Daring to Live a Quiet Life: Obscurity, Contentment and Simple Living.

“When we read the life of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark…”

~ Brigid Herman, wife of a minister, turn of the twentieth century

I’ve always had the desire to live a different life. In fact, I have always felt different from other people. As a child, I preferred to sit in my room writing stories for the entire weekend and as a teenager, I preferred reading. My other friends were at the mall, playing sports or going to parties. I preferred peaceful solitude, a heart seeking depth, country-living, books devoted to the pursuit of God, deep conversations with my father and other pursuits. When Tim and I married and I finished university {something I chose to do for personal growth rather than career}, I only ever worked part-time. Caring for him and growing as a wife and homemaker were deeply important to me. Friends asked how many hours I worked and how I spent my days, and I felt embarrassed but deeply convicted that God had led me to do the right thing for our marriage. Even now, despite my children being so little, people have asked me what I will do when my children go to school, and I reply “Stay home” even though in my heart, I hope to home educate them.
This has a lot to do with my background. My parents always taught me to think objectively about life. When I got bullied, they helped me look at the heart of the children hurting me and how they might be hurting to make them hurt others. We would discuss current events and have intellectual discussions. Dad would push me to read deeper books than The Baby-Sitters Club from our incredibly large library {of over five thousand books – he was a professor in children’s literature, so go figure}. But more than all that, when my parents separated and I lived between houses in a suitcase from fifteen-years-old and made poor choices for my spirit, when God permanently drew me to him and I repented, broken and really hurting, he placed a deep longing in me for marriage, service, children and home. Stability, quietness, faithfulness, love.
I have never wanted career. I have never wanted busy. I have never wanted to join in with what the world is doing, even if I struggle sometimes with their idea of beauty and success and wealth. Just like the faith that was an anchored little fire burning in my heart from as early as I can remember, God has kept in me a surety that for my family, home and stability is my purpose for them. I need to show them that they are my ministry, they are more important than any pursuit that I could quite willingly choose. Having known the hurt of feeling like career is more important than me as a child, I don’t want that for my children and neither do I want my husband not to know, from daily-living truth, that our marriage is first. It’s not that I neglect the things that make my soul burn with joy and passion {hence, my blog for writing} but I know that a life of service for others is a true life of fulfillment.

Living against the grain is biblical, but not always prescriptive. I’m not saying that all Christians should pursue background living and that if they don’t, they’re disobeying God. God calls people to live in all areas of life for his glory and for his purposes. I personally believe, after much heart-seeking and Bible reading, that for mothers especially, simple, quiet living for the sake of the family is a rare but blessed thing. Rushed, frantic living does not benefit a child’s mind, heart and body. I am testament to this, it increased my anxiety and insecurity, things I still struggle with to this day.

 

Gone are the days where time can be taken slowly but effectively. It’s all about maximising the minutes with equal output now. And though God asks us to “number our days” {Psalm 92:12}, this is not always to be taken literally: rather, it’s about understanding our days are limited so live them fully for his glory in worship and service of him. When we learn to live this way, we “gain a heart of wisdom”. Wisdom living, it seems, is to “aspire to live a quiet life, attend to your own life and work with your hands” {1 Thessalonians 4:11}. The Amplified version of the Bible expands it this way:

 

“Make it your ambition and definitely endevour to live quietly and peacefully. to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…so that you bear yourself becomingly and be correct and honourable and command the respect of the outside world…”

This is what Brigid Herman meant in the quote at the start where she said the saints of old “hit the mark”: they didn’t seek praise, popularity and acknowledgement; instead they quietly worked at their own lives and were consequently {by God’s will} productive in their kingdom work. She goes on to say:

 

“They were as free from self-regard as from slavery to the good opinions of others. God saw and God rewarded; what else needed they? They possessed God and themselves in God. Hence the inalienable dignity of these meek, quiet figures that seem to produce such marvelous effects with such humble materials.”

 

I cannot say that I am free from self-regard nor that I don’t struggle with wondering what people think of me. Blogging tempts the inner desire to be well-known immensely and it is a constant fine line of seeking God’s way for me and checking my heart for motives and intentions. Removing myself from Facebook has opened up a freedom from this enticement and I have not regretted it. It has been one step for me to making a quiet life my ambition. I don’t want to be afraid of being “unknown” in our “must be known” world of social media, instant news and how many likes we have. Seeking a quiet life of obscurity means knowing God sees and God rewards, and that is more than enough. It is plenty.

