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How you can turn an External Pandemic into an Internal Rite of Passage

Its really hard to be an optimist in times like these- when the whole world is on HOLD while a deadly virus is slowly losing its grip on humanity. But what if the humanity that exists in you has the opportunity in this time to eradicate the diseases that have lingered in your life for too long. I’m not talking about medical diseases…but diseases of the heart- distortions in the way you think, believe and act.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

As I searched for words for the message I wanted to convey in this blog (a blog I wrote last year when I was going through my own transition) I wanted a description that would hold the weight of its magnitude.

To the degree that this pandemic is spreading around the globe right now, is the opportunity for an extreme makeover to happen in your heart. Its PANDEMIC. Its for all and its universal. Only within the space of such a drastic upheaval of all that we have known before, can we reestablish something new.

Dictionary.com describes “Rites of passage” as ceremonies that mark important transitional periods that “usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles.

Lets face it. The world has just been stripped of a lot of our “freedoms” that we naturally take for granted.

The freedom to breathe,

to congregate,

to drive,

to eat out,

to learn in a classroom,

to leave our kids in care,

to go to work,

to marry and to grieve in the presence of loved ones.

What its going to do in the process, whether you like it or not, is strip you of elements of your life that you have attached to your identity, and potentially result in an exasperation of your addictions.

Addictions are often our default when our identity is not secure. Addictions come about to regulate our emotions when we can’t manage them, giving us temporary comfort from unhealthy triggers. So what I want to do this week, is to talk about identity and help you to navigate any unexpected “stripping” of old roles (roles you have played in society, in your family or your workplace) so that you can create pathways for the new “roles” you’re about to take on.

In Australia, traditional custodians of the land, have had a Rite of Passage we know as the “Walkabout”. This is where a young boy (traditionally from the age of 10-16) goes on a walk by himself into the wilderness for a period of up to six months. Here he establishes his manhood and familiarises himself with an independent lifestyle in which he becomes spiritually and emotionally aware.

Even though there might not be a ceremony or a long journey a part from your family, this six month (or however long it may be) journey of self-isolation, could be your chance to journey into “adulthood” and emotional maturity. The feelings that arise in you as you become more introspective instead of socially involved, could just build the bridge for the internal Rite of Passage you never had- stripping you of all of your external support systems so that your inner world is strong.

When you’re struggling to just BE you, and the best version of YOU, my prayer is that this blog will allow you sit comfortably in your own skin and learn to dig deep into the crevices of your soul that still thirst for healing and wholeness.

Get ready.

Part 1 is coming tomorrow: Stay Home and Be at Home with You.

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Whole Heart Pursuit

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

 Jeremiah 29:13

One thing you need to understand about the nature of God is that He is NOT AFRAID OF YOU! He’s certainly not afraid of your mess and He’s not afraid you are going to tell Him something He doesn’t want to hear.

He knows EVERYTHING about you. He sees EVERY PART of your broken heart and He knows, more than you do, how it is affecting your life. He’s a good Father that wants you to admit that you’re struggling, not so that He can condemn you, but so that He can heal you.

So when He asks you to seek Him with your WHOLE heart, He is actually inviting you to expose every part of your heart to His loving kindness. He’s telling you that you can seek Him in those moments that broke your heart.

He’s not afraid of you asking Him “Where were you God?!” when my heart got broken… “Where are you now?” when I feel so all alone? Seeking Him with ALL of your heart, means that you can trust Him with the parts that even you don’t understand.

The next verse in Jeremiah, tells of a promise God gives when you seek Him in this way: “I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and places to which I have banished you, declares the LORD. I will restore you to the place from which I sent you into exile.”…Jeremiah 29:14

To the degree in which you withhold parts of your heart from God, will be the degree in which you will remain in captivity. Don’t you want freedom? Freedom is a consequence of your vulnerability. Give God ALL of your heart- even the parts that you haven’t exposed to anyone else, and you will experience a new level of freedom. He will restore you from that captivity that your past has placed you in.

Trust in the Lord with ALL YOUR HEART and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:4

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord, thank you that you see everything. That nothing has escaped your view and nothing has ever surprised you about what we’ve done. Thank you that you love us anyway and that we can trust you with our hearts. I pray that you would help me today to open up my heart to you more fully. I pray that you would come into those hidden areas of my heart. Where the lies of the enemy have kept me from exposing the truth, give me grace. Thank you for finding me so that I can find you. I want you Lord Jesus, so I give you all of me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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New Nature

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 TPT

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Coming into you’re new nature (or into a new level in that new nature) often feels like breaking out of a cocoon. The shell that was actually created from parts of who you were before, now sheds in order to make way for who you are becoming.

