Daring to Dance with My Dearest: The Love Dare Challenge

Daring to Dance with my DearestDancing freely in front of others is not something that I am all that comfortable with. In fact, I’ve often joked that God would really have to set me free to enable me to dance!

But I’ve often thought of marriage as a dance. The country music song that says “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go” does seem to be true — especially in marriage. Perhaps a good marriage is a bit like ballroom dancing. It takes time to learn the steps in marriage. Beginner dancers are often awkward and clumsy. The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything becomes ill at ease. To dance with a partner takes sacrifice, determination and concentration from one person, and gentle guidance and skill from the other.

When you dance with a partner you are pushed away and pulled back, you are wrapped in a hold then spun back out on your own. It requires you to dance in time to the music, pay attention to the subtle cues from your partner, and try not to miss the beat, whether you’re leading or being led. One person has to lead, as when two people try to lead, nothing flows. When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, and two become one unit, moving gracefully and beautifully. If you start dancing on your own terms, you’re likely to stumble or step on your partner’s toes. You must lead or follow. When you follow, you listen for cues with every part of your body. When you lead, you must aim to make your partner look like a great dancer, even if it means doing a quick shuffle to correct for a misstep, or extending an arm to prevent a collision that your partner doesn’t forsee.

bigstock-street-dancers-performing-tang-28903664credit – http://www.slowmarriage.com

The dance of marriage is important. God loves marriage. But no marriage is perfect. The brutiful truth is that marriage isn’t always easy. But if we have children and we are married, what better gift can we give our children than the gift of graciously loving their father or mother?

I recently came across the concept of ‘Slow Marriage’. The therapist who developed this concept writes:

Often spouses expect a marriage to support them through a breathtakingly busy life without realizing that a marriage nurtures us only when we nurture it’.  

‘Slow Marriage is not about off-loading the stuff you love, or giving up on your dreams.  Instead, let’s get past silly tips and mommy wars and figure out how to make love last in the midst of a hurried life.’

Time can be a silent yet significant factor in any marriage. And busyness can be a barrier to having a flourishing marriage. If one is not mindul of this, busyness can even slowly squeeze the life out of a marriage so that the couple is co-existing in parallel universes. And are we expecting more from marriage today? In generations past, to a certain extent people married to have their physical needs taken care of, that of having a roof over their heads and food on the table. But today, do we have higher expectations? Do we expect that our spouse will help support our personal growth? Do we expect marriage to accomplish much, without giving our marriage the time that it so needs in order to flourish? Does a focus on personal growth make it difficult to stay married? So often in marriage we get busy with the demands of life and we end up functioning on auto-pilot, which is not helped by the reality that we live in a world that attacks and devalues marriage all the time. Consider that the current social trends toward helicopter parenting or longer work hours may mean that our marriages are surviving on reduced rations. They may even be starving or struggling for air.

If this is the case, how do we get more ‘oxygen’ into our marriage?

Consider that if we were to be gasping for oxygen on an aeroplane, we would be advised to put on our own oxygen mask, before we place an oxygen mask on our children (if we have children). Perhaps this is the same in family life. In a world that is child-centred in some ways, perhaps it is our marriages that require the application of an oxygen mask before our children. 

There are many fantastic marriage resources available today. Many couples may be embarrassed to attend ‘a marriage course’ for fear that others may think that their marriage is in crisis. But these courses are for any couple, not matter what the health status of their marriage is, and they aim to enrich and strengthen one’s marriage, rather than functioning as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. My husband and I have attended a few marriage enrichment courses over the years. ‘The Marriage Course’ was beneficial. Structured over five or six enjoyable evenings out, we studied the course material and watched the DVD’s  at a candle-lit table for two with coffee, dessert, and no interaction with other couples (See: http://www.alpha.org.nz). We would really like to attend a WeekendtoRemember conference at some stage, but this is also on our to-do list, childcare permitting. (http://www.familylife.com/WeekendToRemember).

And recently, ‘Refresh’ a women’s group that I attend has been studying The Love Dare Challenge. The Love Dare Challenge is referred to in the movie FIREPROOF, which I saw a few years ago (www.fireproofthemovie.com). In FIREPROOF, a couple dares to rescue their ‘choking’ marriage from the ‘flames’ of divorce and temptation using The Love Dare book as a guide. The love dare series aims to fireproof one’s marriage through ‘melting hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation’. As a women’s group, we studied the Love Dare Devotional, which aims to steer participants through the ‘fiery’ challenge of developing a strong, committed marriage in a world that ‘threatens to burn it to the ground’. We didn’t complete the 40-day journey, however we had two different ‘dares’ to carry out each week, over a four week period. These dares were simple acts of love for one’s spouse, such as being aware of how we are speaking to our spouse, and how we greet them. Daring to spend time together without talking, just being, shoulder to shoulder. Areas that I fall short in time and time again.

But the love dares were very useful exercises. And we are trialling 20 minutes couple time a day, with no technology (not easy for me, a self-confessed technology addict!). We are daring to dance with each other, even though dancing (for me anyway) is not really my cup of tea! To find out more about the Love Dare book, please visit: http://www.thelovedarebook.com.

marriage

I Write….

I write

By Marcie Watson.

I write to find such splendour in your earths design,

I write to find the sense of what’s beautiful to your eyes,

I write to speak the truth of what can be eternal life to all,

I write with joy and obedience of this gift, to your call.

