6 words single parents need to hear from you and the church

The Today Show in the US posted a video called, ‘To All The Single Parents Out There: We Honor You.’ To all Australians, I’ve copied the video name so the spelling of honor looks odd to us, but the video has a powerful message to single parents: YOU MATTER!

Be prepared for the first comment after the video which blames the destruction of America on single parents and amidst the encouragement are other hostile comments.

That’s a part of the world of a single parent – hurtful words of blame and condemnation.  I’ve shared my story about a comment made by a pastor at my local church as they closed a children’s ministry program at one service, justifying the decision that only single parents used the program and therefore it was too resource intensive.

This can be offset by words of encouragement and support. So, here are six words single parents need to hear from you and the church:

Welcome! You matter! You are strong!

Welcome

Single parents need to hear words of welcome into the community, to be accepted as a family and for their journey to be understood eg. babysitting is a big (and costly) issue for single parents so attending church activities can be hard.

Do you know what the percentage of single parent families is in your community? Is this percentage reflected in your church? Why the difference? How can you be more welcoming and make your church a welcoming place?

You matter

The video said important words to single parents: you matter. Whether the person became a single parent by choice or circumstance, they have value and worth. They are seen.

You are strong

Often what is said to and about single parents is negative. The media equation of single parenting equals bad parenting, reporting poor outcomes of children from single parent families and the burden they are on society. Single parents can be disempowered by the welfare system.

Each single parent carries an enormous load of being the provider and being there 24/7 for their kids. Below is a comment in response to the Today show video. It shows the typical life of a single parent.

“To wear second hand clothes so your kids can have new … to go without a meal so your kids can eat better… to work day and night so they can have nice things. It isn’t a job … it is life. It isn’t hard work because it is done with love. Thank you from all of us!”

Did you see the needs in what they said e.g. poverty? Or did you see the strength in this person; the love for their child, their resilience to keep going in tough circumstances, their willingness to sacrifice for their children.

As people and churches, we need to see the strengths in single parents, not just the need. Then we can speak the strengths back to the person. Help them see their assets and their courage. Point out ‘what’s strong’ instead of ‘what’s wrong’.

Come alongside and ask the single parent, ‘How can we help you, so you can use your gifts to achieve your purpose?’

Putting legs on it

Here’s some links to help you understand and journey with single parents:

Refer single parent to another one of my websites One Together: One Together provides resources and some wisdom to help single parents in their journey. It aims to help single parents be their best and grow their best family.

To read my chapter ‘Successful single parenting’ click here

2 ways for the church to be God’s hope dispenser on earth

Even the weeds are abundant. I love spring in Adelaide.

Blue skies and sunny days. The fruit trees have blossomed and are now covered in leaves and budding fruit. My roses are blooming with the first flush of large fragrant flowers, the weeds are bursting into life creating a dense forest all around my garden. My bottle brush tree is laden with bright red flowers that contrast with the blue sky, bees and honey eaters abounding. The season of spring inspires hope.

What is hope?

The dictionary describes hope as a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the expectation that particular things will happen and as a verb, it is defined as wanting something to happen. 1

Biblically based hope is to desire something with confident expectation of its fulfilment. 2 It is not a nice, wishy-washy sentiment of something you would like.  It is grounded in confidence that it will happen.  Hope has strength to it.  Hope is actively trusting that God will do what He promises.

The other morning, music on, stretching, ruminating on preparing a sermon, some words stood out like they were painted in the air in front of me. ‘We are your church. We are the hope on earth.’ 3

The church is God’s hope dispenser on earth.

Jesus gave and modeled hope. Lee Strobel, atheist journalist turned Christian apologist, describes Jesus as a ‘hope dispenser’ in ‘The Case for Hope.’He writes, ‘[Jesus] lived a life that instilled in His followers the hope that they could find greater meaning and purpose in their lives.  He spread tangible hope as He healed the broken hearts and diseased bodies of countless .people.  He embodies hope for our earthly lives and promises a hope-filled existence in heaven for eternity to those who would trust and follow Him.’ 5

Jesus left the church to action the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God is not about our individual salvation and ticket to heaven, but how to live as followers of Jesus now. We have both an individual role to fulfil and a collective purpose as the church, to build the kingdom in the here and now.  The church is God’s hope dispenser on earth.

Here’s 2 ways for the church to be God’s hope dispenser on earth

  1. Be an inclusive community
  2. Ignite hope in others
  1. Exercising the power of community

Loneliness and social isolation are growing in our society. They are harmful to health, increase the risk of mental decline and depression. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.6

Social networks and friendships reduce the risk of becoming ill and help people recover when they are sick.

Collective life in the church needs to be an inclusive community of love for each other, connecting with others to decrease loneliness, offering a place of acceptance and somewhere to belong.

Unlike most groups, the church meets all year round, is multigenerational and contains diverse people from different social economic backgrounds- and cultures, who barrack for different football teams. Some people don’t even follow football.

We are better together.

