To Encourage or to Discourage, That is the Question.

Have you ever had someone you know go through a rough patch and you just didn’t know what to say to them. So often it is difficult to know how to respond to someone when they are feeling low or experiencing some turmoil in their life, especially if it is a family member or close friend. Knowing what to say is a delicate art. More importantly is knowing when to say it, or even if you should say anything at all. Ever had one of those people who just don’t seem to be aware of other people’s body language or emotional state? They just barge right in like emotional bulldozers and can say things that are really insensitive. Most of the time these people have good intentions, they just don’t realise that what they are saying is actually making you feel worse, not better. Sadly many times these people often appear in the form of family members or close friends. It can be very discouraging to find that the people who you thought would and should be your biggest supporters are sometimes the greatest source of discouragement. And it is a tricky situation to be in because one one hand you are getting hurt because the things they are saying are making you feel like you should just give up because it seems like no-one understands or is willing to listen but then on the other hand you know that they are just saying these things because they love you and they genuinely want to help you (sometimes they aren’t trying to help and are just sick of seeing you sit and wallow in self pity, but most of the time they are saying things out of love and concern).

But every now and then God sends along someone who is concerned about you, who may very well think you need to stop wallowing in self pity…BUT they don’t say it. They just sit and listen, sometimes for hours while you pour out to them from the depths of your heart exactly how you are feeling. And the funny thing is, most people know that they should’t be wallowing in self pity, they know, they don’t need someone to tell them. They feel bad enough already about how they are feeling, don’t make them feel worse by telling them what they know everyone else is thinking. Sometimes all they need is for someone to come alongside them and be a silent hearer. What I mean by a silent hearer is someone who will sit and listen WITHOUT trying to offer advice on what they should or should not be doing. If someone wants your advice they will usually ask for it, IF they feel like they are not going to be judged in the same breath. I think a lot of people don’t talk about their thoughts and feeling because 1) they are afraid of what other people will think and 2) they don’t want to feel like they are disrupting someone else’s busy life. It is so easy to get caught up with what is happening in our own lives and the struggles and stresses we have that we don’t notice the plight of others along the way. 

God calls us to edify one another and to bear one another’s burdens. We are to love one another with a brotherly love and to show to each other the Love of God. 

Galatians 6:2 says “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

This needs to be one of the key principles of our marriage as well. To always take the time to find out how your husband or wife is doing emotionally and spiritually. It is hard to connect with someone if you don’t know them. For those who have children it is very easy to get caught up in that and to put your marriage in the back seat to get back to later. This is wrong thinking. As much as taking care of your children is important, taking care of your spouse MUST come first. If your focus is on the kids or on working or whatever it may be, then all of that is going to be for nothing, if your marriage breaks down. The man was created to be the provider of the home and the woman was given to the man as a help meet, someone who compliments and completes him. Now there is nothing wrong with working so that you can earn money so that you can have a decent life, but it should not be your main focus. And it is necessary to spend time with your children to nurture and to guide them, but that should not be your main focus either. Your spouse should be your main focus AFTER your relationship with Christ. If your not maintaining a good relationship with your heavenly father, your not going to be maintaining a good relationship with anyone else. 

James 1:19 ” Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Be willing to hear what other people have to say, especially your kids and your spouse. Assuming that you know what they will say does not set you up to have a good conversation. Listen to what they want to tell you, wait until they have told you everything AND then have your say, don’t interrupt them. That says that your are only interested in your own opinion and that you haven’t really been paying attention. Don’t focus on the negatives. We are sooooo good at focusing on what we find most annoying in other people aren’t we? It somehow makes us feel better about ourselves that we don’t have the same annoying personality trait or habit as “such and such”. The bible says we should focus on ourselves first before we try to fix “problems” we see in other people. 