 

And every now and then, I am blessed beyond measure when my husband says from the comfort of our living room as I wash dishes, “Thank you for making a great home for us”. That is a joy to hear and would not be true if quiet living were not my aim.
Continue Reading

Motherhood & Mental Illness: Ways To Get Through

This is part two of a small series I am doing on Motherhood & Mental Illness. To read part one, click here.
I am by no means an expert in mental health. And I haven’t experienced full-blown depression, whether clinical or experiential. I do however, have a cyclical anxiety disorder. This basically means that something within my brain changes – hormones, chemical balance, cortisol {etc} – and I become highly emotional and anxious.
It isn’t something I can make go away. It passes naturally within a few months. In one day it can “come over” me and as easily in one day can “lift off” me. It’s unexplainable. But, I promise you, dear friends who experience the same, it can be managed. Here are some thoughts to help you if you are struggling in a similar place:

1. Seek medical help.

I cannot emphasise this enough. In many Christian circles, the medical world is often derided or rebelled against or only to be sought as a last resort. In my own personal opinion, seeking the advice of one or two wise, kind and experienced doctors should be at the top of our list.
The reason I believe this is because it is essential to determine what exactly is going on in our brains. Depression/anxiety is not merely a spiritual {though it is part of it, I believe}. Just as our brain {and body, for that matter} fails in other ways – epilepsy, cancer, retardation – so it does when it comes to how our moods are effected.
When I finally sought my doctor after Josiah was born, he recommended medication. He said to me, “You have been through this before and I know that you can get through it. But because you are so tired and so new to being a mother, let us try some anti-depressents to help give you the kick start you need”. And he was so right. The moment they started working, it was like someone physically pulled me out of a dark pit in my mind and set my thinking-feet on solid ground. I felt me again.
Just beware that sometimes you may not get along well with the initial medication you are put on. Because I was breast-feeding, I was first put on Citalopram {considered the safest} but I reacted terribly to it. My skin felt like it was crawling and I had one of the rarest reactions to it – it made my brain more anxious and propelled it into a hyper-state {it was seriously one of the worst weeks of my life}. But, thank goodness, I trusted my instincts and went back to my doctor who put me on Fluoxetine {a form of Prozac} and my “little happy pills” became my best friend.

2. Be open and get support.

For me, during that dark post-partum time, my husband, parents, in-law’s and brother were the people who got me through. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law had suffered through post-partum depression and knew that I couldn’t just “pull my socks up” and get better. My mother-in-law let me ring her {from out of town} any time of day or night so that I could cry and ask questions about how to care for Josiah. She helped me feel normal. My sister-in-law gave me words at times that I just needed it, like, “Things will get better”. My mother prayed amazing prayers over me and let me visit her at her work even when a snow storm was on it’s way and Josiah was grumpy, all so I could see someone and have company and get some prayer. And my father and brother came round to keep me company, even if it was in silence, so I wasn’t alone.
It is so essential, dear friend, to know you have people who love you and care for you. They may not always understand, but they will try. Allow them to make mistakes too, even if you feel you can’t bear mistakes at this present time. They’re trying their best and if they have never experienced mental illness in some form, they can’t understand why you can’t make yourself better.

3. Understand the importance of your thoughts.

God made our brains to have incredible power over our bodies. We don’t realise how much control our own thoughts have over our minds, our moods, our heart condition, our physical well-being. It is vital to start claiming autonomy over your thoughts rather than allowing those arrow-thoughts to break you down and send you spiraling into a deeper pit.
I am not saying that this is all in your head. It isn’t. And until medication is used, there is very little one can do to break the cycle of anxiety/lowness that you are in. I remember my husband saying to me, in loving frustration {because he couldn’t understand}, “Just think about something else.” But I couldn’t. But once my pills began to work, I could actually think – for myself! And this is when you need to start focusing on what you are listening to in yourself.
“Don’t you know what most of your unhappiness in life is because you are listening to yourself instead of speaking to yourself?” Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression.


4. Seek God’s Word for hope and for help.

There is nothing like the comfort of a scripture that speaks to your soul when you are at your very worst.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
Get the eyes of your mind and heart on God, not on yourself, He is your helper.
“He lifted me up out of the pit of despair, out of the miry clay, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
He will rescue you and place you on firm ground, you will be stable again.
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions they fail not; they are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
You won’t be consumed by this, God is keeping you and is faithful.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become in despair within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Psalm 41:11
 Recognise your state and feelings, speak to them and turn them towards God.

