Why do I cry on my birthday?

Nearly every year, on my birthday, I cry. Despite the huge efforts by my husband to “cover all the bases” and “to meet all expectations”, I still cry.

This year was no different. My gorgeous husband gave me beautiful yellow lilies, chocolates, a huge glazed pot for the garden and took me out for a beautiful dinner. And still I cried!

My youngest son, cooked me breakfast (bacon, eggs, tomato and croissant, and coffee) and brought it to me beautifully decorated on a white tray with a flowers in a vase. And still I cried!

All of my children (bar one, who always forgets!) contacted me by phone, video (thank you to the crazy ones), text and Facebook, and still I cried!

Why? It is because I am adopted!

Pure and simple. I have recognised this adoption grief for over 20 years and yet I still find birthdays difficult. Not every year, but most years I find myself crying.

The day of my birth reminds me that something happened that changed my life forever. After spending 9 months in the womb of a woman, listening to her heart-beat, to her voice, knowing the nurture and security of her, I suddenly lost her. She was no longer there. A grief so profound and deep overtook me, and yet, I had no way of expressing it. And there was no way of bringing back that which was lost.

56 years later the grief still hit when I no longer expected it. When I know the reason. When I think I am “over it”. When I know I am a child of God who is loved and securely His forever. When I am loved by a husband who goes above and beyond to show his love for me. When I am surrounded by loving children. When I have loving brothers and sisters (both familial and through Christ). Yes, even with all that, grief still manages to take me by surprise.

But you know what? I’m ok!

It’s ok that I still cry! Grief does that to a person. I see my friends who have lost a daughter or a husband or a parent and guess what? They still cry sometimes. So it is with me. Like when my (adopted) mum died.  At times grief for her would hit me when I least expected it, because I was suddenly reminded that I missed her. After 9 years those times are becoming less. Adoption grief is similar.(Except that I could rationalise her death. She was old and sick with cancer, yet her death still shocked me.)

I know the reason I cry on my birthdays, I’m ok with it and it is part of the healing process.

This unexplainable (adoption) grief hits many adoptees, often on their birthday. It is a perpetual, annual reminder of a grief that was never acknowledged or expressed (nor could it be). But armed with this knowledge, I accept it, and thank the Lord for the many good things that have come because of my adoption (like being brought up in a Christian home). I may still have birthdays when I cry but that’s ok too. Grief is part of who I am, and it has helped to shape me into the person I am today. For those of us who have experienced deep loss know its ok to cry at times. For those who haven’t, don’t expect us to “get over it” because, I tell you, the loss never goes away. Our lives may become filled with other things/people and we seem to move on, but the loss remains. Don’t be patronising or offer platitudes or try to fix us. Be patient with us, sit with us, listen to us, hug us and pass the tissues. Oh and a cup of tea would be nice too.

So to those who asked if I had a “good” birthday, I can honestly say, “yes” but I still cried!

 

 

 

When Christians commit suicide

Last week a Christian husband and father ended his life by his own hand. Later in the week a young Christian university student ended her life too. How can we even begin to understand what would drive a faithful Christian to commit suicide? Is this a sin that cannot be forgiven? What can we say about a person’s spiritual state who has died by suicide?

Sometimes, a Christian can feel that life is so over-whelming and hopeless, so they think that their loved ones would be better off, rather than having them moping around and being a burden, that they act out of this despair and put an end to their life. It isn’t necessarily a lack of faith or trust in the Lord. But rather their thinking has become distorted and warped. They can still have a strong faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross on their behalf, and yet not be able to see a way out of their particular circumstance.  If you have never suffered from deep depression, it can be almost impossible to understand how anyone, let alone a Christian can reach such a crisis. Sadly, more and more people are choosing suicide to bring an end to the difficulties they face each day.

Someone who is suffering from depression and/or anxiety needs to see a medical practitioner for help. They may be prescribed medication to help or offered counselling to work through the issues that are at the bottom of their despair. Strong family/friend/church support is essential too. However, this support may be not accepted, or they may even push people away, preferring their own sad company. A person who is deeply depressed may find it very difficult to relate to others, to socialise with people, and to show love, even to their closest family. In turn, those closest to them can feel unloved and uncared for, and when the person commits suicide, can feel totally abandoned and guilt-ridden (If only they had done more!).

So how does this all work for a Christian? Shouldn’t they just put their trust in the Lord? If they did, they wouldn’t get depressed, right? Isn’t it a lack of faith? A person can have a strong faith and yet experience deep depression. As I wrote in a previous post, depression lies to you and distorts reality into a twisted version where hopelessness, darkness and lack of life-purpose becomes the norm.

