Category Archives: Spiritual

It’s Complicated

And so begins the writing debrief…

Another extreme event with Summer…

Kris is away with half the family at Wilson’s Promontory at the moment. I’m home with the girls. I come and go this time of year, to be with both parts of the family. We can’t have Summer at Wilson’s Promontory. It’s way too hard. So I have to split my time. Lots of work goes into planning Summer’s care when we are away. Carers and family that help do a great job. And for a while Summer enjoys the holiday and space and attention, but then she also misses family. I suspect she’s anxious about Kris not being around. My best guess.

This morning we had a new carer – second shift with the girls. Summer wanted me, so I helped her most of the time. Sarah was happy to have the new carer. Mostly smooth morning. Being a Sunday, we were getting ready for church. When it was nearly time to go, I gave Summer the appropriate warnings, at reducing intervals, then it was really time to go. She didn’t want to leave the computer. That’s normal. Normal resistance. But we got there in the end. In the car.

I had forgotten to tell our children’s coordinator at church that we would be there, so I knew the special needs room would be locked. That’s OK, I would find someone with a key and all should be well. I hoped. I got Sarah to bring extra toys in case there weren’t any there. And I packed Summer’s favourite toys in a bag. Big mistake!

In the car, just before we arrived at church, Summer opened the bag and saw her favourite toys and cracked it. She was fuming and refusing them and shouting and throwing them. Then she was stomping on them. I said, don’t break them, I can’t fix them. That got her attention for a brief few seconds, then it was back to stomping. I gradually rescued all the toys once we parked, but I got wacked in the process. Thankfully I had had the foresight to park with ample space on Summer’s side between us and the next car, so she couldn’t slam open the door onto the neighbouring car. (Mind you she did try at one point)! At first she decided to stay in the car and lunge for the car horn. Beeeeeeep. Beeeeeep! I stopped her. Then she did it again. A man walked past to get to church and kindly invited her to come inside. She shook her head with her agitated mood. He smiled and continued on. I was grateful for his demeanour!

I tried leaving the car several times, to give her space, but she would return to horn honking. So I just sat in the car quietly and waited. Eventually she got out. I took a breath…

I knew the next steps were risky and I prayed for grace.

She entered the church. We were ten minutes into the singing time. She walked down the middle aisle to the front of the church and stood and looked at me defiantly, questioningly. She knows she’s not allowed on the stage. She stood in the front area. I hopped into an empty pew in the third row and joined in the worship time, with my eyes open most of the time. I hoped that she would settle, as she saw me happy worshipping, and not giving her negative attention. It looked like it might work, her face relaxed a bit. But then she was agitated again and edged to the stage with one foot on the step. Looking at me, waiting for my reaction. I calmly shook my head and she kept testing.

The worship rose. I heard the congregation lift. A friend later confided in me, that she felt the congregation knew what was going on, and pressed in deeper with worship in response. I felt it at the time too. I did the same. My friend was praying for me.

Summer edged up the steps. I moved to the front row. I knew that I couldn’t go up to her, as she was agitated with me and this would escalate her. All I could do was stay calm and wait. I took the iPad out of my handbag and silently offered it to her, knowing it wouldn’t work. She shook her head. She climbed up the steps and stood next to one of the singers. It was Rian. She was an angel and smiled at Summer, put her arm around her and allowed her to stand there and kind of feel like she was sharing the microphone. Summer smiled.

While this was going on, Renee led the worship beautifully, pressing in more. She prayed at the end an inspired prayer, thanking God and acknowledging the beauty and differences among us. (Something like that). I was touched.

Ps Dan came up and began to lead the service. He seemed to take it all in his stride and just calmly went about talking. I have no idea what he said. I was fixated on Summer. Summer stayed there, next to Renee. Renee tried to encourage her to go down, but Summer shook her head with that expression on her face again. Renee backed off and waited. Smart. Then she had a brilliant idea. She bribed Summer with the microphone and was able to lead her off the stage, with the promise of holding the microphone. That got her all the way to the special needs room corridor. She let her keep the microphone for a bit. And thankfully the sound guys had turned it off.

Rian came soon after and beautifully requested the microphone back. We patiently waited and conversed, then Summer finally gave it back. All good.

Then the room.

Summer wanted to come back to the main auditorium. No way hosay! Not happening. Not taking the risk again right now! So I blocked her way. This agitated her of course. She kept trying to get past me. I kept blocking. She was fixated. I tickled her toward the special needs room. This got her moving, but didn’t improve her mood of course. She banged the door. It was a door with two glass panes. Then she kicked the bottom pane and it did a spider web smash, staying intact, but cracks everywhere. Oh my!

I got her inside the special needs room and spoke firmly to her. I emphasised words like dangerous, blood and hospital. She became fixated on the door. Sarah and the carer were in the room trying to play a game. Eventually Sarah decided it would be more peaceful for her and the carer to play outside. But she couldn’t exit with Summer in the way of the door. I had to grab Summer’s wrists and drag her out of the way. Sarah got out. Summer came straight back and was kicking the frame of the door. And touching the glass, threatening to push it, watching for my reaction.

It’s such a complicated dance with Summer, trying to stay calm, trying to divert when possible, trying to prevent the glass shattering on the ground and trying to stop her banging the door (which could probably be heard in the main auditorium).

It felt like a lose, lose situation. By intervening, I heightened her and prolonged the episode. But by withdrawing, I ran the risk of a dangerous situation. And the problem was she knew she could get my attention by banging. And I couldn’t just ignore the banging, when the church could probably hear it.

So for the next 15-20 minutes I oscilatted between intervening and withdrawing, intervening and withdrawing. In the process I was hit multiple times, kicked multiple times. She attempted to bite me. She spat on me.

In the midst of this I cried out to God…

“For all of this suffering, for every moment of abuse God, I ask that you multiply my fruitfulness, that more of the oppressed would be set free, that many many others would be brought to wholeness and breakthrough, that your grace and anointing would be multiplied. Use this God for your purposes and glory!”

I knew heaven listened. I know my prayer has been answered.

