put up firm parameters around your child’s use of internet and YouTube (Check the history regularly).

 

Tip 9:

Get Informed & Guide them. Use sites like IMDB to view the parents guide of all TV shows and Movies BEFORE your child has permission to watch them, and when something is rate PG or higher, (Parental Guidance is Recommended) Which means Parents watch with their child and guide them on how to think faithfully and healthily about any parts that are of concern.

 

Tip 10:

Fill Their Time. Find lots of good media content to fill the spaces so they still have the chance to enjoy a good movie, and the benefit of knowledge and research online, don’t go into cult mode. Have lots of physical activities planned for their spare time. Team sports, extracurricular subjects, and youth groups etc.

 

Tip 11:

Assess Your Child’s Growth. Be willing and open to discuss exceptions and pray for guidance on when the child is mature enough for the next stage, not just because “everyone else is allowed”.

 

Tip 12:

Outside the Home. Ask other parents to restrict their child’s access to social media and internet when your child is under their care. Inform your child’s friends that they are not permitted to share photo’s or information about your child online. Back this up with those awkward conversations. “Please remove that post and please don’t do it again”.

 

Tip 13:

Develop Trust. Teach your child to be able to monitor media content themselves and check in with you about it, and teach them to have the courage to say “I’m not comfortable watching this” or “Could you not put that photo of me online?”.

 

Tip 14:

Pray! Pray for the strength to hold to your stance! In spite of the possible hostility from your child, in spite of the looks of condemnation from other parents, in spite of the awkward conversations. Stand Strong!

Your child may not completely understand or agree right now, but they will learn to trust you more and more the longer you stick to your convictions, and they will thank you for it one day. I promise!

 


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