Matthew 7:3-5

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

It is not your job to try to fix someone else (especially your spouse), it is your job to show them the love of Christ. If they are living a life that is in direct disobedience to God’s word then yes rebuke them but don’t go in guns blazing. We are to be humble and to show them kindly and lovingly from God’s word that the situation they are in is a direct result of their disobedience or rebellion. But if someone is simply going through a hard time then be a SILENT HEARER. Give your opinion if and when it it is asked for, otherwise just encourage them, let them know they are loved and valued and that they are not a total failure. Sometimes just having someone say this is enough to give us the strength to keep on keeping on. Pray for them, if they are willing, pray with them. If your are married make it a regular habit to have devotions and prayer time as a couple. It can be difficult when you have so many other demands on your time, my husband and I fail in this area a lot. But it is very important and we will be persevering until we find a way that works for us. Love God, Love your Family, Love Your Neighbour and Do Good. Encourage and Edify Others and make a concerted effort to Not Discourage, even if your intentions are well meant, think about what you have to say and ask yourself “Is what I am going to say going to help this person in this situation?”

I leave you with my favourite quote from the first movie I ever saw in a cinema and one of my favourite movies.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin at all.” Thumper (Bambi)

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A Prayer

Such a sad week the world has had. Not that the world and it’s people do not experience sadness and hardship at other times but because this was very public, our attention was drawn to it. You all know of course that I am referring to the attacks on Paris and Behruit and the earthquakes in Mexico and Japan. While the death toll for Paris keeps rising we are reminded that the choices we make and the actions we take have an irreversible effect on those around us. We have the capability to do great good or the capacity to commit great acts of evil. If I were to throw a rock in a lake, the ripples would spread in all directions for many metres. We cannot expect to live our lives in a bubble and our actions not to affect others. So with this post I would like to encourage everyone to pray for the people of Paris, Behruit, Japan and Mexico. Mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who may be able to rejoice, having escaped harm.
“…choose you this day whom ye will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15


 

Trust

Trust is a very important part of any relationship and I will come back to the issue of trust later on. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I had been sexually abused as a child and I was also sexually harassed by three guys as a teenager. These experiences were probably the biggest shaping tools in my life. I am not sure of how old I was at the time of each period of abuse as a child but I do know that I was very young. There were two main perpetrators both of whom were from families who were friends of ours and attended the same church as us. Both of them were significantly older than I was. For the purposes of this story and to make it easier for people to follow (and for privacy reasons) I will assign a letter for each person. It may or may not be a letter associated with their actual name.

J was the one it all started with and he told me not to tell anyone about what was happening. In truth I wasn’t actually sure what was happening I just knew I didn’t like it and that it hurt. Every time we visited his family he would take me for a walk and do things if he had the opportunity. My mum found out due to some abnormal behaviours I was exhibiting and I believe she talked to J’s parents about it because the next time he saw me he was angry and told me off for telling my mum and after that he never spoke to me again. I was too little at the time to be able to explain everything to my parents and I do not know what he told his so I guess I will never know what either his or my parents actually knew about the truth of his actions.

R was the second boy and he was a teenager as far as I remember and I think I may have been about 5 or 6 but I am not sure of my exact age. I was very good friends with his little sister and my parents were friends with his. Every time we went to their house and we played games in teams my brother would want to be on the team of R’s younger brother who was closer in age to my brother and R would ask for me to be on his team. I would protest and say that I didn’t want to be on R’s team but the the other boys didn’t listen because they wanted to be on a team together. I don’t blame them, my brother would have done something if he had known I know that for a fact but he didn’t know and he was also too young to understand or to know something was wrong. The games we usually played involved some level of hiding or stealth so that we didn’t have to be all together all the time. This allowed plenty of opportunity for R to have time alone with me. How long this went on I am not sure but I clearly remember the last time it happened. We had separated into teams again and he had taken me to what I think was an outside shed or workshop or similar. He was in the process of showing me something I absolutely did not want to see and had a hold of my arm. I was trying to get away while also begging him to let me go. My mum started to call my name and tell me to come and get my hat and after a couple of minutes he had to let me go or risk being caught. I do not know if my parents thought anything was amiss after that day but I don’t remember ever going to R’s house again and R completely ignored me from then on. It was only years later when we had moved to a different town that my parents questioned me about it. I do not know how they found out or why it was only brought up then, I can only assume that R had been caught abusing some other poor girl. I wasn’t ready to talk to my parents about it and I felt like I had been forced to confess under duress. After that, I put up many walls and my true feelings and thoughts about many things were hidden from the world.