Often we look at a butterfly, forgetting what it was. Once it was a caterpillar. But one day, the caterpillar stopped eating, hung upside down from a twig or leaf and span itself a silky cocoon. Within its protective casing, the caterpillar radically transformed its body, eventually emerging as a beautiful butterfly. But it took a process and that process took time.

Your new nature is a process of becoming the version of you that you were created to be. Situations will trigger built in coping mechanisms that painfully remind you of your past but graciously pull you into your present. You have to remind yourself that being recreated is a PROCESS, not an instantaneous procedure.

Neural pathways need to be rewired, old habits have to be replaced with new habits. toxic relationships have to be recognised, terminated and grieved; work and social environments might have to be re-evaluated and renewed, new boundaries have to be put in place and the list goes on.

By recognising the root causes of your sin or issues as a part of you that you can’t take with you into your future, you change and you grow; your new skin starts to take shape around your new heart. This is what refining does: it brings things to the surface, in the heat of the moment or in the fire of the night, that then allow a separation process to occur.

By separating your identity (who you are) from your failure (what you did), you can allow your strengths (the image of God in you) to surface and restore the very thing that tried to keep you from your true identity. The problem however, is that many of us see our weaknesses as hindrances to achieving our goals. We let them bog us down, rather than allowing them to be bogged down by the new us. We don’t have to become victim to our past, but we can have victory over those things and allow them to shape us into better people.

Blessing comes when we allow God to use our failures as an opportunity to display His grace. Like the Apostle Paul, we can embrace our weaknesses with a fresh knowledge of God’s strength in us.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tomorrow, I’m going to look at how we can develop our new nature and understand how God sees you in the process. He loves you. He’s for you. With Him, you’re on the winning side so keep moving forward.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you that you set me free. Thank you for allowing me to be transformed into the image in which you created me for. You are my strength in the battle I’m facing. You are the One I look to as I reflect your nature to the world. Please help me to do so in a way that glorifies you.

In Jesus name, Amen

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Confessions of a Recovering Codependent; My personal journey of living with an Addict and the Holy Spirit

The first time I heard the term “Codependent”, I was writing an assignment for my ex-husband’s social work assignment.

LOL

Funny, not funny yet so ironic.

The textbook read something like the Oxford definition of the word:

“Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.”

It spoke of a relationship that was based on each other’s dysfunction and how the motivation behind the forming of that relationship often stemmed from one’s own “need to be needed.”

My heart pleaded “GUILTY” and I was confronted with not only my own heart condition within the marriage relationship, but also outside of it. I never spoke a word of it, stored it in the “Memories” folder of my brain and moved on with life. (That WAS the last assignment I did for him though. Hello?!)

Codependency” then confronted me years later. The term was used in its old school form “co-addict” within the pages of a book I was given at the event of my marriage break up. This beautiful psycho-therapist who had returned to her homeland of Ethiopia after studying in the US and working in the area of addiction, had just taken a book from her friend’s shelf the week that she met with me for coffee.

We were “co-labourers” in the mission field of Ethiopia and found ourselves serving for many of the same projects, which prompted us to investigate the reason for this, over a macchiato. The day we finally got around to catching up, was the week I had finally separated from my alcoholic husband. With this at the forefront of my mind, I poured my heart out to her as coffee was being poured out for us. She told me of this book called Women who love too much, and lent it to me alongside her professional support as I read through it.

Women who love too much spoke about the codependent/co-addict women who often end up in relationships like mine. This book opened my eyes to the reality of what my previous 20 years of relationship had been governed by- his addiction and my manipulating and enabling behaviour. It drew my attention to the tendencies that are described in this post about codependency and it had me cringing at the me I used to be.

It was confronting and it was real. I read it religiously over a couple of weeks, trying to slowly digest the rawness of its contents.

While being confronted with this, I was also trying to grapple with the effects of my separation as a missionary alone with four children in a country that was experiencing political tension at the time.  Taking on the responsibility of the only change I could make -for me and my kids, the reality of the recovery journey I had to embark on, eventually forced me (in a good way) to come to Sydney.

Here, over the last two years, I’ve taken on board the advice the book gave, but also put some things in place that have come as an organic response to the flow this current has taken us. “Waves” are described as “a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another.” This marriage breakup was a disturbance that caused a wave to move us from Africa to Australia and the medium was the Holy Spirit. He moved us. He protected us, and He essentially has guided me through this journey of recovery.

