I stopped at the local shop on the way home from school, gave my fourteen year-old daughter twenty bucks and told her to go in and buy any ice cream of her choice.
She returned to the car grinning from ear to ear with a chocolate drumstick in her hand. "I bought an expensive one," she sheepishly said.
I turned and looked directly at her and said, "what is that ice cream?"
My daughter replied, "yummy and awesome".
I grinned and said, "that ice cream is exactly like you - you are yummy and awesome." Her eye's widened; she leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and said, "I love you Mum".
It takes one minute to tell someone how valuable they are. It takes one simple illustration to lift someone up and to help them to see themselves in a positive light.
Words are funny things. Positive words can instil strength, encouragement, and confidence into the people around us whilst negative words ooze guilt, shame, and feelings of not being good enough.
My daughter often hears at school that she is not cool or sporty and on some days my voice is the only positive voice she will hear. I choose to take every small insignificant event as an opportunity to say how I feel about my daughter. I speak to the woman she is, so she connects with her immense potential.
As a parent this is our most important role, to speak to the inner core of our kids and to bring their potential to the forefront. We don't have to be well spoken or use fancy words to deposit hope and love into someone else.
Wouldn't it be great to do a regular check up on "what's coming out of my mouth" just like we do for our bodies when we go to see the doctor. How much better would our society be if we assessed how well we were functioning with our words? How cool would it be if we took notice of what we said and recognised what poisons those around us or what empowers those around us?
It's not hard to buy an ice cream; it doesn't even cost that much but the value of what my daughter took away from that example was incredibly valuable.
Who can you encourage?
What things could you stop saying?
What things can you start saying?
Now matter how hard life is or where you have been or whatever you have been through, you can change. You can change how you speak about yourself. You can change the words and begin to cut through the negativity that resides in you and in doing so help others dismantle their negativity.
Maybe you don't need to buy an ice cream for someone else today maybe you need an ice cream for yourself. Maybe you need to see yourself, as being similar to an ice cream - desirable, wanted, special, yummy and awesome.
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Face Your Fear
One thing's for sure; it takes guts to look your demons directly in the eye.
At nineteen years of age just after my father passed away I began having dreams. I dreamt every night for many months about things that couldn't possibly be true. Over and over I dreamt the same dream. "It's only a dream, just ignore it" I'd tell myself, but it was having an affect on me. It was tying me up in an emotional knot. I had no idea what was going on. I felt anxious, fearful and confused.
I spent a good six months scouring away from the truth - it couldn't possibly be true that I had been sexually abused as a child.
The dreams affected my ability to cope with normal life. I struggled to sleep. I stopped eating. I stopped going out, and I stopped talking to God. I didn't want to face this truth. I didn't want anyone to ask me why I was acting so weird. I didn't want God poking around stirring this to the surface. I wanted it to go away. I wanted the fairy godmother to wave her magic wand and to stop the agony inside me.
Without facing my fears my life became everything my fear wanted me to be. It emotionally crippled who I was and my relationships with others.
Facing the truth was a choice that I knew I had to make. It was an ugly and shameful truth. I eventually looked my fear in the eye and told it that enough was enough. It had stolen so many things from my life already and I made the decision to fight it with everything I had.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Honesty is a powerful word.
It's easy to ask a friend, "Do these pants make me look fat?" and hope for an honest answer, but it's another thing to be honest with yourself, God and others when it comes to personal fears you carry.
Being honest and truthful about your fears is the starting point of recovery. The truth gives you a platform to heal and gain freedom from those fears and struggles. When you're honest you can deal with the problems, when you're not honest you live in denial and nothing can be changed, you will remain living in restriction.
Facing your fears has a cost - it will hurt. To gain freedom from fear and problems you have to face them and you have to actively fight them. Simply accepting these problems as something you will just have to put up with for the rest of your life is a false belief. I believe everything can be overcome. I believe in a God who can heal and restore anything; depression, hopelessness, our own bad decisions, intimacy problems, marriage difficulty and past trauma. Facing your fears and dealing with them with the help of a counsellor will be a difficult journey, but the long-term benefits of FREEDOM will far outweigh the short-term cost.
Is there a fear or a hurt inside you that needs your honest attention? Maybe it holds you back? Maybe it's moulding who you are or how you relate to others? Then maybe it's time to say enough is enough, face the truth, work through the hurt and gain FREEDOM for yourself.
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I've wrestled with the idea of happiness, often wondering if it's an old wives tale. Does it really exist?
Life is hard, difficult and challenging, but I wonder how much of that 'hardness' is our own doing. Do we create the pressure in our own world where we feel dissatisfied because we want more all the time.