John Piper shared a very helpful meditation he gave at a funeral for a Christian who had committed suicide. He addresses the “unforgivable sin”  as the continual rejection of God’s Spirit, as a persistent and continual denial and resisting of the Holy Spirit. We all die with sins we haven’t repented of or confessed and yet we have confidence that we, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, will live eternally with him. Suicide is a sin, yes, but not an unforgivable one that will condemn someone to damnation forever.

How can I support someone who is deeply depressed: (not in any particular order)

  • Show your love for them, day in and day out
  • Feed them and make sure they are drinking plenty of water
  • Get them out into the sunshine, to get Vitamin D
  • Make sure they are getting enough sleep, and yet not spending too much time in bed.
  • Try and encourage them to get some exercise (it enables a healthy sleep).
  • Take them to a medical professional
  • Make sure they continue to take their medication, if they are prescribed it.
  • Talk to them, often (even if it is a one-sided conversation).
  • Encourage them to maintain relationships with family/friends/church, though this may be difficult and the last thing they want to do.
  • Offer a way out. A change of job. Drop some university courses. Move house. Tell them that whatever is needed to be done to change the circumstances that are over-whelming them, you will support them 100%. The Lord has promised us to always offer us a way out of temptation to sin.
  • If you are married, let the person know you are in this Together, Long Term, Whatever It Takes!
  • Read Psalms to them (and/or encourage them to read them). There are many psalms that describe life in the pit and how the psalmist puts his trust in the Lord to deliver him.
  • PRAY, PRAY and PRAY.

Your loved one may still decide to end their life. It is not your fault. They have made that decision, not you. They have decided there is no way out except death and acted on it. They do not see that somewhere, somehow there is a way out nor do they see the devastating effect their suicide will have on others. We do not always understand the whys and wherefores of such sad circumstances, but the Lord has promised to be with us, and comforts us with His Spirit and His Word. May God give you His peace.

A Recipe For a Christian Marriage

A Recipe for a Christian marriage:

One large measure of faith

1 C understanding

1 Tbsp each of compassion, gentleness, peace, self-control

A dash of spiciness

1 C Contentment

1 C friendship

Blend with mutual hobbies, friendships and hospitality.

Gently fold in differences of opinion and loving respect, quickly adding submission and forgiveness.

Pour in Bible devotions and studies and let it stand.

Sweeten with laughter and add pure extract of hugs and kisses.

Add lashings of encouragement as required.

Sift out pride, selfishness and anger.

Stir with love and humility until there is unity.

Garnish with music and creativity.

Sprinkle with good communication and cover with prayer.

Bake in the slow-cooker of faithfulness for the years ahead.

Serve on the hope of life eternal.

Your marriage is founded on the covenant you made with each other and with God when you married. This is your rock solid foundation. This is the superglue that binds you together. Having been brought together, by God’s good grace, you can now build your marriage together, resting on His promises and His Word.

Life in Christ is a tremendously exciting journey. No longer are jobs, homes, or money the most important thing in your lives, (important though they are), but it is being obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. Give up your lives as living sacrifices to Him and trust him for the future. As you trust Christ for the temporal things that you need to live each day and for your spiritual needs to live life eternally, He will guide you and strengthen you. As you both put Him first in your lives, you, too, will find a unity of purpose and plan and this will draw you still closer together.

On a practical front:

– Don’t forget your own personal walk with the Lord

– Pray for your marriage, your husband and yourself

– Eat well and surprise your husband with new recipes

– Encourage your husband

– Make your home a sanctuary for you both

– Keep within budget

– Play and be fun to be with

– Keep your mind active so that you can have an intelligent conversation

– Be interested in what your husband does

– Dress to please him

– Get enough sleep

– Keep on top of the washing!

– Always behave in a godly manner; humble, forgiving, kind, gentle etc.

And above all else: Keep close to the Lord, and keep Him the centre of your marriage.

(written for my daughter, Zipporah,  who recently married)

How Can I Protect my Pastor-Husband from Sexual Sin?

If you are married to a pastor or Christian leader, in the wake of yet another renown pastor, Tullian  Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) stepping down from ministry because of his adultery, it makes you think seriously about your own marriage, and “will this happen to us?”