Here’s How:

  1. “A Disillusioned Marriage”– was the prophetic word given by a visiting preacher from the Pulpit of Beza Church on the eve of our departure from Ethiopia. I knew it was speaking to me but I didn’t know what it meant. I was disillusioned. My marriage wasn’t what I thought it was. The week I landed in Australia, I attended a conference in the Central Coast where one speaker had a CD all about being Disillusioned-I bought it. She (Alicia Britt-Chole) described it as “A gaining of reality”, or the “dissing of an illusion.” What I thought my marriage was, did not match up with the reality I was confronted by when I admitted that I was not responsible any longer for my partner’s behaviour. I had to make an intentional choice to no longer live in an illusion but to ask the Holy Spirit to help me align my thoughts and life with His reality for me.
  2. “The Serenity Prayer”– Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. The day I landed in Sydney, there was an Al-Anon meeting happening around the corner of our house we had moved into with my mum. She came with me as a support and I met with other people who had been in or were in, relationships with addicts. We were all admitting to our own addictions, submitting to the 12 step recovery program and allowing stories to be told within a safe environment set up to help people like us. I admitted that I had no power to change and needed the Holy Spirit (my Higher Power) to assist me in that. And He did. Getting in a support group like that, not only helped me to see that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced what I had experienced, but it also reflected back to me, through the stories of others, how necessary it was for me to break this cycle of addiction.
  3. “Its not your responsibility”– As I sat in a counsellors office, having a final “closure” mediation with my ex-husband, I heard a still small voice counsel me out of the physical tension I was experiencing. After apologising for all the manipulative behaviour and lack of accepting him for who he was, then asking one question of him, he started to react in a way that had become his norm. My norm was to take on the responsibility of that reaction and feel bad, guilty and try to appease the behaviour…but then I heard those words. And they didn’t just pop into my head, they were taken on board by the counsellor in the room. He assigned the responsibility back to the one who had decided to react like that and intercepted it from being passed off to me. I walked around a lake that day, over a bridge called the Jubilee Bridge, and understood that I had been emancipated from the slavery I had been brought under by my codependence. I. Was. Free. 2018 took us to another level as I began the year reading the book “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend. Game Changer. “Let your ‘No’ mean ‘No’ and respect other people’s ‘No'” became our family theme. Circumstances and challenges have caused my children and I to go to new levels in establishing boundaries for ourselves. I’m being coached through the online group by Dr Henry Cloud- Boundaries.me. One of the key causes of codependency is a lack of boundaries, so while I haven’t quite arrived, those fences are definitely being built and its great! 
  4. “Listen to the Holy Spirit 100%”- Last year I had a dream that I was dropping my kids off in a van then got onto a motorbike. I was riding the bike for a bit and it was sunny so I put my sunglasses on…then it started raining so I took them off and as I continued down the road I saw a van on the side of the road that had been in an accident and had casualties inside…but I kept on riding. The motorbike turned into a push bike and then eventually I started walking up a hill. As I walked up the hill, I heard a voice from behind me saying “Who do you listen to? People? Or the Holy Spirit?” The voice came from a beautiful little girl who kept walking passed me as she said “Listen to the Holy Spirit 100%! Listen to the Holy Spirit 100%!” This was a reminder to me that, no matter what the conditions, or the crises, the vehicle I’m being transported on in life’s journey or who I’m riding with- the Holy Spirit’s voice needs to be my dominant guide. Too often I have lived to please people- to help people- and to trust people. At the end of the day, if my motivation is driven by what the Holy Spirit has to say to me, then I must trust that He will get me to where I need to go and that I will cause no harm to myself or to others. Isaiah 30:21 says “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” That’s His promise to us!
  5. “Shine!” This program that I was introduced to at Hillsong Church, is all about empowering women to know their strength, worth and purpose. It helped me to come out of my insecure ways, low self-esteem and think positively about the visions that God has given me for my future. It wasn’t just a support group for women but an outreach of God’s loving hand to show me a better way. It was a tool that is research based and offers Cognitive Behavioural therapy within the confines of a loving environment. I sat through three semesters of this program before I actually got to help facilitate it for a group of women in the community who had been in similar situations to me.

In Luke 22:32, Jesus is talking to Simon Peter and warning him about his imminent betrayal. In light of this, He encourages him with these words “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Even though Simon Peter denied he knew Jesus, Jesus was praying for him not to lose his faith. And that when he came through, that he would encourage others. Jesus never disqualified Peter as an apostle but knew that it would give him more authority in encouraging others, because of his failure.

Though I have felt like I failed in this area of codependency, I have actually passed. I have passed through the recovery process and am in a stronger position now to tackle the challenges that come my way. I am able to resonate with the stories of those who feel like they are under the same slavery. And therefore, I am able to offer them hope and strength.

God turned around the ashes of my codependent nature and gave me a beautiful dependence on Him. I love Him for that. His Holy Spirit is the best source of comfort and guidance- may it be yours today too.