Eventually Summer agreed to going home. I couldn’t risk going back through the auditorium. I had to get Summer to go outside via the oval to the carpark. We went outside, we walked past the oval. We did it!

Unfortunately the gate to the carpark was locked. Of course it was locked. It is supposed to be locked. Dang!

We went back. I suggested we go around the buildings another way to get to the carpark. Instead Summer decided to go towards the classrooms. She tried every door. And with every door I felt anxiety rise – “what if a door had been accidentally left open?” I stayed close. And every door was locked thankfully. Except for one, towards the auditorium. I was right there and put my foot on the bottom of the door, not allowing it to open. I saw Carlo preaching. I was bummed I couldn’t listen.

We eventually got to the carpark. We got to the car. We got in. We went home. I told Summer she was going to be put in time out.

At home Summer saw the cat and picked it up. That made it easy to get her to the bathroom to go to the toilet. (I had to jump that hurdle before I put her in time out. Otherwise she would deliberately wet in her room. And that would be more work. I needed a break).

Once in her room, we let the cat go. Time for discipline. And I had very, very firm words with her. Three things.

  1. Summer do not go on the stage
  2. Summer do not break windows
  3. Summer do not hurt mummy

And as an aside, please note:

  1. It sounds like this happens more frequently than it does. This was an extreme situation.
  2. I’ve become adept at blocking her aggression so I’ve never been seriously hurt.

In conclusion:

It could have been fine. I just wanted to go to church.

I don’t want to stay home. I don’t want to stop Summer from going to church because it is too hard. I am grateful for an understanding church community, but I don’t want to cause too many problems. It’s a complicated balance.

Next week Summer and Sarah will be at a respite house for the weekend. We do this once a month. I can relax.

After that Kris will be back. It’s easier at church when Kris is there.

We will also be aiming for two paid carers at church. One for Summer. One for Sarah. I hope it works. I’ve done the rostering already.

So here I am at home. I aim to rest. Another carer is with the girls. They are playing ‘schools and teachers’. It’s going great.

I am both unemotional, and also ready to cry at the drop of the hat. I am used to this, but it takes a toll on my body.

I need to rest. But the rest never feels like enough.

I tell you what! My trust in God is being forged! I can’t solve all these problems. Summer’s behaviour. My health. All I can do is trust. It sounds like a nice pad ending, to finish a blog. But it’s my reality. The last six months have often not made sense. I’ve wrestled with God. I’ve been frustrated. And I came to the point where I decided, that I didn’t care what my life looked like. I was going to trust God regardless. I’ve had a hissy fit against obstacles. I DON’T CARE. I’M GOING TO TRUST MY GOD. God knows what he is doing. He knows how to lead me. And I trust his leadership.

And that is my strength. And that is my joy. And that is my breakthrough!

Summer and the Microphone

This morning was rather eventful at church.

I had been in two minds whether to go. I was rostered on to sing in the band, but my energy had taken a dive this week and I was too exhausted to get there at 8am for rehearsal and wasn’t even sure whether I would have the energy for the whole church service. I was really bummed. I REALLY love singing. Kris was at Bunnings for a fundraiser BBQ with Josiah. And so the backup plan was to send our carer with Kiara, Sarah and Micah, and I would stay home with Summer. But I HATE missing church. If I couldn’t be there to sing, at least I would be there to WORSHIP. So the plan moved to coming for the first half hour, then leaving.

It got better. One of the young adults was asked to help in the special needs room with Summer and Sarah, to help our carer. So I didn’t have to leave early after all. She did a brilliant job. But as often happens, Summer decided she was ready to leave, before anyone else was ready for her to leave. It was 11:30am, after being in the room 90 minutes, so she did pretty well. But when Summer wants to leave, woe to whoever wants to stop her! The carer rapidly sent me a text to warn me. I didn’t see it until later, as we were all standing for the final song and altar call.

As I was worshipping with my eyes shut, I heard a familiar sound from far away, ‘mummy’. I’m well trained to respond quickly, and I must admit, with panic. What was happening? Where was she? Uh-oh. After a quick scan, I discovered her at the front grabbing the shoulder of a guy who was being prayed for. I think she thought it was Kris, as he is a similar size and similar hair. I was quickly out of my seat charging to the front, whilst simultaneously chiding myself for not being more discreet.

By this point Summer had moved on, wandered across on the floor in front of the stage, unsure where to go. I caught her attention and thought that would be it. Mummy found!

But no! Microphone found!

She spotted it on the front row, where the preacher had left it, in order to pray for those at the front. With speed, and before I could do anything, she moved to the microphone and with glee picked it up. Horror and humour set in. My face doesn’t hide emotion very well. I could only imagine the entertainment my demeanour would have given anyone looking on. I need discretion practice.

Summer wandered back to the middle of the front area with the microphone, holding it up to her mouth, then checking it, holding it back to her mouth. Then she studied it carefully looking for the switch. Uh-oh. I was in a bind. What do I do? Knowing what was coming next, I looked back at the sound guys. I don’t think they knew. I wanted to run back there and urge them to turn the sound off, but that would waste precious time and they might not know which microphone to switch off. I could only hope someone else would take the baton and do the right thing.

My brother Matthew to the rescue. Standing in the aisle, with purpose, I saw his position and gave him the cut throat sign. He headed straight to the back. In the meantime Summer had found the magic switch. Uh-oh. Did it have to happen right now? While everyone was praying? In such a holy and focused moment?

The switch was on. And she was live. I lunged and grabbed for the microphone. It was a dumb move. It was never going to end well. Of course she resisted and screamed loudly, right next to some poor soul being prayed for. I quickly let go and backed off to give her space. Thankfully the sound guys had done their thing and she was muted, after only 1 second of sound. She focused on checking that switch again.

I shuffled back to the front seat and smiled helplessly and knowingly at Darryl, who knew all to well. He and his family had spent many weekends hosting Summer at their house to give us a break. If anyone knew, he did.

I forgot myself and starting worshipping. It’s my default. I can’t help it. The music’s going. I can’t help it. Then I remembered myself and opened my eyes to check on Summer. The meeting leader, Chris was attempting to do the right thing and get that microphone back. Summer gave a snap, ‘No’ and then snapped back to her worship zone.