  1. Being hope-full

There are two parts to this. Remind yourself of your hope so you can have hope for others, igniting it in others.

What reminds you of hope? Some common images are:

  • Lighthouse – safety, light in dark times of danger
  • Candle – Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ We can light our candle in His and pass on the flame
  • Anchor – strength and stability, something holding you in place. Biblical image Hebrews 6:19
  • Seeds of hope – find a foothold often in adversity and grow into plants

For me it’s the colour purple. It comes from a Ken Duncan photo of a field of flowering Salvation Jane. In Victoria the same plant is called ‘Paterson’s curse.’  It’s a weed, poisonous to grazing animals, particularly horses. I figure when I look at the abundant purple colour of the plant in bloom that if a poisonous weed has beauty … then there is hope for me. I see this picture when I wake up every morning. It’s a reminder of God’s abundant love for me and that gives me hope for the day. I wear the colour purples as a choice.

Hope is contagious.

People catch hope from each other. Your hope affects hope in others.  Studies show that the personal qualities of health care professionals, particularly their hopefulness, will impact a patient’s hopefulness. 7 If the health professional is hopeful for the patient, the patient is more likely to be hopeful themselves. The reverse is also true. I shared my story about this in one step to ignite hope in others link

We can ignite hope in others; we can inspire a future vision of hope. Others can hang onto our hope when they don’t have it (as I did).

My health professional didn’t just speak hope to me and leave me alone. She walked the journey with me, an example of the power of community.

We ignite hope by:

  • Friendships and being with people
  • Smiling at people
  • Listening to them
  • Giving people your time
  • Concern for what is concerning them
  • Friendship and inclusivity take time and effort

Putting legs on it

How can you remind yourself of hope?

Ensure your church is a welcoming and inclusive community.

Resources

Learn one step to ignite hope in others

Reference

  1. Oxford Living Dictionaries, viewed 17 October 2017, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/hope
  2. Life Application Study Bible – New International Version, Tyndale House Publishers Inc, Illinois and Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, 1991, p. 2463.
  3. Rend Collective, Build your kingdom here, 2012, viewed 17 October 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbdJXKqVgtg
  4. L Strobel, The Case for Hope, Zondervan, Michigan, 2015
  5. Ibid, p32
  6. Campaign to end loneliness, viewed 17 October 2017 https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/about-loneliness/
  7. C Dameron, The Importance of Hope, Journal of Christian Nursing, Vol 31, No 2, 2014, p. 77.

 

Stress – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Which one is yours?

‘You’re stressed.’

‘No I’m not.’

‘Yes you are. You’re too busy.’

‘I’m busy but I’m not stressed.’

Ever had a conversation like that? I have. Lots. I have it with concerned friends. I have it with doctors who blame all my health problems on my stress level. And if they’re going on my history, I have burnt myself out a few times. For me, maintaining a balance to stay healthy is a work in progress. Side note: my definition of health is fulfilling my purpose even though I live with a chronic health condition.

The word stress has a negative perception. Stress equals bad. However, there is also good stress but worse still – ugly chronic stress.

Watch the video below about the different types of stress (this will be a shorter blog as much of the information is in the video).

Good stress

Stress is defined by the Mayo Health Clinic as ‘a normal psychological and physical reaction to positive or negative situations in your life, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. Stress itself isn’t abnormal or bad. What’s important is how you deal with stress.’1

Stress can be positive providing motivation, focus, improved performance, meeting and overcoming challenges, whilst learning grows the brain. This is good stress.

Bad stress

Stress becomes bad when the person’s capacity to cope is exceeded and they become dis-stressed2. This negative stress is subjective and related to the person’s resilience.

Ugly stress

Ugly stress is when the dis-stress becomes chronic. There is no recovery period and the body is constantly awash with stress chemicals.

Chris Kresser who specialises in functional medicine says, “…no matter what diet you follow, how much you exercise, and what supplements you take, if you’re not managing your stress, you will still be at risk of modern conditions…” modern conditions: diabetes, autoimmune conditions

Busy not stressed

I can be busy and not be ugly or bad stressed. By intentionally self-caring and pursing my life purpose, I can be busy and motivated by my stress. This includes: keeping my tank full to give to others from, by practising relaxation techniques to reverse the stress response, by monitoring my thoughts and daily writing a gratitude journal, by eating a nutritious diet suitable for my health condition , ensuring I get enough sleep, using boundaries – turning off my mobile phone sometimes and not answering emails out of work hours.

When I’m busy meeting other people’s agenda and I’m not feeding my soul, I get distressed – bad stress.

Putting legs on it

What about you? Are you stressed? Is it good, bad or ugly stress?

