Saturday, August 27, 2016

What infertility is teaching me grief

I know a good while ago (back in February I believe) I made a blog post about the struggles I have experienced after finding out in September 2015, why my husband and I have not been conceiving for the last 5 years. I know its not just me, my husband and I then and still go through out momentary bouts of grief. Often times it was away from each other. 

I discovered for the first time in my marriage that my husband grieves in a completely different manner to me. And Im sure he had the same experience with me. To use a metaphor, I felt like his grief was like watching a river that is normally energetic and vibrant being dammed up. I've seen dams, in 2014 we took a roadtrip to Eastern Washington and we stopped at the Grand Coulee Dam (which channels the water of the gigantic Columbia river that runs from British Columbia, through Washington then Oregon and out to the Pacific). But the creepy thing about it is that the water is completely still and dark.  Its so heavily controlled its scary and disconcerting to say the least.

I on the other hand grieved like Florida rain. My husband, having lived in Florida for a period in his 20's told me that you could be driving in warm sunny weather one moment, see a strange dark grey curtain up ahead on the road and before you know it, you're in it and suddenly its like Hurricane Katrina. Little to no warning. Its not a constant smitter smatter of drizzly rain - it was sudden monsoon rain and it drowned everyone in its way. Then an hour later the sun would come out again, but you know that won't be the first nor the last time you see that kind of rain.

Imagine two people like that. Reacting like those two weather patterns in their grief.  Thing is, we walked into our marriage knowing that we were persons who grieved like this, we did after all talk about it in our self designed Pre-Marital Course we did ("101 Questions to ask before you get engaged") Of course, talking about it and living it together are two different things. But Im relieved that in a way, I wasn't completely taken aback from his way of doing it. That doesn't mean I understood nor liked it. Im sure he found my bipolar mood swings a bit disturbing himself.

Being in a season of acute grief is definitely not pleasant. Its damned awful. I do not wish it on anybody. For me personally in my general day to goings on at my job, in my church, with my family, with my friends, Im normally the colourful, talkative, extroverted loud one in the room. In my grief, I continued to be colourful (in my choice of swear words), talkative (in a ranty angry kind of way during my prayer time), extroverted (getting weird looks from drivers beside me in intersections at my sobbing and not caring) and loud (I suppose this blog is a good example). Even in grief I don't shut up. Observing my husband's version was mystifying to me and early on I was under the false impression that because he wasn't grieving like me, he must not care about me or our situation. Luckily, I know him well enough to know that this was completely unfair and wrong of me to make such an assumption. Anyone who knows my husband knows how much he adores children. It was one of the main reasons why I married him. It also reminded me to not be angry or resentful with him. He did not choose this. I did not choose this. I haven't always been good at remembering this. 

When we face struggles out in the world we either take flight or fight. But, what the heck do you do when the struggle is within yourself, your own biology? How on earth does one fight or run away from ourselves? 

As a Christian, I know theoretically speaking, it is not helpful to try and find the solution within myself. That is inward thinking. My body is already not doing the thing I hoped and planned for. My emotions are a mess. Im not going to find the solution within myself. Even in grief and pain I can still sin and do stupid things and hurt others. Going inward the risk for selfishness is too high. One of my very first grief prayers came from Psalm 119:

I am completely discouraged - I lie in the dust. Revive me by your Word. I told you my plans and you replied. Now give me your instructions. Make me understand what you want; for then I shall see your miracles. I weep with grief; my heart is heavy with sorrow; encourage and cheer me with your words. Keep me me from every wrong, help me, undeserving as I am, to obey your laws, for I have chosen to do right. I cling to your commands and follow them as closely as I can. Lord, don't let me make a mess of things. If you will only help me to want your will, then I will follow your laws even closely. Just tell me what to do and I will do it Lord. As long as I live I will wholeheartedly obey. (Message Version Ps 199: 25-34). 

That sounds like such a perfect prayer eh? That is honestly what I prayed in the moment, that evening after we got our news from the Doctor. Ive not always gone back to it though. Sometimes I've clung to my bible and the words in it, like the bleeding woman who touched Jesus' cloak. Other times Ive had the temptation of just screaming "WHY God?!!" and throwing my bible against the wall. 

As an individual and a wife Ive slowly come to realise a few things that have helped me through all of this that I want to share with others who might be going through something similar (or just hurting in general).

1. Fix your eyes on Jesus 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:5-8).   
As a Christian, pain is not evidence that there is no God, rather it is evidence that we recognize that pain ought not to be the norm. How do we know this? By what standard do we judge something to be painful? We judge it by what is good and right in the world. Where does good and right come from? Where did it originate? The reason we know darkness exists is because we see the sun every day. Just because night comes doesn't mean I deny the sun, rather it further confirms my belief that the sun will come back in a few hours. CS Lewis said "Pain is a problem only if you believe in God. If you believe that humans are simply the highest animal, evolved by chance, only protoplasm, going nowhere, wearing down and dying, like all other life forms, you shouldn't have a problem with pain. Life is what it is and there is no God to complain against, as a result there is no moral foundation to exist for injustice." 
Its a hard pill to swallow. But in our pain, God is not there pointing and laughing at us doing nothing. He knows what pain is. He wept when his friend Lazarus died. He grieved and tried to isolate himself when his cousin John was beheaded. He wept and bled blood knowing what he was going to have to do in order for the entire world to be reconciled to the Father. He cried out on the cross. For me, I realised that perhaps in his lifetime, prior to starting his ministry Jesus may have looked at a child and known he was not going to have any himself. Thats not to say he never had joy and friendship with children. That has been a great comfort to me. A second comfort, looking at Jesus' genealogy was that there were women in his family line who struggled with infertility - Sarah, Rebekah, even his Mom's cousin Elizabeth. 
Finally, infertility has really caused me to look at what is the foundation of my identity. Is my core identity in continuing on a family line, finally getting that little blonde haired blue eyed child I always expected would arrive in my life, getting to experience the joy of pregnancy for myself or ultimately living and dying as a servant of Christ regardless of what happens in the middle? Francis Chan makes an interesting point about this:  

All those things I want and still desire - the little blonde mini me's running around, the baby showers, having my Mum and husband be there at the moment I give birth. None of that is bad, its GOOD! But now I've had to hand it all over to him with the expectation this this specific context of parenthood might not be what he's got planned for me. More than anything else is that never ending unrelenting God given urge to be a Mom and a great one at that. It is all good and holy. But its not my overall, be all goal. A baby ought not to be my God, Jesus is.