What can I say? This crazy mix. Summer defiant one moment, worshipping the next. Defiant. Worshipping. Defiant. Worshipping.

It kind of sums up what it’s like living with Summer.

Kris heard all about it. Four of the guys from church turned up at Bunnings. Kris was sharing with me later. He was crying. He was so touched at the love these guys had for Summer. Their pride in her. Their lack of embarrassment. I shared about the women’s response. Their humour, their love, their support. We both cried. We have a great church.

Summer took about 25 minutes to give the microphone back.

It talked to Niall, the sound guy. We have a plan. I’m buying Summer her own microphone. I’ll keep it in my handbag for next time. Hopefully for an easier switch. The photo, is the one I’ve ordered for her 🙂

Scored

Today God has so kindly allowed me to experience more fully what it is like to LOVE my family, instead of seeking my own good. I totally suspect God did it. I know he did.

I was sitting at the table playing a game with my husband and son. I was frustrated with the noise of the younger kids, irritated by my husband’s drumming fingers and my son’s exasperated noises. I felt like I didn’t want to be with them. And then I remembered how I had been choosing love with my husband, especially in moments where I was NOT inspired. And so I decided to choose love at the table in this moment. I started thinking, what would they want right now? I decided to play quietly, to speak kindly. It was like a gentle battle, of going back to my selfish ways, then choosing love. God made it easy for me.

Then at the end of the game, which I have played hundreds of times with different people over the course of my 42 year life, something happened that had NEVER happened before. The three of us ended up with identical scores – 195 each. We were all in disbelief. My husband took a photo and texted it to my dad, who also loves the game.

Afterwards I felt that the scores were a sign. A sign related to my choosing love. By choosing love, the three of us ended up level, equal. By choosing love, I did’t stand above in pride or judgment. We ended up all winning.

As I came upstairs and sat at my desk I was full of joy. Light, refreshing joy (not happiness). It just flowed through me, effortless.

I am so grateful to God for this experience. I long to remember to live this everyday. I know I need to practice it. New things take time to learn. And I know God will continue to give me the grace to learn this. He knows how much I long to live fully from love, not self ambition.

Hero or Fool?

I keep thinking about the story of Chau, the 26 year old Christian missionary who visited the Sentinelese people in mid-November, in the hope of converting them, and was killed with arrows on his third visit.

There’s been much criticism of Chau, which I can understand – that he shouldn’t have gone there (it was illegal), he shouldn’t taint an ancient civilization with other religious ideas, he shouldn’t expose them to possible germs that could kill them and he shouldn’t have put the fishermen who transported him at risk (they have now been arrested). And that he was a fool (or crazy) for putting himself in danger which got him killed.

On the other hand some Christians would see him as a martyr. He died for his faith.

I can understand all those points of view.

What is sticking in my gut with this story, though, is the response of some Christians. The response being that Chau was misguided, that he went too far, that he lacked wisdom, or that he had mental health issues. I can understand that response from a non-believer. But it agitates me that a believer would think this. It makes my spirit cry out that maybe they don’t know the Bible. Maybe they don’t know how valuable Jesus is. And that he is worth even dying for.

I think of these passages from the Bible…

Matthew 16:24-25…  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Acts 21:13… Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

There’s heaps more Scriptures on that theme of persecution/death for your faith. Plus heaps of examples of disciples breaking the law by preaching the gospel. And then ending up in prison, because what they did was illegal. And most of them got killed in the end.

This was normal in the Bible. And they were willing to pay that price, because they knew the value of the gospel. It’s worth more than anything, as it is the doorway to reconciliation with our Creator. Our response to which determines our eternal destination. From this perspective, sharing the gospel is even worth more than maintaining the status quo of an ancient untouched civilization. After all, eternity counts for more than our short time here on earth.

So my spirit burns inside. Burns to see saints that will follow Jesus whatever the cost.

When I go to heaven I want to meet Chau and shake his hand. And thank him for his sacrifice that reminds us all what following Jesus is really about.

Some quotes from Chau’s journal…

“Lord yet you will be close. If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it.

“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”

Trauma

So I’m sitting in my office typing while looking after Summer. Just Summer. She’s not interested in the iPad, which is good because it means she’s engaging with the world. Which is also bad, because she’s engaging with the world. Specifically the kitten (or rather cat). This kitten is very good, but he is meowing sometimes every 30 seconds, sometimes not for a while, most likely from being handled uncomfortably, probably squeezed. Downstairs I hear Rover, the 21 year old cat meowing loudly. I locked him in the laundry for his peace and my peace and for Summer’s safety. She has some new bite/scratch marks from him. Fair enough, he’s not up to being squeezed at his age.

Summer has improved a lot. She’s more gentle and kind, but still doesn’t always know what effect she has. She also doesn’t understand the impact of her behaviour on the rest of the family. When we are at low points, the meowing sound is exceptionally grating and stressful. I’ve been unwell with cold for a couple of weeks and very low energy. And this afternoon Summer kept bending over to pat and kiss Rover and would not listen to my directions to leave him alone. The bites and scratches don’t stop her. I physically pulled her over from Rover, as my patience was thin. So of course she cracked it – not as bad as she used to – just kept slamming a door and making noises. I was scared her finger would get jammed in the door.

I felt the toxic stress build up and didn’t want to shove it down. I wanted to release it. So I allowed myself to scream several times. No-one else was home but me and Summer and the neighbours wouldn’t have heard. I’ve done that once before and it felt such a relief. It was a kind of relief this time too. So then Summer screamed of course, so I blocked my ears, as it has a stress impact on my body.

Summer is so much better than she used to be, but I can sometimes get overly stressed by some of the small things she does – like screaming, or repeating words/phrases over and over, or making the cat meow. The other kids also overreact to these very same things. I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all suffering from a kind of post-traumatic stress.

Recently I went to a carer stress workshop and asked a question – How do I stop myself from getting heightened overly quickly to stress? I explained I’d had a stress related crash 3 years ago and had made major effort to implement healthy self care in many different areas, but I was still having this problem. She said it was probably from trauma. That sat right with me.