What can you do to offset it? Here’s some of my resources that can help:

In the restoring balance retreat and course, we discuss stress, what happens in the body short and long term, together with ways to deal with chronic stressors.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Stress series videos – posted on FaceBook and YouTube

  1. Stress – the good, bad and ugly – tonight
  2. What’s your pay off – Wednesday night
  3. Recognising stress – Thursday night
  4. What are you gonna do about it? – Friday night

References

  1. Stress Basics (1998-2016) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495 accesssed 6/10/16
  2. Wahls, T (2014) The Wahls Protocol, Penguin Group, U.S.A p 295-296 and  Kresser, C. (2013) The Paleo Cure, Little Brown and Company, U.S.A p241-247.

 

10 ways to choose compassion fatigue

Watching the sunrise, a favourite past time of mine, I reflected on the promise of the new day. Each morning is a fresh slate on which I can build. My mind started to race with my ‘to do’ list while yesterday’s problems regurgitated in my head. I had a moment of realisation.  I have choices that would influence the outcome of my day. I was choosing stress and compassion fatigue and I hadn’t even been awake for 10 minutes! As I’m so practiced at choosing this, I thought I’d share a few tips on how you can do it too.

Here’s 10 ways for you to choose compassion fatigue:

  1. Recite your to do list

Every time you think of something to do, automatically list everything else that needs to be done as well. My big kids avoid me when I start listing as they know it increases my tension and the frustration that comes out of my mouth with not so generous words to others. I defend myself with, ‘I’m just organising myself’ but at the same time I feel my stress levels rising.

  1. Say, ‘there’s not enough time’

Even typing those words, I feel my anxiety increase. Saying those words can put you into a state of panic as you become gripped by all you must do and realise it can’t be done.

  1. When people ask how you are, say ‘I’m busy’

This is a great way to end a conservation, disconnecting from people (see point 4), giving you more time to attempt your to do list. Saying ‘I’m busy’ can lead to ‘to do’ list recitation (see point 1).

  1. Decline invitations to be with friends

We are better together. Isolating yourself from others contributes to compassion fatigue. You have no one to share with, download to, problems solve with, or even just have fun with.

  1. Don’t practise healthy behaviours

When time is short the easiest way to get more of it is to buy takeaway food so you don’t have to shop or cut up veggies. You can scrape together more time by choosing not to exercise. Tell your exercise partner you’re too busy, and you could always list what you have to do. If you are a Christian, cut out your quiet time and miss church. Again, not seeing friends gives you more time to be busy.

  1. Always say ‘yes’

Never say ‘no’. Whenever you are asked to do something by someone else (be it your boss or your mother) say yes even though your insides are screaming ‘no, I don’t want to’ or ‘that will overload me’. By having poor boundaries, you ensure you are taking on the responsibilities of others and will have more to do.

  1. Don’t prioritise.

With your endless ‘to do’ list, don’t analyse it or think about what needs to be done first and whether anything else on it can be delegated, wait for another time, or just not be done. Keep yourself busy with lots of little things ensuring you don’t have time for the big deadline then work all night to get it done.

  1. Forgo rest

As you’re so busy that you don’t have time to catch up with friends or eat properly, the idea of taking time out just to do nothing is ludicrous. Think up all the extras things you can get done if you don’t stop to rest

  1. Ruminate on your problems (and the problems of others)

By continually regurgitating your problems, you keep yourself in a state of stress. If you work/minister with others this includes not going to supervision or debriefing where you could both download and problem solve, or learn other ways to respond. Being exposed to the trauma of others and not dealing with its effect on you, will lead to secondary trauma as part of your compassion fatigue and even secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  1. Feel like everything depends on you

By not delegating, prioritising or using boundaries, you can create the feeling that you are alone and everything depends on you. This will increase your stress levels and lengthen your ‘to do’ list.

 

Although the above is written with a hint (slather) of sarcasm, I have done all these things. It is a daily choice I make which leads to compassion fatigue or not. It depends on what I choose.

Putting legs on it

What about you? What are the daily choices that can lead you to compassion fatigue? What is one choice you could make today that will not add to your stress levels?

I can help you with:

  • self-care pack (click here)
  • sign up to Restoring Balance course (or women’s retreat if you are in Adelaide click here). The first session helps you understand compassion fatigue, its contributing factors and assess your levels. Then look at what stress does at the basic physiological level of your body and how to manage it and strategies to not what is on the list. Click here for online course which opens 1st October – if you sign up now, get immediate access to ‘How to make a change that sticks’ online course, to prepare you to make changes to restore balance rather than choose compassion fatigue.
  • Assess your compassion fatigue levels – click here

What my garden taught me about self-care

It was Autumn. The days were mild and sunny, the leaves changing and our tomatoes were still fruiting. We had nursed them through the heat of summer – lots of water on hots days, weeding and staking them so they would grow and produce, so we could harvest the red flavoursome fruit. And they did.

They kept going into Autumn. But in the lull of gentle weather, no extremes of heat or storms, we didn’t care for them. One day I went to pick some tomatoes and noticed the plant leaves were withering and the fruit was yucky. I realised this was a slow destruction we hadn’t seen happening. Lulled by the good circumstances, we neglected to care for the bushes in the same way we did in summer and they died and the fruit rotted.