In our western society it's easy to see we've got it good, we have food, medical care, money to feed our kids, and public schooling. What else could we possibly want? I think that's the problem - we always want, there is always more. We invest so much time in dreaming of the next thing: a new car, a bigger house, a new renovation, a fancy holiday, and we strive to achieve these things. Yet even when some of these dreams come to pass we're still not happy - there's always more we could have, do or achieve.
Jesus told us that it's harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God than a poor man. As a nation, we are the rich whether we think it or not. Our lives revolve around what we have, do and achieve. It makes us focus on wanting more, and in that obsession we miss the real reason of living life.
I sat with my Grandmother earlier this week listening to her talk about her mother spending most of her days scrubbing by hand the families washing in an old copper pot. I felt a tinge of guilt as I'm the ultimate washing whinger, and all I have to do is chuck the clothes in the machine and turn it on. Is life really that hard? Have we forgotten how to be grateful for what we have?
I've re-learnt the meaning of happiness - Happiness is what we hold in our hand on a daily basis. It's in the ordinary that happiness resides: a cuddle from your child, a funny story, a chat with someone you love, laughter, holding hands, a meaningful glance. Its could be the warmth of the sun on a cold day, being heard, listening, connecting with your family and friends, or reaching out to someone in greater need.
I don't believe happiness comes in the BIG moments in life, happiness drizzles through on a daily basis. It's in appreciating who and what is around us, feeling a connection with people creating a sense of belonging. Happiness is enjoying exactly where we are, in the everyday things.
In my house I've made a big wooden board and I called it the thankful board. I cut up some coloured paper into different shapes, put a texta and the sticky tape next to the board. I told my family they could write a word or two for the things they were thankful for on one piece of paper and add it to the board everyday. To my surprise they didn't write the new Wii they got for Christmas or the holiday we had to Queensland last year. They wrote: Mum and Dad, kindness, listen to, loved, understanding, each other, thoughtfulness, and forgiveness. They did manage to put 'presents' on there too, but they are kids after all. I think happiness for my family is written on this board, it's not what we're chasing, it's not the big dreams of getting my book published one day, or the success of a well deserved career, it's what we're grateful for today, right here and right now.
In the past I've been extremely unhappy, grieving and hurting over what I'd lost from being sexually abused as a child. Even in amongst the deepest of pain there were small things I could choose to be grateful for. Even when I felt like my heart was dissolving in pain there was a drizzle of happiness around me. I often wrote in a journal about how awful life was, but at the end of the entry I would deliberately write what I was thankful for. The job I had, the friend who rang, my bed, the milk in the fridge, anything I could think of to remind myself that not everything was messed up.
You may not feel happy, but there are nice things around you. It's the friend who is standing next to you, or the family member who cares for you. Maybe it's having a good counsellor who supports you, or the pet that loves you regardlessly, or simple things like the sun that keeps coming up every morning. Maybe it's sounds, music, smells, food, or nature and all the things you interact with that make life just that little bit better.
No matter where you are in life, or what you're facing whether its massively difficult and you're feeling a little challenged by life, being grateful is the answer to finding happiness. What are you thankful for? What everyday things make your day, that bit nicer? Practise being thankful today - write a list or create your own thankful board, or maybe you'd like to write down in a journal or tell someone else what you are thankful for.
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Wish it Away
I struggled for quite some time with a recurring wish, a secret little hope that none of the sexual abuse was real. It's a similar sort of wish I had as a child. I would sit at the dinner table most nights, wishing yet again there wasn't another serve of mashed potato on a plate in front of me. I didn't want it. I hated the stuff. My father used to trick me by saying, "Close your eyes Sally, and imagine the mashed potato is chocolate pudding. Say to yourself out loud it's chocolate pudding, it's chocolate pudding, it's chocolate pudding, and then put some in your mouth, and I reckon it will taste just like chocolate pudding." Funny enough the mashed potato still tasted like mashed potato. All the wishing in the world wasn't going to change what was in front of me.
I made several attempts to wish away the experience of sexual abuse. I tried to convince myself the sexual abuse wasn't real to temporarily dull the painful feelings. It seemed like the perfect solution to avoid facing the truth. However, the more I wished it wasn't real, the more I got stuck in my struggles like a sheep in a holding pen. I felt trapped with nowhere to move, and nothing was changing. Although the wishing gave me a little rest from what felt like an emotional whirlpool it also became a barrier. It acted like a brick wall around my heart, stopping me from engaging in the healing process.
There are many things that act like barriers hindering the healing process. You can simply believe the sexual abuse wasn't that serious or as bad as others have experienced. Or maybe you have doubts about what you remember, or maybe you were advised as a young person to keep the past a secret or encouraged to not talk about it. All or any of these beliefs will create a wall around your heart, stopping you from being honest and directly facing the past. The best platform for healing is honesty and truth. Anything else will hold you still, stunting your healing and leaving you where you are.
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The question is "How do you deal with this?"
