Thursday, August 14, 2014

Parenting & Me: Kicking & screaming

Last night getting the kids to do the washing up turned into a major drama.
For one child (who shall remain nameless) in particular.
I love her to bits but she is, shall we say, black and white to say the least. When a change in how we do things needs to happen, I have come to learn that there will be a massive battle of wills, which once won is followed by peaceful acceptance and almost cheerful resignation.

It happened when she was 6 months old and dinner was not provided at 4pm.
It happened again when she had to stop wearing nappies and start wearing big girl pants.
And again when she had to learn to sit at the table for meals... all her vegetables... any kind of fish.....
...make her own lunch for school...
...when she was told she wasn't allowed to heat her lunch at the school canteen (their rule) so had to choose something cold to take to school...
etc etc.

As the flopping, the delaying, the moaning, the complaining and the stomping went on, the inevitable accident (a finger trapped in a cupboard door) happened and we got into screaming the house down, howling, sitting on the floor inconsolable and the conviction that her nail was going to fall off.

I'm afraid once the first delaying and moaning started I could feel myself harden and by the time the accident happened I was all for a quick comfort and then get back to the business in hand. The hubster thinks I'm hard-hearted. I'm trying not to be but sometimes it seems like it's all just a big excuse to try and get out of what she doesn't want to do.

As we worked through all of this and eventually got the washing up done, I thought that actually I can be a bit like this with God.  When he wants to make a change with me in how things are done, I really don't like it. I delay, I moan, I cry. I tell him he's ruining my life. I figuratively stomp round the house doing it as ungraciously as is humanly possible and when I realize that he isn't going to change his mind and that I'd better just get on with it, I find I can manage it with quite a bit of cheerful resignation and even eventually joy? at the new discipline and freedom it brings.

So my girl and me, we're not so different, it's just my tantrums go on longer than hers do. Months sometimes, possibly years! Oh dear.

How about you? Do you spit the dummy just as much as your kids? Are there things that you are battling God on? Things that you've come out the otherside of when you realize he's not going to budge?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Our Freedom Fighter

The other day I was hit by a random thought:

Jesus is our Freedom Fighter.

The more I thought about it, the more it tickled my fancy. When Jesus arrived on earth and started fulfilling the messianic prophecies, people thought this is it! This is the guy who is going to overthrow the Roman oppressors and free us. They were looking to him as their freedom fighter, their Che of the day.

The irony is that Jesus is our freedom fighter. He came to fight to set us free and give us freedom from all kinds of oppression.... from things like fear, anxiety, depression, oppression, poverty, sickness, addictions, condemnation, anger, unbeatable habits etc. Anything in fact that keeps us enslaved, where we have no choice but to keep repeating the things we so long to be free from.

These things oppress us and like an oppressive regime, they need the ultimate freedom fighter to come and do battle on our behalf. And it wasn't just a once off moment, Jesus carries on interceding for our freedom every single day, interceding for our hearts to be changed and for us to take up his amazing offer of new life.

I don't know about you but I love that thought that Jesus is as militant and as passionate about our freedom as any freedom fighter round the world. Except that he's light-years kinder and he doesn't kill people to do it. The only life he sacrificed was his own.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where in the world do you come from? When being a TCK gets lonely.

It's been more than 20 years since I left Pakistan after finishing school and recently I had been congratulating myself on no longer being a third culture kid (TCK). I no longer felt like I had the same hang ups, the same frustrations as I used to. I felt like I was pretty normal, fitting in. It's not that I don't value being TCK, no, the minute I meet one or read their blog I feel like I can instantly connect, but lately I haven't been feeling the same angst or maddening frustrations I used to have.

I felt like I was pretty regular and it was nice just to be 'normal'. It wasn't exhausting, it didn't feel forced. I felt I could just be me. People could meet me without me feeling I had to explain where I had grown up. In fact recently some people I've known for a little while were surprised to hear that I had grown up in Pakistan as they didn't know that about me.

And then a few chance conversations recently pulled back the curtain on my core beliefs and I was reminded again of being 'different'.

It's lonely being different and to tell the truth, sometimes I wish I wasn't. In those moments I felt like I would never fit in, I'd never be 'normal' and never have the same opinions as other people around me or be truely understood.

I know that coming from a TCK background is a rich and exciting background to have, I know that it gives you unique understanding, compassion and skills but in those moments where your difference is exposed, it's just lonely and you realize how far from your tribe you really are.

It reminds me of how deep our human longing to be understood is, how we crave sharing our beliefs and values with others, how we long to know where we come from, where our identity lies. When loneliness hits, how important it is to remind ourselves that even though we might not share everything with everyone, we do share something with someone around us and it's on the back of that that we need to relate, not on what we don't share.