I write to convey emotion, experience of human kind,

I write to capture beautiful memories stored deep in my mind,

I write to catch a small breath O God, of who you actually are,

I write what is captivating to my eyes, such as a child’s face; a fallen star.

I write from what’s inspired, as I journey through this life,

To bring forth a mighty message, which we need to hear at times,

I write to express my intricate wonder and discovery of places,

I write to describe those who’ve touched my life, the many special faces.

I write because I’m challenged by this world’s toil and pain,

But with all reason I write to speak of “hope” which lies with Christs name,

I write to speak of themes in life we all can take hold,

I write to reveal my thoughts on justice, dignity, honour told,

I write from being stirred to bless another soul,

I write because it is part of me and in my spirit I feel whole,

I write because within me, it’s what I truly adore,

I write to glorify you, because I love you deeply, LORD.

My dedication, my purpose, my life.

1 Peter

How to Host a Wearable Arts Party for Kids

wearable arts party

Wearable arts – ‘the event that makes Lady Gaga look like a librarian’, is where fashion, art and theatre collide. My mother and sister love World of Wearable Arts (WOW) and are travelling to Wellington next week for the event. Some of it is a little too arty for me, however it was the inspiration for my daughter’s birthday party as I wanted something a little bit different. My daughter loves dresses and if there were a film to describe her life, it would probably be ’27 dresses.’

27 dresses Bear in mind that this was a child’s version of wearable arts, and we didn’t make brassiere’s out of bottle tops! Initially I was inspired by ‘Mayhem’ a mother and daughter duo whose beautiful paper dresses have gone viral. You can find out more about Mayhem here: http://www.fashionbymayhem.com.

mayhem

paperdresses

wow sign

Wearable Arts was a deceptively easy birthday party to organise, and it was also fairly frugal. I cleaned out our garage, and turned this into a ‘Wearable Arts Design Studio.’ I put all sorts of upcycled papers (crepe, wrapping paper, foil, bows, ribbons, doilies etc) into one large box and had another box with old pieces of leftover fabric. We had a table with scissors, tape and glitter galore. With some adult supervision, the children (aged 4-7) were able to design and make their own wearable art creations. We also made necklaces out of coloured macaroni and string.

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Then we moved to the lounge and had our wearable arts ceremony. We had lots of fairy lights, and a catwalk made out of red paper stuck together with sellotape. We played the World of Wearable Arts Music through the internet, and each child had a go showing off their creation on the red carpet. We had a judge who announced the winner of the most creative costume.

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We had afternoon tea in the middle of the wearable arts activities, and I threw in a Frozen theme for the party table. The cupcake dress and shoes tied in with the fashion theme, and we also munched on sandwiches with a sign saying ‘We finish each other’s….sandwiches’. There was a white chocolate fountain – ‘Elsa’s endless winter fountain’, Sven’s veggie and cheese platter, and Olaf’s popcorn. In my attempt to make the party food healhy-ish, we had soda water with berries in the top. To my surprise the kids seemed to really enjoy this.

frozen partyelsa cupcake dresswow7Wearable arts was a fun theme, and would be suitable

for older kids too. Now there is an awful mess to clean up, and I need a cup of tea and a lie down!

sugar free party favours

Make Life Blossom: Spring Cleaning for the Soul

make life blossom

It was Shakespeare who wrote: ‘April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ But if Shakespeare had lived down under, he may well have wrote that: ‘September hath put a spirit of youth in everything.’ Many of my readers will be in the throes of the fall (or autumn as well call it in our neck of the woods). But for us here down under, we have witnessed the first buds of spring. Spring speaks of promise, hope, fresh starts, and new life. My own spring baby celebrated her birthday today. And instead of a clear spring day today, we were blessed with refreshing spring rain. What is not to like about spring? The blooming blossom trees, daffodils dancing daintily in the wind, surprise bulbs and self-seeded brocoli springing up in the garden. A chance to shake off the winter weariness that has been.

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In the Bible September is Rosh Hashana – the biblical new year. Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year.” It is a time to begin again, letting go of past mistakes and grabbing hold of God’s grace. I’ve been reminded this week that gratitude changes my attitude. Perhaps thankfulness is a good place to begin.

And spring is a chance to attempt some spring cleaning. Spring cleaning has always seemed overwhelming to me. Where to begin? And so this year I developed a spring cleaning monthly roster with one manageable task per month, so that I don’t have to attempt to spring clean everything in one season.

monthly home makerover plan

I’ve always liked outer appearances to be tidy, however the truth is that if you were to open the closets in our house, you might see a different picture. In our household we have ‘the messy drawer.’ But the mess isn’t really limited to just one drawer. There are many ‘messy drawers’ in our household. I ‘spring cleaned’ my closet the other week, and now it needs re-arranging again. Family life is beautifully messy.

Isn’t our spiritual life a bit like this too? If we are honest, our spiritual lives can be a bit like our messy drawers. We hide things in there that we don’t want anyone to see – the negative thoughts, bad attitudes, resentments. We may tidy these up, only to fall back into bad habits of negativity or complaining. I love how Ann Voskamp writes ‘I’m preaching the gospel to myself’, and so in that vein I have asked myself a few questions this spring. While my closet may be in dire need of a makeover, are there areas of my inner house that require interior redecorating also? How can I clear out the clutter so that new life can blossom? What might be interfering with making my relationship with God a top priority.  Am I devoting more time and energy to watching TV or surfing social media than I am in devoting time with God?