Look out for my book where I talk a bit more about this part of my journey.

My Recovery Song

 

 

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How “The Heart of Man” reflected My Heart’s Story

This is a repost of a blog I wrote on my old blog in June 2014. It was written about a Story Writing workshop run for practitioners working with people caught up in prositution and trafficking during an ICAP (International Coalition Against Prositution) conference in Wisconsin, USA.

I’m sharing this now at the event of the movie The Heart Of Man being released in Australia because it features Dan Allender and stories of people, just like me, who have been on the journey of healing through the telling of their stories. I encourage you to not only go watch the movie, but to share your story in a safe and healing place.

I’ve been wanting to write this story for SO long…
It’s a story of heart break and betrayal.

A story that bears the scars of an inner wound that stings as if it were freshly made, yet it had sunken so deep; buried under piles of rubble and debris of years gone past. Rubble now named “contempt”, “shame”, and “denial”.

Who knew that a work to heal a broken heart would take so much longer than a year? And that the revelation of the damage that was done would be discovered amidst the motion of writing…and then sharing with strangers, as if dividing it apart to distribute and expose the secretly written to an public audience.

The exposure resurfaced the wound yet it allowed it to heal a new.

Like it had never been healed before.

Actually, in the resurfacing I discovered it had NEVER been healed before.

“Will you grow in tenderness towards the child that has been contaminated by harm?” Dan Allender asks us.
A room full of people working with people who have experienced harm. As children and as adults, yet they have never found the healing or the hope. Yet WE offer them that hope and that healing but we were now being challenged to experience it for ourselves.

We broke up into groups of five and shared our stories (true tales of trauma we had experienced as children) out loud. In an uncomfortable silence we awaited feedback from those around us. Soft tender hearts were there to bear the pain.
“Redemption happens when you allow people to dwell in your heart and grieve and fight for you.”
And then in their grieving they saw a perspective of MY story I never saw before. Like discovering the key to the treasure box that held my healing. But the healing still demanded something from me.

Again he challenges…”You have to give up a lot to write your story. We have to give up our loyalties. It is true that we have a great loyalty to Jesus UNTIL we are asked to give up other gods. So where do your loyalties lie?”

Loyalties and honor. Both touchy subjects that were covered to bring light to the battle that raged in not only our minds but in our world views. In my world view. So slowly my loyalties shifted and the loyalty lay in the healing that needed to be done for me, for my family, for my ladies. My loyalty lay in the Healer.

So I clung to the process and endured the pain again of the sacrifice.

In the sacrifice and in the honesty that surpassed the desire to dwell with the wound any longer there was a loneliness that begged for me to search deeper to find where God was in that place of pain.
“In beauty there is brokenness. All beauty bears brokenness… God intends to use the scars to bring Him glory.”

Last year (2013) I wrote a blog about God wanting to heal my broken heart. It coincided with a tumultuous time for me and my family. At that time, I felt a need to drop down, a picture of a falling flat on my face. So I did it- literally. Nothing changed.

As we drew near to the end of the story writing workshop I was reminded of this falling down. At the beginning Dan challenged us with this question- “Can you enter into the stories of death in your own life? When our lives are meant to tell the story of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.”

Entering into death is not easy. It was exemplified in others in my group who had the courage to do so in the company of tender hearts. Yet I did it in the quietness of my room- I finally found the falling down, the dying.. and as it caused the tears to flow again, I opened my little pink Bible and found solace in the words from the pages that have held my heart afloat for so many years.

“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry ABBA Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our Spirit that WE are the children of God. And if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer WITH Him that we may also be glorified TOGETHER.” Rom 8:15-17 (emphasis added)
So I am comforted by the fact that I am an ADOPTED child who has been chosen by LOVE (which perfectly casts out all the fear that had taken up reign in my heart) and that in turn allowed me to not suffer alone but suffer WITH Christ, so that we may be resurrected in glory together.

A story that waited to be written for so long to bring healing to my heart was finally inked onto paper as an expression of the pain. A pain that I had tried to physically express as a teenager by taking a craft knife to my hands; a pain I had tried to spiritually express as I confessed sins of my own reaction to the pain but never assigned responsibility to those who inflicted it, pressing on but not entering in. It was a pain that I had let control my emotions more than I had realized as my trying to keep my distance from it turned my face to re-enact it over and over again.

Yet it was a pain that desired to be entered into like a tomb with a stone that had rolled away, calling out to reveal the light of the resurrection that could only happen upon the entering in- the falling down into the grave that needed to happen for real resurrection and ascension to occur. And in that ascended place, I am able to reach down again and help to pull those who are still fighting the death.

 

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,- Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18)