Through the years I grew to be a very boyish girl. Subconsciously I think I figured it was the best defence. To try to make myself as undesirable to the opposite sex as possible. See if I was like a boy and tough like them and were interested in the same things they were than I figured no one would be interested in me and my body. This brought about a twofold effect. I was lonely because I didn’t really have any girl friends. I had a couple but they were usually older or younger than me, not really anyone my own age and the couple of friends who were my age in primary school told me they were only my friends because I let them boss me around. And then in high school I felt lonely because my friends had guys who were interested in them but I didn’t. I was one of their mates I wasn’t girlfriend material. I will admit that I did have some male attention, I didn’t manage to scare them all away and this helped a little to make me feel feminine and desirable. But most of these guys were not “good” guys and the relationships were not healthy.

Then there were a couple of guys who tried to take advantage of me. One put his hand on my leg (under my skirt) under the school desk on a couple of occasions but I soon told him where to go and he didn’t bother me after that. Another was more persistent with putting his arm around me and holding my hand and calling out things to me like “sexy legs” etc. He was also friends with our family and came to our church youth group. He followed me to my house one day, I had been out walking my dog,  and tried to follow me everywhere I am not sure what his intentions were but my dad put paid to any ideas he had. Again he was another one that wouldn’t talk to me after that and even started a fight with my brother at school. The last was the son of a family that we were very close to, and although I tried to bring up his behaviour towards me with his sister on one occasion, she basically told me it was all in my head. He finally left me alone though after trying one day to get his hands up my skirt and my school blouse but I managed to get away from him and after that he was again another one who never talked to me again and treated me like dirt after that as well.

As a young adult I had a series of unhealthy relationships with guys, some of whom were very emotionally manipulative and through that made me do things I didn’t want to do. I was not in a very good mind frame as a young adult, having previously been through a bout of depression and self harm and this was probably why I allowed myself to be in these situations with these guys in the first place even though I knew they were trouble. I guess I was just crying out for someone to care and to see the real me. So how does all this relate to trust.

First of all, I didn’t feel like I could talk to my parents openly and freely about things because they had forced me to tell them about the abuse. And I understand that they were just trying to do what they thought was best by trying to get the information they needed to deal with the situation but it just made me feel that my personal and private thoughts and being had been trespassed. I have never really spoken to them about it though we have hinted at certain things over the years and I don’t think my parents know the extent of the abuse from my childhood and they do not know about all of the guys when I was older. Over the years I think my parents have come to believe that I am one person, the person that I put on and pretended to be, the strong, boyish, extroverted person and I think a lot of other people think that as well, I am not sure if I could count more than a handful of people who actually know the real me. So first lesson is that trust issues can lead to you in essence “lying’ about who you are and making people believe that you are something you are not.

Secondly it affects your friendships. I didn’t have many friends, well girl ones that is. I had plenty of guy friends because I would play sport with them and talk about cars and motorbikes etc. But then I was socially awkward with the girls and never really fit in. Being able to trust that someone will like you for who you are is a big part of growing up I think, for every child, even ones with “normal” childhoods. Everyone has things they are afraid to share with others, and so people try to present a version of themselves they feel will be more acceptable.

Thirdly, and most importantly because this had a huge impact on all other areas of my life, I didn’t feel I could trust God. For most of my life I thought that God had let me down. He couldn’t protect me from the boys, and my parents couldn’t protect me so the only one who could was me. I was very afraid of so many things, sleeping was a huge challenge as every little noise frightened me, I hated and still hate being alone, especially at night. I used to sleep with a knife under my pillow (which my husband promptly forbade the moment we were engaged). I was so angry at God when I was a teenager, one of my friends dad’s who had also been like a father to me passed away and I was angry at God for that, then a few years later God called my parents to a ministry in another state and I was angry at God for making me leave my friends. So not only did I now not believe that God could protect me physically I also felt that he had let me down emotionally by making me move away from all my friends. I was stagnant in my spiritual walk, unstable in my emotional and mental state and incredibly angry and bitter at God and in some respects my parents.