5. Pray.

Let whatever is on your heart and mind fall from your lips like tears to your Father in heaven who is right there. Jesus is praying for you, right where you are, do you know that? “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” {Hebrews 7:25}.
If you doubt that God cares or that He is listening or that He can possibly understand where you are, read about Jesus in the Garden and see his agony, his pain, his mental state so that he wept blood. Jesus knows what it was like, and he still chose it, and he died for your condition. Speak out your heart in every moment, even if it is a mental cry of “Help me!” He will hear you and help you. There were countless times where I just got through dinner time, a night feeding, a church service only because of the grace of God and my continual conversation of need to him.
*
There are many other things that I could suggest to help you get through, but these are the essential forms of grace that God gave me to get through. I am currently going through a mild episode of anxiety and these five ways are solid stepping stones for my recovery.
Let me finish here with a small prayer, for you and I, as we press into God for help and recovery:
 
Father God, thank you that you made me. Thank you that you know me and nothing that is going on in me right now is hidden from you. Thank you that my inner darkness and turmoil right now is like an open book before you and that I need not speak a word about it because you already know. But help me speak it to you, Lord, to help direct my heart and thoughts towards you – the Rock that is higher than I. Lift me up, rescue me from this desolate pit. Put my feet on solid ground, level my emotions and help me be able to think clearly. Help me speak your truth to myself and fight doubts and lies and believe in hope for myself. Keep me close to you Lord, safe because of Jesus, and love me. Amen.
Continue Reading

Motherhood and Mental Illness (Part One).

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Psalm 42:5
Last week a missions team from Sydney spent the week with our church to serve us and help us run some evangelistic events. One of those events was for mothers called “The Joys of Motherhood”. It consisted of a panel, three from our church, two from the missions team plus a speaker. I was humbled and privileged to be asked to be a panelist, representing young mothers in the trenches of raising littles.
Leading up to the event, I felt both excited and conflicted. I felt conflicted because there are so many other amazing mothers at church with young children. One of my friends has four children and another has three {with one adopted}. I have been a mother a mere two years, with two under my belt {and likely only two, unless God brings an adopted child into our quiver}. So often, I feel incredibly inadequate, confused and overwhelmed in my day-to-day mothering so I couldn’t imagine that I had many “pearls of wisdom” to offer. But for some reason, several people thought I could have something to offer, and for that, I am grateful for their confidence in me and God’s kindness in my weakness.
The few nights leading up to the event, with questions now in hand, I wracked my brain wondering what on earth I could say. There were general questions as well as questions specific to my stage in life. What could I say that would encourage other mothers? What could I say that might show God’s reality in my life as a mother to any there who did not know Him? The night before, I still hadn’t decided on my answers so I offered my words up to God.
I woke up the next morning at peace. I knew what God wanted me to share. There are many things I could have shared about motherhood because so much happens from the day you become one. But what is unique to me? What is my story in motherhood that I know well, from the heart, that I could be honest about and share to unite other mother-hearts with similar journeys?
One of the questions was “what didn’t I expect about motherhood”? Well, I didn’t expect to be a mother with a form of mental illness.
I should have had a clue since it’s been a “friend” of mine since my mid-to-late teens. Unfortunately, I never knew that was what it was. I didn’t even know it was something, it was just…me. It was only until I fell into one of my deep pits after the birth of my son Josiah that my doctor, who had seen it in me since the separation of my parents, kindly let me know that I have a cyclical anxiety disorder and that I would be okay.
It took me awhile to accept that this was true. But once medication started working and I could actually think with conscious action, I looked back on my life since my anxiety began and I could see this was true. Several major events triggered off difficult episodes and in between there were various episodes to lesser degrees.
Extreme anxiety, inability to think clearly, dark thoughts {both spontaneous and conscious}, tense muscles, emotional highs and lows, perpetually fearful of the future, a foreboding that couldn’t be explained, insecurities blown beyond proportion, irrational, stuck inside the mind.
This is, in general terms, what I am like when I am in one of my episodes. It’s a horribly dark place to be and, though not full-blown, is on the periphery of mild depression. And just like most forms of clinical depression, it is something beyond my control. Something clicks or “comes over” me, and for several months, inexplicable anxiety is the state I am in.
Motherhood is difficult on it’s own and no-one who is a mother can dispute that. But only mothers who struggle with mental illness {and any sort of illness} can attest to the incredible difficulty it is to be the mother you know you want to be when you can barely function as a person.
 