How do you deal with twisted emotions? How do you unravel a knot that seems too complicated, big and frustrating?
These are the often-asked question from people who have been sexually abused as children. Sexual abuse infiltrates into the very core of who you are like a tissue in a load of washing. Everything gets covered. Sexual abuse creates damage to your sexuality, self-esteem, effects the way you relate to others, your confidence and much more. Every part of this damage flows into your emotions, twisting and knotting you up.
As a sexual abuse victim it's one thing to know that some "stuff" happened to you as a kid but it's another thing to deal with it. It takes a deliberate effort.
have a large linen/craft cupboard in my hall-way. It's a complete clutter fest! It gathers more junk than any other storage space in my house. I have walked past this cupboard many a time with little consideration to what's behind the doors.
Earlier in the year I hunted through my house for a pair of scissors. This shouldn't have been a complicated exercise but after exhausting all other avenues I decided to search the linen/craft cupboard. I reluctantly pulled open the cupboard doors and as I gazed at the chaotic mess I said to myself "I really need to deal with all that" and quickly closed the doors.
This week I plucked up the courage to deal with my linen/craft cupboard. I had ignored it for a long time because I knew it would require a large amount of effort and time on my behalf. I stood in front of the cupboard and made a deliberate decision to dedicate the time and effort to deal with it. I pulled everything out, all the stuff shoved in the back, old empty glue containers, papers, broken pencils and various bits. What a ridiculous mess it was! It was quite overwhelming just how much was stuffed in it. I found things I'd been looking for. I found things I can't believe we kept and after many hours of sorting and tossing things out, the cupboard had been dealt with. I felt good and at peace that all was well.
Many people live their life accepting their twisted emotions as normal, but in fact all they are doing is ignoring the mess deeper down. They're keeping their cupboard door closed. The key is to not only recognise that something unpleasant happened in your past but to deliberately face it by pulling it all out and dealing with it properly. Twisted emotions will only remain twisted when the damage is left to it's own devices.
I remember a time where my emotions felt heavy and intense; sitting on me like a heavy blanket draining my joy. These feelings were groaning at me for my attention, to stop and look deeper on the inside.
To unravel my emotions I had to dedicate time and effort to open the door of my past again. I went back and pulled out the memories of what happened, what I remembered and I lay it all before God. I wrote down thoughts, feelings and I connected with my seven-year-old self and in all that I let her grieve. Although I thought I'd already dealt with my past I recognised my emotions were telling me there was something else, something a little deeper, a new angle or another layer that needed healing. As I pulled my past out again I felt pain. I saw fear, confusion, loss and the one thing that stood out was the feeling of being alone. I talked it through with God and as I did I pictured my seven-year-old self laying on that couch after being abused, scared and alone and I reconnected with those memories and I grieved for sometime.
Six month later I again visited my past because my emotions were still telling me to and in doing so something amazing occurred. I pictured God scoop up my seven-year-old self from the couch were I was abused and carried me away. I saw God place my bare feet on the ground and he wrapped his arms around me and with no words spoken He just held me. He held me for a long time. I just stood there as a frightened, confused child. I had nothing to give; my arms just hung by my side. God held me and as he did I felt this - "I am cared for", "I am loved". My seven-year-old me who had felt unloved, uncared for and unnoticed was now noticed, loved, and cared for. In this picture healing occurred. It didn't change what happened to me but I was no longer alone. I didn't need to see anything else but to see that I was and I am loved. This visual experience had resolved another aspect of my past. I found peace with it. I had opened the door of my heart, pulled it all out and I had dealt with it with the help from God.
My emotions were untwisted. They were quiet and I was at peace. I have no doubt that I will have other aspects of my past to work through in the future but one thing is for sure I know what to do when my emotions are telling me there is something more to deal with. I will not ignore it. I can not afford to ignore it. Peace and joy are too valuable.
Dealing with your past is similar to dealing with a messy cupboard, all you have to do is:
- Give it your full attention
- Allocate time to focus on it
- Expect to make a big effort
- Pull it all out and look at it, explore it
- Keep what's good
- Let yourself feel the pain and grieve
- Resolve the damage caused
- Get a new perspective on it
- Experience peace.
Repeat this with every struggle you have and keep on doing it and as you do more freedom and wholeness will be yours. The happier you will be.
Are your emotions telling you there is something deeper that needs your attention?
Is there something you need to deal with?
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I run from one task to another, swapping roles throughout the day from parent, cleaner, rubbish removalist, writer, rescuer, shoe finder, listener, leader, peace maker and wife. It's like living in a tornado of events that keep swirling and spinning around me. Does the world ever stop?
This week I cried as I felt the pressure of life, it was resting heavily upon me. I felt like I was suffocating under it. It was pushing the life out of me. I stopped and I felt alone. How did I get here?