 2. Grieve together and separately
More than any other time in your marriage, when you're hurting, go back to that overly used bible verse that someone vaguely mentioned at your wedding when you were too blinded in your happiness to listen properly:
Love is PATIENT and KIND. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable and resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love BEARS ALL THINGS, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor 13:4-7). 
Please please be gentle and kind and patient.  Acknowledge that your partner will be grieving differently to you. I found this podcast extremely helpful to listen to: 

Also, allow the other person to do their own thing. Do not expect the other person to share absolutely everything with you. There were some deep deep sorrowful prayers that I kept to myself for a good while and I know my husband started journaling or writing prayers or poetry. To be honest I don't know what he was doing except writing, but to me that was a good sign that he was working things out with himself and God. There are some things we just want to keep between ourselves and God and thats ok as long as we still regularly come back to each other as a couple.

3. Comfort one another
Thankfully my husband and I both have Physical Touch as a love language. Early on, this was hard and again I think my husband was worried about stepping over my pain to help me and I him. Our spouses are not mind readers and I think its incredibly nasty and unfair for people to get angry at their spouses for not being mind readers. You often hear women say "He ought to know what to do!" No he doesn't! Especially in grief! Especially when your mood swings are scarier than a roller coaster.  For me, I HAD to tell me husband "Please hold me. Please hug me and let me cry. Please let me express what is in my heart." Also as strange as this is to this Hollywood/Sex and the City saturated world, don't forget to have sex. For many people, we only equate sex with crazy heated passion and never as a form of mutual comfort between two people. The world says, sex is just sex. No feelings are involved. To me thats like playing with matches in a dry forest saying, "Its only a little bit of fire." Sex is for bonding and comfort not just pleasure and reproduction. For the majority of husbands, they need this on a consistent basis even if you as a woman feel it is wrong to have sex while grieving especially when it comes to infertility. Its not wrong. This is when I pull out the duty/submission card and gently ask you the wife to understand, this is likely what he needs right now. There are also women out there in the world who have the same sexual needs as those types of men and they need it too.    

4. Pray and Sing

In another blog post I think I'll ponder over how to pray in grief but for now let me encourage you - go to Psalms and Lamentations. There you will find persons who were so brutally honest in their feelings with God it will make yours look suddenly less strange. God can handle it, he knows what your thinking but He wants to hear you talk to him.  Author Russel Moore makes an interesting statement about the passage of Romans 8:15:

"Up to that time, I had read the Abba cry passages in Romans and Galatians the same way I had heard them preached: as a gurgle of familiarity, the spiritual equivalent of an infant cooing "Papa" or "Daddy." Relational intimacy is surely present in the texts—hence Paul's choice of such a personal word as Abba—but this definitely isn't sentimental. After all, Scripture tells us that Jesus' Spirit lets our hearts cry "Abba, Father!" (Gal. 4:6). Jesus cries "Abba, Father" as he screams "with loud cries and tears" for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7; Mark 14:36, ESV, used throughout). Similarly, the doctrine of adoption shows us that we "groan" with the creation itself "as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23). It is the scream of the crucified." (from Christianity Today).

Scream, weep, cry, yell out to God, he can handle it. 

Finally, if it helps, sing. Not those annoyingly happy songs everyone else is singing. Find the artists that sing about hurting, and pain and if possible, about Jesus at the same time. Listen to the older style hymns, those are good for grief. Right now, contemporary Christian music is going to come off as a bit trite for you. Be patient with those annoying Chris Tomlin fans. For me, there were a few weeks I flat out stopped singing in church, about two weeks I avoided being in church during the singing at all. I couldn't handle it. The only singing I was doing was in my dark bedroom in tears. That was the only kind I could do. I shared this with my Pastor and he was very understanding of this. 

Finally, for me I really found a lot of comfort through two completely polar opposite artists - Lauren Daigle and Nate Feuerstein aka NF. One is soft and comforting and the other, well hes just angry and honest. I needed both of them. I heard NF by accident on the radio, within a day I bought his entire album. I played his music to my husband who I was surprised to find, found it very helpful to his own healing and helped release a bit of the water in his dam.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Why persecution reminds me of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother)

The other night I heard someone I respect very much say "The end is coming. Change has happened so fast, Jesus ought to be coming back soon."

Without putting down at all what this dear person said, I have to respectfully offer my skepticism that Jesus is going to come back just because the West (by that I mean Westernised countries) is not only entering into becoming Post Christian but very much Anti Christian. This doesn't mean Im not sad that people aren't just devaluing biblical morals but they're twisting and changing the God who made those morals into either something He's not or nothing at all. Technically speaking, the West has been "Christianised" since the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to become a Christian. But has the West truly been Christian? By that I mean has society as a whole truly as a majority genuinely loved and feared the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob? Or have we just had the facade of being sort of Christian and now that its no longer financially or socially worth being a Christian is the true Christianity finally getting a chance to show its face? Is this "decline" in professing Christians really a decline or just people finally being honest for the first time ever? 

In returning to that previous statement that my friend makes I feel the need to ask the question -
If persecution of Christians is what is going to bring back Jesus why hasn't he come back a million times already?

- In the early church only 50 years or so after that wee utopian period of everybody sharing all their stuff and living together in Jerusalem and speaking all kinds of crazy tongues and languages and having that first experience of the Holy Spirit (you know what Im talking about, cos your Pastor loves to nostalgically preach on this every so often as if he was there). Do you know what happened not long after? They got themselves a crazy Emperor by the name of Nero who not only blamed that gigantic fire in Rome (that he likely started) on the Christians. Then he rounded up men, women and children who refused to worship him to be murdered or torn about by wild animals in the Colosseum AND to keep his drunk parties well lit, he covered these Christians in pit and tar and crucified them over his parties then set them on fire. Why didn't Jesus come back then?