It’s easy to neglect self-care in times of ease

I realised it paralleled my attitude to self-care. When things are going well I back off. When my body doesn’t cry out to stretch everyday just to ease pain and be mobile, my incentive to exercise is gone so I skip it. When I’m not overloaded with deadlines, I don’t prioritise time to rest and wind down.  When life is good, abundant, and flourishing, I forget to keep looking after myself and my healthy habits decline, leaving me like my fading tomatoes bushes and with sickly fruit.

When life is good it’s easy to forget to self-care; the necessity doesn’t drive us. We can slip back into sickness or arrive in burnout and question why we didn’t see it coming?

Make a habit of self-care

Self-care is a long-term habit practiced in times of ease not just times of stress. Do you self-care in times of health and ease? Investing in you by looking after yourself in times of ease enables you to cope better in times of stress. It gives you margins and a full tank to pour extra out into others, or cope with heavy deadlines for a while. If you have healthy habits these are protective against stress, but you need to continue them in times of stress, rather than having to start them up again which feels likes another burden when you are already heading into overload.

As you finish times of overload you need to keep going with self-care. How many times do you stop taking the medication prescribed by the doctor once the symptoms have abated, ignoring his/her advice to finish the course?

You need to self-care in times of stress and times of ease, in sickness and health, to create a lifelong habit that is protective and helps manage the inevitable times of overload when we step into the stress puddle.

Self-care includes:

  • Rest – physically resting your body, changing your attitude to stop trying to control everyone and everything
  • Filling your caring tank – doing activities and being with people who fill you
  • Boundaries – practising personal boundaries on your time, your work life balance, electronic intrusion and setting limits on people
  • Managing stress – reversing the effect of stress in your body by physical activity, flow activities, music, craft, relaxation breathing
  • Controlling your thought life – practising gratitude, reframing, strength focused, self-compassion
  • Caring for your health – in all areas not just physical but spiritual, mental, relational, emotional as well
  • Finding the balance between caring for you and caring for others
  • Developing priorities – using techniques to manage your priorities and learning scheduling
  • Promoting healthy relationships – identify your supports
  • Pursuing your passions – identify your gifts, live a life of purpose

Putting legs on it

Review the table below or click here to download the Self-Care Checklist to help you discover the areas you are doing well and where you can improve

Identify one area to learn more about and action change. Click on the link in the self-care list above for more information on how to develop this corresponding self-care skill or join a Restoring Balance (link) retreat or on-line course – more at end of this post

Desperate Needs attention OK

 

Great 100%
Rest
Filling your caring tank
Boundaries
Managing stress
Controlling your thought life
Caring for your health
Finding the balance between caring for you and caring for others
Developing priorities
Promoting healthy relationships
Pursuing your passions

Restoring Balance

The online course opens in October: click here for a video of what is in the course and click here to save your place and get access to ‘How to make a change that sticks’ as a thank you bonus.

Click here to register for the women’s retreat for those in Adelaide, South Australia

As a thank you bonus for joining either programme, and to help you make the changes you need for a restored life, you will receive FREE access to the short on-line course ‘How to make a change that sticks’.

Tomato Photo credit: Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

4 steps to be a better support person

I had a ‘fish slap moment’ this week – if you’re a Monty Python fan you’ll get the reference! If you’re not click here to watch the video   Its the moment a revelation knocks into consciousness in your head, with a jolt, like a slap in the face with a big fish. You go, ‘der’ why didn’t I recognise or think of that before?

Knowing a single friend was really sick this week, I just went merrily on my way, not thinking of the implication for her. She couldn’t get out of bed to prepare food, get to a doctor or do anything that would be a comfort to her, which compounded her illness. When the ambulance took her to hospital, the ‘fish’ whipped across my face. ‘You teach pastoral care Vicky, and you missed the foundational, ‘what is the implication for the other person’ step.’

Maybe my learning will be useful to you as you care for others. Here’s 4 steps to be a better support person.

1.What is the implication for the other person?

We talk to people on Sundays, we catch glimpses of someone’s life, but during the week we get caught up in our own world and do our own thing and don’t connect the dots. We need to think through life from the other person’s perspective. How will this affect them this week and into the future? What is the implication for the other person?

We are better at seeing some of these than others. For example, with an older couple, the wife dies and we respond with meals as the husband may not know how to cook. For many older couples when the husband dies, the wife has no idea on how to manage the finances but we don’t think, ‘we need to help her to budget, help or teach her how to use ‘internet banking’. We have pat responses to situation requiring support but need to use our heads, observing and asking what support the individual needs and thinking over how we can support them.

What does looking for the implication look like in practice? Here’s 3 examples:

  1. A single parent is sick. Consider who’s picking the kids up from school? Who’s cooking? How do they get to medical help without taking all the kids with them? What is the implication and how can we help?
  2. Someone shares with you that a work colleague has died. What does that mean for them? Loss of friendship? Increased workload to cover for the person at a time when they are grieving? Can we lighten their load elsewhere to accommodate this? Do they have to support other workers? Do you know of any support services to help with this? What is the implication and how can we help?
  3. A 45-year-old man loses his job. We might offer other job connections but how is his self-esteem going when his identity as bread winner and provider for the family is shattered? What is the implication and how can we help?