When I spoke at our “The Joys of Motherhood” event, I knew one or two women who struggle with something similar. I can empathise with their story, their courage. But I also knew that there were probably more women in that room that were like me before I was diagnosed – those low feelings, that anxiety, the uncontrollable fear, isn’t that just me? There could be more to this?
It’s hard being vulnerable to a group of women about something quite unknown and stigmatised. But it is also empowering: it helps me own my illness and it helps me give encouragement to any women who might not know, or who might be hiding, in a place of loneliness and fear.
*
Please come back soon to read how best we can get through mental illness as mothers and encouragement from God’s Word.
Continue Reading

How My Empty Soul Found {The Good} Life In Jesus.

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so I thirst for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1

At a Tupperware party the other night {yes, I am totally sold on Tupperware!}, flicking through the latest catalogue, the theme was “The Good Life”. Pictures of happy housewives, welcoming people into their home, serving them on beautiful products from Tupperware. Everyone is smiling, having a nice time. The children are laughing, the home is spacious and decorative, and the mother is looking at the camera with an expression that says, “My life is complete. And Tupperware made that come true.”

I know that the editors of Tupperware are trying to put across that if you work for them, you really will get the good life. Flexibility, free products, good income – – ha, looks like I’m trying to sell it! But really, it just made me smile. Do they honestly think that my life will be that good if I invest in Tupperware and brand my life with it?

Sometimes I feel like advertisers of companies and products think we – the market – are a bit dumb. Yes, we are like sheep and tend to go where everyone else goes, but we’re not so stupid that we would actually believe that drinking cola, wearing that perfume, flying that airline {etc} will make our lives complete. The older I get the more I see that actually, advertisers are smart. Really smart. Why?

They play on our emptiness. Or what Christians call, the God-shaped hole in our hearts.

We’re all thirsting. We’re all panting, from our depths, for something to make us feel really, really good – complete in every aspect of our beings. And we all turn towards other things – idols – to fill that gap. I did and I still do, despite following Jesus with a passion.

Before God got hold of me, when I came to the end of myself and couldn’t look into my heart without disgust and abhorance, boys and making myself look attractive for them was what I did to fill that hole. Making myself a bag of bones, wearing clothing that made guys look at me, dating guys even if I didn’t really like them, and sleeping with some of them, was what consumed me. I went to school, had a job, then went to university – but all that propelled me was that satisfied feeling when a guy looked at me and thought, “She’s hot”.

At my lowest point, seventeen/eighteen-years-old, I wondered in fear where I would end up. The hunger and emptiness were so strong and consumed so much of me that I thought I would probably end up pregnant, selling my soul or dead. I knew I had a way to go before that happened, but it frightened me to my very core.

The faith that I had in God and Jesus Christ were just as strong as when I had been five-years-old, but I knew I wasn’t a Christian. I wanted to be a Christian – I knew that was the answer to my problems – but I didn’t think I could do it. The drive for attention from boys was stronger than any drive I had to be faithful. So I cried out to God, like the man to Jesus:

“I do believe! Help me with my unbelief!” {Mark 9:24}

I came to Him, broken, sick, disgusting and unclean. The little but fierce faith I had, I put in His hands and asked Him to save me. I couldn’t save myself. There was nothing I could do to make myself well or quench the controlling desires in my broken soul. I cried out to Him, “Save me! Make me well! Help me. Help me.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” {Mark 2:17}

Friends, if you do not know God, in Jesus, but desire Him to save you from yourself, to cure you from your waywardness, to rescue you from your heart’s rebellion – turn to Him. He delights in saving those who cry out to Him for help, whose heart is genuine in it’s belief {however big or small} and who recognises their need for Him.

He will quench your thirst. He will give you an abundance of love, grace and mercy. Remember Him this Easter – He’s the one who will give you the good life. The real good life.

*

The family and I are off for Easter weekend so the blog will be quiet until next week. Have a blessed Easter with love and family and friends and the real reason we celebrate it.

Continue Reading

five great tv shows to watch with your man.