- What about that time when the so called established 'church' of the time sent its most devout followers to capture and burn at the stake those Christians who upon reading the bible for the first time in their lives in their own language and discovered the true God who said you didn't have to pay money to get your salvation or cross yourself so many times for him to love you, or pray to this person or that person (and the only person you needed to pray to was God).

- What about that time when Britain called itself 'Christian' while convincing themselves that those people in that continent over there weren't really human but half animal and that it was ok to ignore that part in the bible about not kidnapping humans for money and taking out of context the biblical stance of what a bond servant actually was? And there appeared to be only one true Christian at that time (last name Wilberforce) who fought to end that horrid despicable practice. Why didn't Jesus come back then?

- What about the millions of Chinese Christians being horribly persecuted and driven underground. Have we stopped to think that China has never had a "Christian government" nay not even a wee bit of Christian in their roots yet they likely have more Christians than all of the West combined? Persecution has never stopped for them. Why hasn't Jesus come then or now because of their suffering

- What about our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Middle East being BEHEADED for loving and confessing Christ as their Lord. What about them?!

Maybe I'm sound a bit like a broken record here but Im trying to respectfully make a point. I know we're being persecuted as Christians in the West. I know its going to get worse. But I feel like, to the rest of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world we're looking like weak little cry babies because we're looking at how its starting feel uncomfortable being a Christian. We're no longer accepted any more. People are hurting our feelings now and accusing us of not being nice and this hurts our feelings and we're acting like we've lost a limb when really this is more like a paper cut.

Now after this gigantic rant you may still be scratching your head and wondering, "what on earth does this have to do with the late Queen Mother?!"

To some people, one might yawn and think "Oh gee, another spoilt royal." Let me tell you something, this woman is probably one of the most bravest of women in the kind of position such as her's. She wasn't born into royalty, she married into it - quite hesitatingly too (she turned down the then Duke of York's proposals TWICE!!). But anyway, thats not why I admire this woman's legacy so. Most women I think, if they knew that they were to be bombed by an enemy of some kind they'd grab their kids and run for it (in her case, the runaway destination offered to her and her daughters was Canada). But she flat out refused to leave London during WW2.

“The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the King will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever," she said when asked if she would leave London during World War II. 

If you're not a history buff like I am you may not know that the East End of London was likely the most worst hit area by the Nazi Luftwaffe during the war (cos thats where all their shipyards and warehouses were). The East End was also where the poorest of the poor of all London lived. The squalor that the East End had was well known and had truly set in long before the bombs laid waste. This woman's compassionate heart, dedication and loyal stubbornness to her husband and her country and most of all her fellow countrymen (particularly in this neighborhood) is what made her one of the the most beloved Queen's of all time. When the East End was being regularly bombed, she repeatedly left her house (Buckingham) went down there with her husband and two kids in broad daylight at risk of her own life and that of her family in order so she could commiserate, comfort and encourage them. I don't think any royal before her EVER did this, especially not a Queen. Because of this England literally treated her like a living saint and thus were extremely protective and proud of her and her family. Instead of hiding and sheltering her daughter's from the war at hand, she instead encouraged them to directly serve - as a result our current Queen Elizabeth (as a young woman) trained and worked as a truck driver and mechanic (during a time when it was just not the thing for a princess to be doing, driving a car, fancy that!).

Then, it finally happened to the royal familyBuckingham Palace took nine direct hits from German bombers, the first raid involving a fairly narrow escape for the King and Queen as masonry and windows were destroyed close to them. Im sure this was legitimately terrifying to them as well. But the Queen's response is completely remarkable - 

 “I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”

This brings me to my point.
This is not a denigration to either side but sometimes I feel like as Westernized Christian's we've been too comfortable in our wealth and 'palaces' while our brothers and sisters, our fellow country men of the Kingdom we strive to enter have been taking bombs for years, some even hundreds of years. We're only just starting to get little hits. Lets not moan. Lets not sit on our hands and wait for Jesus to come back (only He knows when he's coming back). Lets not get obsessive and do nothing but speculate about end times and waste breath arguing about pre vs post millennium-ism and who's who of potential Anti Christ's. Lets pull a leaf out of this grand lady's hat and roll up our sleeves and comfort one another, suffer together gladly, think outside of ourselves and our own little world. Lets serve. When Jesus comes back I want him to find me busy working and loving for his Kingdom using the talents He gave me instead of sticking them in the ground and not doing anything. Now that we're finally being persecuted, I too feel weirdly relieved and think, maybe one day I too can look my brothers and sisters in the face and instead of pitying them I can finally share with them the cup of Christ.


I admire the late Queen Mother so much I thought Id add a few more of her quotes and picture of her playing pool:

 “Cowards falter, but danger is often overcome by those who nobly dare.”

"Nobody is boring. If you find someone or something a bore, the fault lies in you."

 "You should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What infertility has been teaching me about God's grace

Last September was probably the most broken hearted period my husband and I truly had together. It was a tough month. I had just been offered a full time permanent job which you'd think I was supposed to be rejoicing over but instead I was struggling so much in my first week (transitioning from community to hospital context) on the job, I went home crying wondering if I had made some kind of terrible mistake. Secondly we were in the process of moving home late in the rental season here in Vancouver (which locals know even in the Summer its a tough market). But that was nothing in comparison to what came. My husband and I got the result of the test.

I won't go into detail, but it was bad. Really bad. For both of us it was devastating. What made it even hard (though it was no one's fault at all) was that other couples dear to us had announced their pregnancies that SAME week that we got our news. Not wanting to ruin their joy I literally suffocated while hiding my own grief. I put it in that box deep down and hid it away but in quiet moments in my day all the emotions I blocked up would come exploding out of me. I would be driving my car listening to something totally benign and normal or in Walmart comparing apple prices and out of nowhere it would puke out of me, this torrent of sorrow and before I could count to two I'd break down and be sobbing over apples or on  a Highway with blurred vision. 