 2. Being practically specific

Help is more likely to be accepted if it’s a definitive offer rather than a generic ‘ring me any time you need’ offer. The latter is also bad for your boundaries because,  do you really mean 3am in the morning? If we understand the implications for the person, we have thought about it and asked them not just assumed. We can then make an offer of help that is more specific to their needs and fits within our boundaries. Examples:

  1. Would you like me to pick the kids up from school on Wednesdays and Thursday? Are you OK for Maxine to bring around a pasta meal for you all tonight? It will be big enough for 2 meals for all of you?
  2. Can I organise someone to take your place on the morning tea roster so that’s one less thing for you to think about for the next few months?
  3. Did you know there’s a men’s shed that meets weekly? I can connect you with Bob who goes there?

Being specific and practical is better for us as we are offering what fits with our demands and we’re are less likely to be resentful. A helpful statement to learn is:

This is what I can do for you (insert ….) at this time.

3. Connect to others

We don’t have to meet every person’s every need, but we do need to know where else to connect people in the local community. I  teach my pastoral care students to create a resource and referral folder to keep details of services, what they provide and how to access them, as well as being a bower bird, collecting brochures of services and useful information sheets to give to people.  Examples:

  1. Connect the mum to others to grow an informal support network.
  2. Here’s some information on local grief supporters who may be able to come to your workplace and provide information, and a local grief support group for you.
  3. Connect him with a local community centre that offer to help people update resumes and write job applications.

    4. Self -care

Boundaries and being specific in what you can provide is part of self-care but you can’t care and support others if your caring tank is empty. Keep refilling your caring tank.

Putting legs on it

Think of one person/situation you are supporting someone through:

  • What is the implication for them?
  • What is one practical and specific offer you can make?
  • Who else can you connect them to?

Schedule self-care into your diary this week.

Jumped into a puddle of stress? Stop adding to it, start bailing, protect yourself and get others to help you.

Watch a short clip from the Vicar of Dibley about jumping in puddles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWKUeV5B4mI

Can you relate to jumping in and feeling like you are being swallowed? The sensation of being trapped in rising water with cold water seeping into your body. Is your puddle filling up as stress rains on you – more things that require your attention. Can you do this for me now please…more conflict…more support required for other people experiencing difficult times in their lives…electronic failure…financial stress… unread emails mounting up.

The water level in the puddle rises, its pressure is constricting your chest – it’s hard to breathe. Moving your limbs you feel the weight against them, every movement is hard work as you push against the compressive weight of the water.

How to live in a stress puddle.

Let’s face it, we can’t just step out the puddle and walk away from everything in our lives, wave goodbye to work, family and ministry – tempting as it might be. Sometimes we can have a holiday or even a mini break, if just in our heads before jumping back into the puddle. But what can we do to change life in our puddle?

  1. Stop it filling up more.

Get an umbrella to deflect the rain away. What’s your umbrella? Thoughts patterns – especially how you think about what is happening. Are you raining negative thoughts down, falling into despair?

Develop boundaries – learn to say no sometimes. Bill Hybels in ‘Simplify’ says that by keeping boundaries you will, ‘live with more energy and reserves in your life, you will without doubt disappoint some people’ 1. Link

Sometimes this means saying no to good things, and finding your ‘best’ to focus your time and energy on. Bill Hybels calls this ‘simplified living’. He says, ‘Simplified living is more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lessor opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created.’ 2.

Learn how to manage electronic intrusions like turning off your phone, set limits on when your will check emails, have a date night with your partner regularly and protect it, protect your quiet time. link

  1. Start bailing.

What can you do to lift the burden and lower the water level so you don’t go under, relieving some of the compression on your chest so you breathe, and move more freely without the weight of stress?

Learn and practise prioritising and scheduling. Work out what is most urgent and focus on that, what can only you work on and what can you hand over to someone else (yes they might not do it quite like you, but let go of the need to control everything). What can be delayed? Sometimes when you delay a response a situation resolves itself. link

Learn to manage your emotions and thoughts. Get rid of chest constricting anger. Lift off the weight guilt and shame.  link

  1. Protect yourself

Get a pair of gumboots or waders, something to stop you taking in water.  For me this looks like making sure I practise quiet time to fill my spirit and stop my mind going negative; stretching every day to stop my body seizing up. What fills you? It could be craft, music, or being with others. Make sure you are filling your tank and practising self-compassion.  Link

Have a positive vision for the future that you are working towards. Celebrate the small steps. link

  1. Get help

It’s difficult to hold the umbrella, bail the puddle and put on your protective gear all by yourself –you need others to help.

Others can help you with the above steps. Do you need an accountability partner to help you hold your boundaries? Can you come under the authority of someone else so you are not taking all the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you need someone to support you in goals to practise healthful behaviours – a coach or a buddy to work together with?