So I’ve been praying for God to heal me from trauma. And here lies the other side of my life. God.

I’ve been learning to live as a spiritual being, knowing my place as a child of God, loved, cherished, empowered by his Holy Spirit who lives within me. When I connect with God I can sometimes instantly feel refreshing joy, pure life and fire in my eyes. God is my strength. He is my hope. He is my safe place. My true home.

The more time I spend connecting with him, being in his presence, the more often I feel his empowering life within me, or feel his presence. There is no stress in him. I have been learning that my circumstances are irrelevant. I can praise God and find joy in him in the midst of immense challenge. His love, joy and peace are available in the midst of every trial. I just have to choose to lift my eyes, open my mouth and praise, pray, speak Scripture, speak in tongues, whatever. I just choose to connect and I do. It’s my choice.

And when faith ignites, so too does God’s power within me.

It’s like a secret life that is available to everyone. But you don’t find it, until your spiritual self is awakened. It’s called being born again. And it’s through believing in Jesus.

But there’s a gap at the moment. And it’s been exposed. It’s called trauma. And I’m reaching out for God’s healing. I can’t do it. I want my emotions back to normal again. I want my health completely back to normal again.

In the meantime, God is faithful and I am immensely grateful every single day for every single thing he is teaching me. There’s not a day that goes past that I don’t see him loving me and teaching him. He is so kind and so good and so faithful. I want to bring him glory and I never ever want to disappoint him. I love him so much.

 

P.S. You may wonder why we don’t just get rid of the cats to eliminate that stress. But here’s the thing. She loves animals. We have a dog too, Rupert, who she spends time with. But she spends HEAPS of time with the cats, because she can pick them up. And most of the time it’s good. And it keeps her settled. And stops her from engaging in other problem behaviours. So the pros outweigh the cons. And the young cats are robust – I don’t think anyone needs to call the RSPCA – they are only little meows – and at other times there is nice purring.

P.P.S For anyone reading this who hasn’t followed our family story, you may be wondering why I use the word trauma. Summer, our 11 year old daughter has microcephaly (small brain) plus moderate intellectual disability plus autism. Sarah our 9 year old daughter has the same, but without the autism. It is very time consuming and patience demanding to get cooperation with the smallest of tasks with both the girls. This is very emotionally draining. Plus Summer has had and still has a range of challenging behaviours including screaming and various types of aggression of various degrees. Plus unpredictable behaviour that keeps us on edge and on constant high alert. But she is also REALLY lovely and gorgeous and loving and beautiful and AMAZING! We are actually very blessed!

It is of course a very different type of trauma to others, eg not as extreme as a road accident. But it is ongoing and every day to various degrees. And over time this wears down our reserves.

Four Glimpses of Possible

God gives me glimpses of things. Of what is possible. Of what it would feel like to be transformed by him in some specific way…

  1. How it feels to have absolute peace in my gut and how this dissolves stress in those around me
  2. How it feels to react with powerful love instead of anxiety in stressful situations
  3. How it feels to have an absence of pride
  4. How it feels to have body and mind vitality, through eating the right diet for me

These glimpses have been momentary, but profound. Tastes of what is possible. So now I’m wrecked for anything less. How can you be satisfied with the ordinary when you’ve experienced freedom in a certain area?

I’ve heard countless sermons about having peace, of having love, of having humility and of eating right. But nothing has motivated me like the experience of feeling the momentary freedom of what it is actually like to live in this zone. Honestly it became real, incredible, beyond my ordinary dreams of what is possible. They say Jesus is the best. Haha he actually is. And way better than you think.

So what do the ravings of this Jesus loony amount to? How did the glimpses happen? What did they feel like? OK one at a time…

  1. Peace in my gut

With five kids, two with special needs, the stress was extreme and had impacted my body to breakdown point. I lost my energy, like someone pulled the plug. My husband stopped work to take care of the kids while I tried to recover. After six weeks he couldn’t cope so we reached out for a DHHS package for carer support. Six months later we were operating with carers in the home 15 hours per week. My husband was back at work. But the stress didn’t disappear. And I was in a weakened state to handle it.

It got to the point, where wise advise from a close family member was to put Summer (our middle daughter with moderate intellectual disability and autism) in a home for 6-12 months so we could recover.

I was desperate. A dear saint urged me to rest in Jesus.

So I determined to try.

I sat in my lounge chair. I was too tired to pray. I just shut my eyes and sank down deep into a posture of rest. But different from normal. I imagined myself resting in Jesus. And then I remember that Jesus has no weights for me, but wants to unburden me. Then I relax deeper, with relief that I didn’t have to strive. Then I start to laugh and cry and laugh and cry. It just kept bubbling out. My friends call it craughing.

I did this on and off for three days. I would feel myself getting filled with feelings of relief, and of spiritual living water going inside my gut. Hard to imagine I know. It wasn’t long periods of time. I would get distracted, then concentrate again and do the inner posture of resting in Jesus. Trying to do this did nothing. It was when I knew Jesus was my rest, that the faith switch went on, and then the craughing would start. So good!!!

After three days, I felt peace in my gut. It felt wonderful. I can’t describe what a relief that feeling was. All I remember is always feeling uptight in my middle. But I couldn’t find any uptight feeling, even though I was looking hard for it. Just peace. And this feeling of living water.

So then the kids came home and I braced myself. No help from carers or hubby that night. How would I cope! Well the kids came in all manic, bubbling over through the door. They came near me and I watched their energy dissolve. They became settled and at peace without me saying a word. I’ll never forget that. I’ve read about that. But I actually experienced it.

That’s what I need every day. God give me that glimpse back. God help me build that as consistent reality.