Sometimes TCKs can get into a bit of a woe is me mentality but it's good to remind ourselves that there are others who feel as displaced and lonely as we are. In a city like Sydney there are so many people who have had to leave their home culture behind for political or economic reasons, there are Christians who feel different to everyone else and I'm sure other people from other faiths feel the same too, people with broken family circumstances also must feel very similiar.

It's odd that in our loneliness, we are not really alone.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Things to do when you're in that place of Almost

Life for me is inbetween seasons. My youngest is almost at Big School, but not quite. I am back at work, but part time. I am free for coffees, but less free than I was. We have made some financial adjustments that promise to be good but we are waiting to see the effects. I have some free time to blog but it's always when I'm exhausted or uninspired.  The list goes on....

We are in that place of Almost.
It's a place of agonized waiting where we'd like things to be sorted and they're almost there but not quite.
It's that place where you need a great deal of patience, the power to keep going until you see the fruit appear.
It's a place where you have to exercise faith even when you're not quite sure if you have it or not.
It's that unpleasant character-building place that you know one day you'll be glad of but when you're in it you sure wish it was over.

To be quite frank, it's tempting to just call it all quits and move country but when we consider it, we know that despite the tedious mundanity of repetative hard decisions (and boring housework) the absolute best and only place to be is the one God has called us to and that is here.

So what do you do when you're waiting for Almost end? Here's what I've learned, what I'm having to remind myself of...

  1. Keep on doing The Basics whether you feel like it or not. Keep reading God's word, keep praying, keep believing he is good and faithful, keep going to church, keep hanging out with godly people who keep you going when your strength is flagging and discouragement beats at the door.
  2. Look after yourself. Rest when you need it - guilt-free. Eat delicious food. Do your absolute favourite things to do. Treat yourself to fun things to do.
  3. Put aside the things you can't do and focus on the things you can do.
  4. Soak up as much of the vastness of nature as you can, spend time reminding yourself of God's creative power and marvel at creation. 
  5. Discipline yourself to be patient and not panic but trust that the final outcome will be good, that God will bring about the things you've been praying over.
Are you in a place of Almost? Is impatience getting the better of you? Do you wish you could fast forward a couple of months? What is it that keeps you going? Here's to hanging in there!

Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sometimes we just need to look at something pretty

I took these photos a month or so ago when we went down to Kangaroo Valley in a little shop called The Nostalgia Factory. Not everyone likes vintage but I do so going into this shop was sheer prettiness therapy. The clothes brushes and bone handled cutlery in particularly remind me of my Granny.

I was also given some beautiful colours of wool for my birthday and have been loving making this granny blanket. Just looking at the colours and seeing it grow under my fingers is pure happiness.

Where do you go and what do you do when you need a little bit of restorative therapy?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ok Family, New Rule!

Meet my cousin Bo. She's the (little bit) older but much wiser cousin. Her kids are 10 years on from mine. She's the reason I got breakfast made for me on my birthday (it was her son's idea but she made it happen), she's the reason I have a new breadmaker which I have been using every single day since I got it (so therefore she's also the reason I'm a little bit fatter! ok ok that is my own discipline issue!). She's the reason my kids got to climb down a rockface that gave me the heebiejeebies and the reason why our family (with a four year old) climbed down the extremely steep 1000 steps of the Giant's Staircase down the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. We would never have attempted it otherwise. She's also the reason we don't have toys at the table and my kids are now doing either the washing up or cooking the dinner every night and the reason I am doing a happy dance.

Sometimes you need someone to come along and push you a little bit harder and faster and to assume that your kids of course do what her kids do.

After her visit with her son the good vfm Bensley, I said:

Ok family, New Rule! The person who cooks does not do the washing up afterwards. If Bensley can do it, so can you.

The hubster raised his eyebrows and said nothing but after a week of them cooking or washing up almost every night we can't believe how blessed we are and we are not going back to the old way of doing things (i.e. me slaving away cooking, washing and cleaning up). What makes me laugh is that the kids have just fallen into line. One night of moaning and now they're just accepting that this is the new way of doing things.

So thank you Bo. You might be horribly embarrassed by the accolade but you really are a blessing to our family!

Do you have an older wiser person who lets you in on how to do family better? Who shows you that really your kids are capable of a bit more than they're letting on and that there is another better way?  What do you get your kids to do around the house to help out?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The difference between Asking and Believing

Prayer and faith, asking and believing has always been a tricky one for me. Growing up in a Christian household I've never had a before and an after faith experience, something that made me believe. God has always been there and when you see him doing things familiarity breeds not contempt, but rather the divine and miraculous can sometimes become mundane and commonplace. The eyes of childhood don't always recognise miracles for what they are but they do feel keenly the disappointment of seemingly unanswered prayer.

