Self-Compassion

Compassion is to “suffer with” someone; showing kindness, empathy and understanding. Self-Compassion is when we extend that same kindness & empathy to ourselves when we are suffering. It is acknowledging that “this is really hard right now” and giving yourself permission to feel & seek comfort.

One way that I practice self-compassion in the midst of illness & suffering is to take some slow, deep breaths and say to myself,

“May I know peace,

May I know love,

May I know joy,

May I know grace,

May I know forgiveness,

May I know acceptance.”

All these mercies, God lavishes upon us through the love of Jesus. So, when showing kindness to myself seems impossible, I can remember how God looks at me and my suffering. I accept His compassion and extend it to myself. As a result, it can lower distress and increase my emotional well-being.

Why don’t you give it a go today?

Church, It’s About Time We Addressed the “Single” Elephant In The Room

Singleness BlogAhhh, 1 Corinthians 7 (especially verses 25-40), that section in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that’s well known for its message that “singleness is a gift.” And, yes, singleness is a gift, I’ve just heard too many sermons that get to the application as if Paul has written;

“To all the single people in the house,

You’ve been given a gift! Because you don’t have a spouse to prioritise, or children to take care of – you have more time, energy and resources to invest in the gospel and active ministry. The Youth Group and Sunday School need volunteers and there is always a need for people to go an do overseas mission. You are a gift to the church.

Now, let’s pray.”

However, Paul isn’t directly addressing those who are unmarried and widowed. He is answering a question concerning those in the church with a ‘single’ status. Can this passage encourage, comfort and challenge single Christians? Yes! Because singleness is a gift both for the individual and the church. It has advantages (hello independence!) while also being difficult and lonely. It’s not always permanent (see “4 Things God Says to Singles”) and it’s not a curse… This post has a unique and specific purpose: to add to the application, addressing the church as a whole. It includes every Christian, no matter your relationship status, gender or age.

“To all the people who love Jesus and are in fellowship with other Jesus lovers,

Singleness is a gift from God – both for the individual and the church. Therefore, as a church, we need to look closely at our culture and the message it is sending because I think we are falling short of who God calls us to be as His people. We have fallen into some bad habits, unknowingly. We are unconsciously minimising and demoralising our brothers and sisters in Christ who are single: whether unmarried, divorced and widowed.

Too often marriage and the nuclear family is idolised – good things God has created for His glory have become glorified. This idolisation converts singleness from being a good thing God has created for His glory into something resented and disliked. It’s as if singleness is an annoying infection that won’t go away… until, a partner, the ‘cure’ comes along.

As a church, we have paid a heavy price for this idol. Too many Christians start dating non-believers, playing the ‘flirt to convert’ game. Others get married way too early, unprepared and for the wrong reasons, which can lead to ‘unhappy’ marriages that don’t glorify God and sometimes end in divorce.

Some examples of how this idolatry plays out in the culture of our churches (of which I too am guilty of) are:

* We say and hear statements like;
“God has someone special just for you.”
“Just wait on God’s timing.”
“God is preparing you to be the best husband/wife you can be.”
Someone will come along when you least expect it – just be patient.”
“I met my spouse at Beach Mission – you should join a team this year”
“There is someone out there for everyone.”
 and
How are you still single?

These statements assume that a) that everyone wants to be in a relationship, and b) that God’s plan for everyone includes marriage while propelling the lie that marriage is needed for a content and full life. It can also imply that singleness is a ‘limbo phase,’ that they’re doing something wrong or that if they had more faith the ‘god-fairy’ would have provided someone already.

* Suddenly investing time, energy, food and coffee into two individuals once they’ve coupled up. This can take many forms. It may be more frequent invites to socialise with other ‘coupled’ peers or an older couple suddenly showing interest in accountability and mentoring of new couples in the church. God desires people of all ages and life stages to fellowship together, as every individual has both things to teach and learn from others.

* Ministry peer-support groups (usually gender driven) are formed exclusively for married people to talk and pray about married life. While there is a place for sharing with others in a similar life-stage as you, the Bible isn’t so picky.

* Buying into the world’s idea of the wedding. We may all know it logically, but marriage is more than the wedding. The wedding itself is a celebration of the union of two people for life. Some people spend way too much money and spend way too much time organising one day, with an exclusive invite list. The second question after “how are you?” most engaged people are asked is, “how are the wedding plans going?” While it can be an exciting topic for discussion, it shouldn’t become the first and often only one. Are you more interested in someone’s daily walk with God, or their one day of celebration.