Adultery usually starts long before any physical touch with someone you are not married to. It often begins with a dissatisfaction in one’s marriage, which leads one to being vulnerable. Then we are open to inappropriate desiring and lusting after someone else.  Beware too, that if your husband is in public ministry, there will be women who will find him desirable and attractive and, who may, or maybe not intentionally, make themselves “available” to him.

As a pastor’s wife, I believe that there is much we can do to help protect our marriages, emotionally, physically and spiritually, so that our husband, and/or we, will not fall into adultery. But how can we affair-proof our marriages?

Here are a few things I have found helpful to strengthen and maintain a strong marriage. These are good for all marriages, but particularly for those in public ministry. (Not in any particular order except the first one!)

  • Maintain a close relationship in Christ. Study and meditate on the Word of God, be a praying woman, and love the Lord with all your heart mind, and strength.
  • Be a godly woman. Act godly in all circumstances.
  • Make yourself attractive – inside and out!
  • Be strong in your theology, listen to your husband’s preaching. Discuss theological issues. If your theology differs from his, be open to be challenged and read around the subject, particularly, to understand his view. Be careful to never undermine his ministry by openly disagreeing with him.
  • Lose those extra pounds. Dress well and how your husband likes.
  • Be submissive to your husband as to the Lord.
  • Be a good example of a loving Christian marriage, so HAVE a loving Christian marriage!
  • Be publicly physical with your husband. Look like you are “together”. This can only flow out of a close marriage that happens in private.
  • Encourage your husband. Be his No. 1 fan.
  • Be a visible helpmeet to your husband. At conferences, when he is tied up talking to people, ask him if he would like a cup of tea or if he would like you to get him something to eat, or he may need you to photocopy his notes. He may ask you to pray or talk to the girls or women. Be ready and helpful.
  • Be gracious about the time your husband has to spend time away from you and the family. Go with him if possible and/or appropriate.
  • Thank God for his calling. Pray for him and his ministry.
  • Raise the children to appreciate the ministry of their father and to love him.
  • Practice an open door policy. Be hospitable so that your husband can invite women he must see into your home.
  • Help him by being interested in his ministry and be his confidante and best friend.
  • Help him to hold to the rule “never be alone with a woman” and the same applies to you, “never be alone with a man”.

I hope you have found these things helpful, I have. I am sure there are other things we could be doing too, but the abiding thing is to (a) have a strong faith yourself and (b) build a strong marriage together.

Sexual Grooming

Dear Parents

This is a difficult blog to write but I want to bring some things to light so that we, as parents, and friends, are aware and are quick to protect our children (both boys and girls) from people who are grooming our children for sex.  I have seen, close hand, a sexual groomer at work. It is heartbreaking and yet incredible how this can happen under our own noses.

I strongly encourage you to read this blog written by Rachel Lees who was sexually groomed by a prominent Christian leader. She writes about the stages of sexual grooming which I found were very helpful and spot on.

http://southseaislandhome.blogspot.co.nz/2015/06/the-characteristics-of-sexual-groomer.html

By the time a groomer has completed Rachel’s list, the groomer starts to make the child sexually aware and/or orchestrates situations where they are naked (or mostly; for example; like going swimming together or hugging at night-time) and then progresses to abusing the child sexually. By this time, a groomer has stolen your child’s heart and made it theirs, and it isn’t a huge leap to steal their body too.

Listen and Look: Be aware of where your children are at all times and who they are with. Be aware of any adults that are very friendly with your child(ren). This is a very difficult area because it makes it so difficult for adults who are genuinely friendly to children, so a high degree of discernment is needed. If someone has had the courage to talk to you about a situation, it probably means it may be more than just being friendly and time for you to be evaluate the relationship. The difficult part for a parent is to hear the counsel and advice of friends who are concerned for your child. The advice from a friend may well confirm some uneasy feelings you have had, or it may be like a lightning bolt out of the blue. People don’t usually say something of this nature without there being some substance and the groomer WILL be someone you trust totally. So the temptation will be to brush it off. But listen. It takes a huge amount of courage to say something, because often nothing, as such, has actually taken place (remember we are talking about grooming here), but there are some signs that someone sees what is going on and feels so uncomfortable that they have plucked up the courage to say something to you. Take special note, if the person talking to you is someone who has been abused themselves,as they are often very aware of how sexual groomers work. Listen to your child. Sometimes they will try to tell you something, especially after sexual abuse has actually happened or is happening, but we don’t listen to them or don’t believe them. Don’t brush them aside or disbelieve them. Very, very rarely will they make up anything of a sexual nature.

