Tag Archives: hope

I am the elephant in the room – the ‘ugly’ part of self-discovery

A new year and a new exercise book have a lot in common. When I was young, I loved receiving my stationery at the start of the school year. Fizzing with belly wobbles of excitement and intention, I stroked the clean front page of my exercise book as though it was a precious gift. A blank canvas. An invitation to create fresh colour where every squiggle and stroke would be my absolute best work.

Those days are long gone, but I still feel those same belly wobbles of excitement the new year offers. It still feels like an invitation to add fresh colour and make new shapes, an opportunity for a fresh, clean start. Splashes of colour normally festoon my canvas from day one. I make new intentions with sincere intention – a fitness promise, new writing goal and, of course, something spiritual to contemplate – giving no thought to what lies between the idea and the destination.

This year though, things feel a little different. My roadmap assisting me on my path to self-discovery is looking a little battered and crumpled. It is taking me to a place I have been avoiding with a vengeance, and I cannot U-turn my way out of it. So, I am not as enthusiastic as in previous years to daub my canvas with self-appreciating images and dreams. Instead, I find myself delving into a painful family truth. I am the elephant in the room.

What do you do when you realise how your past parenting behaviour has deeply affected your children’s lives? What a harsh, ‘where the rubber meets the road’ moment of self-discovery. In hindsight, I can see that parenting is as much about self-discovery as it is about nurturing. It is a time of relentless self-revelation. What we consider to be the absolute best of ourselves is challenged, and what we know to be the very worst of ourselves is exposed. And I made some terrible parenting choices I wish I could erase.

In 2017 I wrote an article about my family’s experience of domestic violence and sexual abuse. During the separation period between my leaving and finally gaining custody, my two girls suffered the most horrific, sexual, mental, and physical abuse by family members. The article describes how we got there and the consequences of my thinking making a fresh start was a complete ‘fix’ for their pain. The effects have lingered longer than they should, due to this attitude about this very dark period of our life.

The article was called Consequences. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“My stomach clenches when I hear how my youngest daughter is forced to lick the genitals of her babysitter. My eldest daughter forced to stand the other side of a locked door calling out to her sister. When my eldest daughter told her father what was happening, she was given ‘a hiding’ and returned to the babysitters. The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness of not being believed must have been achingly devastating. Of how their abusers told them to take their underwear off then hung by their feet out a window. Family members beating and raping family members.”

It’s a challenging story to tell and read. Mistakenly, once again, I thought I had ‘fixed it’ by writing about it. But the healing had only begun. Over the years, I have watched my daughters grapple and wrestle with life as they attempt to expunge their pain and hurt. I find it hard to immerse myself in the trauma and pain my two girls suffered during this time and the part, I as their mother, played in it.

Yes, there are aspects of self-discovery that are dreadfully and uncomfortably unpalatable. Self-discovery not only includes the healing of your wounds but also confronting the damage you have inflicted on others. Especially those you love. This truth is my point of no return – a place where I cannot go back, cannot unknow what I already know to be the truth about myself, and cannot erase the ‘ugly’ from the self-discovery journey.

It is easy when you are in the pilot seat driving your soul-searching – where you control the unravelling and rebuilding of your inner and outer life. But even though I sit at the controls, I sense I no longer have control of where the journey is taking me. I am deeply aware of how my children need to continue to address their feelings of the past with me, as part of their healing process. It is a humbling discovery to experience, and there is a sadness in knowing this.

Understanding the past and dwelling on the past have two different outcomes. Understanding is liberating. Dwelling is debilitating. If we deny or ignore the importance, the past has on the present we will always dwell in past pains. I can see this now. And this is where I start the new year.

The belly wobbles are still there … still simmering with hope. But this year, I am reluctant to colour my canvas with pre-empted plans when my family is very much part of this stage of my journey. A healing process is happening, and I do not want to cage, capture or ‘fix’ how I perceive this year should unravel. So, for now, my canvas remains blank, but I do hope your canvas fills with bright colours.

Happy New Year

Farewell letter to Kirsty

Kia ora, e hoa!
Hello my friend

No reprieve, no remission, no cure and…. no miraculous healing.

Three years from diagnosis, you die from Motor Neurone Disease (MND). If there is a bright side to your suffering this monstrous illness, it is you outlived your six-month prognosis. As selfish as this sounds, given the vicious nature of MND, I am grateful for the extra couple of years of having you this side of my life.

Unlike me, you were never troubled by God. This both irked and inspired me. When I think of you now Kirsty, it is your faith that drenches my thought. Your absolute, firm, and unwavering belief in a loving God. And I must admit I was, at times, annoyed at your unshakeable faith. I expected you to rant and rave at this supposedly loving God who seemed to be standing by and doing nothing as you endured the agonising steps of MND. Compared to you, my faith resembled the life of a gnat the way it jumped all over the place – I long to rest in the absolute sureness of God’s love, and I envy your ability to completely accept His fiery love for you..  