I didn't know I would be challenging my own beliefs about God and the bible that I had previously been (at least intellectually) rock solid with. Like:
- God is good.
- God knows best
- God is Almighty Creator
- God is perfect
- God is just

Thing is I believed those things in my head but I was not truly living it out in my heart. I was having irrepressible thoughts pop into my mind like:
- Im a GOOD person! I DESERVE children.
- Ive been planning and preparing for this, therefore, God you owe me
- If I am deserving, and I cannot have children then why do I see undeserving people conceiving and having (or throwing away) their children?

As a result I started battling the worst case of bitterness, envy and anger I had ever experienced in my life. In my personal life, because of my adhering to biblical beliefs that children are a "heritage from the Lord" it means that I am also vocally Pro Life. But in the last 5 months Ive felt I've needed to take a mental sabbatical from thinking about Planned Parenthood and abortions because it quite frankly makes me weep harder. At the same time Ive carried this huge terrifying fear of being THAT kind of crazy nasty woman. The kind that snubs her pregnant friends in order to make herself feel good or at least not have to face her own pain. 

Winston Churchill famously labeled his depression as being like a big black dog that never left him alone. Someone much later on wrote a picture book for adults that I bought for work purposes (share it with client's who have mental illness). I never thought I'd be looking at that book for myself. It wasn't a clinical depression but it started as a constant  nagging fear during our 2+ years of not conceiving and then like a grief  losing a beloved family member when we found out the news.

Sometime in the weeks following I struggled with the above arguments I had with myself. I was having vicious theological debates with myself over the concept of goodness. My petty argument with myself was that I am good therefore I deserve to get pregnant naturally and have children. 

In Mark 18:10 we find a guy calling out to Jesus saying "Hey Good teacher!" and Jesus responds.. "“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone." Now Jesus IS good. Because he never sinned. By word, action or thought. But for Christian's he is our only standard of goodness. As Christian's we rate ourselves and everyone else as born inherently 'bad'. Our standard of good these days just looks like an imperfect person just trying to live life, pay their taxes and keeping their lawn appropriately cut. The guy calling Jesus good was putting the world's standard of "good" on Jesus and as such he was flat out refusing that title attached to that man's flawed worldly version of good. Now in other part's Jesus does use the title "good" eg "The Good Shepherd" etc elsewhere, but in doing so, he gives his own definition to what good is - perfection. Because he did that, the religious leaders of that time frequently picked up rocks and attempted to stone him multiple times because in saying what he was saying, Jesus was calling himself God. By calling out to God saying that I am a "good person" what am I really believing? Am I truly the pinnacle of goodness? Am I THE standard? The TRUTH? The WAY? My husband would tell you, no I am not. Im quite pathetic in trying to be good actually, I fail miserably every time.

Another argument against my terrible theology is my wanting my "good works" to procure God's blessing. God doesn't work that way. You can't 'buy' Gods favor with good behavior. God offers salvation through his son as a gift. I cannot earn it. I think God does bless obedience but it is based on his omnipotent power and knowledge and above all else, his mercy and grace. Sometimes obedience is painful and suffering may occur through doing right. In the bible there are stories where it says that God does deliberately stop conception of children. Sometimes its explained, sometimes it isn't. There are also examples in the bible where couples are devastatingly childless who also happened to be godly, obedient, humble people. Hannah and Elizabeth are two women I think of right now. Sometimes infertility occurs and there is no rhyme or reason for it. Sin is in this world which also means there is sickness. Some sickness comes as a direct result of ones sin in ones life - eg alcoholism often leads to liver disease. Other sicknesses just arrive because of a freak accident in chemistry in the body, its not our fault but its there. 

Another argument is, my past, present and future anger in my head are just as equally culpable to God's law of sin = death as the person who physically commits murder. Jesus said, both are equally deserving of hell. 

Thanks be to God that me with my angry thoughts as well as the man who commits murder while equally deserving of hell, are also both equally gifted salvation though undeserving we both are.

So, theres my sodden argument so far:

- I am a good person - WRONG. Only Jesus is good.
- God owes me - WRONG. He owes me nothing, yet he gives me something better (more priceless) than a child, he saved me from my sin yesterday, today and tomorrow.

My last argument was - why do some people get pregnant and some don't? Matthew 5:45 says that God gives sun and rain to both evil and good people. Thing is, I don't know others circumstances. Its really none of my business and I don't have the right to be mad from assumptions I make about people's lives when Im only seeing a minuscule view of their bigger picture. 

Im young still. Only in my late twenties.  I am relieved that I started this process early. A friend who had also gone down this path counseled me to start digging around for answers after I shared with her my concerns about not conceiving in a 3-4 year period. I don't know how children will come our way, whether by medical intervention, some sheer miracle or by adoption. Im not sure. Im keeping my eyes and heart open to any direction. All I know is, I know Im going to be a Mom. But I have to be open to the idea that the process may not be the one I initially wanted.

This is very strongly teaching me that in planning my life, I need to hand God the pen and keep a pencil for myself. If its the other way round Im setting myself up for bitterness which Im now finding out the hard way. Corrie Ten Boom - a marvelous Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp because she and her family hid Jews, once said -

“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

The last thing I've learned is this - suffering doesn't have to mean Im alone. Jesus once said an odd thing - "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." When the hubby and I were told our news we had barely been mourning our loss for a week when I accidentally broke during a staff lunch when someone casually and innocently asked "Do you have children Melody?" With all my strength, I quietly answered back "We can't" Well thats one way to kill a conversation. Somehow by the end of the day, all my colleagues knew and were rather obviously avoiding my company or providing me with badly hidden looks of pity or stupid comments like "Have you tried raising your legs up?" 