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Spring is a time to tend to the garden. And what about the garden of our heart? Are there any weeds that need to be uprooted? What about the sin that so easily entangles? Are there any seeds of resentment or unforgiveness? If so, we can draw near to God and ask Him to cleanse us. The more we invite the Holy Spirit to blow the fresh air of His grace into our lives, the more we become aware of how our soul may need a good weeding, as well as a clean, dust, vacuum and polish.  God is a God of grace, and there’s no sin too messy for God to tidy when we follow His cleaning plan of confession, repentance, and reconciliation.

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Hebrews 10:22
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

spring1

Spring is a good time to de-clutter. De-cluttering in the household arena is a constant battle. I find as soon as I throw out one bag of things, more things come into the house. And one of the biggest areas of struggle for most of us lies in removing the rubbish from our minds. There is so much rubbish in this world. One only has to look at what is on the television and in media. Perhaps we need to dust off the Bible, and feed our minds and spirits the Word of God.

And just as we may give away garments that no longer work for us, or sell or pass on children’s clothes that they have grown out of, we take off garments that we may have worn in the past, garments of pride or envy, so that we can be clothed more fully with Christ.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Spring cleaning for the soul is housekeeping that goes beyond what others see. God is always at work on our internal housekeeping and our lives can blossom when we obey what He is wanting to do in our lives. We can open the windows of our soul and dust off the layers from our past. We can trust that as we cooperate with God in this season, He will clean out the dross, and we will be drawn into intimacy with Him, as we passionately pursue His presence above all else.

springisaiah

Just a Spoonful of Sugar: Aren’t Our Children Sweet Enough?

just-a-spoonful-of-sugar

My children are sweet….well, most of the time that is. And I’m sure your children are too. But if your children are anything like mine, they sure do have a sweet tooth. And one thing I have observed about my children after they have consumed a significant amount of sugar, is that their behaviour is often less than sweet. Last week I watched with curiosity the Nigel Latta documentary on the impact of sugar – ‘Is sugar the new fat?’. As Latta says ‘Sugar is utterly entrenched in our way of life, but now so is type 2 diabetes.’ We know that sugar is implicated in obesity, a crippling health crisis associated with many other poor health outcomes too, and having trained as a health psychologist, I’ve seen firsthand patients with type 2 diabetes and associated complications. In fact, type 2 diabetes may bankrupt the health system due to the cost of dialysis from renal complications. Alarmingly, the rate of hospital admissions from diabetes related complications is increasing by 10% a year in New Zealand.  We know that sugar is bad news. Refined sugar represents empty calories, and there are no processes in the body that require refined sugar. In a nutshell – a little sugar in the diet is ok, alot is not.

But I should probably add a disclaimer. This post is not to condemn anyone or to tell anyone what they should be doing. It’s merely a reflection of what I would like to change in my own family. As a parent, you can often feel like parenthood is a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts. And when you have little kids you can feel very busy. Sometimes you may feel that you don’t even have time to think about what you are putting in your trolley, and you can buy things on autopilot just to get through, especially if you have several wee ones in tow at the supermarket. I know that I have often felt this way. The convenience foods are easier because they are just that – convenient.

The diagram below demonstrates how much sugar is present in popular foods that children consume. It seems that many processed foods contain more sugar than we realise. Sugar is hidden in almost all processed foods, because it is inexpensive. As a parent I’ve been fairly moderate to relaxed about the diet of my children. Some of my friends are much stricter about sugar and I admire them for that. I don’t buy sugar laden cereals, sweets or fizz, but there is always room for improvement. And the birthday parties I’ve hosted over the years? Well if I’m honest there is usually enough sugar to sink a ship and start a diabetes epidemic!

But recently I’ve wondered whether I should become stricter about my family’s intake of sugar. And so without telling the kids, I’ve changed our diet to mostly sugar-free. I haven’t bought biscuits or muesli bars and the little baking I have done over the last weeks has been sugar free, to which the kids have turned their noses up! But they have always been rather fussy, even with some baking that contains plenty of sugar. They particularly turned their noses up at the thought of a new recipe that I’d like to try – sugar-free cookies made out of chickpeas. Granted, they don’t sound too appetizing, and it may be the case of ‘Don’t tell them it’s healthy and they’ll eat it by the plateful.’ On reading this post, my husband, who has a penchant for pudding, was a little concerned that our pudding night might be ommitted! But I reassured him that pudding is still on the menu once a week.

I’m also trying to change the types of snack foods that the kids consume after school and other snack times. If we have biscuits in the house they are discovered pretty quickly, so I’m trying to opt for fruit or savoury snacks. And who knew that plain popcorn for example, contains more anti-oxidants than brocoli! My kids still have yoghurt pottles in their lunchboxes as they love youghurt, but these contain four teaspoons of sugar – eek! If I got really motivated I could make my own yoghurt with reduced sugar….

sugar-content-in-my-kids-favorite-foods

Source: http://www.greatfunforkids.com

Did you know that the average New Zealander consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar per day, whereas the recommended amount is nine teaspoons per day? And it’s not just the increased incidence of diabetes in the population that is concerning. Dental health professionals say that children are having their teeth removed at an alarming rate. What alarmed me the most in this documentary was the toddler who had dental complications and needed six teeth removed, due to excessive consumption of fizzy drink. This was heartbreaking to watch. I really felt for his parents too. We can often point the finger and judge, but we don’t know their circumstances.