* Buying into the world’s idea of sex. #sorrynotsorry, but “we’re too tempted sexually and God wants us to get married” (gee, thanks 1 Cor. 7:9) is not a good foundation for marriage – it’s called self-control (thank you Proverbs 16:32, 25:28; Galatians 5:22-23; Titus 2:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2 Peter 1:5-7; oh, and this blog). Too often we watch movies, binge tv shows, read books, share videos and skim magazines that make us think about and desire sex more than our intimacy with God. Let’s not put sex on a pedestal either. Sure, it’s another good thing from God – but so is the cocoa bean.

* Buying into the world’s idea of dating. There is nothing wrong with dating – honestly, each to their own – no judgement here. However, advice like, “put yourself out there, pursue someone” is so unhelpful, as is “your standards are too high.” The only one you should pursue is God. He should be our first love, single or married and He sets the standards for marriage partners, not us.

So, Church, it’s time to step up and treat our single brothers and sisters like the precious gift (and family members) they are. Some practical things we can do to start are:

1. Stop the assumptions: not every unmarried, divorced or widowed person is discontent with the singleness and wants to be married.

2. Stop the suggestions: marriage isn’t our life goal – bringing glory to Jesus is. Stop praying for a husband or wife, instead pray for contentment, godliness, that Jesus would be glorified always and to become more ingrained in the church family.

3. Stop the labelling: we are more than a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a fiancé, a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, a divorcee, a widow or a single person. We are children of God – chosen, precious, forgiven and loved more than we will ever know in this life. Asking “Oh, you’re still single?” or “any guys/girls on the scene?” can suggest that their relationship status or a label is the core of their identity.

4. Stop being ignorant: this IS an issue and we need to openly and lovingly address and challenge it.

5. Start the inclusion: 

Think about where you sit at church. While it is important to participate in fellowship and teaching together, it’s okay to have weeks where you don’t sit next to each other… but #sorrynotsorry, you have to be the one to take the initiative and invite others to sit next to you because people will assume you and your spouse will be seated side by side.

Invite a single person over for a family dinner one night a week. All it takes is an extra cup of rice and a few more veggies to cater for an extra person when you’re already cooking for a family. I’m sure if you ask them to bring dessert they’d be more than happy to.

Organise social activities without your partner. While it’s important to do things as a couple, you’re still individuals and participating in things with others and without your spouse shows you’re a) not literally joined at the hip b) interested in having your own friendships and relationships.

Try evolving the idea of a “Married Men’s/Women’s” support or prayer to be a simple, “Men’s” or “Women’s” group. Single people can both benefit from your life experience and contribute to the fellowship of these groups more than most of us would actually believe. You can’t tell me that in a “Married” men’s/women’s fellowship group that 100% or even 85% of the conversation is exclusively marriage related.

Really, initiating or participating in any activity that focuses on our unity and what we have in common, that promotes genuine community and sense of church family and embraces our differences as a point of uniqueness, not a cause for exclusion. Please, please share you have other idea’s.

We are all sinners who struggle to have an undivided heart for God. There are hundreds and thousands of things that can distract us from living a life devoted to God – marriage and family are only two of them.

So, sister or brother in Christ, how are we going to challenge and encourage each other to truly live in undivided devotion to the Lord, regardless of relationship status?

What are you going to do to start transforming our church culture, to celebrate singleness as the gift it is, stop both the exclusivity and the idolising of marriage and the nuclear family?

Jesus, please help us to be a considerate church that focuses on our unity. Please help us to do better.”

As a divorcee who is getting married in a week, I ask my friends to keep me accountable (because I should and do know better) – to challenge me when I fail and join me when I try to be more inclusive and mindful. I am more than a divorcee or fiancé and I will be far more than a wife. My intrinsic value and identity is bound in my status as a human being, created by God and called His child – because I’m forgiven and redeemed by Jesus. Guess what? So is yours, so let’s live like it!

Ps. if you ask when I’m going to have kids, you may experience death by stare.

Thank you to all those who contributed their experiences and ideas to make this post as real, honest and challenging as possible.