FYI, if you have children yourself, please don't offer "advice." No matter how well intentioned you are please SHUT UP. Your advice is very patronizing and borderline cruel. People in our situation only want advice from people who are going or have gone through this same thing. And I am so exceedingly grateful that I had more than one friend who I could unashamedly pour my grief out to because they had gone through it themselves. If you do want to comfort me, let it be just to comfort not to fix.  An interesting thing happened after that wee episode at work. I had FOUR colleagues privately seek me out at work and tell me they too were struggling with infertility. They were struggling with the shame, and the guilt  and the suffocating grief that I too knew so well and not having anyone to talk to about it. Within one and a half weeks of being a mourner myself, God drew me out to comfort others where they needed it and be that understanding person for them. Crying with someone else helped me too. Sometime later I saw the movie 'Inside Out' and there was a scene that explained it so well:

So there I have it. Thats about as far as I can explain it. Im still not happy that Im not a Mom, but I also understand its not my be all and end all. God put that desire in me and there it stays. And every now and then I pull it out and hand it up to God and say Hannah's prayer

"My heart exalts in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.. I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Introducing - Lies Women Believe

I bought this book a little while ago in the sale section at House of James. I got it with a study series as well in the hopes of potentially using it or offering it to other groups in the future to go through. Ive started reading it this week and Ive enjoyed it so far. I appreciate the fact that the author states emphatically at the beginning that one could write entire books on each chapter point that she makes. That said the points she makes are concise, backed up with straight forward biblical reasoning along with scripture but her practical examples are very few and she does not explore further into trickier issues. 

Since she has acknowledged this the reader needs to make sure they do not 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' as the saying goes. There are gaps in this book yes, but as a whole we need to see the good in her broad umbrella picture of lies we as women face THEN explore particular issues with a deeper analysis with other writers and professionals. I think if a woman is reading this book and she notes there is a particular 'lie' or two that she struggles with then there are other books she can search out regarding that topic. De Moss provides a section at the back of her book with a list of added books to read. That said, the list is not exhaustive and is confined only to a short list and minimal resources at best within the US (where the author is based). 

As a piece of constructive criticism it would have been helpful for this author to do more research into some points that I felt she was well intentioned but obviously ignorant in, in particular abusive relationships. I note that this author is well known as being a woman of God happy in her state of singleness (until recently that is), and is not a Mom herself. While I accept that she is allowed to have opinions on biblical wifedom (and attached to that, ideas on submission) and motherhood, I personally think she has a limited view from her inexperience in these matters. I have opinions on how to raise children, but I know full well that my friends with children would be skeptical and at the very least hesitant on listening to me if I started telling them how to raise their children. Even if all my theological ideas on child rearing are Christ driven and correct! I just don't have the authority needed, and in the case of DeMoss I feel in some areas she also does not have experience and therefore cannot be a reliable authority on certain matters no matter how theologically correct she is. 

I may only be 27 years old but I feel personally I have a mountain of wealth in my own experience on domestic abuse while she as a single woman in midlife that she does not have. That means if the two of us were lined up and given a young woman to counsel who was in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, I would expect that having more experience and practical know how in this topic would make me a far better mentor for such a person. Thats not pride its just a fact. 

That said she does cover a lot of areas well enough.

The chapters cover these areas:

Lies about God
- God is not really good
- God does not love me
- God is just like my father
- God is not really enough
- Gods ways are too restrictive
- God should fix my problems

Lies about themselves
- I'm not worth anything
- I need to learn to love myself
- I can't help the way I am
- I have my rights
- Physical beauty matters more than inner beauty
- I should not have to live with unfulfilled longings

Lies about sin
- I can sin and get away with it
- My sin isn't really that bad
- God can't forgive what I have done
- I am not fully responsible for my actions and reactions
- I cannot walk in consistent victory over sin

Lies about priorities
- I don't have time to do everything that Im supposed to do
- I can make it without consistent time in the Word and prayer
- A career outside the home is more valuable and fulfilling than being a wife and mother

Lies about marriage
- I have to have a husband to be happy
- It is my responsibility to change my spouse
- My husband is supposed to serve me
- If my husband is passive, Ive got to take the initiative, or nothing will get done
- If I submit to my husband, I'll be miserable
- Sometimes divorce is a better option than staying in a bad marriage

Lies about children
- Its up to us to determine the size of our family 
- Children need to get exposed to the "real world" so that they can learn to function in it
- All children will go through a rebellious phase
- I know my child is a Christian because he prayed to receive Christ at an early age 
- We are not responsible for how our children turn out

Lies about emotions
- If I feel something it must be true
- I can't control my emotions
- I can't help how I respond when my hormones are out of whack
- The answer to depression mught first be sought in medication and/or psychotherapy

Lies about circumstances 
- If my circumstances were different, I would be different
- I shouldn't have to suffer
- My circumstances will never change - this will go on forever
- I just can't take any more
- It's all about me

I know its a lot. But read through them all. Do any bring on fast response in you? Outrage? Guilt? Confusion? Quiet agreement? I'll bet at least two of them got your attention. I don't know which ones but I know when I first went over them my reaction to this author was - "Can you believe the nerve of this lady??" I know, I know. Hear me out. Read the book first THEN get uppity. I suspect the titles are written in a way to get your (maybe negative) attention. Hear this lady out! Sure, be offended, but at the very least be open to reading what you think she might say. You'll be surprised.

I know I was.

You may end up reading the book and still not agreeing with her on a few or more or maybe all things. Thats ok. Just read it and consider the thought that she might bring you a convincing argument about that 'little' lie you nestle and look after. We often get extremely angry at the person who rips our comfort sins out of our arms and I have no doubt you'll feel the same way about this lady. You may read this book and have to put it down then take it up again a few hours later to digest what she writes. A few years I had some very strong feelings over certain secondary issues and I would have been outraged then that today I have softened my views or changed them altogether. It was regarding pacifism. I won't get into it but my views changed somewhat because I allowed others to freely share their opinions with scripture with me without immediate judgement.

Try the book out.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Swearing - Men do it so why not us?

A few weeks ago I went to see a new release movie with my husband. Admittedly, in order to find what we think we might like all we do is see whats on. That Saturday we had two choices - "Entourage" and "Spy". Both were in the race for being a big seller at the box office. I heard that Entourage was just a male version of Sex and the City and I thought 'Bleh' so we decided on 'Spy" instead. If you want to read a Christian review of 'Spy prior to watching it yourself (or prior to critiquing it) please click on the link -  Plugged In review.