For a very long time I've seen prayer as a bit of a lottery. You put in your request and God, well, he might or might not answer depending on whether it's your lucky day or not. God seemed capricious and his will hard to discern. He seemed to want to teach me a few lessons and give me a few good things but not too many or I would get to be a spoiled spiritual brat.  Woe betide me if I thought he would give me gifts that served no purpose other than to delight me. How selfish would that be of me when there are people round the world who don't have their basic needs met!

The more I write these things the more I realize how warped and distorted my view of God's love has been.

On this blog I try to write something about what I'm currently learning and this week I'm learning about the difference between asking God and believing him for something.

In December 2013 our family experienced The Miracle Trip from which we came back and life carried on. We still had needs, we still had things we longed to see happen in our lives but I felt like we had had our Big Miracle and that was it. We'd used up all God's blessing and much like our holiday allowance we had to wait a 'decent time' before we asked for anything big again. I knew it was complete nonsense of course but still it has been a mental battle I've struggled with. How could I be so greedy? Weren't the memories enough to live on for the rest of the year? I must be supremely selfish.

Something in me though instinctively knows that God doesn't operate like that. Over the years I'm coming to believe more in God's delight in me, that his love isn't like human love, a love with limit and boundaries, that he trusts me, that he knows that I'm not greedy or selfish because he is the one changing me and that his blessings never run out. His generosity, his nature is the kind that opens the doors and pours out so much blessing that we cannot contain it and we have to ask him to stop (Malachi 3:10). His love is excessive, expansive, generous, abundant and without limit.

How can we who are so limited fully understand a God who loves without limits, shockingly and outrageously and for whom you can never love too much?

So this week I've been asking for some outrageous things and asking why they are taking some time. I was reminded of the process I went through late last year with The Trip and I remembered that it's not enough to just ask.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell youwhatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Growing up as missionary kid and a Brit (because Brits can be cautious, risk averse and a little bit cynical) this verse was always spoken with much caution and lots of qualifications. The unspoken message was:

Yes this is the truth....
....if you ask for something in God's will and his will is mysterious and undiscernable so don't be sure you'll get it because the chances of you guessing God's will are pretty much a million to one.
...if you don't ask for something ridiculously selfish like a Ferrari like all those American preachers who did that and went off the rails.
...if it benefits others and brings them to faith.
...if it helps poor people and feeds the hungry.

And so the list goes on. I'm sure you can add to it. 

The thing is that it doesn't take into account God's love for us personally, that his love is not just for the poor of the nations somewhere in far off countries, it's for you and for me. God is not into using and abusing people. He's not interested in simply what we can do for other people in order to make himself famous. He created you and I and he loves seeing us simply be us, to achieve our potential, to take delight in sunsets he created for our eyes only. He loves seeing our delight in taste, in colour, in shape and form. 

And he lives in us. Yes our old nature wouldn't ask for things in his will but we have Jesus living in us and that changes everything because he changes our heart from selfish thoughts to outward other-loving thoughts. That means that the desires of our heart and desires he's put there. We sometimes have desires that are purely selfish but they're pretty easy to spot. If it lines up with God's word, the Bible, if it brings honour to God or if it blesses other people, you can pretty much assume that it's a desire from God. And even if you're mistaken, he's the Good Shepherd and loves and guides us onto the right path. 

Many of these things I've been learning from a course I went on with this lady who has put words to the thoughts that have been burbling around in my brain for a while. 

Once you've realised that yes it's a desire from God that you have in your heart and that he loves you and takes delight in you, that he is faithful and able, asking moves into believing. I'm realizing that asking is done in hope that you'll receive it while believing is having confidence that what you have asked for will one day become an tangible reality and that's when real joy and excitement kicks in because you know then that it is simply a matter of time and having patience.

God is described as a loving father or parent but really that description sometimes gets in the way of our understanding of who he is, of what his character is. I'm a parent and I desperately want my children to achieve their fullest potential but I am limited by my resources - my time, my money, my skills, my generosity, my patience, my knowledge (or lack of it) and the fact that I have more than one child to look after. God is not like that. He's not limited in time, money, attention, resources, patience or knowledge. He has unlimited access to all of those and he will do absolutely anything at all, he will move heaven and earth for us to reach our full potential as his children. He knows the future whereas I do not. He knows how much to give us and what we will do with it, I do not.

So the question I'm asking today is... have you been asking but not believing? Are there desires in your heart that you don't know if God wants to give them to you? I'd encourage you to ask him if you can ask him for them and see what he says. Check out the Bible to see what he says about your desires, do they line up with it? Do they honour him? If so, why not simply go for it and let go the ropes that are stopping you fully believing that you already have been given what you've asked for but that it's simply still on it's way to you. If you're brave enough to share them, what are the desires of your heart?