Self Compassion Henry

Henry has learnt how to be an expert at self compassion; choosing to ignoring the internal and external critics and instead, showing himself kindness, grace and acceptance.

We are constantly being compared and comparing ourselves to others. We see our sufferings as weakness. We see mistakes as failures and our illnesses as brokenness. We are constantly believing we are not good enough. I call bull-crap. They’re LIES! All lies.

To endure suffering is strength, to feel emotions makes us human, to persevere makes us strong and to measure ourselves up to no one but ourselves is freedom. The reality is that crap that is out of our control happens all the time. We all have bad, hard, painful and unbearable seasons in life. So instead of beating yourself up (or allowing others to do it for you), remind yourself; you’re doing the best you can, emotions are okay, you’re not perfect (and that’s not only alright, but what makes you human) and that you’re pretty, freaking amazing.

Begin practicing self compassion by putting your hand over your heart and saying to yourself, “may I know kindness. May I know grace. May I know happiness. May I be at peace. May I be at rest. May I know love. May I know empathy. May I show myself compassion.” Or “I am suffering. I am being kind to myself and giving myself permission to feel whatever emotions I am experiencing.

Be like Henry, learn the skill of self compassion. Be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up! Self-compassion has been a life changing skill for Henry as he manages depression and FND.


Spiritual reflection

For those who believe in God, remember he is a compassionate God, who continually shows compassion to his people.

Is. 49:3 – Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Jesus is the perfect example of this… oh, and we are also made in His image and are called to imitate His character.

Col. 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

So, let’s follow God and show compassion to everyone, including ourselves.


Some more information/resources on the concept of self-compassion:

Good Friday

What an honour it is to celebrate that the Son of Most High God, who is the creator of the entire universe was;

betrayed,

bound,

broken and torn,

falsely accused and charged,

hated,

mocked,

whipped,

crowned with thorns,

spat on,

stripped naked,

nailed to a cross of wood,

separated from His Father and

given the weight and burden of sin,

yet remained silent to change the course of history forever.

Conversations With Healthy People #1: The Amusing, ‘Really?’

It’s days like today when I’m struggling to summon the energy to be a ‘functioning human being’ that I remember an honest and genuine conversation I had with one of my teenagers during Bible study a few months ago.

I recall this conversation to remind myself of God’s grace, strength and sustaining power that gets me through each day. It’s an encouragement to continue being honest about life, even when it’s painful and sucky. I must confess, it amuses me (greatly) and makes me giggle a little on the inside.

I also find comfort knowing that I can come back and read it whenever I need to.

We were discussing how God uses suffering to deepen our relationship with Him, better understand faith, build His Kingdom and bring Jesus glory. For the sake of application, I briefly mentioned that these truths give me hope, even though I am in pain every day…

…another interruption (but a welcomed one)…

“So, you’re really in pain?”
“Yes.”

“All the time?”
“Uh, huh.”

“You don’t look like you’re in pain.”
“I know.”

“Wait! You were in pain on Friday night?”
“Correct.”

“Are you saying that you’re actually in pain, right now?”
“You’ve got it.”

“…Like, now-now? Standing there?”
“Yup…”

and then he slumped back into his chair with a sympathetic bewilderment written on his face. I think he started to understand, which I am grateful for, even if it was just a little.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it probably won’t be the last. So, I’ll continue to embrace the small opportunities to encourage open and honest dialogue. Conversations that develop empathy and grace to spur one another on to rely on God and persevere in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

 

Speak Up

As long as we remain silent, society remains ignorant. We can empower others and ourselves by sharing truth in love! #speakup #behonest #endsilence #breakingstigma

———————-

#speaktruth #love #mentalhealth #depression #chronicpain #endometriosis #endthesilence #chronicillness #awareness #jesus #truth #endthesilence

Winterfest 2016

Winterfest is over, God in His goodness sustained me through the week in a way far greater than I could have ever imagined.

As Winterfest approached at the end of term two, I confess, I started to freak out. I know the physical drain/impact a Holiday Kids Program can have on my body – this wasn’t my first rodeo… but last Thursday God gave me what I call a gentle ‘slap’ from the Holy Spirit. How self centred I was to think that a week of telling kids about Jesus had anything to do with me. How arrogant I was to feel like my health could hinder God’s work. How faithless it is to enter a week of mission, relying on my own strength (or lack thereof). My prayer quickly changed – if I was going to get through this week and if God wanted to use me, it was up to Him to sustain me.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” My response? Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God is faithful. I may be in agony now, but I made it through the week because of His faithfulness. I am grateful for the reminder that every step I make is based on God’s sovereign power and for His glory!