The movie is essentially a comedy with Melissa McCarthy as the lead actress with Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne and Miranda Hart carrying the weight of the supporting cast. McCarthy plays a character that initially gives you the impression that shes the Bridget Jones of the CIA world. Dumpy, passive but smiley and a tad gullible with a rather pathetic crush on her James Bond 'ish colleague. People patronize her, belittle her, walk past her, cold shoulder her, take credit for her ideas, her creativity and her intelligence. Meanwhile its the rough 'n tumble, ever swearing, oh so humble (*cough cough) Jason Statham and Mr Sauve Nice Guy (*cough cough) Jude Law take the credit for bravery and everything else but the rotation of the sun.

Essentially, an accidental mess up happens, someone is (*ehem) killed, agents identities become 
compromised and known to terrorists and theres no one left to save the world from nuclear annihilation. Except McCarthy who tentatively and bravely steps up to the plate of secret agent. Even as she enters the process of joining the Cool Spy clique shes still undermined, made fun of and deliberately given unflattering aliases with gadgets disguised as hemorrhoid cream and stool softeners. You really feel for her. Watching this movie, Im sure we in the audience were all thinking 'These people are really harsh to her.'

Theres a good portion of this character that I really identify with. We find out that she wasn't always so passive and showed promising talent as a (somewhat) aggressive but capable secret agent in the making. We find out that over time, Mr 'Bond' (Jude Law) recognizes and is intimidated by her talent and takes her down and out of his way, by way of denigrating insults disguised as pity kindness, add to that her comments about her Mom's horribly disparaging remarks she got growing up. As women we have all experienced this kind of painful social ostracism whether by men or other women. We see in the movie and we know rightly and think "That's not right." 

Within a day of entering her new spy post in Paris McCarthy's character is fed up and goes awol with the pre planned hands off role. She gets rid of her grandma alias and invents her own. 



Long story short, she saves the day, proves her worth, removes the doormat she was lying under and encourages herself with a new boldness and beauty (Parisian fashion and a make over help) and tenacity that makes even the cocky Jason Statham admit she's pretty cool. But is that it?

I really enjoyed the movie but for one thing - the swearing (and the completely disgusting and irrelevant penis glimpses). Of course I knew there would be ouchee moments in the fight scenes, the movie does say "SPY" after all. No doubt McCarthy has come along way since her perky cuddly Gilmore Girls/Mike 'n Molly days. No doubt shes trying to prove her worth to the movie world that shes beyond type casting as the token fat girl and I agree, she is way talented beyond the dull roles that Hollywood typically forces on plus size women. And by the way I do not EVER think she is not gorgeous the whole way through (FYI).

But does a woman have to be crass a million times over to prove herself that she is talented? I know what you're thinking - But boys swear and are adored! Why can't we swear and be admired too? Well here I am to debunk this stupidity. Quite frankly Im also out to debunk the theory that boys who swear are admired by women. Maybe so, but not by intelligent self respecting women. This argument of 'boys do something gross, crass, disgusting, immoral, dishonourable so we should be able to do it too' is a total cop out and shows a spiral down, unintelligent, 'lets jump off the cliff too' lemming like reasoning. Its an insult to the strong men who choose to actually respect themselves, the women around them and the world amongst them without an attached F* word. The other problem I have with this movie is that it paints only one route for women to take in order to be bold, brave, inspiring and gorgeous - be aggressive, no, not just aggressive, be disgusting. Its the same weak mentality that little immature boys have in the playground - who can piss the longest, spit the furtherest and cuss the loudest. We all know they're a joke.

Let me tell you, those little boys who unfortunately can also grow a beard, drive a car and impregnate a woman - is (and let me be emphatically clear) - extremely unattractive and in my definition, a failure of a man. They are representatives of a class of people who do far more hurt than good. In reality they are not funny, they are hurtful and abusive. They are not strong, they are weak. It is the perverted imagination of Hollywood who attaches the facade of an abusive man to a Jason Statham or a Jude Law, add a dash of American slapstick humor and the world laps it up and women are sadly convinced that in order to prove that we are truly "free" and "liberated" as women that we need to act like THAT.  

What saddened both me and my husband was that we agreed that we think we still could have immensely enjoyed the movie had they chosen not to put a single profanity in it, probably more so. And we think the movie still would have knocked box office records and made a ton of money too. Melissa McCarthy nor Jason Statham for that matter don't need a toilet mouth to prove to me how talented they are. I KNOW they are talented in their craft and I respect them for that alone.

In studying both the pendulum behaviours of passivity vs aggression, both are ultimately destructive and dysfunctional and overwhelmingly unhelpful. Neither are sustainable. Neither are healthy. 

In Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner, the author talks about powerful women - fierce women

"I never wanted to be a wimpy woman, I've always been drawn to strong women - aren't you? A refined strength has an alluring appeal. I love to see a fierce woman in action. Nothing fazes her. She's indomitable, detirmined and she's a passionate force beyond contention... Im not talking about ugly fierceness that is really just raw uncontrolled aggression. There is a beauty to the right kind of fierceness. Not the brand that recklessly walks over people or is rooted in self centred goals. Not the fierceness that produces Ice Queens or conniving shrews but a fierceness that is humble strength and power under control. The kind that grabs on the hem of God's will and won't let go. One that determinedly stands strong in a gale of opposition. The kind that looks fear in the eye without blinking and confidently forges ahead."

Then she explains its unrestrained ugly side:

"Characteristics of a destructively fierce woman:
 - She establishes herself as her own authority. Her identity flows from the false pretension that she's in charge of her own life and her independence is her highest value.
- She's always pulled by the lure of "more." Her desires are never satisfied so she does not know contentment.
- She's unaware that ingratitude, pride and fear are the driving components of her life.
- She's obsessive about things that matter to her. She lives with a self centred agenda.
- She longs for love and affection but often goes in too hard and comes out swinging.
- She goes to battle often, mistaking her belligerence for heroism.
- She grabs for power, and no one and nothing prevents her from getting her way.
- She uses her strength to bully others. She does not recognize it as bullying, but her continual criticisms, negative perspective and harsh tones eat away at people like acid.
- She is often involved with conflicts with others.
- She is harsh in her honesty with others and is proud of it.
- She walks in arrogance and pride but is blind to her own lack of humility. She views meek behaviour as a sign of weakness. She sincerely believes her personal conflicts stem from others ineptness, lack of spirituality or inferior behaviour.
- She craves power over others and has mastered the art of controlling others through subtle manipulation."