The greatest thing Tim and I do together is a watch TV series. It’s our “thing”. We love getting into a show, relaxing together and connecting together with this common interest. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s been ours since the day we got married {seven years ago at the beginning of this month!}, and we have watched lots of shows!
Generally, we have quite different tastes. Tim likes fantasy and action, while I love historical and drama. So often we have to meet in the middle. But, sometimes, we have actually really enjoyed shows that we wouldn’t normally go for on our own. And, in fact, those shows have often become favourites and have created great memories for us and our marriage.
So, without further ado, here are five great series on TV that you can watch with your husband.
{Disclaimer: Everyone’s tastes are different, particularly with morality and viewing. Our standard is high enough so that we don’t feel we are sinning by watching shows that have unbiblical thoughts or scenes but we do watch shows that have violence, sexual references. What we feel comfortable with may not be what you and your husband do, so these shows are based on our tastes.}

1. Angel {5 seasons}

Source
I am not a fantasy lover by nature, but I loved, loved, loved Angel. I never got into Buffy and we have tried several times, but I just can’t like her as a main character. But Angel? It is so good! It’s a spin-off of Buffy where Angel, a vampire with a soul, leaves Buffy and goes to LA where he saves people and tries to do good – basically to do “penance” for all his {hundreds} of years of killing and being evil. There are two things I just loved about this show. First, the characters grow. Like really grow. Cordelia, who in Buffy was this rich, spoiled, ditsy girl turns into this amazing, deep and passionate woman {we thought about the name Cordelia for Rosalie!}. And Wes, who starts off as this weak, goody English guy, turns into my favourite character – brave, smart and even dark at points. And the second thing I love about this show is that it does a good job of highlighting the real struggle Angel has with his dark nature and the good that is in there because of his soul. His struggle is poignant and relevant and touching.

2. Gilmore Girls {7 seasons}
Source

Ah, the one Tim hated to love! Skeptical at first {as any man’s-man would be}, he actually really liked this show, despite how annoying the characters could be at times {how many mistakes could Lorelei make, people?!}. Despite focusing on a mum and daughter’s lives, there are many characters and enough for guys to be happy with. It is witty, intelligent and has really fast dialogue with lots of pop culture lines {Tim appreciated the movie ones}. And you just grow to really love Lorelei and Rory and want good to happen to them. And you groan when they make stupid mistakes and you cry on the very last episode because they feel like family.

3. Castle {currently 6 seasons}

Source
I wasn’t sure about this because it seemed to be another show of the crime-investigation-formula that I was pretty sick of. But, Tim persisted because he loves Nathan Fillion who acted in Firefly, directed by Joss Whedon {the brilliant man who made Angel}. So we watched it and we loved it. In fact, we just finished watching it again – from start to current – for the third time. {We watch series over a lot.} Kate Beckett is a NY detective who is followed around by Rick Castle, a crime novelist. Each episode there is the usual murder, got to solve it, almost do but got the wrong suspect, and finally solve it. But, the chemistry and relationship between the two, and their sidekicks, make it funny and interesting and you just want them to get together. Kate really bugged me at the start because they gave her this short hair to make her seem all masculine and strong, but she has softened in looks over the seasons, and now has really lovely long hair, but is still bad-ass.

4.The Musketeers {currently 2 seasons}

Source
I just bought this for Tim’s birthday, and even though we weren’t sure what it would be like, we have loved it. Seriously loved it. It’s made by BBC, so how can it not be awesome? The episodes are a good length so it makes for a good viewing. They have done brilliantly making it authentic, traditional with amazing scenery and such good costumes etc. The cast play their roles so well and you really like each character and their histories. I didn’t enjoy the recent Musketeers movie {though Tim did} but I love this. It is funny and dramatic, full of swash-buckling action {which your husband will love} with drama and love stories {which you will love}. A great, great show and we’re excited that they’ve just signed for a third season, though the second season has only just started airing in England.

5. Person of Interest {currently 3 seasons}

Source
Your husbands will love the assassin-like action in this and if you like Jim Caviezel, well, you’ll enjoy this. I like the suspenseful watching of this – it’s one of those shows where you just need to watch the next episode. Based around the idea that a machine, invented post September 11th, can see in the population who is likely to be a terrorist threat or who is on danger, the characters of this show rescue those the machine thinks are irrelevant {those whose lives are merely in danger}. Not everyone’s cup of tea in terms of violence and darker themes, it is still a great watch for drama and connecting with your husband’s {sometimes not understandable} alpha-male-ness {is that a word?}
*
So these are our top five! We have watched so many shows but these are the ones I think we have both enjoyed the most as a couple and which have brought us the most memories. A lot of the “sayings” we have that are jokes between us are from these shows, and I just love how no-one understands what we’re talking about but us. 
And just a quick list of other good shows which we watch {and almost made the list}:
Brooklyn 99
Big Bang Theory
Bones
How I Met Your Mother
Heroes
Downton Abbey {though we stopped watching after series 3}
Parenthood

Do you and your husband have a show you absolutely love? Is there one your dying to get him to watch {mines Broadchurch!}? Is there one you hated but he loved?
Continue Reading