Can someone help you with managing your emotions, help you bail the puddle? This could be a friend or maybe you need professional support for a while.

Do you have people who support you or are you doing all the supporting? Map your circle of support link

Putting legs on it

How deep are you in the puddle? Identify one step you can take to help yourself?

 

References

  1. B Hybels, Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, USA, 2014, p. 11.
  2. B Hybels, Simplify, Hodder & Stoughton, USA, 2014, p. 2.
Photo by dan carlson on Unsplash

Dear church, please understand one person is not a marriage

Dear church leaders and people

Please understand this. A person can’t have a marriage by himself/herself. You are hurting people by what you say about divorce and how you say it.

There’s information here to help you grapple with the Biblical concept of marriage and how it’s blended in culture and law, and at what point the marriage is over.

I’m taking a stand here and declaring my position on divorce and confess my bias as a divorced Christian. The lens I view theology through is one of grace and all sins can be forgiven, including breaking marriage vows. I also acknowledge the irony that when I point out your judgments, I’m judging you.

I hope by increasing your awareness, that maybe you will change your thinking and behaviour.

One person is not a marriage

No matter how much one person desires a relationship and/or is committed to the marriage, if the other person isn’t part of it, there is no relationship. There is no marriage. One person doesn’t make a marriage. It takes two to form a relationship but it only takes one to leave.

And leaving isn’t always physically removing themselves from the relationship. Many people ‘stay’ in the relationship, but they have checked out and left by their actions.

There may be abuse – physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual. They may be emotionally connected to another person and the love and emotional intimacy that should be shared with their partner is being given to someone else. This may not be labelled adultery, but it has a similar detrimental effect on the marriage.   One partner could be sleeping with others – either emotionally committed to the new relationship, or using prostitutes. Once the companionship is broken there is no marriage from a Biblical point of view. See below.

So, beware of your judgements and statements about how ‘wrong’ divorce is that blankets every Christian divorcee with the same shame, punishing them even though many people wanted desperately to remain married, but couldn’t have a marriage by themselves.

Please note, I’m not saying they are without blame, or I am without blame. I teach in my ministry to people at the end of a relationship, that to heal and move forward they need to look in the mirror and acknowledge their contribution to the problems in the relationship, discovering their hidden drivers in their patterns of relating. This is not to blame them, but part of the healing process enabling them to create healthy new relationships.

Also, I’m not saying that wives are to blame when their husbands connect emotionally with others or commit adultery. I’ve read comments on a God TV story, shared on Facebook with Christian men saying it’s the wife’s fault for not being submitted or meeting her husband’s needs, so he had to look elsewhere. No!

It takes two people to enter a relationship and be a part of its issues, but it only takes one person to leave.

The Concept of marriage and divorce is shaped by culture and laws

So, let’s talk about the marriage union, and separate the Biblical concept from our legal and cultural norms. The way we do marriage is dictated by law 1 and culture. In Australia if you meet the criteria to marry you must complete a ‘notice of intended marriage form’ at least one month before the wedding. You must prove your ID and on the day of your wedding you, the celebrant and two witnesses sign certificates and the celebrant has 14 days to register your marriage. Likewise, there are rules around divorcing 2.  These rules are different in different countries and the way we celebrate marriages looks different in different countries and cultures. Even during my lifetime in Australia, the rules around how to marry and divorce have changed.

The Biblical concept of marriage and divorce

So please reflect on how your view of marriage and divorce is shaped by your culture and the laws of your society, and then recognise the effect of culture and law in what is written in the Bible. For example, in the Bible, divorce always means the end of the marriage, there is no separation followed by a legal decree. 3 God instituted the Bill of Divorcement to protect women (Genesis 24). Women were seen as a man’s possession and had no means of financing themselves except through marriage, concubinage, prostitution or slavery.4 Divorce, which was available only to men, could be accomplished by sending the wife from the house.5 The Bill of Divorcement was necessary to allow women to remarry.

God invented the union of marriage at the start of the Bible when He created man. A Bible scholar says, ‘[m]arriage was established because Adam was alone, and that was not good. Companionship, therefore, is the essence of marriage’.6 The unification of the marriage is over when one person breaks the bond, when the companionship is broken. This usually occurs before the couple separates and divorces in modern day.

Words hurt

When you write and speak against divorce and label societies view of marriage as flippant, remember that most people make their marriage vows ‘till death do us part’ with complete sincerity. They are not thinking, ‘Well I’ll do this for a year or two, maybe a decade, then I’ll rip my family and myself apart and break up.’

I shared my story in ’10 ways to alienate and drive divorced/single again people away from your church’ blog how I reacted with uncontrollable sobs when the minister made a comment ‘Christians don’t divorce.’ But they do!

When you write and speak about people who are divorced, much of the language is negative. A reminder to look for the strengths of the person, not just their label of ‘divorced’. We all have scars.