Now to rest my weary and achey body with all things pink, Annie, tea, my onesie, fluffy dressing gown, Netflix, a massive sleep in, “everyday I’m shuffling” on repeat in my head every time I walk (or more accurately, my attempt to walk that resembles a slow hobble), and the joy and peace that comes from knowing I was able to be part of the proclamation of the gospel this week.

One Way: Jesus

…you’re the only one that I could live for. In troubled times it’s you I seek, because you’re the only one I need. I look to you and you are always there.

Photo taken in Melbourne was I was scouring the streets for street art, 2015.

#Jesus #oneway #grace #faith #love #john146

How To Support Someone With a Chronic Illness: Listen

If you love someone with a Chronic Illness, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, confused and hopeless. What can you possibly do to help them? It can seem impossible, especially when it’s a struggle for the unwell person to understand and comprehend what would help his/herself.

Last month I had a few friends join me to watch a special screening of a documentary called “Endo What?” After the movie two of them asked, “what can I say to, or do for someone who tells me, ‘I have Endo?’ How can I support them?” I confess, hesitated before I could reply because everyone is different and has individual needs.

Even when I look at myself, there is a stark contrast; what I need today is very different to what I needed two, four and even eight years ago. The only way to find out what someone needs is to listen to him or her. You may find that listening and believing what you hear is more than enough.

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At the moment, I am pretty stable. I am managing the symptoms well and have reached an emotional state of acceptance. The most supportive act someone could do for me today is to listen to my rants. I want to create awareness and help others to empathize compassionately with the next ‘Endo Sister’ they meet. I want them to recognize the signs and symptoms, so if they know someone who is suffering, they won’t conclude that they’re just “faking it” and instead, encourage them to look into Endo themselves. If you know more than ten women, you know someone with Endo, and many remain suffering, in the dark, undiagnosed.

Alex in 2005 and early 2011 needed someone to listen to my experiencing and validate the pain, not just assume I was overreacting or faking it. In 2010, I couldn’t drive, cook or clean and those close to me quickly knew I needed help with those tasks.

Two to four years ago, Alex needed someone to listen and hug me as I cried. I needed people to hear about the pain and acknowledge the strength it took to get out of bed every day.

18- 24 months ago I needed someone to listen and see how hopeless and suicidal I was. Those who listened understood I was desperate. They knew I just needed to hear someone say, ‘I’m here for you, and we will keep trying different treatments until you get better.’

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By truly listening to someone you can begin to understand what is at the core of the sorrow and frustration, and thus offer better support. This is called “active listening.” By focusing on your friend, avoiding distractions, being non-judgmental, reflecting and clarifying what you’ve heard them say and asking open questions are a few simple active listening skills. Active listening is the beginning of exercising empathy and compassion.

Sometimes we need a hug. Sometimes we need to grieve, cry and vent. Sometimes we need a good distraction, and sometimes we need to laugh. Other times we need practical help, for example, by being a taxi service, chef or offer room service. Often we can’t verbalize or even identify our needs are, but if you listen to us, you can help us reflect on our foggy and disjointed thoughts so we can start to understand ourselves.

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I believe this applies to any Chronic Illness. I would give the same answer to someone who asked for advice on how to support someone with PCOS, Chronic Pain or Mental Illness. The only way you can begin to help someone genuinely and effectively is to listen first.

If you ask the right questions and pay attention to what the person is communicating you will probably find they’re been trying to tell you what they need for a very long time. Unfortunately, medication, pain and other symptoms can mince our words, which require a bit more attention and reflection to get to the bottom of what is being said.

You can’t just assume that because your friend Jane Doe is having one experience, your cousin, Jillian is having the same experience. We all have different symptoms, comforts, effective distraction methods and relievers. Our functionality is as different as the severity of symptoms. The one thing we all have in common is the need to be loved, connected, wanted, valued, cared for and supported.