Why does God answer yes to some prayers and no to others? Why does God miraculously heal some people and not others? You will know the answer to this now Kirsty – but I don’t know. God tells us to ask, and it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7). But God did not physically heal you Kirsty even though we asked. There was no miraculous physical healing despite the hundreds of prayers and rituals, held nationally and internationally by obedient Christians, for this very purpose. You did not leap from the bed dancing, whirling, and twirling, around the room. In all my years of spiritual journeying, I have never witnessed a physical healing. Although there was a part of me that desperately hoped you would be healed, I did not believe it would really happen.

Religious gospel advocates will raise an eyebrow in an, ‘Oh ye of little faith,’ kind of way at my disbelief. They will say lack of faith is the reason God did not answer my prayers. I need to ‘do’ this and ‘be’ that. Try a little harder. I am not good enough. Subtle messaging of this nature is incredibly bruising to the spirit. Nothing loving about this. There are many of us out there with bruised and damaged souls tainted by religion. And you understood this Kirsty. We discussed how important it was for the church to re-think the messaging around God.

Love has been ‘trodden down under religious mores’, you said, and I laughed at your phrasing. But yes, God and religion are difficult to untangle because when we merge God with religion, we are in danger of extinguishing the real message of God – the message of love. The message you longed for everyone to know – love is the by-product of God, not theology. That there is nothing, we need to do, or be, to experience God’s love. God’s pure unadulterated, unfettered, untamed love is free for everyone.

“Living or dying, being spared or being tortured, being delivered in this life or the next is not an indicator of God’s love for us or the measure of our faith. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and our future is determined by what he knows is best for us (Romans 8:28, 35–39).

Watching you struggle with your illness was a stark reminder that God’s love is not a magic potion exempting us from adversity. Fear, despair, helplessness, powerlessness, pain, and loneliness – you experienced every single one of these feelings and emotions. I am reading the words you wrote, and my heart bleeds a little at the agony in your words.

“I know what it is to feel so scared and kicked in the gut that you don’t know how to go on. There is nothing left in the tank—just fear and disappointment. I live with the shadow of overwhelming dread every moment of every day. It is trying to cut off my air supply.

I do not really HAVE to take him at his word when life is rosy. I have excess resources to cope with life’s bumps and bruises then. But right now I am in absolute deficit. Motor Neurone Disease does that to its victims.

But it is now Jesus invites me to take him at his word.

As the offerings of life became slim pickings, you nestled into words of love, of Gods promises, wrapping them around you, protecting yourself from the brutality of your inevitable outcome. Body riddled and decimated, your eyes would light up, and you would get that ‘glow’. There is no mistaking real joy. Faked joy looks manic. True joy is stillness, is light and It shines. God’s love radiated through you Kirsty. How could you be so ill, yet look so alive, we all asked ourselves.

What a waste of an evangelical heart where you are now Kirsty. Talk about ‘preaching to the converted’!
I remember in one of our conversations you told me about how you stood on street corners in Rotorua speaking about Jesus. You invited those who listened to open their hearts to His love. I was aghast you would do this, and a little envious. I remembered a time, many moons ago, when this too was my passion. You talked with such passion about the longing and hopelessness in the eyes of lost young people. How no one had ever told them the love story of God.

We cannot find refuge from pain and remain filled with hope anywhere else than in the presence of God. The hope God gives us is powerful and effective. Everything man comes up with, just can’t go the distance you told me.

“His hope keeps my head up and my smile shining in the middle of a death sentence. Do you realise how valuable this is? Do you realise how desperately the world needs to hear about this? In an age of epidemic anxiety, skyrocketing suicides and unprecedented environmental instability, hope is what is needed. And we know where to find it.”

I don’t have your courage, but I do want to honour your soul one last time. So here is a personal invitation to each of you who are reading this piece.

What does it take to know and receive God’s love, to be in a personal relationship with God? Are you curious about God? If you are feeling unloved, unworthy, dirty, hopeless, worthless, or insignificant – then this invitation is for you. If you are feeling successful, accomplished, confident and well-liked – then this invitation is also for you. I invite you to ask God into your life. You don’t need fancy words. There is no right or wrong way of asking. God’s love is not curtailed by language, culture, or religion. Just ask, Seek Him.

Haere rā e hoa
Farewell my friend



Hopelessness … why not try God?

The only yellow flower growing out of parched, cracked soil.

The ‘wait’, every damn second of the ‘wait’, is consumed with survival, yet survival, is the one thing her Motor Neurone Disease (MND) cannot give her.

With her days numbered my visits with Kirsty are much quieter. Our conversation more intermittent as she rests from the effort of trying to live.  And while the disease continues to wreak havoc on every muscle in her body, despair and hopelessness also hover in the background. Like vultures. Persistent in their quest to ravage her soul.

The dictionary describes hopelessness as an emotion characterized by a lack of hope, optimism, and passion. From my perspective, as a bystander to my friends’ illness, the English language completely lacks words to describe the intensity of emotions encircling the dark, shadowy wasteland of this thing called ‘hopelessness’.  Fear, despair, helplessness, powerlessness, pain, loneliness, and ‘I feel so useless’, are words Kirsty has used at various times during my visits as she confronts her death – a death forced upon someone wanting to live.

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