  1. Love overflowing without any striving

Another day, I’d had a full-on hour managing Summer in the context of a car trip with all five kids, after an outing in the city where Summer refused to go back to the car. Then I got home and the three youngest ones were full-on. I felt the stress and anxiety peaking. This battle started raging inside me. I was at ‘too much’ point. My mind was telling me to go upstairs and hide and tell my husband I’d had enough. But something in my spirit was battling this. I felt it. I stayed put, feeling and watching the inner battle from outside myself. My inner spirit was wanting to overcome. It was wanting to rise above the status quo of stress overload. This almighty groan emerged from deep within me, shocking me and my kids. And I burst forward to the kids with arms outstretched and blurted out ‘I love you Summer’. And then I poured love out all over the three kids. I felt filled with immense joy and love. I was overflowing, without stress or anxiety. The situation was transformed. I was transformed. I didn’t have to rest and recuperate from stress. I was energised and inspired.

I need and want this all the time. The status quo is so ordinary. This was extraordinary.

  1. Absence of pride

When living in Sydney I had this moment. Totally unplanned. I felt the absence of pride. I know that sounds weird. But it was very distinct. I had an immense clarity of mind and uncluttered panoramic vision. I could see far and wide in my spirit, without cloudedness or confusion. I realised in this moment that this was the space I needed to live in, in order to make wise decisions in ministry and if I ever wanted to lead effectively in any sphere. I willed the clarity to stay. But after maybe 5-10 seconds it left and I went back to my immersion in my own personal level of pride. Which as a continual presence, becomes unnoticed and normal. But now I noticed it. This robber. This thief. This pride! How I despised it and wanted it gone. It clouded my vision. I couldn’t see very far ahead. The difference was immense. Like trying to walk in a fog.

This experience prompted me to pray on three occasions in my life for God to do whatever it would take to get rid of pride. Within a day or week after praying each of these prayers, I subsequently experienced the three most humbling, difficult and painful events/seasons of my life. One day I may share these stories. One of these was the adrenal crash I have referred to. This was the least painful.

Before praying the second time, I experienced the glimpse of the absence of pride again. It was in our ensuite in Dingley Village. In that moment I recalled the glimpse I had experienced years earlier and savoured the moment, wishing it would stay forever. That gave me the courage and motivation to pray the second time for God to get rid of any remaining pride. I wanted to live in that space. I don’t want to live in any other.

I have learned much, but I am still on the path.

  1. Body and mind vitality

God led me on a fast. I hate fasting. I get really grumpy when I don’t eat. And I can’t afford to be a grumpy mum. The demands are strenuous enough without adding that in the mix. So I decided I would fast everything except fruit and vegetables.

After one week, I felt amazing. I guess it was like a de-tox. But I was starving. I did a little complaint to the Holy Spirit about this and I felt him say to add rice. I was happy. For the next two weeks I had rice and fruit and vegetables. I felt full and I felt great. Then in the last week unexpectedly I felt him say to add meat, then a few days later to add eggs, then on the last day to add cheese.

My body felt clean on the inside. It felt refreshed. My mind felt clear and uncluttered. I felt alive in my body.

The day after I finished the fast, I concluded that God never let me eat flour or sugar.

I decided I would like to continue eating like this.

I failed and went back to my old ways. But I never forgot how good I felt and have wanted it ever since.

Last year I gave up flour (mostly) and made it a lifestyle. It’s now normal for me. Then in November I watched ‘That Sugar Film’ and that gave me the impetus to drop sugar. I went cold turkey and I don’t want to go back. I love being sugar free. My emotions are lighter. No depressed feelings. My head is less clouded. No cravings.

Big wins dropping flour and sugar. But I still need to have a higher proportion of vegetables, to experience the reality of the earlier fast where God taught me how to eat. Isn’t he smart. He knows my body better than any doctor. And he knows yours too. We are all different.

So I’m not fully there yet, but I’m on the path. I’m seeing change. I’m building one step at a time. And the glimpse is becoming a reality.

Conclusion

So just recently I had this awesome thought. God has given me glimpses of magnificence spiritual transformations – peace, love and absence of pride. Maybe, just maybe, these also can become my everyday reality, rather than one-off tantalising experiences.

If I follow the logic of the food experience, then it is just a matter of taking small steps every day, in order to build a lifestyle, which then becomes my everyday experience. I can do this!

So I’m starting with the peace in the gut. I’m practicing this every day – 20 minutes X 3. This is doable. I already have 20 X 3 as my normal rest routine, which I have been practicing for years. Now I just add Jesus to the rest in this same routine.

I’m going to win. I’m going to overcome. God has shown me how. And I just have to decide to do it – and I have – and then do the hard yards – and I am.

I’m going to be the peace queen. Not a pride statement here haha. Just a joy statement. Hehehehehehe. The peace queen!

And then wait until I become the love lady.

And then – wow – the absence of pride. I don’t know to walk that journey yet. I’m praying God builds humility more and more. He can do it. He can. He can. He doesn’t give glimpses for nothing.

It’s awesome walking with Jesus. He knows the path. And his path is brilliant and full of surprises that are out of this world. He gives glimpses to keep us going.

What glimpses does he have for you? What is he wanting to build in you? What has he done already?

Love to all

Your Sixth Sense (Better Than Sex)

You have an amazing hidden ability. You might not be aware of this yet, but you have a sixth sense. What is it? Are you using it? Have you thought about its possibilities?

Your sixth sense is the ability to sense the atmosphere…

on TWO levels…

the emotional atmosphere and the spiritual atmosphere (better than sex, more later).

Everybody has this ability. But not everybody pays attention to it. And it is attention that hones your ability.

The Emotional Atmosphere

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately noticed tension? You don’t know what happened, but you know something is really off! Perhaps there was a heated argument. Perhaps the people in the room are just seething with unspoken anger. It feels very different to walking into a room where people are happy or excited!

Part of our mood awareness comes from visual cues, such as the expression on people’s faces and their body posture. But our perception goes beyond this. I put it to you, that even with a blindfold on, many of you would still sense mood, if the emotions were pronounced enough.

Some people are better atmosphere perceivers than others. That comes down to natural ability and how much you have developed the skill. That’s like anything in life. Some people are naturally very gifted at music, for example, but everyone can still develop a degree of skill, and hone it with practice.

For some of you, the ability to sense the emotional atmosphere may be virtually non-existent. Perhaps you grew up in a household where this wasn’t valued or acknowledged, so you never paid attention to what you were sensing. Perhaps you disregard your perceptions, as they are subjective, they cannot be measured scientifically like vision or hearing, etc.