After many years of God working in my heart and with some maturing, I started to grow again in my spiritual walk and change in my thoughts and feelings towards God and others but the one thing I still could not seem to overcome was my lack of trust in God. Then one night, my husband and I were having a D&M (Deep and Meaningful Conversation). This was four years into our marriage and only a few months after my husband had told me of his recent salvation, I finally felt I could open up and tell him about what had a happened all those years ago. I had told him small parts but I had never told him the details or the extent of it all, but this particular night we were talking about God and my husband had questioned my salvation and I had been talking about my lack of trust in God. After telling him all that had occurred, when I got to the part about R in the shed, my husband told me that he believed that R had intended to rape me that day and that God had saved me by sending my mum to call for me. For the first time in my life I saw that God had indeed protected me. And for the first time in my life I cried about all those things that had happened to me when I was younger. It was like God healed my heart and restored my trust in Him all in that moment.

God does not necessarily act in a way that we think/feel is the way he should. Sometimes he allows us to go through certain things so that we can use them later on to be a testimony to others and a witness for the goodness and greatness of God. We focus too often on ourselves and how we are feeling and the trials we face. We may not see God’s hand at work in our lives or in the lives of others until it is pointed out to us. But we should sing as David sang “Yea, though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

” I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the hand of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:13,14

Where are we at?

When my husband first asked me to marry him almost six years ago, I never would have imagined that we would be where we are now. I thought we would both work for a few years, spend time together going out to dinners and movies and maybe travelling together. I would have finished my nursing degree and be working in a hospital somewhere and even maybe gone on to study medicine and become a doctor. I imagined that we would have been able to save up enough money for a deposit for a house. Something that seems like an ever distant and unattainable dream right now. If we ever were to own our own home, I would cry like a baby. To be able to share a home with my husband and my children, I just don’t have the words to describe the feelings. To be able to feel like we belong somewhere and that we could be free to do things to make it our own, make it special would just be so amazing. We have moved seven times in the six years we have been married. We are so sick of renting and moving and not being able to make it feel like home. You can give a place homey touches and make things feel special but it will never be the same as having a place of your own. 

But that being said, the Lord has blessed us with the houses he has given us to rent, each being what we needed at the time. So currently we are in a three bedroom town house complex, our two oldest share a room and the twins share one as well, the third is our master. The complex has a pool and there are tennis courts next door and a park across the road. We have a very small backyard but the kids enjoy being out there all the same, they especially love playing in the dirt. The town house is probably a little small for us and we would definitely need to move when they get bigger, but for now, the rent is very affordable and that is the main reason we are here. It is also close to where our oldest will be going to school next year (he turns 5 on Wednesday) so location wise it is ideal. 

My husband was recently promoted at his work and even though he is still on a probationary period, it seems like the bosses are happy with his work. This was a blessing for us as we were trying to decide what to do with our son when it came to school next year.  We were hesitant to send him to a public school as there were some things in the curriculum that we did not agree with. We talked about home schooling but with the ages of the three younger children and also with my AS I would have found it very difficult to keep up with the demands of home schooling, and taking care of the three younger children while also being a domestic Wonder Woman. So we looked into private school, and although it can be expensive, we felt much more at peace with this decision as it is also a Christian school and it is the same one I attended for my senior years of high school. We believe this is main reason the Lord allowed the promotion and subsequent pay rise, not so we could spend the money on “pleasures” but for our sons education. Our oldest is already attending the kindergarten and he loves every day which we are very pleased about. 

We are still attending the same church where eleven years ago my father was called to be the Pastor. I am a country girl at heart and I hate living in big cities. They are OK to visit or just pass through but living in them is just horrible. But, if we hadn’t moved up here to the big city, I would not have met my husband and we wouldn’t have our four boys and that would have been a tragedy. God knew best. Our church is going through a transition at the moment with my father having to resign from being Pastor due to his declining health and our new Pastor and his family will arrive in the next few weeks. I will miss my parents, (they have moved back to our home town) and my boys will miss them as well, but we are looking forward to the next phase of the journey God has for us. 

The relationship between my husband and myself, for the last three years (since he came to Christ) has been so delightful and I am grateful that through all the trials and worries, that God was still leading us. The growth that we have both gone through over the last five and a bit years has been tremendous. We have grown spiritually, psychologically, emotionally and in our bond together as husband and wife. We are both so much more mature in many areas, there is nothing that will make you grow up quicker than having a child, or three, or four. I am positive that God has bigger plans for our future than we do. And although I may be a little apprehensive to find out what they are, I am also excited because I have seen God’s hand at work in our lives already in many ways and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do next