If you want to view ‘Is sugar the new fat?’, here is the link: http://tvnz.co.nz/nigel-latta/s1-ep6-video-6060553. The nutritionist who provided consultation to the Nigel Latta show has also written an excellent blog post to help people understand how to evaluate how much sugar is in their food, and how they can reduce sugar in their diet. Here is the link: http://paleozonenutrition.com/2014/09/10/how-much-sugars-in-my-food-what-to-eat-instead-nigel-lattas-sugar-show.

Celebrating without Sugar

Most people know that I am party mad. But I have a goal of hosting healthy birthday parties from now on, or healthy-ish at least. I attended a fourth birthday a few weeks back (yes my social life now revolves around going to kid’s parties). My friend had presented really healthy food, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the kids at the party got stuck in to it. This inspired me to try and make my parties less of a junk food extravaganza. My daughter’s birthday party is scheduled for next weekend, and apart from the cake (oh ok, and a small chocolate fountain), there will be no other junk food. My kids love fizzy water, so instead of pink lemonade there will be soda water with berries in the top, a fruit platter, veggie platter with hummus, egg or ham sandwiches and popcorn. And the party favours are going to be sugar free too.

When persuing the aisles of the ‘red supermarket’ (the Warehouse) last Saturday, I was shocked to notice that Christmas confectionery and chocolate advent calendars are now on sale. I guess it’s only four months til Christmas. But am I the only one who thinks that this is commercialism gone mad? I think for Christmas this year we will put something sugar free in each pocket of the advent calendar. I don’t want to be a Christmas kill-joy, but I figure that the kids get enough sweet stuff from everywhere else especially at this time of the year, and it’s just the little changes that make a difference.

If you are a health guru, I need your expertise. Perhaps you’ve made your own ‘gluten-free bliss balls’ or you’ve tried and tested sugar-free recipes on discerning young food critics. If so, please post a comment or link up a recipe below. I’d love to establish a repertoire of sugar-free recipes. Sometimes we think that processed foods contain only a spoonful of sugar. But chances are, they contain more than just a spoonful. And aren’t our children sweet enough?

 sugar free party favours

Take a Look at Creation

Take a look at creation

I am excited to present a guest blog post by my friend Marcie Watson, who writes beautiful poetry. I am sure you will be blessed and encouraged by her words.

Take a Look at Creation

Today you reached my weary heart

With a simple word of truth

You love us simply as we are,

And with what we’re going through.

Today the waves which found the sand,

Spoke of an even greater plan,

How could a God who made all this,

Be absent from this scene?

The stretch of sky, the flight of birds, and the perfect depth of sea.

This beauty spoke of a creative God.

But one who cared enough to tell, 

That in His word we mean more to him, 

Than any bird or sea that dwells. 

He made us for his purposes,

Which our human heart can’t fully understand

But we know he needs us to spread His love,

And healing by his hands.

Just take a tender look, at a newborn infant babe,

It’s eyes speak of it’s soul,

And loving hands God gave.

Heavens mystery may be ours to find,

And right now on earth…we live.

But we know God must be personable,

Because he says ‘man dwells with Him.’

 

 

The Apple of His Eye: Finding the Father Heart of God

The Apple of His Eye

 My Dad is a good storyteller. He tells of the time when I was about four and climbing a tree, I found myself rather stuck. I ended up hanging from a branch holding on for dear life, and when Dad came to rescue me I said ‘I knew you would come Dad’. That is the trust that a small child has for her father. I think that this is the kind of trust that God would have us place in Him. That through the stories of our lives, even when we are hanging on for dear life, that we would be grace dwellers, trusting His heart and knowing that He is our father. 

If we are fortunate to have a father, Father’s Day is a good opportunity to celebrate and honour the father in our lives. Good dads are a gift. They are supremely important, playing a crucial role in the mental, emotional and spiritual development of the child. James Dobson from Focus on the Family says ‘I believe with everything in me that husbands hold the keys to the preservation of the family’. Fathers provide us with glimpses of how God feels about us.

My husband is an amazing father. He outwins me in the patience stakes any day. Granted, he is not with the children twelve hours a day like I am, but he is still pretty patient. And to honour him today, he was treated to a delightful assortment of handmade cards and rock paintings this morning, as well as breakfast in bed, a rare treat. 

But, like mother’s day, I am painfully aware of those around me for whom Father’s Day is a day tinged with sadness. There are those who are fathers but have lost a child. There are those who have lost their Dad. There are many who have never known their Dad, or those for whom the paternal relationship is complicated or strained. There are wives who have lost a husband, whether through death or divorce, and parent their children alone. Their children have lost a Dad. One lady told me of a the time when her son’s Sunday School class were making Father’s Day cards for the Dad’s, blissfully unaware that this child’s Dad was no longer with them. We have to be so careful. A day set aside for celebration can be a day of pain and heartache for others. 