I agree that our sixth sense is subjective. Accuracy in diagnosing emotional mood isn’t always precise – but with practice and skill, reliability can increase. This sense shouldn’t be discounted – it should be cultivated and respectfully judged. It has enormous usefulness in both one-on-one interactions and groups environments, on a personal level, work level and societal level.

So far, what I have described is a common experience for many. But there is another level of atmosphere sensing that is completely different. It is SPIRITUAL. The difference is not understood until it is experienced, like trying to imagine colour, when you see in black and white.

Let me share my experience…

Sensing Spiritual Atmosphere

Our church has a lively worship time in the service. A band and songs, like those sung by Hillsong. This creates a certain atmosphere which is awesome. But this is NOT what I’m talking about. I can sing along, I can dance, I can lift my hands and enjoy the atmosphere. But again, this is NOT what I’m talking about.

Sometimes during the worship time, all of a sudden, sometimes unexpectedly, I sense the presence of God. THIS is what I’m talking about!!!

How do I describe this?

It’s weighty.

It’s like a charged atmosphere, except that it contains LIFE.

And this is a big difference. Let me repeat – it has LIFE. This life is the presence of a being… a person… of God himself.

In this moment I can experience a lot of emotions – awe, a sense of being washed over, of being cleansed, an awareness of the goodness and purity of God. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I never want the moment to end. I cling to God in this moment. I revel in who he is. I partake of him. Sometimes I erupt in laughter, sometimes in crying, sometimes a mixture of both. I feel like rivers of living water are flowing in my being. This is glorious peoples. Nothing can compare to this.

And oh to worship him. To lift him up. With every part of my being in complete agreement. There is a rightness. A peace. An inner YES that screams out and becomes louder than any negativity or cloud. It is my place of rest. I’ve found my tribe. I’ve found my home.

And other people who’ve experienced God say the same thing. I hear their description and I go YEP – you’ve met the Father! You’ve met Jesus.

And I don’t just experience this at church. When I connect with God at home… anywhere… the more time I spend with him, the more I experience his presence. It doesn’t happen all the time, but over the years, as I have been pursuing God more, this has been increasing.

Please excuse me for this next comparison, but I want to emphasise how awesome experiencing God is. It is better than sex. It is better than great sex. It is better than ultimate fulfilment sex. Sex brings physical pleasure and the ecstasy of emotionally blurring with another, going to a heightened state of being. It is amazing. But being in the presence of God is more amazing and more fulfilling.

Experiencing a taste of who God is and his life, is what our whole being longs for. We understand our sex drive and the fulfilment this can bring, particularly when in a healthy relationship. But many of us don’t understand our drive for God. He is our ultimate source of fulfilment. Every core of our being becomes alive and energised in an encounter with him. He is transforming!

I can’t emphasise enough how knowing God is not just intellectual or emotional. It is also deeply spiritual. And this spiritual experience is tangible and available for everyone!

God wants to reveal himself to us. Why don’t you ask him to. He’s waiting… with love and forgiveness like an ocean.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Truth, Lies and Anxiety

question-mark-2I have a theory. Does this resonate with you?

When people lie to us, and we have no evidence that they are lying, we have two different responses from two parts of our being. Our mind listens to what is being said, and finding no evidence to the contrary, agrees with the lie. But our spirit senses the lie at a spiritual level and is grieved. Whether our spiritual awareness is small or great, an incongruence now exists between our mind and spirit. Our spirit and mind are not resonating in unity and this creates discomfort in the emotional realm. Anxiety and mistrust are the result. We don’t understand any of this in our mind, but it happens anyway – the fruit of experiencing an unknown lie.

Think of the spouse who is betrayed by infidelity. They don’t know, but they do know. Anxiety, mistrust and turmoil grows. Or the boss who fires an employee, but gives a soft reason instead of the real reason. The employee’s mind is relieved, but the spirit knows otherwise. Anxiety results.

The solution to this angst is truth.

But for many, this is a problematic solution. Truth is often deemed too painful and therefore must be disguised or hidden. But if my above theory is true, then lies do greater damage in the long run, as they destroy inner peace. The best solution may be speaking the truth (with love, not hate). Truth accepted by the mind creates a united resonance with the spirit, and our emotions are therefore more at peace. And don’t we all want peace!

If this theory is true, then this has important implications for our lives not only as individuals but also as a society. For anxiety is rampant and we need to understand its causes. It begs the question – how much of our anxiety is the fruit of lies? It could be minimal, but I suspect it is enormous. For lies do not just come to us from individual relationships, but they also come from society as a whole. If the philosophy that we build our lives around is simply not true, then how much greater the anxiety and inner turmoil. We are building on sand.

As a deeply personal response, I believe that truth is found only in Jesus Christ. He is my ultimate peace. This is not theoretical for me. This is my experience on a daily basis, to greater and lesser extents, depending on the day. His truth brings me much peace. It slashes misconceptions, which may initially be painful, but also bring enormous relief.

My quest is to keep seeking God’s truth and to challenge every part of my life that does not flow with his life giving Word! “The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

hillsong-let-hope-riseJust got home from watching this movie. I LOVED IT! Way more than I thought I would. My husband and I were part of Hillsong Church for five years and had our first two kids there. So I wanted to see the movie and maybe feel a bit nostalgic and maybe enjoy seeing God glorified in a secular movie theatre. But it was way more than that. OK the movie was very well done. I expected that from Hollywood. It was surprisingly positive in its presentation of Hillsong and the United band. It was surprisingly generous in the display of the hope side of the Christian message. Normally there is a lot of cynicism about Hillsong out in the world and parts of the church. But this wasn’t there. The behind the scenes look in to the band members personal lives was fantastic. It portrayed them as real people, not celebrities. I loved that it was clearly not about their egos, but about their desire to promote Jesus and allow people to connect with him. There were so many awesome moments in the movie – seeing people all around the world, singing ‘Saviour, He can move the mountains’. That was so well done – WOW was all I could say!! And then it just kept going on – I kept having all these moments with God – laughing and crying in his presence. Gobsmacked at what God had done with these ordinary people and how awesome he is. I just LOVED it! The movie is an opportunity for people all around the world to have a glimpse at who God is and hopefully be moved to want to connect with him and possibly a local church. And if that happens, they can discover the God who can set them free from all their inner turmoil, all the stuff we call sin that wraps people in chains. They can be forgiven, set free and live a new life with Christ to follow. I just LOVED that movie. Thanks Hillsong for all you’re doing and have done. Such an outstanding, extraordinary example. You lift our horizons. Thanks for your humility in this movie and for stating the truth – that without God it would all be nothing.