Also, please don’t use the term ‘broken home’. But I’ll write to you again about that later.

You are the source of hope and healing for all people. Live it!

Best wishes

Vicky

References

  1. Attorney-General’s Department, Getting married’, Australian Government, viewed 13 July 2017, https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Pages/Getting-married.aspx
  2. Attorney-General’s Department, Getting divorced’, Australian Government, viewed 13 July 2017, http://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/family-and-community/relationships/getting-divorced.
  3. K Crispen, Divorce, Hodder and Stoughton, Australia, 1988, p. 12-18 and JE Adams, Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the bible. Zondervan, U.S.A, 1980, p. 32-35
  4. B Prewer, ‘Sex and marriage: Biblical and historical’, Ministering to loss situations including separation, divorce and death – Kit 3, Family Ministries Commission, Australia, 1983
  5. K Crispen, Divorce, Hodder and Stoughton, Australia, 1988, p. 11
  6. JE Adams, Marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the bible. Zondervan, U.S.A, 1980, p. 8
  7. B Prewer, ‘Sex and marriage: Biblical and historical’, Ministering to loss situations including separation, divorce and death – Kit 3, Family Ministries Commission, Australia, 1983, p. 3

Photo credit: Samuel Scrimshaw www.unsplash.com.au

3 ways to unwrap the gift of time.

Lately I’ve been describing time as my enemy. It’s been busier than normal – and my normal is flat out. I’m always complaining about my lack of time, failing to complete excessively long ‘to do’ lists, excusing myself from social gatherings and struggling to look after my body with sleep, rest, relaxation and exercise.

Time is not the enemy. It’s how I use it. I’ve labelled time as something I use and consume. I read about time management and try to learn ways to control it, rather than seeing it as a gift to replenish me.

Part of going full bore lately is that I knew I had space coming up on the calendar, spaces like now where I’m away for a long weekend interstate – away physically from normal life, and mentally from my usual world. I have let people know I will be unavailable to contact, as I purposely don’t do email on my phone, and I’m not connected to Wi-Fi on my computer (my choice, not my hosts lack of offering).

This is my time to rest and replenish. To sleep in. To spend time with friends and family without guilt about what else I should be doing, as I’ve given myself permission to not work. I have a fiction book to read.  I have tools to write and journal, but no ‘to do’ list or expectation of finishing anything related to writing, work or business.

Later this year I have a holiday planned. Time to just be. To enjoy beautiful scenery with an old friend whilst we chat or be silent. To walk beaches. To read. Knowing this, it’s easier to focus on the frenetic activity, because I know I have given myself the gift of time in the future.

Time is not an enemy. How to change your view of time.

So, okay  why does it have to wait for a holiday?

I can give myself the gift of time; daily, weekly, yearly. While I guard my time away, I can sanction some time each day for rest and replenishment. This includes time to take care of my body. As I am a Christ follower this includes time to be quiet with God. I set aside time once a week for an electronic time out. No computer, so no emails for 24 hours. Limited contact with text and phone (friends therefore I don’t always respond straight away).

The choice is how you view time – manage the enemy, or see it as a gift with which you can both accomplish things and restore yourself. As I wrote this, sitting alone in my cousin’s house, her birthday presents sat on the cupboard behind me wrapped and waiting to be opened in a few days’ time. Time is as gift – it’s there but you have to choose to unwrap it.

Here’s 3 steps to help you to unwrap the gift of time

  1. Schedule it

Sounds like an oxymoron saying time is a gift but you have to schedule it. Think of it as deliberately unwrapping the present.

Is your schedule just a big to-do list with times or does it have times just to be; daily, weekly and longer breaks. In my early days as a single parent I didn’t have the money for holidays except when my parents generously took us somewhere, and trips to the family farm. But we had times just to be, by declaring pyjama days. Days where no-one in the family had to do anything. We ate what we could find. We got dressed only if we wanted to. We watched videos, played games, drew, wrote, snoozed, played with the dog.

Giving yourself the gift of time doesn’t have to cost money, but you must schedule daily, weekly time outs where you give yourself permission to stop and just be.

  1. Let go of running the world

In this electronic age where we expect instant responses, part of embracing the gift of time is to let go of running the world. Let people know you are off the grid, so you can assure yourself you don’t have to check emails and texts. You can turn off your work mobile or pass it onto a colleague. Even turn it onto silent or charge it in another room. Unless it’s an emergency (be clear to others what constitutes one – and not being able to find your shoes isn’t one!), you don’t have to respond and control things.

  1. Guard it.

It is easy if you see a blank space on your calendar to think I could just squeeze something in there, and before you know it, your downtime has evaporated in activity. Guard your gifts of time.

These are all choices. Choices in how your view and use your time – it’s not your enemy, it’s a gift. It’s a choice to schedule time and guard it and a choice to let go of control.

Putting legs on it

Grab your calendar and create some spaces to just be – daily, weekly, yearly. Label them as appointments with yourself, so you won’t double book!