Our generation has been named ‘The Fatherless Generation’. And one of the greatest wounds that a person can have, is the wounding from the absence of a Father. We can be aware of the needs of those around us who don’t have a father. Perhaps we need to find the fatherless, and for some men there is a call to fill the gap in the life of a fatherless friend. After all, scripture admonishes us to care for the orphan, as well as the widow. Perhaps we don’t know of many children who have lost both parents, but we are sure to know children for whom their father is not in the picture.

What picture does the word “father” paint for you? Is it one of security,  protection, provision, and tenderness? Or does the word “father” paint a different picture for you? The Bible demonstrates that God had in mind from the beginning of time the concept of family. I believe it was His intention that the family unit was a place where His love is demonstrated to both parent and child. 

But for most people, the reality did not quite match the ideal. Most parents do their very best. But so many people have suffered hurt and rejection by their families that it is hard for them to see God as He really is. Understanding the character of God is essential if we are to love Him, and serve him.  I had a good upbringing, but it took me a long time to trust God, because I wasn’t raised knowing Him. Sometimes it can be hard to trust what you can’t see. But God is there. The Bible says that we are ‘The Apple of His Eye’. We are the focus of His affections.

One of the most poignant revelations in the Bible is that God is our father. Have you ever thought about what God thinks about you? Are you aware of His extravagant love? It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood how much God really loves us. God reveals Himself in the Bible as a gentle, forgiving Father, who knows us intimately and is acquainted with all our ways. However, every person seems to have a different idea of what God is like, and for some, their image of God may require healing. We unconsciously tend to attach the feelings and impressions that we have of own earthly father to their concept of our Heavenly Father. Each person’s own experience with human authority is usually transferred over to how they relate to God. Good experiences bring us closer to knowing and understanding God, just as bad experiences create distorted pictures of our Father’s love for us. 

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One of the best known scriptures about the father heart of God is in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15-11-32). We are all like this progigal son, in that we have all gone astray. But unlike humans, who often love conditionally, the love of God is unconditional. We can think of a little boy covered in mud after playing in the garden, we reject the mud, but not the boy. 

Do you know the Father heart of God?  God is our Abba Father, but what does this mean? Abba does not in this instance refer to the Swedish pop group of the seventies! The word Abba is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated as “Daddy.” It was a common term that young children used in biblical times to address their fathers. It embodies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.”

Some of us know the love of God in our head, we might know the bible verses, but we haven’t experienced this in our heart. Have you experienced His generous love? Walking in the revelation of the fatherheart of God means that our life will be transformed. It means that we can rest securely in the love of God, which is a birthright for ever believer. It means that we will be provided for with His presence and gifts. We can receive His forgiveness and His discipline, knowing that God disciplines those that He loves. God wants to change us from glory to glory. He accepts us as we are, warts and all, but loves us too much to keep us how we are. He wants us to become more like Christ.

Walking in the revelation of the Father Heart of God means that we have ‘full assurance of hope’ as it says in the book of Hebrews. The devil may try to convince us that God doesn’t care, or other such lies, but God is greater, and He is calling His people, the apple of His eye, into great intimacy with Him. When I was preparing this blog post, one sentence came to mind. and it was simply this – ‘Tell them that I love them’. 

 

Abba

A Prescription For The Please Disease

a prescription for the please disease‘Saying yes all the time won’t make me wonder woman. It will make me a worn out woman.’ Have you ever struggled to meet the expectations of others around you? Have ever felt the need to please people in order to win their approval?  And have you ever felt that if you were asked to do one more thing you might crash? There is much information available today about ‘people pleasing’ and the ‘approval addiction’. What I call ‘The Please Disease’ seems to be a very common disorder that many of us have suffered with at some point. Some of us may have full-blown Please Disease and others may have a few symptoms.

Best selling author Lysa TerKeurst has written a new book titled “The Best Yes”. This inspiring book has come from her own experiences of learning that there is a vast difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. She has created ‘The Best Yes Blog Tour’ which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE. (http://goo.gl/bQVJW0).

Many people need treatment for the Please Disease at some stage of their lives. I am referring to a pressure to perform—an excessive drive to be accepted and approved of by others. Perhaps we desire protection from rejection, a desire so strong that it influences and controls the majority of our decisions.  However, no matter how hard we try, there will always be someone who disapproves of us or something that we do. In fact, trying to please everyone is impossible, but annoying one person can be easy! In fact, people pleasing is the easiest thing to do, however ultimately it may enslave us and make us miserable.

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We are not called to please others, but we must walk in love. We can’t just do anything we want, with a disregard for the feelings of others.  The Bible commands us to love others, but perhaps there is a fine line here. We must love, respect and care for others, we must listening to them and serve them. But on the other hand, we must not allow others to control us to the point that we’re never free to be who we are. If we do, we’ll aways be the person we think others expect us to be, rather than ‘daring to be different’, breaking out of the mold to be uniquely who God made us to be.

 

What are the symptoms of the Please Disease? How do we know if we are addicted to the approval of others? Firstly, we can appraise our need of praise. We all like to receive encouragement. We were designed to be loved and encouraged. But is our desire for affirmation excessive or out of balance? Are we honest with others?  Which opinion matters more to us? Another person’s or God’s? And do we do things out of duty or desire? Obviously life is full of things that we don’t want to do but have to (such as housework!). And yes we are meant to prioritise the needs of others, but caring for ourselves is also important. Are we making sure that we are caring for our own needs too? So many women run themselves ragged. I know because I used to be one of them. But I’ve learned to rest hard as well as work hard. In fact, if I didn’t say no to some of the opportunities to help in the community that I see around me, my health would suffer.