Act: Then the other difficult thing to do is to act. Even if there is nothing happening, it is probably time to take stock and look at yourselves and your child(ren). Do you have a close relationship? How do your children interact with adults and others? Are they withdrawn and isolated or overly friendly? Are they being touched or are touching an adult inappropriately? Is someone very friendly with your your child?

Protect them: To pull a child away from a relationship that has developed or is developing (see the link to the steps a sexual groomer uses) can be very difficult, especially before anything of a sexual nature has actually occurred. They will not understand why you are so against their “friend” “favourite uncle”, whoever, and will possibly become very upset with you and will want to tell their “friend” how unfair you have been. Parents, have courage and do whatever you need to do to protect your child. It may mean breaking off all contact, or making sure they are never alone with the person. If the adult involved is an innocent party, they will understand your desire to protect your child and respect your boundaries. However, if this is not the case, this can be a very harrowing time, especially if the grooming is fairly progressed. The adult will try and circumnavigate your boundaries and keep contact with the child and the child (not understanding what is happening) can become deceitful and determined to see their “friend”. Persevere and pray for courage and strength. Seek support from friends and family, especially from the person who has spoken to you (if someone has).

Love them: Draw your child back into your family, (one of the things groomers look for are children who are isolated from their families, or who are vulnerable). Spend time with them, lovingly, gently and kindly showing them that you love them and that they are a very vital part of your family. You need to replace their “friend”s friendship and “love” with your own true love and kindness.

Pray for them: During this time, you need to be on your knees. Pray for your child and the groomer. Pray for safety for the child (and any others) and pray that the groomer may come to repentance.

So, parents, be vigilant! Be prayerful. Don’t put your head in the sand and think it won’t happen to you or your children. It may, sadly, have already happened or is happening. Develop and maintain a close relationship with your children. This is particularly true when you are going through a difficult time yourselves. Children can get pushed to the background when we are stressed about jobs, moving or have a death in the family. It can be a “relief” when a close friend or relative offers to take the child on a special trip or outing. Parenting is never easy and when we have difficult things happening in our lives, it can be downright hard, but… always keep your children emotionally close to you, spiritually close (praying for them and with them) and physically close.

If, as friends, we see a situation between a child and an adult that makes us feel uncomfortable, take courage and talk to the parents. Talk to them, and pray for them. So often people see things, but decide it is none of their business or although uneasy, they can’t pinpoint anything particularly bad so they don’t say anything but sadly, the child ends up being abused. Please, be full of courage, parents and friends. Do not let groomers into our children’s lives.

Depression is a Liar, a Robber and a Thief

Depression came like a thief in the night and settled on me like a heavy sodden blanket, sapping my strength, smothering me, rolling over me, dragging and  pinning me down. Who knows what the trigger was this time? Tiredness, busyness, taking criticsm to heart, who knows. No matter, it came, uninvited, unwanted and seeped its gloomy way into my whole being.

Where there was talking, there is now silence. Where there was joy there is abiding sadness. Where there was laughter, now there are tears. Where there was movement there is now stillness. Where there were smiles there are now frowns and lines.  Where there was creativity there is now mundane greyness. Where there was togetherness there is now aloneness. Where there was neatness and order there is now mess and chaos, both physically and emotionally.

Depression robs my body of strength and warps my mind. A simple command is met with lethargy. My physically able body of yesterday, is, today, bound by my convoluted mind. I scream, yell and plot revenge in my twisted mind but the words cannot escape my imprisoned lips.

Depression lies to me that God has deserted me, when He is right there beside me.

Depression lies to me that life is not worth living, but I have life abundant through Christ.

Depression lies to me that I will never feel joy again and yet I do.

Depression lies to me that death would be welcome, yet my days are numbered by the Almighty God and today is not that day!

Depression lies to me that I cannot do anything right, yet my children love me and my husband praises me.

Depression lies to me that I should hide from the world, yet my friends would love to surround me with care and love, if they knew.

Depression lies to me that my prayers, the feeble ones I do manage to get out, bounce off the ceiling, and yet my God hears my most desperate whispers in the darkest of the night.

Depression lies to me that I am worthless, yet I am a child of the living God.

My identity is in Christ. No matter what lies depression tells me, I will not heed them. I will not listen to them, rather I will live as the heir of my heavenly father that I am. I will look for all the wonderful things that I can be thankful for. Small and large, and I WILL be thankful. For I am blessed. I have life. Now and eternally. God alone has lifted me out of the pit and raised me up onto high ground. Praise be to God.