Think about giving yourself the gift of time and attending the Restoring Balance retreat in Adelaide in October.  The early bird special has been extended to the end of July (because I was too busy to change the price in Eventbrite!) Click here to register

If you can’t come then think about doing the course online. Registrations will open again in October but right now I’m looking for 5-10 final product testers to complete the course by the end of August, providing feedback so I can edit the course to relaunch it in October. There are 20 lessons over 3 modules – 1. Avoiding compassion fatigue 2. Health, and 3. Selfcare. The lessons take between 15 and 30 minutes (video and reflection time). By finishing 2-3 lessons each week you can complete the course in the time-frame. I will be available in the private Facebook group for support. You will access the course, Facebook group and receive access to bonus materials on how to make change stick for the discounted price of only $55 Australian dollars. The standard package usually retails for $197 AUS. This special offer finishes on Friday July 14that 11.55pm. Give yourself the gift of time and grab one of those spots now! Click here to access

Stress photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash
Gift photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Restoring Balance photo by Ally

5 ways to care for your spiritual health as a Christ follower

My ‘to do ‘list is full of activity – things to do and places to be. One of the things that never makes it onto the list is caring for my spiritual health. Yet when I attend to this important area of my life, the rest of it works better. It helps me to flourish.

How’s your spiritual health?

Over to you – how’s your spiritual life going? Let’s do a quick inventory of things that affect it:

  • Are you weighed down with negative emotions; burdened with guilt and shame?
  • Are you exhausted from disturbed sleep?
  • Are you overwhelmed with busy activity?
  • Are your belief systems battered by doubt or anger in reaction to your circumstances?
  • Do you have the time or energy to attend to your spiritual health? Is it last on your ‘to do’ list?

Caring for your spiritual health is an integral part of living a healthy life; a life in all its fullness.

Here’s some ways to do this:

 5 ways to care for your spiritual health as a Christ follower

  1. Grow your connection with God. Without communication, a relationship does not exist. You need to both talk and listen to God. Connection with God can be improved by: being still to listen to Him, prayer, and reading the Bible.
  1. Deal with any negative emotions and thought. Learn to manage your negative emotions and thoughts. These can be from loss and grief and/or what has been said and done to you by others that has imprinted itself in how you feel and think.
  1. Choose to surrender. Surrendering is different from obedience. You can be obedient with a bad attitude. Surrender is a heart attitude. It’s trusting God is good and faithful and in control, whilst abandoning self-sufficiency. Just a little theological note here. In the Old Testament in the Bible, God’s blessing for His chosen people of Israel was linked with their obedience. When you believe in Jesus, you live within the reality of God’s grace and your blessing is all that your relationship with Jesus brings. It’s not tied to your behaviour or obedience. By choosing to surrender to God’s purpose, you are drawn closer into relationship with Him and the blessings that go with it.
  1. Sing to the Lord. You need to find enjoyment in your relationship with God. He likes you to worship Him, not because He needs the ego boost but because it is part of delighting in the experience of God1. It can be a natural high. You can express worship in many ways: in prayer, in song, in play and laughter.

The Psalms in the Bible are full of songs of joy to the Lord. Gigi Graham Tchividjian, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, reflects on Psalm 66:1, happy that it says ‘noise’ rather than perfect harmony:2  ‘Make a joyful noise unto God.’

I’m glad too that I don’t have to be perfect and tuneful, just joyous. That’s why I sit at the front in church so I don’t blast people in the next row with my singing!

  1. Connect with other Christians. It is very difficult to be a growing Christian in isolation. You were created for relationship. You can connect with other Christians in large groups worshipping, but you also need time in small groups to relate to and become intimate with. It is in small groups that you learn how to make and maintain relationships, experience healing and outwork community. You also need to give to others.

Your relationship with God, like any human relationship, needs time and energy to grow and develop. It’s a choice. Don’t neglect your spiritual health. It provides hope and purpose for life.

Putting legs on it

Where are you now? Mark the following continuums from spiritual sickness to spiritual health.

 

apathetic ——————————————————————inspired

empty ———————————————————————overflowing

negative expectation——————————————————-positive outlook

lost ———————————————————————–purpose in life

frustrated——————————————————————peaceful

shifting values————————————————————–own life values

despair——————————————————————–hope

 

Reflecting on your spiritual areas that are in need of some wellness strategies, find something you can do to improve that area and practise it.

 

To grow in your connection with the God who created you, look at your life. Can you build

some quiet time with God into your day? Read the Bible. Find a church that supports you,

and challenges you to grow. Practise what makes you joyful.

Resources

Richard Forster (2008) Celebration of discipline – The path to Spiritual Growth, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, UK

Christianity Today: 3 tips to improving your spiritual health habits

Notes and bibliography

  1. J Ortberg, If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat, Zondervan, Michigan, 2001, p. 196.

G Graham Tchividjian, Weatherproof your heart, Fleming H Revell, U.S.A, 2000, p. 34.

 

In loving others you need to self-care so you can run your race to the finish

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