No one can do it all. The spirit is willing but the body is weak. Sometimes as a stay at home mother there is the expectation that one must help with everything and attend every school or kindergarten trip. Whereas I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t on the kindergarten committee or that I wasn’t helping with school swimming, then I realised that perhaps I wasn’t meant to be serving in those areas. My first priority is to my husband and children and they don’t want a ratty wife and mother, because I’ve been saying yes to everyone else. Consider this beautiful truth – ‘A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness or an underwhelmed soul.’ 

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“I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLT). I’ve been recently surprised to realise that people pleasing is a form of idolatry. In the Ten Commandments, God commands us not to have any idols before Him. We tend to think of money as an idol, or success. Sex and relationships, work, or fame can all be idols. But in reality anything can be an idol and desiring the approval of another person above God’s approval is also a form of idolatry. 

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Thankfully there is a prescription for the Please Disease. We can cast down imaginations about what we think others might think of us, and tell ourselves the truth based on the Word of God. And what is this truth? The truth is that we only have to live for God’s approval, not man’s. Because God’s approval is more important than popularity. To live without the fear of what other people think of us is true freedom. Granted, it can be hard to get to this place however. Apparently the older one gets the less one cares about what others think of them!

There are several things to remember if we are struggling with wanting to please others. Even God can’t please everybody. Furthermore, we don’t need anyone’s approval to be happy. One day we will give an account of our lives to God. God shaped us to be who we are. We can’t change just to get others to like us. We just have to be uniquely and authentically ourselves, while loving others radically. But loving others radically does not mean always pleasing others. Perhaps there is a difference. As Lysa describes another beautiful truth in her book ‘The Best Yes’ – ‘We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please’.

 

 

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Touching the Cloak of the King: She Who Shunned Shame

She who shunned shame

The danger of an iceberg is not what is seen, but what lies beneath. Because what lies beneath is what sinks ships. Isn’t this also true of us? Last weekend I attended a seminar on the topic of shame. I attended a seminar on trauma last year and noticed that there were less participants in attendance this year, despite the seminar being presented by the same high quality international speaker. Is this because many people are too ashamed to attend a seminar on shame?! We may think – shame, who me? But all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve carry shame. Shame can even be in our DNA and can be passed down the generations. If we have a fear of abandonment or rejection, a fear of people getting to know us, a fear of making mistakes, of being seen, or if we struggle to forgive others, or battle feelings of worthlessness or anger, chances are we may be wrapped up in shame, without even realising it. And there are many more symptoms of shame. These symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. 

One definition of shame is ‘to stun, to grow numb, to devastate, to stupefy.’ Another is ‘to be astonished, appalled, desolate, wasted, ravaged, destroyed, destitute.’ Shame is the enemy of love, it tipifies shrinking back. It causes us to hide. And so many people in the Body of Christ are struggling with the pressure of life, anxiety, discouragement, even addictions – which may have a root cause of shame. While there is a difference between humility and humiliation, there is also a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt, a painful feeling of regret and remorse when we have done something wrong, is to a certain extent our friend, as it leads us to repentance and reconciliation. Shame on the other hand, enslaves us to trauma and sin, and is an enemy of true repentance, Godly humility and grace. Shame is an issue of identity, rather than behaviour, and it hinders our relationship with God and others. So many people are wrapped in the shame of a failure, such as a failed business or marriage. Many people carry this for their whole lives. Shame prevents us from fully loving others, and it prevents us from walking in healthy self-respect and dignity. We see the first example of shame and rejection in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve sinned and what was the result? Shame. The fruit of their rebellion included fear, blame, a tendency to hide and isolate, and a tendency to perform to receive love. They also questioned God’s word, His nature, and His heart and they rejected relationship with Him. 

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Shame is a lie. It is a lie that we believe about ourselves where we reject God’s love and forgiveness, based on our own feelings of unworthiness. While guilt may say ‘I have done something wrong’, shame says ‘I am wrong.’ Shame personifies our behaviour. Other lies of shame include:- I am inadequate, I am stupid, I am alone. Shame tempts us to say ‘I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.’ Listen to what you are saying to yourself. Robert Louis Stephenson has been quoted as saying that ‘the strongest lies are often told in silence.’

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Like Adam and Eve, we can experience shame when we sin, or when our needs are not met. We have an innate need to be loved unconditionally, and welcomed with a place of belonging built into our heart. But when our needs are ignored or refused especially in childhood, deep roots of rejection and shame can result. Rejection and shame wound our heart and spirit and are often considered to be the worst anguish a person can suffer. Rejection and shame can be so painful that the pain is buried, affecting the ‘song’ of our life. When trauma and shame affect our song we can be out of tune, out of harmony, and and out of time. We don’t resonate. Some individuals may have experience significant unresolved childhood trauma, they may have been unwanted, or they may have been raised in an unsafe or unhealthy home and they may have experienced the trauma of unmet needs. Shame can be modelled and can in some homes be used as a tool for discipline. In other homes, standards of performance are not realistic and this can create shame. For some, it may be the family rules that one had to live by, such as ‘Image is everything’ ‘Be good all the time’ or ‘Don’t rock the boat.’