Then in amongst this 'tornado' life I stepped forward, just far enough to reach a place of stillness. I stepped into the eye of the tornado, nothing had changed, the world kept moving around me, but I stood in the place where it was still. In an instant this chaotic whirlwind had been quietened. It had been silenced, and I felt I could breathe. I felt stillness in my mind and spirit. Every thought had been told to shut up, every worry was dropped to the floor, all anxiousness was driven away. I found PEACE.
It's here where I need to stay, nothing in my world has changed, but I am not the same. I tasted stillness and although I will keep running, I will always remember where I belong, right here nestled safely with God.
Where do you find peace in your busy life?
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Feeling the "Blah"
Have you ever sat in a quiet room and felt something stir on the inside of you. It's like an impression of something beneath the surface that says I'm unsatisfied, unsettled, confused, or disappointed. I call this feeling 'the blah' because it feels like heaviness sitting in your spirit, weighing you down, making you feel flat and empty.
In the past 'the blah' has been a well-known friend accompanying me everywhere. It used to tick away in my spirit reminding me that all is not well. I often ignored it, thinking that it must be normal to feel this way. Doesn't everyone feel unhappy?
If I stopped for too long in my busy day, 'the blah' would intensify, driving me further into misery. I was unaware that things from my past were haunting me, causing 'the blah' to be present. It was like a sad repetitive song, playing over and over inside my head telling me I was never good enough. I was never good enough to be loved, accepted or cherished. For a long time I never asked myself what it was that made me feel this way.
Young children often ask their parents "but why?"
"Why is the sun hot?"
"But why is the universe round?"
"BUT WHY MUMMY?"
It's a frustration to parents to explain over and over the 'why's' of life.
As we grow into adults we seem to stop asking questions, we just get on with life. We continue on, day in and day out rarely questioning what it is that makes us struggle, and then everyday continues to be the same as the last.
We forget to ask ourselves:
What makes me feel so down?
What causes me to feel like a failure?
How come I feel so alone?
What stops me from being close to others?
Overcoming 'the blah' feeling only happens through understanding what's under the surface. It's vital to ask yourself what causes you feel the way you do, or causes you to react or respond in a certain way. This sort of questioning will bring about clarity on a real issue or problem that lurking under the surface, the real reasons behind behaviours, thought patterns, the things that hold you in a rut.
Many people shy away from asking 'why' because they fear that something painful may surface. They choose to ignore it, pretending everything is swell, but nothing changes, and nothing is learnt.
I'm a firm believer in opening up every can of worms, letting out secrets, turning over every rock. The things I've learnt from the past fifteen years is that the more I explore the real problems in me, the more I heal, and the more I'm released from my past and the happier I become.
It takes bravery to ask yourself these types of questions, but why not, life's too short, you need to live it to the full.
Why not ask yourself some questions today and explore a little deeper?
Find a quiet spot and write out what you feel. Let yourself grieve over the things or people that have hurt you or for what you've lost. Explore your fears, the things that hold you back.
When you discover the real reason behind your struggles, don't be afraid to ask for help, talk to a friend or maybe its time to get a professional counsellor to help you.
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I have a hat for every occasion. The hat I love the most is the fun, crazy mum hat where I'm silly and make my kids laugh. I have other hats too, some I like and some I don't. There's the nurse hat to kiss a bruised knee. The chief hat to cook meals, the job hat, the laundry hat, the teacher hat, the cleaner hat, the fix-it hat, the wife hat, the lover hat, the counsellor hat and the list goes on.
It's hard work swapping hats all day, trying to be something to everyone. I regularly put one hat on only to have to swap it seconds later, and with every hat change a little more of my energy is poured out. I can get very drained from effort of switching tasks all day.
What I've learnt, is that to live a healthy functioning life, you need balance.
Take a glass for instance. If you fill a glass with water and gradually drink a little at a time, the glass with eventual be empty. This is the same for people. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have nothing left in the tank - where you have given out everything of yourself to all the different types of responsibility that you have.
You can help measure how balanced your life is by visualising scales. Try drawing a picture of old fashioned balancing scales. On one side of the scales write all the things that require something of you. These are 'the drainers'. On the other side of the scales write all the things that give you energy and make you feel good, 'the fillers'. The fillers are things you enjoy which fill your capacity to give out to others.
My fillers are: great coffee, the company of friends, action movies, roller skating, bike riding, my sister, sitting in the sun, daily ten minute quality time chats with my husband, cuddles, prayer, writing, music and painting.
Your list doesn't have to be complicated and it needs to be things you can easily access and do regularly. Write your list today to check you have your life in balance. No one else can do this for you. You have to take care of yourself by incorporating several of your FILLERS into you weekly routine! Remember the more you fill yourself up, the more you'll have to give to the people you love.
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