So the next time you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed by a loved ones illness. Stop. Ask. Listen. Reflect. Repeat. If you genuinely hear what’s being said and clarify: you can’t really go wrong, and at the very least, they will feel valued and validated through listening.

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The Why of Bloging

This post was originally posted as “The Why”  page on WordPress

Since I’ve started writing more regularly, I’ve been asking myself, Why?

Why Blog? Why share my life? Why talk about super personal stuff? Why do I want people to read my stories? Why publish my thoughts online for anyone to read? Why bother?

The writer of Ecclesiastes sums it up perfectly in verse two, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Without God, everything is meaningless. Without a greater plan and purpose, my life is in vain. This truth has greater weight within the context of the suffering and pain I’ve experienced daily for over 15 years, courtesy of Severs Disease, Chronic Depression, Anxiety, PCOS, Endometriosis, Regional Complex Pain Syndrome and various forms/degrees of abuse. My goal in blogging is not to play the victim, nor is it to insight a pitiful ‘woe is Alex’ response – it is simply to help me comprehend and convey my reality – my life.

Surely, there is a purpose. Surely, these icky circumstances can be used for good. Surely, this pain isn’t going to end merely with just being eaten by worms. Surely there is something bigger at play. There just has to be.

One of my beautiful friends recently said to me, “although I don’t have the same beliefs, I truly believe you would be dead if it weren’t for your faith in God.” She is right. If this is all for nothing, if it is all in vain, why endure this pain any longer than I have to?

Faith.

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many
brothers. 
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

I believe this is not ‘it’. I believe in the ultimate glorification of Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour. I believe my creator can use any and all situations for good. I have hope, tangible hope that the choices I make today on earth have eternal consequences and hope that ‘this’ isn’t all there is. I eagerly look forward to the day my soul will rest with my creator, and I will be perfectly healed. There will be no more sickness, no more sadness, no more selfishness and ultimately, no more sin.

My fundamental goal in life is to use what God has given me to bring glory to Him. ‘What God has given me’ includes spiritual gifts and blessings, talents, passions, revelation, wisdom, and life experience. My desire is to use these as gifts as tools to help build God’s Kingdom, but it has taken a long time to see my life experience as a good thing.

I want to share my story because it’s a story of hope. In an individualistic society, we can be surrounded by hundreds of people and still feel alone. This feeling is often compounded when isolation increases due to chronic illness. I want you to know you are not alone. There are other people who ‘get it’ and you shouldn’t be afraid, to be honest. Most people live in ignorance, but if you can be encouraged to be truthful, there is a strong chance understanding can lead to empathy.

As Christians we are called to love – love God and love each other. God, throughout most of Biblical history, has told His people to show compassion and look after the sick and vulnerable. I truly believe that genuinely listening to someone evolves into compassionate understanding and awareness which then leads to supporting and loving that person.

This is the motivation to be as honest as I possibly can because I know I am not alone. I know too many women who want their horrible periods to be validated. I know too many people who isolate themselves due to depression. I know too many individuals who struggle to get out of bed because they’re in great pain. If you can understand someone’s illness even a smidgen more, you demonstrate love to them.

Imagine being able to tell someone ‘you matter to me because you matter to God’ by simply listening to them. Imagine being the first person to express ‘I believe your pain is real, I know you’re not faking it.’ Imagine being able to show people what Jesus is like by being more aware of how to support someone in a practical and helpful way. Unfortunately, we cannot read minds, which is why educating yourself and learning how people are affected by adversity can show true empathy, compassion, and love. I know when I hear someone mention an illness they have I want to find out as much information as I can. I feel like I can better support them if I understand them, even if it’s just a little bit.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he [The Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I am weak. I am flawed. I have blemishes. I am far from perfect. I had the opportunity to have my blog, The Five Stages of Endometriosis shared by a few different groups. One of them was Endo Active, who, even after their edit left this part in, “I’ve always been extremely grateful to have such a wonderful and supportive family, both earthly and spiritual. God has sustained, challenged and strengthened me. I praise Him every day for giving me His Spirit, Jesus sacrifice, and Gods love. I give thanks for some tangible hope as I eagerly await the perfect and restored body I’ll have in the New Creation.” Had I not openly shared my story and my life in such a raw and honest way, I would have not had the opportunity to proclaim Christ, my true hope. When I [admit my faults, my failings, my struggle and] decrease, He increases.