As we’ve been talking about Self-Care on the MooLily podcast, I’ve discovered a couple of interesting things about myself. Although I would say that I’m pretty Self-aware, I am not very good at Self-Care. For the most part I have healthy relationships and I eat okay and get a decent amount of rest, but when it comes to my emotional well-being I’m not great at asking for what I need. When I say I’m not great, what I mean is that I don’t do it! I often assume my needs are not important and so I just push on with life, leaving incomplete and unresolved feelings rolling around in my heart. I know I'm not the only one who does this.
So why do I do this? Most things can be traced back to our childhood.
I grew up in a wonderful family! I’m the youngest of four. I have two older brothers and an older sister. My dad was a teacher and my mum worked in welfare but that was just their occupation. They were both pastors; Pastors in every sense of the word. They cared for people, they comforted, encouraged, provided safety and leadership to everyone that touched their lives. They were not perfect and, as with every childhood or family born into this world, there were sad and difficult things. But my family were sincere and wholehearted lovers of Jesus.
Someone once said that, "if you were to cut Ralph and Helena they would bleed grace." Never a truer word was spoken!
But, as a little person, observing all the people they served, all the dysfunction and brokenness around me, even though I couldn’t understand or articulate what I was observing, I came to the very clear conclusion that my problems where not legitimate compared to everyone else's. I remember actually saying this and having aconversation about it with my parents. Of course they corrected and challenged this idea, affirming my value. Never-the-less, over the years this concept set solid in the wet cement of my young heart.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what life was like growing up.
We owned a 14 seater van (that I’m sure survived the first world war) that my dad drove around the government housing neighborhoods, picking up elderly people, immigrant families and anyone else that needed a ride to church.
When I was a baby we had a young woman, who was a recovering alcoholic, live in a caravan in our back yard. Mum said she would come home in the early hours of the morning, throw up in the hedge and then go to bed. They walked with her for several years, saw her complete nursing school, get a great job and be settled down, happily married.
When I was a teenager we had a homeless man sleeping in our garage for a few weeks in the winter. Mum had some housing set up for him but didn’t want to leave him out in the cold while he was waiting.
We had weekly dinners with older single men or women who were lonely, and Christmas was typically with other families like us who didn’t have any family near by.
My parents showed me what it means to lay down your life and serve the least, the last and the lost, which was an incredible and invaluable lesson. But I did not learn how to stop and identify what I need. It never occurred to me that carrying the burdens of others would leave you with a backache (if not more of one) than carrying your own burdens. That sounds kind of silly and obvious now that I’m saying it, but when you’re a strong person it’s very easy to over-estimate your capacity.
I think there are two main ways to receive comfort, healing, and recharge so that we can continue to grow and be able to serve. The first and most important is obvious, and that is accessing the presence and person of Jesus Christ, the source of all grace and strength. The second is sharing our needs and fears with a small group of safe and trusted people that will carry our hearts with great kindness. This is an area that I need to grow in.
Recently I’ve been really missing my mum and wishing she could just pop in and chat or pick up the kids so I can go out for a couple of hours. But she lives on the other side of the world and has never done that my entire adult life. (I’m the one that moved away so it’s not fair for me to somehow be disappointed with her.) I’m realizing that what I’m actually missing is relationships in which I don’t have to DO something or MAKE something happen, but can just BE. Be heard, be seen, be accepted.
So here’s one of the changes I’m going to make: I’m going to start seeking out some friendships with older women. I’m going to set up some very casual mentoring relationships. I’m going to ask these women to regularly ask me, “How are you doing? What do you need?” to force me to look inwards and articulate exactly what is going on. This will not replace going to Jesus to meet my needs but I’m confident I’ll see more of Him in those around me that will fuel my conversation and quality time with him.
There are some clear themes in the Bible around multigenerational community. Titus 2 talks about older women instructing younger women. I don’t think I’m one of the younger women anymore (tear) but I’m definitely not an older women either. But I think maybe what I am, what I have, is enough experience to know that I still have a lot to learn. I have a little more Self-awareness to understand that to seek out help, information and encouragement, is not a luxury but a necessity. I have an idea, perhaps, of what questions to ask.
For most of my adult life I have lived a fairly nomadic lifestyle. A month after I turned 18 (2000) I went to live in England for a year; in Australia they call it a working holiday, in England they call it a gap year. (America seriously needs to get on board with this idea). I turned 21 (2003) the week after I moved to Perth, Western Australia (2,500 miles from where I grew up). I spent 3 months in India the year before that and 3 months the following year in Indonesia on outreach. In 2005 I lived with a Zulu family in South Africa. (My missionary adventures have lead me to many more nations that I’d love to tell you about another time.)
The year I met, and started courting the man of my dreams (2006), I lived in Switzerland for 3 months doing a Communications School. 10 months after I got married we moved to the US for a two year assignment that has now lasted over nine years. In that time we’ve lived in 4 cities, 3 states and 8 different houses. I’ve had 5 babies in 4 states, all in different places! My gosh, that sounds exhausting!
There is joy and deep satisfaction as I look back over these years. They have not been smooth; there have been many things that have been painful and confusing, undefined and unresolved, but I have lived the adventure with Jesus! If there is one thing I have learned, one thing that has kept me on track loving Jesus, one thing that has enabled me to keeping moving forward, it is this: I have never stopped learning! And my intention is to never stop!
In every home I’ve lived in, every city, every YWAM base, I've searched out an older, more experienced woman to be around. I would spend time in their home, with their family, observing their life, asking loads of questions. I would humble myself and open myself up to receive wisdom from their life experience.
Now, as a leader, I’m committed to doing this for others but that doesn't mean I don’t still need it myself. In this season, I’m realizing that I need this more than ever. It’s not so easy for me to bring my 5 children to sit on the couch of a potential mentor, but I’m working on slowly building those relationships that will fill me up so that I can continue to learn and be filled.
All that to say…this is what MooLily is all about! Creating a safe place to just be together. Be real, be heard, be seen and be accepted.
I would like to invite you into the conversation, to join us on a journey, a pilgrimage of discovering who God is and who we are in Him and how He’s calling us to live in the midst of the cultural earthquake that we find ourselves in. Together, let’s seek out how to cultivate the presence of God in the chaos of life, how to manage our hearts and serve our families and each other and not just do church but really be the church!
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