The Faith Switch

faith-switch-2In the year 2000, I gave up trying to improve my Christian walk and I asked God to grow me. Since then, his work in my life has blown me away. I’ve learned that God is a brilliant mastermind, and that he can be trusted if I will have faith and patience.

This faith is a journey and I’m learning its power and activation. Here’s what happens to me over and over…

The Process

When I’m struggling with something… worrying… wrestling… wallowing, there’s no freedom. No power. But then suddenly I remember God. Hahaha. And then I KNOW he can deliver me from my turmoil. I KNOW he can turn my situation around. I KNOW he has a way to make the impossible possible (in the immediate and/or long-term). This KNOWING is called faith! It’s like I’ve just turned on a big switch – the power generator goes on and VWOOM… there is LIGHT!

Faith is a special type of knowing. It is supernatural. It is bigger than plain belief and beyond science. And it is not to be confused with hope, positive thinking or emotion. It is powerful.

Faith Is Bigger Than Belief

One can believe all sorts of things – that we evolved, that global warming is a problem, that one’s religion or absence thereof is the most accurate position. But such beliefs are not faith, even if they are religious in nature. Faith has a different switch.

Belief may be formed through education, reason, cultural or family heritage, etc, such as believing in God because of one’s upbringing. But this is not the faith I’m talking about. Faith is an alive explosion of inner knowledge that something is absolutely true, with no doubt whatsoever. Some call it assurance. Mix that with life and fire and we are getting somewhere.

I think if we could see both belief and faith, then belief would be like a smooth cold grey rock, sitting solid and still, and faith would be like a pulsating red hot rock, dangerous and alive.

Faith and Science

People of faith may or may not operate in the realm of scientific empirical evidence and facts. Scientific knowledge is useful and practical, but it has no bearing on faith. Faith is separate and distinct. Faith knows things that science cannot. Faith is an inner spiritual switch that everyone has, but not everyone knows how to operate. Those who have used the switch are more able to use it again. And those who use it frequently become adept at using it across multiple situations. And some amazing people live in this space most of the time.

Faith Is Not Hope

Faith can sometimes be confused with hope. Yes, hope is good. Hope keeps us going. We hope things will get better. We hope God will intervene. But faith is different – it KNOWS! The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not nebulous – it is itself a substance and an evidence. This is why someone who has faith needs nothing else to convince them. Faith trumps any other intellectual argument.  Faith is its own argument.

Positive Thinking and Emotion

Some may think faith can be conjured up through positive thinking. It is the other way around. Faith may inspire positive thinking, but it is not the same thing. The difference is like costume jewellery versus gold and precious stones.

Some may see faith as a strong emotional feeling attached to belief. Again, it is the other way around. Faith may inspire strong feeling, but it is not the same thing. Strong emotion with belief can sing the worship song, “Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul, Worship His Holy Name” and agree wholeheartedly with great emotion. Faith can sing the same line and each word starts living and breathing on its own. Life and energy flows. It’s like your spirit has woken up and arisen.

Faith is Massively Empowering

Faith can operate in any environment. It is not dependent on life being great and it is not disabled by life being difficult. In actual fact, difficulty can inspire faith to become stronger and more resilient. And in turn it empowers one further in the difficulty.

Faith changes the way everything looks. It reignites hope. And it crushes fear. It enables going forward and it disables paralysis. Everything lights up, not just one’s vision, but one’s whole inner being.

Faith shuts down destructive thoughts. One might have no idea how to handle a problem, but faith says, “I know my God is bigger than this problem and he will show me a way through. Whether today or tomorrow, I know he is faithful and I trust him with the timing and the method.” And then peace comes. And God is moved to action on our behalf.

How Do I Find The Faith Switch?

How do you activate faith? How do you find a switch that you’ve never pressed? I’m here to say that it is more than possible – and it is quite possibly the next chapter of your life.

What I’m about to say might sound simplistic, but it’s actually profound and involves an action which opens a new doorway. Here it is… (drum roll)… You find the switch by listening to God’s word… and somehow at some moment something profoundly ignites. The Bible says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Anyone can do this…

  • Start reading or listening to the Bible. (I suggest starting in the book of Mark).
  • Google ‘Jesus gospel message’ and read/listen.
  • Listen to people of faith talking about God.

And while you’re reading and while you’re listening, ASK GOD to give you faith. Ask him to reveal himself to you and turn that switch on. You actually can’t turn it on without him. (So – none of us WITH faith can boast and say we’re better than anyone else (Ephesians 2:8-9)).

And if nothing happens what have you lost? Some time and effort. Plus you’ve gained some extra life experience and knowledge.

But what if you actually activate the faith switch for the first time. I’m telling you – you will never be the same again!!!

Open the door!

An Open Letter To Australia

Australia map 3Dear Australia,

We are an incredible nation. From the natural Uluru to the master built Opera House, we display outstanding beauty. From the original inhabitants to the British settlers to later immigrants, we epitomise diversity, and enjoy its benefits. We are passionate, yet easy going, hard-working, yet know how to celebrate. We despise facades and welcome gut level honesty. So I probably won’t surprise you when I also say… we have some serious problems.

We see never ending domestic violence in the news. The victims suffer in body and soul, robbed of their safety and human dignity, tortured by ongoing emotional turmoil. The perpetrators also suffer – their inner freedom is destroyed by their own hatred and lack of self-control. We are also robbed of their exceptionality.

There is an increasing and pervading darkness. It is most obvious in the atmosphere of our movies – every decade is darker than the one prior. Compare a 1950’s movie to one today. This increased darkness is also obvious in our faces, in our eyes. There is a loss of innocence which stands out.