Phew, what a list!

The thing is, fierceness has both a wonderful and a horrible side of it which ever way is bridled and encouraged. I fear that young (and older) women are being mistaken into thinking that movies like 'Spy' are always representing a positive fierceness. There were wonderful examples of it in the movie no doubt about it, but they were imperceptible nuggets in comparison to the tsunami of destructive fierceness and blatant F bombs. Theres nothing cool or even liberating about that word. It doesn't make you strong when you say it. In saying it you're not joining the world of strong men but weak men.

A woman that watches her mouth watches her purity. She is modest. She is not weak or passive but strong. Purity and modesty have just as much to say about the tongue than just her anatomy and we women are particularly bad examples for ripping down rather than building up our sisters and brothers verbally. We know the weapon we bear. And if you think your tongue and how you use it is not a big deal then think about Amanda Todd.

I am not perfect of this either. I have failed at this time and time again. I know it is an issue because I am often convicted by the Holy Spirit, not by man or my words. My fear is not whether I said enough but if I said too much or in a poor way. As women we are life givers. Not just biologically but emotionally and intellectually and spiritually as well. Ladies you might not know it but men (especially our husbands) search and crave after our verbal acknowledgement of them, our encouragement of their presence and thankfulness of their giftings. We need to do it with each other as well. We need to fiercely love each other but not in harshness. Call each other to repent but with humility. 

Let our words be life. 

You don't have to be your Dad - Thoughts from an AoM blog post.

You Don’t Have to Be Your Dad: How to Become Your Family’s Transitional Character

Above is an excellent thought provoking post by 'The Art of Manliness' blog.

I think this can apply to young and older women too and with the same solutions as mentioned on the blog. Growing up, the marriages I saw looked like a masterpiece that had had someone scribble offensive graffiti over it. A lot of people agree with me that this is the new norm but sadly don't think theres anything worth salvaging and just call it obsolete. "Why marry, its stupid and everyone divorces anyway" is the common argument. Thats like taking the Sistine Chapel and its entire beautiful frescoes painstakingly painted by hand by Michelangelo and over the space of 50 years ++ more and more immature stupid people go and spray paint an F word and a bunch of male genitalia here and there and saying "Oh well, look how ugly and useless the sistine chapel is! We should just get rid of it now because its disgusting and will cause more harm than good now.." 

Is this what marriage looks like to us nowadays? Can we even see the picture anymore?
I think most people would be horrified at doing that to the Sistine Chapel!  Do they not know that there are people out there in the world whose career it is to restore ruined art? Like marriage, there are people out there who know what a good marriage is and have tools and resources ready for us! Yet most run around like headless chickens saying "No, no no noooo! It doesn't exist anymore!" Its not that marriage fails people, its that people fail marriage. And by getting rid of it in doing so you're getting rid of a priceless treasure whose worth and blessings we never noticed until its long gone a few generations and we finally realise when its too late how universally wonderful and worthwhile it it was. If all you saw was a an ugly piece of graffiti growing up, don't throw it away! Clean it up!

But cleaning up is easier said than done, its extremely time demanding and exhausting and its likely you'll get little to zero help from those who contributed to the graffiti. The hope is, that by standing out and making a change some members of your family MIGHT change. But I suspect they might not.

After God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land, with many of the survivors, despite being taken out of physical bondage they still carried the emotional and spiritual wounds of bondage. Today we would call this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Despite after seeing miracle after miracle they could not see out of of their visual lens of slavery and as such it impaired their ability to think freely and maturely. Of the millions that left Egypt, only two people were able to see beyond their past bondage and seek their inheritance in faith - Joshua and Caleb. The rest could not. God saw that they were either afraid, unwilling or just plain disobedient to look to Him and trust Him, so he forced them to stay in the Wilderness so the first generation could die off and a new generation could start again and walk into Caanan with the right mindset, resources and above all, faith in God. 

For many of us, generational "sins" may only leave with the passing of elders. In the story of the Exodus, the Israelites had to leave a 400 year old abusive relationship with nothing. They with the leadership of Moses were courageous in leaving but were incapacitated to create a new legacy. As such it was the children and grandchildren of those former slaves who were trained and taught to be men and women of God, children of God. It was those children and grandchildren that went on to conquer the Canaanite cities and kingdoms under Joshua, and those who forgot, turned away from God and returned to their "slave/sin" mindset were in turn destroyed by their enemies.

For those of us women who want to be transitional representatives to our old or new families how do we go about doing it?

- First of all you need to submit yourself before God and ask for a revelation of his purposes of life, marriage and (potential) motherhood. Ask God to reveal to you where your family attitudes, values and practices did not run in accord with his design for the family. THEN ask him if there was anything from your family culture that you should retain. Pray on this, and take notes, it will take you a while to get this all down. Compare and contrast your memories and thoughts with scripture.  

- Second, be in community in your church. The bible says we are his adopted children and Jesus is our big brother and church is our family. If you are the only christian in your family, you will need 'God Parents' (as such) to teach and guide you. Im not saying desert any relevant or useful advice from your biological parents or relatives, but if you worship Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and your immediate family do not, undoubtedly your goals and dreams in life will want to submit and be in line with His Will. Non Christian's by not seeing or loving Jesus as you, will have no comprehension of this and therefore there is a strong possibility their ideas will not come under your same line of reasoning. At church ask around for a godly couple. To find this couple their reputation will undoubtedly precede them by the fact that others will speak highly of them. Seek them out and without being a total stalker, become friends with them and over time humbly ask them questions on things you're finding difficult and they will give you some solid advice and will model their marriage to you. Get involved and serve where they serve. The best role modelling I got was of a husband/wife team doing their ministry with kids and puppets. I didn't just sit back and demand answers, I got involved and came to really enjoy their company, watching the two of them, getting to know them, their marriage and also I came to really enjoy puppets and kids as a side bonus. Observe the husband and how he treats and communicates to his wife and vice versa. Make mental notes. Just make sure its a two way street relationship, and not just you constantly wanting to leech something off them.  