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I like the analogy of a treasure chest. We each have a treasure chest that our parents can fill when we are growing up. Parents can fill our treasure chest with love, affirmation, affection, and a sense of purpose and destiny. However for many reasons, parents are often unable to fill our treasure chest. Most parents do their best, but ‘you can’t give away what you don’t have.’ As a result, what do many people do as adults? They fill their treasure chest with other things – food, alcohol, drugs, shopping. The gold, the glamour and the girls. Our treasure chests can also be filled with busyness, good works and charity. We can do the right things with the wrong motives.

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We don’t have to have experienced a traumatic childhood to carry shame.  It can be the culmination of little experiences over a lifetime. An unkind word here, a difficult experience there. Being the recipient of a single bullying incident. Shame can even come from the cultural beliefs and customs of a culture, such as the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in New Zealand or the need to ‘save face’. Even the words that have been spoken over us or to ourselves can cause us to feel shame. Such as ‘I wish you were never born’ or ‘No one will ever want someone like you’. The power of life and death is indeed in the tongue. We may have experienced rejection for our appearance, colour, gender, weight, or a deformity, our ability or social status. The labels that may have been applied to us may have caused shame, but just as we remove labels on a new garment, we must also take off the labels from the garments of shame that we have worn. 

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But there is a remedy for rejection. Derek Prince has even written a book with this title. Jesus himself was acquainted with rejection and shame. He was despised by his own family, his own people, friends, leaders and the crowd. He also felt the pain of feeling betrayed from His heavenly father. And just like the woman with the issue of blood who shunned shame and reached out to Jesus, we can do the same. What this tenacious woman did shows that what is not possible with man is possible with God. She was healed by touching the hem of His garment. She was set free immediately from her physical condition and the associated psychological affects of shame.

However, for many of us, healing may take time, years even. But we can take heart that Jesus understands our feelings of shame and rejection and He bore the pain of rejection on the cross.   Our healing from shame is achieved when we begin to appropriate what Jesus has done on the cross. We know that He doesn’t want us to walk in shame, and we can break free from the lies, judgments we have made, and roots of unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment. The law of sowing and reaping means that when we have judged those that have hurt us sometimes we can reap this by becoming like what we have judged, doing the very thing to others that we have hated. We may also without realising draw people to us who will continue to wound and shame us in the same ways.

But we can recognise the wounding(s) that we have received and also our sinful responses to the wonding. We can invite Jesus to heal and we can repent and confess our sin. We can forgive others and reckon the sin dead on the Cross. We can remind ourselves of our identity in Christ and that we are made in the image of God, who was able to separate identity from behaviour. Who does He say that we are? Are we a girl in the cinders or a Cinderella? (cheesy I know). Jesus can set us free from the lies that we have believed about ourselves. Sometimes we may feel like we are walking around the same mountain. And some of us will be walking around this mountain with a small backback, whereas others may be carrying a very heavy overnight pack. But we can be free from the cycle of shame, pain avoidance, and control. God wants His people to be a people of honour, but we can’t walk in honour when we are carrying shame. There is hope, and the Bible says that that we are not to be afraid:

‘Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame.

Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated.

You will forget the shame of your youth and remember n o more the reproach of your widowhood.

For your maker is your husband

The Lord Almighty is his Nme.

The Holy One of Israel is Your redemmer,

he is called the God of all the earth.’

Isaiah 54:4

We can be restored to God’s original design for our lives. Instead of our shame we can receive a ‘double portion’  (Isaiah 61:7). We can walk restored in His glory and we can ‘love others to life’. And my favourite quote from this seminar was – ‘We ought to be so filled with the love of God that we splash on people.’ Let’s pursue healing and wholeness so that we can jump in puddles. 

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Are We Living on a Lonely Planet?: How to Stop for the One

lonelinessI wonder whether the things that are difficult to talk about, are the very topics that need to be given airspace. Like loneliness for example. I was going to call this post ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Overcoming Loneliness.’ Because most of us if we are honest, have experienced a little loneliness at some point in our lives. In fact, if you believe what the magazine articles and even scholarly research papers are documenting, unprecedented mumbers of people today are lonely. Some sociological researchers have noted increases in “social isolation” and that many people are less significantly connected to close friends and family today. We seem to live on a lonely planet.

It has led me to consider whether loneliness is an inevitable part of the human condition? Are people today more lonely than they have been in previous generations? And are we in the West more lonely than those in developing countries, or is that a generalization? Many have observed that in “developing” countries and in Southern Europe, cultural patterns such as families across generations living together under one roof may provide space for fostering intimate relationships in daily life,  Furthermore, does our virtual, chaotic and individualistic culture keeps us from the intimacy we all crave? We have social media and facebook, which have many positive attributes, however do these sites create a false sense of relationship with others? 

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Being lonely is not necessarily about alone-ness, and loneliness is not a sign of weakness. For some it could be about a lack of meaningful relationships with others. Or for many of us, it could be that we have many good friends but struggle to make the time to nurture those relationships. Relationships where we can talk heart to heart. Furthermore, our society is very global and many of our friends and family may be living in different areas or even different countries. 