Our nation is blistering with porn addiction – a huge percentage of particularly men and boys are addicted to lust, driven for a hit, minds altered, innocence lost, robbed of intellectual creativity and freedom because of the addiction that stalks them. And we as a nation are robbed of their finery, of their purest contribution to family and society. Not to mention the many partners who suffer silent anguish.

We see a tsunami of depression. It’s everywhere. Depression sucks the life out of people, robs them of their capacity, their ability to flourish and change, learn and grow. THERE IS NO FREEDOM! We never get to see their best.

I could go on. Each one of us have our own story.

I have to ask… Why are we suffering? What is diminishing our capacity? Where is our inner freedom?

I would like to suggest that as a society we are reaping the fruit of walking our own way.

We sing the song, “I Did It My Way” and “It’s My Life”. We believe that no-one can tell us what to do. ‘It’s my life, my choice.’ And this is true. But we are reaping the consequences. And the consequences are too much!

There must be another way.

Our problems are too big for the government to solve. They are too big for the universities to intellectualise. The media can bring them to our attention, but they can’t change anything? We have millions of different opinions, but which voice do we listen to amidst the cacophony on the airwaves? Nobody has a monopoly on national perspective. Not one of us qualifies for the job!

I put it to you that there is only One who can fix our nation’s problems…

And that One is God.

He’s the only one that sees everything at once, every person, every problem, every pain and the interaction across the globe of all of these things, impact now and impact across the generations. The God that was smart enough to create the intricacies and inter-relatedness of life on the planet is smart enough to restore order, if we will listen.

When we want something done properly, we ask the experts. If God is the creator of our world, our brains, our emotions and our communities, then he is the ultimate expert, so why not find out what he says. Why belittle our potential by following our own myopic vision when we could follow the one who sees everything?

God’s way is very different to ours. The ancient Scriptures read,

 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT)

 But what are his ways? And how do we walk in them?

I challenge you to find out.

God’s way leads to inner peace, hope and personal freedom. And on a larger scale, to national peace and prosperity. God is good and his ways are right. He personifies love in its purest form, whilst standing firm on justice and truth. He is both holy and revered, gentle and personal. He holds the keys to abundant life and gives us freedom to grab a hold of them… or freedom to choose our own way.

Let’s use our freedom to grab the keys and change our direction. Let’s humble ourselves and admit we are wrong.

I challenge my country, from the politicians, to the workers, from the business owners to those living on welfare, from the students to those serving our community – let’s stop living life our own way and start living life God’s way. It’s a change of perspective. It’s a change of priorities. And it’s therefore a change of consequences.

Let’s be a nation that learns to seek God’s truth and apply it in all areas of life, in every sphere of the community, with all the fruit that entails. Let’s see every individual released into the uniqueness and brilliance of who they have been designed to be. Why wouldn’t we want this? Why wouldn’t we sacrifice everything, including our own false freedom for the true freedom that is available.

In the words of Isaiah, the ancient prophet:

 “Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
 Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.” (Isaiah 55:6-7, NLT)

Please share this on social media and get the message out!

Mumma’s Wrath

IMG_1162OK this is not going to end up where you think…

I can have patience for a while with things that are out of order. When my kids do the wrong thing, they can get a gentle warning or reprimand. Then if they do it again, the intensity builds and maybe they get an annoyed telling off. Then if they do it again, well the fire heats up. And eventually, without an intervention from the interior grace department, mumma’s wrath comes to the fore!

Same thing with irritating things around the house. I can put up with the leaky tap for a while. My patience deals with it, as there are far more important things to put my attention to. I don’t want to waste time dealing with it. But it niggles. And over time it builds up. And then it gets to the point where – something’s going to happen or else!

The line has been crossed. The decision has been made. And this mumma has HAD ENOUGH!

Well. This is what I call the breakthrough the moment. The moment where change is going to happen. The moment where my will becomes very powerful.

And I apply this to the battles within my mind.

Sometimes I can have stupid thought patterns or habits that are like annoying background music. I put up with them because I am used to them. And I have far more important things to attend to. But there comes a moment – and this is gold – when I have had enough.

As an aside here – I wonder if this is why we get put through the pressure pot sometimes. Because God in his grace knows we are not going to let go of some of our junk, unless we have ‘had enough’. And he wants us to enjoy the freedom that he has on offer. So he sends some challenge our way to artfully guide us to the place of overcoming.

So back to the thought grind. Mumma bear starts growling and says to herself. I have had enough of this junk in my mind. I’m not tolerating this anymore. NO MORE! I’ve had enough.

Well I’ve done this recently with disrespect. I’ve been far too disrespectful in my attitude to my husband. I’ve been trying to change this for a long time, but I’ve just always gone back to old attitudes of thinking. And I’ve observed in my journey with God, that breakthrough doesn’t usually happen until I get to this point of ‘had enough’.

Well I’ve had enough of turmoil in our home. We have five kids, two with special needs. And we get a lot of turmoil at different times. It’s so challenging that I need to get rid of every stress that I can. So I’ve been praying for more peace. And this is what God is bringing to my attention. Respect. Ouchy ouch. Well, I decided I’ve had enough of being disrespectful, I’ve had enough of trying to change and failing. I want God’s way. And I want it to change NOW!!!

So now I’ve been turning the corner. I’ve been practising a new attitude. I’ve been practising respect. I read a short article recently about a Jew in a concentration camp who determined to respect their abusers. And I thought – well  – what excuse do I have? It’s not about whether my husband’s actions or words deserve respect, but it’s about who I am as a person inside.

Well on this path, I have to admit that it is actually bringing more peace. Not only in our marriage. But it has done something in me, so that I interact with the kids now more respectfully, which brings more peace and less turmoil, as they respond better. And the fruit of this down the track will be that the kids will be more respectful to us and each other, and this will in turn bring more peace. It’s like the opposite of a vicious cycle. Keeps getting better and better. I’m on the path now – it’s onward and upward.

What path do you need to get on? What’s it going to take to activate your will to make a stand. Enough is enough. Here’s the line. No more!