- Read!
There are so many great books out there that can help you on this! Of course we now live in a time of information overload where theres a book on EVERYTHING under the sun. How does one sieve out the garbage from the really useful stuff. Or as Jesus said it - Separating the chaff from the wheat? First thing to NOT do - do not ask your peers indiscriminately what they're reading. Most likely what they're reading is stupid, esp if its about handsome, rich and abusive boyfriends, 100 year old glittery vampires, or if it starts with Cosmo and shows more skin than a playboy. You can do so much better than that. Your fore Mothers did not waste their time protesting for the right to give literacy to their daughters - YOU, so that you would go and read trash. By doing so you're spitting on their legacy and insulting your own intelligence. 

Reading good books starts with reliable sources. Again go to the older reputable women (and men!) in your church. While you're hanging out with them, ask them what they read or if they know of anyone else in the church who is discerning and well read. Im 26 now and I have a pretty extensive library for someone my age, but I still enjoy hearing about new books to search out from other godly women in my church. My husband thinks its weird but whenever I meet a preacher or teacher or anyone I respect, I always ask "What are you currently reading? Whats you're favorite book in your bookshelf?" Speaking of male recommendations, one of the BEST books I have ever read that helped me as a woman was a book written by a male Pastor for men and it was on Manhood ('Into the Wilderness' by John Eldredge if you must know). It was given to me by a male christian friend when I was 19, and it blew my mind away! From reading that book, it was like a light went off in my head and I had this knowledge of what on earth guys have to deal with when it comes to sin. It made me a much more understanding and compassionate woman and future wife to the man God placed in my life. When my husband walked into my life, I gave him my copy and his reaction after reading it was the same and now we own multiple copies of it and we just hand em out like candy! A good book is always worth sharing, and often the best ones are the ones we hear about by word of mouth. 

So anyway, what Im hoping to soon have on this blog is have a tab bar on the top of this blog and one of the tabs be called 'Books' which can link readers to a solid, discerning, organized list of books that are worthwhile to read. Or you could just add me as a friend on and check out my books there. You don't have to necessarily read marriage themed books to be positively impacted to be a better daughter of God, better daughter, sister, wife, friend. They help of course if anything is a good read, don't forget the bible is a great book too!

- Be mindful of the influence and choice of people you allow to be around you. Our choice of friends really says a lot about what we value. Lets just be honest, its easy to get inspired by your friends and its just as easy to be swayed into evil or "respectable" sins by those we call friends. If you used to be into partying, and drinking and not doing much else and your friends also did those activities along side you, what will happen if your life changed suddenly from those previous values? If getting drunk on the weekend was your illustration of meaning and fun in your life what happens if you get sick and you can't party anymore? What happens to the person who moves beyond partying and gets married and has some kids, and their only friends are people who now have no idea what's going on in their life? A level of closeness in that relationship is now gone, because they will no longer be able to identify with each other and suddenly the world becomes lonelier. Always strive to have friends in different age brackets. Having younger female friends will force you to often evaluate your behaviour and what you model (because you know someone is observing you and your Christian walk). Having older friends (by older I mean someone a generation or two older) will allow you to have a glimpse of whats coming up in life. All of this will change your thinking from YOLO to

To a certain degree this happened to me in highschool. I was dealing with some pretty horrific issues at home, and I sought out school as relief from pain. As I got older I noticed that my group of friends were more into talking about who was losing their virginity, or getting drunk on the weekend, or who was saying what about someone else. It was tiresome keeping up with who was apparently barred from our social group and who wasn't as it changed so often! And because I was extremely invested in getting into a specific career, whereby I had to make high grades and get into a particular college that was 500km away and not the local university everyone else was going to, I ended up spending a lot of my time in the library either crying in a corner over my home situation while trying to smother the pain with a novel or just plain studying. Im sure this absence and increasing standoffishness was noticed by the group and I definitely contributed to the move of being pushed out of that social group. I may have consented to that happening but it still felt like a hurtful low blow especially the gossip that I had to endure. It was an incredibly lonely time for me. I would not have coped with that period if it weren't for my then older boyfriend encouraging me on in my studies, my adult friends from church who prayed for me, my grandmother who knew my situation and was an ever present and gracious shoulder for me to lean on and my relationship with Jesus. Yeah I was walking through the valley but I knew he was right there with me. 

- Seek professional counseling/support if needed, preferably Christian. One of the biggest interventions in my life was in highschool and finding the courage to meet with a school counsellor. I was at a point where I frequently got funny looks from my peers and teachers from my close calls with falling apart. Occasionally I would just burst into tears for no reason. Or anger or just emotion. I remember a being in a class where domestic abuse was being discussed and a female classmate said the most irate, insensitive, ignorant and unintentionally cruel comment and given my home situation I knew she was completely wrong and I just flipped out and screamed at her. Knowing what she said was out of ignorance, and seeing my own response to a naive school girl's ignorance showed me that I needed help. I met with the school counselor and to my great joy I discovered that she was a Christian woman who deeply loved God and became a school counselor as her ministry calling. The list is too long with how that woman not only quietly discipled me but also taught me that I wasn't going crazy, there was a rhyme and a reason to what was happening and it wasn't in my head. She legitimized and helped me identify my pain and helped me see what I could do about it and who else I could bring into help. Another book I highly recommend to others is one that she gifted me and helped me see that I wasn't trapped, that I did have a choice about what was happening to me. And because of that book I was able to pray and dramatically and bravely overcome a near assault by my step father at the time from which he never physically touched me again. That book was 'Boundaries' by Dr. Cloud & Townsend. I have no idea what happened to that counselor, I can't even remember her name but I know she and her giftings and resources were a gift from God. nb - She also eventually helped me move out when the timing became right and appropriate and she supported me by telling me my spiritual and legal rights and govt supports that I was entitled to.