People can be lonely in many different seasons of life. Young people studying at university can be lonely. They may feel like a little fish in a big pond. Singles may often experience loneliness. Especially when it seems that we live in a couple’s world. When we are single we might well think ‘If only I were married, then I wouldn’t be lonely’. However what many single people may not realise is that marriage does not solve loneliness. Many a married person can be forgotten about, singles might think, ‘well it’s alright for them, they have a spouse’. But it goes both ways, and if we are married, we can be sensitive to the needs of single people around us. We can serve them, invite them into our homes and encourage them to share in our family life. The elderly too. All around me are those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, those who have experienced the trauma of widowhood or have experienced the pain of a broken relationship or marriage. The pit of loneliness for them may well run deep. 

And mothers of young children? I would guess that many of them would score highly on a loneliness scale too, especially those that are not in the paid workforce. Many mothers are parenting in isolation without the support that they need. And life is busy with a capital B when one has littlies! Babies need to nap, kids get bugs, there is that sausage sizzle to help with, preschool parent help to attend, a costume to sew, girl guide biscuits to sell, taxi driving to soccer and ballet and so on. One’s friends with kids are equally busy, at full capacity even.

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I have also heard many people comment that the loneliest place can be the church. One blogger has written that church relationships were the trickiest she has ever known. She goes on to write that in a job there can be cammeraderie with one’s colleagues but there is perhaps not the same expectation as in church that one’s colleagues will be ‘best buddies’. Many church goers have talked about the ‘bruising and wounding’ that occurs from a lack of meaningful friendship. Perhaps this is because if we are a church goer, we may have the expectation that we ought to have meaningful social relationships with one another in the context of church. But these days much of our involvement with other members of our faith community may be largely limited to the confines of a church building. Do we have others into our homes for old fashioned hospitality anymore? 

Much research attests to the correlation between loneliness and mental health. The most described link is that between loneliness and depression. The age old saying that ‘friends are good medicine’ does seem to ring true. In much of history, people were born, lived and died in the same community. They were known in that community. I’m not wanting to romanticise the ‘good old days’ because the ‘olden days’ had it’s fair share of problems, like today. However today, are people as ‘known’ in their communities, given that we are increasingly global? Has our mobility stiffened our sense of community? Are we afraid to make friends with people for fear that they might move on, or we might move on? And if loneliness is a predictor of poor mental and physical health outcomes for people, is it something that we should be talking about in our communities and churches? If we are in church leadership, what can we do to ensure that a sense of community and pastoral care is fostered?

And if we are a believer, we might wonder where is God in our loneliness? The narrow path can sometimes be a lonely path. It’s not a busy congested motorway. When I’ve felt alone, I find comfort in the truth that Jesus understands. He experienced the abandonment and loneliness of the cross so my sin would never be a barrier between God and me. His sacrifice cleared the way so we can go to God and pursue His presence in the lonely times of our lives.

I’ve recently learned about the theological concept of caritas. Developed by Thomas Aquinas, it is commonly understood as friendship with God that ultimately leads to deepened friendship with one another. Perhaps the challenge we face today is to cultivate more genuine depths of safe vulnerability and intimacy with one another. Indeed, we can have traits that prevent sharing, such as independence. Likewise, our pride — the desire to be viewed as ‘having it all together’, our determination to be “in control” at all costs — is a quality that may isolate us from each other and keeps us from interdependency with our family and friends.

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I’ve recently been encouraged by a movement called ‘Stop for the One’ instigated by Heidi and Roland Baker. If you have not heard of the Bakers, they are missionaries ministering to orphans and the poor in Mozanbique. I have had several friends who have been fortunate enough to work alongside these amazing yet humble servants of God in their ministry Isis Global. ‘Stop for the One’ was birthed in 2009 and is simply about sharing God’s extravagant love with one another. It takes seriously the call to care for widows, the orphans and the poor. But this initiative can also be applied to anyone that we come into contact with each day. Our neighbours, colleagues, the checkout operator at the supermarket, the children of friends. 

The Bakers have said that the only way to stop for millions is ‘one by one’. ‘To do this we must stop for God, the One who is the One and then one in front of us each day’. The people we meet may not be physically in need like they are in Mozambique. But perhaps they have emotional and spiritual needs. Maybe they are lonely. Mother Theresa has said that ‘Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty of all’. Can we think about the phrase ‘Stop for the One’ and engage with our neighbour over the fence, another mum at the park, or those around us who may be hurting, remembering that others are hurting more than we realise. Can we ‘love them to life’ through the little things, and make our lonely planet a little less lonely? 

Church can be lonely, and sometimes the workplace can be too. The season of singleness can be lonely but marriage can have it’s lonely seasons too. One’s marriage partner cannot meet all one’s needs for companionship, and there are times when you just need your girlfriends. Motherhood, although a precious and special season, can be particularly lonely. And we live in a ‘selfie’ culture. The song chorus that I heard at a school assembly when I worked in Special Education says it all – ‘It’s all about Me’. Is that what we are teaching our children? Does individualism contribute to the growth of individuals, the maturing of friendships, the strengthening of family and communities?

But when the sun sets at the end of each day, we are essentially alone in our own skin, with our hopes, dreams, masks and dark shadows. But our identity, the essence of ourselves, is not found in our achievements or failures, belonging to a friendship group, clique or a particular church community. Our identity is anchored in the reality that we are beloved daughters or sons of the King.

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